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Two weeks of meal planning

1 Jun
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

It’s June 1!
We’re in the home stretch for the end of the school year; a busy time for us adults with our work in the schools and as parents of school aged kids, but also a busy time for the kids at school and in all their after school activities.

We can do it though, we’re almost there.

For us school ends on June 17 and for my husband’s district, it ends an entire week later, but at least the bulk of our family will be done with a lot of our stress by June 17.

I have not had a ton of extra typing time to devote to my blog, which is typical for this time of year, but to make up for it I’m going to share with you two weeks of meal planning ideas, just in case you’re as stressed in May and June as we are.

I hope that it gives you some inspiration for what to have for dinner over the coming two weeks.

TWO WEEKS OF MEALS

Day 1: Eggplant Parm with pasta and salad

Day 2: BBQ Ribs and Chicken with cole slaw, baked beans, and rice pilaf

Day 3: Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

Day 4: Baked stuffed fish with red potatoes

Day 5: California Chicken sandwiches (grilled chicken with avocado and melted cheese)

Day 6: BBQ Pulled Pork in the crock pot

Day 7: Dinner out (Friday night)

Day 8: Baked Chicken Dinner with stuffing, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes

Day 9: Homemade Soup (we always offer sandwiches on the side, like grilled cheese, but it’s not often that anyone wants anything besides the soup.)

Day 10: Breakfast for Dinner: French Toast

Day 11: Pasta with Sauce

Day 12: Marinated steak tips

Day 13: Pork Chops with homemade apple sauce

Day 14: Quesadillas and Burritos

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: 30 Minute Spaghetti with Summer Vegetable Sauce

29 Apr
Another successful meal from Liz's 30 Minute Meal cookbook!

Another successful meal from Liz’s 30 Minute Meal cookbook!

About two weeks ago, for my previous What’s for Dinner Wednesday post, I showed a recipe that Elizabeth had found in a Cook’s Country Magazine for 30 Minute Meatloaf Burgers.

At the time that Liz chose that recipe, we were at the end of our two weeks of meals, which meant we’d be menu planning again soon afterwards for the next two weeks of meals.

Liz was on top of it. She and her dad poured through her selection of recipes hoping to find one that everyone would like at least one part of, if not all of. Pasta is a pretty easy choice. Everyone likes pasta, even if they don’t like what’s on it. Therefore, she chose a 30 minute meal called Spaghetti with Summer Vegetable Sauce.

It was so delicious, and seeing the veggies simmering on the stove while Liz and Don were cooking together really made me long for summer. This meal was wonderful and Liz did a great job choosing another quick and easy meal. I know she’s got at least one more on deck for a future week.

I’m getting a bit spoiled…

Here’s the recipe for you, just as it appears in the Cook’s Country Magazine.

It was hard to wait after seeing this simmering on top of the stove!

It was hard to wait after seeing this simmering on top of the stove!

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (We use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.)

1 onion, chopped

1 large summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced thin

1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, minced

12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup dry white wine

Salt and pepper

1 pound spaghetti (We used linguine.)

6 tablespoons basil pesto (We made our own.)

DIRECTIONS

1.) Bring four quarts of water to a boil in large pot. Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in squash and zucchini and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir in squash and zucchini and cook until softened, three to five minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, wine, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about two minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; cover and keep warm.

2) Meanwhile, add pasta and one tablespoon salt to boiling water and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Toss vegetable mixture and pesto with pasta, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Serve.

Test kitchen note: Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: 30 Minute Meatloaf Burgers

15 Apr
Liz's 30 minute meal was just what we needed on a busy night. Having her make it for us was even better.

Liz’s 30 minute meal was just what we needed on a busy night. Having her make it for us was even better.

A year or so ago, my mom passed along to us a stack of Cook’s Country cooking magazines that my aunt had passed along to her first. I looked through them all, and saw some great recipes throughout, but overall, I did not do much with them at the time.

Our daughter Elizabeth however, was totally obsessed with them. She loved the recipes, the product reviews and the section of 30 Minute Meal recipe cards. She poured through them often, and was always coming out to show us what she was reading or finding at the time, and what recipes she thought we’d like and ought to try.

This past weekend, she was at it again with the 30 Minute Meals recipes.

“Can we make this one? Do we have the stuff for that one? Do you think we’d like this one,” she’d ask.

I hate to say no when they’re enthused about something, especially when it means I’m off the hook for cooking and planning a meal, but each recipe seemed to call for something we didn’t have. Finally, I spotted one for Meatloaf Burgers. I quickly scanned it and realized we had everything it called for.

“We can make that one tomorrow night. We have all the ingredients,” I told her.

Her eyes lit up. She was thrilled. She continued to pour through the magazines and began pulling out all the sections of recipe cards so she’d have all the 30 minute meals together in a pile.

