Friday, December 9, 2011

Meals for the Week of December 12, 2011

So how's the Holiday Hustle and Bustle going?  I haven't even begun to make all the homemade gifts I have planned.  Or bake the cookie and candy trays that my husband will bring to work.  Somehow I have to get it done all next week.  With that in mind, I have a few meals already in the freezer and will work on a few more on Sunday.  If I don't post here next week, I'm up to my elbows in flour.  :)

This week on the other blog I posted how I make breakfast burritos which you may find is a great item to keep handy for hurried mornings.  Also, I added an article that I had on my old website that was long overdue to be added to the blog.  It's timely because the New Year is coming and maybe it's time to purge your kitchen or get organized.  Well, here's a little guide for The Well Stocked Pantry.

This week I am again heavy on the meals that are good to make ahead and freeze or are quick to make on a weeknight.  But I also tried to choose some low calorie or nutrition packed meals that can keep you going while you are running around.
Have a great week!

 Meals for the Week of December 12, 2011

Paprika Shrimp Green Bean Saute- Shrimp is always a great weeknight choice because it’s so quick cooking.  This is a good one pot dish, cooking the shrimp and green beans together. 

Chicken Fajitas- Prep this on the weekend so you can save time later on.  Or make it on the weekend and then have leftovers for lunch during the week.

Vegan Crockpot Lasagna- I’m in love with polenta.  I’m preferring it over pasta right now.  Although it’s not like I’m eating every night.  It just seems to be what I want to pair my sauce with these days.  So I love that my friend Allison has this recipe for a crock pot lasagna using polenta.

10 Minute Tasty Asparagus and Brown Rice- You can consider this a side dish.  Or you could have it as a meatless main dish along with more veggies or a salad.

Crockpot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili- Very low fat, a great twist on the usual flavors and packed with vitamins.

White Bean and Kale Soup with Chicken Sausage- I’ve posted this one before.  If you haven’t tried it when I recommended it, try it now.  I make it with chicken apple sausage, it’s so good and full of good stuff for you. 

Braised Chicken Thighs with Potatoes and Carrots- Another simple and easy slow cooker recipe.

Cheap and Easy Turkey Stir Fry- If you have ground turkey or beef in the freezer and any sort of veggies, you can make this meal.  And it keeps it simple and healthy and cheap! 

Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta Al Forno- Really easy pasta casserole.  You can assemble in advance and then bake when you want it. Or cook the whole thing and re-warm as needed. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Meals for the Week of December 5, 2011

Well, I survived Thanksgiving.  It was a wonderful day of family, friends and food.  I actually did a lot of cooking on Wednesday in order to eat early on Thursday and I liked how that worked out.  I may do that again.  I managed to bake 19 pies and cheesecakes for people.  I was happy with how they turned out and my process for getting them all completed worked out pretty good too.

So, now it's December and more holiday madness.  I'm gearing up for more baking and I plan to do a lot of make ahead meals because I have found that between holiday functions, shopping and my heavy baking workload, it's best to have meals ready to go in the freezer.  Our budget is always tight and I'd rather spend the money on gifts or the supplies I need for my homemade gifts than eating out.  So this week I've got some recipes that are good for making ahead.

Speaking of homemade gifts- I have a little list with just a few ideas for easy homemade gifts from your kitchen.  They are perfect for teacher gifts or for friends and neighbors.  Get children involved and have it be their gift to grandparents or their classmates.
Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas

Meals for the Week of December 5, 2011

Easy Shepherd’s Pie- This is a great dish for using leftover mashed potatoes or make the parts of this dish separately in advance.  You can cook the beef part in advance and then just assemble the casserole and bake.  You can also easily swap out the ground beef and broth for ground turkey and chicken or vegetable broth.  A different flavor profile, but it’s leaner and just as filling.

Vegetable Fried Rice- Quick, easy, inexpensive and you can throw in leftovers like chopped turkey or green beans.

Turkey Cobb Salad- All the parts of this salad except the avocado could be prepped in advance.  Makes it so easy to just assemble and eat.

Black Bean and Tortilla Bake- Vegetarian and low calorie dish.  Inexpensive ingredients and you can make variations to suit your tastes. 

Veggie Tacos- This recipe is so adaptable.  Use whatever fresh vegetables you like then just follow the instructions for seasoning and preparing the tortillas. 

Cheesy Fish Sticks- A healthy fish stick that kids will love.  Tilapia can work well for this as well as cod.  You can also use these with the veggie tacos to have your own crispy fish tacos. 

Baked Polenta Pie- Assemble this in advance in a disposable foil pan, put in the freezer and save it for a busy night, just bake and eat.  Feel free to change up the sausages/meats to use whatever you prefer. YUM! 

Cold Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken- If you just take  an hour one weekend or even just multi-task while making dinner one night, cook up a bunch of chicken breasts and then shred the meat and freeze it.  Then dishes like this are easy on a weeknight.

Beef, Cheese and Noodle Bake- Substitute with ground turkey and use whole grain elbow macaroni to lower the fat and increase the healthy carbs.

Ravioli and Vegetable Soup- Very easy soup, low calorie, but I like that it's not just a noodle, but a more filling ravioli.  Great for making a big batch ahead of time and then having it for a couple meals throughout the month.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes

This is a Thanksgiving spread from probably 6 years ago at my parent's house.  I can see several of the dishes I still make and they are listed here.

So I decided to focus this week's post on some recipes for Thanksgiving.  The thing is, many of us have the same dishes we make each year and we look forward to that because we only have them once a year.  So maybe you just skip this week because you don't need any inspiration-- no problem, see ya next week.
Or, if you are hosting the holiday and need ideas, I hope something here sparks your interest.  Or maybe you need to bring a dish to wherever you are going to dinner; there's several here that will make you look like a rock star.  Some of the recipes are dishes that I've been making at the holidays for many years and so I wanted to share them here.
I also wanted to take a minute to say Happy Thanksgiving.  I know that I have plenty to be thankful for, this blog being one of the many blessings in my life.  Next week I will be up to my eyeballs baking pies and cheesecakes as I have quite a few orders to fill, so I'll be back with a new post in time for the first week of December.

