Change of Plans

You may have noticed I’ve been a little quiet on this blog lately, and I have a reason for it. Frankly, life is getting in the way.

Last December, I had reached a point where I was breaking down.

Dallas Moms Blog was becoming a part-time to full time job. I had slowly became more and more involved with our Children’s Ministry at church. All the while, I was also doing my best to be a full-time mom between the hours of 7am and 8pm.

Then in what little time I had left between these tasks I was trying to plan meals on a weekly basis to help with our budget, blog on The T-Shirt Mama for my boys and to turn it into the site I’d hoped. Oh…and be a wife and friend to my husband who wasn’t getting home until 6:30pm or later.

Now throw in major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas and planning two birthday party for my important little people…I not only didn’t have enough hours in the day, but I was losing sleep and starting to lose my mind.

If you don’t know me very well, then you might not realize that I’m very Type A. I’m the person who will give 110% into everything that I do. I put thought and intention into every task and role I’m given, and if I can’t achieve my goals, I feel like I’ve failed.

That’s where I was at the end of 2013. I was failing at my role as a volunteer, a business owner, a wife, a mother, and a friend. My family was being put to the side so that I could just stay afloat in all the tasks I’d taken on. 

For two weeks between December and January, I put Dallas Moms Blog on auto pilot and gave all the contributors a two week break. I spent time with family and husband, and gave myself a mental break.

I took some serious time thinking about what I wanted in 2014– what was important and what I wanted my goals to be. At the end of it all, here’s what I felt was my priority:

1) My kids – they were going to have as much as my attention during the day as possible. I was going to put down my phone, try to be present both physically and mentally with them.

2) My husband – I needed to put my computer down and just ‘be’ with him once the kids go to bed. He didn’t need to see me attached to my keyboard each night.

3) My Ministry and walk with God- God and church had become a chore. That’s scary… so that definitely had to change!

What was no longer on my list was the time and energy to develop two blogs. As much as I want The T-Shirt Mama to be successful, I took a path with Dallas Moms Blog and can no longer maintain both. Spending only 50% of time on each blog is no longer productive.  Since I feel that Dallas Moms Blog achieves all the goals I wanted for my personal blog with the benefits and perks–without having to be in the spotlight, I’ve officially decided it’s time to give up one. . . I chose the other.

Thank you to all of you who have supported me on this journey. I still hope to continue The T-Shirt Mama –documenting my boys life for them as a journal, but the posts will be infrequent and on a more personal nature. I invite you to continue to read when I do post. I’ll make sure to let you know on Facebook.

But in the meantime, I’d love for you to help support me on my other endeavor by Liking Dallas Moms Blog on Facebook and Instagram. This is what I see as my calling and ministry right now. I hope that through the amazing writers on our team (and my type A personality) we can be a support and resource for moms all across the Dallas metroplex.

So. . .
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Happy Birthday Little Man!

Somewhere in the middle of trying to survive life, our Little Man turned 3 on March 14, 2014.

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It’s hard to believe that only 4 years ago, this amazing person was only a thought in our minds. But here he is and getting bigger and smarter every day.

This year for his birthday, he decided he wanted to celebrate with Monster Trucks. So Monster Trucks it was!

We decided to keep it simple and hope for good weather. We set up a Monster Truck inflatable in the back yard and invited over his school friends and family for a hamburgers, hot dogs, and cake!

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Sadly he got a little too excited in the bounce house and hurt his ankle soon after his party started. He spent most of the rest of his party sitting and recovering. Baby Z helped keep the party going and entertaining the Little Man’s friends.

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Overall we had a great day, and at the end of it, Mommy and Daddy were thankful for long naps!

What I Want to Remember At His Age:

  • He’s always amazing me with his knowledge. He absorbs everything and remembers everything. It often takes me a moment during our conversations to remember where his random thoughts are coming from, but they’re always accurate! He definitely has a much better memory than me!
  • He’s incredibly kind and loving (when his terrible 2/3′s don’t take over). He is so proud of himself when he shares with his brother. On our run the other day, I caught him patting his brothers leg and holding his hand. Moments later he was gently tickling him because he liked to hear him laugh.
  • He loves to be affectionate! My favorite quote recently was when we came into the living room at 7am. He was laying on the couch, and when I walked in asked him what he was doing. He replied, “I was waiting for someone to come cuddle with me.” Of course, how could I say no to that!
  • He’s all boy! This kid loves his cars, trucks, trains, airplanes, helicopters, dinosaurs, Thomas, and all things green.


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Happy Birthday Baby Z!

