Turkey Tortellini Soup

A versatile soup, great for busy families, made of ground turkey, tortellini pasta, vegetables, tomato, chicken broth. An American take on tortellini en brodo, an Italian soup traditionally served at Christmas.

The saying goes “cold hands, warm heart.” But, I really think there is probably a step missing in between those two things: a mug of something warm and tasty to hold to warm you from hand to heart.

The best new recipe inspiration comes from practical real life experiences: when the weather took an unexpected cold turn this fall, I unfortunately only had dried beans, none pre-soaked. I wanted to make chili, but couldn’t make my favorite chili without beans.

I am a mom. I don’t have time to run to the store and grab missing ingredients. Sometimes we just have to make do with what we already have.

I looked over the contents of my fridge and pantry, and the idea for Turkey Tortellini Soup bubbled to life.

Excuse me while I go reheat a bowl of leftover soup, because I can’t stand not having some in front of me while writing this post… and, done.

I try to keep a list of inexpensive pantry and freezer staples on hand in my kitchen (you can find my list by subscribing to my weekly meal planning newsletter). Ground turkey is the unsung hero on many a weeknight meal at the Dieker house. It’s lean, inexpensive and budget friendly, and keeps in the freezer for months. In a pinch, I brown it from frozen, which can take 5-10 minutes. (I have it on good authority that this is also a safer way to handle meat than thawing it first, so I don’t mind the extra time.)

Browning the meat and chopping the vegetables takes the most time. But, shhh…. you can use frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes in a pinch!!

That’s right, just find an unseasoned mixed of chopped vegetables, even frozen onion, and add some canned tomatoes (I used a 28 oz can last time). Pair that with your ground turkey and some tortellini, and you will have a hearty soup ready in no time!

Print

Turkey Tortellini Soup

A versatile soup, great for busy families, made of ground turkey, tortellini pasta, vegetables, tomato, chicken broth. An American take on tortellini en brodo, an Italian soup traditionally served at Christmas.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 10 people

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tomatoes diced
  • 1 zucchini diced
  • 1 sweet potato peeled and diced
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp better than bouillon chicken base (or turkey base)
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 lb three cheese tortellini

Instructions

  1. Brown ground turkey in the bottom of a large stockpot. In the meantime, chop the vegetables.

  2. Cover with water, and stir to scrape up any ground turkey stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the next 10 ingredients (everything besides tortellini) and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes.

  3. Once vegetables have reached desired level of doneness, add tortellini, and cook until pasta is al dente (usually 2 minutes).

  4. Remove from heat, serve in bowls alone or with crackers or bread.

A versatile soup, great for busy families, made of ground turkey, tortellini pasta, vegetables, tomato, chicken broth. An American take on tortellini en brodo, an Italian soup traditionally served at Christmas.

Date Night Board Games

Two player board games are a perfect Christmas present for parents of young kids. This list of board game suggestions are affordable, fun, and worth replaying again and again. 

Two player board games are a perfect Christmas present for parents of young kids. This list of board game suggestions are affordable, fun, and worth replaying again and again.

Being a parent means that one thing is certainly true: you spend the majority of your evenings at home with children asleep.

While every couple should continue to go out on regular dates through any life stage, it isn’t always realistic to get a sitter, especially in the winter. Inclement weather and cold/flu season can undo the best date night plans with little warning.

On a cozy night in, my husband and I pull out the two player board games! It’s the perfect date night substitution!

Our collection of two player board games has slowly grown over the years.  We have now been married for eight and a half years, and almost every Christmas, birthday and anniversary has included a two player board game as a gift.

We love these games! We like games that include strategy, but not so much that we can’t wrap our minds around the game’s concept at the end of a long day. While we are competing against each-other, we aren’t always in direct competition, which keeps the mood fun and laid back. Most of them take less than an hour to play.

Almost all of these games can accommodate more than two players! When our kids are old enough, they can join in the fun. When we have guests over, we often open the cabinet and pull out a game.

Carcassonne

This game is our favorite! One tile at a time, taking turns, you build an entire map! You lay down cities, roads, monasteries, and fields with a strategy to score as many points as possible. You don’t know your score until the very end, so the competition is there, but it’s still casual. Adam and I are competitive people who both enjoy winning, but this game keeps the competition casual and fun.

Expansion packs have been a fun anniversary gift to give to each other over the years, and in addition to the original set, we also use the Inns and Cathedrals and Traders and Builders expansion sets, The River (which is included in newer editions of the original game but wasn’t at the time when we purchased ours), and some of our favorite tiles come from the mini expansion sets. Over the years, with our specific expansions added, our Carcassonne game has become something that is very unique and specialized to our family.

You can also buy the entire Carcassone game with all the expansions at the same time for a fair price.

Banana Grams

I’m guessing that this is a game that you have probably heard of before, and might even own. Even with just the two of us, it’s always fun to pull out Banana Grams. Many a Friday evenings in college were spent playing this game in various coffee shops. Even now, we still like to pull it out, partially for the nostalgia. (Also, our dog ate our banana bag probably five years ago, and we have never forgiven her!)

