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A Menu, A Recipe and A Warning

21 Sep
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

September.

How I enjoy the little breaks that I get in September.

The start of school comes barreling in for weeks before that actual first day. They are filled with doctor appointments of all kinds-eyes, teeth, and school physicals, along with coaches’ practices for school sports teams, and whatever else we manage to squeeze in. We shop for clothes, shoes, notebooks and pencils. Those last two weeks of summer vacation fly by and then suddenly, the front door opens and closes a few times one morning, and by 7:30 am, everyone is gone. The house is incredibly silent. So much so that I sit and revel in the silence for a little while, sad, but yet relieved. We did it. We made it to the first day of school.

Whew….

Because I am primarily a school news reporter, this early part of September is my down time, and I enjoy it very much. I still work, but the intensity of my job is lower at the start of the year and it gives me a few weeks to ease into the school routines before it really picks up and we fly into the fall and holiday season of writing, school and family commitments.

This is the time of year I can start to try out some recipes that I’ve been putting aside, sharing on Facebook so I don’t forget where to find them, looking through cookbooks and this is the time of year I have the most time to share them on The Whole Bag of Chips. I even have the time to look up and link up the recipes for any of the meals I’ve shared previously.

Since last year I hardly had any time at all, and since it’s September now, I am giving you a nice, full post today. It’s got our Two Weeks of Meals menu for this week and next, a new recipe we tried out last week and surprise….a safety warning to go along with it!

First off: Two Weeks of Meals

Sunday: Homemade Chili (and later, homemade chocolate pudding for dessert!)

Monday: Paninis

Tuesday: Baked potato soup (new recipe we’re trying out)

Wednesday: Ravioli with sauteed shrimp and grape tomatoes

Thursday: Grilled chicken caesar salad

Friday: Homemade pizza

Saturday: Kielbasa

Sunday: Baked chicken dinner

Monday: Meatloaf burgers

Tuesday: Chicken pot pie (made with the leftover chicken from Sunday)

Wednesday: Cauliflower/Broccoli/Chicken casserole

Thursday: Eggplant Parmesean and pasta

Friday: Leftovers

 

This was a gluten free, lowfat recipe we tried out recently and loved. Every single person gave it a thumbs up. Literally.

This was a gluten free, lowfat recipe we tried out recently and loved. Every single person gave it a thumbs up. Literally.

Next Up: A New Recipe for you to try out, and a warning to go along with it!

Our menu planning is challenging for us because we are trying to combine meals that work for our busy schedule with providing healthy eating options for our family and making it either a gluten free meal or providing almost the exact same option in a gluten free version, every night. Not to mention, we try not to make things we know people don’t like.

Challenging.

But doable.

So this recipe for the Skinnytaste Zucchini Lasagna is one that I saw on Facebook, and I shared it out so that I wouldn’t forget where it was. We really wanted to try it, so we added it to the last two-week menu cycle of meals. It was delicious. A little labor-intensive, so we scheduled it on a night we’d be eating later, with more time to cook. I’d be working that night and my husband would be able to come in a little earlier in the evening to help make it, and to help with all the nighttime pick-ups for the kids.

What’s that they say about the best laid plans?

This was a delicious meal, any leftovers disappeared within days, and we'd definitely make it again, just a little more carefully next time.

This was a delicious meal, any leftovers disappeared within days, and we’d definitely make it again, just a little more carefully next time.

 

Be sure to use ALL parts of your kitchen tools, especially the guards for the sharper ones!

Be sure to use ALL parts of your kitchen tools, especially the guards for the sharper ones!

 

And so, here is the final part of my post for you: the safety warning.

The warning goes like this:

If you are using a sharp kitchen tool, be sure that you are using all of the necessary parts and pieces that go with it. They are there for a reason! Zucchini is a slippery veggie and kitchen tools are very sharp. If you are not careful, you may end up heading out to the emergency room instead of heading to the dinner table!

 

Have a safe and  happy new school year, a happy fall season and a happy two weeks of meals!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Tomato Salad with a Twist

25 May
Doesn't it look delicious?

Doesn’t it look delicious?

It’s been a little while since I have posted a new recipe and I’ve been wanting to share this one since last month when we first tried it. The recipe is one that one of my daughters found on the back of a Whole Grain Wheat Reduced Fat Triscuit box. Our family loves these Triscuits and we keep them on hand regularly, so once we saw this recipe, we continued to see it on every box of Triscuits we bought. Each time we’d buy a new box, my daughter would say, “Mom, we have to make this!”

