Author Archives: Deanna Michaels

The Best Benefits of Meal Planning

menu plant, cash, and pen on the counter

Have you ever wondered, “Why menu plan?” Someone recently found their way to this blog searching that exact thing and we all know if one person asks a question, someone else out there has the same one! So today we are going to talk about the benefits of meal planning!

People talk about menu planning all the time but does it really make a difference? What exactly are those benefits?

Strangely enough, this subject is something I actually get excited about simply because I strongly believe it has made a huge difference in my life. Meal planning is something that has been a part of how I run our home for 13 years now.

The time that I set aside to plan the menu and shopping list are a must do on my list for several reasons. Sure, if you are single or there’s just you and a spouse in the mix, you might be able to pull off not planning. However once you throw kids into the mix, which not only meals extra mouths to feed (and trust me, they never forget about eating) but also additional activities in your days, it just doesn’t work not to.

Let’s get to the benefits of meal planning and just why you should bother to take time out of your busy life to get it done!

close up of a meal plan, cash and pen

3 Benefits of Meal Planning

Menu Planning Saves Money

Budgeting is something else that’s been so important in our house – it has enabled us to live within our means and save money. One great way to save money, is watching what you spend on groceries.

There is no way I’d be able to keep my grocery budget so low if I didn’t plan!

When making a menu plan, I primarily do 3 things:

  • Check the fridge and pantry for ingredients that are going to need to be used.
  • Check the grocery ads to see what’s on sale.
  • Try and plan for the ingredients I purchase to be used in more than one meal to get the most bang for my buck.

Having a grocery list also means you spend less when you are at the store.

A menu plan means you avoid the 5pm “what’s for dinner” stress that causes a last minute grocery or restaurant run.

Menu Planning Saves Time

Let’s take this a step further. Meal planning saves me time (and stress). I’m not spending time every day (or every meal) trying to figure out what I’m going to make. Instead, I do all that thinking in an hour or so and then know exactly what is going to be happening for food each day.

Not only does planning once a week (or every other week if you prefer) save me time over having to come up with a plan daily, but I also spend less time on trips to the grocery store.

The third way menu planning saves time is because it allows me to use the tips in this post on how to spend less time in the kitchen! I can do the kitchen prep work in bulk over the weekend when I have a little extra time and can have leftovers built into my week.

Menu Planning Helps Me Eat Better

Without a meal plan, I would be much more likely to grab some pre-packaged freezer or convenience food. The chances for that unplanned run for take-out or fast food also increases! Neither of which are great on the budget or your health!

Obviously, we have nothing against restaurants. We indulge in a take out pizza on occasion and my husband enjoys Chick-Fil-A. But the majority of the time, I try to cook from scratch and avoid heavily processed foods when I feed my family. Isn’t it better to save those “cheat” meals for a real emergency or purposely plan them into your menu?

Throughout the year, I try to incorporate plenty of seasonal produce and the produce sales! When you plan your meals, you can see when you need to up your fruits and veggies! Planning also allows me to buy the basic, unprocessed ingredients in bulk and know that we will actually use the items up.

Feeding you family more nutrient dense food, saving money, and saving time and stress are 3 huge benefits of meal planning! Over the years I’m sure I’ve saved thousands of dollars by meal planning and many, many hours of time. Not only that, I don’t have the energy or creativity to pull off making an impromptu menu each day. 🙂

Has menu planning made a difference in your life? What other benefits of meal planning can you think of?

If you have yet to menu plan, I highly recommend you give it a try! Let me know if you have any questions!

recipe box, meal plan, and pen on a counter

Originally published March 26, 2015. Rewritten and updated graphics April 2020.

How to Make Cauliflower Rice without a Food Processor

Riced cauliflower cooking on a cast iron skillet

Let’s talk cauliflower. More specifically how to make cauliflower rice without a food processor!

Cauliflower is one of those foods you either love or hate. It gets a bad rap and there are a lot of memes that go around regarding cauliflower. I always chuckle, but honestly, I really don’t mind cauliflower. Especially cauliflower rice! It’s the perfect way to incorporate more veggies into your diet (or cut back on grains).

Frozen cauliflower rice is tremendously popular, and during different periods of time stores have had difficulty keeping it stocked.

cauliflower rice piled on a cutting board

Let me tell you a secret. I don’t buy the frozen packages. Homemade cauliflower rice is so fast and easy, anyone can do it! It will also save you money! Depending on size, one head will give you about 2 bags (so in my area, that means half price)! I’m all about finding easy ways to save.

