Meal Plans

What’s For Dinner This Week?


Thanksgiving is all wrapped up and the chaos of the Christmas season has already started. This week is jam packed with basketball games, dance rehearsals, parties, meetings, trainings, new windows for the house, Christmas decorating, and more. My meal plan will keep me sane and the family energized for our crazy schedule. Here’s what we are eating for dinner this week:

Monday, November 26

Cheesy Wild Rice and Vegetable Bake

Sweet Pea and Bacon Ranch Salad

Tuesday, November 27

Hearty Vegetable and Chicken Fajitas

Tomatillo Ranch Dressing

Wednesday, November 28

Cheesy Polenta with Roasted Veggies

Thursday, November 29

Brazilian Fish Stew

Trying out a new recipe from “Dizzy, Busy and Hungry.” We will see how this one goes over with my not-so-keen-on-fish family.

Friday, November 30

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Saturday, December 1

Hearty Vegetable Ranch Eggs

Hearty Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

Sunday, December 2

Hearty Vegetable Chili

Hearty Corn Bread

Peach (or Mango) Salsa

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The Best Thanksgiving Dinner Side Dishes


Like most families in the United States, we eat a pretty traditional dinner for Thanksgiving: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and rolls. To be honest though, I’m never all that excited for the those things. It’s the side dishes I get jazzed up about! Well, and the pumpkin pie of course. Below is a list of the appetizers and sides we love to eat on Thanksgiving Day. I hope this finds you on time as you are doing your last minute meal planning for the big day. Happy Thanksgiving!

Citrus Zest Cranberry Sauce

OK. I recant what I said about the turkey. I do get excited to eat turkey IF it is topped with this amazing Citrus Zest Cranberry Sauce. Frankly, I am a bit embarrassed that I ever used to serve the canned stuff at my Thanksgiving dinners, because this sauce tastes a million times better and takes just 20 minutes to whip up. It can be stored in the fridge for up to three days, so you can make this one ahead of time.

Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette


All hail the Kale Salad! Who would have thought that a salad made from Kale would be such a hit at the Thanksgiving table? I have made this salad for both sides of my family (my husband’s and mine) for three different Thanksgiving dinners, and each time the bowl is completely empty by the end of the meal. I made a triple batch last year for the Andersen family Thanksgiving dinner (30+ people) and every last bite was gone. It’s the homemade lemon vinaigrette dressing that makes it so irresistable.

Grilled (or Roasted) Vegetable Kabobs

I actually prefer these roasted vegetables over mashed potatoes on my Thanksgiving dinner plate. They can be roasted on a sheet pan or grilled on bamboo skewers on the grill. Either way, they have the most amazing flavor and they are a super simple way to add some extra flavor (and nutrition) to your Thanksgiving spread.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Our family only eats two meals on Thanksgiving day. A light breakfast after our Turkey Trot and then dinner later in the afternoon. Between those two meals, we graze on appetizers. Some of those appetizers might include my little brothers signature meat balls, my Aunt Cara’s pickle wraps, or just chips and guacamole. The last couple years, I have started making a huge platter of fresh vegetables served with my Roasted Red Pepper hummus. It’s a tasty way to get a little nutrition in before the onslaught of all the comfort foods we love to eat for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Hearty Green Bean Casserole

What is Thanksgiving dinner without Green Bean Casserole? I use frozen green beans instead of canned and my homemade cream of chicken soup recipe for the sauce. I bake it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Then, I top it with french fried onions before baking it another 5 minutes. It tastes way better than throwing a can of chicken soup on top of canned beans.

Apple and Bacon Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This is as festive as a holiday salad can get. It has cranberries, apples, feta, red onions, glazed nuts, and bacon on a bed of spinach dressed with a yummy balsamic Vinaigrette. Another Andersen family favorite salad. It takes a bit more time to put together than an ordinary salad, but your tastebuds will thank you. You can make the glazed nuts ahead of the big day and save yourself an extra 10 minutes on Thanksgiving day.

Strawberry Pretzel Jell-O (Reduced Sugar)

A crowd pleaser and all-time Thanksgiving Dinner favorite is this Strawberry Pretzel Jell-O. My extended family refers to this as “Pretzel Salad.” I just cannot consider this salad. I do however, consider this a must-have dish at Thanksgiving. As with almost every treat I make (because this is indeed a treat–not a salad!), I have found a way to reduce the amount of sugar from the original recipe without sacrificing flavor or texture. Shhhh! Don’t tell my family!! Honestly though, I have been making it this way for years an NO ONE has ever said it is any less sweet.

And there you have it folks! All the Andersen family favorite side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner. I wish you the very best as you cook, eat, play, visit, and share memories this Thanksgiving.


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Meal Plans

What’s for Dinner this Week?