Code Names

You really can’t argue against almost two thousand five star reviews on Amazon. In Codenames, you give one word clues to identify hidden “agents” in the cards on the table. This game is absolutely great with two people and with a bigger group, which is awesome! While it’s not necessary to have a separate edition to play with two players, Codenames: Duets has been released recently, and it offers a new cooperative gameplay option for two players (and also still works for a party).

Dominion

“You are a monarch, like your parents before you. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams. You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion.

In all directions lie fiefs, freeholds, and feodum. All are small bits of land, controlled by petty lords and verging on anarchy. You will bring civilization to these people, uniting them under your banner. But wait. It must be something in the air, several other monarchs have had the exact same idea. You must race to get as much of the unclaimed land as possible, fending them off along the way.”

We love this game! We were actually pretty obsessed with it for a while when we first were gifted it.  I actually own the first edition of Dominion, but the second edition has streamlined rules, and that seems like a big improvement.

Dominion has plenty of expansions, and you can customize it to your taste! We haven’t explored this yet, but we’ve come close to buying expansions many times. Highly recommend!

Forbidden Island

Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. If you are looking for bang for your buck, this is it! This game is very easy on your Christmas budget, but we have always enjoyed playing it. Forbidden Dessert is very similar. Both have received terrific reviews on Amazon. My only complaint is that the replay value isn’t great; it gets a little repetitive, and we will put it away for a few months or a year before we play it again. For the money, though, you really can’t go wrong.

Love Letter

I’ll play this with anyone who is willing, but my husband refuses to play anymore. (I always win.) This game was nice because it’s very compact. I could carry it in my wallet. And, if I remember correctly, it was fairly easy to learn. The rules read like a fairytale storybook: the Princess has locked herself in the palace, and you must rely on messengers to give her love letters.

Love Letter is a game of risk, deduction, and luck, for 2–4 players. Get your love letter into Princess Annette’s hands while keeping other players’ letters away.

The Batman edition of this game looks really fun too!

Stratego

I have to admit, I don’t actually own this game, and I have never played it with my husband. But, this was the first two player board game I ever played. My brother and I were completely obsessed with it for a summer. I’m going to have to comb my parent’s game closet during Christmas, because I would love to play it again this month!

Ticket To Ride

I have to admit, I saw this game on shelves at Target for a long time before I owned it, and I expected it to be a little over-hyped. I was wrong. This is really fun with a big group, but we also really enjoy it at home with two players! Each time we play it, it’s a little bit different.

Agricola

I’m saving the absolute best for last on this list, but it’s also by far the most expensive. They have improved the manufacturing process, and it has come down in price over the years, but it is still one of the most expensive games on this list. And, in our opinion, it was worth it!

Each time we play this game, it’s very different. The strategy changes from game to game. It takes time to figure out how to play, and it takes at least an hour to get through, but we have always ended feeling very satisfied. A game for 1-4 players ages 12 and up; play time is 30 minutes per player. Amazing replay value!

My Wish List

I have an ongoing list of 2 player games that I have never played. If anyone would like to get me these for Christmas, I would not be upset!

The Flops

We’re really not too picky, but there are just a couple of games that we probably won’t reach for in the game cabinet unless someone else is asking to play it.

  • Pandemic — our biggest beef with this game is that we have NEVER won! Because of that, we always end feeling a little the world is about the end and it’s our faults.
  • Rivals for Catan — we borrowed this from a friend and brought this on vacation once, but it just really made us miss our games at home. If I’m in a mood for Catan (which requires at least 3 players) and I don’t ‘have a big enough crowd, there’s an ipad app that I enjoy more than this game.

 

This post contains affiliate links but only for things I have used and love. This means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy here. Thank you.

Two player board games are a perfect Christmas present for parents of young kids. This list of board game suggestions are affordable, fun, and worth replaying again and again. 

To the Mom doing church in the lobby…

One Sunday, I chose to bring my cranky older baby into church. He was feeling clingy and getting a tooth. I knew him well enough to know that there was no way he’d last more than 10 minutes in the church nursery before I was paged to pick him up.

I knew this because I had been paged 10 minutes after dropping him off in the very crowded nursery for the last 4 Sundays, and this was the worst mood yet.

As we walked in before the service started, he was already fighting my grip and monopolizing the noise in the room. After being up with him the night before, we had overslept and were attending the busiest late-afternoon service. We live in a college town, and we felt like the oldest (and youngest) people in the room.

The auditorium was almost full, but we managed to find a couple of empty chairs on an aisle while we made our loud, dramatic entrance. As we slid into our seats, I glanced down the row. There was no smiles or sympathetic nods from other mothers; actually, the entire row of college students next to me looked ready to move to new seats! (Nothing makes a room full of 20 year-olds more uncomfortable than a crying baby.)

Once the music kicked up and the lights dimmed, that was it: my son started wailing. He and I found ourselves out in hall within minutes, me feeling a little ostracized, him feeling relieved. We never made it back in. After getting everyone dressed, fed, and out the door, I attended church for less than 5 minutes that week.

After a long week of not enough sleep and not enough adult interaction, an intense hour of parenting out in the lobby is not where I wanted to find myself that Sunday morning. I was left feeling torn between worshiping in the way I wanted to be and fulfilling my part in the role God chose for my life.