A new binder of recipes all ready to go. I even gave her a shopping list pad to stick inside the front pocket so she could choose her meals and tell us the ingredients needed, insuring that we'd have them on hand.

A new binder of recipes all ready to go. I even gave her a shopping list pad to stick inside the front pocket so she could choose her meals and tell us the ingredients needed, insuring that we’d have them on hand.

I’m a huge fan of binders. If it’s important, I binderize it. I create a cute cover and spine for it. I take a picture of it. I love binders. I inherited a huge box of binders from my brother and sister in law from all her grad school classes, so I have my own supply at my fingertips whenever I need one. I saw a binderizing opportunity here, and when Liz went to bed, I brought up a binder, printed out a cover sheet and she now had a place to store all her recipe card pages for her 30 minute meals. The next morning we punched the holes and she set up her cookbook for the evening.

At 4:30 I told her to be ready for 5:00 to start her meal, and she was ready! The recipe was meant to be quick and easy, and it was. She could do the whole thing herself for the most part, other than cooking the burgers. I had her form them and place them on a baking sheet so they could be cooked.

When they were done, she had one smaller one that she’d made with the final portion of meatloaf mixture, and she cut it into five sample pieces, put them on little cocktail forks and let everyone try a bite before we ate, to make sure everyone liked them.

Cute little tasting samples were a great way to determine if anyone didn't like the burgers without wasting one.

Cute little tasting samples were a great way to determine if anyone didn’t like the burgers without wasting one.

Everyone did! That’s so rare. We almost never have a meal that all five people like. She was thrilled. We dug in.

There were just two burgers leftover at the end of the night. They both made delicious lunches the next day.

This recipe was deemed “a keeper” and Liz will definitely be making it again. This weekend we do our “big shopping,” and she’ll be handing us her shopping list, I’m sure, with some 30 minute meals on the menu for the next two weeks.

Liz was so proud of herself for choosing and making such a great, meal and I’m glad I was able to say yes this time around. It’s a great life skill for kids to be able to research a meal, plan it and make it, but it’s even better when everyone loves it.

Here is the recipe Liz used from the Cook’s Country magazine 30 Minute Meals.

 

Grilled Meatloaf Burgers from Cook’s Country

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 pounds meatloaf mix (we used 2 one-pound packages of ground turkey)

1 large egg

(we sprinkled in some bread crumbs as an extra ingredient)

2 teaspoons of Worcestershire Sauce

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (we used 1/4 tsp. dry thyme)

salt and pepper

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

hamburger buns

DIRECTIONS

1) Combine  meatloaf mix, egg, Worcestershire Sauce, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Shape mixture into four 3/4 inch thick patties. Whisk ketchup, sugar, and vinegar together until combined. Reserve 5 tablespoons glaze for serving.

2) Grill burgers of medium-hot fire until well-browned on first side, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip burgers and brush with remaining glaze. Cook until meat registers 160 degrees, about 7 minutes. Transfer burgers to plate and tent loosely with aluminum foil; let rest for 5 minutes. Serve burgers on buns with reserved glaze.

A very, very tasty dinner, thanks to Liz!

A very, very tasty dinner, thanks to Liz!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Creamy Chicken Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole

8 Apr
This was a nice change from traditional casseroles, thanks to Pinch of Yum!

This was a nice change from traditional casseroles, thanks to Pinch of Yum!

We have been loving the addition of quinoa to our menu planning ever since Caroline and I had it at the Kids’ State Dinner in 2012 as one of the menu items at our White House luncheon. We’ve used it in all kinds of dishes, and we’ve made the White House menu item the most.

However, recently I tried it in a casserole, thanks to the website PinchofYum.com. Her Creamy Chicken Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole came across my virtual desk at one point and I decided to give it a try.

I’m so glad I did!

The recipe was delicious and it was a great deviation from some of our regular casserole dishes.

We had all of the ingredients, including the bacon. She said in her recipe that any type of cheese would work, so we used shredded cheddar.

I hope you’ll give Pinch of Yum’s recipe a try! I have it below, and I’ve linked to her site above also. I encourage you to check out the nutrition information and cooking notes that she’s included in her recipe write up. It will give you some tips on how to cook quinoa as well as some cook time information.