Dry Brined Roast Turkey- Here’s a great guideline for using a dry brine method for roasted turkey from our friend Kate at Savour Fare.  You may find a dry brine far easier to manage than a wet brine.
Roast Turkey- Or there is also this roasting method from Martha, which I have not done myself, but I’ve eaten turkey made this way and it’s very good.

Deep Fried Turkey- I won’t lie, deep fried turkey is GOOD.  I love this method because it cooks the bird in just a few hours.  It’s delicious, it’s not greasy, it frees up the oven for your side dishes and did I mention it’s good?  This link is what I used to learn how to properly deep fry a turkey.
However, there has been a new trend in safer, indoor fryers for turkeys and they claim to use less oil, are safer and they are electric instead of propane powered.  Here is a popular one that comes in a couple sizes with some different features.  I’ve seen them sold in stores like Walmart, Costco and Home Depot.
Indoor Turkey Fryer

Spicy Sweet Potato Gratin- A different take on sweet potatoes instead of a brown sugar or marshmallow combination.  It’s creamy and a touch spicy.

Butternut Squash Baked Risotto- I love the idea of just baking the risotto in the oven and not having to fuss with it over the stove. 

Apple, Leek and Butternut Squash Gratin- This is not a creamy or overly cheesy gratin.  It’s actually rather light, which is a great side dish for the holiday with so many filling foods.  I made this and it's really good.  I think it's great for the holiday, but it's actually good anytime.  Would be perfect with a roasted chicken or even a pork tenderloin.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Maple Vinaigrette- I happen to love Brussels sprouts.  I have a recipe of my own that I make all the time and I've made it at the holidays too.  This one is sort of in the same vein pairing it with sweet and tangy flavors.  Trust me, Brussels sprouts really taste great like this.

Roquefort Pear Salad- If you want to serve a salad, try this one with great fall flavors like sweet pears and pecans. This is a great choice to bring to a dinner if you need to bring a dish.

Roasted Winter Squash with Cornbread Stuffing- This can be a great side dish to serve if you have vegetarians at the table.  It is lacking a protein, but it’s a delicious and filling dish. 

Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Hazelnuts- This is a delicious vegetarian main dish option and it’s also gluten free.  Acorn squash is just naturally attractive so it makes for a beautiful presentation on the plate.

Sauteed Kale with Tahini Sauce- I shared this last week, but wanted to list it here as a quick, easy and healthy option for a green side dish. 

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread- You can make this ahead of time and it can travel well.  Simply re-heat before serving.

Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing- I think of this as an easy, beginners stuffing recipe.  It’s not complicated to make and the ingredients are straightforward.  It also tastes really good.  I went many years not making the stuffing, it was my sister's job.  When I found myself having to make stuffing, this is the recipe I chose.

Microwave Baked Apples- This is really something you can make anytime, but I like it as an easy and healthy dessert option for the holiday.  And it’s the sort of thing you can have older kids help with. 

Cranberry Salad- This is very similar to an ambrosia salad but uses just cranberries, grapes and pecans.  I'm not sure how many years I've been making this salad.  At least 10 years, maybe longer.  Sometimes at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake- Paula Deen, the Queen of Butter has a delicious (albeit totally fattening) cake that is easily adaptable to create different flavors.  The basic butter cake is great, but the pumpkin version is outstanding.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Meals for the Week of November 14, 2011

Sweet Potato Pie with Italian Meringue (recipe is below!)
I know I'm starting right off the bat with a photo of a sinful (but delicious!) pie, it happens to be made with sweet potato, so let's take a minute to talk about the foods that are in season in the fall.

Sweet Potato- Super rich in Vitamin A, good source of Vitamin C and Beta-Carotene.  And apparently with the inclusion of a bit of fat, like a few teaspoons of olive oil, helps increase the intake of the beta-carotene in the sweet potato.  Just oven bake or steam some, mash with the olive oil and season with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Simple and delicious!

Butternut Squash-  As with all winter squash, butternut squash is also rich in Vitamin A and beta-carotene and it's got a good amount of Vitamin C and potassium.  Another interesting thing to note is that there are some good anti-oxidants in winter squash as well as omega-3's.  It's not as high in omega-3's like nuts or fish, but it's a good low-fat source of omega-3's.

Kale- I actually see Kale year round, but I'm in California.  However, my CSA box delivers kale to me right now, so I consider that to be the more accurate season for it.  Kale is like the mother of all green vegetables.  It scores 1000 on the ANDI which is the highest score and means it's the most nutrient dense food.  It has antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients and anti-cancer nutrients.  In other words; Good Stuff.  Other greens like collard also score 1000, so eating these 4 to 5 times a week is ideal to get a healthy serving of all the great nutrients.

I've had a lot of recipes for all of these lately, so I wanted to just give a little nutritional information so you can have an idea of what these yummy foods can do for your health.

This week I included some more recipes you may want to consider for your holiday table.  I also tried to find some more kid-friendly and meatless recipes.

Meals for the Week of November 14, 2011

Burger Sliders- Fun for kids and inexpensive to make.  Use ground turkey instead of beef if you prefer.  Serve with sweet potato fries and a salad.

Baked Southwestern Tilapia- Simple and flavorful, ready in under 15 minutes.

Lemon Garlic Spaghetti- A simple and delicious meatless meal. 

Glazed Pork Chops- Pork can be very lean and the center cut pork chops are especially lean.  This recipe uses a method where you cook the chops hot and fast, remove them, make a sauce in the pan and then add the chops back in for a few more minutes.  It’s a cooking method you can apply in so many ways.  Fancy, but so easy! 

Quick Chicken Tacos- This comes together really quickly which makes it perfect for a weeknight.  You can either keep some cooked chicken on hand in the freezer (which I often do) or use this recipe next time you have a leftover roasted chicken.

Chicken Tortilla Soup- Very easy to make and also a good meal for making in advance.  If you’d prefer the soup to remain more like a broth and not thickened by tortillas, then don’t add the tortillas in the first step.  Just have tortilla chips to garnish it with.

