Archive | November, 2011

What’s For Dinner This Week

Meal Planning for Busy Families

The last Thanksgiving dish has been washed, dried and put away for next year, and the last of the leftover Thanksgiving turkey is finally gone.

It’s time to start a new week and a new Weekly Meal Plan from The Organized Cook.  This week we’re catering to our “Picky Eaters” with a dinner menu this week that includes fun and simple recipes sure to win even the pickiest of eaters over.

Meal Planning Monday

Meal Planning Monday

Monday: Crunchy Ranch Chicken Tenders with Baked Mac & Cheese and Carrots & Celery Ranch Crayons



meal planning

Tuesday: Mini-Me Turkey Burgers with Cheesy Broccoli Rice


meal planning monday

Wednesday: Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti with Butter Sauce


meal planning monday

Thursday: Beef Soft Tacos with Tomato Fried Rice


meal planning monday

Friday: Turkey Meatballs & Spaghetti with Mini Thin-Crust Pizzas

Meal Planning for Picky Eaters

Cooking tips for “picky eaters” is a common question I get as discussed in my post Meal Planning for Picky Eaters.  What’s great about our Picky Eaters Weekly Meal Plan is that adults enjoy these simple recipes as well.

Reincarnating The Leftover and Reusing Time

This menu includes recipes that use a cooking method I like to call “Reincarnating The Leftover”.  Our Monday night’s Crunchy Ranch Chicken Tenders later are reincarnated into our Chicken Parmesan.  Remaining tortillas from Thursday’s Beef Soft Tacos become the crust for Friday’s Mini-Thin Crust Pizzas.

Our cooking time has double its value this week when we steam rice to use half in Tuesday’s Cheesy Broccoli Rice and the other half on Thursday for Tomato Fried Rice.

By using ground turkey on Tuesday to make both Mini-Me Turkey Burgers and meatballs, Friday night dinner is a cinch when we used cooked meatballs in our Turkey Meatballs & Spaghetti.

I can use all the extra time I can get preparing for the holidays and this menu will help keep me on track by cutting my dinner preparation time down to just minutes later on in the week.

Weekly Meal Plan

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It’s Christmas Time at Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation

The elves are busy planning this year’s festivities for the kids at Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation.  Our “elves” are volunteers from the local community, and along with foundation directors, Lori Moroz-White and Linda Maneen we have many needs when it comes to putting together this important annual event.

Our Annual Holiday Party is a day-long event for children who are blind with planned activities like Snow Play, Christmas Caroling, Games, Descriptive Christmas Movie and… the best part- decorating homemade gingerbread men.  Why is this the best part?  Okay, it could be because I bake them fresh each year and enjoy helping the kids place gumdrop buttons, cinnamon candy eyes and coconut hair on their gingerbread man.

Parents would tell you they look forward to the annual party for different reasons.  The party gives parents a day of respite to do Christmas shopping or whatever else they need or want to do, and this is plenty of reason to rejoice.  Where many parents may take for granted the ease of finding someone to watch their child for a day, parents of children who are blind or handicapped may find it exceptionally more difficult.

Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation creates an exciting and fun-filled day for children who may otherwise not be included in any holiday events.  These children look forward to this event all year long; I know my Connor does.  As a parent of a child who is blind, I can’t describe the feeling when your child has a place and event specially for him.  All year long it’s a struggle to modify activities and events to meet Connor’s needs, and this is one event where I don’t have to worry about that.

NBCF Founder, my Connor Spilsbury, with Director, Lori Moroz-White

Let The Baking Begin

I make my gingerbread from scratch with molasses, ground ginger and all.  Yes, homemade is tastier, but it’s also lending to the sensory experience for these children.  These kids may not be able to see their gingerbread creation, but they’ll never forget that smell of fresh homemade gingerbread.

The first thing I’ll need to do is reorganize my baking cupboard.  Every year about this time I tackle this dreaded task- and believe me- after just one year, my baking cupboard is in desperate need of help.  I’ve found so many inspirational tips and suggestions for organizing a baking cupboard on websites like Pinterest, that I’m actually looking forward to it this year, so stay tuned for my upcoming “before and after” annual transformation.

You Can Help

The next thing we’ll need is to gather our resources in the community.  To create the most memorable holiday party yet, we are still in need of the following:

  1. Lunch donation from a local restaurant of pizza or sandwiches with drinks with the kids and volunteers
  2. Gift bags or stockings filled with items like Play Doh, Slinky’s, candy canes, Dominos, bouncy balls and lip balm (for older kids).
  3. Volunteers to help with activities.

If you would like to donate, please contact Linda Maneen at [email protected] or call 702-735-NBCF (6223); and you can always contact me directly with questions or ideas at [email protected].

Connor entertains the group by dancing along to Christmas carols

playing in pretend snow is a fun sensory experience for the kids

Christmas caroling lyrics in Braille

movies in Descriptive Video (DVR) were donated last year by Bank of America to the kids at NBCF

Thank You Bank of America


Many of you who know me are aware of our mission to build the first school for the blind in Nevada as one of only two states in the U.S. currently with no school for the blind.  In 2006, we opened the doors to Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation with the first-ever library for children who are blind, technology center and resource library for parents.  As a parent of a child who is blind, I can tell you first hand what it’s like to not have a place in the community where you can go to for resources.

Happy Holidays!

