Vacation Planning

15 Jun

So B “graduated” from preschool this week, which was simultaneously one of the most ridiculous yet precious things I’ve ever witnessed.   And like any senior graduating from school, he’s hitting the beach!  Which means we only have half the number of meals to plan this time around.  Of course, we’re doing some meal planning and some serious packing for vacation too, but we get to share that burden with my parents and brother and his wife.  In the meantime, we’re taking it easy with some quick dinners (at least one of which I meant to make this week and never got around to).  As always, it’s a mix of tried-but-true recipes and some new ones I’ve never tried before.  And also, as always, I’m loving the dinner suggestions I’ve been getting – keep sending them my way!

1. Slow Cooker Turkey Meatball Subs with Oven Fries and Salad

I love meatball subs, and this is an easy way to enjoy them with all the prep work done the night before!

2. Skinny 20 minute Sesame Chicken with Roasted Broccoli

Yeah, this was on last week’s menu – but we didn’t get around to making it, so I’ve still got 3 heads of broccoli sitting in my fridge .  .  .

3. Indian-Inspired Sloppy Joes with flat bread and sauteed spinach

A Rachael Ray recipe recommended by a good friend! I’ll be making it with ground turkey, but if you want to make it with lamb – go crazy!

4. Spinach-Turkey Roll with mashed potatoes

Turkey meatloaf stuffed with spinach?  Sure, why not!

5.  Braised chicken with olives, carrots, and chick peas over rice

I honestly have no idea where this recipe originated from – I have it written down in an old notebook full of recipes I’ve made.  It’s good and easy though.

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Countdown to Summer

1 Jun

I don’t know about you, but I am ready for summer. Not just the warm weather, lazy days at the pool, and extra hours of daylight, but also for summer food. Berries! Stone fruit! Grilling! Salads! It is all good and light and generally makes me happy. And while it officially isn’t summer for a few more weeks, I’m ready to start at least a few summer recipes. I’ve got a mix of tried-but-true recipes from my regular rotation, plus some of my own usual summer mix, and a few new ones that I’m looking forward to trying out. And if you have any healthy, easy, yummy summer recipes to share, please do!

1. Avocado Fettucine

A lighter, creative version of fettuccini that I’m excited to try! I think I might add some tomatoes and a handful of Parmesan.

2. Shepherd’s Pie

I’ll make this the night before so it just needs to be reheated in the oven for dinner after work.

3. Yogurt Marinated Chicken with Tomato and Cucumber Couscous

This is an easy marinade that can be used for grilled or baked chicken and the quickest side you can make.

4. Healthy Chicken Piccata with Orzo and Broccoli Rabe

5. Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken with Spring Vegetables

I’ll be honest, I’m not particularly optimistic about this dish, but I think it sounds worth trying out. At least it’s easy to make!

6. Fish Tacos with Black Beans and Rice

7. 20 Minute Skinny Sesame Chicken with Rice and Roasted Broccoli

8. Caprese Pasta (Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella)

Summer in a bowl.

9. Slow Cooker Moussaka with Rice

Comfort Foods for Rainy Days

21 May

So I’m running a little behind schedule this round.  Work has been busy and has had to take priority.  But we still have to eat and while we didn’t make it to the grocery store this weekend, we’re going to raid the pantry for dinner tonight and get back on the wagon tomorrow.  I’m also feeling a little uninspired right now – possibly due to the non-stop torrential downpours – and nothing is really jumping out at me.  Although all the rain has put me in the mood of some good old fashioned comfort foods.  And I do have a bunch of new recipes to try – hopefully a few will make it into our regular rotation.  It’s also a shorter menu than usual, as it’s a holiday week.  Michael will be manning the grill on Memorial Day and we’ll be out of the house at least once this week.  Plus, I’m excited to try a new RR recipe that one of my best friends from college recommended me.  So I guess I’m not totally in a rut – and by the end of the week hopefully we’ll be feeling good about dinner again!

1.  Slow Cooker Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Talk about the ultimate rainy day comfort foods.  I might “fancy-up” my grilled cheese with some fresh mozzarella and/or fresh basil leaves, but the kids like theirs plain.  Either way, I wish we could stay in all day and eat this!

2.  Rachael Ray’s Oven Fried Fish Mushy Spring Peas

This is Whip’s recommendation – and she has excellent taste, so I’m sure it will be great!