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My sweet Baby Z turned 1 last month! It’s been a little crazy since then and when he turned 13 months yesterday, I realized it was probably time to document the experience before I’m writing about his first and his second birthday!

It wasn’t until I started planning his birthday in November that I realized how difficult it would be planning a party so soon after Christmas. It was so hard to find a theme that wasn’t Christmas-y or Red & White. Assuming I could trust the weather would be fairly chilly, I went with a Cocoa & Cookies theme.

But of course! The day of Baby Z’s birthday party it was a high of 63 that day. So…while it was a little warm for cocoa, everyone was a good sport and helped remove the cocoa and sweets from my home.

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I didn’t completely learn my lesson from The Little Man’s first birthday, and thought I’d make Baby Z’s cake. It slightly resembled a brain, but definitely turned out better this time!

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And just like his brother, he didn’t want to touch the cake and get messy! Rather than torturre the poor child by waiting until he dove into the icing (which would have been an hour at the rate he was staring at it), I grabbed a spoon and let him dive in that way.

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Overall, it was an awesome day celebrating Baby Z’s first birthday with family. It’s been such a rollercoaster of a year and to think the first year was over was almost a huge weight lifted, but at the same time, that first year only happens once!

Happy Birthday Baby Z!

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For the record, Baby Z’s 12th month stats are:

Weight : 22.1 pounds (62th percentile)

Height : 30.5″ (71st percentile)

Head : 19.3″ (99th percentile)


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A Month In 5 Minutes

Well hello again!

Did you miss me Blog? I promise I’ve been thinking about you often, but life just kept getting in the way. Then it had been just so long that there was almost an awkwardness when I came to  my keyboard and I didn’t know where to begin, so it was easier to just avoid you all together.

But it’s time to break the silence!

Rather than feel overwhelmed with trying to write a post for everything major that happened in December, I thought I’d start small (by copying whata fellow blogger did) and share just a few clips from the last month. I promise to try and not take more than 5 minutes of your time!

Ready?

Here we go…

Since I last posted, the weathermen (for once) finally got it right, and we had Icemaggedon hit Dallas over the weekend of December 6–and just in time for us to take Christmas card photos!

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This was the worst ice I’ve ever seen in Dallas! The sidewalks, roads, and even objects were layered in thick, thick later of slick ice. We had a great time playing with cookie sheets as make-shift sleds until someone got hurt! (Sorry Baby Z! Mommy lost her balance when trying to catch your brother!) 

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When we put the sleds away, we decided to take our chances in an even bigger sled–our van– and head to NorthPark for some time out of the house. We couldn’t let a little ice stop an annual tradition; especially since this would be Baby Z’s first trip to the Trains at Northpark!

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After the ice cleared away, we had one more threat of severe weather, but it never came. We enjoyed the rest of December wrapped up in holiday parties, play dates, and events.

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Then the Christmas festivities began!

It’s almost impossible to believe that this was Baby Z’s first Christmas. He was born so closely after Christmas that it’s strange to think we’ve spent the whole year with him and we hadn’t celebrated a Christmas together as a family of 4.

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This Christmas felt like the official first of many. Although it was a joy to spend the last few with the Little Man, now that he’s beginning to believe in the spririt of Christmas, it made it all that much more exciting and real!

Gingerbread Trains were built. The Polar Express was watched well over a hundred times. We left cookies and milk out the night before, and discovered snow the next morning on our fireplace from Santa’s boots. Christmas morning was magical and I’m already excited to see what next Christmas will bring with a almost 2 and 4 year old!

My Christmas gift to Tim was a night at the Gaylord Texan. I had it all planned out! We spent the afternoon with the boys and his parents at ICE walking through 9 degree temperatures. After a little sightseeing and photos, we went our separate ways. The boys with their NaNa and Grandpa and Tim and I to the Gaylord’s steakhouse.

Unfortunately, half way through dinner I became extremely sick. My $45 steak into a doggie bag and up to the room where I spent the rest of the night in the fetal position on the bed. But at least we captured a few pics before the evening went south!

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Christmas lasted through January 1st as we waited to celebrate with the Hurst’s until we were all together again.

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We officially have a walker!

Welcome 2014!

I am excited you’re here!

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The Christmas Tree is Up

Christmas has arrived at our house! The tree has been decorated. The stockings have been hung. The “balsam and fir” candles have been lit. (I need that fresh tree smell somehow!) And as I type The Holiday is playing in the background.

It’s absolutely my favorite time of year! 

