The Hail Mary Dinner


The “Hail Mary” Dinner. You know the one I speak of.

When you get home from your kids’ activities at 6:30pm and realize you don’t really have the time or the ingredients to make a substantial dinner.

I used to feel so smug because when everyone else was posting and complaining about Mondays, I was this stay-at-home / work-at-home mom and Monday was just another day for me. But now all 3 of our kids have dance on Monday nights which means our Monday afternoon schedule looks like this:
2:30pm – Get B&C changed into dance clothes, double-check A’s bag to ensure she has everything she needs; pack snacks for everyone and water or coffee for myself.
3:00pm – Leave and pick up A from school
3:30pm – Arrive at dance studio and help A change; do her hair up in a bun
4:00pm – A’s Tap & Jazz class; C usually naps so B & I sit in the car for awhile
4:30pm – Go inside and have snack
5:00pm – A has Ballet; B&C have Pre-Ballet; I work, read, or chat with parents
5:45pm – B&C finish class; go downstairs & get everyone into outdoor clothes; possibly read a book; collect all bags and miscellaneous STUFF
6:00pm – A finishes class & changes; we all head out to car
6:25pm – Arrive at home; make & eat dinner; homework
7:15pm – Start bedtime routine
7:30pm – Tuck-in Time
8:00pm – BED! A will sometimes stay up to read quietly in bed until 8:30

You can see why it takes ALL MY ENERGY to get through Monday afternoons. This past Monday I used some peppermint & wild orange oil aromatically and it actually gave me an energy boost better than the coffee ever does. (Yes, there’s an oil for that!!)

Which brings me to… The Hail Mary Dinner I whipped up yesterday.

I opened up the cabinets & fridge to see….
…at least that would be quick and nutritious.

But what did I have?!? Some egg noodles, some leftover chicken, some leftover veggies, and a cookbook. I figured I could whip up a simple sauce/gravy and throw all the stuff together. Kind of a deconstructed casserole, if you will. Sure, we’ll go with that.

So I got the water going for the noodles, pulled out my Betty Crocker cookbook, and opened it to the Sauces section. “Basic White Sauce.” PERFECT! Here’s how to make it:
In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter.
Add 2 tablespoons flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined and the lumps are gone.
Gradually add 1 1/2 cups milk, stirring all the while.
Season with salt & pepper, and heat over medium high heat until it starts bubbling.
Continue cooking until sauce thickens.
Because it was so bland, I added some garlic and onion powder to taste.

While the sauce thickened, I reheated and cut up the chicken into bite size pieces, and reheated the leftover veggies in the microwave. I cooked the noodles and added a pat or two of butter, stirring until melted & mixed.

I added the chicken into the sauce.
I spooned the noodles into bowls.
I sprinkled some veggies over the noodles.
I scooped the chicken sauce over the noodles, and….


HailMary dinner

It was actually pretty good! Thankfully, the chicken was well-seasoned, so when I mixed it with the bland sauce, it was perfect. The kids gobbled it right up. To be fair, they probably would’ve eaten anything at that point, since they were so hungry.

Regardless, it boosted my confidence that I could create a real meal in a pinch without too much trouble. (PS. Leftovers make an excellent lunch the next day.)



When have you made a delicious dinner in a pinch? What did you make?

Breakfast Bread Pudding

I love when ‘leftovers’ inspire me to make something new!

Last night I had some almost-stale strips of Irish Soda Bread leftover from church on Sunday. I also only had 3 eggs, since we were going grocery shopping the next morning. I suddenly thought how delicious it would be to eat the soda bread (which had raisins in it!) as French Toast! I was concerned we wouldn’t have enough for everyone, so I started thinking how I could stretch the meal a little bit.
Enter chunks of cinnamon apples!

I prepped as much as I could the night before, just getting out simple ingredients to reduce steps and make my morning go smoother. And then I cooked, and it turned out amazing!