Curried Cous Cous with Broccoli and Feta- A filling meatless entrée that is packed with fiber and good vitamins.  It can also be a side dish in a smaller portion and perfect to pack for lunch.  I suggest sautéing the onions in a little olive oil to sweeten them if you want to cut down on the strong raw onion flavor.

Butternut Macaroni Casserole- It’s mac and cheese with a fall twist.  But it’s actually a great meatless dish, and it’s not loaded with cream and cheese, it uses coconut milk instead.  Just add a side of green veggies or a salad.  I just shared this recipe in October, but it’s worth sharing again. 

A-Plus Alphabet Soup- A kid-friendly, inexpensive and healthy meal. 

Curried Squash & Chicken Soup- You can control the heat with adding a little of the red curry paste at a time, a little goes a long way.  I found a jar of paste made by Thai Kitchen in the Asian food section of the supermarket.   The recipe is written to serve 2, but you can easily just double it to serve more or to have leftovers for lunch.

Sauteed Kale with Tahini Sauce- Another delicious way to enjoy nutrient rich kale.  She even suggests this as a green veggie side dish for the holidays. 

Butternut Squash Gratin- Delicious for the holiday or any fall meal.  It comes together very easily. 

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt- This is my own creation, a variation on a recipe I found and decided to try using higher-protein Greek Yogurt.  If you are a fan of All Things Pumpkin, you will enjoy this!

Sweet Potato Pie with Italian Meringue- This is from my sister’s blog.  If you make this for the holidays you will be a rock star.  It’s really good.  It’s different from sweet potato pie recipes that have pumpkin pie spice.  This is pure sweet potato with a hint of orange and topped with fancy marshmallow fluff.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Meals for the Week of November 7, 2011

Issues with lack of Internet waylaid me from posting at the end of last week with meals for the week of October 31st, my apologies for that.  But I come this week bearing gifts.  This week I hosted in my home a cooking session with women from my Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group.  The idea was that they could bring their kids and we could also cook.  So it was a play date and cooking date.  It was a high energy couple of hours but we made 3 different things for 5 families.   We made some recipes I have shared here;  baked rigatoni with sausage, butternut squash and kale, a meatless marina sauce and Parmesan Chicken nuggets which I have listed this week. 

Parmesan Chicken- we froze them unbaked so everyone could take them home to bake when they wanted.
The Parmesan Chicken bakes up so crispy and delicious!

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage, Butternut Squash and Kale

Afterward, I was thinking about how to facilitate more cooking dates like that and I also remembered that long ago I created some templates for weekly meal plans and labels for freezing meals.  So I wanted to share those with you this week and hope that they will come in handy for you.

Freezer labels- Ready to print on Avery 5164 (or equivalent) labels. 

Meal Planning Template- It's an Excel file that you can keep on your computer, fill out and print each week.  It includes breakfast, lunch and dinner which you may find helpful for creating your entire shopping list or helping with planning what to pack for lunch for work or school.

This week we continue with great fall foods using seasonal ingredients and some inexpensive and quick weeknight meals.  I also have two side dishes that you might be interested preparing for the holidays.

Meals for the Week of November 7, 2011

Butternut Squash or Pumpkin Chili- Totally perfect for fall. 

Taco Cupcakes- I love the idea of making mini servings of things in cupcake pans.  These are fun for kids or would be great for a party. 

Spaghetti Squash Marinara with Italian Sausage- Instead of pasta, use delicious spaghetti squash.  You can make the squash in advance and then re-heat and add your favorite pasta sauce.
Chicken Stuffed with Spinach, Feta and Pine Nuts- Very simple stuffed chicken.  Pine nuts can be pricey but this recipe calls for just a mere 2 tablespoons. If you

Parmesan Chicken- Homemade chicken nuggets breaded with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.  You could also serve them with marinara sauce and cheese.  I highly recommend taking the time to prep a large batch, spread them on a pan and freeze, once frozen they can be transferred to a freezer bag or container, then they can be ready to bake when you want.

Taco Mac- A macaroni casserole with taco seasoned meat and tomatoes.  Yum.

Apple and Cheddar Whole Wheat Quesadillas-This can certainly be a snack, but I consider quesadillas my go-to meal for a busy night.  Have a salad or tomato soup on the side and it’s a complete meal.

Turkey Meatloaf- A tasty and lower fat alternative to traditional beef meatloaf.

Easy Italian Pasta Bake- You can make this ahead to bake later, or if you have pre-cooked ground meat on hand you can use it in this.  It’s healthy with whole wheat pasta and use ground turkey instead of beef to make it even healthier.

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup- Not your usual chicken noodle soup.  Recipe suggests using precooked chicken to speed up the cooking which makes it quick for a week night meal.

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos- A bunch of cilantro is so inexpensive and this dish is easy.  She also provides instructions for making it as a freezer meal.

Butternut Squash with Sage-  This is a classic flavor combination. You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to make this, give it a try and if you love it, then serve it again for the holiday.

Mashed Potatoes with Brown Butter, Goat Cheese and Sage- If you are open to  trying something new for Thanksgiving instead of basic mashed potatoes, you MUST try these.  THE BEST.  Seriously.  Do it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Meals for the Week of October 24, 2011

In my most recent cooking class, I had the students in groups making different after school snacks.  I wanted to share the resources I gave them for inspiration.  One was a list of 50 After School Snacks from Food Network Magazine.  In class we did #3, a fruit dip but I had them use Greek Yogurt instead of sour cream.  I also used this article from Parenting- 22 Healthy After School Snacks.  I really liked #16, the graham crackers with cream cheese and strawberry jam.

So this week I have recipes that are a little less Mexican and a bit more Asian inspired.  I also have some good vegetarian meals and a few seafood, which I think I had been lacking lately.  Next week I will start sprinkling in a few holiday side dish and dessert ideas so if you are looking for new recipes for the holidays you can have some time to look them over or try them.

