A porch worthy of Thanksgiving

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Marie Callender’s. The opinions and text are all mine.

Over the past several years, it’s become a tradition to host Thanksgiving dinner at our home for my extended family. I always look forward to preparing for this special day that we all get to spend together.

There have been years in our lives when we have been away on military duty and separated from family over the holidays. So I try to never take for granted these precious moments when we’re all present.

This year, I created a festive Thanksgiving vignette on the front porch, so when folks arrive on the big day, they’re already feeling inspired and in the holiday mood.

Fall-front-porch-decor

For example, I added some pumpkins, a Chrysanthemum, a gourd and a Thanksgiving-worthy wreath.

Mums-and-pumpkins

Fall-front-door

I kept my stenciled dropcloth pillows on the chairs and rocker because I felt the colors and pattern were appropriate for the season. I simply added a fall-inspired plaid throw to the mix.

Porch-rockerPorch-rocker-closeupAs we all gather around the table this Thanksgiving, we’ll be thanking God for the privilege to be together. And we’ll be sending up heartfelt prayers for those brave men and women serving in our military who won’t be able to share a holiday meal with their family this year.

I hope you’ll keep them in your thoughts and prayers, too. One way we can all show our support is by helping out with the USO’s Operation Celebration™ program.

Marie Callender’s is teaming up with the USO to support this program, which shares a bit of home with our troops and helps them celebrate the holidays year round.

Every time you enter a code from specially-marked packages of Marie Callender’s meals or desserts, Marie Callender’s will make a donation to the USO to support USO Operation Celebration™.

Marie-Callender's-Comforts-from-HomeAdditionally, Marie Callender’s is holding a Comforts From Home Facebook challenge, encouraging you to submit your own photos in support of the USO. You should use the hashtag #ComfortsFromHome and share and describe photos that depict what home means to you.

Submitted photos may be featured on-air during special episodes of Kitchen Crashers (HGTV), Hello/Goodbye (Travel Channel), and Guy’s Grocery Games (Food Network).

Kitchen Crashers on DIYNetwork & HGTV – Airing Nov. 9 and Nov. 14
Hello/Goodbye on Travel Channel – Airing Nov. 10
Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network and Cooking Channel – Airing Dec. 14 and Dec. 19

The best part? Scripps Network will donate $1 to the USO for each photo received (up to $10K)!

Visit ComfortsfromHome.com to learn more about how you can join Marie Callender’s in helping to bring a little bit of home sweet home to our U.S. servicemen and women overseas.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Marie Callender’s. The opinions and text are all mine.

30 dinners in 2 days: My attempt at freezer meals

Hello! I’m about to embark on a HUGE project (details coming soon) that will be taking a pretty big chunk of my days. So I’ve been looking at ways to save time and work smarter to make sure my family’s needs are taken care of while I’m busy plugging away on my project.

One of the time savers I’ve been wanting to try for awhile is freezer meals. What are freezer meals? Well, in quick summary, they are fresh-ingredient dinners mixed up ahead of time, loaded into plastic bags, tossed in the freezer, then simply popped into a slow cooker or casserole dish and heated up.

Freezer-meals

They can be a really economical and healthy way to get dinner on the table without a lot of stress!

I settled on 15 recipes I wanted to try. (Each of these recipes divided into two separate bags is 30 meals total.) There are lots of great recipes for freezer meals all over Pinterest. You can find the ones I used here.

Based on the recipes I chose, I put together a shopping list, picking up all my ingredients on the morning of Day 1.

Freezer-meal-ingredients

I was able to finish about half of the 15 recipes on Day 1 and the rest on Day 2. It was a grueling two days on my feet cutting, chopping, measuring and bagging. But, when I saw all those bags of prepared food, it was totally worth it!

To keep my food preparation as safe, streamlined and efficient as possible, I designated different areas – or “stations” – in my kitchen.

I used one of my sink basins as a veggie wash station, filling it with cold water, a few teaspoons of lemon juice and a few drops of Shaklee’s Basic H2 organic cleaner.

Veggie-bath

I loaded all the veggies in there and pulled them out as needed.

My meat-cutting station was to the right of my sink.

Freezer-meal-meat

I set up my veggie-cutting station on my kitchen island.

Freezer-meal-veggies

Finally, my bagging station was to the left of my sink. This set up seemed to work pretty well for me and I’ll probably replicate it the next time I do this.

Freezer-meal-CU

I did the math and estimated that each meal cost me about $10 – not bad for four people. So far, I’ve had enough leftovers from each meal to do one lunch or so. The recipes I chose used lots of veggies and fresh ingredients, which makes me feel good about what I’m feeding my family.

Although it was hard work preparing so many meals at once, I will DEFINITELY be doing this again in a month or so when my stash runs out.

Have you ever tried preparing bulk meals or freezer meals? Do you have any great recipes to share?

Crafty Box Tops for Education bin (plus my favorite breakfast casserole recipe)

Earlier this week, I mentioned how the Box Tops for Education™ program benefits our family and our school. We are a Box Top-collecting bunch!

Today I wanted to share a crafty idea for creating a Box Tops collection bin for your home or child’s classroom. I’m also including a recipe for my all-time-favorite breakfast casserole.

Box-Tops-bin

I made this countertop-worthy Box Tops bin yesterday using a canister I bought at Walmart for $1.97 – plus a few materials from around the house.

Materials-list

Items you’ll need to replicate this project:

  • Plastic canister with removable lid
  • Metallic spray paint
  • Chalkboard spray paint
  • Painter’s tape
  • Chalk marker
  • Large drill bit and craft knife (optional)

Step 1: Remove the label from the front of the canister. Place it on a sheet of plastic and spray it with a coat of chalkboard paint. After it dries, stick the label back on the canister.

Free-chalk-art

Step 2: Drill a hole in the canister top. Painter’s tape may help keep the plastic from cracking.

Drilling-hole-in-top

I had the misfortune of damaging the lid during this step. So I applied a few coats of painter’s tape and cut out a hole in the tape using a craft knife. If you want to avoid the chance of breaking the plastic top, you can skip the hole-drilling step.

Fixing-top

Step 3: Spray the plastic lid with a few coats of your favorite metallic spray paint.

Step 4: While the lid dries, print out the words for the chalkboard label on regular printer paper. Then use my chalkboard transfer method to create a carbon copy of the words on the label.

Chalk-outline

Step 5: Fill in the chalk outline with a chalkboard marker. Done!

Box-Tops-for-Education-bin

To help fill up your new Box Tops bin, consider purchasing participating products at Walmart. Right now, Walmart has Bonus Box Tops available on select General Mills® products.

Box-Tops-on-belt

I made my favorite breakfast casserole using Pillsbury™ Crescent Rolls. A total of five Box Tops are included on each package right now!

Easy breakfast casserole

Breakfast-casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Pillsbury™ Crescent Rolls
  • 1 lb. of your favorite ground sausage
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Breakfast-casserole-ingredients

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan. Spread the crescent rolls on the bottom. After frying the sausage, sprinkle it on top of the rolls. Mix up the eggs and milk (I salt and pepper this mixture), then pour it over the sausage and rolls. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for about 35 minutes or until eggs look done. Enjoy! 

Does your family collect Box Tops for Education? Learn more about Box Tops at Walmart here.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of General Mills®. The opinions and text are all mine.