Menu Plan Monday: January 27 – February 2, 2014


If this week’s menu looks a little familiar, it’s because it’s kind of a mish-mash from things I didn’t make over the last two weeks. Oops! We veered a bit and I didn’t end up making everything that I had planned, but that happens sometimes. I had to plan a leftovers night midweek because the fridge is going to fill up fast, this week. And that is a good thing!

Now, on to this week’s menu!

January  27 – February 2

  • Monday: Cheeseburger Meatloaf / Mashed Potatoes / Asparagus
  • Tuesday: Shannon’s Easy Beef Enchiladas – check back tomorrow for the recipe!
  • Wednesday: leftovers
  • Thursday: Butternut Squash Soup / Grilled Cheese
  • Friday: Homemade Pizza (Pizza/Movie Night!)
  • Saturday: BBQ Chicken Quesadillas, with shredded chicken from the crockpot
  • Sunday: Football Party Food! Meatballs and cheese dip are planned, so far…

What are you cooking up this week?

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Turtle Talk: I Wasn’t a Turtle Person


I have nothing against turtles, really I don’t. I actually kind of like them. Well, sea turtles anyway. Whenever we go to St. Simons Island, we hop over to Jekyll Island and visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. I have a t-shirt. I have a hat. The kids have stuffed sea turtles, and we even have a Turtle tag on the front of our van. We’ve talked about “adopting” a sea turtle at the Center’s hospital to help support it’s treatment. But if you asked me 2 weeks ago if I wanted to have a turtle in my house, you would have gotten a firm “NO”.

Enter my son’s Pre-K teacher. One morning as I was dropping him off, giving hugs and so on, I heard his teacher talking to another mom, and I could tell they were talking about turtles, but wasn’t paying that close attention. Then she looked at me and asked if my boy would want a turtle. A turtle? Sure! We love turtles, so of course he would love a turtle toy, especially a stuffed one. So I nodded, and said, Oh yeah, that would be fun. So she ran out of the door and caught that other mom, telling her to bring it at pick-up time in the afternoon. She comes back and says something I didn’t quite catch, like she’ll bring it and it’s box and stuff in the afternoon. At that point, by brain clicked on, and I said, Oh, wait, you mean a LIVE turtle? She says, yeah, is that a problem? Ummmm….

So, we have a turtle. In the house. And, I have to admit, it’s pretty darn cute. The kids have determined that it’s a girl, so her name is CeCe. She came to us in a little plastic box with about an inch of water, a couple of rocks, and some aquarium gravel. Word spread throughout our extended family, and I was quickly informed by my sister-in-law, the turtle expert (apparently), that we now owned a Red-Eared Slider, that the gravel would have to come out, it needed a bigger home with lights and plants and a “basking” rock. A what? She sent me pictures of her setup, and I immediately thought: I should have kept my big mouth shut.

We managed to keep CeCe alive for a week, then we decided that we should probably do something about her living situation. Luckily, the pet store actually has people that know about these things, and even have an “Aquatic Turtle Kit”, complete with everything turtle-dumb people need. Put it on plastic, please.

The setup
The setup

After some rearranging and managing to keep the kids calm and their hands out of the turtle aquarium, CeCe was in her new home. She seems to love it. She stretches out on that basking rock and stays there all day, nice and toasty under the heat lamp. She swims around and plays in the stream from the filter, hangs out on the rocks we took from her old home (note: not the gravel). I’ve become a turtle person. I’ve sent pictures of the turtle to my parents and other extended family. The family turtle expert approves.

Isn't she cute?
Isn’t she cute?

Uses for Lemon Essential Oil


Lemon: There is a lot of power in this fresh little fruit. Which also means there is a lot of power in pure Lemon Essential Oil. Did you know that it takes approx 3000 lemon rinds to produce 1 kilogram (about 35 ounces) of essential oil? That’s a lot of lemons!

Lemon is one of the most-used essential oils. It can be used cosmetically, in the home for cleaning, aromatically to help with illness, and so many other uses! Want some ideas?

Brighten your face blend:

Acne Blend:

Mix in small glass container and “push” several cotton rounds to absorb all the liquid. Apply to face day and night.  Adapt and use other EOs until you find the right combination, like adding Frankincense, Geranium, Grapefruit, and/or Clove.