Some babies just insist that no nursery worker or children’s minister can take mom’s place, not even for a half hour. That was my child. He absolutely refused to be pacified. There was no toy, no snack, no way to be held or rocked, and no distraction from his anxiety. (People say it’s just a stage, but that doesn’t really help when it’s happening to you.)

It was a little embarrassing. I would stand there in the lobby holding my screaming child and watch as a dozen kids the same age as mine went happily into the nursery while their moms freely walked away. In that situation, you can’t help but wonder what the heck you are doing wrong.

(I realize now, his obstinance was not entirely because of my parenting. Part of it is just him being who he is. I only had so much control over my son, even as baby or toddler. Some kids are always happy in the nursery, others kick up a fit the entire way through preschool or beyond. Parenting itself is only a portion of what contributes to this behavior. A big part of it is just the child’s personality, tastes, and stage in development.)

Looking back on it, I realize that my own expectations for smooth Sunday mornings were more selfish than anything. I had a serious heart problem: I was much more concerned about how I might escape my difficult parenting reality for an hour than I was about worshiping God in church.

God really caught my attention out there in the hall. He taught me quietly with a lot of grace, and I learned a lot.

After weeks (months?) of he worst attitude I could possibly have in this situation, the first thing I learned was that God had specifically placed me in the hallway and not in the seats. He gave me this child. He called me into motherhood. This was my place to flourish or fail. That knowledge did not make me feel warm and fuzzy, but it did provide some much needed prospective on the situation. I lowered my self-centered expectations for Sunday mornings, and, since I was an absolute mess, I asked for help.

I didn’t want to ask for help, because I’m proud, but once I started talking about it, I ended up asking everyone I could think of: my husband, my mother, my father, my grandmother, my cousins, my life group, other Christian moms, friends who are paster’s wives, and the nursery volunteers. It was amazing how many of the godly women I admired had spent a year of Sundays in hallways, or more. I collected stories and advice. We traded survival tips. And, best of all, some of these precious people offered practical help; sometimes I stayed in the lobby for the songs, and my husband or my mom traded with me for the sermon.

This clingy phase lasted for a year of Sundays. I admit, sometimes I passed off my child to the nursery workers kicking and screaming just to experience a song or two alone before getting paged to pick him up. This tactic never worked for us, but I am ok that we tried it. My was just anxious and needed his mom, and that’s ok, but it was also ok to stretch his world a little. Also, on these weeks, I would often come back and stay and play with him until he was no longer feeling anxious and afraid.

Some weeks, we streamed our church service online from home. We did this when someone was sick or when nobody in the house had slept. Our church started a live streaming service just about the same time my son was born, and the timing for our family could not have been more convenient. When it comes to spiritual nourishment, it’s ok to think outside the box sometimes!

But, even with the extra help and support and the occasional e-church Sunday, there were still few weeks where I ended up in the church lobby for the entire service. (For instance, the week when my son came down with a virus, and I didn’t catch on until half way through the service.)

In the end, the lobby wasn’t a bad place to spend a year of Sundays. I learned a lot in that place.

After a long week of not enough sleep and not enough adult conversation, an intense hour of parenting out in the lobby is not where you wanted to find yourself on Sunday morning. Encouragement for the Christian mom of babies or toddlers who has not been spiritually fed on Sunday mornings. Includes Christian parenting tips, and a list of worship songs.

First, it’s a really good place to pray. The hall is active yet quiet. As a parent, you’re primarily guiding how your child spends the time while allowing your little one to be him- or herself. Maybe you’re nursing or cuddling or handing out toys. But, you’re not doing much talking in the hall other than directing interest away from minor hazards (like an uncovered outlet or the stairs) and toward a better choice.

In those moments when you’re parenting on autopilot, pray. Maybe try the oil and vinegar approach? If there’s bitterness there, I tried to confront it first, and I think confronting it helped improve my attitude during that time.

It’s a place to reach out. This is the place where I asked for help in my spiritual walk.

If Sunday morning parenting is wearing on you week after week, and you’re struggling to grow and thrive in this chapter, you’re never alone. There’s moms on either side of you that have been there. They have walked this road, and they know the way.

Start by opening up about your struggle. Talk to your family, your friends.

Join a new MOPS group or women’s Bible study. This is a new chapter, after all, and it comes with a steep learning curve. Don’t be afraid to reach for new forms of support, especially from other moms. It’s scary at first, but it might end up being exactly what you need.

What did I do? I got plugged in! I joined my church’s MOPS, and I made new Christian mom friends. Another friend and I get out our strollers and walk and talk through some tough accountability questions on Thursdays. Also, a group of us meet monthly, just the moms, and no kids allowed (unless… well… it happened sometimes).

If you’re struggling and don’t know where to start to build this community around yourself, please feel welcome to reach out to me personally. We might be able to come up with some new ideas together.

My e-mail: brohgan [@] gmail.com

It’s a place to gain perspective. When I’m being a grouch because my life is so hard, bumping into someone whose life is way harder stops my negative thoughts every time. There is always someone dealing with something bigger and harder than my own struggles, and I need to look past my own life to gain perspective. In fact, some of the people reading this are probably struggling much more than I have been.