What you’ll Need:
1 apple (gala or Granny Smith are good), diced into small cubes
about 3 cups Irish Soda bread with raisins (older bread is great because it will hold its shape better), cut into thin strips
2 eggs
about 1/4 cup Milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
Several shakes Cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon White granulated Sugar
1-2 tablespoons Butter

1. Chop up an apple into small, square cubes. I made them pretty small (1/4″ maybe) to match the soda bread, which was cut into thin strips.
2. Dump said apples into a bowl and add cinnamon and sugar. Stir to coat them!
3. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, vanilla, more cinnamon, a dash or two of salt, and the milk until combined.
4. Add butter to a frying pan and turn heat to medium. Heat while doing next steps. *Watch until butter melts, but does not bubble up or burn.
5. Add the strips of soda bread into the egg mixture. TIP: Pouring the egg mixture into a pie pan before adding the soda bread will allow you to coat more bread in less time, and enable you to add them to the pan at the same time, therefore cooking them more evenly
6. Once butter is melted, add the cubes of cinnamon apples to the pan.
7. Add the egg-soaked strips of soda bread and stir to mix with apples. Let cook for 1-2 minutes, then stir again.
8. Continue to stir, making sure no one side burns but that all pieces are cooked and not soggy.

When finished, the bread will take on a French Toast texture, and combine with the apples and other pieces of bread for a bread-pudding feel.

So delish!

So delish! This is what was left in the pan after first serving but before second helpings 😉

My kids loved this and so did I! It’s sweet enough not to need any syrup, but it is perfect with some homemade whipped cream (which is way easier to make than you might think, and which I am now making pretty much every week 😉 ).

Try this for a quick weekday breakfast – maybe a special occasion like a birthday or Awards Ceremony, first or last day of school. Or just if you have bread that’s getting stale 😉


OHI Chicken Pasta

This is Meal #7 of the meal plan using chicken breast.

This is another version of my Second Meal pasta, with a twist!

What We’re Repurposing:
Chicken, sauce, veggies from Spinach Artichoke Chicken
*If you have broccoli leftover from our Baked Chicken meal, you can use that here as well.

You’ll also need:
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (make half-moon shapes)
Half an onion, chopped
Your choice bell pepper, diced (one or multiple colors)
1 can diced tomatoes in juice/sauce
1 jar pasta sauce (whatever flavor you like – the kinds with seasonings are best for flavor)
Whole Wheat Pasta (use the same shape you used in Chicken Noodle Soup)
Olive Oil
*OPTIONAL: Alfredo sauce (you can also substitute a couple splashes of half & half) – use this if you want more creaminess than the Spinach Artichoke Chicken gives you

Here are the pasta sauces I used this time:
For this dish, I like to get the kinds with more veggies (in this case, mushrooms) and that already have seasonings (the roasted garlic). The point of this meal is that it’s quick, easy to throw together, and flavorful – even though it’s not a long process. So pick flavors that you like. Also, since we’re using the spinach artichoke chicken, you won’t need as much of the Alfredo sauce. Actually, you can replace the Alfredo sauce with whatever sauce is left from the Spinach Artichoke Chicken, and mix the spinach and artichokes in as well. Extra veggies! And one less ingredient, but with the same effect.
*Disclaimer: When I was working my way through this meal plan, I planned to make the Spinach Artichoke Chicken but ran out of time one day (See? Told’ya I’m not perfect! :), so I ended up just baking up another batch of chicken. In the pictures you’ll see plain ol’ baked chicken instead of the Spinach Artichoke chicken. 

First, cook your noodles. (There are tips here if you need them.) Prep your veggies and start your sauce while the noodles are cooking. Drain water from noodles and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Toss your veggies in pan, and let them cook for a few minutes. If you’re concerned about what order to add them, it’s always good to add onions first to pull the aroma out, then add them according to their firmness. Peppers are more firm than zucchini, so you add them first to get them softened up a bit.


This time I used red and green pepper, zucchini, and onion

Then add the canned tomatoes:


Next add your cooked noodles.

Chop your chicken (I would suggest doing this on a non-wooden cutting board so it’s easier to clean up.) Add to your pasta:

Then add your jarred pasta sauce, about 1/4 cup at a time, until you have your desired amount of sauce:
I always think there should be enough to completely cover all the noodles, and then a little extra so your pasta dish is not dried out.

