Beef Tips

Tonight’s dinner was fast, insanely easy, and full of protein. It was great because I pulled my back at the gym and spent all day on the couch. If I hadn’t had dinner in the Crock Pot already, we’d have been eating pizza! 

Monday when I did my meal prep for the week, I froze this meal; so all I had to do was dump it into the crock pot. Here’s the recipe: 

Beef Tips with Gravy 

  • 2 lbs stew meat 
  • 2 packets brown gravy 
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 beef bullion cube
  • 1 cup water 
  1. Line your slow cooker with a disposable liner if you choose
  2. Place stew meat in bottom of slow cooker
  3. Combine remaining ingredients and dump on top. 
  4. Cook on low 4-6 hours.

If you’re freezing this meal, place there meat in a gallon size bag. Combine remaining ingredients and pour on top. Seal bag & mix the meat with gravy together. Thaw in the fridge overnight and you literally just dump the bag into the slow cooker. 

James has us counting macros these days, so to make life easier I labeled all our bags with the important information. 

We served this with brown rice for the girls and I, but mashed potatoes for James. We also finished up the last of the corn and James combined his all to make a “bowl”, similar to last night’s meal. 

Couldn’t have been easier. Tomorrow we’re taking a break from the rice and stepping out of our comfort zone with slow cooker chicken gyros! 

Ranch Pork Chops 

I have a love/hate relationship with pork chops. They’re typically a cheaper cut of meat, but they dry out and get tough every stinkin’ time I cook them. 

My friend Emily has been doing freezer meals lately and I decided to try her recipe for ranch pork chops. This recipe is on probably dozens of blogs all over the interwebs, so it’s definitely not original. But it’s good, and that’s what counts. 

The original recipe calls for:

  • 6 pork chops 
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup 
  • 1 packet dry Ranch dressing mix 

You put the chops in the bottom of the slow cooker, mix the soup with dressing mix and throw that on top then cook on low for 4-6 hours. These pork chops literally fell apart when I picked them up with a spoon. And the recipe couldn’t be easier – unless you use a slow cooker liner to avoid cleaning your Crock Pot *cough*cough*. 

I made this last week and the kids loved it so much that my 5-year-old asked to take leftovers for lunch! I made it again today with just one tweak, and I might like it even better. 

Last night I trimmed the pork chops to make this morning easier. I mixed together 

  • 2 cans cream of MUSHROOM soup 
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dip 

Not a huge difference, but it was so good! I also sautéed some mushrooms and added them to the crock pot. 

I had them all ready to go so all I had to do was dump this morning. I even plugged in the Crock Pot and lined it last night so I wouldn’t be rushing around.

We aren’t the type to worry about our food touching, so I decided to make these into a “bowl” style meal. I precooked brown rice and sautéed some frozen corn kernels until they were brown around the edges. If they’re frozen and you put them into a screaming hot pan, you don’t even need butter or oil to “fry” it! 

I went ahead and had it for lunch because I needed the carbs before the gym. It was delicious! It’s definitely going to be in the normal rotation. 

Meal Prep and Freezer Cooking in 7 Easy Hours 

You’ve seen them all over Pinterest… Those blogs everywhere claiming you can freezer prep 42 meals in 42 minutes or something equally amazing? 

I call bullsh**, ok? Either these women have tons of help, no kids, or they don’t count the actual prep work as part of their time. There’s a distinct possibility they’re just better at time management than yours truly, but I refuse to entertain that as a possibility at this moment. 

My official meal prep started some time around Friday. After laboring for days over ideas, menus and creating a shopping list, I was finally set to go. The plan was to go first thing this morning. 

Every once in awhile my brother gets a bug in his drawers (or is it ear?) and wants to spend time with us doing something fun. It usually takes him about 7 minutes to regret his decision, but he hasn’t learned yet… 

He woke me up around 9:00 – no, my kids didn’t sleep that late, but I threw them the remote and told them to find a Nutrigrain – and gave me a list of options. Exactly 117 minutes later we were all in the van and ready for our adventure. I know, I know, we’re so spontaneous! 

We spent some time at the splash pad in the next town, and the kids had an absolute blast!

After the splash pad, Uncle James treated us to lunch; and then the stroller had a mind of its own and we found ourselves at the ice cream shop. After ensuring the kids were sufficiently hopped up on sugar, we embarked on THE JOURNEY. 

Y’all. We took 4 kids grocery shopping to 3 different stores. By the time we finished, I was ready to curl up in fetal position and sob. 

We came home to unload the groceries and I immediately started meal prepping. This was somewhere around 4:00; so if you don’t count shopping time, this is the actual start time for my freezer meal prep. 

I successfully prepped 5 meals: 2 meals of beef tips with gravy, cashew chicken, pork tenderloin and chicken gyros. All these meals are going to be thawed and tossed in the slow cooker this week. 