For instance, I’ve met people who are primary caretakers in other situations, not just babies and toddlers. My time in the hall might be a couple of years, while others time in the hall might be a significant portion of a lifetime.

I have also yet to spend time in the hall without running into someone who has been openly struggling with infertility or infant loss.

Pay attention to the people around you, smile, and try empathize with the fact that we all have struggles in our lives. Even if they are not a mom of littles, nobody’s road is easy on this side of heaven.

It’s a place to consider giving back in a new way.

If your church’s volunteers are looking like they could use a little help, this might be a good time. Nursery, greeting, coffee bar. Think about what opportunities might be open to you in this stage of life and whether they are a good decision.

 

If you missed church, here are little ways to make it up throughout the week:

And, finally, music.

Nothing soothes my the mom-tude like a playlist.

But, since I’ve spent a year’s worth of Sundays out in the hall, I asked my tribe to help me with this. Here’s a playlist of worship songs that they suggested for YOU, the mama who spent Sunday in the hallway, and me too.

When people come together to encourage and help each other out, it’s powerful stuff.

After a long week of not enough sleep and not enough adult conversation, an intense hour of parenting out in the lobby is not where you wanted to find yourself on Sunday morning. Encouragement for the Christian mom of babies or toddlers who has not been spiritually fed on Sunday mornings. Includes Christian parenting tips, and a list of worship songs.

Want to know the secret that finally worked on a peaceful transition to the church nursery? Playing with my son with toys in the nursery for a few minutes before quietly slipping out the door while he wasn’t paying attention. Will it work for you too? I have no idea, but might be worth a try?

 

 

Are you finding yourself frustrated in other areas in this chapter of life, such trying to provide your family with healthy snack and meal options? I write a weekly newsletter to help moms tackle the small stuff around the house, like meal planning, quickly and efficiently so that they can have more time to savor what matters: time with the people who sit around your kitchen table.

If you are left wishing you could have done more–provided healthier food, saved more money at the grocery store, spent more time allowing yourself to be creative in this mom life–join me! you are 60 Seconds away from Inspiration in the Kitchen. Click the banner below or subscribe to my weekly e-mail to learn more.

 

 

 

Maintaining a Loving Home

As a woman, I wear many hats. Maybe you feel this way as well?

I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a Christian.

I am a member of my community and my church. I am a volunteer.

I am an entrepreneur and the only employee in my business (yes, blogging is a business).

Also, I am myself, the sole person in charge of expressing and caring for my own needs.

Each hat comes with its own set of responsibilities. For instance, I eat fruits and vegetables. I pray. I read. I jog. I have deep, meaningful conversations. I prioritize sleep. I do laundry. I clean. I cook. I write.

But, it’s like my friend always says, you can really only do one thing well at a time. I always choose your top priority for the moment, even when I’m not consciously doing it.

Just like I can’t text someone and drive a car at the same time, I can’t maintain a perfectly clean home and take time to get down and play with my son on the floor at the same time. It just isn’t possible.

In the same way, I can’t work long hours and have a regular date night with my spouse.

Choosing my top priority for the moment bleeds into every decision, even when I’m not aware that it’s happening. If I’m eating well, I’m simultaneously struggling with exercising. If I’m sticking to the budget and monitoring every penny, I’m stress binging on Netflix at every given opportunity. If I’m exposing my son to lots of playdates and educational experiences, I’m simultaneously neglecting to clean out the fridge.

Life as a mom is a difficult balance, and perfection is not an option. Believe me, I’ve tried. There’s a cost to every action. Sometimes the cost is small, but other times it is absolutely gigantic.

When it all boils down, I don’t want to be wasting my life on maintaining house and home, or even cooking (which is a favorite creative outlet of mine).  I want to be pouring my life into my people to the best of my ability.

I want to be the best woman I can be.

I want my husband and son to know exactly how much I love him, not a guess, but to actually know because I took the time to remind them every day.

I want to be the type of person to drop everything and just show up when someone needs me to.

I want my home to be a safe and welcome place. I want neighbors to feel comfortable knocking on my door.

I want to draw nearer to God, because I know He listens and draws nearer to me.

I want to savor the stuff in life that really matters and to just maintain the responsibilities that don’t matter as much. I want lasting impact, not temporary impact.

I want to be present while my son plays in a patch of sunshine on the floor without guilt about what needs to be done.

Easier said than done, ha.

And I absolutely don’t want to be spending my life doing the housework, cooking and cleaning… unless the heart and soul of doing it is to show how much I love and respect the people who live here too.

And, that last point is exactly where it gets a little fuzzy for me sometimes. I crave clarity on how to maintain a loving home, both relationally and physically.

I want to love my family in the best way possible. Sometimes that means doing chores. Sometimes, that means ignoring chores.

At any given moment, I have to choose my top priority.

And, for me, that also means that I have to have a system in place to maintain my lower priorities while I’m focusing on what’s most important that moment.

Here are a few things that are rarely top priority for the day but still desperately need to be taken care of daily.

