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

27 Sep

It seemed as if everyone was getting one of these for Christmas last year. I watched, and I waited, and then I bargain-shopped.

Happy Wednesday! Since it’s been a while since I gave you a two week menu, I thought I owed you a really good post when I shared one this time around. To that end, I have the two week menu, some new recipes to go along with it, and our experiences with a new kitchen toy.

It’s been a while since we got a new”toy” to add to our collection of small kitchen appliances, but around Christmastime last year, I started seeing this new Instant Pot appliance floating around blog posts and status updates, and my interest was definitely piqued. When I looked it up, the appliance was a bit costly, and with our impending kitchen renovations, not a priority at the time.

However, it’s a new school year, we have the usual “stuff” each night and/or after school, and yet we still try to eat as healthy as we can, at home, as often as we can, together. This Instant Pot seemed to really be calling my name, in that it seemed it might be able to help us continue to achieve those goals.

I finally bit the bullet, as they say, and on the advice of my friend Kim, I used a Kohl’s coupon code to get one for 30% off, on sale, with Kohl’s Cash (and earning Kohl’s cash with the purchase too) and I scored the Instant Pot for $75 (no shipping, including tax). I picked it up in the store, carried it home, and then I wondered what exactly to do with it. It reminded me of when they send you home with a new baby: it’s very intimidating, it makes some crazy noises, and you’re not quite sure if you know what to do if something goes wrong, or how to know if you’re doing everything right. For such a tiny appliance, it’s got a big intimidation factor, just like a new baby.

Ratitouille was a request from our oldest daughter as a new recipe to try. She cited the fact that we like all the veggies that come in it, so why not try it?

We let it sit there for almost a week, and then as the following weekend approached, we broke it out and did just what you’re not supposed to do: we used it (or attempted to) without reading the directions. We were also making a new recipe for Ratitouille, which is something we’d never made before with any recipe, never mind a recipe for use with a new appliance. New recipe, new appliance, no directions. Well played. Dinner took over an hour to make because we had no idea what we were doing, but it was delicious and although we were still a bit wary, we were thinking we liked this new toy. If we knew what we were doing, we’d like it even more.

These potatoes were so fast, so easy and I used them a total of three different times, for pork, for leftover salmon, and for a potato and egg omelet.

In the meantime, two of my friends, Gina and Marcia, also bought an Instant Pot the same week I did, and we all took our new “babies” home within days of each other and a texting thread emerged, sharing recipes, tips, new “parent” fears and more.  There were some successes in that thread, and we began to try each other’s recipes the following week. I chose to make Gina’s potatoes to go along with our grilled pork tenderloin one night and Marcia inspired me to try out a Mac and Cheese recipe another night.

During our trial week, the kids would come home each night from wherever, and joke that we were at it again, making something in the Instant Pot, moving it around to the best location in the kitchen, and they’d shake their heads, but they enjoyed each and every meal we made with it, and I joked that by using it every day, we didn’t need to find a place to store it. (I wasn’t really joking.)

On Sunday, a few days into our Instapot cooking adventures, we tried something new. We took a recipe we’d made before, nicknamed “Liz’s soup” because she requested it last year and I copied the recipe off a video and I have no idea where it came from originally. It was a crockpot recipe last year, but we didn’t have enough time to devote to using the crockpot this time around. Instead we found a recipe that was similar, had the same sorts of ingredients more or less, but used the Instant Pot to cook it. We adapted our recipe for Liz’s soup to that recipe for chicken stew, and presto….we had a delicious soup in a short amount of time. Each time we cooked, we seemed to have more of an idea of what we were doing, and in the meantime, with three of us friends trying out recipes every night, we had triple the ideas and solutions to any problems.

And so, today I share with you our two week menu, some new recipe links to go along with the menu items, and my encouragement for you to try out your Instant Pot too, if you haven’t yet, and if you haven’t jumped on that bandwagon, maybe this will be helpful to you in your own decision-making and bargain-shopping process.

Growing up, I’d only had Ratitouille at my friend Jen’s house. Her mom made it often. I channeled my memories of them as we ate this delicious meal over rice and chicken.

