Family Meals Matter On Facebook: Discover Family Meal Time

October 28, 2009 · Posted in Cooking Workshops · View Comments 

Do you love cooking? Become a fan of Family Meals Matter Cooking Club on Facebook.  

Discover delicious new recipes and ways of preparing favorite ingredients, share recipe ideas, notes and variations with new online friends interested in cooking and family meal times, impress offline friends and family with your cooking creations, and maybe even win some fun prizes from Noel’s Kitchen.

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Weeknight Menu Ideas:Quick Creative Meal Ideas

October 27, 2009 · Posted in Main Dishes · View Comments 

Weeknight Menu Ideas

Before you plan your next grocery shopping trip, check your store’s Web site to see what the week’s specials are, if there are coupons, and what items are seasonal and abundant, and thus good value. Compare prices between different supermarkets in your area.

My last trip to the grocery store, I found some great savings on many different items. I reviewed the ad prior to my visit, wrote my shopping list and was off.  It’s a good idea to review in-store ads that are usually available to customers and can be easily found next to the shopping cart area as you enter the store.  You most likely will find an extra savings on items.

Ragu Special

Some grocery stores will have “Budget Buys” Reducing the price on many items available. I was able to find a great deal down the pasta and grains aisle. If I purchased two Ragu Pasta Sauces, I received a Free package of Spaghetti noodles.  Pasta is an easy weeknight meal and very quick to make. It is also a great dish for feeding a large family.

I was also able to find a good price on Johnsonville’s Sweet Sausage so I had a perfect meal planned.

Quick Creative Meal Ideas

On the dinner menu: Busy Mom’s Sweet Sausage Spaghetti

This is a quick and easy spaghetti dish made with a few simple ingredients and I was able to use some yellow squash from our garden.

Pasta Ingredients


1 package spaghetti noodles (16 oz.)

1 jar Ragu pasta sauce (homemade sauce would be an excellent choice too. Make a large quantity and freeze in portions.)

4-5 Johnsonville Sweet Italian Sausage

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2  medium size yellow squash

1 medium size green bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, pressed, chopped


Bring 4-6 quarts water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to package instructions. As water is boiling, saute sausage, green pepper, yellow squash, onion and garlic. Drain pasta. Add pasta to sauted ingredients, slowly add pasta sauce. Combine ingredients. Serve with fresh parmesan cheese.



Shopping Tip: Decide what your weekly meals will be in advance so that you can turn leftovers from one dinner in the following day’s lunch or dinner. Before shopping, check that you have all the necessary staples (flour, sugar, etc.), and jot down anything else you need for the week. Try making up an easy spreadsheet for a shopping list and food budget, then simply update it each time you head to the store.

Family Meal Deals-Weekly Dinner Menu

October 26, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 

Weekly Dinner Menu

With the launching of my new site design, I’m going to start something new and I hope you like it.

Everyone has been paying a little more attention to their budgets lately and one of the most quickest ways is to start eating at home more often. Families that eat together are stronger and closer.

What’s for Dinner? One of the biggest dilemas at dinner time and the number one concern is what to make. That’s the hardest part. If you’re anything like me and work full-time, unless you know what you’re going to make before you get home and the ingredients are waiting for you, you’ll either eat at 9pm or resort to take-out.

I’ve been browsing the weekly grocery store ads for awhile now and that helps me save money on groceries by telling me what’s really on sale, and most often the grocery store will have in-store coupons for extra savings.

What I want to do, is share my weekly meal plans with you. I’m going to figure out what’s on sale and show you what you can do with the ingredients. I hope you enjoy it.

Family Meal Deals

Beef Cross Rib Roast

I was really excited this week to see such an amazing savings. On sale, was Boneless Chuck Beef Cross Rib Roast at $2.97lb (4lbs or more). That’s a savings of $1.02lb. By purchasing this particular meat, I was able to receive a Free 5lb bag of potatoes, a 12 oz. bag of  iceberg garden salad and a Free loaf of french bread.

