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 ziplist.com.  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 Allrecipes.com 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.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Meals for the Week of June 6, 2011

So, I'm trying to get back to cooking more at home (instead of heating my stock pile of frozen meals and various semi-homemade meals from Trader Joe's) and I'm trying to sit at my computer and get back to blogging.  I thought I would start easy and look back through my files and but together a list of great spring/early summer recipes.  Although if you're here in California, you might still like soups and stews to keep you warm in this cold and rainy weather!

A few things I wanted to share-

My other blog,
e-mealplanning recipes will get updated more frequently with more recipes from me plus product reviews. I'm a part of the FoodBuzz Tastemaker program so I will periodically have opportunity to try new products and share my thoughts.  I've got one I just added about those new yummy Magnum Ice Cream bars.

My very talented sister, Chef Elisa recently started her own blog, A Life in Pie.  The very first recipe was a fabulous peanut butter pie that is SO GOOD.  I made one for my family the day she posted the recipe.  I highly recommend it!
Yummy Peanut Butter Pie!

Meals for Week of June 6, 2011

Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia with Salsa- Very easy to make and quick to cook.  Try Trader Joe’s Corn Chile Salsa or a mango salsa instead of tomato salsa.

Curried Chicken with Mango Salad- You can broil or grill this Indian inspired chicken.  Serve with cous cous or quinoa on the side.

Romaine Salad with Orange, Feta and Beans- A salad with protein from beans can be a great low fat and vegetarian main dish.  You can boost the protein with the addition of chopped chicken or turkey.  Otherwise this could be a great salad to serve on the side.  It includes a dressing recipe; give it a try instead of using a bottled dressing.

Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti- Every now and then you need a casserole and this one is not overly creamy or cheesy.  We suggest just using fresh chopped onion and canned diced tomatoes instead of stewed.

Tortellini Primavera- This creamy pasta and vegetable dish is really very versatile.  It can also be something quick to make from the pantry/freezer meal using frozen pasta and vegetables.  But right now it’s a fresh spring dish using whatever vegetables are in season.  It’s slightly lower in fat than traditional pasta primavera because there is no cream.

Buttermilk Chicken Caesar Salad- A slightly different take on traditional Caesar salad using buttermilk as the dressing.

Shrimp Scampi- You can make the recipe exactly as written if you want that restaurant-style dish, or adapt it to suit your tastes; more garlic, less garlic, no wine, more lemon.  Make it your own!

Hamburger and Macaroni- This recipe is better than any processed box mix.  It’s also really easy to make.  Older kids can learn how to brown ground meat and boil pasta.  You can also use ground turkey and whole wheat pasta to make it healthier.

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili-  Fantastic vegetarian meal, so unique with the combination of the sweet potatoes and the spices.

Lemony Potato Avocado Salad- A different take on potato salad.  Great for spring.  Delicious and fresh tasting.

Asparagus Snap Pea and Avocado Pasta- Pair this with the lemony chicken drumsticks and you have a great spring meal.  Serve a small side portion for dinner and then take leftovers as your lunch.  Substitute whole grain pasta for good healthy carbs.

Peach Mango Popsicles- I’m seeing mangoes on sale everywhere.  With the weather warming up this is a cool and healthy treat and a great activity to make with the kids.  You don’t need an actual popsicle molds, you could use cups or empty yogurt containers.