Then, if you’re using plain chicken, or want more creaminess, add your Alfredo sauce or half & half:

You only need 1/4 or less to add richness to your sauce

You only need 1/4c or less to add richness to your sauce

Stir, simmer for a few minutes, and enjoy!

A little bit will do ya!

A little bit will do ya!

Pasta is so versatile. I hope these meals have shown you that you can enjoy chicken for a whole week without feeling BORED of chicken 😉

Baked Seasoned Chicken

This is the first meal in a meal plan of 3 different meals from one package of chicken. If you have a bigger family (or older kids who eat more!), bake 2 packages of chicken instead of 1, and double the recipes.

What we are Repurposing:
*You will need at least 2 breasts worth of chicken for the next meal, plus all the bones. We are also saving the stalks and leaves of the broccoli.

The week I made this chicken I was planning on making something a little fancier, but I wasn’t feeling too well. Instead I baked it very simply and served it with Mac n Cheese and steamed broccoli.

What I used:
1 package chicken breasts (4 breasts total), rib-in, skin removed
Onion Salt
Garlic Powder
1 package Fresh broccoli (choose one with heads and stalks)

Remove the skin by lifting with one hand wherever it naturally comes up, and using a knife to cut the rest off. Place in a baking dish sprayed with Pam, rib-side down. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the chicken. Sprinkle the seasonings over the chicken to taste. I went easiest on the pepper and onion salt, medium on the garlic powder and parsley, and heavy on the paprika.
Bake in a 350° oven for about 40 minutes or until chicken is firm, but not hard, to the touch.
In the meantime, cut the heads off the broccoli. Prepare a steamer, if you have one, or place a thin layer of water in the bottom of a pan or skillet with a lid. Place the heads of broccoli in the pan, cover, and steam over medium heat for about 5 minutes. The broccoli should get softer but remain bright green. Save the unused stalks and leaves in a gallon bag.
Remove the chicken from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before you cut into it. (At this point if you need to check done-ness, the chicken should be white all the way through – no pink left.) Remove the chicken from the bone and slice. Set the bones aside (chicken meat attached is good) in a plastic gallon bag (different from the one the broccoli is in).
Squeeze more lemon juice in the pan if you’d like, to create a pan juice (au jus). You can spoon this over the chicken after it’s cut. (So good!)


Simple right? Now save the leftovers – including the bones!  – for Second Meals of Nana’s (Healthier) Chicken Salad and Homemade Overnight Chicken Stock!

Irish Oatmeal – and how it can help develop your palate

When we were grocery shopping this week, my 6-year-old asked to get oatmeal. I don’t usually make oatmeal, so I thought this was curious. I like having oats in the house for baking, but I’ve never been a huge fan of oatmeal. I’ve recently realized it’s due to the mushy texture – with everything I eat, I need texture: something crunchy, something to chew on. Plus, I questioned the real nutritious value of microwavable oatmeal packets, and I had never made homemade oatmeal.

But my little girl wanted it, so I figured we could try it again.

Now, I am pretty happy with A’s palate so far. She is able to pretty accurately describe what she’s eating using good descriptive words. She always asks about what’s on her plate or in her bowl. I tell her, because instead of hiding from her that she’s eating vegetables, I want her to appreciate and enjoy all parts of her food; when she inevitably likes it, I have now opened a door to using that ingredient in other ways and reminding her that she likes it. The worst case scenario is that she’s able to vocalize when there’s something she doesn’t like.

So the first time I made her oatmeal, before school this week, I made it according to package instructions, and tasted it plain. (Yep. Still don’t like plain oatmeal. Does anyone, I wondered?) I knew I could add butter and brown sugar, but I was trying to think a little healthier, so instead I added honey and a few dashes of cinnamon/sugar. Then I got thinking about my texture issue and added a very little bit of chopped pecans I had purchased to put in chicken salad. Then she said she wanted cut up strawberries on top, so we did that as well.

Well, here’s proof of her sensitivity. I had mixed the pecans in and didn’t tell her. She quickly noticed there was some kind of nut in there, and let me know she didn’t like it. But she did seem to like the oatmeal otherwise, and even asked for seconds.

