Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Joyce's Menu Plan 9/22 - 9/28

Kelly and I both wrote menu plans for this week, but I am a bit late in publishing mine.  I am already through much of it, and can tell you that it is working out really well.  We have enjoyed a nice variety so far this week, and have had some very yummy lunches to take to work.  My colleagues are some of this website's biggest fans...when I sit down to my reheated leftovers, I often hear, "That looks awesome! Is that on your website?"  Yep!  And it sure beats a school lunch or cold cut sandwich!

Sunday - Southwestern Stuffed Peppers
Years ago, I tried my hand at a recipe for traditional stuffed peppers and it was a disaster.  Something went wrong with the rice, and the filling turned out to be crunchy.  I have always been hesitant to make stuffed peppers since, but this recipe is fantastic.  I use the quinoa, as Kelly recommends.  
Monday - Parmesan Crusted Chicken
You just can't beat this easy meal.  My kids gobble it up every time.  My motivation for making it this week is that I have a bunch of fresh grated Romano cheese that I want to use.  The recipe calls for Parmesan, but this will give it a slightly different twist and use up my ingredients so they don't go to waste.
Tuesday - Bratwurst, potato pancakes, veggies
I drive past ALDI's on my way home from work and occasionally make the time to make a quick stop before picking my kids up from school.  This week, they have their Oktoberfest foods on sale, so I grabbed some for an easy meal after gymnastics.
Wednesday - Pork and Apple Skillet Meal
Time for one of my family's favorite fall meals.  I have apples in the fridge, mushrooms are on sale, and I just bought onions last week.  Looking forward to this one!
Thursday - Pizza
The kids and my husband have Taekwondo; I have Open House to attend.  This day must have a meal that is quick to prepare (buy!) and quick to eat.  
Friday - Pasta and Sauce with tossed salad.
The last time I made Homemade Spaghetti Sauce, I froze three bags of it.  I will take a bag out of the freezer on Thursday and it should be thawed by dinner on Friday.  Since the meat is already in it, this meal will be a snap to make.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mini Salmon Loaves

This recipe started with a can of salmon my dad gave me AWHILE ago.  Every time I would go to donate the can to a food drive, I'd think, "This is salmon; it is healthy; surely, I can use this."  As I was flipping through an edition of Runner's World, I found a salmon loaf recipe.  It seemed easy, healthy, and good.  Then, I lost the recipe...of course.  I searched for "salmon" on Runner's World, and found this recipe.  I added both sesame seeds and ground flaxseed for the nutritional benefits.

  • one can (14.5 oz) of wild salmon, drained
  • 1 box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 teaspoons of dried dill 
  • juice for 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup quick cook rolled oats
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 t sesame seeds
  • 2 T ground flaxseed
  • salsa (as a topping if desired)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Lightly spray a 12-yield muffin tin with cooking spray.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Divide among the muffin cups.  Bake for 20 minutes.  
  5. Let cool before removing from pan.  Serve topped with salsa.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 10 minute prep, 20 minute baking time

Source:  adapted from Runner's World using Rodale recipe finder

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dijon Chicken Thighs with Artichoke Sauce (Slow Cooker)

As a huge fan of artichokes and (obviously) a huge fan of the slow cooker, I first tried this meal a few years ago when my kids were about eighteen months and three and a half years old.  In the margin of the page of the cookbook, I wrote "Very good!! Kids liked it, too!!"  I have since made it several times each fall and winter, in the hopes that my kids will continue to like artichokes and because it is such a great, tasty, easy fall meal.  This latest time, I decided to make it because chicken thighs were only $0.79 per pound and mushrooms were $1 per pack.  Can't beat cheap, easy, and delicious!

  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon (honestly, the original recipe calls for this but I couldn't find it at the store when I went, so I have never used it)
  • 2 1/2 lbs chicken thighs (about 8), skinned
  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • 1 8 oz pkg of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 jar (12 oz) quartered marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  1. Combine mustard, garlic and tarragon (if using) in large bowl.  Add chicken thighs and toss to coat.  Transfer to slow cooker. (I generally just mix all of this in the bottom of the slow cooker.)
  2. Add onion, mushrooms, and artichokes with liquid.  Cover; cook on LOW 6-8 hours or on HIGH 4 hours or until chicken is tender.  Stir in parsley (if using) just before serving.  (I program mine to cook for 7 hours and then it stays on warm for a couple more before I get home.)