This year, I’m extremely excited as the Little Man is finally at an age where he’s piecing all of Christmas together. He’s learning that we’re celebrating baby Jesus’ birthday. We’ve pulled out our miniature tree for our Meaningful Christmas ornaments. Last year all he wanted to do was pull the ornaments off the tree and try to peel off the pictures. While I’m pretty sure at some point he’ll try to do the same, and least he’s looking forward to each ornament rather than simply staring at me blankly when I pull out the box. You never know. Maybe this year we’ll make it past day 5 before I give up!

Both he and Baby Z have also taken a keen interest in our family Christmas tree.

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We don’t have a pretty designer tree. It’s not something you’d see out of the pages of Martha Stewart. What we have is a tree that’s slowly turning into a scrapbook. It doesn’t have much rhyme or reason for the way ornaments are hung or selected. You’ll often find bare spots and ornaments on the floor. 

Our Christmas tree become a favorite toy of the season!

While I want to protect our tree and ornaments, I kind of like that our boys have made this a tradition.

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Each year since we’ve been married (and a few from even before), we’ve each selected an ornament that represents our memories from that year. We have ornaments from our travels across the states and overseas and discovered favorites from Garden Ridge. We’ve tearfully selected ornaments that reminded us of “family members” who’ve passed and ornaments that remind us of answered prayers. You’ll even find some interesting ones  that will definitely start a conversation.

But we’ve now transitioned into a different phase of our tree where we’re no longer selecting our favorite ornaments as a couple, but passing this torch onto our children. We now have “First Christmas” ornaments and ornaments made with small hands.  We’ve also loaded up our little family into the car  and taken our Little Man to our favorite local store (Target!) and allowed him choose his favorite ornament to hang on the tree.

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While these ornaments might seem strange to anyone walking past our tree at Christmas, to us they all have a special meaning and memory attached.

I look forward to our future Christmas’s with our boys when we’ll be able to drag down the box, start pulling out ornaments, sharing all the stories behind them– and not just the ornaments’ stories, but stories of how the same ornaments were their favorite toys at Christmas.

Do you have ornaments on your tree with special meanings?

How have you chosen to decorate your tree?


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A Parent First: The School Performance

Last week, we completed a parent first! We attended our first child’s first school performance!

Walking into that preschool it was almost as if we were finally granted this rite of passage  that was owed to us. We’d worked hard over these last (almost) 3 years and this is where it got it us.

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With grandparents present, we were sitting on the edge of our seats … starting at our child … watching him stare blankly at all the other kids around him..waiting patiently for him to do something that shows he’s been paying attention…and then cheer proudly!

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We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

The Hurst’s


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Texas’s Easiest Pie: Pecan Pie

One of my favorite holiday traditions is baking! It doesn’t matter whether it’s Easter, Fourth of July or Christmas, I love finding just the right themed dessert to go with the occasion.

When fall rolls around, I don’t have to search any further than my recipe box for a great dessert that goes with a Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham. Every year around this time, it’s become a tradition for me to bake and is a little piece of home for family members who can’t join us on Thanksgiving day.

Texas Pecan Pie has become a favorite of my family’s and it’s such an easy dessert to whip up for the holidays! Within an hour or so, you can have Pecan Pies sitting in your refrigerator ready to be placed on that dessert table or hand-delivered to out of town family members.

Here’s my simple Pecan Pie recipe that you might want to try this season!

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Ingredients

  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. Pancake Mix
  • 3/4 cup dark Karo syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. sweet cream butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 1/4 cup pecans, halved
  • 1 9″ deep dish pie crust

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2) Stir together all ingredients, except pecans, until well blended in a large mixing bowl.

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You can make your pies a little more Texan by using local products like Pioneer Brand from San Antonio! 

3) Stir in pecans.

4) Place pie crust into a glass deep dish pie pan or disposable aluminum pie pan, and trim excess crust around edges.

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Let’s face it! I’m a mom! I do have a great “from scratch” pie crust recipe, but with babies hanging all over your legs while you cook, Pillsbury works just as well! 

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To add flair, use a fork to create a professional look by pressing down along the edge of the pie crust. 

5) Bake 50-55 minutes until golden brown and pie begins to slightly crack in the center.

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For best slicing: Cool overnight–then freeze for 1 day for best slicing. 

You’ll notice up above that I had two pies going at the same time. Doubling this recipe is also very easy, and since Pillsbury provides two pie crusts, why not just make two!

Do you enjoy Pecan Pie? Is it a dessert you include during the holidays?


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5 DIY Projects to an Energy-Efficient Home

I’m half way through the Reliant Challenge and I can already tell you that even if I don’t win the trip to BlogHer 2014, simply by participating in this challenge and what we’re now saving on our electric bill is enough of a win!

Home Energy Checkup-1 Last week, Reliant sent out an energy auditor, Daniel, to help show us areas of our home that’s causing our energy usage to go up, provide tips on how to be more energy-efficient, and strategies for decreasing our electric bill.