She asked for oatmeal again today, and asked to help make it. I gladly agreed, thinking, here’s an opportunity to develop her palate a bit more. (You can probably try this with your kids using a different food, but oatmeal is pretty kid friendly, and pretty easy to make small adjustments and notice differences in the taste.)

When I first started cooking, I remember feeling overwhelmed at the idea of not following a recipe EXACTLY. Watching cooking shows, seeing people taste a dish and say, “It needs more ____.” How should I know what else it needs?! I was still learning what the most basic spices and ingredients tasted like, and how best to combine them, and didn’t yet trust my palate to determine what was missing from a dish. I want to prevent my kids from having the same issue. Oatmeal is one of those things that you can modify to your liking really easily, so I figured it was a good place to start.

I measured the water, put it on the stove in a small saucepan, and explained this:
“Any time you are boiling water, adding salt helps it boil faster, and brings out the natural flavors of whatever you’re cooking.”
Once we reached a boil, we added the oatmeal and put the timer on, stirring almost constantly. We removed it from the heat, covered it, and let it sit for 3 minutes. Then I removed the lid, stirred, and let her taste it plain.
“I want you to taste it how it is and tell me what you think we should add.”
She tasted it, made a face, and said, “I want to add cinnamon.”
So we added some cinnamon. She tasted again. “I think we need more cinnamon.” (I think she was right.)
More cinnamon, another taste, and even while making a face, she said “I think that’s good,” and held out her bowl. Because of the face she made, I asked, “Do you want to add some honey to sweeten it?” and she agreed: “Last time I had it there was honey in it and it was really good!”
So we added honey and she was happy with it. She did say, “I don’t want any pecans. I don’t like the nuts and how they stick to my teeth.”

Well maybe she didn’t, but I did. I made myself a bowl and topped it with the pecans and then – chocolate chips. Not just to add some texture, but to add that smooth mouth-feel that happens when chocolate melts. And, because, let’s face it, I’m still a chocoholic at heart! ❤

*Adding chopped bananas or strawberries, raspberries or blueberries will lend more nutrition and flavor.

Click here to read more about how to develop your kids palate, and rid yourself of picky eaters!

Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Casserole

Today I’m going to share with you one of my GO TO meals on the rare occasion I don’t have anything planned for dinner, I’m low on groceries, or short on time. Part of the reason for this? It’s basically made only with OHI. Sometimes I’ll work this into my meal plan too, because it’s so easy and the whole family loves it.

This is a great Second Meal, because you can use leftovers from another chicken dinner for this casserole. When the chicken is leftover from another meal, this one should take only about 45 minutes to prepare. It’s homey comfort food at its best!

1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup  milk
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables – I use carrots & peas, and corn
2 cups cubed cooked chicken (or shredded chicken is good too)
About 2 cups Egg noodles, cooked and drained
1/4 cup  grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon  ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Triple Cheddar cheese (or more if you really like cheese!) for topping
*Sometimes I’ll add a little extra shredded cheese into the mix also
I’ve made this enough times that I usually eyeball the ingredients – except for the milk. Too much milk and it’s tasteless and watery.

Preheat your oven to 400º. Start by putting hot water in a medium pot and salting the water. Bring to a boil and cook your egg noodles according to package directions.
In the meantime…Start with the soup, milk, parmesan, and pepper and stir in a casserole dish (I think I use a 2 Quart one). Then I add the veggies (which I usually leave out a bit so they’re not frozen solid) and mix. Add the cooked, drained noodles next.
While the noodles are cooking I chop the chicken into cubes and add it last.


Remove from oven, stir if noodles on top look hard or browned, then sprinkle cheese to cover top. Bake for another 5 minutes to melt cheese. I usually let it sit for a few minutes, then dig in!! Hope your family enjoys this as much as we do 🙂

First meal ideas for chicken:
Spinach Artichoke Chicken (if you use this, you have the bonus of additional veggies, AND it will be creamier!)
Fresh Take Italian Parmesan chicken
Stuffed Chicken

Bacon -Wrapped Pineapple

This holiday season, I’ve participated more than I ever have in the past – as hostess and contributor. In past years my hands have been full enough just trying to make sure all the kids are dressed and ready, supplies are packed for the day, correct gifts are bought, wrapped, and packed, etc. I always felt guilty that I wasn’t able to contribute more, but this year I decided that was unacceptable. 😉

I’ve made these little treats 3 times since November. They are wildly popular, easy to make, and fairly quick, even if they are a little sticky and messy. Not too pricey either: Bacon is usually about $5-6, a can of pineapple $1.50, and brown sugar $2 or so for a whole bag. (These are also non-sale prices, so if you stock up when they’re on sale you’ll be better off.) If you don’t mind the cheap ones (which work just as well), you can get a big box of toothpicks for about $1.

