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Meal Inspiration: Where do you find yours?

16 Jan

This salad wasn’t even on our radar until I saw a similar one pictured in a magazine.

Do you ever find you’re stuck in a meal-planning rut? I know that I easily tire of planning “the same old thing” week after week, and we try to mix it up every two-week meal menu. Therefore, I’m always looking for inspiration for our menus. We love cooking, we love eating and we love trying new things all the time.

Recently, I was thumbing through an issue of the Gluten-Free Living Magazine that had come in over the vacation week or sometime in that mad rush of weeks and I came across an advertisement for their newsletter.

It wasn’t the idea of the newsletter that struck me, however, but more so the salad pictured on the page in front of me. We love a good salad at our house and often times we will schedule a grilled chicken Caesar salad or a taco salad as one of our meals. Recently though, we’ve been loving fresh spinach, so when I saw it pictured in the advertisement, I stopped and paid attention.

I quickly ripped this ad out of the magazine and started to plan our next meal.

I am definitely a person who is drawn to food photos and videos, and I get a lot of my inspiration in this way. I took a long look at the salad in the picture, checked out what was in it and then made a note at the top of the page of the ingredients and what else we could add to it to make it even better and more to our family’s liking. When I showed the page to my family four out of five of us thought it looked great, so we planned it for a night the fifth one of us was not going to be home.

The original ingredients were spinach, craisins, pomegranate seeds, crumbled cheese, quinoa, and nuts. To that list, I also added in grilled chicken and crumbled bacon. During our most recent shopping trip we bought it all and on Monday night we laid it all out in a make-your-own salad bar style.

Initially, we forgot to put the quinoa out, but when I pulled out the original magazine photo to compare pictures, I quickly realized it and we added it in after the photos had been taken.

The good thing about this meal besides the flavor and the fact that it’s a healthy choice is that it was fast and had a simple cleanup. The nuts were pre-crumbled, the chicken was Perdue Shortcuts, and the bacon was pre-cooked. Quinoa is easy to cook and I cooked it ahead of time that afternoon so it could chill. The hardest thing was cutting and seeding the pomegranate, and although I know that they come already done for you, the store we were at didn’t have them that way at the time we were there, so we grabbed a whole one and enjoyed figuring that process out. Otherwise, it was quick and easy. There were almost no leftovers and everyone had two bowls. For dressings, we put out a bottle of Panera Fuji Apple that my parents recently introduced us to and which is gluten and dairy free, and a Balsamic Vinaigrette which is also gluten and dairy free. I had the apple, but either would have been good.

This was a completely different salad than what we normally would’ve thought of on our own, and we all raved about it. We’d definitely make it again and it’ll be a staple in our menu cycles going forward. It looked pretty, tasted great and cleaned up well. All in all, a successful meal.

Spinach salad has quickly become a favorite of ours.

 

What’s for dinner Wednesday: two weeks of meals and a new recipe

3 Oct

Tis’ the season!

As they say… Happy Fall Y’all!

It’s fall in New England and that means two things: apples and pumpkins. We’ve been doing the apple thing in September, saving the pumpkins for October. Therefore, today’s post will be all apple, all day long.

It’s been a while since I posted a two-week menu, so I thought I’d do that today as well as share a new recipe that we tried and liked, apple-related, of course.

Where I have them, I have included the links to the recipes I have shared before so that hopefully makes it easier for you.

When you come home with so many apples, it’s time to get cooking.

TWO WEEKS OF MEALS

Sunday: Shepherd’s Pie (Although we’ve been having this for years with the recipe I’ve linked here, we now make it a new way, courtesy of a trip last spring to visit my mother in-law, MaryLou. Our meat now contains both creamed corn and cut green beans and has tomato sauce mixed in. We also took the cheese out of the mashed potatoes on top, since we can’t all eat it. This new recipe is a little bit healthier and it combines the recipes of both our mothers. It has been a hit with our whole family.)

Monday: Tacos

If you’ve never made homemade applesauce, it’s so delicious and makes your house smell wonderful.

Tuesday: Pork tenderloin (pre-marinated in the package), homemade applesauce

Wednesday: Marinated steaks

Thursday: BBQ Ribs (prepackaged, pre-bbq’d, just cook and eat)

Friday: Cast iron skillet fajitas- both chicken and steak (homemade fajita seasoning recipe from Allrecipes.com)

This was a delicious new way to have kielbasa and very fall-ish. Thanks to A Spicy Perspective for the recipe!

