Meal planning for easier living.

Something I have always wanted to do, but have not yet done, is utilize weekly meal planning. Thinking of what to make for lunch and dinner day in and day out is one of my least favorite things. It is also made harder due to diet restrictions.

Luckily, some of my fellow bloggers have some great meal planning printables to help make things easier:

I really want to start planning our meals not only to save some stress, but it’s also a great way to save money since there is less waste (planning ingredients to use in multiple meals, etc). It can also help in planning healthier meals as well.

Oh, and if you aren’t into the old school pen and paper, check out this article on Life Hacker about meal planning apps. They look pretty amazing.

What about you? Do you plan your meals ahead, or do you fly by the seat of your frying pan?

Cookie Christmas Tree

My mom and I had fun the other day making this Christmas tree out of sugar cookies. We actually made one before, over 20 years ago, with not as lovely results as this time around. It’s really fun and easy to make, we used the Wilton Cookie Tree Cutter Kit, which has a great sugar cookie recipe in it (and some other fun tips too) and all the star cookie cutters needed.

Cookie Christmas Tree

We “glued” the layers together with Royal Icing. We decorated using icing in a can in green, and added cute mini M&Ms to look like ornaments, and some colored sugar to finish it off.

And of course, there was a lot of taste testing and cookie eating in the process. :)

Cooking with Frank’s RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce- Cookbook

9781612433660.01Who loves things HOT? We like things hot and spicy in our household, and so of course I was excited to get a copy of my friend Rachel’s latest cookbook! She is the brains behind the popular blog,, and she has come up with 65 different recipes using the iconic hot sauce. Cooking with Frank’s RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce: Delicious Recipes That Bring the Heat is sure to be a hit for anyone who loves this sauce (and anyone adventurous enough to try it in cinnamon rolls)!

This is the first and only cookbook exclusively dedicated (not officially sponsored) to hot, hot, hot recipes featuring Frank’s® RedHot® Cayenne Pepper Sauce.

“I loved exploring the versatility of hot sauce for this book,” explains author Rachel Rappaport, “I already loved it on wings, but mixing it into ice cream and cinnamon rolls was an unexpected delight.”

We get to share a favorite recipe from the book with you dear readers!

BBQ Chicken pizza
Pizza night made easy thanks to Frank’s® RedHot® Kickin’ BBQ Sauce and refrigerated pizza dough.

Makes 4 to 6 servings (2 pizzas)

For store-bought crust
2 (1-pound) balls pizza dough
coarse-grain cornmeal for dusting

For homemade crust:
1 cup warm water

1⁄4 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1⁄3 cup olive oil
2 3⁄4 cups flour

olive oil for greasing bowl
coarse-grain cornmeal for dusting

For pizza topping
1 cup Frank’s® RedHot® Kickin’BBQ Sauce, divided, plus more for drizzling
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast
1 cup fresh corn kernels

1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

1. Put a large pizza stone or baking sheet on the center rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F or the temperature specified on the pizza dough package instructions.

To make the crust using store-bought dough
Prepare the dough according to package instructions.

To make the homemade pizza crust
1. Pour warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer or use a large bowl and a hand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Add the sugar and yeast. Stir the mixture until the yeast is dissolved. Stir in the olive oil. Add the flour. Use the dough hook and mix until the dough becomes a smooth, elastic ball, about 5 minutes.

2. Coat the inside of a second large bowl with additional olive oil and place the dough in the bowl, smooth side up. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a cold oven until doubled in size, about 40 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and use your fist to push down on the center of the dough. Fold the dough in half 4 or 5 times. Turn the dough over, folded side down, cover with plastic wrap, and place on the counter to rise again. Wait until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

3. Punch down the dough and transfer to a clean, floured surface. Divide the dough in half and knead each half 4 or 5 times into a ball. Place one of the dough balls back in the oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

4. Place one dough ball on top of the floured surface and pat into a flattened circle about 10 inches in diameter, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let rest 5 minutes. Then use a floured rolling pin to flatten and push the dough evenly out from the center until it measures about 7 to 8 inches in diameter and is about 1⁄4 inch thick. Lift the dough off the surface and center it on top of your fists. Rotate and stretch the dough, moving your fists until they are 6 to 8 inches apart and the dough is several inches larger. Then place your fists under the inside of the outer edge, and continue to stretch the dough until it reaches about 12 inches in diameter. The dough will drape down over your forearms. Start over if the dough tears or is see-through.

To assemble and bake the pizzas
1. Sprinkle a pizza peel lightly with cornmeal. Gently lay the stretched-out homemade dough from half the recipe or the rolled-out dough from one ball of store-bought pizza dough on the pizza peel. Spread the dough with Frank’s® RedHot® Kickin’ BBQ Sauce, leaving a 1⁄2-inch border around the outer edge of the pizza. Cover the pizza with half the cheese, chicken, corn, and red onion. Drizzle the pizza with more Frank’s® sauce.

2. Sprinkle a little cornmeal on the hot pizza stone or baking sheet. Gently slide unbaked pizza off the pizza peel and onto the stone or baking sheet. Bake the pizza for 10 minutes or until the crust is fully cooked and the cheese is melted. When the pizza is done, use pizza peel to remove it from the oven. Slide the pizza off pizza peel onto a flat surface to cool.

3. While the first pizza is cooling, repeat the entire process to make the second pizza. Serve immediately.

I received a copy of Cooking with Frank’s RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce: Delicious Recipes That Bring the Heat for my review. The book is full of creative recipes, and we can’t wait to give them all a try!

Pioneer Day Covered Wagon Treats

Here’s a quick break down of the cute covered wagons we made for Pioneer Day last year! A very fun activity to do together.

Covered wagon treatsThey are pretty simple to make. You will need:

  • Twinkies
  • Mini-Fudge Stripe cookies, or other small round cookies with a hole.
  • Vanilla wafers. Chocolate would work well too, but they didn’t have any at the store.
  • Toothpicks.
  • Animal cookies.

First cut the ends off of the Twinkies so they are shaped like an open covered wagon. Next lay out two vanilla wafers on a plate. Place the Twinkie on top, lining up the edge of the Twinkie to one edge of the wafers. Trim the excess wafer from the other side so everything is flush.

Next, put two Mini-Fudge stripes on a toothpick (make two of these), and place it them under the wafers. It helps if you can press the wafers gently into the toothpick for added stability.

The “oxen” is the trickiest part. If you have a bit of frosting on hand you could stick the toothpick to the back of the animal cracker for extra hold. We slid our toothpicks just under the frosting, and then poked it into the Twinkie.

Pioneer Day Treats

These aren’t the most stable of edibles, but that’s fine since they are going to be eaten quickly anyway!

Happy Pioneer Day!

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