Cleaning

Here is my system for cleaning the house, which prioritizes resting on Sunday.

I’ve found that when I don’t take a day off from these chores, I get behind on housework. Or even worse, I get too wrapped up in doing them perfectly.

By setting aside a day to rest and NOT DO CHORES (wooohooo!), I am more motivated to get them done throughout the week.

It doesn’t always go perfectly smoothly, but that’s ok. If the last week (or month) has been rough, I just try again the next week.

Cooking

I have written extensively about my meal planning strategy and my pre-made grocery list.

Meal planning is an established routine for me now, but that certainly wasn’t always true.

There was a time early in my marriage when I would buy all the wrong things at the grocery store in an attempt to try new recipes and please my husband just to have those ingredients slowly go bad while I ran back to the store almost daily for quicker dinner options.

By the time my son was born seven years later, I was desperate to be able to maintain a healthy, frugal lifestyle without spending a lot of time shopping or cooking.

I’ve learned some of these kitchen and cooking tips the hard way, and I am still learning.

Maintaining the finances

A few years ago, my husband and I took a financial planning course together, and it was very eye opening for us.

We have found that it’s best to make all of our financial decisions together. It takes time to write out a budget and to use a cash system, but it is well worth it.

We have time scheduled on the calendar and reminders on our phones set up ahead of time. It’s good to have a system in place to keep this habit  from falling to the wayside.

Feeding My Heart

Someone told me this over the cries of my screaming newborn: “everything about motherhood is spiritual.” When you spend your days (and nights!) caring for littles, your own heart is filled and emptied and refilled moment by moment.

But, there are chapters in mom life that writing long entries into prayer journals and keeping up with a Bible reading plan is just not possible. And, that’s ok. God put you in this exact place.

When doing more is just not possible, finding little cracks of time to reading a single verse is enough. Praying in your head while you put your child to bed is enough. Listening to worship music and letting the praise bleed into your actions is enough.

It helped me to have certain triggers to remind me to spend time with God. For instance, during the quiet of nursing during the night, I prayed and read. While in the car, I sang worship songs. A friend teaches Bible stories to her pre-schooler during bath time.

Life is always busy, but I’ve found that by pairing my time with God with a daily activity, it reminds me to be present and aware of His benevolence.

 

And, the Grace

After becoming a mom, I’ve learned that I have to allow myself to accept the same grace God extends to me.

Sometimes, I fail. Actually, it happens daily.

I choose wrong. I get wrapped up in a project and get resentful when nap time is suddenly over. I get impatient when people interrupt me while I’m trying to get things done, even if they’re low priority. I forget God.

And in the midst of wrestling with pangs of guilt, I have to clean the slate and start that day anew. It’s the only way to move forward.

Grace is key.

I absolutely don't want to be spending my life doing the housework, cooking and cleaning... unless the heart and soul of doing it is to show how much I love and respect the people who live here too. And, that last point is exactly where it gets a little fuzzy for me sometimes. I crave clarity on how to maintain a loving home, both relationally and physically. I want to love my family in the best way possible. Sometimes that means doing chores. Sometimes, that means ignoring chores. At any given moment, I have to choose my top priority. Cleaning, cooking, finances, caring for my own heart, need a routine that maintains the status quo while caring for my family.

Are you struggling with clarity on how to maintain a loving home too?

Join me on this journey. We can navigate this together in tandem.

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October 31 Day Instagram Challenge

Every time my toddler slips into a grouchy mood, I hear myself remind him that he can choose to be happy and have fun or he can choose to be grouchy and have a bad time. It's a choice. I pull him into my lap and remind him of this a couple of times a week. I hear myself say it, but I don't know why it didn't dawn on me earlier: this exact advice applies to my life as well. Cooking is something I genuinely enjoy doing, but in the last few weeks, it has definitely felt like a chore. Spending time in the kitchen is inevitable as a mom. I can choose. Am I going to have a good attitude about it, or am I going to be grouchy and have a bad time? I have a 31 Challenge for myself: have fun in the kitchen every day in October. Use the hashtag #funinthekitchen to join in or follow along this month!

Every time my toddler slips into a grouchy mood, I hear myself remind him that he can choose to be happy and have fun or he can choose to be grouchy and have a bad time. It’s a choice.

I pull him into my lap and remind him of this a couple of times a week.

I hear myself say it, but I don’t know why it didn’t dawn on me earlier: this exact advice applies to my life as well.

Cooking is something I genuinely enjoy doing, but in the last few weeks, it has definitely felt like a chore.

Spending time in the kitchen is inevitable as a mom. I can choose. Am I going to have a good attitude about it, or am I going to be grouchy and have a bad time?

I have a 31 Challenge for myself: have fun in the kitchen every day in October. I will be posting the results on Instagram as I go! Use the hashtag #funinthekitchen to join in or follow along this month!