Lemon ~ Most Common Uses:

Dietary ~ Add 2 drops in your water daily

  • Fights Inflammation
  • Fights Cold Symptoms
  • Promotes a healthy Circulatory System (see below)
  • Easing the pressure of Varicose Veins


  • Calms Heartburn
  • Relaxes the Digestive Tract Muscles
  • Eases Constipation & Diarrhea (balances PH levels)
  • Tones the Liver

Respiratory (Topically, Aroma, & Internal):

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Throat Infections

Also, according to Jen Valent, MD:

  • Lemon is used for Improving Circulation issues
  • Tones the Heart
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Helps Remove Toxins from Blood

Protocols you might not be as familiar with:

  • Use Lemon for Gingivitis and Mouth Ulcers
  • Remove Corns and Warts (Use a Qtip directly on area of concern)
  • Apply to Cold Sores (again with Qtip directly on the sore)

Cost Per Drop ~ this a very inexpensive and powerful tool to have in your home.

Household Uses:

  • Remove Gum / Sap
  • Polish your Silver
  • Mix in spray bottle to rid your plants of Aphids
  • Laundry Booster
  • Soak & Clean your Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (dilute with water)
  • Soak your Dish cloths overnight

Have a runny nose? Swipe a drop of lemon down each side of your nose to help slow it down.

These are just a sampling of the uses of lemon oil. It’s definitely a must-have in your wellness arsenal!



Essential Oils Desk Reference
Modern Essentials
Mayo Clinic

Tasty Tuesday: Oreo Stuffed Brownies


I was bloghopping one day a while ago when I stumbled upon this sinfully delicious-looking recipe over at Moms of all Trades: Oreo Stuffed Brownies. Brownies? Oreos? Marshmallow Creme? I’m all over it. And boy-oh-boy, I did not regret this one little bit. Do you want to try it?

Here’s what you need:

  • Brownie Mix – any brand/variety will do
  • Oreo cookies, or other chocolate and cream-type cookie – I used the store brand because I didn’t have a coupon for regular Oreos (I’m thrifty that way). They taste just as good as the real thing for this project. Next time I’m going to try the Mint Oreos for that extra little kick
  • Marshmallow Creme – usually found in the baking aisle, or maybe even close to the peanut butter
  • Standard muffin pan

Step 1: Spray muffin tins with Pam, making sure to cover completely

Step 2: Mix brownies according to package directions. Add 1/2 cup marshmallow creme, mix well.

Step 3: Open up your cookies. Try not to eat them all…

Step 4: One cookie at a time, dip into brownie batter, making sure cookie is completely covered.

Step 5: Place in muffin tin. I also scooped a little extra batter on top of the dipped cookie, just to make sure there was enough.

Step 6: Bake according to package directions. Mine got a little charred around the edges, but I didn’t mind. I like the crispy brownies.

Step 7: Let cool, them pop them out of the muffin tins. From the outside you can’t even tell there’s a supersweet surprise inside…

Once they’ve cooled just a little bit, take a bite, and enjoy!

You’re welcome. :)
Since I originally made these, I’ve also tried Fudge-Covered Mint Oreos, Girl Scout Thin Mints, and Peppermint Patties. All of these were great, except the Peppermint Patties; the peppermint creme actually left the middle of the brownie hollow! Very strange. I still want to try Peanut Butter Cups, so I’ll post an update.

Menu Plan Monday: January 20 – 26, 2014


My husband has been asking me to make more soups for a while now, but generally the only soup I attempt is chili. And I have to admit, I think I make a mean chili. At least the kids eat it, so that’s a score in my book! A couple of weeks ago, I decided to attempt to make Tomato Bisque. It was cold outside, and a warm creamy soup sounded delightful. So, I gave it a shot, and it was a big hit! I’ll be adding that one to the menu again soon, so stay tuned for the recipe and pictures! After my success with the bisque, I decided to try butternut squash. I’ll be sure to post how it turned out!

Now, on to this week’s menu!

January  20 – 26

What are you cooking up this week?

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Homemade Taco Seasoning – Forget the Packets!