On the menu tonight:

Dijon Herb Cross Rib Roast


1 3-6 pound Beef Cross Rib Roast

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons butter, softened

1 Tablespoon fresh cracked pepper

1/2 Tablespoon Rosemary

1/2 Tablespoon Sage

1/2 Tablespoon Thyme


Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 2 to 3 hours Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place roast, fat side up, in a large shallow baking pan. Stir together the remaining ingredients and spread over the top and sides of roast. Insert an oven-proof meat thermometer so the tip is in the center of the roast.

Cook for 2 to 3 hours or until meat thermometer reaches 135°F for medium-rare or 150°F for medium. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before carving.

Garlic Roasted Potatoes

5-6 Russet potatoes,  cubed

2 Tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, pressed

Salt and pepper

Fresh Rosemary


Prep Time: 10 minutes, Cook Time: 45 minutes Cube the potatoes and toss with olive oil, garlic, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Roast at 375 on a cookie sheet for approximately 45 minutes, or until somewhat crisp.

During the last 10 minutes of cooking time, add chopped fresh rosemary to the potatoes.

Serve with garden salad mix and a fresh loaf of french bread.

Harvest Pumpkin Soup-Quick Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

October 25, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 

Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

This is a perfect, beautiful creamy and delicious pumpkin soup recipe that’s perfect for entertaining your friends and family for Thanksgiving. The spices traditionally used with pumpkin are considered warming and I’ve tried incorporating those spices into the soup.

Harvest Pumpkin Soup

Harvest Pumpkin Soup


2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup onion, chopped

3 Celery stalks, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

4 cups fresh roasted pumpkin, cubed

1 large russet potato, chopped

4 cups fat free chicken broth


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and cut the pumpkin lengthwise. Remove and discard the seeds and excess fiber. May peel skin if desired. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle some salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast in oven  for 30-45 minutes.


In a large stock pot, heat oil–add onion, celery, carrots, garlic, ginger and sugar. Cook 5 minutes or until tender. Add spices; stir to coat. Cube pumpkin, add pumpkin, potato and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer 30 minutes or until potato, carrot and pumpkin are tender.

Puree the soup, small portions at a time to avoid overflow and burning. Soup will be hot. Return to stock pot to heat.

This soup can easily be made ahead and frozen. Thaw in refrigerator a couple of days ahead and reheat 20 minutes before serving.


Twice Baked Potatoes: Kid Friendly Recipes

October 21, 2009 · Posted in Kids In The Kitchen · View Comments 

Kid Friendly Recipes

I’ve said it many times before. You know the pleasure you get from preparing and serving something your family loves? Children can experience the same satisfaction when they help prepare food for themselves, their friends, or the whole family.

A friend of mine has a daughter who loves to make dinner for her family and makes great effort in helping her mom out. Tonight she called her mom and told her she was making baked potatoes for dinner but didn’t know how to cook them.  I gave her the basic instructions on how to cook a baked potato.

 Preteens are more than ready to take on some serious responsibility. They can help pick the recipes for meals and even execute them. Let them try new recipes that they find online and permit them to make some dishes on their own, with minimal supervision. You’ll find that at this age, kids like to experiment.

 Dakota, this recipe is dedicated to you for those spur of the moment recipe ideas when you help your mom out in the kitchen.


Twice Baked Potatoes

4 large Idaho potatoes

1/2 cup non fat sour cream

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup ranch dressing

4 Tablespoons butter

1 cup shredded cheddar/jack cheese mixture, divided

6 green onions, thinly sliced, divided

1 cup cooked bacon, chopped (can substitute with bacon bits)

Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Wash and pierce potatoes with a fork. Cook in preheated oven for one hour.

Chop bacon into bite size pieces. In a skillet over medium-low heat, cook bacon. Drain excess fat. Set aside.

When potatoes are done, remove from oven. Cool 10 minutes. Slice potatoes lengthwise. Scoop potato flesh out into a mixing bowl. Place potato skins on a baking sheet.

To the potato, add sour cream, milk, butter, ranch dressing, 1/2 cheese, 1/2 of green onion,  1/2 bacon, salt and pepper. Mix together. Spoon the mixture into the potato skins. Top each with remaining cheese, green onions and bacon.

Place cookie sheet with potatoes back in oven for 10-15 minutes. Serve with broccoli or simply alone. 