Links to the 31 Day Challenge:

Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Cooking Raman for ME!
Day 3: Taking a selfie with a crock-pot is harder than it looks…
Day 4:
Day 5:
Day 6:
Day 7:
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Day 9:
Day 10:
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Day 30:
Day 31:

Every time my toddler slips into a grouchy mood, I hear myself remind him that he can choose to be happy and have fun or he can choose to be grouchy and have a bad time. It's a choice. I pull him into my lap and remind him of this a couple of times a week. I hear myself say it, but I don't know why it didn't dawn on me earlier: this exact advice applies to my life as well. Cooking is something I genuinely enjoy doing, but in the last few weeks, it has definitely felt like a chore. Spending time in the kitchen is inevitable as a mom. I can choose. Am I going to have a good attitude about it, or am I going to be grouchy and have a bad time? I have a 31 Challenge for myself: have fun in the kitchen every day in October. Use the hashtag #funinthekitchen to join in or follow along this month!

 

Perfect Veggie Spaghetti Pie

This Perfect Veggie Spaghetti Pie recipe uses frozen vegetables and a quick sauce in the crockpot to create two meals in one! This easy baked cheese casserole is one of our family's favorite comfort foods, and the leftover sauce creates an extremely easy freezer meal to save for later with no extra time. It makes two easy freezer meals for new moms!

This is a recipe that keeps on giving.

Do you ever feel the need to give a friend a freezer meal? Maybe they just had a baby? Or, they’re recovering from surgery? Or, they’re just having a hard time?

Or, when you sense a busy season of life ahead, do you wish to stock up your freezer with a few extra meals, but struggle to find the time?

There is a reason this is the perfect recipe: it is two huge, family sized meals in one easy recipe!

Just toss the sauce in the crock pot over lunch, and you’re only a couple of quick and easy steps away that evening from dinner for that night PLUS a bonus meal to stick in the freezer for later or share!

Even better, there’s no chopping involved!

This Perfect Veggie Spaghetti Pie recipe uses frozen vegetables and a quick sauce in the crockpot to create two meals in one! This easy baked cheese casserole is one of our family's favorite comfort foods, and the leftover sauce creates an extremely easy freezer meal to save for later with no extra time. It makes two easy freezer meals for new moms!

It’s a wonderful recipe to have in your back pocket in preparation for the holidays!

I chose an Italian mixture for my frozen veggies. It contained zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli.

You can also easily use any fresh veggies that you may have in your refrigerator. I chose to use frozen to save time, but fresh would also be very tasty!

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Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 lb bag of frozen mixed Italian veggies
  • 1 15.5 oz can cannellini beans white kidney beans
  • 2 oz cream cheese 1/4 block
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 c water
  • 1 tsp vegetable bouillon concentrate such as 'Better Than Bouillon' seasoned vegetable base

Spaghetti

  • 2 lbs spaghetti whole grain preferred
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c mozzarella cheese grated
  • 1 1/2 c swiss cheese grated
  • 1 2.5 galleon freezer bag

Instructions

  1. These instructions are for 1 dinner to enjoy immediately and 1 dinner to freeze for later.

  2. Add first 10 ingredients (veggies through bouillon) to a 3 quart or larger crockpot, and cook on low for 4-5 hours.

  3. After veggie sauce has cooked 4-5 hours, prepare spaghetti per package instructions. Drain, and drizzle with parsley and olive oil. Mix well until parsley is distributed.

  4. Combine mozzarella cheese and swiss cheese in a bowl. Set aside.

  5. Line a 9x13 inch casserole dish with excess foil, to allow top of casserole to be completely covered in foil. (Or, you can use a 9x13 inch disposable foil pan and cover with foil.)

  6. Place half of the spaghetti in a foil-lined 9x13 inch pan (or disposable foil pan). Cover spaghetti with half of the veggie sauce from crockpot. Top with half of cheese mixture (1 1/2 cups). Cover with foil, refrigerate overnight.

  7. After removing half of sauce, stir the remaining pound cooked spaghetti into the remaining sauce in crockpot. Top with remaining 1 1/2 cups of cheese mixture. Cook in crockpot on low until the cheese is completely melted. Serve immediately.

  8. The next morning, transfer the foil package from the 9x13 inch pan (or entire disposable pan) into a large 2.5 galleon freezer bag. Write recipe name, date, and cooking instructions on bag. Store in freezer for up to 3 months.

  9. To cook freezer meal: Remove from freezer bag. Carefully transfer foil package to 9x13 inch pan. Thaw casserole 24 hours, or overnight, in refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove foil covering from the top, and bake another 5-10 minutes until cheese is turning golden brown. (Allow for additional 10-20 minutes of covered baking time if casserole is not completely thawed.)

This Perfect Veggie Spaghetti Pie recipe uses frozen vegetables and a quick sauce in the crockpot to create two meals in one! This easy baked cheese casserole is one of our family's favorite comfort foods, and the leftover sauce creates an extremely easy freezer meal to save for later with no extra time. It makes two easy freezer meals for new moms!

Pumpkin Chili

When the winds begin to blow a little cooler, we know football season is near.

This vegetarian crock pot pumpkin chili recipe is perfect for autumn and football season! This hearty, budget friendly vegetarian chili recipe uses cans from the pantry. It is budget friendly and easy to keep on hand. It is a meal that is quick to make and easy to keep on hand. The black beans and the corn together create a complete protein, and the pumpkin puree in makes it thick and filling. It's perfect as a stand alone meal, or served over baked potatoes or chips.