Two Weeks of Meals

WEEK ONE: In the days before the Instant Pot

Monday: Pastene Soup recipe here (Today I brought the Instant Pot home!)

Tuesday: Meatloaf Burgers recipe here

Wednesday: Paninis recipe here

Thursday: The Instant Pot is Opened:
Ratitouille recipe here 

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Grilled salmon with pesto (be watching for a post about this meal in the coming days!

WEEK TWO:

This soup is delicious and makes the house smell wonderful!

Sunday: Liz’s soup, adapted using this recipe

Monday: Grilled pork tenderloin, frozen homemade applesauce from the last time we grilled pork, and these Instant Pot potatoes.

Tuesday: Leftovers again!

Wednesday: Six Sisters Macaroni and Cheese (I am making this recipe tonight, but sharing it now. Gina and Marcia have made it already, and I love the Six Sisters’ recipes any time I try them!)

Thursday: Burritos and Quesadillas

Friday: We are leaving our new “baby” home and going out to dinner, we’ve definitely earned a night out tonight!

Liz’s Soup is amazing, especially if you top it with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese and use some crunchy tortilla chips on the side!

 

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Fun Friday: Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal from Budget Bytes

23 Nov
This has been a delicious treat all week long!

This has been a delicious treat all week long!

ORIGINALLY POSTED 10-30-15

Going Orange for No Kid Hungry today? We are!

In honor of the big day, I thought I’d share a brand new recipe with you that we tried earlier this week and enjoyed very much.

Over the weekend we celebrated our daughter’s 16th birthday, and at the gathering my cousin Val handed me a couple of recipes she thought we’d enjoy. One of them was today’s recipe from Budget Bytes for their Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal.

Oftentimes when I look at a recipe for consideration, the title tells it all, and this recipe was one of those times. I knew that we loved baked oatmeal, and I knew that we loved pumpkin pie. I knew that we would love this recipe. I had plenty of each of the ingredients on hand, in fact, when I saw that a basic recipe makes an 8×8 dish, I decided to double it for our family, so I did, and I used a 9×13 dish instead.

Photo's a little blurry, but I doubled this recipe so we'd have plenty to last the week.

I doubled this recipe so we’d have plenty to last the week.

I chose to make this recipe for Monday’s after school snack, knowing that Tuesday and Wednesday are my typing days which means I don’t have a ton of time to eat or cook anything. I eat at my desk usually, typing in between bites and when the kids come home from school, they’re on their own for finding food to satisfy their ravenous hunger. This would last me through both days and provide hungry kids with a choice for something to eat if they wanted it for after school or for breakfast one morning.

Everyone loved this recipe, it was tasty, it was filling and it was easy. I saw that it recommended whipped cream or maple syrup as well as milk or nuts. We went the maple syrup and whipped cream route and loved it. My oldest daughter even thought that caramel would be good on top, and I’m sure it would be, but I nixed that idea this time around, just because it would negate any of the healthy aspects of it.

I also used homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice because apparently I’ve been out of that in my cupboard for quite some time. I know this because when I opened up my cupboard, not only was there none there, but there was a note taped to the inside of the door-most likely from last fall- for a recipe from allrecipes.com for Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice. I doubled that recipe and it was exactly enough for what I needed to double this oatmeal recipe.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: WW Classic Meatloaf

2 Nov
We needed a new meatloaf recipe, so I found this one and gave it a try. It was a hit!

We needed a new meatloaf recipe, so I found this one and gave it a try. It was a hit!

Earlier this school year, I had a coupon for Barnes and Noble for $5.00 off my purchase. I have their membership as well, and there was a book I was in need of. I decided to head down there one morning and make my purchase, and I knew that if I played my cards right, I’d be walking out of there with my book for just $6 or so.

What I didn’t take into account was my inability to just walk into the store, go directly to the one item I need, not look at anything else, pay and walk out the door.

I don’t think it’s possible. My kids don’t even think it’s possible. When I say, “I just need to run into -X store- for one thing,” they laugh it off. They know.

And so, on that day I walked out with the book I needed, along with a brand new cookbook that I didn’t know I needed, but apparently, I did. I used to actually own this cookbook years ago, and really loved it, and then at some point when we had a minor kitchen counter flood, it got ruined and I had to get rid of it. When I saw it on the shelf at Barnes and Noble this fall, I started to thumb through it and decided that I needed it again.