It’s the week before Thanksgiving, and as much as I would like to say I am recipe-testing for the big day… I’m not. This year, we are driving “over the river and through the woods” to my parents house in Wyoming. So… I’ll probably just be contributing a salad and cranberry sauce. For this week, we are keeping things super simple and well balanced so we can fight off all the sick bugs that are creeping around this time of year.  Here is what’s on tap:

Monday, November 12

Hearty Chili Cheese Baked Potato

Tuesday, November 13

Lazy Day Beans and Rice

Wednesday, November 14

Garden Pasta Alfredo

Thursday, November 15

Carrot Apple Bisque

Friday, November 16

Pizza Night!

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Saturday, November 17

Hearty Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Green Apple Smoothie

Sunday, November 18

Cranberry Chicken (Slow-Cooker and Instant Pot)

Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

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Meal Plans

What’s for Dinner this Week?


This week is busy with basketball practices, birthday celebrations, ballet rehearsals, a baby shower and a BYU football game. Here is what I’m feeding my family to fuel all our activities:

Monday, November 5

Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad (Gluten-Free)

Tart Lemon Squares

Tuesday, November 6

Black Bean Vegetable Enchiladas

Wednesday, November 7

Pesto Pasta

Apple and Bacon Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Thursday, November 8

(Birthday Dinner Request)

Hearty Breakfast Bagel

Hearty Green Smoothie

(Salsa Party Contribution)

Peach (or Mango) Salsa

Friday, November 9

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Saturday, November 10

Hearty Corn Chowder

Sunday, November 11

Instant Pot Teriyaki Orange Chicken with Walnuts and Green Onions

Sweet Pea and Bacon Ranch Salad


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Meal Plans

What’s for Dinner this Week?

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Chewy Caramel Popcorn


Nothing says “Home” better than a warm batch of chewy caramel popcorn. As with most treats I make, I found a way to reduce the amount of sugar and fat in this recipe without sacrificing flavor or texture. Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Am I right?

As a kid, this was one of my dad’s favorite treats to make for us. We would help pop the corn while he made the caramel glaze. Then, he would pile it high in a mountain of sweet, chewy goodness on the countertop. Naturally, I do the same with my kids. We all gather around the island of my kitchen and munch away on our caramel popcorn mountain. So many good memories are associated with this deliciously sticky treat. Make some today and let the good times roll!

Chewy Caramel Popcorn

Chewy, sticky, buttery, (and so addictive) caramel popcorn.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 50 cups
Calories 140 kcal
Author heartysmarty


  • 2 Cups Brown Sugar packed
  • 1 Cup Light Karo Syrup
  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk Eagle brand
  • ¾ Cup Butter melted
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 2 ½ Cups Popcorn un-popped measurement


  1. Pop the corn using an air-popper or a Whirly Pop Popcorn Maker. (Aff. Link) Divide the popped corn into 4 large pots or bowls. Sort and discard old maids and set aside.

  2. Combine brown sugar and Karo syrup in a large sauce pan. Bring to a boil and stir constantly for 3 minutes. (Don't skimp on the full 3 minutes, because the boiled sugar increases the caramel flavor.)

  3. Add the can of Eagle brand milk while continually stirring the mixture.
  4. Keep stirring as you slowly add the melted butter and return to a boil.
  5. Once it starts boiling again and the butter is completely mixed in, remove the caramel sauce from the heat and add vanilla.

  6. In your largest pot, pour the caramel evenly over the popped corn. Stir until the kernels are well coated. Pour the caramel corn onto a countertop lined with waxed paper to let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

If you opt for using the Whirly Pop (my appliance of choice) you will need approximately ¼ cup of Olive Oil for preparing the popcorn.

Featured Product

(Includes Affiliate Link)

Wabash Valley Farms Whirly Pop

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Meal Plans

What’s For Dinner this Week?


We are returning from Fall Break this week feeling rejuvinated and ready to get back on a schedule. Here’s what’s on tap for dinner this week:

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Meal Plans

What’s for Dinner this Week?



Autumn has offiially arrived along the Wasatch Front. Not only have the leaves turned colors, but a cold rain has brought chilly temperatures to our valley and snow to the mountains. It smells almost as amazing outside as it does in my kitchen, with all the baking I’ve been doing. The forecast calls for more rain this week, so it’s time to pull out more soup and casserole recipes. Also, we are blessing our baby in Church on Sunday, and I will be feeding our extended family a big supper afterwards. If I pace myself by doing food prep throughout the week and freezing it for Sunday, I can totally handle that meal. Here’s what I’m cooking up this week:

Monday, October 8

Hearty Mashed Potatoes with Vegetable Gravy

Tuesday, October 9

Mexican Quinoa Bake

Wednesday, October 10

Megan’s Minestrone

Thursday, October 11

Hearty Not Fried Rice

Mandarin Chicken Kale Salad

Friday, October 12

Pizza Night!

Grilled Vegetables

Saturday, October 13

Hearty Breakfast Bagels

Green Apple Smoothie

Sunday, October 14

Café Rio Sweet Chicken Salads

with Tomatillo Ranch Dressing

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Cooking Tips & TricksRecipesSauces and Dressings

Cold-Pack Steam Canning Tomatoes (Easy Method)


The waiting game is over! My tomatoes are a beautiful shade of scarlet red, and I am harvesting them by the dozens. There is such a sweet gratification that comes during harvest time when all my months of hard work yield a very delicious reward. We have been enjoying fresh tomatoes in salads, sandwiches, sauces, salsas and more. However, if we keep eating like this, we may have acid reflux for life, so now it’s time to start preserving these little red beauties.