So, how to make cauliflower rice without a food processor?

All you need a a head of cauliflower, a cutting board, grater, and a big skillet.

You can’t get much simpler than that.

First, rinse and dry your cauliflower and then start grating! I grate all the way down the florets not worrying about avoiding the stem. After all, it’s all in such fine pieces and will be cooked anyway. If the stem bothers you, you can remove your florets before you grate and then won’t get any of the stem.

cauliflower rice in a large pan

All that’s left to do, is cook it. I always cook mine in a large skillet. I heat the skillet and add a little oil before dumping in the homemade cauliflower rice. Let cook over medium heat until it’s at your preference of tenderness. Add a little salt at the end of cooking if desired.

If I’m using is for something like fried rice, I made sure to pull off of the heat a touch early because will cook a few minutes longer when added to the fried rice ingredients. (You can use this recipe and simply swap the rice for cauliflower.) To use as a rice replacement in dishes like stir fry, butter chicken, or to serve with roasted sausage and veggies cook to your desired softness. When used more as a side, I always use salt!

See, homemade cauliflower rice is a breeze! Enjoy!

cauliflower rice on a cutting board and in a skillet

How to Make Cauliflower Rice without a Food Processor

How to Make Cauliflower Rice without a Food Processor
 
Ingredients
  • Head of cauliflower
  • Oil, drizzle
  • Salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse and dry the head of cauliflower. Remove the green leaves.
  2. Use a box cheese grater to grate the head of cauliflower until the florets are entirely grated. If you don't want any of the stem in your rice, remove florets before grating.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. (If you don't have a large enough skillet, cook in a couple of batches.) Put a drizzle of oil in the skillet and add the grated cauliflower.
  4. Cook until the cauliflower is your desired texture and season with salt.

rice cauliflower with a cheese grater

Easter Basket Ideas for Kids

pile of dyed eggs

Easter is just around the corner and of course that means thinking about figuring out Easter basket ideas for the kids and what exactly those Easter gifts should be. This year it’s going to be quite a bit different for most of us. The biggest of the Christian holidays and we’ll all be celebrating at home this year with non of the usual traditions!

If I’m honest, it’s been years since we’ve done Easter gifts in our house. Typically the days leading up to and including Easter include many egg hunts, events, and fun memories that I haven’t felt the need to compile Easter baskets of our own. On Easter the focus is more on church and family.

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In this year of quiet, doing less, and making memories at home we are going to celebrate the Resurrection and worship as a family at home and online, and I think that we might just have to include Easter baskets for the kids. They will be so excited!

If you are like me, you don’t want more stuff  in your house and you want things that encourage creativity and action! I’ve put together a list of over 50 Easter basket ideas for kids that I know my 3 would enjoy. These are especially good ideas for keeping our kids busy during this time of self-distancing!

easter basket with eggs

Easter Basket Ideas For Kids

Indoor Activities, Crafts, and Kits

Fun, Personal Items:

  • New Flip Flops Check out Old Navy or Children’s Place for sales.
  • Graphic T-Shirt
  • Summer PJs
  • Warmies Our local bookstore has these, yours might too!
  • Stainless Steel Water Bottle My kids received these for Christmas and have loved them
  • Favorite Foods Treats you don’t normally buy are always a great idea for the Easter basket. And being able eat things from it might make the days at home a little more special.
    • Snacks
    • Candy
    • Drinks

Outdoor Activities:

Christian Themed Books, DVDs, CDs

Will you be putting together Easter baskets for your kids this year? What are your favorite Easter gifts? If you choose to skip the tradition all together this year or spend less and go super simple, no guilt from me!

wooden easter basket

Homemade Naan Recipe

Homemade naan recipe stacked on a plate

We love this delicious, simple homemade naan recipe! My kids frequently request it (and butter chicken).

Now, let’s get one thing straight. I’m not naive enough to think this is like what you’d get living in India or at an Indian restaurant but it’s still absolutely amazing and beats anything you can buy at the grocery store. (I’ve tried the premade kind from a large supermarket grocery store and was not impressed 😉 )

plate of cooked homemade naan

I love breads. Naan might top the list for me. I’ve been known on multiple occasion to go to an Indian restaurant and only order naan. On vacation one year, I saw in Indian option in a mall food court. Of course, I had to order naan. I don’t think the poor man could handle the thought of us sitting there eating plain naan and sent out a bowl of chicken curry as well. I didn’t complain about that all!