He begun by reviewing our electric bills over the last 12 months, and what he showed me wasn’t any surprise! Tim and I have both known that our air conditioning runs almost 24/7 in the summer time. Trying to keep our home cooled to 78 is a challenge, but we’ve always attributed this to poor circulation in our home and the fact that we live in Texas. It just gets hot. What did surprise me was that we’re using more electricity than most people who live in Dallas. So, with the energy auditor by my side, we went through a home inspection to discover why!

Although you can call Reliant and request a Home Energy Snapshot for your home, I wanted to provide you with a few pointers that our auditor provided to help you get a jump start on improving your home’s energy efficiency.

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5 DIY Projects To Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient

1)  Seal your attic– Our home was built in 1968, and we have the original drop-down door leading up to our attic. Our auditor used a tool to detect air temperature around the door of the attic and it was amazing the temperature difference in our hallway around the attic opening.

Recommendation: Insulate the attic door with a layer of foam board or radiant paneling underneath the folding stairs and weather strip around the edges. An even better solution would be to create an attic stair cover or attic tent/draft cap. This will create a seal trapping air in the attic and not allowing our heat (or air conditioning) to escape!

2) Check Your Attic’s Insulation – Would it surprise you to find out our attic has the original insulation from 1968; including some places where there’s no insulation from unfinished home improvement projects? I believe he measured our insulation to be 4-5″ in some of its highest places.

Recommendation: The current Department of Energy recommendation for all attics is R-30 (or an even layer 10″-11″ deep). This is an easy DIY project because most stores will rent an attic blower for relatively cheap, and new insulation can be added over existing insulation as long as air leaks have been sealed and you’re not just masking an existing problem.

3) Take Care of the HVAC System– One of the most interesting facts he shared with us about our current HVAC system is that it’s almost 18 years old and he gave an analogy that even I could understand! Although our system is old, he explained that you can compare it to a car.  A good quality car will last a long time as long as you’re providing yearly maintenance and catching smaller problems and repairing them as they arise. If you’re not maintaining, similar to a car, you’ll find more frequent and more expensive repairs happening out of the blue.

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Recommendation: Yearly HVAC check-ups by a professional are extremely important to maintaining your HVAC unit unless you want to find yourself replacing it or spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on repairs. Keep the outside system clean with a simple wash with a water hose and change out air filters at least every 3 months (and possibly more often in the summer with extra usage.)

ReliantTips1 4) Turn Off Your Attic Lights – As homes begin to shift, separation can occur between the walls of your home. Our auditor found a large gap between the ceiling in our living room and the brick of our fireplace. With the lights off, he could see directly down into our living room, and if he could see down, air was definitely escaping up.

Recommendation: Go into your attic and turn off the lights while the house lights are on. See if you can spy any light coming into the attic from your home downstairs. If so, use “Great Stuff” or another type of sealer (as appropriate) to block the air leaks and insulate on top.

5) Replace Those Bulbs – A simple, easy (and cost effective) solution for energy efficiency is to start replacing your incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs. Thanks to Reliant, Tim & I  were gifted a $50 Home Depot gift card to help us on this journey, and through lots of thought and price comparison, we decided to pass up on the florescent and go straight to the LED bulbs. This is the one area on our inspection our auditor was congratulatory to us!

Recommendation:  As a family who is home almost all day, and constantly using electricity, switching to CFL’s or LEDs will use about 75-85% less energy to produce the same amount of light. CFL’s and LED’s also produce much less waste heat than incandescents. Since these types of light bulbs can be costly, his recommendation was to prioritize frequently used light fixtures, or lights which get left on for long periods of time and begin replacing these first. Infrequently used lights can be converted as they burn out to maximize financial savings.

So, the “proof is in the pudding” as they say in the south. . . do these tips work? We’ll have to see in the long run–especially in the summer time–whether it will be a drastic savings difference.

But what I can tell you is that we received our lowest electric bill in over 2 and a half years this month!

As I said in the beginning, even if I don’t win the challenge, the savings we’re experiencing along has been well worth this challenge!

**I’ve partnered with Reliant Energy for the Reliant Challenge; however this post has not been sponsored. Reliant provided me with a free home energy inspection and a $50 Home Depot gift card to provide tips on how to create an energy-efficient home. All opinions are 100% my own! 

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Celebrating 10 Months!

We’re almost there!

Can you believe Baby Z is now 10 months old (plus a week!)?

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This past month has been a game changer for him! And what I mean by that is he’s completely gone from infant to little person.