Saturday: Light apple onion kielbasa skillet from A Spicy Perspective

Sunday: Eggplant Parmesan

Monday: Cranberry Chicken

Tuesday: Hot Dogs/Hamburgers

Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie (sometimes homemade using this recipe, but this time not and we have one that is a separate gluten free, dairy free pie which we buy pre-made and pre-frozen at our local bakery.)

Thursday: Homemade Pizzas

Friday: Chicken/Broccoli/Pasta

A great new meal to add to our fall menu!

 

 

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals

7 Mar

Ratatouille has become a favorite meal of ours.

Welcome to the month of March! It’s been quite some time since I posted a two-week menu plan, and I thought this week might be a good week to do one.

We are marching into spring and it’s about to be our busy season at work and at school so I am reveling in this relative calm before the storm. Over these two weeks however, two of our kids are booked just about every night for “tech week” as they prepare for this weekend’s upcoming theater performances and next weekend’s drama festival competition. Therefore, we are not necessarily eating all together as we usually do, but rather in a group of three, and then a group of two later on. They come in starving at about 9:00 p.m. and their first question is always, “What was for dinner?” as they look to reheat whatever it is that we had. They’ve eaten, but it’s usually between when school ends at 2:00 and when their theater responsibilities begin at 4:00.

That said, here is our list of meals for these two weeks.

TWO WEEKS OF MEALS

SUNDAY: Shaved steak and cheese sandwiches with tomato salad and steak fries
MONDAY: Burritos and quesadillas
TUESDAY: Chicken, broccoli and pasta
WEDNESDAY: Ratatouille
THURSDAY: Cranberry chicken
FRIDAY: Opening night for theater! Out to dinner
SATURDAY: Grilled kielbasa kebabs (this is a new meal, so look for it to be featured in the future!)

SUNDAY: Pulled beef brisket (this is a new recipe, so look for it to be featured in the future!)
MONDAY: Grilled teriyaki chicken breasts
TUESDAY: Spaghetti with tuna sauce
WEDNESDAY: Nicoise salad
THURSDAY: Leftovers
FRIDAY: Homemade Pizza
 

Hopefully this inspires some meals for your next two weeks of meals!
Have a wonderful week!

Two weeks of meals before the holiday rush

4 Dec

It’s hard to believe, but it’s the first week of December already. There are exactly three weeks until Christmas. Although I’ve been behind in posting some weekly menus, I thought that now might be a good time to provide some meal inspiration as a way to get us through the next three weeks. I also know that in the next two weeks or so, my posts will be filled with Christmas cookie recipes, and although we’d like to just eat those for dinner, most nights we can’t.

This was one we hadn’t had in a while and we devoured it. Not a morsel left.

Below are some meal options to get you through the next few weeks, with links included for every single one, not necessarily even in the order we’ve had them on our menu but more of a list of our past weeks’ “best of” meals that will let you peruse and choose what works for you in any given week.

TWO WEEKS OF MEALS

  1. Taco Bake
  2. Chicken, Broccoli, Cauliflower Casserole
  3. Kielbasa and Cabbage
  4. Parmesan Chicken Cutlets
  5. Instant Pot Chicken Marsala
  6. Beef and Broccoli
  7. Turkey Meatloaf Burgers
  8. Sweet and sour meatballs

    One of my favorite fall meals ever: Cranberry Chicken

  9. Shepherd’s Pie
  10. Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese
  11. Chicken with White Wine and Mushrooms
  12. Cranberry Chicken
  13. Steak Lettuce Tacos
  14. Pork Tenderloin (instead of brisket) with applesauce and potato pancakes

Pumpkin Palooza Recipe of the Day: Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

21 Nov

Done….

Originally posted on November 14, 2011

The recipe I’m sharing today is one of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Each year this is what we have for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, and we grill it, which is superb! The kids all watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade while they eat their grilled bread. I also usually make mini loaves of this to give the individual teachers as a gift, as well as two loaves to put in the faculty rooms at the kids’ school and my husband’s school as a thank you to everyone. Last year I think I tripled the recipe, if I remember correctly and had to mix it in a huge stock pot. Not sure what my plan of attack will be this year, but I have already stocked up on my cranberries and my pumpkin!

Enjoy!

PUMPKIN CRANBERRY BREAD

INGREDIENTS

2 cups pumpkin puree (1 can of One Pie Pumpkin = 2 cups)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
4 eggs, large
1/2 cup Canola or Vegetable oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
12 ounce package of fresh or frozen cranberries

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan(s). You can either use two large loaf pans or 3 mini loaf pans.

Beat together pumpkin, sugar, water, eggs and oil.

Sift in remaining ingredients except cranberries. Mix just until smooth.