3.  Greek Turkey Picadillo

Because it is easy, yummy, and uses up stuff from our pantry

4. Tuna, Tomatoes, White Beans with pasta

A RR inspired dish that is also using up stuff in the pantry until we can get ourselves to the store

5. Ravioli with Roasted Sesame and Honey Carrots

6. Turkey Kielbasa with Peas and Carrots over Egg Noodles

One last dish trying to use up everything in the house

7.  Michael’s Spaghetti with Slow Cooker Meat Sauce

I have to get the recipe from him – but the boys love it!  I’ll update once he gets it to me.

8.  Pasta with Goat Cheese, Baby Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes

Menu Planning and Flexibility

4 May

So despite my best efforts, things definitely do not always go as planned when it comes to dinners.  Sometimes it’s for a fun reason, like an impromptu pizza party at a friend’s house, other times it’s more annoying, like an unforeseen stomach bug hitting the household.  Whatever the reason, we definitely don’t always manage to make all the meals I plan for.  Sometimes we end up eating out, and other times Spaghetti with muffin tin meatballs turns into just plain old spaghetti with a jar of store bought sauce because that is all I could muster the energy for.  These last two weeks seem to have had a lot of such unexpected events so there are a couple of meals from then back in this rotation.  But that’s okay – so long as you have a method to the madness, you can be pretty flexible with menu planning.  For example, if you suddenly find yourself going out and skipping a dinner, rotate meals around so you’re skipping something that doesn’t have fresh ingredients that will go bad.  That’s why we skipped chicken enchilada pasta last week and are going to try it next week instead.  And if you just can’t find it in you to put together a full meal you planned, don’t just reach for the phone and call for carry out.  Simplify it – spaghetti without the meatballs was just as satisfying and still healthier and cheaper than fast food.  So if you planned on making Mexican lasagna, for example, just turn it into tacos and be done with it!  As type A as I am, there are always more important things to stress over.  Meal planning is supposed to make life easier, so if it’s being more stressful than helpful, let it go.  And then jump back in the next week!

1. Slow Cooker Jambalaya over rice

2. Parmesan Orzo with Smoked Salmon and Asparagus

3. Chicken Enchilada Pasta

4. Spaghetti with Muffin Tin Meatballs and Spinach/Parmesan Balls

5. 20 Minute Skinny Sesame Chicken with rice

6. Baked Pork Tenderloin with Apples with mashed potatoes

7. Chicken Sausage with Farro Risotto and spinach

8. Slow Cooker Chicken Makhani (Light Butter Chicken)

9. Turkey Stroganoff over Rice

Working Momma’s Menus

20 Apr

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It is shortly after 6pm by the time I get home from work and picking the boys up at preschool each day. If those boys don’t eat by 6:45 (7 at the very latest) I would have true monsters on my hands, so I don’t have much time to get a meal done from start to finish. Of course, cooking would go much quicker and more smoothly if I didn’t have to keep stopping to ask one child to take the mixing bowl off his head and the other one to stop jumping off the couch, but such is our lot in life these days. I know many of you are in the same boat and I’m sure years from now we’ll look back on it all and laugh but frankly these days I’m usually too exhausted to even bother. That’s why I started planning my meals like this – it really helps me stay organized. I can do some tasks the night before or even in the morning before leaving for work and then when I get home I know exactly what needs to be done. I don’t have to panic and wonder what to make or if we have the right ingredients in the house. Of course, to make things more difficult on myself, I also really enjoy trying out new recipes (mostly to moderate success, although occasionally to complete disaster). These next two weeks I have quite a few new recipes I want to give a try. I’m hoping they’re all successes – K is finally eating pasta and so I’m a little giddy at the thought of all the possibilities!

So while I’m still planning out my menus two weeks at a tim and put them on my little dry erase board, I’m not going to list them out here by date anymore. For starters, I’ve been switching them around last minute a lot to accomodate our schedules, and secondly, I have to be honest, the idea of putting the nights we are out of the house online was just a little too creepy for me. Either way, here are our 9 recipes for the next two weeks 🙂

1. Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken over rice with roasted broccoli

A new slow cooker recipe that I have high hopes for. With the greatest side dish of all time.

2. Skinny Penne ala Vodka

This recipe uses Greek yogurt to give it creaminess without all the fat!

3. Parmesan and Panko crusted Tilapia with (Weight Watchers!) Spinach Muffins

I know, spinach muffins! Sounds crazy – but I think they’ll be a great side dish to a healthy fish dinner.

4. Chicken Enchilada Pasta

Mexican meets Italian!

5. Red Peppers stuffed with Rice and chicken sausage

Even if your kids (like mine) only eat the stuffing, it’s still a great meal.

6. Arugula and White Beans with Pasta

Heart healthy and filling, white beans go great with slightly spicy arugula from a GREAT menu planner.