Right now, he weighs in at 20 pounds, 29″ long, and his head in the 99th percentile. 

Over the last 4 weeks we’ve watched him develop such a fun personality! He’s starting to communicate and socialize through lots of different sounds, facial expressions, pointing, gesturing, and even some early signing. (Right now everything is “milk” although we’re starting to get “more”.) 

He is a rockstar at crawling and can get pretty much anywhere he wants to go. If you see him bolting across the floor it’s probably because he’s either 1) spied the dog door open or 2) noticed a bathroom door open. His favorite places to be are either outside (which he’ll get to any means necessary) or playing in the bathroom toilet.

Why can’t kids ever play where you actually want them to play? 

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He and his brother are definitely beginning to understand the term “brotherly love.” M can be very hot and cold around him depending upon what Baby Z is doing, but for the most part, they get along great! Z just needs to learn the difference between he and his brothers toys and life would be great…according to his brother!  But seriously, they play so well together sometimes it can be a little scary for a mom as the Little Man doesn’t realize his own strength. To him, as long as Baby Z is laughing, it’s all good!

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As I’ve mentioned, he’s definitely hit some major developmental milestones this month, including the ability to wave with 1 hand and he can now stand on his own (if motivated and distracted away from his feet!) This afternoon, I watched him stand and stare at his Grammy for a good solid 10 seconds before realizing he could sit down.

His eyes are still a gorgeous blue, and we’re holding our breath they’ll stay this way!

His teething is in full force. The poor guy has been constantly congested for over a month now and has been drooling to no end. Fortunately, last week he gained 2 new teeth in 2 days which  brings our grand total to 6! That night he slept better than he has since he was 6 months old! Like I said, poor guy!

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Don’t get me wrong, he’s definitely had his fussy moments this month…week…day…hour! But, he brings such joy to our day every time we see that toothy smile! I can’t wait to see what the next few months hold as he celebrates his first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and soon, birthday!

Which brings me to…why didn’t anyone warn me how difficult it would be to have to plan a birthday party two weeks after the New Year? Definitely regretting that decision now! 


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Can You Cook Without Your Oven?

Since taking on the Reliant Challenge in October, I’ve been making a conscious effort to change our energy habits.

Lights are now being turned off in bedrooms as we move from room to room. I do a walk through of the house when we’re heading out to make sure there’s nothing on or running when we leave. And now, I always do a quick check of the Nest to make sure it’s set correctly since we’re still having some weird fall Texas weather.

But I have to be honest, this is about all I know how to do cut down on our electricity costs. Thankfully, Reliant has been helping me because I’m sure my limited amount of knowledge would not win me this contest!

One of the ways they’ve challenged us this month is to limit the use of our oven. Why? Did you know that using your oven for 1 hour at 365 degrees will cost an average of $0.16 each time you use it compared to a microwave oven which averages $0.03 on high for 15 minutes? Obviously we’re not talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, but when it comes to being more energy efficient that 2 kWh vs. 0.36 kWh is definitely more energy-friendly!

So, I took this challenge seriously and I went on a mission to find some meals that I could make for 1 week–leaving the oven behind!

What Did Our Meals Look Like?

I’ll be honest–being on Weight Watchers definitely helped during this challenge. Typically, anything that goes into our oven isn’t always the most healthy. It usually involves some kind of “Cream of …” or pasta.  So skipping the oven was actually a no-brainer when trying to find meals that would be diet-friendly.

Meals included:

- Simple grilled Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches

- Santa Fe Chicken Salad from Tom Thumb

- Alton Brown’s Fajita Marinade on the grill

- Steak & Asparagus on the grill

- America’s Test Kitchen’s Skillet Chicken with Penne & Broccoli (See photos of it here.)

- Crockin’ Girls Mexican Lasagna

These were just a few of my personal favorites, but I’m now on a mission to find some great new recipes that are energy-saving. And thanks to a few of my blogger friends I now have a whole list of recipes that spare the oven and will get me one step closer to winning this challenge!

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On the Side

Life on the Horizon: Black Bean & Corn Salsa

Carrie Elle: Five Fruit Salad

Carrie Elle: Corn Salad

 

The Main Dish

Crystal & Co.: Lime Garlic Butter Salmon

Coffee & Giggles: Crockpot Creamy Chicken Taco Chili

Crystal & Co.: English Muffin Pizza

Southern Yankee Mix: Grilled Smoked Sausage Kabobs

Roubinek Reality: Texas Jambalaya

Crystal & Co.: Cabbage Beef Casserole

 Do you have any recipes you can share? 

**I am participating in a energy-saving competition sponsored by Reliant. I did not receive any compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own. 
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