If you enjoy naan or even if you just enjoy bread, I hope that you’ll make this recipe! It’s perfect with butter chicken or a curry dish. It would also make a great wrap for sandwiches (check out this recipe for an Indian themed chicken sandwich), naan pizza, or even to snack on plain.

homemade naan dough balls resting on a plate

After kneading the dough together, you let it double in size and then divide into balls. Cover with a towel and again let them double in size.

homemade naan rolled out

After that second resting period, get your grill or skillet heating up and start rolling out your naan into circular or oblong shapes! Then then you are able to cook and enjoy this homemade naan recipe!

Garlic also makes a fantastic addition to naan! If garlic is your thing, be sure to turn this into a garlic naan recipe by microplaning or finely mincing some fresh garlic and kneading it into the dough. You can also infuse the butter you brush on top of the naan with garlic – perfection!

 

close up shot of a stack of homemade naan

Homemade Naan Recipe

4.7 from 3 reviews
Homemade Naan Recipe
Serves: 16 pieces
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3½ cups flour
  • Optional - 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 2-4 tablespoons melted butter
Instructions
  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit until frothy.
  2. Add milk, baking soda, egg (poke the yoke several times after you add it to the bowl), salt, sugar, and 1 cup of flour.
  3. Add enough of the reminder of the flour to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth and elastic.
  4. Cover bowl and let rise until double in size. (Around 1 hour)
  5. If adding garlic, knead into the dough now. (Can also add to just part of the dough)
  6. Divide dough into 16 balls, cover with a towel and allow to double in size. (Around 30 minutes)
  7. Roll each ball into a fairly thin circle.
  8. Preheat grill or skillet (stainless steel or cast iron) to medium high. Make sure it's good and hot.
  9. Before cooking, turn heat to medium low.
  10. To cook, brush one side of naan with butter. Put buttered side down onto grill or skillet. It should bubble up right away. Brush top side with butter. One side will be done in a minute or two.
  11. Watch carefully - you don't want to over cook. When the bottom is golden brown in spots, flip and cook the other side.
  12. When finished, remove and stack on a plate. Cover with a towel to keep warm until all the naan in finished.

stack of simple and delicious homemade naan!

 

 

Easy and delicious naan. One of my favorite breads. You can make it in on the grill or a skillet.

Here it is after being cooked on the grill.

Easy and delicious naan. One of my favorite breads. You can make it in on the grill or a skillet.

This is when it’s cooked in a skillet.

Originally published March 12, 2014

Favorite Books Read in 2019

stack of books to read with glasses resting on top

2019 was a good year for reading! If you are wondering “What good books should I read?”, I probably can help you out! In all, I believe this list comes to 80 books. Not too shabby. My 2020 reading rate is off to a much slower start. 😉

This book list also includes chapter books I read to or listened to with the kids. (Those books are marked by an *.) There are also a good number of children’s novels Kenna and I both read (separately) and I few I just read.

I have divided this list into a handful of broad categories and I’ll try and tell you the highlights of each group! It was interesting for me to see which books I still get excited about a year later.

The categories are: Fiction (including classic novels), Missionary Biographies, Biographies/Memoirs/Historical Non Fiction, Christian Non Fiction, Other Fiction and Children’s Novels

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Fiction

Little Women
The Count of Monte Cristo
Jane Eyre
Daniel Deronda
Middlemarch
Till We Have Faces
The Chosen
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader*
The Five Red Herrings
Becoming Mrs Lewis
A Portrait of Emily Price

I had so much fun re-reading some of my favorite classic novels! The 4 books in bold are my top picks from the category. I had forgotten just how good they were: Little Women, The Count of Monte Cristo, Daniel Deronda, and The Chosen.

Of course Jane Eyre and the CS Lewis books are also must reads.

A friend told me Middlemarch was her favorite George Elliot book, so I tackled it for the first time. I enjoyed it, but still loved the story of Daniel Deronda more. I am going to read it a second time, because I have a feeling the story will grow on me. Deronda was like going back to an old friend. 😉

Missionary Biographies

The Hiding Place
Through Gates of Splendor
God’s Smuggler
Evidence Not Seen
Daring to Hope

Honestly, I don’t have a top favorite. I’d say read them all! Except for Daring to Hope, these were all re-reads for me. Each of these individuals have amazing testimonies – these books are so encouraging and convicting. 