Recipes for the week of October 24, 2011

Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps- The thing about recipes from Cook’s Illustrated is that they have fairly detailed instructions and there is a reason for that.  They have tested the recipe many times and come up with what they believe to be the best results.  Don’t be afraid of their recipes, you will most likely learn a cooking technique that you can then apply to other meals.  So give this healthy recipe a try.

Asian Noodle Bowls with Steak and Snow Peas- Very simple recipe with just a few ingredients.  Most supermarkets have expanded Asian food section so you can find soba noodles there.
Tortilla Pie- I like that you can just take this concept and change the ingredients to suit your tastes.  You can easily make this vegetarian with beans and veggies.

Pork Chop Suey- With just 280 calories in a one cup serving, this is a healthy and easy meal for the weeknight.

Easy Shepherds Pie- It’s a very fall kind of comfort meal.  It is very easy and it’s also budget friendly.
Mushroom Pie- As the recipe mentions, it’s sort of like a quiche, but it can be a great vegetarian main dish served with a salad or some other kind of green veggies. 

Eggplant Parmesan- A really easy method for making eggplant parmesan without frying the eggplant.  I recommend taking the slices and laying them out on paper towel and then sprinkling them with salt to draw out some of the moisture.  Then blot them with paper towel to remove that moisture.

Cioppino- This seafood stew is a favorite in our house; I’ve been making this recipe for years.  I don’t always follow it exactly, I often omit the wine and just use more chicken broth and I usually don’t include the mussels.  There’s a frozen seafood mix at Trader Joe’s that I like to use and then I add extra shrimp and clams. 

Roasted Vegetables with Polenta- The latest recipe I’ve posted to my other blog.  Very easy and fuss-free.  It can be a side dish, or if you have it over polenta or pasta it's a good vegetarian main dish.

Broiled Tilapia Parmesan- Mild tasting tilapia is very thin and quick cooking.  This recipe has a cheesy and flavorful sauce.  It’s really good for a weeknight. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Meals for the Week of October 17, 2011

My oldest child turns 13 this weekend.  THIRTEEN.  How is this possible?  The other day on Pinterest I saw a funny sign that said "I still think 1990 was 10 years ago".  That is me.  The reason I mention this is that this week my focus has been on getting ready for her Birthday Extravaganza Weekend and not so much in reading and research for the blog.  I did prepare recipes for the meal plan, I just didn't do much in terms of finding you any cool or interesting facts or articles.  What I did do is bake 24 cupcakes and forgot to put the sugar and then rushed out in a  panic to get the kids from school only to pull up and realize it was 2pm, not 3pm.  Stay tuned to the e-mealplanning recipe blog to see how I attempt to re-purpose the unsweetened cupcakes.  So my weekend will be filled with cheese fondue, chocolate fondue, nachos, pound cake with caramel glaze, chocolate cake, spaghetti and vanilla cake with butter cream frosting.  Three different birthday dinners for a special girl turning 13.

The recipes this week inadvertently have a common theme.  Mexican or butternut squash.  Well, there's also a couple of really great soups and a stir fry, but it's fall so there's chili or Mexican stew, or butternut squash lasagna.  But this way you can have a few key ingredients and create multiple different meals from them.  Not to mention many of them can stretch for more than one meal.  Have a great week!

Meals for the Week of October 17, 2011

Mini Deep Dish Pizzas- What an easy and less messy method for having the kids make their own pizza! 

Chicken Tacos- Three different but easy methods for preparing chicken tacos.

Cheesy Taco Pasta- This was inspired by the store bought box mix for pasta and hamburger, but you make it from scratch instead.  Watch the taco seasoning mix you use, sometimes they have added starch or too much sodium I like Pampered Chef’s Southwest Seasoning or Whole Foods offers a seasoning mix in their bulk spices.  Or I provided a recipe for your own seasoning this week.
White Bean and Kale Soup with Chicken Sausage- I love this soup and I make it with chicken apple sausage.  You can use spinach if you don’t want to use kale.

Butternut Squash and Macaroni Casserole- Delicious meatless fall casserole that uses coconut milk instead of any heavy cream or cheese.
Mexican Taco Stew- It’s really very similar to chili, but you use taco seasoning and the addition of zucchini or summer squash adds green veggie vitamins and fiber.
Easy Slow Cooker Chili- I really like this recipe for chili in your Crock Pot.  It’s actually not how I would make chili on the stove, but it’s easy to put together and tastes great.  I have made it with or without the beer. 

Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna- The combination of sage and butternut squash are so good!  Definitely use fresh or cooked store-bought noodles, don’t use the no-boil noodles.  Cut your prep time with using pre-cut squash.

Turkey Meatball and Tortellini Soup- With big meatballs and tortellini, this soup can be a meal.  I consider it a pantry/freezer meal, the ingredients are always available in my house and if something isn’t, I just improvise.  Great meal to make ahead or makes a lot for multiple meals.
Stir Fried Turkey in Lettuce Wraps- I love this because you can really just create whatever stir fry you want using the flavors you like.  Plus is quick and easy to make and fun to eat. 

Taco Seasoning- If you were ever interested in making your own, this one is easy.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Meals for the Week of October 10, 2011

It’s probably the end of your summer garden, but many people find themselves at this point with lots of produce and needing ideas of what to do with it.  Here’s a video with recipe on making oven dried tomatoes from America's Test Kitchen, who I consider one of the best sources for recipes as well as for the home cook to learn cooking methods.  You can store these tomatoes in oil and use them in all sorts of ways, sort of like sun dried tomatoes.

I found this little blog post with some ideas for what foods are freezable.  I was glad to see that I pretty much do the same as the author of the post.  If you like to shop in bulk, this info is handy for eliminating any waste of perishable items.  You can find that article, here.

This week I have again listed quite a few vegetarian dishes as we enter the second week of my husband eating vegetarian.  So far it’s going pretty good and I wanted to share some of the recipes I’m looking to make.  Plus I included some recipes with great fall flavors like sweet potatoes and butternut squash.
Earlier this week on my other blog, I posted a recipe for a healthy kid snack, No Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls.  They are a hit in my house, I am happy to report and actually very easy for older kids to make themselves. 

