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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!

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!

 

 

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Soup for everyone

5 Nov
Three soups that are quick, easy and can all be done simultaneously.

Three soups that are quick, easy and can all be done simultaneously.

Earlier in the school year I did quite a bit of food preparation ahead of time, making and freezing foods for future use. One thing I’d wanted to do but hadn’t had time to do, was make and freeze some soup.

Recently when I had one child home sick for an extended amount of time, I had an afternoon where I’d have a couple of hours to make some soup. The only question was, what kind of soup? Everyone has a favorite. I love cream of broccoli and creamy cauliflower soup, as does my oldest daughter, who happened to be the one home sick. But, my other daughters and my husband, they love the cream of tomato soup that I’ve been making lately and my middle daughter in particular had been asking for it quite often.

When I thought about the recipes though, they were all pretty similar. Other than the actual vegetable for each soup, namely broccoli, cauliflower and tomato, the base ingredients and instructions were all pretty similar: onion and chicken broth. The tomato soup had a few extra spices thrown in, and the broccoli soup had celery added in and some milk and flour at the end, but ultimately I realized that I could actually make all three at the same time, almost like an assembly line: cut up all the onion, divide it into the soup pots, cut up each veggie and add them in, and then simmer. If any additional steps or ingredients were needed, it wasn’t all that hard to do. Nothing was complicated, expensive or time-consuming. In an hour I’d be done. The tomato soup has an option to put in tortellini and shrimp at the end, but this time around I was doing it without those last two ingredients mostly because that is what had been requested.

Just like that...three soups, done and everyone's taste buds were happy!!

Just like that…three soups, done and everyone’s taste buds were happy!!

Although I cried a lot of tears cutting up all those onions, overall it was a great experiment and all went off as planned. I had enough soup for whoever wanted whatever kind they wanted over the next couple of days, and then using quart-sized bags, I froze the rest. We already had a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon where a few of us had soup for lunch from the freezer, and there’s still more for whenever we need it, whether it’s for an after school snack, a lunch or a dinner where someone doesn’t like what’s on the regular night’s menu.

Since these soups have already been featured on my blog, I’m putting the links below so that you can refer to them if you’d like to make any or all of them for yourself. The weather here is starting to cool down and it will be nice to have some soups for the upcoming chilly days and nights ahead!

Here are the links for you.

If you’d like to make the Cream of Broccoli Soup, click here.

If you’d like to make the Creamy Cauliflower Soup, click here.

If you’d like to make the Creamy Tomato Soup, click here.

Enjoy!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Cauliflower Soup

3 Apr
You can either use fresh or frozen cauliflower for this recipe.

You can either use fresh or frozen cauliflower for this recipe.

Recently, my friend Karen sent me the link to a soup she really loved. It’s so fast and has very easy ingredients, and it’s one that I can drink in a mug, so it’s good for the days where I can’t stop for lunch. The link was to the blog Skinnytaste, and this soup has been a huge hit at our house.

The recipe originally calls for a head of cauliflower, and I have to say, it’s absolutely the best when made with fresh cauliflower. It’s thicker and tastier. But, I like keeping bags of frozen veggies on hand in my freezer for when I’m out of fresh veggies and I like that this recipe can also be made using the frozen ones.

Since trying this recipe out over February vacation, I’ve made it at least four or five times. You literally throw everything into the pot and let it simmer. When it’s done you blend and eat. It’s that simple. It’s completely healthy and it makes a great meal or even a great in-between-meals snack. Sometimes Caroline will have this as her after school snack. I’ll take that any day for a healthy choice!

The big, big deal though is the fact that prior to receiving this recipe, I did not have an immersion blender, otherwise known as a hand blender. I tried making it without one, and I could not. It was kind of a mess, to say the least.

A new immersion blender=a whole new world for me and my kitchen!

A new immersion blender=a whole new world for me and my kitchen!