Finally over the school break in April, I made sure we had all the necessary ingredients, and we finally made it. I truly enjoy cooking with fresh veggies and it makes me so excited for summertime, when we have our own garden. Tomatoes are a favorite of almost everyone here, and we especially love the more unusually colored varieties along with the typical reds. This time around I bought a large container that had a mixture of several types of tomatoes in it, and it made for such a beautiful salad.

Since one of the girls eats a gluten free diet, I chose to make hers separately with no Triscuits and no red onions, since she doesn’t like those either. Tomatoes are one of her favorite snacks though, so she was just as excited as everyone else for this new recipe.

Each time we bought a new box of Triscuits, we'd be reminded of this recipe that we just had to try!

Each time we bought a new box of Triscuits, we’d be reminded of this recipe that we just had to try!

This was a simple recipe to follow. It is called a Panzanella Salad, but it’s very much like our usual Caprese salads, just with a bit of a twist, provided by the added Triscuits. There is no cooking involved, just chopping, slicing, dicing and assembling, so the preparation was quick. We just had to keep stopping ourselves from snacking as I was prepping.

While I cut up the tomatoes and the cheese, I had my daughter prep the Triscuits, counting out the amount the recipe asked for, and breaking them into bite-sized pieces. That was definitely a “one for me, one for the bowl” activity as well.

We served this with a dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers, and it was the perfect side dish. It’s going to make a great addition to our sides for this upcoming summer. We loved the added crunch to the salad that the Triscuits provided, and my younger daughter enjoyed her gluten free version just as much as we enjoyed ours.

Here is the recipe according to the Triscuit box:

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup slivered red onions
  • 18 Triscuit Reduced Fat Crackers, coarsely broken
  • 3 Tbsp. reduced-fat balsamic dressing
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

 

Directions:

Combine  first 3 ingredients in medium bowl.

Mix  dressing and garlic until blended.

Add to cracker mixture; mix lightly. Let stand 30 min.

Tear  basil into small pieces. Add to tomato mixture along with the pepper; mix lightly.

 

Even when made gluten free, this is a delicious side dish!

Even when made gluten free, this is a delicious side dish!

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Don and Alexandra!

23 Mar

So what’s the best birthday gift *you* ever gave someone?

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 23, 2012

Today is a very special day.

Today is Alexandra’s birthday.

Today is also Don’s birthday.

That makes me the best wife ever because seven years ago for Don’s birthday at 1:22 am I gave him our third daughter.

I know, I know, best gift ever, right?! It’s hard to top that one though, so I don’t really try. I’m back to t-shirts, pajama pants and stuff like that for his birthday gifts.

Alexandra’s First Birthday 2006

Since sharing his birthday with his daughter, Don has been blessed with getting to have a Snoopy party, a My Little Pony party, a Dora party, a Purple party and this year…Hello Kitty. Technically they’re not his parties obviously, but you see what I mean.

Birthday crowns all around on Alex’s second birthday.

Thankfully, my parents have this neat tradition that they started with us where we celebrate the adult birthday parties at their house each year and we “kids” get to choose our meal and our cake. I choose….well I won’t tell you what I choose until it’s my birthday this summer. But Don chooses a totally opposite type of meal and cake than I would choose, so I guess it’s good that we each get a chance to choose our own, to choose what we like. Don chooses meatball sandwiches (made with my mom’s homemade meatballs and gravy) with lemon cake for dessert. It’s probably the only time all year we have it and he really enjoys it.

Therefore, today I thought I’d share with you the recipe for Don’s birthday cake of choice each year, the lemon cake. It’s really yummy, I particularly love the corners.

***********************************************************************************

LEMON CAKE

A cake *just* for Daddy!

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup water

2 beaten eggs

Duncan Hines Lemon Cake Mix

1 can lemon pie filling (divided)

DIRECTIONS

In bowl by hand, mix together oil, water, eggs, cake mix.

Add 1/4 can of lemon pie filling into the mix.

Put into greased 9×13 dish.

On top, distribute the rest of the pie filling.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

When cool, glaze with:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Add a little hot water if necessary.

Quick and Easy Garlic Parmesan Broccoli

21 Mar
The "after" picture

The “after” picture

“Oh yay! This is my favorite broccoli!”

I kid you not. Those words were spoken at dinnertime tonight when I put this side dish on the dinner table.

This broccoli recipe has in fact, become a new favorite. It might even be neck and neck in line with this one as a favorite broccoli side dish.

We were given this recipe at our local Whole Foods store one Saturday afternoon. Although I don’t do a ton of shopping there, I do have a few things that I need to buy that I can only find there, so one afternoon we were all together and we stopped in to pick up those types of things.

 

Such a simple recipe!