 Meals for Week of October 10, 2011

Spinach Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms- Many stuffed mushroom recipes are gooey and cheese-filled and often intended as an appetizer.  This one has only a little cheese and using large Portobello mushrooms, it can be a main dish. 

Sweet Potato Burritos- A unique twist on bean burritos; mashed sweet potato combined with kidney beans, chili spices and cheese. 
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos- Not feeling like burritos?  Try these sweet potato tacos instead. 

Tortellini with Mushroom Sauce- Easy weeknight dish with pre-made tortellini. 

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanuts and Lime- Not actually a Thai recipe, but a yummy main dish salad using the great Thai food combination of peanuts and lime.

Parmesan Chicken- Crispy, from-scratch chicken nuggets that your kids will love. 

Polenta Pizza- Instead of the usual pizza dough, try polenta.  You can make the polenta crust ahead of time and then do your toppings and bake it right before you want to eat.

Spinach Artichoke Pasta- Do you like bubbling hot and creamy spinach and artichoke dip?  This pasta is sort of a spin on that, but not quite so heavy and cheesy.  It can be vegetarian, or add cooked, chopped chicken. 

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage, Butternut Squash and Kale- Make it healthier by looking for a nitrite-free sausage, but this is a complete meal with vitamin rich squash and kale. 

Pan Seared Rib Eye Steak- This is THE BEST way to cook a steak.  Less expensive cuts other than rib eye could be fixed the same way but would benefit from more seasoning such as Montreal Steak seasoning or some garlic powder because they are not as naturally flavorful as a rib eye.

Grilled Zucchini Pizza- Great idea if you need to be low carb or gluten free.  Large slices of zucchini grilled or broiled, then topped with pizza sauce, cheese and whatever you want, then broiled again. 

Fall Salad with Maple Vinaigrette- This recipe can really just serve as inspiration for your own version of a fall salad.  Apples and blue cheese are always great in any salad.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Meals for the Week of October 3, 2011

Besides being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is Vegetarian Awareness Month.  Who knew?  I didn't, until my husband told me a co-worker had a flier about it that included a challenge to eat vegetarian all month.  When he told me, my first thought was that we really should try to do Meatless Mondays.  But then he said he was going take the challenge to eat vegetarian all month.  So, I started researching recipes I thought he would like, that would satisfy someone who always raises an eyebrow if I ever previously attempted a vegetarian meal and who has a big appetite, where something like a big salad will not cut it.  So this week I listed a few of the recipes I'm looking at making as well as some others that I suggest you try.  If officially fall and here in California it's actually beginning to cool down, there are new vegetables coming into the season and these recipes reflect that.  Have a great week!!

Meals for the Week of October 3, 2011

Zucchini Pasta Carbonara- A classic Italian dish, it's very quick to make.  This version also happens to include chopped squash.

Crock Pot Thai Curry- You may have most of these ingredients on hand and simply need coconut milk and chili paste.  Feel free to substitute the eggplant for another squash or use whatever combination of vegetables you like.

Butternut Squash with Spinach and Ricotta- This could be a main dish that you eat with a salad or some other veggies or just serve it on the side with a roasted chicken.

Bulgar Taco Salad with Cilantro and Lime- Bulgar makes this a hearty meatless salad that is a great complete meal with good sources of protein plus fiber and iron.
Chili Taco Casserole- This is an easy to make, homey casserole that I adapted to be made healthier and from scratch instead of using canned chili.  You can make ahead and freeze or freeze leftovers.

Veggie Tacos- This recipe is so adaptable.  Use whatever fresh vegetables you like then just follow the instructions for seasoning and preparing the tortillas.

Pizza Roll Ups- Easy and kid-friendly, you can actually bake them and then after they cool freeze for later.

Broken Noodles with Tomato Sauce and Ricotta- Skip a step and just cook the noodles in the sauce!

Roasted Fall Vegetable and Ricotta Pizza- A hearty meatless pizza with great roasted vegetables like butternut squash, potatoes, carrots and plenty of garlic.

Broccoli Crunch- Instead of a mayonnaise based dressing for the usual broccoli salad this one uses almond butter and the addition of apples and candied nuts make it the perfect fall weather salad.

Roasted Smashed potatoes- These are such a nice change from just regular roasted potatoes.  You first cook them covered, so sort of steam and soften, then smash them and season.  Crispy and fluffy!  Leftovers are great for breakfast.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Meals for Week of September 26, 2011

Today is the first day of fall and in some parts of the country it has begun to be cool, although not where I live.  However, football season both college and the NFL have been in full swing so I wanted to share some fun game day recipes you might want to try.
Bacon Wrapped Artichoke Hearts 
Buffalo Chicken Bites 
Cheddar Bacon Ranch Pulls
Grilled Corn Guacamole

This week I did a little experiment and baked a breakfast cookie.  I wrote about it and shared the recipe on my other blog, e-mealplanning Recipes.  If you are interested in something different for a quick morning breakfast, check them out.

Meals for Week of September 26, 2011

Pappardelle with Corn- Super simple and made with fresh seasonal ingreadients.  We love pappardelle in our house.

Creamy Chicken Spaghetti Casserole-  I love this recipe from The Pioneer Woman and my family likes it too.  But she makes no excuses and goes all out with butter and cream.  However, the base for the sauce can be made with milk instead of the cream if you want to lighten it up. 

Chicken and Summer Vegetable Tostadas- What I like about this recipe, is there no frying of tortillas.  Just bake them to get crisp and then they crisp up some more when you broil it with the toppings.  This method can really just be a jumping off point for your own tostada combinations.  And use whatever kind of tortilla you prefer.

Quinoa Stir Fry with Vegetables and Chicken
- Quinoa is a fantastic high protein whole grain that is similar in texture to cous cous, but a tiny bit larger.  This is a great, one dish meal that you can really customize to your own tastes.

Lemon Cream sauce Pasta with Peas- This is a good meatless meal that kids will love.  Or if you need to eat it as a side with roasted chicken or fish. 

