Feel Good About Dinner

Making Delicious, Healthy Meals For Your Family


Homemade Apple Cider

Our new home came with a dozen apple trees that are bursting with fruit. I have heard this year is a bumper crop for apples and we have been blessed indeed.

apple treeAbove is a picture of our trees AFTER filling the containers below.

I have been having fun trying out many apple recipes. I still need to find the perfect apple sauce recipe. If you have a favorite, please leave a link or directions in the comments. Actually, leave any and all of your favorite apple recipes in the comments!

Apple cider from a local orchard is tasty, but rather pricey. I decided to see if it was possible to make this delicious fall treat at home using normal kitchen appliances. I discovered not only is it possible, but so easy and amazingly delicious. A little time is required, but not a lot of effort.

Picture Tutorial:

Boil apples uncovered for one hour.

Boil apples and spices uncovered for one hour.

Cover and simmer for two hours. When finished your cider will look like this.

Cover and simmer for two hours. Smash soft apples with the back of a large spoon. When finished your mixture will look like this.

Pour cider into a cheese cloth lined colander over a large bowl.

Pour mixture into a cheese cloth lined colander over a large bowl.

Squeeze as much juice out of the apples as possible.

Squeeze as much juice out of the apples as possible.

Your finished apple cider.

Your finished apple cider.

Recipe for Homemade Apple Cider adapted from allrecipe.com

10 apples

3/4 C. sugar

1 Tbls. cinnamon

1Tbls. allspice

  1. Scrub and quarter apples (do not peel or core).
  2. Combine all ingredients into a large dutch oven.
  3. Fill pot with water to within an inch or so from the top.
  4. Bring everything to a boil and boil uncovered for one hour.
  5. Cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for two hours.
  6. Smash the apples with the back of a large spoon.
  7. Allow mixture to sit until cool enough to handle.
  8. Pour contents over a cheese cloth lined colander into a large bowl.
  9. Gather cheese cloth around the solids and squeeze out as much juice as possible.
  10. Discard solids.
  11. Serve hot or cold.
  12. Store refrigerated and stir before serving.

What is your favorite apple recipe? Please leave a link in the comments. I have enough apples to try them all!

menu plan

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Menu Plan for the Week of June 30

This is a birthday week in our home. Jon turns 17 on the 4th of July. We have a lot of fun with the fact that he shares his birthday with our country. It’s a bonus that no matter on which day of the week Jon’s birthday falls, Dad doesn’t have to work. This year Jon has the day off from his summer job. A perk Jon should be able to enjoy his whole life. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are his requested meals. He also requested this cool flag cake for his birthday cake. We shall see how it turns out.

picture is linked to original source

picture is linked to original source

Jon’s tastebuds are maturing by requesting steak for his birthday meal, but the two following pasta meals are old favorites. I had to be creative in suggesting something that resembled a vegetable in each meal.

We look forward to celebrating this special member of our family. My 3 1/2 pound premie is now 6 foot tall and officially a high school senior!

Happy Birthday Jon!

Happy Birthday Jon!


grilled hamburgers

French fries



mashed potatoes

green beans


church picnic


grilled buffalo chicken



Buffalo Chicken

Buffalo Chicken


grilled steak topped with feta cheese

baked potatoes

corn on the cob


birthday cake and ice cream




Caesar salad



tuna casserole

fruit salad

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Ranch Dressing that is Low in Calorie, but High in Taste

Salad Bar Supper

Don’t get me wrong, I buy ranch dressing. My kids love to dip just about anything in ranch dressing especially their chicken nuggets and it’s a main ingredient in our favorite marinated for buffalo chicken. But I wanted a ranch dressing that I could pour on my salad without adding 130 calories to my meal. We eat a lot more salads in the summer and this is perfect for a summer salad bar dinner.

My main solution to this problem has been to switch to lower calorie dressings. I enjoy many different vinaigrettes, but sometimes I’m really in the mood for a creamy ranch dressing. A little internet searching and I found this higher calorie recipe to tweak.

A low calorie ranch dressing that is healthy and delicious? Yes, it is possible. The big switch in the recipe was replacing the mayonnaise with non-fat plain yogurt. The exciting thing about this deliciously fresh tasting recipe is that it is only 30 calories per 2 tablespoon serving.


1 C non-fat plain yogurt

1/2 C sour cream

2 T skim milk*

1 tsp. finely minced or grated onion

1/2 tsp. dried parsley

1/2 tsp. dried dill weed

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/8 tsp. salt (I used kosher salt)

1/8 tsp. pepper

Mix all together and store in the refrigerator.

*For a thicker dressing, omit the milk. For thinner dressing, add more milk.