We have been looking forward to football season all year! “Football” was one of my son’s first words, and for a long time, it was the only thing that he ever saw on tv.

No exaggeration: at only 11 months-old, he was completely devastated one evening when he asked for football and we had to explain that the season was over.

 

Home of the K-State Wildcats, my alma mater, Bill Snyder Family Stadium sits practically at the end of my driveway. There is no missing the excitement from our house. The neighborhood becomes packed with cars and purple fans.

In fact, in our location, we very easily can go from having no Saturday plans to having a crowd of hungry people over. That is why I like to keep a hearty, budget friendly vegetarian chili recipe on hand at all times.

This is one of those kinds of recipes that is cozy and filling, but you can make it without missing a single down. It is a recipe that is quick to make and easy to keep on hand.

Now a vegetarian recipe might not be the hearty football food that your family might expect. However, the black beans and the corn together create a complete protein, and the pumpkin puree in makes it thick and filling. It’s perfect as a stand alone meal, or served over baked potatoes or chips.

It also goes perfectly with this pumpkin cornbread recipe!

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Pumpkin Chili

Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 2 15 oz cans black beans rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can corn rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder (or 1 small onion, diced)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp better than bouillon vegetable base
  • 2 cups water

Instructions

  1. -Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan
  2. -Cover, and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes
  3. -Ladle into bowls. Top with favorite toppings and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Can easily be cooked or kept warm in a crock pot! Just mix ingredients together about an hour before game time, and keep on a low setting. Turn to "keep warm" setting after 1 hour.

This vegetarian crock pot pumpkin chili recipe is perfect for autumn and football season! This hearty, budget friendly vegetarian chili recipe uses cans from the pantry. It is budget friendly and easy to keep on hand. It is a meal that is quick to make and easy to keep on hand. The black beans and the corn together create a complete protein, and the pumpkin puree in makes it thick and filling. It's perfect as a stand alone meal, or served over baked potatoes or chips.

Pumpkin Cornbread

This website uses affiliate links, which means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy HERE.Thank you.

Today, my son and I went on a walk just because we could. We had a few minutes before lunch with nothing to do, and it’s hard to spend a beautifully cool August day like today inside.

We counted leaves and dandelions. The seasons are already changing, and there were far more leaves than dandelions today.

After looking at the calendar ahead, I started experimenting with fall flavors a few weeks ago.

This was a great decision. I love autumn, and I look for ways to incorporate the wonderful flavors year-round.

My first success out of the oven: pumpkin cornbread.

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now! It smells like everything you hope for in autumn.

Pumpkin and spice all in a warm sweet bread. It bakes up like a savory cake.

These sweet little pumpkin cornbread muffins were gone within hours of pulling them out of the oven!

I added a little pat of butter on a couple, but it isn’t necessary. They are sweet and moist all on their own.

Simple enough to make on a weeknight, but also special enough to include with any fall get together. I anticipate making this recipe many more times this autumn.

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now! It smells like everything you hope for in autumn. Pumpkin and spice all in a warm sweet bread. It bakes up like a savory cake. These sweet little pumpkin cornbread muffins were gone within hours of pulling them out of the oven! Simple enough to make on a weeknight, but also special enough to include with any fall get together. I anticipate making this recipe many more times. Pumpkin cornbread would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving feast!

These muffins were delicious, but even sweeter was the opportunity to use my grandma’s cast iron cornbread pan. I’ve been looking for an excuse to pull it out, and it won’t be the last time! (Here’s a link to a similar pan.)

But, if you don’t have a cornbread pan, a muffin tin will do. I also included instructions on how to make this in an 8×8 pan below the recipe.

5 from 1 vote
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Pumpkin Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • butter or honey optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a muffin tin.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix gently until combined.
  3. Using two spoons, gently fill each muffin cup until half full to allow room for the cornbread to expand.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes. Using a fork, gently check the center for doneness.
  5. Cool and enjoy.

Recipe Notes

If you would prefer a single cornbread loaf over muffins, pour batter into a greased 8x8 pan and bake 25-30 minutes. Check center for doneness before removing from oven.

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now! It smells like everything you hope for in autumn. Pumpkin and spice all in a warm sweet bread. It bakes up like a savory cake. These sweet little pumpkin cornbread muffins were gone within hours of pulling them out of the oven! Simple enough to make on a weeknight, but also special enough to include with any fall get together. I anticipate making this recipe many more times. Pumpkin cornbread would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving feast!

 

More Than Just Making It

This website uses affiliate links, which means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy HERE. Thank you.

We live a frugal life, on a budget, carefully keeping track of how we spend our money. Especially now that we live primarily on one income.

That is why I was initially drawn to Erin Odom’s soon to be released book, More Than Just Making It, available September 5. (affiliate link)

If you ever find yourself in the situation someday where you are financially frustrated, even to the point of struggling to make ends meet, this is the book for you.

And, let’s be honest here. Almost half of Americans are still living paycheck to paycheck. There are a lot of people today struggling to make ends meet. So, if you feel like you fall into the category of financially frustrated, you are certainly not alone.