Here is the link to my pin of the recipe:

One tip: This last time I realized I only had thick cut bacon – it’s actually better, I think, to use the thin, cheaper bacon. I will NOT be using thick cut again, unless I buy fresh pineapple and cut the pieces larger. The bacon overwhelmed the pineapple, and it was just too chewy.

Hope you can enjoy this recipe and share with family and friends!

Quick chicken wrap

I needed something pretty quick and delicious for lunch – and I didn’t want to fall back on a grilled ham and cheese – so I evaluated my OHI. After I made guacamole, I had some leftover cilantro, also some lime, and some chicken breast that I had portioned out for dinner tomorrow night. Many of the breasts were really thick and large (I realize how that looks. Pull your mind outta the gutter, kay?) so I cut them in half lengthwise or butterflied them depending on their size. I was planning on using Kraft Fresh Take.  However after I cooked the chicken this way, I’m rethinking that, as this way  is delicious and probably much healthier.

– A chicken breast tenderloin (probably about 3-4 oz)
– Cilantro
– Lime juice
– Salt
– Tortilla (whole wheat is best, or you can get the flavored kind- spinach or tomato)
– Shredded Cheese (I like Mexican or cheddar)
– Buffalo or Louisiana Hot Sauce (optional)

1. Salt the chicken.
2. In a ramekin or small soufflé dish, mix about a teaspoon lime juice with chopped cilantro.
3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.
4. Using a pastry brush or your finger, ‘paint’ the cilantro/lime mix on the chicken. Pour the leftover lime juice over the chicken as well.

5. Put chicken onto grill pan. *You know the grill pan is hot enough when water flicked onto it sizzles!* Cook for approximately 5 minutes, then flip to other side and cook another 5-6 minutes. Using tongs, you may want to rotate the chicken to ‘brown’ the other smaller sides of the chicken. Honestly when chicken is cooked it turns more of a white color – but you will get some beautiful caramel-colored marks along with your black grill marks. Chicken is done when no pink is visible and it is firm to the touch. Even if you’re using tongs, the chicken shouldn’t give at all. If it does, you probably still have some pink inside. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. (Don’t worry. While a watched pot may never boil, watched chicken most certainly cooks!)



6. Remove chicken from grill pan and place on a cutting board to rest for about 1-2 minutes. Then slice diagonally into medallions. *If, upon cutting your chicken, you notice there is still some raw pink in the middle, just put the medallions back on the grill for about 30 seconds per side. You’ll get some of that nice carmelization on more surface area! Yum.*

7. Heat a small tortilla over medium heat in a skillet or grill pan. (you can do this while the chicken rests). Remove from skillet onto a plate. Sprinkle some cheese down the middle, if you so desire.
8. Place the chicken medallions evenly atop the cheese. If desired, you can drizzle with some buffalo or Louisiana hot sauce. *Both of these have no calories (woo!), but are high in sodium (boo).*

9. Smother with some homemade guac, and fold up the tortilla. Subsequently ENJOY your quick, delicious, pretty, healthy wrap! Mange mange!!

Quick, flavorful veggies

Growing up, I never ADORED broccoli. It didn’t bother me to eat it, but it wasn’t my favorite either. Some regulars where I work bring their two kids with them all the time, and they would always (wait for it) VOLUNTARILY get broccoli as a side!! I was uber impressed. Which may or may not have been the reason I started cooking broccoli more at home 😉

Turns out it’s a good thing I did, since Aubrey now LOVES broccoli! She will even eat it -gasp- RAW!  The first time this happened I was cutting broccoli to make the way I’m going to show you, and she asked, “Mom, can I have one right now?” (grabbing a piece off the cutting board). I was kind of quietly freaking out in my head. Don’t make a big deal out of it or it will ruin it! I was thinking in a terribly over-excited voice in my head. Very calmly and off-handedly I said, “Sure honey.” I watched out of the corner of my eye because I was certain she was going to spit it in the garbage. But she didn’t! And now broccoli is probably her favorite vegetable, with cauliflower coming in a close second.

