Friday, October 31, 2014

SkADaMo and Writers' Menu Begins

November 1st means an extra hour of sleep, thanks to Daylight Savings Time. Or will you use your hour to flesh out your picture book ideas?

Why not try a new challenge? Have you heard of Linda Silvestri's SkADaMo (SketchADayMonth)?

Zoot Suit Newt, by Linda Silvestri

Stay tuned to her blog, Sketched Out, for wacky animal puns and details of her upcoming drawing events.

Welcome to Writers' Menu 2014!

Here are your meals for the week. 
I hope the planning I've put in helps you take care of your family  
and fill your notebook with seeds of picture book ideas. 

If this is your first visit, you'll find tips and instructions on How Not To Starve During PiBoIdMo
You'll find past make-ahead meals and shopping lists here.
All the ingredients needed for this list can be found on yesterday's post.
Just a reminder that most recipes can be found in their original states on my Writers' Menu Pinterest Board.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or constructive comments.
Note: The numbers in [brackets] correspond to the dates on the meal planning calendar.
I've made a printable version of the information below, in case you don't want to keep referring back to this post.

Writers' Recipes November 1-10

[1] Roast Chicken
Whole Chicken, About 1 lb per serving plus about 2 lbs
1 Lemon per chicken

  • Remove giblets from thawed whole chicken. 
  • Rinse and pat dry. Cut lemon in half. 
  • Place halves inside chicken cavity. 
  • Place whole chicken in slow cooker. 
  • Sprinkle with seasonings if desired. 
  • Cook in slow cooker on low 6 hours. 
  • Internal temperature should read 165 degrees F. 
Complete the meal:
I recommend Stovetop Stuffing, cooked carrots, and a fruit cup. I often add dried cranberries [Day 4] into the stuffing mix.

Note: Cut up leftover chicken and store for use on Day 4.

[2] Spaghetti and Meatballs
Pasta sauce
16 oz Frozen meatballs, or less

Really guys? Follow the directions on the package.
Complete the meal:
Serve with garlic bread and melon slices.
If you make your own Garlic bread , you can try this recipe from IowaGirlEats
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Slice a demi-loaf of French or Italian bread into 1/2″ slices being careful not to cut all the way through the bottom crust. 
  • Melt a couple Tablespoons butter in a small dish then add garlic salt and Italian seasoning
  • Brush the seasoned, melted butter in between the slices to get everything covered. 
  • Wrap the loaf in foil. 
  • Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. 
Don't forget to thaw tomorrow's Broccoli soup in the refrigerator overnight. Remember to start the potatoes an hour earlier.

[3] Creamy Broccoli Soup
soup base
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup half and half
garlic salt
1 cup shredded Gouda Cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

  • You should have the soup base pre-made in your freezer. (If not you'll find the recipe here.) 
  • Thaw base in refrigerator overnight. 
  • Heat base to boiling. 
  • Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. 
  • Whisk in flour. Cook and stir 3-4 minutes. 
  • Whisk in just the liquid from the base. Thicken, 1-2 minutes. 
  • Add vegetables , half and half, and dash of garlic salt. 
  • Mix slowly until heated through. Remove from heat. Add cheeses, salt and pepper to taste. 
Complete the meal:
Pair with baked potatoes. Top with sour cream or butter.
Never baked your own potatoes?
Wash potatoes. Prick skin with fork. Rub with a little butter if you eat the skins. Wrap in aluminum foil. Bake in 375 degree F oven for about 1 hour.

[4] Chicken Salad
Salad greens
tomatoes pieces
sliced carrots
sliced cucumber
chopped green pepper
shredded cheese
dried cranberries
chopped walnuts
leftover chicken from Day 1

Throw it all together. This salad is best with an Italian or vinaigrette dressing. 
Picky eaters? Try one of these remedies.

  • Sprinkle with a little sugar before serving.
  • Relabel your usual dressing bottle (Gilly Wateror Skele-Growanyone?)
  • Surf the dressing aisle for an unusual flavor. 
  • Let them mix and match the ingredients above, like a buffet. 
  • Try salad shakers. 
  • Challenge their taste buds by allowing them to eliminate only 2 of the salad ingredients. 
  • Play Veggie Ninja: Set a time limit. Have them spear different combinations of ingredients on their forks each time they dip in. Bonus points if the bowl is empty when time's up.
Note: Remember to thaw tomorrow's meatloaf in the refrigerator overnight. You may want to make tomorrow's Tomato and Cucumber salad today, and let it marinate overnight.

[5] Meatloaf
If you've been following along, you should have a meatloaf in the freezer. If not, try the recipe I inherited with my grandmom's cookbook.