If you are anything like me, I am super intimidated by canning and bottling. That is, until I learned how easy it is. Tomatoes are the easiest food to bottle because they require no syrups, acid, or even salt. My recipe for steam canning tomatoes is straightforward and fool-proof. (I wouldn’t spend my time on it if it wasn’t.) However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t read the instructions a bajillion times the first time I did this. but once you give this a whirl you will see how hard it is to mess up. So, here goes—my tried-and true-recipe for steam-canning garden tomatoes:

Cold-Pack Steam Canning Tomatoes

The easiest method for canning tomatoes.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword Canning Tomatoes
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4 quarts
Calories 26 kcal
Author heartysmarty


  • 12 to 14 pounds vine ripe tomatoes
  • Steam Canner
  • Two-tier stock and strainer pot see Featured Products
  • 4 Quart Mason Jars sanitized through the dishwasher
  • 4 Canning lids wide or small according to jar mouth size
  • 4 Canning rings wide or small according to jar mouth size
  • Vidalia Chop Wizard optional
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cutting Board
  • Serrated knife
  • small sauce pan
  • metal salad tongs


  1. Gather all supplies and ingredients. This is very important! Once things get moving along, you won’t have time to be searching for supplies. Check the “Featured Products” section (Aff. links) for the supplies I use.

  2. Fill the stock/strainer pot two-thirds full with water, cover with a lid, and begin to boil. At the same time, fill the steam canner with water just below the inside rack and begin to boil.
  3. Add about 2 cups hot water to the small saucepan. Set it on the stovetop at a low simmer. Carefully place lids on the bottom of the pot, rubber side up, making sure not to touch the rubber. The oils on your fingers can prevent the lids from sealing. Cover with a lid and continue to gently simmer until ready to use.
  4. Rinse a quarter of the tomatoes and blanch them in the boiling water inside the stock/strainer pot for 60 seconds. Pull only the strainer out, draining the water from the tomatoes. Leave the stock pot boiling with water for the next round of tomatoes.
  5. Slip the skin off from the tomatoes. Use the serrated knife to core and cut them into quarters. If the skin doesn’t easily slip off the tomato, increase the blanch time by 30 seconds.

  6. At this point, you may choose to fill your mason jars with the quartered tomatoes. If you prefer diced tomatoes, use the largest grid blade in the Vidalia Chop Wizard to quickly dice the tomatoes.
  7. Pack each jar as tightly as possible. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to release air bubbles by pressing it down the inside of the jar three or four times. Fill the empty space with more tomatoes.

  8. Leave just 1/4-inch head space at the top of the mason jar. With a clean towel, wipe the rim of the jar clean.

  9. Use salad tongs to carefully remove a lid from the simmering water. Gently shake excess water away and place the lid on the rim of the jar with the rubber side touching the rim. Screw the ring over the lid. Do not over tighten. Place the filled jars in the center of the steam canner rack. Cover with the lid.
  10. Steam will begin to flow out of the center hole of the canning lid. When the steam column is about 8 inches long, start the timer for 45 minutes. Depending on your canner, you may have a temperature gauge for this step. Refer to user manual for specifics.

  11. After steaming is finished. turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes before carefully propping the lid open with the handle of the wooden spoon. Leave the spoon and let the steam release for at least 30 minutes before removing the jars.
  12. Press on the lids of each jar. If they can be depressed with a clicking sound, turn the jar upside down and let it sit on your counter over night to finish sealing. If the lid does not click, it means you have successfully sealed the lid, and you are done! Let the jars cool on a dry towel for 24 hours before wiping them clean and storing in your pantry.

Featured Products

(Includes Affiliate Links)

Aluminum Steam Canner

Cuisinart Stainless Stock/Strainer Set


 Kerr Quart Jars with Bands and Lids

 Vidalia Chop Wizard

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Meal Plans

What’s for Dinner this Week?


With each day, I’m starting to feel just a little more put together, and its a good thing because I’m almost out of freezer meals!  It’s now 5 weeks since baby #5 joined our family. While it is definitely no walk in the park to manage all the carpools, homework, music, sports, parties, chores, diapers, baths, playdates, and more; my meal plan continues to add more peace of mind during the crazy after-school hours. Here is the plan for this week:

Monday, October 1

Hearty Tuna Bake

Cucumber Caprese Salad

Tuesday, October 2

Hearty Vegetable and Chicken Fajitas

Wednesday, October 3

Quinoa Lasagna

Apple Bacon Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Thursday, October 4

Hearty Bean with Bacon Soup

Hearty Corn Bread

Friday, October 5

Pizza Night!

Saturday, October 6

Hearty Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Mango Blueberry Smoothie

Sunday, October 7

I’m off the hook today!

Mom Andersen is hosting us for dinner following the last session of General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Learn More here.



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