Gently fold in cranberries.

Pour into loaf pan(s) and spread evenly.

Bake in the center of oven for 60 – 70 minutes for large loaves, less time (40-50 minutes) for smaller loaves or until toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake or bread will be dry.

Cool in pan on a rack for 10 – 15 minutes. Turn bread(s) out onto rack and finish cooling.

Bread may be made in advance, covered and chilled for up to four days.(When I make two loaves for us I often save one to eat and keep one to freeze to eat at a later date.)

Fun Friday: Three ingredient cookies

10 Mar

I added a fourth ingredient…can you guess what it is?

Good morning and TGIF!

Happy Friday to you all. It’s been a little bit since I did a Fun Friday post, so I thought I’d share a fun one with you this week.

My whole “after school snack” routine has gotten a bit derailed lately, mostly because many days no one is coming right home after school, which makes me really the only one who is home and hungry and means I’m always throwing an extra snack into everyone’s backpack to get them through the day. They eat lunch so early in the morning at school that they are starving by 3:00.

Additionally, since my youngest has had to go gluten free a little more than a year ago, one of the things she often takes for lunch is muffins (gluten free, obviously). That knocks off a good 3/4 of my go-to after school snack ideas. I love muffins and I loved making them to eat after school because then we have them for breakfast the next day, if there are any left. Now, out of convenience, I buy six packs of freshly made muffins, four varieties at a time every couple of weeks, at our local gluten free bakery, A&J’s, and I freeze them. By the time she eats lunch they have thawed.

I try to make my snacks healthy as often as I can, and so in going gluten free, I’ve relied on many dips (like this one from 2012 or this one from 2013), cheese and apples, fruit platters and the like. However, I did find a go-to cookie recipe that is fast, easy, healthy and gluten free, as long as you have gluten free oats, which I always do (thanks Bob’s Red Mill!). I have seen this recipe on several sites, and the one I am sharing today is from Recipe Diaries. I have seen versions of these cooked in the oven and I have even seen some that are microwaved. I have only ever cooked mine in the oven.

This week when I made these, I used 3 bananas and 1 1/2 cups of oats to make more cookies. I am also partial to Craisins over raisins, so I used a box of Craisins that is the lunchbox snack size (mostly because that’s what I had on hand) and it was the perfect amount. I’m also VERY partial to chocolate chips, so I threw some of those in too. In the past I have subbed dried pomegranates for the fruit and they were tasty too. Almost anything goes.

I have always tried to make my kids aware of serving sizes when it comes to food, and they always ask me how many or how much of something they are allowed to have, especially when it comes to something like muffins or cookies. With these, it’s nice to know that although they still can’t have an unlimited amount, at least the ones they are having are really pretty healthy, overall. They make a great snack and they satisfy my craving for a little something sweet.

I encourage you to try out the recipe at Recipe Diaries, and have a great weekend!

Pumpkin Palooza Recipe of the Day: Cranberry Pie

21 Nov

My Thanksgiving Day Cranberry Pie

Each year for Thanksgiving we go to my aunt and uncle’s for a huge family Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because of all the food with none of the stress of buying gifts. I especially like it because we have A TON of desserts, homemade pies and desserts of every flavor in the world it seems. In the past I’ve been assigned a pumpkin pie, a squash pie or an apple pie. Last year though, I was given the choice to bring whatever I wanted. I decided to walk on the wild side as they say, and try something new. I saw this in a magazine last fall and I was determined to try it out. It was delicious and I’ll be making it again this year.

At the time I could not remember where I had found the recipe, but I believed that I had ripped the recipe out of Country Living . The author of the recipe is Chef Joan E. Aller, author of Cider Beans, Wild Greens and Dandelion Jelly.

CRANBERRY PIE

Makes 1 pie  (8 servings)

Working time 15 minutes

Total time 1 hr 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 nine inch pie crust

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries  (1 twelve ounce bag)

1 cup sugar (divided 2/3 cup  and 1/3 cup)

1 heaping Tablespoon all purpose flour

1 egg white

1 cup heavy whipping cream

DIRECTIONS

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out piecrust and arrange in a 9″ pie pan.

2) Pour cranberries into crust to form a thick layer.

3) In a medium bowl, sift together 2/3 cup sugar and flour.

4) In a separate bowl beat egg white until stiff peaks form. Then fold into flour mixture. Slowy stir in cream until combined.

5) Cover cranberries with remaining 1/3 cup sugare and then pour cream  mixture on top.

6) Bake pie for about 10 minutes.  Then lower oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes more.

7) Let pie cool completely before serving.