  • Thaw in refrigerator overnight. 
  • Bake 350 degrees F for approximately 1 hour. Meatloaf should not be pink in the middle.
  • Top with gravy if desired.
Complete the meal:
Serve with mashed potatoes, broccoli, and a fabulous tomato & cucumber side from NotWithoutMyMom
Tomato & Cucumber Salad
2 c. Cucumber, chopped
2 c. Tomatoes, chopped
1/2 small Onion, thinly sliced (about 3/4 c.)
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. White Vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
dash pepper
1 tsp sugar

Combine all ingredients, cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, longer if possible.

Note: Don't forget to thaw tomorrow's fish in the refrigerator overnight. For milder taste, Place unwrapped fillets in shallow dish of milk. Cover with plastic wrap. Thaw overnight. Drain, and discard milk before cooking.

[6] Tilapia with Olives, courtesy BBCGoodFood
6 Tilapia or cod fillets, thawed
I large onion, roughly chopped
1 15 oz can black olives
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
Lemon wedges

  • Thaw Tilapia in refrigerator overnight. For milder taste, Place unwrapped fillets in shallow dish of milk. Cover with plastic wrap. Thaw overnight. Drain, and discard milk before cooking.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Heat 1 Tbl of the oil from the olives in an ovenproof pan. 
  • Tip in the onion and stir well, leave to cook 1-2 minutes. Stir again.
  • Add the tomatoes and some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then add the olives.
  • Put the fish, skin side down, onto the sauce and drizzle over a splash more oil from the olive jar.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork. 
  • Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve straight from the pan, with lemon wedges for squeezing over.
Complete the meal:
This goes great with a side of couscous, some cooked carrots, and dinner rolls.

Note: Remember to thaw tomorrow's pork chops in refrigerator overnight. Start your crock pot meal in the morning, write until dinner time.

[7] Ranch Pork Chops, Thanks to StockpilingMoms.
6 boneless porkchops
1 Ranch Seasoning Dry Mix Packet
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup (plus 1 can of water or milk)


  • Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.
  • Mix Well.
  • Cook on low 4-6 hours.
Complete the meal:
Serve over egg noodles, with frozen or canned peas and corn.

[8] BBQ Meatballs, Thanks to the CountryCook.
16 oz Frozen meatballs
9 oz Grape Jelly
9 oz BBQ sauce


  • Combine Jelly and BBQ sauce. 
  • Place frozen meatballs in slow cooker. 
  • Cover with sauce. 
  • Cook low 6 hours.
Complete the meal:
Believe it or not, these meatballs are fantastic over rice, in a sandwich, or with noodles. The kids come back for thirds. Pair with applesauce and raw veggies.
Prepare carrot sticks, celery stalks, leftover cucumbers, tomatoes, and green peppers. Don't forget black olives, if you have any. Use a ranch dressing dip, or make your own with sour cream.

[9] Leftover Night!
Use up all the goodies you cooked all week, pull out a frozen entree, or send your family out to dinner so you can have a bit more writing time.

Note: Remember to thaw the bacon in the refrigerator overnight.

[10] Bacon and Eggs Breakfast Special
Optional scrambled egg mix-ins: salsa , hot sauce, cheese, onions, green peppers, mushrooms
Any leftover baked potatoes? Chop into small pieces and fry as hash.

Directions: My kids love breakfast for dinner. Serve scrambled, over easy, or omelet-style. Mix in any leftover veggies so you can start fresh this week.
Fry up the bacon and you're ready to eat! Serve with croissants and oranges. Bottomless pits fill up faster with a side of yogurt, additional fruit leftovers, or my secret weapon, chocolate milk.
Note: You can get a head start on next week by cooking the other half pound of bacon, draining, chopping, and refreezing in a plastic baggie.
Now I can sleep at night, knowing that thousands of PiBo families are going to bed with full tummies. If this is working for your family, I'd love to hear about it. Happy writing!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Shop Now for November (Day 1-10)

Sign up at
PiBoIdMo officially begins on Saturday. Hooray! We even get an extra hour of sleep because of Daylight Savings Time.

As promised, I've compiled a Writers' Menu Calendar for the month of November. 
Below is the full menu including sides to round out each meal.
  • If you've been following along, you should have 6 meals prepped and frozen. 
  • If you've missed a few, you can still catch up using the freezer meals I've posted.
  • Late to the party? Start here. It's not too late.

Assuming you're following the full menu, I've compiled a shopping list for days 1-10. You'll need to get these items by Saturday morning. You should already be stocked on the kitchen staples listed on How Not To Starve During PiBoIdMo.

Again, the numbers in brackets following the grocery item tell you which day the ingredient will be needed. Use the numbers if you make several small trips during the week, or if you've deviated from the Writers' Menu selections.