The New Complete Cookbook by Weight Watchers used to be one of my favorites, even though I personally have not ever followed the diet itself. I like the idea that the recipes in it are already healthy and I like that there are points assigned to the recipes that give me a general idea of just how healthy they are based on how many points each recipe is. It’s the very same reason why I love the Skinnytaste recipes that I share here so often, and I also love that her recipes show nutritional values and give the WW points too.

If you are following a Weight Watchers diet, this cookbook has an older points system in it but there was a bright red sticker on the cover that directed consumers to a web link where you could download and print out the new points values for every recipe in the book.

Today’s recipe is for a basic comfort food: meatloaf. We had an old meatloaf recipe we used but no one was really loving it anymore, despite the fact that we all really love meatloaf. I was on the hunt for a meatloaf recipe that inspired me, if there is such a thing, and as I thumbed through this new cookbook, I found one. We tried it, loved it, and today I share it with you below. I love that it is chock full of veggies and I can tell you that the leftovers from this meal disappeared very quickly throughout the rest of the week. If you follow Weight Watchers, the new points value is 6, rather than the 7 listed in the book for the old PointsPlus plan.

WW CLASSIC: Our Favorite Meatloaf

Serves 4, Gluten Free

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup finely chopped white mushrooms
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 pound lean ground beef (7% fat or less) We used two pounds of ground turkey, and doubled the recipe.
1/2 cup quick cooking (not instant) oats -be sure you use gluten free oats for a gluten free recipe.
2 large egg whites
3 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato puree or tomato sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onion, carrot, and celery, cook, stirring until onion is soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients except tomato puree to vegetables in bowl, mix well. Press meatloaf mixture into 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch loaf pan. (Because we doubled our recipe, we used a larger baking dish.)
  4. Bake meatloaf 30 minutes. Brush tomato puree on top of loaf. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meatloaf registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, 30-45 minutes longer. Let stand about 5 minutes, cut into eight slices.

 

 

 

Two weeks of meals and a new recipe for you

12 Oct
One of my favorite fall meals ever: Cranberry Chicken

One of my favorite fall meals ever: Cranberry Chicken

Happy Wednesday everyone!

There is a crisp feeling in the air these days and just the other night, I did it: I turned on the heat in the house.

With the change in season comes some meals on our bi-weekly menu that we don’t make really any other time of the year. We all get excited when we see the reappearance of those menu items.

Without further ado, here is our list for the current two weeks of meals. I hope that you’ll find something on this list that inspires you too!

TWO WEEKS OF MEALS

Monday: Whole chicken (this was a carryover from last time, we never got to have it during that two week cycle.)

Tuesday: National Taco Day, so……tacos

Wednesday: Pasta de Peche (this is an old Italian egg drop soup kind of pasta recipe. It reminds me of my childhood but it’s actually a recipe my daughter brought home from her friend’s house and it is her grandmother’s recipe. It is so simple, so here it is as we make it for a family of four, and then we make smaller version for one gluten free:

PASTENA OR PECE de PEPE:
16 oz. box of pasta, 4 scrambled eggs, 4 cubes of chicken bouillon, drizzle of olive oil

Boil the pasta as usual. When it is done, drain the water but do not take the pasta out of the pan. Leave a small amount of water in the bottom. Shut the heat off and add in beaten egg with a little olive oil. Stir into pasta. Add in (Herbox) bouillon. Stir until egg has cooked. Add a butter, salt and pepper to taste.    (For the gluten free version the box of pasta is 8.8 oz, so we use 2 eggs and 2 bouillon cubes.)

Thursday: Steaks

Friday: out to dinner

1Saturday: DIY tortilla pizzas (corn tortillas for gluten free)

Sunday: Pork Chops

Monday: Cranberry Chicken

Tuesday: Grilled chicken with melted cheese and avocado

Wednesday: Pasta with zucchini rounds parmesan (This is a new recipe, I will let you know how it goes!)

Thursday: Chicken wings and legs

Friday: Hamburgers, chicken burgers and hot dogs

 

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!

