A New Year’s Menu

We are enjoying our Christmas vacation, and a little break from the usual routine. It is nice to sleep in and spend most of the day playing and relaxing with the children. Most of our time has been spent building Lego’s, reading books, watching movies, and spending time outside in the gorgeous Florida weather (walking or hiking while the children ride rollerblades or bikes).

Sometime during the holiday break I usually get a little itch to have some friends over for an evening of good food and games. Hosting an event is a good reason to clean the house, and the children are usually more motivated to help! We worked hard yesterday cleaning and prepping food, then rewarded ourselves with a nice evening with one of our favorite neighbor families.

New Year’s Eve makes me want to eat appetizer type dishes (foods that my normally picky eaters usually don’t like). This is what the menu looked like:

Sweet and Sour Meatballs: I have been wanting to make these for years, and they were so easy and delicious. Just three ingredients in the crockpot!

Cheeseball: This is a repeat of a favorite we discovered last year. Served with crackers and carrots, celery, and bell peppers on the side.

A green salad: nothing too difficult here, just green lettuce with tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and a little bit of peppers. I mixed up a bottle of Zesty Italian dressing to serve with it.

French bread: easy store bought bread. Some pieces were cut and served plain with butter, while the other half of the loaf was topped with Garlic Bread Seasoning and toasted.

Hmmmm, I am noticing a theme here–all of my recipes come from Our Best Bites! If you haven’t checked out that site, you really should. They are always my go-to source for any recipe (so much that I have two of their cookbooks!).

For dessert we had our Fried Ice Cream Balls. I had planned to serve these on Christmas Eve, but our good friends ended up inviting us over for dinner that night. Happy day! So that means I just adjusted our menu a bit, and we get to have our Chinese food menu for dinner on New Year’s Eve.

Our Christmas Menu

For most of our married life, we have lived far away from our extended family. Since traveling at this season can be difficult and expensive, we have opted to make the most of Christmas celebrating with our own little family in our own little home. Over the years we have developed a holiday menu that we really look forward to!

Christmas Eve the theme is Chinese Food. You can follow the links to view the recipes. This year I am planning to serve:

Sweet Sriracha Chicken-purchased from Sam’s Club

Egg Rolls-purchased from Sam’s Club

One pot wonder Chicken Lo Mein

A couple of other items I am considering: Chow Mein, General Tso’s Chicken, or these Thai Peanut Noodles.

Fried Rice: my recipe is mostly of the make-it-up as you go along variety, and it varies overtime. Take a guess at the proportions! Saute sliced onion and garlic. Add sliced carrots and bell peppers, then frozen peas. Or you can just use a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. Scramble 2-3 eggs. Add prepared white rice (2-3 cups, cooled). Toss in some soy sauce until it tastes good. If you want a real recipe, try this one.

For dessert we always have Fried Ice Cream balls. Not actually fried, so at our house we call these Cruncy Ice Cream balls. These are especially good with peppermint flavored ice cream, but with the picky eaters at my house we will stick to vanilla ice cream this year.

Christmas Day breakfast is Butterscotch Caramel Pull-Aparts (made by my husband). We also have hard-boiled eggs, and the oranges that are in everyone’s stockings. Perhaps this year I will try this Bacon & Egg Breakfast Casserole.

Dinner on Christmas Day is the traditional ham and potatoes. I am going to try the Orange and Brown Sugar glazed ham posted by Our Best Bites, as well as Funeral Potatoes. Most likely green beans for a side.

Ever since we moved to Florida I have been trying to learn how to make rolls. My husband’s family makes fabulous rolls, which I have been trying to replicate with moderate success. I think the elevation and humidity have something to do with my failures, but let me just say that bread making is not really my thing. Last January my good friend kindly gave me a one-on-one lesson on roll making. I made them for Thanksgiving this year and they were my best ever. So this is my roll recipe for this Christmas.

Dinner Rolls from Stacey

Proof yeast:

1 Tbs. yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 Tbs. sugar

Mix the first four ingredients in Bosch (I use my Kitchenaid)

2 cups milk (or 1/4 cup powdered milk and 2 cups hot water)

1 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. salt


2 beaten eggs

8-9 cups bread flour

1/4 cup melted butter

Heat butter, milk, sugar, and salt until warm. Combine beaten eggs with milk mixture then add yeast mixture (make sure liquid is not too hot before you add the yeast mixture). Gradually add the flour until dough leaves the side of the bowl. Cover and let rise until double. Punch down. Knead and spread out onto a floured surface to make a circle (actually rectangle shape works better for me) and spread with melted butter. Using a pizza cutter, cut 24 even wedges. Roll each wedge beginning at the wide end. Place on a cookie sheet and bend slightly to make a curved roll. Cover and let rise until double. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Butter tops while hot.

What do you think? Anyone want to join us for a meal?

About menu planning-again (with help from The Food Nanny)

Have you heard of The Food Nanny? You can watch the episodes online at BYUtv, and I am hooked! (Thanks for the introduction, Janene!) Each episode features Liz Edmunds (real-life mother of 7) entering the home of a family who needs their dinnertime to be rescued. Some of the real-life issues the show has covered include picky eaters, dinners on a budget,  and crazy schedules. Not to sound like too much of an advertisement here, but I really connect with the Food Nanny and I agree with her when she says “Family dinnertime is the most important time of the day.”

So I’ve watched her shows and I checked out her cookbook from the library, and I’ve been making some changes to our dinnertime. Mostly in the area of menu planning. Nearly two years ago I shared my method for menu planning. As was evidenced in that post, my method for menu planning usually evolves every year or two, and so….it’s been evolving again the last few months.

This is my new personal cookbook. Isn’t it cute? It’s a photo album that has been sitting in a box for about 5 years, waiting to be used.

After my last major round of menu method organizing, I have my recipes printed and laminated on these cute recipe cards.

However, I got tired of flipping through the ring to find the recipe I needed, so I thought the album would be a good way to view my recipes. I decided to organize my cookbook by themes. I was inspired by the Food Nanny who suggests planning Monday as Comfort Foods, Tuesday as Italian, Wednesday as Meatless/Fish, etc.

After some thought, these are the menu themes that work well for our family right now:




Meat & Potatoes

Soup/Slow cooker

Quick & Easy/Fun Foods


I haven’t completely designated a specific day to correspond to each theme. Generally Tuesday is Pasta, Wednesday is slow cooker, Thursday is Mexican, and Friday is always leftovers or something fun because it’s the weekend and I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen! But having the themes laid out like this helps me tremendously when it’s time to plan my menu for the week, so I can get the variety in our menu that our family appreciates.

Then I organized my recipes into each theme night, and placed them in my cookbook in the appropriate section. Some recipes overlap (Italian chicken bowties could be pasta or slow cooker), but the system generally works well for me.

I then spent a few hours printing the new recipes I have discovered lately (those gals at Our Best Bites have given me a lot of good food lately!) Actually, I’m still working on this–I’ve got two more to add after this week.

Now all of my menu planning tools can be found at the front of my cookbook, with the recipes to follow.

I also have a section in my cookbook for Breads and Baking (like muffins), and of course Sweet Things (I still need to add the BYU Mint Brownies recipe to that section).

So far the cookbook is working out great. It’s much easier to plan out our weekly menu, conquering the first stage of a successful family dinnertime. If you haven’t seen The Food Nanny, be sure to check her out.

Next mealtime goal: improving table manners and etiquette!