Menu Plan for the Week of April 7

Cheesy Italian Tilapia

We are enjoying a beautiful spring day and were able to use the outdoor grill for our hamburgers today. Why does food taste so much better on the grill? I started to fill my menu plan with grilled meals and then Mark mentioned all of the rain in the forecast for this coming week. Thus far Saturday is the only day without rain, so I planned a grilled meal for that day. If we happen to have more rain free days, I may deviate from my plan in order to enjoy our grilled favorites.

We enjoyed our spring break. We were able to get away for a few days to Clifty Falls State Park in southern Indiana. A beautiful park with several great hiking trails that we were able to enjoy. We had perfect weather for hiking. It was nice to have a break for the normal routine, but we’re ready to get back into the swing of things.

Menu Plan

Chicken Nuggets

grilled! hamburgers
French fries

chicken nuggets
crispy carrot fries
whole wheat drop biscuits

cheesy Italian tilapia
broccoli with cheese

pork tacos salad bar style

Buffalo Chicken

paprika chicken and green beans

roasted sausage and potatoes

grilled! buffalo chicken
baked potatoes
green beans

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Resurrection Tomb Centerpiece

David and I tried to create our own resurrection tomb inspired by these ideas. My good friend, Marcia, gave me the idea of using homemade play dough to make the tomb. After trying to find the perfect rolling stone from our landscape rocks, Mark suggested I could have made that from play dough too. A good idea a little late for me, but thought I would pass it on. The examples that inspired this Easter centerpiece used real plants, but since I am not much of a gardener, I just used dried moss and river rocks from the dollar store to fill in around the tomb.

Since today is Good Friday, the tomb is currently closed until Sunday morning.
I thought it was appropriate to put the tomb on my buffet next to our olive wood carving of the Lord’s last supper with his disciples.
I hope you all have a meaningful Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday as you remember and marvel at what Christ accomplished on our behalf.

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Easter Menu Plan 2013

picture linked to original source

Many holiday traditions include a special meal, and Easter is no exception. I love the tradition of a holiday meal because it’s a bigger, fancier meal that encourages longer and more meaningful fellowship. A holiday just wouldn’t feel like a holiday without special foods. It’s also just fun to plan and prepare a special meal.

I have to share my parents with my sister on the other side of the state, so some years they are able to join us and some not. For several years we have used Easter as an opportunity to share our dinner with church friends who do not have local extended family. This is something we all look forward to and it wouldn’t be the same without a full dinner table.

Of course, while we are getting ready for church and all day long we have music playing that celebrates Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

Menu Plan with Make Ahead Strategies

Since I do not normally make a big breakfast, this is a way to make our day start in a special way. I enjoy getting up before everyone on this special morning to prepare this simple, but special breakfast. To make the breakfast festive, I use my floral tablecloth (same as dinner) and lunch sized china plates.

Egg Casserole
Assembled the night before.

Resurrection Rolls
Dough made and stuffed with marshmallows the night before. This year I even rolled them in butter and cinnamon before tucking them away in the refrigerator for the night. In the morning I will use a quick method rise and baking.

Fruit Salad
All cut up and ready the night before except for the banana.

This menu isn’t much different than last year. I decided to delete the carrots and add roasted cauliflower this year. We love roasted cauliflower, so I thought it would be a nice addition. I also plan to make the desserts this year. This menu makes such a nice spread, but it really is quite simple. You will notice in my notes that most of this meal is prepared ahead of time, allowing me to get everything on the table quickly after church.

Ham (of course)
I always make my ham and potatoes in the crockpot while we are at church. I let the grocery store meat counter slice my boneless ham so it will easily transfer from the crockpot to the service platter. 

I actually peel my potatoes for this special occasion! The potatoes can be peeled ahead of time and stored in cold water in the refrigerator without turning brown. 

Potatoes cooked with ham give them such a delicious flavor. The only other thing in the crockpot other than potatoes topped with ham is a couple of halved celery stalks for flavor and a generous amount of ground pepper.

Roasted Cauliflower
I will have the cauliflower all cut up ahead of time so it will be a quick side dish.

Caesar Salad
I will have the lettuce, dressing, and croutons all prepped. I will just need to combine them just before serving. (A great job to allow a guest to assemble who would like to help.)

Deviled Eggs
These will be made the night before using these techniques.

Dinner Rolls
I use Brigette’s recipe for the dinner rolls and they bake up great ahead of time and can be quickly warmed in the microwave for a fresh from the oven taste.

Blueberry Crumb Pie
These desserts will both be made ahead of time. 

I almost always make a crumb topping in place of a top crust on pie. Along with a stir and press pie crust, a crumb topping makes baking a pie much easier without sacrificing taste. 

I sometimes make brownies from a mix and sometimes use the Hershey cocoa recipe. The thing that makes brownies special is stirring chocolate chips into the batter. 

I thought these two dessert options would be a good variety for our guests.


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