Such a simple recipe!

Being a Saturday afternoon around lunchtime, the samples were in full swing. Roaming a store, trying out new things, is one of our family’s favorite things to do. On that day we were given samples of a new favorite granola and of this Garlic Parmesan Broccoli. Although my family tends to really like broccoli, they really LOVED this recipe. As we took our samples, the employee at Whole Foods handed us the paper copy of the recipe. I folded it and put it in my purse and kind of forgot about it. It was late January or early February when we were there, and it was probably the end of February when I remembered I had it and tried it out one night. Sometimes when you make something at home after having had it out, it might not come out the same way. This recipe was seemingly impossible to mess up, and it came out great. I don’t always have fresh broccoli on hand, but I use my Pampered Chef hand-held food chopper to chop frozen broccoli florets after they’re cooked, and it works out great.

Looks unexciting in the bowl, but gets rave reviews every time!

Looks unexciting in the bowl, but gets rave reviews every time!

And so, tonight when I made it again and I got the exclamation that this is the favorite broccoli recipe, I knew I had to share it with you today. It’s fast and easy and delicious. There’s almost never anything left over, which is always a good sign of a great recipe. I also like that although we got it from Whole Foods, which tends to have a reputation for being very expensive, this particular recipe is very budget-friendly. You can use frozen broccoli, a jar of minced garlic and sprinkle cheese, or you can use fresh broccoli, fresh garlic and fresh grated cheese, depending what your budget looks like and what you happen to have on hand. You can also do any combination of fresh and not fresh also.

Next time you’re looking to spice up a plain side dish like a bowl of steamed broccoli, give this one a try! You never know, you might find that your kids have a favorite broccoli too!

Two weeks of meals

5 Feb
menu clip art

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

It’s the end of another week, and it’s pay day, so that means it’s time for our family to plan another two weeks of meals! We had a successful two weeks of meal planning, so I thought I’d share the meal plan that we just finished. Maybe it will provide you with some inspiration for your own meal planning! Our meals incorporate our dietary needs and I’ve indicated any place where we’ve had to make adjustments. I have also linked over to the recipes if I have previously posted them on the blog before.

Sunday: Marinated pork tenderloin, homemade applesauce, potatoes and corn.

Monday: Hot dogs and hamburgers, french fries, veggies.

Tuesday: Taco Bake

Wednesday: Cranberry Chicken

Thursday: Chicken Marsala (We used a new gluten free chicken recipe from the Gluten Free Bible cookbook and cornstarch in our sauce instead of flour.)

Friday: Pizza (using a frozen gluten free pizza from Trader Joes for one of the pizzas)

1Saturday:  Tacos (using gluten free corn tortillas)

Sunday: Lasagna (we made one large regular, and one small gluten free, and wrapped the leftover gluten free in individual portions for the freezer.)

Monday: Paninis (We used gluten free bread for one sandwich.)

Tuesday: Whole chicken microwaved in the Pampered Chef Deep Dish Baker, mashed potatoes, vegetables.

Wednesday: Stir Fry (chicken, broccoli, snap peas, carrots, zucchini) over white rice

Thursday: Homemade chicken pot pie using the leftover chicken from Tuesday plus the rest of the mashed potatoes. (We bought a miniature gluten free chicken pot pie for one serving.)

Friday: Leftovers (stir fry, pot pie, lasagna)

 

2*As an added bonus for you this week, here is the recipe for the Parmesan-crusted chicken from the Gluten Free Bible which is mentioned above in the Chicken Marsala recipe.*

Makes four servings

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour blend

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Pound chicken to 1/4 inch thickness. Combine cheese, flour blend, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in large resealable bag. Add one chicken breast at a time, shake to coat evenly. heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken in single layer four to five minutes per side or until golden brown and no longer pink.

 

 

I’m in love.

1 Feb

It’s February, and I’m in love.

My heart pitter-patters and I think about the new object of my affection constantly. What will we do together next? What new things will we try? For years I hoped and prayed I’d find love like this again. It had been so long since my last love affair.

I wasn’t even planning for this, and it has taken me completely by surprise, which I guess is the best kind of love.

1

That’s right, I’m in love with my new Stir Fry pan from Pampered Chef. Now I’m not a Pampered Chef consultant, and I don’t pretend to even play one on TV, but I.LOVE.THIS.PAN.

And I’m pretty sure my husband does too.

You see, years and years (and years) ago, my husband and I had received a beautiful piece of cookware from his grandmother. It was a nice, deep Teflon saute pan and it had a glass cover for the top and two handles for the side. I loved that pan. We used it constantly and it was the perfect size for all our meals, even as our family expanded from two, to three, to four, and finally to five hungry mouths to feed. We could saute, cook, simmer. You name it, we cooked it in that pan.