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Muffins from Family Food on the Table

18 Nov
The combination of ingredients was what piqued my interest in this recipe.

The combination of ingredients was what piqued my interest in this recipe.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t get off my pumpkin kick until after Thanksgiving. I’m still all about pumpkin for a few more weeks, at least.

I’m finding that this school year, due to our scattered after school schedules, I’m doing a great deal more driving than I am baking in the afternoons and evenings. Whereas I used to be able to do a quick after school baked snack at the end of my work day, this year I can only do that a couple of times a week, if I’m lucky. This means that I haven’t had a lot of new and exciting recipes to try out and to share, and for that, I apologize!

On Monday however, a recipe came across my virtual desk and it definitely piqued my interest. I actually had to read the title a couple of times to make sure I was reading it correctly, as I wasn’t sure I’d seen this combination of ingredients in the past. It’s not that it was anything crazy, it’s just that it wasn’t something I think I’d paired together in the past.

It meant that I just had to try it, just to see how it was.

 

Batter looked good, that's always a good sign!

Batter looked good, that’s always a good sign!

The recipe was for Peanut Butter Pumpkin Muffins, and it was from Family Food on the Table and it said chocolate chips were optional. To me, chocolate chips are almost never optional, but I liked all of the ingredients that were listed and I had them all, except for the white-wheat flour. I had white, I had wheat. I did not have white-wheat, so I decided to try using half white and half wheat instead. Otherwise, the recipe seemed perfect for an after school snack/late night snack/breakfast for our whole family; well at least for almost all of them. I forgot that one of them doesn’t like very much with peanut butter. She ended up having something else for her snack instead.

These came together quickly and easily. The prep time was estimated to be about ten minutes, and that was pretty on-target. The cook time was 18-22 minutes. A few of mine were a little soft on top, and probably could’ve cooked a little longer than the 18 that I did, but everyone was starving by the time I finished working and started baking, and everyone gets home so early now that I rushed them out, not checking each one as thoroughly as I should have.

However, despite my feeling a bit rushed, these muffins were delicious! They were hearty and healthy and deemed a keeper by all but my one non-peanut butter lover. I also noticed that there were several options listed at the end, including the option to substitute various types of nut butters such as almond butter to keep them peanut free. It also said that they were tasty with a little extra spread of peanut butter on them when eaten. One of my daughters did that, and she did say they were delicious that way too!

So if you’re as curious as I am as to the combination of peanut better and pumpkin and chocolate chips, I suggest you give these tasty muffins a try! Head on over to Family Food on the Table and check out this recipe and all their others too! Or maybe, you eat pumpkin, peanut butter and chocolate chips together all the time, and in that case, you most definitely want to head on over and check this recipe out!

Enjoy and have a great rest of your week!

Fun Friday: Apple Crisp Pizza from The Girl Who Ate Everything

9 Oct
Apple desserts are wonderful in the autumn months!

Apple desserts are wonderful in the autumn months! This was a new one for us!

I love the fall almost as much as the summer. Fall is probably my second most favorite season in New England. I love the crisp air and the gorgeous array of colors, and most of all I love all of the foods and the “pick your own” opportunities for apples and pumpkins.

Even if you can’t pick your own fruits, you can still bake lots of amazing things with the fall fruits. The other night I made a Swedish Apple Pie, which is an all-time favorite of mine, and recently I tried a new dessert, an Apple Crisp Pizza. This new recipe was from a blog called The Girl Who Ate Everything. It was shared on Facebook, which is how I saw it first. I later saw it on another blog as well, and they’d seen it on the same blog. We all must love the idea of apples and caramel and pizza!

You too can have a pizza for dessert!

You too can have a pizza for dessert!

The recipe is super-easy and didn’t take much time at all. I shaped my crust sort of like a pie with a fluted edge, hoping to keep all the fruit from falling out, which seemed to work well and looked very pretty. I also used my round Pampered Chef pizza stone, which worked very well too. I figured if I was making a pizza, I should use my pizza stone!

If you’d like to make this same dessert at your house this fall, visit The Girl Who Ate Everything over at her blog and you’ll find her recipe ready and waiting for you!

Happy Fall Y’All!