We’re a big fan of taco seasoning in this house. If we don’t have tacos on Tuesdays, or some variation of tacos, the children will mutiny. So, taco seasoning is used at least once a week. For years I would just succumb to buying the little packets, not even thinking twice about all of the added sodium, preservatives, and numerous other ingredients I can’t pronounce. In my ongoing quest to eat a little better and save money in the process, I decided to start making my own taco seasoning. I was leary, at first, thinking there’s no way the homemade stuff could be as tasty as the store-bought wonderful-ness. I was pleasantly surprised, and very pleased with the result. Here’s the recipe I use:

Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 1 part chili powder
  • 1 part cumin
  • 1 part garlic powder
  • 1 part onion powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 part crushed red pepper

Note: a part can be whatever unit of measurement you’d like to use. I generally add 1 or 2 tablespoons of each ingredient (except for red pepper flakes), depending on how much I’m making at the time.

Mix all ingredients together, and you’re done! I make it up in batches and keep it in a mason jar. And yes, that is the top to a parmesan cheese bottle that I have on my mason jar in the picture above. It fits perfectly!

To Use:

– Add 2 1/2 tablespoons to 1 pound of browned ground beef; stir in 2/3 cup of water. Bring to a boil, and simmer until water is cooked off, stirring regularly.


Get Crockin': Slow Cooker Lasagna

I’m always on the lookout for new recipes, especially new slow cooker recipes . My old friend Jennifer posted photos of this recipe on Facebook a few weeks ago, and I knew I had to have the recipe so I could try it myself. Sidebar: When I say my old friend Jennifer, I mean old friend. I’m talking way back in the day at Carroll Elementary School in Shermans Dale, PA. Funny story: in first grade I broke my leg on the playground (don’t ask), and Jennifer’s mom was the one who carried my 6-year old self, screaming, into the school office. It was awesome. The internet is a powerful thing, and I’m glad Jen found me after all these years! Anyway, now, on to the recipe! I haven’t tried this, yet, but it’s on the menu plan for next week. I’ll update this post with my thoughts, and most importantly, how the kids liked it.


Slow Cooker Lasagna

-originally from Crockin’ Girls


  • 2 Pounds Hamburger Meat, fully cooked
  • 2 Jars Marinara or regular spaghetti sauce
  • 1 Package Uncooked Lasagna Noodles
  • 2 Pounds Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 Cups Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • Fresh Baby Spinach
  • Italian Seasoning to taste


  • Brown hamburger meat and add marinara sauce. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
  • While simmering, in a bowl combine your ricotta cheese, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, and egg, Italian seasoning to taste and mix well
  • Spray the crock with cooking spray, and start your layers of 1) meat sauce 2) uncooked lasagna noodles 3) ricotta cheese mixture 4) spinach.
  • Repeat layers one more time.
  • Top with remaining meat sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Cook on low for three hours, any longer will overcook the noodles!

Your kids may not be thrilled with the addition of spinach, so you can leave it out if you choose. Jen made this in a 6-quart slow cooker, but assured me that a 5-quart should be just fine.


Friday Finds: A Fancy New Bread Machine



I’ve always been nuts for small kitchen appliances. I don’t know what it is, but if it’s a kitchen appliance, I absolutely love it, and want it. The fancier the better! When we were registering for wedding gifts, my poor husband-to-be just kept rolling his eyes over my excitement at Bed Bath & Beyond. But he knows me well. Throughout our almost 10 years of marriage, he’s kept me happy with appliances (among other things, of course). A Cuisinart Griddler made an appearance last Christmas, and I was thrilled! We use that a lot.

This past Christmas, he upped the ante, and gave me something I’ve been wanting for a while. A Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme! If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a fancy bread machine. And when I say fancy, I mean, this sucker will make meatloaf. What other bread machine can do that? The instruction booklet has a ton of recipes, including many different breads, of course, but also jams, cakes, meatloaf, and even sourdough starter. So far, I’ve only made the cinnamon raisin bread, and it was a huge hit with the family. I also like to make pizza dough in the bread machine, and the recipe for that was quite tasty as well.

The main reason I wanted this particular bread machine is that it makes a horizontal loaf, instead of a vertical loaf which many other bread machines make. I borrowed a bread machine from my mother-in-law for a while to make sure I would use it before investing in one, and it did a great job, but the loaf was just funny-looking. Here’s a brief rundown of what else I love about this machine:

  • normal-looking loaf
  • easy to use
  • programmable/delay start (fresh bread in the morning!)
  • gluten-free setting, if we ever need gluten-free bread
  • 2-lb loaf, perfect family size
  • versatile – it will make just about anything
  • 10 minute power failure backup
  • crust choices: light, medium, or dark

Anyway, I’ll stop gushing about my fancy new bread machine, and wrap it up. But seriously, this machine came with an instructional DVD. Now THAT’S fancy.