My husband and I have a big ol’ pile of student loan debt that we’re working hard to slowly pay off. As I monitor our budget as we slowly pay down that debt, I certainly feel like I fall into this category!

But that’s what is so wonderful about More Than Just Making It. It’s a reminder that we’re not alone and that there is help along the way. (affiliate link)

And, becoming financially frustrated could happen to any of us!

Despite having no consumer debt, Erin Odom found herself standing in line for food stamps and walking into bankruptcy during her eighth month of her third pregnancy.  She and her husband were careful planners who worked hard and took advantage of every opportunity that came their way, but through situations primarily outside of their control, they still struggled to put food on the table for their two daughters.

Her story struck a chord because it could so easily be my own story. 

Actually, it could be the story of almost any young family!

Years ago, before our son was born, my husband and I also sat through a financial course through our church. One of the first activities in the class was to put together a mock budget for a family making $50,000 per year. Adam and I looked at each other, and we knew we both were thinking the same thing: $50,000 a year?! We couldn’t imagine having access to that kind of money!

Budgeting would be SO much easier if we made that much money. But, improving our income situation felt impossible! We graduated from college at the height of the recession, and after months of unemployment, we were both grateful for our just-above-minimum-wage jobs, mine at a grocery store, Adam’s as a para at a middle school.

We were just making it. Barely, and by God’s grace.

Erin and her husband went through this exact example in a financial class in their church. Her husband was so emotional during the example that he spent the remainder of the class at the hall.

I remember that moment. I wanted to be in the hall too.

That was the moment where Erin, her husband, and their financial coach sat down a took a long look at their financial situation and came to only one conclusion: they had a serious income problem.

The amazing part about Erin’s story is that, despite living on a low income, they did not use credit cards or any other forms of consumer debt to help make ends meet. Instead, they turned to help inside their church, through community organizations and federal programs (like WIC), and learned to rely on God to provide using the money they hand in hand.

In this book Erin shares tips and habits that enabled her family to turn their lives around, both financially and through a faithful dependance on God’s provision for their lives.

Her tips are GREAT! Especially when it comes to eating well on a budget. If you are interested in a free e-course created by Erin on eating well on a budget, sign up on her blog, The Humbled Homemaker. I signed up for it, and I highly recommend it!

I eat on a budget, but I don’t always eat WELL. For instance, with the bottom line in mind while grocery, I don’t always avoid the “dirty dozen” because organic cost more. I know how important it is to provide my family with healthy, nourishing foods, and Erin’s words have inspired me to put a little more effort into making sure we’re even more careful about what we are eating.

 

But, even more than Erin’s fabulous tips, I enjoyed this book because it reminded me that God gives and takes away on His terms, not ours.

Struggling to make ends meet, whether it’s caused by an income problem or a spending problem, is mentally and emotionally challenging. It’s so hard to pick yourself up off the ground without someone tossing you a lifeline.

It’s also spiritually challenging. It’s so hard to put your faith in God when you feel that you are not being provided for.

If that’s you, this book could be your lifeline.

And for some perspective, this journey is even harder when you’re living in poverty, or just above it. And, it’s especially harder when you don’t live in a country like the United States with federal programs, like unemployment, food stamps, WIC, etc. to fall back on.

Even if you are not currently struggling, this is a important read if you want to learn how to better assist struggling families in the US today. There are many stigmas in our culture against asking for financial help when you need it, and More Than Just Making It reminds us that a little kindness goes a long way. (affiliate link)

More Than Just Making It will be released in stores and online on September 5!
Click here to pre-order on Amazon today!
Click here to pre-order through Target!

Click here to check out the first chapter for FREE!

We live a frugal life, on a budget, carefully keeping track of how we spend our money. Especially now that we live on one income. That is why I was initially drawn to Erin Odam's soon to be released book, More Than Just Making It. If you ever find yourself in the situation someday where you are financially frustrated, even to the point of struggling to make ends meet, this is the book for you. Struggling to make ends meet, whether it's caused by an income problem or a spending problem, is mentally and emotionally challenging. It's so hard to pick yourself up off the ground without someone tossing you a lifeline. It's also spiritually challenging. It's so hard to put your faith in God when you feel that you are not being provided for.

Back to School Prayer

It’s that time of year! School supplies are back in stores, and the weather has started to cool down (just a little).

And what better way to prepare for school than by praying for our kiddo’s?

FREE Printable back to school scripture and prayer! It's that time of year! School supplies are back in stores, and the weather has started to cool down (just a little).  And what better way to prepare for school than by praying for our kiddo's?

As a kid I loved school, but this time of year is exciting, it’s also scary. There are a lot of unknowns. Some teachers were harder or more strict than others. Sometimes I was placed in a class with my best friends, sometimes I was given an opportunity to make new friends in my class.

This time of year is a time of new beginnings. New school year, new grade, new classmates.

Let’s not only help our kids start off on the right foot, and let’s take an opportunity as praying moms to start ourselves off on the right foot too! Pray for our kids, and remind them of the truth held in scripture for new or scary situations.

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