Simple Pantry Cooking

Easy Menu Planning | cooking uncomplicated

Yummy Whole Wheat Cheese Muffin Recipe

My kids have been loving these cheese muffins. They are not sweet cheese muffins, but they pack a punch of cheesy goodness. They are fluffy and soft, keep well, and freeze well. If you use soft white whole wheat or pastry whole wheat flour, you will hardly be able to tell they’re whole wheat at all. They make a tasty dinner side dish that is quick to whip up and then the leftovers can be lunch the next day. The great thing about muffins is how quickly they bake – when I need a quick bread to accompany dinner, I make muffins – and right now, these are the favorites at our house.

When I want to have a lower-carb dinner but the kids need their starch filler, these muffins whip up in a jiffy and are so good.

My kids have been loving these cheese muffins. They are not sweet cheese muffins, but they pack a punch of cheesy goodness. They are fluffy and soft, keep well, and freeze well.

They make great lunches, too! A slice of salami sandwiched in the muffin is delicious.

I like to make a batch of three or four dozen at a time: have some with dinner, some for lunch the next day, and put a bag into the freezer so I can pull out something for a simple lunch another day.

You can use any cheese you have on hand, but a sharp Cheddar will make the tastiest and cheesiest muffin.

I took a cheese bread recipe a friend had recommended to me and adjusted not only the cooking time, but also made it whole wheat and cut the sugar in half. It’s still scrumptious.

I use all soft white wheat (or pastry whole wheat) flour in mine, but if you’re using standard hard red whole wheat flour, I recommend using only half whole wheat and half white.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Cheese Muffins

Makes 18-24

My kids have been loving these cheese muffins. They are not sweet cheese muffins, but they pack a punch of cheesy goodness. They are fluffy and soft, keep well, and freeze well.

Stir together:

*   3 1/2 cups flour (I use whole wheat)
*   1/4 cup sugar
*   2 Tablespoons baking powder
*   2 teaspoons salt
*   2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Gently mix in

*   2 eggs
*  1 1/2 cups milk
*   2/3 cup oil or melted butter

Scoop into muffin tins lined with papers or silicone baking cups. Bake at 400* for around 15-20 minutes.

My kids have been loving these cheese muffins. They are not sweet cheese muffins, but they pack a punch of cheesy goodness. They are fluffy and soft, keep well, and freeze well.


How to menu plan 6 weeks at a time

Remembering how to menu plan

As the end of the school semester drew near, the holidays drew near, the end of the year drew near, I stopped menu planning. I just never took the time to sit down and write out meals – there were always other things I thought I should be doing.

We still ate just fine – Simplified Dinners means a slip up in the menu planning process doesn’t throw me for much of a loop. We had our standard supplies in the pantry and I just made whatever I could with whatever meat I could remember to thaw (or used the tuna or an egg meal if I had forgotten).

But running life without a menu plan is not ideal. It’s not how I want to do things. The truth is, without a menu plan, dinner-making is more exhausting, even when there’s plenty of food to pull meals together. It’s about decision-fatigue. At the end of the day, I want the decisions about dinner already made for me, because I don’t have much energy or attention left over to give it.

The truth is, without a menu plan, dinner-making is more exhausting, even when there’s plenty of food to pull meals together. It’s about decision-fatigue. At the end of the day, I want the decisions about dinner already made for me, because I don’t have much energy or attention left over to give it.

So, I sat down during our Christmas break and planned out six week’s worth of meals in one fell swoop. We homeschool and have 6-week terms and then a week off, so I planned meals through our next term and during our next break, I can dedicate another forty-five minutes to planning out the next 6 week’s worth of dinners.

This process was made quicker for me because I use Google calendar for menu planning, but you can use whatever way you prefer.

Here’s how I did it.

How to menu plan 6 weeks at a time.