Baked Ziti- Great for a weeknight, also good to make ahead, like the recipe says, it’s all the elements of lasagna, but much easier to assemble. 

Carolina Barbecue Pulled Pork- Delicious Carolina style bbq (which means tart with cider vinegar) made in your crock pot!  The key is the liquid smoke, which is easy to find in grocery stores.  This will make a lot so it’s perfect to serve a crowd for weekend football or make it on a weeknight and have leftovers that can be re-done in another meal or eat as sandwiches again.  

Rotisserie Chicken Paprikash- This recipes takes a store bought roasted chicken and spices it up with a peppery sauce.

Cayenne Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa- An easy avocado and lime salsa to eat with spicy chicken breasts.  And it’s just ¼ teaspoon of cayenne to rub on 4 chicken breasts, so it’s not too much heat and you can always reduce that if you need to.  Be sure to wash your hands well after touching the cayenne. 

Side Dishes
Tomato Salad with Crushed Croutons- Such a beautiful and simple dish to use those beautiful garden tomatoes that you probably have an abundance of.
Parmesan Roasted Potatoes- Easy and delicious.  Great side dish with grilled anything. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meals for Week of September 19, 2011

School may have only just started within the last few weeks, but with packing lunch every day it seems like it becomes boring or a challenge within a couple days. I wanted to pass along some recipes that might help spark new ideas.  

Turkey Caesar Sandwich- The recipe calls for creating a mayo spread that is like Caesar dressing. Easy, but you could also mix a little bottled dressing with mayo.  

Taco Turkey Wraps- Sour cream mixed with taco seasonings serve as a spread with deli turkey, add some tomato, avocado and lettuce to add some additional good protein and vitamins.  

Pasta Salad with Broccoli and Peanuts- You can make this on a Sunday and have several servings packed in your lunch throughout the week.

Here's a few links to blogs and photos with more lunch box inspiration for you.  

Happy Little Bento- Full of cute bento-style lunches that are healthy and fun for kids. There are recipes too for some of the things she makes.  
Easy Lunch Boxes-- I use these and I love them. I've shared the link many times. Here is their photo gallery with over 100 photos of lunches.  

Meals for the Week of September 19, 2011  

Broccoli and Pork Stir Fry- I tend to always go to chicken, beef or shrimp for a stir fry, but pork is tasty and this recipe is easy. Plus it's perfect to make more so you have leftovers to pack in lunches.  

Polenta Pizza- I really love polenta, it's very easy to make and it's a nice change to pour your spaghetti sauce over instead of pasta. It's also something you can make extra of one night to have with your favorite pasta sauce, then save to use for this recipe.  

Coconut Peanut Sauce Beef- Love this recipe, the sauce is so good! Substitute chicken if you prefer.  

Pineapple Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette- Easy to prep the night before or morning of and a good way to use leftover or pre-cooked chicken.  

Easy One Pot Mac and Cheese- Delicious creamy pasta, kid-approved, filling for a main dish along with salad or a vegetable side dish.  

Flank Steak Stir Fry with Asparagus and Red Pepper- You can easily substitute chicken instead of the flank steak.  

Pork Chops with Mustard Crust- Seems upscale, but it’s rather simple with just 5 ingredients. Read the comments on this recipe for a lot of great suggestions for substitutions/variations.  

Tomato Pie- another very simple recipe for tomato pie. She calls it “pizza meets cheesy bread in a pie crust.” I've made this twice in the last month and it's such a great way to use up your garden tomatoes. Its important to be sure and drain the tomatoes so the pie crust doesn’t get soggy.  

Roquefort Pear Salad- Add pears to any salad with a vinaigrette and a cheese like feta, Parmesan or any kind of blue cheese. The combination is so good! For this recipe you can make short cuts by using a bottled red wine vinaigrette dressing and candied pecans.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What I Did This Summer

I had all the intentions of keeping up with the blog all summer.  I posted before the July 4th holiday and after that our summer just flew by and I hardly had the chance to sit and write.  I thought I would share some photos of things I made this summer and a few links and with kids back at school I'm slowly getting back to it.

Fried Chicken and Waffles

Strawberries! (Which I made into jam)

Filipino Buko (coconut) pie

Made Filipino egg rolls (lumpia) with my oldest

Fabulous Strawberry Pie!

And a sparkling chocolate cake for my birthday girl!

Here's a couple links I've come across and wanted to pass along-

A few iPhone apps that are useful for being organized for back to school. 

A muffin recipe and back to school lunch and snack ideas from The Meal Makeover Moms
Because my life has become increasingly busy managing 2 kids in school and a new baby, I'm working on some ideas for changing how I cook and manage my kitchen and trying new recipes.  I will try to get back to my weekly posts soon.  I swear.  :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Meals for the Week of June 27, 2011