7. Tuna Puttanesca

This is originally a Rachael Ray recipe that I’ve tweaked to make even easier. I can probably make it blind folded at this point. So quick. So good.

8. Slow Cooker Chicken and Lentils over rice

Apparently, young boys love lentils. Who knew?

9. Spaghetti with Muffin Tin Meatballs

Because my husband specifically requested this.

Sweet Treat: “Almond Joy” Rice Krispie Treats

13 Apr

Okay, I know I am not exactly a professional food stager/photographer – but I wanted to give you an idea of how rich and chocolatey and yummy these treats are.  We recently went to a friend’s house for a bbq and I was tasked with bringing dessert.  I was happy to do so but wanted to bring something that I could enjoy without feeling like I was killing all my healthy eating habits.  At the same time, I also wanted something fun and a little more indulgent than fruit salad.  Enter, the Rice Krispie Treat.  I can’t lie and say this dessert can be considered health food.  BUT it is a much healthier alternative for dessert than most chocolate cakes or cookies (or this crack pie that I’ve been dying to try and make) and perfect for those nights when you really want something sweet and fruit just won’t cut it.  It is also really easy to make and can be modified and adapted to a variety of flavors.  Variations could include Peppermint Patty (omit the coconut and almond and add 1-2 tsp. of peppermint extract); Peanut Butter Cup (omit the coconut and almond and add ½ a cup of creamy peanut butter); Rollos (omit the coconut and almond and add ½ cup of caramel ice cream topping).  I told you, the possibilities are endless . . .

Ingredients:

6 cups cocoa rice krispies

3 TBSP butter

10.5 oz mini marshmallows (one bag)

1 tsp almond extract

½ tsp coconut extract

1/2 cup shredded coconut (plus a handful for sprinkling on top)

½ bag of chocolate chips or melting chocolate (optional)

½ vegetable oil (optional)

Directions:

  • Melt butter in a large pot over medium/medium-high heat. 
  • Add marshmallows and stir well.  Mind the marshmallows and continue stirring until they are fully melted.  You can tell they are fully melted when there are no more mini-mallow shaped bumps.  It might even start bubbling.  Once it is fully melted, turn the heat off.
  • Quickly add the coconut, almond extract and coconut extract.  Stir really well.  Then immediately add the rice krispies and stir.  And then stir some more.  Make sure all the melted marshmallow mixture gets fully incorporated with the rice krispies.
  • Pour the mixture into a baking pan sprayed with cooking spray (alternatively you can just spread it out onto a cookie sheet). 
  • Put the chocolate into a microwave safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds.  Stir and then if necessary continue microwaving in 15 second increments, stopping to stir between each, until fully melted.  Spoon the chocolate into a sandwich bag.  (Or, depending on how you feel about microwaving chocolate, place the chocolate into a sandwich bag and close the bag.  Heat as above until melted but instead of stirring just knead the chocolate with your hands – but watch out, the bag might be hot!).  You can also add vegetable oil to the chocolate before melting it to give it a shiny look. 
  • Snip the corner off the bag and use it to drizzle chocolate over the top of the treats.  Allow the chocolate to cool before serving.

Sweet Treat: Easter Macaroon Birds’ Nests

7 Apr

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Just a quick and easy treat I forgot I wanted to share in time for Easter! I made these last weekend for an Easter Egg Hunt and I think they turned out really great. You can make them plain or chocolate (or both like I did!). And really, all things considered, they really aren’t that bad for you (well, at least the macaroons aren’t). Either way, they are an easy, perfect treat for the holiday weekend.

Coconut Macaroon Robins Nests

Ingredients:

2/3 cup sweetened fat free condensed milk
1 large egg white
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups sweetened coconut
1/2 cup Nutella
2 TBSP cocoa powder (Optional)
1 bag/box of Robin’s Eggs (or other Easter candy)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk, egg white, vanilla extract, and salt. Stir until combined. Add in the coconut and mix well. If you want to make chocolate nests, mix in the cocoa powder at this time too.
3. With a spoon, scoop up about 2-3 Tablespoons of the dough and place the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Form the cookies into the shape of a bird nest. Press down the center with your thumb.
4. Bake cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, or until slightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and press your thumb down in the center of the nests again. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes or until they are firm and set. Remove with a spatula onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.
5. Fill a sandwich bag up with about ½ cup of Nutella. Snip the corner off with scissors and use the bag as a pastry bag to pipe about a TBSP of Nutella into the center of each nest. Place 3 egg candies in the center of the nest. Makes about one dozen.

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