Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Vacation Menu

Days away from heading to the beach, the feeling of excitement is being overshadowed by the need to prepare.  Just last week, we tried to go out to eat for the first time in a long while; we won't be heading out again for a while.  I will not be subjecting the vacationing crowds to my children; it is not worth the stress, the cost, or the looks.  So, I am preparing my meal plan for vacation-breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

This is a family vacation; I haven't been on a beach vacation with my family since I was in college.  My parents are planning to eat out pretty often, but I will be sharing cooking duties with my cousin's boyfriend.  Matt volunteered to grill.  Our breakfasts are easy; I will prep them the night before so that someone can throw it in the oven while I am out on my runs.  My lunch options are also easy; hopefully, someone in the party will decide to head back to the house for a bit with the kids while I enjoy reading or napping in the sun.

We will hit the grocery store Saturday night.  I plan to buy fruits, vegetables, meats, bread, and dairy products at the store.  I'll bring things like cereals, bars, snacks, and spices (I learned to do this from Joyce as I was paying $7 for chili powder while she had brought her cumin from home).  The last time my mom hit the grocery store on vacation, it was after a big dinner so she and her friends bought only Breyers ice cream and drink mixes.  I plan to be on hand with my list. Not sure I am as organized as Joyce who has even produced coupons for the things she needed from the stores at the beach, but I think we will be set.

Traveling day...we will eat what we can find.

Breakfast: Pancake Squares and blueberries (I will be cheating a bit and use bagged pancake mixes for this recipe)
Lunch: Grilled cheese with tomato slices
Dinner: Sausage, Spinach, Tomato Pasta

Breakfast: Egg in a Cup (my dad's specialty...he can make them for me)
Lunch: Macaroni & cheese and hot dogs
Dinner: Shrimp and veggies on the grill

Breakfast: French Toast Casserole
Lunch: Grilled chicken wraps
Dinner: Pulled BBQ Crescents

Breakfast: Cereal and fresh fruit
Lunch: Avocado Chicken Salad
Dinner: Italian Baked Chicken with broccoli and salad

Breakfast: Cereal bars and bananas
Lunch: PB&J wraps
Dinner: Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with corn on the cob

Breakfast: scrambled eggs to get rid of all remaining eggs
Lunch: Grilled cheese and fruit
Dinner: Whatever I can do to use all remaining food-thinking grilling 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Crunch

My grandfather grows rhubarb every year; he bakes it into pies. Unfortunately, the rhubarb pie is a bit too tart for me. Since I really like to use the free produce from my family, I tried to find another way to use his rhubarb. This recipe makes an amazing sweet dessert using both strawberries and rhubarb. I make this every June after picking strawberries with the kids.  Everyone who eats it loves it.  Delicious!

On my way home, I stopped at a local market for fresh rhubarb and strawberries.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 T flour
  • 3 cups sliced strawberries
  • 3 cups diced rhubarb (I do NOT peel my rhubarb)
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup rolled oats


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In large bowl, mix sugar, 3 T flour, strawberries, and rhubarb.
  3. Place mixture into greased 13 x 9 baking dish (I often use a smaller dish and get a thicker dessert).
  4. Mix 1 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, butter, and oats until crumbly.
  5. Crumble on top of mixture.
  6. Bake 45 minutes.
  7. Serve warm over ice cream or whipped cream.
Difficulty: Easy
Time:15 minute prep, 45 minutes baking time
Source: Dillner Family Farm Recipe Share

A new lens equals less than great photo-sorry.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Avocado-Chicken Salad

One of my self-imposed summer projects is to figure out school lunch ideas for my upcoming first grader; packing lunches is something I am really not looking forward to.  If he had a microwave handy, I would be golden...I am pretty good at maximizing leftovers.  I am also good at grabbing random ingredients from the fridge in the morning, throwing them in a bag, and making my lunch on the spot at work.  Unfortunately, these are not options for my son.  I am intent on providing at least a few healthy packed lunches for the week (other days, he may have to buy) that don't take me forever to prepare the night before.  I made this amazing chicken salad twice already this summer and plan to make it several more times while my cilantro is still growing and avocados are a reasonable price.  I may have to bite the bullet in the fall and buy the herbs and off-season avocado, though, as this lunch is that good.  (Oh, and my son loved it, too...and we put it on the lunch ideas list.)

  • 2 cups shredded chicken
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek Yogurt


  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20-30 minutes. 
  2. Serve on your favorite bread, crackers, pita pocket or on a bed of lettuce.