PINCH OF YUM
CREAMY CHICKEN QUINOA AND BROCCOLI CASSEROLE

Ingredients
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • ¼ cup cooked, crumbled bacon (optional… sort of)
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning (like Emeril’s Essence or any basic blend you like)
  • ¼ cup shredded Gruyere cheese (any kind will work)
    Instructions
    1. Sauce: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and generously grease a 9×13 baking dish (seriously, be generous because it really really sticks to the sides). Bring the chicken broth and ½ cup milk to a low boil in a saucepan. Whisk the other ½ cup milk with the poultry seasoning and flour; add the mixture to the boiling liquid and whisk until a smooth creamy sauce forms.
    2. Assembly: In a large bowl, mix the sauce from step one, one cup water, quinoa, and bacon and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips and lay the chicken breasts strips over the top of the quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with the seasoning. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
    3. Broccoli: While the casserole is in the oven, place the broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute until it turns bright green and then run under cold water. Set aside.
    4. Bake: Remove the casserole from the oven, check the mixture by stirring it around in the pan, and if needed, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes to get the right consistency. When the quinoa and chicken are cooked and the sauce is thickened, add the broccoli and a little bit of water (up to one cup) until the consistency is creamy and smooth and you can stir it up easily in the pan. Top with the cheese and bake for 5 minutes, or just long enough to melt the cheese.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese Quiche

1 Apr
There was not one bite of this left over! It was a huge hit.

There was not one bite of this left over! It was a huge hit.

ORIGINALLY POSTED FEBRUARY 5, 2014:

Recently we cooked a big Sunday dinner of roasted chicken. I love when we have that on the menu because it automatically means another chicken meal later that week using the leftovers.

Sometimes we’ll just reheat the leftovers as is; a repeat of the meal we’d just had days before. Other times I’ll make a Chicken Pot Pie. We will make soup or chicken salad too, depending how much and what is left.

This last time we had our leftovers, I still had a single pie crust left from the last Chicken Pot Pie I’d made but I did not want a pot pie again. Although my daughter Liz swears that “Chicken Pot Pie never gets old, Mom,” I beg to differ. I’d done two in a relatively short amount of time. I wanted something different.

I thought of my single crust in the fridge and what else I could do with it instead of pot pie. I decided to make a quiche. Everyone in our family likes broccoli and eggs and cheese, so I knew a quiche would be a hit, but I had no idea how much of a hit it’d be.

It flew off the plates!

Luckily I realized I needed to write down the recipe BEFORE I filled the plate!

Luckily I realized I needed to write down the recipe BEFORE I filled the plate!

I actually didn’t have a recipe to follow, but I adapted a recipe for a Quiche Lorraine, changing the ingredients. The funny thing is, my recipe was on a plate! I have an old plate that I remember my mom having when I grew up, but I actually think that my grandmother had one too, and this one is hers from her kitchen we she moved a couple of years back.

I went along, following my recipe, but changing the ingredients to fit my meal, when I suddenly realized I needed to write it down or once I filled the plate, I’d not have the directions for baking temps and times!

Since I used the plate as my guide, along with my own ingredients, I’m putting my recipe for you below. It was SO delicious! I’d definitely make this again, and it was a great change to our usual leftover chicken choices.

CHICKEN BROCCOLI AND CHEESE QUICHE
INGREDIENTS

4 eggs lightly beaten

1 cup fat free cheddar cheese, shredded

1/3 cup chopped onion (I just used half a smaller sized onion.)

2 cups skim milk

2 cups diced chicken

2 cups broccoli (I used about half a package of frozen broccoli florets, partially thawed.)

salt and pepper to taste

one crust for a nine inch pie

Layer your ingredients into the crust, adding your liquid last.

Layer your ingredients into the crust, adding your liquid last.

DIRECTIONS

Spread the pie crust in a 9″ pie plate, creating a decorative edging.

Lightly beat eggs and milk together.

Layer your ingredients in the plate starting with your solid ingredients first.

Pour your liquid mixture of milk and eggs over your solid ingredients. Your plate will be full to the top.

My baking dish said to bake the quiche at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, turning it down to 300 for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean, letting it stand for 10 minutes.

Our quiche took much longer to cook, I believe because of the liquid in the frozen broccoli that I used. Another cookbook I looked at had similar directions, with the second baking temperature at 325. When you make your quiche, you’ll know when it’s done; a knife will come out clean. At the end, we broiled ours on low to crisp it up a bit.

I hope that if you’d never made a quiche before, you’ll give it a try. You can really put almost anything in it, and two of my kids actually requested a spinach and chicken quiche next time, which I’d thought of, but I knew not everyone likes spinach at our house.

Enjoy!

Happy St. Patty’s Day: Irish Soda Bread

17 Mar

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 16, 2012: Everyone loves a good Irish Soda Bread with their St. Patrick’s Day meal! This one was passed along to me by my father-in-law last winter and it was wonderful. I can’t wait to make it again this year. It’s probably the one and only recipe where I don’t think about subbing out the raisins for chocolate chips!!

INGREDIENTS

4 c  flour

1 c white sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs

1 pint sour cream

1 cup  raisins

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Grease two 8×4″ loaf pans

Mix first five ingredients

Add eggs, sour cream and raisins

Mix until just combined

Distribute batter evenly between the two pans

Bake loaves 1 hour at 325 degrees

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Chicken, Broccoli, Cauliflower Casserole

11 Feb
This.was.so.good.

This.was.so.good.