All in four and a half hours. Stop blinking, you read that right. In that four and a half hours I also…

  • went back to Publix for forgotten ingredients 
  • made 3 grilled cheese sandwiches and 2 tuna melts for dinner 
  • realized the baby was missing, then discovered he’d climbed 20 steps and was attempting to use the footstool to get in the bathtub upstairs 
  • put the baby to bed
  • ate leftover pizza for my own dinner 

All while effectively trashing the kitchen. 

It took another hour and half to clean up, prep tomorrow’s dinner and make school lunches for tomorrow. What’s that phrase…”some days you’re the bird, some days you’re the statue?” Or something like that. 

Today I’m the bird. It doesn’t matter that I’m the bird at the speed of a turtle with the attention span of a gnat. 

Today I was the bird.
P.S. I’m intentionally not sharing the recipes or methods I used today because then I’d have nothing to write about the rest of the week. <<true story 

Sundays and Facebook

I think of Sundays like I think of Facebook. Everyone shows up in their best clothes with their hair and makeup done, smiles brightly and answers “great, how are you?” when asked how they are. I mean, that’s what’s expected, right? Once a week you pull yourself together and let everyone know what a great Christian you are because you’re not struggling with anything and your family is picture perfect. 

What are we missing out on by doing this? 

I had the opportunity to make a real connection with a mom at church today because after a few minutes of shallow conversation, we started getting real. We talked about some of the challenges of motherhood, especially the unique challenge moms in the 21st century face: the interwebs. 

Our moms didn’t have Pinterest or Facebook, which could be a good or bad thing. I think it can be a good thing, but so often it isn’t. 

There is already so much self-imposed mom guilt that moms have been feeling since…well, I’m guessing the beginning of time. The pressure to do better and “keep up with the Joneses”; only “the Joneses” really just boils down to “Mrs. Jones”. Now throw Facebook and Pinterest into the mix. Suddenly all you’re seeing is a news feed full of Pin-tastic birthday parties and date nights, gourmet home cooked meals from scratch, elaborate school lunches in bento boxes, and clean houses that were clearly decorated by Joanna Gaines. 

Enter mom guilt. My kids will never eat raw radishes and carrot shreds for lunch…am I a bad mom for not starting them on healthy foods sooner? I mean, they used to eat veggies as babies, what happened? Did I give in too much? Did I not discipline enough? I did buy those baby carrots, but I bribed them with peanut butter… And didn’t I read somewhere that baby carrots are soaked in bleach and harvested by starving kids in third world countries? Am I forcing these poor children into slavery by buying baby carrots? And what if the bleach causes cancer? 

Great, now I’m solely responsible for cancer and child slavery. 

Uhhhhh… whaaaaa?

Stay with me here. What would happen if we actually started being real with each other? What would we find if we let that curtain fall and we showed our real selves? 

I’ll tell you what happened today. 

We found out that while I was admiring her hair and wondering how she found time to do it, she’d actually had it in a messy bun and pulled it out last minute. She said mine looked perfect and I laughed and said it was only decent because I’d fixed it for a Skype date with the hubby last night. 

She marveled at my makeup & I confessed that I’d put it on last night and just rubbed away the mascara circles with some extra foundation this morning; and then we laughed because she said she does that frequently. 

We found out that our middle children are eerily alike and I shared how we made it through our troubled years at that age. 

We even talked about the guilt we feel over being late to church. We didn’t high five over the awesome fact that we managed to get our entire families ready and out the door to church at all, but beat ourselves up over being late and feeding them Dunkin Donuts in the car. 

Moms, what are we doing to ourselves?? Why are we so afraid to actually be…I don’t know, HUMAN?! 

I know you think that’s a rhetorical question, but it isn’t. I’m going to stay on my soapbox and give you the answer. 

We. Are. Afraid. 

We are afraid of being judged or thought of as not good enough if we open up. And you know what’s sad? It’s because it’s happened. 

That one time you admit that your marriage is struggling, someone questions your faith. 

You admit that your child is struggling, and someone tells you how to discipline better. 

You admit that you’re struggling with time management, and someone tells you how to prep freezer meals for a month. 

(disclaimer: I’m not telling you to walk around looking for ways people are judging you. It’s ok for a friend to disagree with you or offer advice and it doesn’t mean she’s judgemental) 

I’m telling you, mommas, we’re missing out. We’re missing out on the joy that we could have in building friendships. Motherhood is isolating and lonely, and it doesn’t have to be! The truth is that most of us are struggling with the same things. 

What if… Just what if… 

Momma A admits her marriage is struggling and Momma B puts her arms around A and says “Oh, sweet friend, I’ve been there. How can I pray for you?” I’m telling you from personal experience this makes a difference.

What if Momma A asks “how are you?” and Momma B says “It’s been a bad week & I don’t know what to do.” Suddenly, we’ve opened a whole new door to what could be a friendship. 