Supervision is the key to cooking with kids…they develop cooking skills at different rates so it’s important to have an adult introduce children to skills that match their ability levels and educate them in the process. Preparing meals can be more fun and a lot of help when the whole family is involved. So experience the kitchen with your kids.

Wacky Mac Minestone Soup: Easy Slow Cooker Recipes

October 17, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 

Easy Slow Cooker Recipes:

What’s your recipe for a cool fall day? What sounds more comforting and satisfying on a chilly day, than a hearty bowl of flavorful soup.

Coming home after a hard days work and feeling the crisp, fall air, there’s absolutely nothing better than soup for a perfect warm up. Today we are using the slow cooker a making a healthy Minestone soup. 

Minestrone soup has always been one of my favorite soups.  The Wacky Mac pasta used in this recipe has wheels, shells, spirals and tubes that make this soup fun and tasty to eat for the kids. This hearty soup is a great family supper.

Minestrone Soup

Wacky Mac Minestrone Soup


4 cups vegetable broth

4 cups diced tomatoes

2 cups chopped celery

2 cups carrot, peeled and chopped

2 cups cannellini beans, drained

2 cups zucchini, chopped

2 cups corn

1 cup yellow or white onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

1 cup  frozen spinach leaves, defrosted and chopped

1 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

Salt and pepper

2 cups cooked Wacky Mac pasta


In a stock pot, bring 6-8 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Add salt if desired.  Slowly add Wacky Mac pasta. Boil 8-10 minutes until tender, stirring occassionally. Remove from heat. Drain.

In a slow cooker, add vegetable broth, vegetables, spices and drained pasta. Cook on low heat 8-10 hours or on hight heat 5-6 hours. Top with some grated Parmesan and Romano cheese. Serve with Sweet Corn Muffins, French Bread.

Hearty soups  are perfect for a chilly day. Enjoy!






Stocking Your Pantry For Emergencies: Is Your Family Ready?

October 15, 2009 · Posted in Kitchen Tips · View Comments 

Stocking Your Pantry For Emergencies

kitchen pantry     Is your pantry stocked for emergencies? With fall here and the winter months just around the corner, many of us can be expect power outages. As the rain and snow begins to fly, the wind blows harshly and the cold temperatures start to settle in, this is when you can expect a power outage to occur.

ist1_9051379-stormy-weather-ahead-road-sign    The weather is one thing you can’t control. But you can control how you and your family are prepared for emergencies and bad weather conditions.

ist1_9029504-stormy-road-ahead   For the past couple of days, we have experienced rain and heavy winds which caused a power outage on our ranch and for other residents in our town. Electrical outages can cause some major problems and it’s a good idea to be fully prepared when you literally find yourself in the dark.

Is Your Family Ready?

You should always stock up on the essentials like batteries, candles, water, blankets and warm clothes. Usually during a power outage, you will not be able to cook if your appliances are electric. I highly recommend keeping on hand a propane barbecue or a good camping stove. (Not to be used indoors.) Consider buying a solar oven for cooking without fuel. Some people have homes with a wood stove that’s great for cooking on. Generators are also useful for running a refrigerator and a freezer to keep foods fresh. If you are on a well system, your pump usually runs off electricity and if there is a power outage, the water pressure will only last a short period of time. Always be sure to keep extra water on hand in a cool, dry place.

food     Food is one of the primary issues during a power outage.  Your kitchen pantry should be stocked at all times. I like to stock up on dry and canned foods while they are on sale. Canned meats that can be eaten cold are an excellent pantry item addition. Include in your emergency pantry, plenty of vegetables, fruits and grains and powdered milk. Soups are excellent choice to keep on hand.  For the kids, boxed juices are always a good idea. Items that do not require refrigeration can be kept in a designated spot for easy access or simply designate a storage space in your garage. Anything that does not require refrigeration will keep you and your family fed until your power is fully restored.

By simply adding to your shopping cart, a few more cans of soup, vegetables, canned meat and some bottles of water every time you go shopping, you will build up a nice emergency food supply.  There are many ways to prepare for emergencies. You don’t have to go out and buy everything at once. 

images    Sit down with your family and make a list of the necessities and start stocking up on items a little at a time.  Before you know it, you won’t have to make any last minute trips to the grocery store before the winter weather hits.