Biographies/Memoirs/Historical Non Fiction

Growing Up Amish
How to Be Like Walt +
The Boys in the Boat
Save Me the Plums
The Push +
Code Girls +
The King’s Speech +
The Magnolia Story
Shoe Dog

I love this category. True stories are so fascinating. I also enjoy learning about times in history I know little about and about people who live lives nothing like mine. Books are a great way to expand your horizons and keep educating yourself. The Boys in the Boat and Save Me the Plums are probably my top picks. Both books were very well written (and made me want to pick up other books by those authors). I also really enjoyed Code Girls (I was so clueless about this part of history), The King’s Speech, and How to Be Like Walt. If you are into rock climbing at all, The Push is a must read! (Actually, I’ve only been rock climbing once and I still really enjoyed it.)

The Magnolia Story and Shoe Dog were easy reads that I did enjoy and found fascinating how these “empires” got their starts, but they were a little stressful! I found myself wanting to read a not so risk driven entrepreneurial story after that. 🙂

neat stack of books waiting to be read

Christian Non Fiction

If
God in the Dock
The Reason for God
The Practice of the Presence of God
Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus
Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus
Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus
Church History in Plain Language
The Jewish Jesus

Introverts in the Church
Missionary Mom
Memory Making Mom
Gift from the Sea
Friendish
It’s All Under Control
Everyday Love
2 Chairs

My number one pick(s) would probably have to be Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus and Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus. I LOVED them and found my self talking about them all the time. They also have helped me as I read the Bible.

I also quite enjoyed Keller’s The Reason for God and The Practice of the Presence of God. If is a super short and good book by Amy Carmichael based off of 1 Corinthians 13. So, my number one picks remain but after that I recommend any of those first 9 books.

In the last segment, Introverts in the Church I was just eh about. And 2 Chairs I didn’t love. Friendish is a thought provoking look at just what Christian friendship should look like. Everyday Love is a Bible study I enjoyed. The others were all quick reads I enjoyed but didn’t love enough to make the top segment. 

Other Non Fiction

White Fragility
Rising Strong
Essentialism
Smart Money Smart Kids
Everyday Millionaire

White Fragility is worth reading. It will make you think and hopefully see things from a perspective beyond what you currently know. Rising Strong is one of Brene Brown’s books and I recommend reading her work. You won’t agree with everything, but again they make you think and have a lot of good stuff in them.

The other 3 books were all fine, but nothing life changing.

Children’s Novels

Bethlehem Books:
God King
The Lost Baron
The Borrowed House
Red Falcons of Tremoine
Becky Landers
Downright Dencey
Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal

The Penderwicks
The Pernderwicks On Gardam Street
The Penderwicks in Spring
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette
The Penderwicks at Last

The Black Stallion
The Black Stallion Returns
Son of the Black Stallion

Grandfather’s Dance
Mask of the Wolf Boy
White Horse
Misty of Chincoteague

10 of these books my 8 year old and I both read separately. Black Stallion and Misty I haven’t read since I was a kid and they are so good! White Horse is the first Elizabeth Goudge book I have read, and the only one our library has. I always see Sarah Clarkson recommend her books and wanted to try them.

Children’s Books Read to the Kids

Sarah Plain and Tall*
Skylark*
Caleb’s Story*
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader*
The Trumpet of the Swan*
The Wheel on the School*
Snow Treasure*
The Sword in the Stone*
The Secret Garden*
James and the Giant Peach*
Because of Winn-Dixie*
Where the Red Fern Grows*
The Cricket in Times Square*
More All of a Kind Family*
Tuesdays at the Castle*
Holes*

A lot of these were books I read growing up and it was fun reading them with the kids. The Sarah Plain and Tall series is so good. They are also quick reads. Snow Treasure, All of a Kind Family, Dawn Treader, and The Wheel on the School I all enjoyed as a kid and again this past year. 

My 6 six year said that his favorites that we read aloud or listened to the audio book of this year were:

  • The Trumpet of the Swan
  • Because of Winn Dixie.

My 8 year old said she liked all of them but when forced to pick she said:

  • Holes
  • Tuesdays at the Castle
  • Where the Red Fern Grows
  • Snow Treasure
  • Secret Garden

Enough words about what I read in 2019! My question for you is, what where your favorite books read last year?

Stack of library books to read