21 Uses for Melaleuca or Tea Tree Oil


Melaleuca, or Tea Tree essential oil has been around for centuries. It’s a great all-purpose oil and is a must have in your natural first aid kit. There are so many uses for this oil, I can’t even list them all here, or it would take forever! It’s antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal, an insecticide, and a stimulant. It helps the body fight off disease, bacteria, infection, virus, and illness. The list below is a great way to get started, though.

  • Acne/Pimples: put a drop on a cotton swab or your finger and apply to individual spots before bed and in the morning
  • Athlete’s Foot: mix 2 dops of Melaleuca with 1 drop of lavender, dip a cotton ball in the mixture and apply between toes and around nails
  • Bee Stings: remove stinger, if necessary, then apply 1 drop of Melaleuca oil every four hours, as needed
  • Blackheads: apply oil directly to spots at night and in the morning
  • Bronchitis/Congestion: add 5 drops of Melaleuca oil to a bowl of steaming water and inhale for 5-10 minutes; or, add a few drops to a tissue and inhale throughout the day
  • Calluses: apply oil directly to area, then cover with an adhesive bandage; repeat daily until you see results
  • Chapped Lips: add 1-3 drops of oil to 1 tablespoon of petroleum jelly, or an oil such as jojoba, grapeseed or sweet almond oil and mix with a toothpick. Store in a small container. Apply to chapped lips every 20-30 minutes, as needed
  • Diaper Rash: Mix 2-4 drops of Melaleuca oil with 2 tablespoons of witch hazel; shake vigorously, then apply to area as needed
  • Ear Infections/Earache: Soak a cotton ball in 3 drops of Melaleuca and 2 drops of lavender oil; plug ear
  • Flu: Use steam inhalation as for congestion, as well as the tissue inhalation method. Also try the Cold/Flu Bomb
  • Foot Odor: Each morning, massage a few drops of Melaleuca into your feet; also put a drop or two into your shoes
  • Hives: Massage a few drops of Melaleuca on to the affected area
  • Insect Bites: Apply a drop of Melaleuca oil to bite to relieve itch
  • Prickly Heat: Massage a few drops onto affected area
  • Sore Throat: Add 7-8 drops to a cup of warm water and gargle. 2-3 times daily
  • Stiff Neck: Mix 2-4 drops of Melaleuca with jojoba or fractionated coconut oil and massage into the affected area as needed
  • Sunburn and Burns: apply directly to affected are to relieve burn
  • Sweaty Feet: see Foot Odor, above
  • Ticks: Apply oil to the tick and surrounding area; after 20-30 minutes, carefully remove tick if it has not already fallen off. Keep applying oil to prevent infection and sooth wound
  • Tonsilitis: See sore throat, above
  • Warts: Apply oil directly to wart 3-4 times a day. Be persistent; it can take a few weeks to be effective

There are also many uses for Melaleuca oil in the home, but that’s a post for another day! As always, don’t forget to use the coupon code SMOORE to receive 10% off your order at Spark Naturals!


Disclaimer: I am not a doctor; these are only suggestions for uses of this powerful essential oil. Please see your health care practitioner for medical issues.


  • The Tea Tree Oil Bible: Your Essential Guide to Health and Home Uses
  • The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood

Tasty Tuesday: Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken


If you’re a Crockpot nut like me, you’re going to love this. This recipe is so super-easy and fast to throw together in the morning before starting your day.

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 jar of salsa or picante sauce (regular size jar)
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can of corn, drained, or about 2 cups of frozen corn

Combine ingredients in slow cooker and set on low. Cook for about 4 hours if your chicken is fresh, or 8 hours if the chicken is frozen.

After cooking, I like to shred the chicken while it’s still in the slow cooker. Just take two forks and pull apart the chicken until it looks good to you, then mix it all together with the other ingredients.

I like to serve this dish over white rice and top with sharp cheddar cheese, or it also makes excellent burritos with a little cheese and sour cream.