I’m having a rather frugal summer.  It’s still packed with fun activities and a few trips, but it's all about spending less.  Things like Living Social and Groupon have been great for us to stock up on vouchers for movies, activities and dining out. But one of the ways I’m trying to save is in the kitchen.  Now this is a real challenge because I feel like since the kids are home more there’s a need for more food.  At least that’s how I’ve felt these first 3 weeks of vacation.  So I’ve made the decision to curb that need for constant snacking by scheduling more time out of the house, but also I’m going to change the snacking options from various crackers and processed snacks, to more fruits and veggies.  We still like to have cheese and things like tortillas or peanut butter to have with apples or a quick half sandwich.  But I’m going to make these changes this coming month as it’s not only less expensive, it’s healthier.   I’ve also been shopping with coupons a little more.  I wrote about trying to use coupons a few months ago and although I haven’t been “extreme” couponing, I’m making an effort to use them on items I would normally buy or for something I would not normally buy at full price.  But the biggest thing I’ve done so far is get very creative with cooking dinner.  Just before our new baby came in April, my freezer (both garage and the one in the kitchen) were very well stocked with meals I’d made and frozen, various Trader Joe’s frozen entrees, frozen veggies, fruit and meat such as chicken breasts, whole chicken, ground beef, shrimp and several beef roasts.  The pantry was decently stocked with cans of beans, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes and pasta.  Since the baby came in April, my grocery shopping has been for dairy items, extra fruit or veggies beyond my CSA delivery, a bit of re-stocking the pantry for more pasta plus, crackers, other snacks and to replenish my standard baking ingredients (flour, sugars, chocolate chips).  Over the last 2 months I have basically cooked almost everything I’ve had in my freezer and pantry and this last week was really getting down to bare bones.  But here’s what I’ve managed to make for dinner:  roast beef with roasted potatoes and veggies, then later turned the leftover beef into bbq beef sandwiches, fish and shrimp tacos, macaroni and cheese with ham (not Kraft, from scratch), ground beef and noodle stir fry, roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, split pea and ham soup, a potato, cheese and ham soup.  As you can tell, I had a large left over spiral cut ham from Easter.  The one thing that has been sad for me is that when we moved in December, we didn’t move the barbecue as it was pretty well loved and not worth moving.  I have yet to get a new one and so I’ve so far been without a grill.  I’ve resisted the temptation to just buy any old cheap grill because I would like a really nice one.  But I might have to break down and at least get a decent but inexpensive charcoal grill and save up to get a big fancy gas grill for next summer.
This week I had considered focusing on a 4th of July related post, but decided that by the time I posted it, it would be more helpful for the following week, I just provided a few grilling recipes that you may want to consider for the holiday, but they are good for anytime.  That said, have a wonderful July 4th Holiday!

 Meals for the Week of June 27, 2001

Chopped Greek Salad with Chicken for Two- Another main dish salad to add to your collection, the dressing is great and this meal is a good use of leftover chicken, or plan ahead to poach some chicken so that you just assemble the salad at dinner time.  Perfect for a hot evening when you don’t want to turn on the stove.

Pineapple Chicken Kebabs with Quinoa- This dish has a simple and delicious honey mustard sauce which is great with chicken.  Quinoa is easy to make, it’s sort of like making cous cous, but it’s got great protein but low fat. 

Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomato Orzo- This is a light meal, perfect for summer and the beauty of orzo is how quickly is cooks compared to larger pasta.

Super Easy Crockpot Fajitas- This is one of those dump-in-the-crockpot-and-leave-it recipes.  I don’t use the packet seasoning mixes, any taco seasoning mix or your own seasoning combo will work fine.

Grilled Veggie Tostadas- The recipe provides some specific veggies, but you can really make this however you want. 

Honey Chipotle Glazed Ribs- If you made the fish tacos that called for the chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, then you can use some more of the chilies in this recipe. 

Grilled Lime Shrimp- Shrimp cook quickly and this marinade is bright and zesty.  Another good option to serve for bbq guests.

Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Glaze- I also include a recipe for a vegetable stir fry (or sauté, which might be the more accurate name) and if you have a pan for using on the grill, you could do use that instead of the stove.

Baby Back Ribs Adobo- Love this take on making ribs.  So good!

Pasta Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables and Fresh Mozzarella- This is basically a side dish, but it could be a meatless main dish or eat with the chopped grilled chicken and it’s a one bowl meal.  Great to bring to a potluck or to make ahead and pack in your lunch during the week. 

Short Cut to Grill Corn- I love this method for grilling corn.  Perfect for the upcoming holiday!

Strawberry Cream Pie- This is a great pie for summer.  Bring this to a BBQ and people will love you! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Meals for the Week of June 20, 2011

I thought I would expand a little more on summertime lunches/snacks from last week's post.  If you are now faced with children at home all day or more often, get organized with snacks and lunch food and make it fun for them.
  • If they are old enough, get those sandwich thins bread or bagel thins and use those for making their own toaster oven pizzas.
  • Quesadillas are so quick and versatile.  Keep tortillas stocked in the fridge.  
  • Grill or poach chicken that can be used for topping pizza or in quesadillas or just for eating with some fruit and cheese.  
  • I also love to make nachos for lunch.  It’s the perfect use for leftovers from a taco dinner.  Layer the chips and shredded cheese, add leftover meat, beans and rice, more cheese and pop it in the microwave for a few minutes.  It’s nice to take a break from working to sit at the table with the kids sharing a big pile of nachos.
  • Make the Double Grape Slushies listed in the menu this week.  Or come up with your own slushies.
  • Make popsicles- simply puree fruit and juice together.  Save your 8oz yogurt containers to use as popsicle molds.  Pour in the puree, cover with plastic wrap or foil, then poke popsicle sticks through and freeze.

It's been awhile, so I thought I should remind everyone about  This is the web-based and smart phone shopping list application.  I think it's the best shopping list tool around.  I love that I can sit at my computer, go through online recipes when planning meals and as I choose things, I can just click and add the recipe to my ziplist.  It automatically syncs with the app on my phone, so when I'm out shopping, my list is always available.  You can also easily text your list to someone else, or what do what I did and had my husband download the app for his phone and gave him the login and password so he can view the lists too.
They have recently added in a coupon feature on the website and they have a bunch of checklists for all sorts of shopping situations like weekly shopping, low fat, high fiber, holidays, pantry, etc.  You can use those lists to pre-populate your own lists.  Very cool!

Meals for the Week of June 20, 2011

Orzo with Chicken, Corn and Green Beans

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Breasts
- A Dijon mustard and crushed pretzel coating for baked chicken is a great flavor combination.  You can slice and serve on top a salad for a great summer meal.

Crockpot Polenta Lasagna- This vegan lasagna is super easy in the crock pot and although it’s sort of a cold weather comfort food, it actually keeps your kitchen cool in the summer by keeping the oven off.  If you don’t want or need it to be vegan, make your own changes like using shredded cheese and a meat sauce if you want.

Buttermilk & Herb Marinated Chicken- If you don’t want to buy a carton of buttermilk that will not get used up, there is powdered buttermilk sold where you find powdered milk.

Grilled Turkey Meatloaf- This is a basic meatloaf recipe with instructions for cooking it on the grill.  If you have your own favorite meatloaf recipe, use that instead and then follow the directions to grill it.