Here’s my idea/challenge for this week: share just one thing on Facebook that is “real”. I don’t mean complain about how your life sucks, but just be real. Share a picture of the $2 on the kitchen counter for school lunches because you overslept and couldn’t make lunches. Or the pile of dirty dishes in the sink because you made dinner and fed everyone, but ran out the door to dance class before cleaning up.

I promise your dirty sink will not break the Internet. 

Working Boobs 

I’ve been pretty open with my breastfeeding journey this time around & get asked for advice fairly frequently. This is actually the first baby I’ve successfully exclusively breastfed. We did introduce formula around 4 months because I haven’t been able to find time to pump enough to give occasional bottles. I commend women who exclusively pump & freely admit that I do not have that kind of dedication and commitment to breastfeeding. 

One of the things that has significantly contributed to my breastfeeding success this time around is learning to nurse while multitasking. For me, that meant learning to nurse while babywearing. We’ve nursed while babywearing…

  • during a Pap smear 
  • and pooping (don’t judge!)
  • and making dinner 
  • and grocery shopping
  • and scorekeeping for softball 
  • and riding Disney rides

Babywearing and nursing has given me my life back and is almost as good as having a second set of hands! 

I made a short video here explaining how we nurse in a SSC (soft structured carrier). For reference, Isaac is 27″ tall and I am a 36G. I get frequent mastitis, so I’ve chosen to only use nursing tanks with built in shelf bras rather than using underwire nursing bras. Wearing a bra without an underwire AND a cami just seems like overkill to me and creates too much boob sweat. Ain’t nobody got time for boob sweat. 

**Disclaimer** there are 2 times where you briefly see nipple, so don’t watch this if that offends you. ☺️​

Not Fathers Day 

Tomorrow is a day set aside to recognize all the amazing fathers in our lives. Today, the kids and I are taking the day to celebrate the best “not” father we know. 

From the very beginning, my brother has been excited about his role as uncle. He takes his job as a role model very seriously. But then he goes above and beyond. 

When we found out Winston was deploying so soon after the first time, James made some big sacrifices and moved from his bachelor life in Alaska to move in with us in Texas. 

When things got tough in Hawaii, he didn’t hesitate to offer us an entire floor in his bachelor pad. 

He coaches softball, helps with math homework, shows up for special events, teaches them to swim, wrestles with them, protects them, and just about anything else a dad would do. And he’s not afraid to look like a fool to make them happy. 🙂 They have tea parties, he lets them paint his toenails, he reads to them and swims with them. He rides the scary roller coasters with them and lets them sit in his lap and pretend to drive. 

While it kills Winston that he can’t be a part of our day to day lives during deployments, I know he appreciates James just as much as I do. James fills a void for the girls that they’ve struggled with during deployments. He’s been a physical presence when their daddy couldn’t be. 

So, James, and all the other “not” fathers who have stepped up… THANK YOU. We notice you and appreciate you. 

Stuffed pepper casserole 

Tonight’s dinner plan was these stuffed peppers I found on Pinterest. But plans are meant to be changed, right?? 

I started by dicing and sautéing an onion, green bell pepper and carrots. I had a bag of shredded carrots, so I just ran a knife over them a few times to make them even smaller. 

the rice cooking in the orange pot in the back

As the veggies cooked and worked on getting some color, I began cutting the tops off the green peppers. Or bottoms… that happened, too. After mutilating that pepper a bit, I finally gave up and tossed it to the side. Then I cut the tops off 2 more peppers to find mold growing in them; so they got thrown away. 

That’s when the plan changed and I decided to make it a casserole. 

I used 4 cups of diced chicken I had already precooked and frozen a few weeks ago. I added the other ingredients from the original recipe, minus the black beans; and into an 9×13 casserole dish it went.

I baked it on 400 for 30 minutes, then topped it with mozzarella cheese and baked it another 10 minutes. 

I topped mine with 0% fat plain Greek yogurt and some jalapeños. 

James said he liked it, but I think I’ll try it again with ground beef or turkey. 

Because this is a low budget operation, I don’t know how to add a nifty “print” button; so here’s the quick rundown you can copy and paste: 
Stuffed Pepper Casserole

1 cup uncooked rice, pre-cook

4 c diced precooked chicken 

2-4 green peppers, diced 

1 onion, diced 

1-2 large carrots, diced 

4 oz can green chiles 

1 can enchilada sauce 

1 c salsa 

1 tsp cumin 

Cayenne pepper to taste 

Mozzarella cheese 
1. Sautée veggies in olive oil. 

2. Add chicken, enchilada sauce, salsa, green chiles, cumin and cayenne. 

3. Mix together and simmer 5 minutes. 

4. Add rice and mix together.

5. Pour into a 9×13 casserole dish and bake for 30 min at 400 degrees. 

6. Top with mozzarella cheese and bake another 10 minutes.