So how did I make it the first time I bought fresh broccoli and cut it off the stalk? Sorry to say I didn’t steam it or even blanche it. Nah… I take baby steps. Here’s how I like to cook these now – and they’re usually a hit with everyone in the family (I guess I’m still working on the hubs though).

First, obviously, cut up your vegetables. I try to cut the broccoli and cauliflower into smaller pieces for the kids (remember my definition of kid-friendly?)

Then melt a generous tablespoon or so of butter in a skillet over low to medium heat. (Yes, sorry, this is not really a healthy dish by today’s standards. Back in the 50s maybe, sure.) You want the melted butter to cover the surface of the pan.

Once it’s all melted and you’ve tilted the pan to cover the entire surface, evenly sprinkle some Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and paprika. It will form almost like a shortened version of a compound butter, which is going to coat our vegetables very nicely.

Then place the prepared veggies in the pan – just enough to cover the surface. Now DON’T TOUCH! Let it sit for a minute or so, and sprinkle more seasonings on the top of the veg.

Then give the pan a good shake to move the veggies around and coat other sides of them. After another minute or so you can do a little flip with the pan to rotate them even more.


Here’s where you have some options.
1. You can add another pat of butter to the middle (aaaand maybe the sides too) of the pan and sprinkle more seasonings over top of the veg. This is the best way. The seasoned butter sticks so well to the veggies and forms almost like a crust of deliciousness!
2. If you have some chicken stock open in the fridge, or possible using it for your main dish, you can add a splash or two to the pan to hydrate the veggies some more. I must warn you: it will sizzle and probably whatever bits of seasonings are on the bottom of the pan, it will kind of clump them up and form a chewy… substance. haha. But if you like them more moist this is probably the way to go.


Look at that seasoned yummy-ness!

Now. Yes we use a fair amount of butter here, but what I like about it is it gives the veggies flavor without overcooking them (the more you cook veggies the more nutrients leak out). I should tell you now, this is part of my process of introducing new foods to my kids, particularly vegetables (see QUICK TIP). And although I’m glad Aubrey enjoys raw broccoli, I really don’t enjoy the dry raw florets, so this preparation is a perfect compromise! Hope you enjoy it too.

Fun kid’s lunch – English Muffin pizzas

I wish I could remember where I saw this idea. On a blog or Pinterest, maybe in a magazine? Either way, I saw it at the perfect time because I did have an extra set of English Muffins as they were BOGO a week or so ago.

So today, impulsively, I decided to try it. The kids always love when they get to help with stuff so they were all for it. Plus, it gave me a day off from sandwiches, which is nice because I’m not using bread (that saves me money in the long run- we use up to 12 pieces of bread, about half a loaf! – if everyone has sandwiches!)

What you’ll need:
Sheet pan
English Muffins
Pasta sauce
Shredded mozz or other cheese
Fresh veggies and/or meat for toppings

I started by lightly toasting 3 whole grain English muffins. Then I covered a small sheet pan with aluminum foil and put the muffins on it. I used a spoon to scoop and spread sauce on each muffin. My eldest (in the picture) is 5- almost 6!- and wanted to do her own sauce. Then I let the kids add their own veggies and top with cheese.

Then I baked in the oven at 400º for 6 minutes.

I thought they were delicious. I’d probably make them for ME next time, or maybe for dinner with mushrooms and red onion and fresh tomato. Yum!

I have to be honest though. My 5 1/2 year old LOVED hers, but as much as my two youngest love tomatoes, they really just wanted them raw. Camille picked the tomato and cheese off hers and left the muffin. Brendan only ate half of one and left the rest for me. Haha. I’m guessing it had something to do with the whole grain, as they only occasionally have whole grain toast.

Try it! You’ll be surprised how quick, easy, delicious and nutritious it is!