Difficulty: easy
Time: 10 minutes prep, 4-8 hours cooking (depending on slow cooker setting)
Source:  Crock-Pot Cookbook (copyright 2008)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kelly's Menu Plan 9/22 - 9/28

My last menu plan lasted two weeks; then a week of heating up frozen stuff or eating leftovers followed.  Now it is time to try again.  I think this is a pretty ambitious plan...we'll see what happens.  Grocery shopping tomorrow (ON MY OWN!) Going to the store by myself has become one of my treasured opportunities.

Saturday-Breakfast Casserole
I love this meal.  It is so easy to prepare the night before and just heat up the next morning.  I am expecting some fresh hot peppers in my CSA pickup so I will throw them in to help jump start the day.
Sunday-Eclair Dessert
My brother has been nagging me to make the dirt dessert, but I think he'll like this instead.  I really don't want to spend time crushing Oreos. Last time I made this I used banana pudding and vanilla pudding (it seems the boxes are the same color; when you are trying to get out of the store before a melt down, mistakes happen).  This time, I may try chocolate graham crackers.
Monday-Salsa Chicken
My older daughter starts CCD this Monday so I am not quite sure how it will all play out for dinner, but this is a winner every time in our house. 
Tuesday-Chicken and Spinach Rigatoni
I really like this affordable dinner.  My kids love pasta, and I love getting them to eat spinach.  Just hoping my husband packs up the leftovers this time; our dog feasted on them a few weeks ago.
Wednesday-Dinner on the Run
We will be eating in our car Wednesday since both girls have dance class.  I sampled a tortilla spread with hummus and sliced turkey at Costco this week; it was so good.  I plan to hide a bit of hummus under tons of lettuce for the girls.
Thursday- Pulled Pork
 One of my coworkers was making it this week; she was planning to top it with coleslaw.  I wished I could go home with her!  I may try her toppings, but I know we'll have sweet potato fries, and corn.
My husband will have a late work commitment so the kids and I are planning on Pizza, Popcorn and Princess and the Popstar .

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

There was a point in time, not long ago, when I would have said, "Who in the world would make his or her own sauce when there is perfectly good stuff you can buy off the shelf for $2?! Seriously, spaghetti night is supposed to be the quickest and easiest meal of the week!"  I am not saying that I will never again buy sauce, but I definitely became a sauce convert about six months ago.  My friends who have long made their own sauces are wondering what took me so long.  I am, too.  This sauce is SO much better than jarred and it honestly doesn't take that much work or time.  This batch makes enough for at least three meals; I freeze two portions.  I add the meat from the start, so when I use it, I don't even have to brown meat.  Taking a bag of sauce out of the freezer the night before spaghetti night actually saves me time.  Plus, I love the feeling that I get when making it with my own fresh herbs and that I can control the amount of sugar and salt that goes in.  (The amount of sugar in jarred sauce is astounding!)  If you have never made sauce yourself, please give this a try one afternoon.  You won't regret it!

  • 2.5-3 lb meat (I use a combination of ground beef and sausage)
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 (29 oz) cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 (29 oz) can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (use less if using dried)
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped (use less if using dried)
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  1. Brown ground meat with onion in a large pot or dutch oven until no longer pink.
  2. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Difficulty: Surprisingly easy
Time: about 1.5 hours, 20 minutes or so of which are hands-on
Source:  After researching online for a while, I just decided to make my own recipe; I have made this many times now and my family devours it!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

My idea of chicken parmesan was buying breaded chicken tenderloins at Costco and putting them on top of spaghetti with sauce and some mozzarella. Then, I found this recipe. It is so easy, and it is so amazing. My husband put this in the "this is the best thing you have ever made" category. I choose not to serve with pasta because I think there are enough carbohydrates in the meal so I pair it with a green vegetable. I have tried a few different types of croutons; they can be a bit too salty so the search continues...not really wanting to make my own.

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • cayenne red pepper to taste (in our house, we use a lot)
  • 5-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (I used 2/3 of a spaghetti sauce jar)
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz Parmesan cheese (you can buy either shredded or the grated variety)
  • 1 package (5 oz) garlic croutons
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a casserole dish, pour olive oil.
  3. Add garlic and cayenne red pepper.
  4. Place chicken breasts in dish.
  5. Cover with sauce; spread over chicken.
  6. Top with basil.
  7. Layer with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
  8. Top with croutons.
  9. Bake for 35-45 minutes (internal temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit, or cut it and check like me)
Difficulty: Easy
Time:10 minute prep time; 45 minutes baking time