  1. Take stock of what’s in your freezer already. I had a ham, some pork, and beef soup bones in addition to the chicken breasts and frozen meatballs I usually have.
  2. Fill in any special days coming up: birthdays, eating out, friends over – if you already have plans on certain days, mark those.
  3. Decide on some standard day-of-the-week dinners. We do chicken on Mondays. I can do chicken a lot of ways, but every Monday morning, I know I need to go grab some chicken out of the basement freezer. Wednesdays are crockpot days at our house. Assign a certain type of meal to some of the days of the week.
  4. Fill in variations those assigned dinner types for the next six weeks. If you spread out your different options for chicken or crockpot dinners, you’ll not feel like you’re cooking and eating the same thing every week.
  5. Start filling in other dinner options. Think about how much time or energy is usually left by the end of the day on certain days of the week. What days are you more likely to feel like cooking and what days are good for pulling out the frozen meatballs? I usually alternate weeks on some meals – Tuesday one week might be a tortilla meal and then rice the next. Planning in six weeks chunks helps make rotations like that simpler to plan.
  6. Make sure you plan the vegetable and side if you need one as well as the main dish. See my post on Menu Planning: Think in Threes for more about planning a complete meal.

Each and every dinner will not happen as planned for the next six weeks, but the plan is in place so that I don’t have to think about it anymore. If I need a dinner plan, there’s one on my calendar. If I feel like getting creative, I can just move the dinner to another day or simply delete that day’s plan. But having the plan in place means I don’t have to panic at 4pm that I had forgotten to think about dinner.

And that’s why I did it.

Top Ten Gifts for the Home Cook

We make our Christmas shopping lists for others, but sometimes the hardest one to make is one for ourselves! If your family is pestering you for a wish list this Christmas season, here are my top ten gift recommendations for the home cook. If you’d like more ideas, you can also check out my top ten practical gifts for homemakers and top ten gifts for an organization junkie.

If you or someone you know enjoys spending time in the kitchen – or wants to! – then here are my top ten ideas for Christmas gifting.


1. Misto

I love my Misto! It’s great for greasing pans and spraying veggies before roasting.

2. Knife & wooden cutting board

A good knife is the most essential kitchen tool.

3. Whisks

Ever since I saw a flat whisk for the first time on Pioneer Woman years ago, I’ve been collecting whisks. A utensil jar full of an assortment of whisks would make a great gift!

4. Cute apron

A cute apron is an essential in my book, also.

5. Cast-iron griddle

I love my cast-iron griddle, as I’ve written before, and it’s a great tool to gift.

6. Immersion blender

An immersion blender makes short work of smooth soups, sauces, and dips.

7. Dutch oven

A Dutch oven is the perfect dish for simple, no-knead artisan bread.

8. Nice lotion

Lots of cooking and hand-washing means dry skin. A nourishing soap and healthy lotion – and maybe cute dish-washing gloves – will help heal cracked hands.


I particularly recommend the products at Third Day Naturals. A sample soap pack and some lip balms would make the perfect stocking stuffer. And, they are offering a 15% off your entire purchase with the code TDNgifts through the end of December, plus they always have free priority shipping on orders over $35.

9. Silpats

Another way to cut down on the over-washed hands is to invest in silicone baking mats so you don’t have to scrub those pans so often!

10. Kitchen mat

Standing to chop and stir or wash dishes can result in fatigue, especially if you have a hard kitchen floor. A kitchen mat reduces fatigue and muscle ache from time spent standing in the kitchen.

Bonus: A course on getting and staying organized!


Plus, during the month of December, I’m offering anyone who pays full price for Simplified Organization all three of my other ebooks with it: Rejoicing in Repetition, Paperless Home Organization, and Simplified Dinners. Just purchase the course and within the day you will receive an email with links to my other books.

Give the books as a gift while keeping the course for yourself, use the ebooks yourself when you gift the course, or give them all away – your choice!

More gift list ideas

How to Make a Menu Plan: Think in Threes

There are many strategies out there on how to make a menu plan. That can make it an intimidating process if you have little practice, but the variety of options means you can endlessly riff off of your plans and not get bored doing the same thing over and over again. By having a menu plan formula, you can have variety without starting from scratch every week – or worse, every day.

I’ll be starting a weekly series here with simple formulas for creating menu plans that require little effort or mental energy.