On Saturday, January 24 my husband and I ran to the store to pick up “a few things” to get us through “a few days” until we could get out to do a bigger shopping. It was the day after pay day, and when we’d normally be doing a big shopping, but we hadn’t had a chance to sit down and do our normal two week menu, or to make a shopping list.

We went through the store, picking things up here and there that we knew for sure we were out of and that we knew we could use to put together several meals with. Meats, fresh fruits and veggies; things of that nature all went into the cart.

In the back of our minds, we knew that a big snow storm was coming and just the night before, we’d seen the report that it could be “historic,” whatever that meant.

Well who knew we’d be snowed in for days and days? By the time a week had gone by, we were already expecting another storm, and we were getting a little low on groceries, but really not doing too badly. It didn’t really seem necessary to do a bigger shopping at this point, we were so close to the end of the pay cycle, another check would soon be coming.

And besides, as true New Englanders, we had enough milk and bread to sink a boat. A cruise ship, actually. At the very least, we could have sandwiches galore until the cows came home.

As the second week wound down, I was really being creative with our meals. I had a few things left to work with and I hopped onto Pinterest to do a search. I typed in Chicken, Broccoli, and Cauliflower into the search button and waited to see what came up. I had fresh broccoli crowns and a whole head of cauliflower in my fridge still, as well as a bag of chicken tenderloins in the freezer. You can do a lot with those three ingredients, as it turns out. I scrolled and pinned, scrolled and pinned until I saw a recipe that jumped out at me, simply because it hand Panko bread crumbs on top.

I love Panko bread crumbs.

I found this recipe on a site called Stacey Snacks , and it was listed as being a good idea for using leftover chicken. I didn’t actually have leftover chicken, but I could cook up my tenderloins in bite-sized pieces and just pretend that I did.

The recipe was such that I had to make a few minor modifications, and I’ve listed them below. I had to double it because there are a lot of us who love chicken, broccoli and cauliflower here, and because I wanted to use up the entire head of cauliflower and both of my broccoli crowns.  I had an entire block of cheddar cheese in stock and although I was out of half and half, I had 1% milk, which I could make work with the sauce, which I more than doubled.

Stacey’s recipe was unbelievably good. Our family loved it. We had one sick child that day, so she didn’t eat, but the rest: all thumbs up. I ate this for lunch every day for the following days until it was gone. I’d most definitely make it again. I can’t *wait* to make it again.

Here is her recipe and my modifications along with it. Thanks to Stacey for sharing such deliciousness with us all!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of small fresh broccoli florets (about 1/2 of a small head) **I used two broccoli crowns**
1 cup of small fresh cauliflower florets (about 1/2 of a small head) **I used a whole head of cauliflower**
1 cup of leftover roast chicken, shredded **I cooked up ten chicken tenderloins in bite-sized pieces**
Japanese panko crumbs for the top
olive oil
kosher salt & pepper

For the Sauce:

3 tbsp of REAL mayonnaise **I used 5 Tbsp.**
1/4 cup of half & half **I used 1 cup of 1 % milk**
1 tsp curry powder (you can substitute dry mustard if you don’t like curry) **I used 1/2 Tbsp. yellow mustard**
a pinch of kosher salt & black pepper
1/4 cup of chicken stock  **I used 1 cup chicken broth**
1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar (I like white cheddar) **I used an 8 oz. block**

DIRECTIONS

Brush an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with some olive oil.  **My dish was 9×12**
Steam the broccoli and cauliflower florets for 2 minutes until bright and still firm.
Lay the vegetables on the bottom of the casserole.
Place the shredded cooked chicken on top of the veggies.
Whisk together the sauce ingredients, including the grated cheese & curry. Season with salt & pepper. (I really didn’t measure here, but what you are going for is a nice thick, cheesy white sauce, sort of like for macaroni and cheese, so use your best cooking sense!).  **I did add a bit of flour just to thicken mine a little since my milk was thinner than half and half would have been.**
Pour over the chicken and vegetables in the dish and press down with a spatula to absorb the liquid. If it seems dry, then add some more chicken stock to the dish.
Optional (but makes it even better!): Spoon some panko crumbs over the top to cover and drizzle with olive oil. **Instead of drizzling with olive oil, I lightly sprayed the bread crumbs with a canola oil spray before baking.**
You can make this a day ahead and keep covered in the fridge until ready to bake.

Bake uncovered in a 375F oven for about 30 minutes until top is golden brown and casserole is bubbly.
Serve with rice or salad.  **We served with rice pilaf.**

Thanks Stacey!
http://www.staceysnacksonline.com/2012/02/good-ideas-leftover-chicken-w-broccoli.html

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