Busy Mom’s Weeknight Recipes: Easy Soups for the Family on the GO

October 14, 2009 · Posted in Main Dishes · View Comments 

For the past two days, newscasters have been talking about rainy and windy days are in the forcast. With the weather changing, it’s time to start thinking about hearty foods for your family. There is absolutely nothing better than a hearty bowl of soup.  I especially love making soups in the fall and on cold winter days. This makes enough for leftovers and perfect for freezing.

Today we are making a Fiesta Taco Soup. It can be made in under 30 minutes with a prep time of 20 minutes. Great dish your whole family will enjoy. *Note: For those that prefer less spicy foods, you can omit the green chiles.

Fiesta Taco Soup

Taco Soup


2 pounds ground beef or turkey

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cans kidney beans, undrained

1 can pinto beans, undrained

4 can stewed tomatoes

2 can corn, undrained

1 can diced green chiles (can be omited for those who want a less spicy soup)

1 packet Taco seasoning

1 packet Ranch Dip mix



 In a stock pot, brown ground beef or turkey and diced onion. Add remaining ingredients except Cilantro. Cook over medium-high heat for 30 minutes. Garnish with Cilantro. Serve.

I generally like to serve this dish with Mexican Cornbread. (Recipe to post later.)

October Fall Harvest Festivals-A Great Family Festival

October 12, 2009 · Posted in Improving Family Life · View Comments 

Welcome to Loma Rica

October Fall Harvest Festivals

This past weekend we took a break from our normal routines and decided to spend a day with the kids enjoying the beautiful fall weather. We celebrated the day at Loma Rica Ranch at their 5th annual Harvest Festival.

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There is nothing like experiencing fall in the Sierra Foothills. The scenery view is beautiful with colors of red, orange and yellow.

2009_Harvest_Festival_Poster_thumb      A Great Family Festival

Loma Rica Ranch is a certified Organic Farm that offers rows of heirloom vegetables, berries and fruit trees. The Ranch offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy local produce.

Picture 212

The festival offered a variety of fun fall attractions for the whole family including pumpkin picking, wagon rides, face painting, a kid-friendly haunted house, a corn maze, hay fort and even a zipline for the kids. There were lots of crafts people and artists, LIVE music and tons of free games and craft activities!

Children of all ages enjoyed feeding the farm animals at the petting zoo and riding the ponies. Our kids enjoyed getting lost in the twisted paths through the hay maze and found themselves on top of hay mountain. Later we were more adventurous to escape out of the corn maze.

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And I can’t forget the food-some of the best of Nevada County! The kids enjoyed good old fashioned hot dogs from The Top Dog and my husband and I enjoyed gourmet southwestern wraps from Coloma Wraps. These gourmet wraps were an organic California fusion style wrap withseasoned beef, chichen or tofu, fresh tomato salsa, black bean corn salsa, green leaf lettuce, red cabbage and a ”special” sauce on a whole wheat flour tortilla. 

We spent hours enjoying the celebration and srolling through the booths.






Pumpkin Spice Muffins

October 6, 2009 · Posted in Recipes · View Comments 


Fall brings numerous opportunities to gather with family and friends. It also brings an amazing assortment of foods. While looking out my dining room window at all the beautiful Fall colored leaves, I was inspired to make something that had pumpkin and the lovely aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and everything that reminded me of Fall.  These spices blended together bring such a lovely smell to the house; it’s like being in a bakery.

Fall is a great time for pumpkins. Families spend time at the pumpkin patch or going to a Harvest Festival. This year we decided to try our hand at growing our own. After all, pumpkins are not just for carving. After Halloween, you can cut up your pumpkins and make a great puree. Pumpkins are loaded with nutrients and if you’re a seed lover like we are, than you’re in for a treat.

Today’s featured recipe is Pumpkin Spice Muffins. A recipe the kids can even participate!


Pumpkin Spice Muffins


3 1/3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

3 cups natural sugar cane sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

2/3 cup water

2 cups pumpkin puree


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin pan with vegetable oil or use cupcake liners. (*I like to use a stoneware muffin pan; Evenly distributes heat and draws moisture away from surface.)

Fill muffin three-quarters full and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.Frost with a Cream Cheese frosting or be festive and frost with an Orange icing.


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