Places where I use convenience foods:
Day 1, I admit it. I use canned fruit cup. Go healthy with fresh fruits if you have the time.
Day 2, I do not make my own spaghetti sauce. Not yet anyway.
Day 2 and 8, I decided to use frozen meatballs, add raw hamburger to your list if you want to make yours from scratch.
Day 5, I use instant mashed potatoes. Don't judge me.
Day 8, buy ranch dip, or substitute homemade dip, plain sour cream, or even regular ranch dressing.
Day 17, I opt for canned tomato soup. I haven't had the time to try the recipes on my Pinboard, but you can if you are feeling adventurous.
Day 20, I use Tyson frozen chicken fingers, but I love the freezable recipe from America's Test Kitchen.
On Day 21 I have chosen to use a bottled stir fry sauce. Leave your favorite sauce recipe in the comments. I'd love to hear about it.

Places where I cook from scratch:
I prefer cooking raw vegetables instead of frozen. Substitute frozen vegetables as sides on the appropriate days, if you like.
Day 2, I made my own garlic bread. Frozen prepared garlic loaves work just as well.
Day 24 calls for the pancake recipe handed down from my grandmother. It's easier than you think. Make a note to buy mix if you opt out.
Day 28 calls for homemade French bread pizza. I'll never go back to frozen.

I'll finish up the directions and links for the first week of November and post them tomorrow. Thanks for following along!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Writers' Menu Recipes Day 19 and Day 25

Ta-Da! The last two recipes for my November Writers' Menu! Follow the recipes, freeze the results, and you'll have two meals prepped and ready for next month. You'll find the grocery lists here if you missed them. Remember, you can cook a double batch: one to eat now, and one to freeze for November. This is a great way to impress your family with your outstanding organizational skills. And it beats McDonalds for dinner.

Today's recipes are Day 19 Teriyaki Honey Chicken and Day 25 My not-so-famous no-Bean Italian Chili. I've shared printable docs here.

Teriyaki Honey Chicken

  • 8 boneless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp minced garlic

Instructions (via Kojo-Designs)
  1. Add all ingredients to bag.
  2. If cooking immediately, let marinate for 6-8 hours.
  3. If freezing for later use, ladle into freezer bag.
  4. Using a Sharpie, label the bag with "Day 19" and cooking directions (Note: cooking directions will also be included on this blog in November):

  5. Thaw in refrigerator overnight. Place in greased baking pan. Cover. Bake at 350 degrees F 20 - 30 minutes. Uncover. Bake 20 - 30 minutes longer until juices run clear.

  6. To freeze, lay the bag flat on a cookie sheet until frozen solid. Remove cookie sheet.

That's it. Great job!

Next up is my personal recipe for no-bean Italian Chili.
Honestly, this recipe goes together so quickly, I don't bother freezing it, but during PiBoIdMo, every second counts!

My Italian Chili
(which should look something like
this one from AliciaBlogs)
  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 32 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 oz can mushroom pieces and stems, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped pepperoni
  • 2 tsps beef bullion
  • 1 to 2 tsps chili powder
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Brown ground beef. Drain.
  2. Add all ingredients, breaking up tomatoes. 
  3. Label  and freeze. 
Label bag with "Day 25" and following directions:

Thaw in refrigerator overnight. Simmer 30 minutes to blend flavor, until heated through. 

According to Kelly at New Leaf Wellness, you can freeze the raw meat in with the other ingredients, but I always cook my meat first, and try to keep raw meat separated from other foods. If you want to look into saving an extra step, visit her website.

It looks like you're ready for PiBoIDMo. Now go write something!
If you haven't prepped for Day 3 and Day 5, you'll find the directions here.
If you haven't prepped for Day 12 and Day 18, you'll find the directions here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Shopping List #3

Signups for PiBoIdMo begin today. Check out the line-up of amazing contributors, and don't miss a single day of Pre-PiBo posts October 26-31. (After you've copied today's shopping list, of course.)

Thanks to Tara Lazar, contributor-wrangler extraordinaire 

Below you'll find the link to a Google doc shopping list for the week of October 28. It covers the ingredients for the last two make ahead-meals for November. Don't forget to check the list of basic kitchen staples found here. You'll need some of these for Tuesday's recipes.

On Tuesday, I'll post how to make and freeze these meals for the busy days of PiBoIdMo. If you like, you can buy double the ingredients. You can make two batches: one to freeze for November, and one to eat now.

Bonus! I've included a link to homemade chicken fingers from America's Test Kitchen. These are delicious, and can be made ahead of time and frozen. However, I am opting out this year, using frozen, premade, store-bought chicken fingers from Tyson. It's your choice.

The numbers in [] indicate which day the food will be used. That way, if you have eliminated any items from the Master Menu, you'll be able to cross those groceries off the list.

Shopping Prep, Oct 28
Shopping List
Week of Oct. 27

Note: The numbers in [brackets] correspond to the dates on the meal planning calendar.

