Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

As I sat snowbound reading Joyce's menu plan, I really wanted potato soup.  I found almost all of the ingredients in the house, but no gravy mix.  I started searching for recipes in soup sections of my cookbooks. I found this one, and I actually had all the stuff.

My husband and I liked the addition of the tomatoes; it gave it a tangy taste.  I love the combination of tomatoes with cheese.  I always add a slice of tomato to my grilled cheese. This soup recipe was so easy I couldn't believe how little time it took.  It will become a winter classic in our house.


  • 16 oz. package frozen broccoli
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes 
  • 2 T dried parsley
  • 1 t. dried thyme
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 16 oz. pasteurized processed cheese, cubed


  1. Cook broccoli in large pot according to directions.
  2. Add tomatoes, seasonings, and milk.  Stir well.
  3. Reduce heat to simmer.  Add cheese and cover.  Stir occasionally until cheese melts.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 15 minutes prep; 1 hour (or less) cooking time
Source: adapted from a Gooseberry Patch recipe

Friday, January 24, 2014

Joyce's Menu Plan 1/25 - 1/31

Around the holidays, meal planning gets a bit crazy for me.  Right after the holidays are over, my son has a birthday.  Once all the celebrating is done, I can finally get back in gear and get some good planning in.  Things always go better with a plan.

Saturday - General Tso's Chicken
I have been dying to try Kelly's slow cooker version of this take-out favorite.  With my morning plans being cancelled due to weather, I will be able to prep this early and have it ready to go.
Sunday - Potato Soup (and prep Lasagna)
Nothing beats a cup of hot soup on a blustery winter day.  With things being on track in our area for this to be the coldest winter in over thirty years, we have certainly been enjoying our fair share of yummy soups.  This one is one of our favorites.  While I am throwing it together in the morning, I will also prep the lasagna for Monday.
Monday - Lasagna
My family went to Disney for the first time over Christmas break.  When we were standing in line for a ride at the Magic Kingdom, out of the blue, my daughter says, "You know what we haven't had for a long time?  Lasagna.  Can you make it soon?"  It is time to oblige.  Since we have an In-Service day, this being prepped on Sunday will be perfect...I will just pop it into the oven when I get home from work.
Tuesday -  Honey Orange Chicken
This dish has become a staple in our house.  It is amazingly easy, healthy, and full of flavor.  
Wednesday - Leftovers
Since it is just the kids and me on Wednesdays, we tend to heat up leftovers.  When there are several options in the fridge to reheat, I have been known to make a paper menu for the kids so that they can see their options and check off their choices.  They love playing restaurant - especially since we don't go out the real ones often!
Thursday -  Salmon Cakes
I have been trying to have either a meatless or a seafood meal once a week when we can.  With a side of quinoa and a veggie or salad, this fits the bill.
Friday - Knock-off Spinach Power Salad 
We've been making hard boiled eggs early in the week to have for a quick mid-morning snack.  My son will also take one for breakfast on some days.  Usually, we have a couple left at the end of the week; they make a great topping for this salad.  And since I usually grocery shop on Thursday, I should have some fresh spinach to make this quick meal on a Friday.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Knock-off Spinach Power Salad

Despite the fact that I don't go there often, I am a huge fan of the soups and salads at Panera.  During the Christmas shopping season, we stopped in to get some gift cards and decided to grab a bite while we were there.  My husband commented that he had tried their Spinach Power Salad at lunch some time back and he got it again.  It looked delicious, so I investigated.  I don't know how well this matches the original, but what resulted from my experiments was an awesome, delicious salad that even my kids loved.  This salad can be as healthy as you want it to be by modifying the amounts of ingredients; just a touch of dressing, french fried onions, and bacon will do!  Load up on the spinach - did you know there are only 14 calories in 2 cups of spinach?

  • Baby spinach
  • Hard Boiled Egg
  • Bacon (cooked)
  • Mushrooms
  • Butter
  • French Fried Onions
  • Sweet Vidalia Onion Vinaigrette
  1. Saute the mushrooms in a small amount of butter to desired tenderness.
  2. Top a bed of baby spinach with chopped egg, mushrooms, a sprinkle of bacon, and a small amount of french fried onions.  Drizzle the dressing on top.

Difficulty: easy
Time: if the hard boiled eggs are made ahead of time, prep is about 10 minutes
Source: inspired by Panera's Spinach Power Salad, made in my own kitchen

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Honey Orange Chicken

In the past few months, things have been a bit more hectic than usual around my house, largely because of numerous doctor's and therapy appointments that take huge chucks of time out of our lives on top of the typical schedule.  So, it has been more important than ever to find recipes that are quick and easy, yet healthy and delicious, too.  This was one of the tastiest, easiest meals I have made in a long time.  It has become one of my go-to chicken recipes.  In the picture, I have the chicken served atop a bed of quinoa and spinach with mandarin oranges, but this chicken can be served in so many ways - with one or the other of those two instead of both, with rice, mixed greens, with side dishes of your choice.  Personally, I like it as part of a salad; I use the sauce as the dressing.

  • 1-2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp ground cumin (the original recipe called for 1 Tbsp, but this was enough for us)
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Pound chicken breasts to half-inch thickness and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Combine the orange juice, honey, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet and sear chicken on both sides for about 2 minutes each side.
  4. Add the orange juice mixture, cover, and allow to simmer for about 6 minutes.

Difficulty: Super easy
Time: 15 minutes
Source: Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express

Monday, January 6, 2014

Taco Chili

Work lunchtime often includes tasting other people's foods.  We copy and trade recipes.  Some of my favorite recipes come from the collection my coworkers made for as a wedding present.

On a cold January day, this chili smelled delicious when it was reheating in the microwave; everyone in lunchroom begged for the ingredients.  I picked everything up on my way home, and it was in the crock pot the next day.  It is filling enough on its own, but it's also great topping a baked potato or served  in a bread bowl or pasta.


  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3 T ranch dressing mix
  • 3 T taco seasoning mix
  • 1 can (15 oz) pinto beans
  • 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans
  • 1 bag frozen corn, cooked
  • 1 can (15 oz) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 small can diced green chilies (optional)


  1. Brown meat and onions; drain.  Add celery and garlic, cook through.
  2. Add meat mixture to a large pot; without draining, add all other ingredients.
  3. Simmer 1 hour or cook on low in a crock pot for 6 hours.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 15 minutes prep; 6 hours slow cooking
Source: my coworker