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Making A List & Checking It Twice: Christmas Shopping Tips

Christmas Shopping Tips

Every year it’s the same for me- I can’t just run out to the stores come Black Friday and begin swooping up every deal I can get my hands on.  Part of me wishes I could just leap into action like that;  but I just can’t start my Christmas shopping without a plan.

Making A List & Checking It Twice 

I need to know in advance what my budget is for each individual on my Christmas gift list to determine my overall Christmas Shopping Budget.  Predetermining my total budget allows me to make necessary adjustments to individual budgets to keep me on track.  I’m also able to figure out how much of my budget remains for charitable Christmas gift purchases.

This may sound like too much “type-A” behavior for a joyous holiday season.  Au contraire.  Staying organized and keeping my list out of my head and at fingertips is what brings me joy.

I started my Christmas Planning & Organization Guide over a decade ago.  Each year, I begin updating my guide shortly after summer and I keep it handy through the end of the holiday season.  My guide helps plan and budget my Christmas shopping with the following three steps:

Step 1:  Make A List

Christmas Gift List & Budget

I start by making a list of each person in my immediate family for Christmas gift shopping.

I then add a category to this list for extended family on my side, and then on my husband’s side.

The last category on my Christmas shopping list includes friends, teachers, co-workers, mail carrier, hair stylist, and so on.

I then create a column titled Budget.  Next to each name of my Christmas Shopping List, I fill in the amount of money I have budgeted for each individual.

After determining each individual budget, I can then add it all up to determine my overall Christmas Shopping Budget.

Save Some Room On The Bus

I then create a column for Gift Ideas.  This is an important step for me.  First of all, a gift idea that may be in your head today for someone, may not be there tomorrow.  It’s my “bus is full” philosophy.  You see, I believe that when I must commit an idea to memory, I take up too many seats on the bus in my brain.  However, the minute I take that idea from my head to paper (or computer), I’m freeing up space on my bus for more thoughts and ideas.  Whenever I think of a great Christmas gift for someone, I immediately run to my computer or pull out my paper list and jot it down.  I can’t tell you how often this method has saved me from last-minute shopping madness.

Stay On Track

The next column is to keep track of Gifts Purchased.  After I purchase a gift- or gifts- for an individual, I jot it down in this column along with the amount I actually spent.  By doing this, I can first keep track of my progress so I know at a glance when my Christmas shopping is complete.

This also allows me to keep track of my spending to know if I’m staying on budget.  If I go over budget, I can either make adjustments elsewhere; or at the very least, I can take the surprise out of opening my January credit card statement.

Christmas Cards

Next, I update my Christmas Card list.  By taking the time to add people and update addresses, I’m saving myself again from last-minute mayhem.

2.  Schedule It

What?  Only eight more days until Christmas?!”  I don’t like to be surprised mid-December with the realization that I’m running out of time to do things like mail out Christmas cards or finish shopping.  So, if I schedule items on my calendar ahead of time and stick to it, I find more joyeux in my noel, like:

  1. Christmas Photos
  2. Christmas Cards
  3. Charitable Outreach
  4. Teacher Gifts
  5. Christmas Shopping
  6. Gift Wrapping

3.  Keep It Together

I don’t know what your purse looks like around the holidays, but I know that mine can look like a jumbled mess of receipts, sticky notes, sales ads and store coupons.  I’m getting my annual Christmas eye-twitch just thinking about it.

Christmas Shopping Planning Guide

My Annual Christmas Eye Twitch

Which is why I create my envelope system.  I take four envelopes and label them:

  1. “List”
  2. “Receipts”
  3. “Sales Ads”
  4. “Store Coupons”

I keep my envelopes together and use them faithfully.  I’ll never scramble around again looking for that receipt to return the paella pan I bought for my mother before learning she bought the same one for herself.

When describing the sangria jar to a sales clerk, I’ll always have the sales ad handy to refer to.

And who doesn’t love saving 20% at Bed, Bath and Beyond by having that coupon handy?


Download Your Planning Guide

To help you stay on track this Christmas shopping season, I’m sharing my humble planning guide here:

Christmas Planning & Organization Guide in Word (to make modifications)

Christmas Planning & Organization Guide in PDF (to print and write in only)

  It may seem like only “paper and pen”, but I believe the written word holds a lot of power.  And if that power helps take the stress out of my holiday by keeping my shopping, budget and schedule on track, then it might as well be made out of gold to me.

I hope my guide helps you as much as it has helped me.

Have a Joyous, Organized and Eye-Twitch-Free Holiday!








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Give Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey A New Flavor: Green Chile Cilantro Penne

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Do you have leftover Thanksgiving Turkey and want to give it a new flavor?  Give it a Southwest flair with this super-simple recipe.

Green Chile Cilantro Penne


  1. Leftover Thanksgiving turkey
  2. Penne pasta- 1 pound
  3. Canned whole green chiles- 4 7oz. cans (or 1 bulk can), not drained
  4. Queso Fresco cheese- 1 round
  5. Cilantro- 1 bundle, leaves pulled from stems with one “twist-and-pull”


  1. Boil pasta in salted water until tender
  2. In blender, combine green chiles (not drained), most of the cheese leaving out about a fourth to crumble on top, and cilantro
  3. Blend on medium until it becomes a sauce; do not over-blend; be careful not to puree it
  4. Drain water from pasta and return pasta to warm pan over medium-high heat
  5. Add sauce to pasta; toss
  6. Serve topped with turkey and crumbled cheese
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