Dry Goods
beef bullion [25]

Canned / Bottled Goods
Soy Sauce [19]
honey [19]
1 jar spaghetti sauce [25]
32 oz whole, peeled tomatoes [25]
4 oz can mushrooms [25]

red bell pepper [19]
garlic [19]

8 boneless chicken breasts or thighs (approximately 4 lbs) [19]
1.5 lbs ground beef [25]
½ cup pepperoni [25]

Easy Peasy!

If you missed it, Here's
How To Starve During PiBoIdMo
How Not To Starve During PiBoIdMo

Make sense? Have questions? Contact me.

Friday, October 24, 2014

PPBF: The Midnight Library

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

The Midnight Library
Written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara
Roaring Brook Press, 2014
ages 3-6

Libraries, Spooky, Helpers

"Once there was a library that opened only at night. A little librarian worked there with her three assistant owls."

The midnight Library keeps unusual hours. It opens when the sun goes down. The librarian does her best to accommodate her strange assortment of patrons including a fox, a wolf, a dog, some cats, a dawdling tortoise, and a band of noisy squirrels. The little librarian manages to find a solution for everyone's needs, as most librarians do. She even finds time to read a "bedtime" story to her sleepy owl companions as the sun rises.

What I Love:
The illustrator has created a following with her wildly popular Ghosts in the House! I have to confess, that is not one of my favorite books. But a book about a library is irresistible, and the initial concept caught my attention, too. I loved watching the patrons milling around in the stacks. I smiled at the little librarian's helpful suggestions. I found the spare text heartwarming, with plenty of kid-appeal.

Kohara's graphic prints give the library the right touch of quirkiness. The bright colors will be a hit with the preschool crowd, but adults will find them equally hard to resist. Maybe I'm just nostalgic (the black on neon reminds me of the 60's classic Happiness is a Warm Puppy.)


from Art Of Domesticity
1. Julie Danielson offers an additional sneak-peek into the stunning illustrations of The Midnight Library.
2. has some teacher resources available for The Midnight Library as well as Kohara's Here Comes Jack Frost and Ghosts in the House!
3. These toilet paper roll owl ornaments aren't quite like the library assistants in the book, but their clever design and bright colors evoke the same playfulness.
Thanks to JustJENN
4. Try your hand at a haunted gingerbread house or library like the one from JustJennRecipes.
5. Why not help your local library organize a Library Card Drive? Offer author storytime or signed bookplates to direct more traffic to you favorite branch.
6. In keeping with the spirit of the art, teach your preschoolers easy printmaking techniques from Blissfully Domestic, InnerChildFun, or TinkerLab
7. Look for these other Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Erik
Reviewed by Catherine

Reviewed by Beth
Reviewed by Vivian

For more night-time escapades
Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for October 24, 2014, available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What Will PiBoIdMo Do for You?

2014 logo courtesy Vin Vogel

What will PiBoIdMo do for you?

It will push you out of your comfort zone.

As a picture book writer, you have to generate new ideas. When the ideas don't come, you mine your old notebooks for something to write about. You take a walk to clear your head and discover new characters in your neighborhood. You resort to random word generators, writing prompts, memory maps, and old photos. 30 days of brainstorming will drive you to all of these methods, and beyond . . . and that's when the good stuff comes.

It will challenge you to be present.

Life can get in the way of writing. The business of writing can get in the way of writing. Sometimes we're just too busy to notice the ideas around us. The noise of our lives makes it difficult to hear the ideas whispering in our heads. But the subconscious challenge of an idea-a-day will make the listening more urgent. It will spur you to be present, on the lookout for the ideas all around and within.

It will wake you up in the middle of the night.

By about day 16, I am waking up at 3 AM to scribble ideas into my bedside notebook. The ideas which come during the day are usually safe or logical. The ideas that come in the night are often surprisingly fresh. My brain has had time to put together the various pieces of my conscious thought and effortlessly mingled them in my unconscious dreams.

It will give you permission to get messy.

Desperation to reach your goal may drive you to explore untapped idea mines. You may experiment with bathroom humor, talking animals, scientific non-fiction, taboo subjects, or preschool concepts. Or sheer momentum may catapult you past your limits. Idea blossoms into idea, until you find yourself far from the story seed where you began. Either way, sooner or later you'll realize PiBoIdMo is a time to free yourself from the restraints of your inner critic. There are no mistakes in brainstorming, so let your imagination run wild.

It will initiate you into the world's most giving community.

Whether you read Tara's blog posts in the morning and let the suggestions simmer, or you keep in touch on the FaceBook page throughout the day, you'll find writers just like you. Writers who struggle, and fear, and obsess. You'll find tips for the dry spells. You'll see people rally around one another like supporters at a marathon. You'll get a peek at the ordinary hearts of the extraordinary people which make up the kidlit community. And you will belong.

What will PiBoIdMo do for you? It will surprise you, because you will surprise yourself.

What are you waiting for? Sign ups begin October 25th at