And then, one day, try as we would to deny the obvious, we realized our pan was getting old and scratched and we thought we were seeing evidence of little bits of Teflon coming off.

Clearly, you’re not supposed to use Teflon as an added ingredient in your recipes.

We had to say good bye to our pan.

I missed that pan every.single.day.

Don’t get me wrong, we had other pans. We even had two cast iron pans that we loved, but it wasn’t the same. We had to use both pans at once to make some of our saucier meals because one wasn’t deep enough to hold everything. My stir fry meals toppled over the sides of just one pan, our sauces bubbled over. We didn’t have a true matching cover to go with our pans.

I was sad.

And then suddenly, I wasn’t!

A few weeks ago, my very good-I’ve-known-her-almost-as-long-as-I’ve-known-my-husband-friend Marcia asked me if I would host a new kind of Pampered Chef party. She’s been a consultant for years and years now, and there was a new kind of party she wanted to try: a virtual party on Facebook. Would I try it?

Sure thing! I love Facebook because it’s where I get to see lots of family and friends from all over the country, all over the world! And, it’s where I get a lot of great recipes! I invited hundreds of people. Literally. I can fit a good 10-12 in my living room, but this let me be unlimited. I didn’t have to worry about space or weather or distance. I had all kinds of out of state friends on my list.

The party would last one hour and be completely virtual. No ingredients to buy, no house to clean, no makeup to put on. I could sit in my bed under my electric blanket and play along with the games, talk to my guests and watch the videos of all the great new tools that I would suddenly have to have.

As many parties as I’ve had in the past, it never even occurred to me to check out the January hostess benefits, or even to ask. Suddenly though, as I had my party, the orders started coming in. Notification after notification arrived in my email inbox. As my youngest daughter partied in my bed along with me, part playing along and part watching iCarly on the TV, I decided we’d better check things out on the hostess benefits page of my party website.

Sure enough, January was DOUBLE hostess benefits month!

Who knew?

Well, probably lots of people, but I was happily surprised!! Suddenly, even my daughter was paying attention to them and we looked at the videos and photos popping up throughout the party with new eyes.

Granted, I have lots and lots of Pampered Chef tools. I have been creating a collection of great pieces since before my wedding when I had my first party as a newly engaged young 20-something, and I use them all the time.

When all was said and done, I had earned……

Wait for it…..

$530 to spend outright, plus five half price items and one 60% off item, and I received two booking credits for people who had agreed to also have virtual parties after participating in mine, so I’d get really great discounts if I saved a few things from my list and ordered from their parties too.

I was amazed and I was so ready to shop. Normally I don’t have this much to spend.

Or should I say, I have NEVER had this much to spend.

I had a running wish list as the party had progressed, but it was full of little things. With this much money to spend, I could now afford many of those little things and then some really big, expensive things.

And that’s when it happened.

As I turned the pages of my paper catalog now in hand, I saw my newest love: the Executive Chef Stir-fry Skillet. The words Executive Chef made my heart stop for a mere second and I took in a breath as I looked at the pan. I think I even heard angels sing.

It was definitely love at first sight. It was a pan which was not Teflon, but rather a baked on non-stick aluminum. It had handles on both sides, it was ever so deep. It could even go in an oven of up to 400 degrees. What fun we would have together! I pictured all of our recipes being made right in that pan. Cranberry chicken, Chicken Marsala and any one of our favorite stir fry recipes, all bubbly and steaming and yet not bubbling right over.

After placing my hostess order, I planned out our next two weeks of meals, which conveniently coincided with the arrival of my shopping spree. I planned out all of the above and then some. Cranberry Chicken was up first, per request from one kid. Chicken Marsala was up another time, per request of another kid. Shepherd’s Pie, Taco Bake, Lasagna.

I began to daydream of cooking two pounds of ground beef at once in a pan with two cans of creamed corn mixed in for our Shepherd’s Pie, or being able to saute 15 chicken tenderloins in the pan with two cups of cranberries and two cups of water all at once for our Cranberry Chicken recipe.

Sure enough, when my order arrived and I unpacked it all, reminiscent of a child opening gifts on Christmas morning, my pan was all I’d hoped for and more. That very first night, I rejoiced as I happily made our Cranberry Chicken, and beamed as everyone commented how great it came out. My meat browned evenly, there was plenty of room for everything and it all tasted delicious. I think it tasted even better than usual in my new pan!