To Make a Complete Meal, Think in Threes

How to make a menu plan: Think in three

Before you can make a week’s worth of menu options, you have to have a solid basis for what makes a complete dinner. Although you might need to amend this to fit any dietary requirements and restrictions you may have, generally a complete meal includes

  1. Protein (generally from meat)
  2. Bulk (generally from starch, but could also be vegetable-based)
  3. Green (vegetable or salad)

Now, you don’t necessarily need three separate dishes every dinner, but a one-pot dinner should still contain sufficient proportions of each of these three types to be satisfying.

For example, spaghetti can involve all three:

  1. Meat
  2. Pasta or spaghetti squash
  3. Tomato sauce, onions, and other possible additions like zucchini or spinach

Still, a plate with only one thing on it can look a little sparse, and a meal is made satisfying partly by its visual appeal as well as its belly-filling ability. A salad is a quick and easy way to add more green, more bulk, and more variety to the dinner plate.

Potato Hash Dinner Recipe

Stir-fry is another one-pot meal that includes all three, with a meat and vegetables mixed into rice, all held together with a sauce. If there is a variety of vegetables within your stir fry, it is generally adequate alone on the plate. I like to include onions, peppers, zucchini, broccoli, peas, and carrots in my stir-fries. All those colors combined makes it an appealing stand-alone option for dinner. And it’s simple to customize the proportions to your family’s taste and sensibilities. It can be heavy or light on the meat, strong or simple on the vegetables, or big on the bulk of rice or not – a recipe need not dictate amounts. Let your own preference be your guide.

Often, though, a dinner will consist of three separate items. A chicken dinner would be supplemented by roasted potatoes and green beans. A pork roast might have rice and roasted broccoli on the side.

If you think in threes as you put your dinner options together, you’ll have complete and wholesome dinners that don’t take a lot of thought to put together. With the options in Simplified Dinners, you have meat-based or one-pot options, as well as variations on vegetables and salads and starch side dishes that make putting together a three-part meal a snap.

You can also use this handy free menu planning sheet that is set up to remind you to plan a three-part dinner.



Menu Planning Made Simple

simple easy homemade family menu plan

free simple menu planner

Today we start school back up! We homeschool year-round, so we start early in order to take extra weeks off during the year and be finished in May. It’s totally worth it. After all, it’s over 100-degrees here in the afternoon: might as well be doing school instead of playing Minecraft, I figure!

So for this month, I’m trying out a new menu planning idea: I have the same weekly rotation of breakfasts and lunches – and I’ve noted in my calendar when to do the prep. Then on busy days, I’ve prepped the food the day before. I’m looking forward to see if it works; that is, if I actually remember to do the prep ahead when I have it planned out! Of course I’ve already simplified dinner planning quite a bit, but with 4 kids needing lessons plus a toddler, I need food to take as little brain power as possible.

So, here’s the eating plan for this week:

Breakfasts This Week

  • Monday: Sunday leftovers with scrambled eggs
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays: German pancakes
  • Wednesdays & Fridays: simple homemade granola with homemade yogurt
  • Saturday: Daddy-made pancakes
  • Sunday: whole wheat cinnamon rolls (made on Saturday)

Lunches This Week

  • Monday: cheesy potatoes
  • Tuesday: quick artisan bread, cheese, fruit & veggies
  • Wednesday: leftover bread from Tuesday, cheese slices, pepperoni, fruit & veggies
  • Thursday: rice with carrots & peas, topped with butter or cheese, watermelon
  • Friday: microwave nachos with refried beans

Dinners This Week

Simplified Dinners eBook

  • Monday: grilled balsamic chicken, salad, garlic toasts
  • Tuesday: chicken fajitas with the fixings, cucumber salad (’tis the season)
  • Wednesday: chicken & cheese pasta salad, watermelon
  • Thursday: “bits & pieces” – leftovers, cheese, veggies, etc. all in cubes
  • Friday: fried rice
  • Saturday: hamburgers

Recipes for dinners on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday are found in my ebook, Simplified Dinners. Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!

Simplified Pantry

Simplified Pantry promotes homestyle cooking with basic ingredients. It is possible to cook good food without a pantry full of specialized products. Limits can actually be freeing and promote creativity. Limits make keeping what you need on hand simpler and easier to achieve. Simplified Dinners takes the thinking out of the whole dinner cycle of planning, shopping, and cooking, and makes it easy for you to customize the healthy, whole-food recipes provided according to your family’s tastes.