Difficulty: very easy - even easier if you make extra chicken while cooking dinner (like Pulled BBQ Crescents)
Time: 5 minutes (after cooking and shredding the chicken)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Party Pepperoni Bread

These days, I feel pretty good about the variety of delicious meals that I am able to put on the table for my family.  Where I often feel as though I fall short is when I am entertaining or if I am asked to bring an appetizer to a party.  Sure, I have the old standbys that serve me well: taco dip, buffalo chicken dip, crab dip.  But, sometimes, the occasion calls for something a bit different.  Or maybe I just like a lot of variety.

That is when Gooseberry Patch's Game-Day Fan Fare comes in.  This book offers great ideas to use when planning appetizers, meals, or even desserts for a crowd.  I have made the Black Bean Salsa, which made a hefty amount (I split it and used it at two separate functions) and was super easy, and the Bubbly Tomato Bread, which took a bit more effort but was absolutely delicious, and this Party Pepperoni Bread.  Let's just say that this bread will definitely be making many, many more appearances at get-togethers that I attend or host.  When I took it to my Uncle's house for a Memorial Day party, it was met with rave reviews; I didn't even get a chance to set down the platter before it was half gone.

This giveaway has ended.  Congrats to our winner!

  • 1/2 tsp shortening
  • 1 lb loaf frozen bread dough
  • 3/4 tsp dried parsley
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 oz pkg sliced pepperoni
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Spread shortening over frozen bread dough.  Let dough thaw and rise according to package directions.
  2. Press dough onto a lightly greased 15" x 10" jelly-roll pan.  Sprinkle herbs over dough.  Top with pepperoni slices, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edge; sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
  3. Roll up dough, starting at long edge; pinch seams together to seal.  Place seam-side down on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Poke multiple holes in bread with a knife tip to vent.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden.  Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

Difficulty: easy
Time: there is the time to let the dough thaw and rise (about 7 hours for mine), so you have to plan ahead, but the actual time to make it is about 10 minutes prep and 20-25 minutes baking.
Source:  Gooseberry Patch's Game-Day Fan Fare, copyright 2012

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken

I love the newest Gooseberry Patch Cookbook Game-Day Fan Fare.  The recipes in this edition are right up my alley-brunches, munchies, soups, treats.  Excited to receive the new book from Joyce, I started planning what to make for Memorial Day, the annual luau, Father's Day.  I called my aunt and told her to write me down as bringing the Margarita Watermelon Slices to the next pool party.

I love the personal touches and handy suggestions that Gooseberry includes in their cookbooks. I already moved two ideas into my routine.  Grating the peel of a lemon or orange anytime you use one then to freeze it gives you a supply of citrus zest that can add a lot to a summer salad.  Using white paper coffee filters as toss-away snack holders is a frugal alternative to snack bags.  I buy those coffee filters for my kids' art projects; it was such an added bonus to use them at the pool to share popcorn and goldfish snacks (and I didn't have guilt about throwing them away).

Gooseberry also gives ideas for outdoor decor and serving.  I have had a number of pavilion parties at local parks and getting everything to run smoothly is tricky.  These hints will help your party go off without a hitch.

I found this recipe in the section titled, Slam-Dunk Mains & Sides.  My husband was craving Chinese, but we didn't have plans for a babysitter in the near future so I turned to the new cookbook.  I didn't show John the ingredients, and honestly wasn't sure how it would turn out.  As the baking time diminished, my mouth was watering; each person in the house commented on how good it smelled.  I pulled it out of the oven and threw in the pineapple and green peppers wishing the 15 minutes could be over.  As soon as the timer beeped, I snatched it out of the oven, poured some over rice and ate it before it even had a chance to cool.  It was so good!  John sent me a text message raving about his lunch leftovers the next day, "Orange Chicken reheated = delicious!!!"  He doesn't always get the names right, but I was touched.  Later, he was still talking about it.  I quickly added this recipe to our monthly rotation as a healthier alternative to Chinese take-out,
as it isn't fried!

                                     This giveaway has ended.  Congrats to our winner!

I figured out I had the wrong pineapple a bit too is still open
in my fridge but I did put the right stuff in the recipe :) 

  • 16 oz.jar French salad dressing
  • 10 oz. jar peach or apricot preserves
  • 1 1/2 oz. package of onion soup mix
  • 1 T. water
  • 3 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 3 c. rice, uncooked
  • 15 1/4 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1 or 2 green peppers, chopped

  1. In a lightly greased 13 x 9 baking pan, combine salad dressing, preserves, soup mix, and water.  Stir in chicken until evenly coated.
  2. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink.  Meanwhile, prepare rice according to directions.
  3. Remove chicken from oven; stir in pineapple and green pepper.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  4. Serve over rice.
The second time, we had the dish with quinoa.
Difficulty: Easy
Time:10 minute prep; 60 minutes baking time
Source: Gooseberry Patch Game-Day Fan Fare

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