2

I’d highly recommend any Pampered Chef party and any of their products to any of my friends and family, always. However, I must say, this new virtual party was fantastic! It was such fun “seeing” everyone that I wouldn’t get to see at my own in-house party. It was fun watching the videos and seeing some new must-have products, but most of all, it was fun falling in love-with a stir fry pan- all over again.

Happy February!

 

 

 

What’s for dinner Wednesday: A new cookbook for our two weeks of meals

20 Jan
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

I have to apologize for the time in between my posts recently. I have been having computer troubles for months now, since the summer, and they finally  came to a head in the past weeks, so doing a blog post was not in the cards for me. Now that we’ve solved my computer woes, I’m back at it.

In the meantime, since this is a slower time of year for me, and I can actually breathe for a bit, I’ve had some time to try out some new recipes. I recently had an interview to do at our local Barnes and Noble, and while I was there, I came across a cookbook of gluten free recipes in the bargain bin. I love bargain bins. Since it was such a bargain, I decided to splurge and get it in the hopes that it would give us some new recipes to try out. I thumbed through it first to make sure the recipes were our kinds of recipes, things we’d make and actually all eat, with things we actually keep on hand, and they were, so I was happy about that.

It was a bargain! I had to get it, but we've already made good use out of it.

It was a bargain! I had to get it, but we’ve already made good use out of it.

Additionally, I also saw a yummy looking recipe floating by me on Facebook, a Buzzfeed video. It was for Balsamic Chicken with veggies and I thought I’d try that. I didn’t realize how hard it is to try to cook from a video. I had to keep stopping and writing down the ingredients because it’d flash before my eyes and then move on to the next step. I did a lot of playing and pausing and writing, but in the end, it was good. Everyone said it was a keeper. I used carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, and asparagus for the veggies and I doubled the recipe since there are so many of us. All of the ingredients are gluten free, so that worked for us. I served it with a side of rice. You can click on the video here, but I did not take my own photos because although it tasted good, it didn’t seem to look as pretty as the one in the video.

When I got home with my new cookbook, I let my daughter go through it first and tab some recipe ideas for our next two weeks of meals. Then I went through it and tabbed a few more, as well as a dessert idea. Everything we tabbed was doable, so we made our list of meals. Sometimes we make our list of meals on the back side of the shopping list. We shop, then when we’re done with the list we flip over the now wrinkled, crossed-off and crumpled list, and we tack it to the bulletin board. That’s what happens most weeks. Not this week though. This week it’s nice and neat an organized and very pretty because I had more time, so this week’s is the one I decided to photograph for you. Just know, it’s not real-life. My real-life list of meals is normally a hot mess.

We cross off as we go, rearrange if we have to, and the kids put future meal ideas at the bottom, even on the messy list weeks. It gives us a head start for the next time around.

We cross off as we go, rearrange if we have to, and the kids put future meal ideas at the bottom, even on the messy list weeks. It gives us a head start for the next time around.

The sweet and sour chicken from the first night was good, but not enough people loved it to make it again. We switched some things around, so the Fish and Chips (a healthy version not deep fried) is tonight’s meal, which everyone is looking forward to.  However, the tortilla pizzas from the second night were fantastic, and that’s the next recipe I’m going to highlight in today’s post. (See, even though I had a few weeks off, I’m making up for it today with a great post!)

So the tortilla pizzas were supposed to look like this:

This is the page from the cookbook.

This is the page from the cookbook.

Here's the original recipe.

Here’s the original recipe.

Ours were fabulous, but we didn’t exactly follow the original recipe. We kind of used it as a jumping off point for our own tortilla pizzas which look a lot like regular pizzas just with a tortilla shell. The making of the pizzas was so much fun though, we would definitely do it again. We also found the gluten free corn tortillas easy to work with and I think they’ll be a great replacement for my flatbread pizzas that I used to make on flatbread that is not gluten free. For the rest of us we used flour tortillas. Normally we use dough to make our own pizzas, and so far we’ve been buying a frozen gluten free pizza for Alex from Trader Joe’s that she really loves. This was a fun way to mix things up. Since everyone did their own, we were able to cater to everyone’s tastes. Everyone got four tortillas to work with and that left extras for lunches in the days ahead. This recipe was absolutely a keeper, and I’m sure some day we’ll even make it as it’s written!

The gluten free version of make your own tortilla pizzas.

The gluten free version of make your own tortilla pizzas.

These are the corn tortillas we bought to use.

These are the corn tortillas we bought to use.

In the days ahead we have a few more new recipes to try, so if they’re good you’ll see them here eventually! In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post and hopefully I’ll be back on track again!

Have a wonderful week!