Barbequed Turkey with Mustard Sauce
- I like that this recipe uses inexpensive turkey legs and thighs.  It also uses a rather simple sauce that is sweet and tangy and goes perfect with the grilled turkey.

Quick Poached Salmon with Dill Mustard Sauce- Tender poached salmon and a no cook sauce.  You can substitute the wine in the poaching liquid with vegetable broth if you prefer.

Thai Beef with Chilies and Basil over Coconut Rice- Very quick cooking using ground beef and you can easily substitute ground turkey if you wanted.    

Fish Tacos with Chipotle Cream Sauce- The sauce calls for just a little bit of chipotle from a small can. You can stick the rest in the freezer for future use. 

Easy Grilled Tri Tip- This is my recipe I submitted to years ago.  I share it here at this time of year.  It’s great for bbq parties because you can buy a couple of tri tips and it serves a crowd.  It’s an affordable way to have something a little more “upscale” instead of the typical burgers and hot dogs.  Or you prepare this and ask your guests to bring sides and drinks and it’s all done!

Orzo with Chicken, Corn and Green Beans- Great weeknight meal you can make with leftover roasted or grilled chicken.

Grill Roasted Artichoke Leaves- This is delicious!  You take the loose leaves from an artichoke, wrap them in a foil packet with salt, pepper, olive oil and butter and place it on indirect heat on a grill to steam/roast giving you tender leaves in a butter sauce.  YUM! 

Strawberry Panzanella- This fantastic strawberry and bread salad is perfect for summer and I highly recommend you try it.  It’s also great to bring to a summer potluck. 

Double Grape Slushies- Healthy and refreshing for the hot weather and something that the kids can help make!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Meals for the Week of June 13, 2011

Even though school is out for most and there’s less packing of lunches, you might still need to pack a lunch for work or maybe for day camp, summer outings to the beach or ball games.  Here’s a few recipes and suggestions that are a nice change from packing leftovers, especially for those who can’t heat up their lunch.
During this time of year, when grilling chicken, I try to make at least one extra.  One of the recipes listed this week provides quantities to ensure extra chicken.  Here are a few uses for that leftover:
  • Slicing to include in a salad
  • Shred it up, mix with a little mayo, Dijon mustard, a dollop of Major Grey’s chutney, season with salt and pepper and you have filling for a chicken salad sandwich.  
  • Slice thin and make a sandwich with lettuce, avocado and tomato.
Turkey Caesar Sandwich- The recipe calls for creating a mayo spread that is like Caesar dressing.  Easy, but you could also mix a little bottled dressing with mayo.
And here’s a slightly different take with a healthy Chicken Caesar Wrap
Taco Turkey Wraps- Sour cream mixed with taco seasonings serve as a spread with deli turkey, add some tomato, avocado and lettuce to add some additional good protein and vitamins. 
Pasta Salad with Broccoli and Peanuts- You can make this on a Sunday and have several servings packed in your lunch throughout the week. 

This week I’ve listed a couple of recipes using skewers on the grill.  Wooden skewers are convenient, but in my opinion not always easy because you need to remember to soak them in water to avoid burning on the grill.  If you plan the meals ahead (ahem, as you should be) that’s fine if you remember to soak them and if you’re making skewers for a party, then wooden is the way to go.  But I highly suggest investing in some metal skewers so you can always use them when cooking for the family.  I have an inexpensive set listed in the e-mealplanning store.

Meals for Week of June 13, 2011

Lemon Dill Chicken Skewers- Alice from the Savory Sweet Life stumbled upon a happy accident with this super quick recipe for chicken skewers.  You can adapt these for the oven broiler or your stovetop broiler pan.  You could even save yourself time and just use chicken breast tenders not on a skewer if you wanted.

Grilled Chicken Pineapple Quesadillas- So good!  Perfect as an appetizer at parties, when cut into triangles, but one or two whole ones are filling as a meal.  Fix a salad or grill some veggies while you grill the chicken and pineapple.  It’s also economical, using just 2 chicken breasts, you get quite a few slices and needs just 4 or 5 slices in each quesadilla. 

Grilled Salmon Steaks with Mustard Sauce- I love grilled salmon, it tastes delicious with just simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  But this recipe gives you a lovely sauce to serve it with.

Simple Grilled Tilapia- Very fast and easy method for grilling tilapia which is a great mild tasting white fish.  It’s very versatile.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta- Meatless but filling, using whole grain pasta, a little cheese and roasted veggies.  This can be just as good with grilled vegetables.

Cheeseburger Joes- Super easy, kid friendly, versatile, try cheddar or Swiss cheese instead of American and ground turkey instead of beef.

Shrimp Tacos with Fresh Pineapple Salsa- I love that this uses cooked baby shrimp, it makes it so easy, you can have your kids help you make this.  If you marinate them overnight as well as make the salsa, dinner time is just assembling the tacos.  It’s a no-cook recipe, perfect for kids to help and also great to fix on a hot evening.

Garlic Marinated Chicken Cutlets with Grilled Potatoes- Chicken breasts pounded thin into cutlets are incredible quick cooking, making for an easy weeknight grilled meal.  Marinating keeps them tender.  The key to this meal is the timing- get the potatoes on the grill first and while they cook you can get everything else ready, grilling the chicken last.  Note:  This recipe is designed to make extras and includes links to the other recipes to use leftovers for.  Scale back the quantity of chicken and potatoes if you don’t want that or keep the quantities as listed and use the leftovers however you want.

West Coast Grilled Vegetable Pizza- it’s like having a salad served on top grilled pizza dough.  Very versatile recipe.

Greek Burger- This recipe apparently originated from Weight Watchers, it’s a super easy turkey burger with feta cheese that you serve stuffed in a pita.

Orange and Thyme Grilled Shrimp- If you haven’t cooked with thyme, you must.  It’s a fantastic herb.  Citrus is always great with shellfish and orange is a nice change from the old standby of lemon. 

Strawberry Applesauce- Its really quite easy to make homemade applesauce.  If you have an apple peeler and corer then the prep is even easier.  This is great to have for breakfast or to pack in a lunch.