I now have this immersion blender, and I SOOOO love it. I wanted one but I did not want to spend a lot of money so my friend Debra recommended this one from Walmart and it’s been great. I’ve used it for this soup and my cream of broccoli soup. I’ve also used the other attachment piece for making instant pudding and the batter for french toast.

The immersion blender is essential for this recipe, and I highly recommend both the recipe and the blender to make it happen! Below is Gina’s recipe from Skinnytaste, and I hope you’ll visit her blog and check it out!

Using a large head of fresh cauliflower made this batch of soup so thick and smooth and creamy.

Using a large head of fresh cauliflower made this batch of soup so thick and smooth and creamy.

CAULIFLOWER SOUP
INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large head cauliflower – chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 4-6 cups water
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • **we use chicken broth instead of water and bouillon cubes.

DIRECTIONS:
In a 5 quart saucepan, add all ingredients. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender (about 20 minutes.) Puree with an immersion blender until smooth.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Nicoise Salad

27 Feb
This old favorite has made several recent appearances on our menu.

This old favorite has made several recent appearances on our menu.

About 15 years ago when we lived in New Jersey, our friends Max and Jamie introduced us to Nicoise salad (pronounced Knee-Swah). I remember Jamie telling us that it was kind of a “poor man’s meal” in France when she was studying abroad, and that she and her friends ate it often because as students they pretty much fit into that income bracket.

Poor man or not, we loved this salad, and for the longest time we had it often. It reminded me of the Italian Antipasto salad that we have on big holidays because it has a few of the same items on it, but yet it’s very different.

Then, it seemed like we didn’t have it at all for months and months and months. I guess we just kind of forgot about it! I recently remembered it when I came across another version of it somewhere, and we’ve since had it several times.

The thing I like about it as a meal option is that it’s got many components to it, so you can pick and choose what you do or do not like and leave the rest on the platter. I like every part of it, but my kids each have at least one part they don’t like.

And, being that it’s Lent, this makes a great, meatless meal for those who do not eat meat on Fridays.

Traditionally, at least as we know it, the components to the salad are:

Boiled string beans

Hard boiled eggs

Quartered, boiled red skinned potatoes (*see note below)

Black olives

Tuna

There’s a dressing that you toss on the green beans and potatoes before adding the eggs and olives on the top, and then you can add more dressing to the rest as you like.

This time we grilled the tofu on the countertop griddle, but in the past we have used a frying pan.

This time we grilled the tofu on the countertop griddle, but in the past we have used a frying pan.

*Recently however, we have changed out the potatoes and subbed in sauteed tofu. The reason is two-fold: the first is that my kids don’t eat potatoes hardly ever, so this was not a popular item in the salad. I don’t know why, and it still shocks me that they don’t like potatoes hardly at all, especially since I love them. The second reason is that we’ve been doing our very best to stay as far away from carbs as possible, and white potatoes aren’t the greatest for you. On the flip side, they love the tofu. It made me wonder the other day why we didn’t try tofu sooner, since they all love it. (Except Alex. Shocker.)

I’ve found tofu to be like a cameleon, in that it takes on the flavors of whatever you cook it with. That makes it very adaptable and very delicious. When you cook it til it’s crispy, it’s like eating homefries, but healthier.

See, I’m all about potatoes.

So anyway, the photo at the top is the salad with tofu instead of potatoes. You can try it out either way, or try it both ways and see which one you prefer! It’s really a very good-for-you type of meal and it’s light, especially with the tofu. On a day when you might have a big lunch somewhere, this is a nice, light dinner.

Dressing

3 to 1: Olive Oil to Balsamic Vinegar (You can increase this to however much you’d like.)

Equal parts honey and Dijon mustard. (We do about a teaspoon of each.)

Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder and basil.

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Cream of Broccoli Soup

20 Feb
This soup is perfect for a cold winter day!

This soup is perfect for a cold winter day!

We have had some pretty chilly days this winter. Some days there’s nothing that hits the spot like a hot bowl of soup, and I’m a huge fan of creamy soups, which is why today’s post is a favorite of mine.

The other reason it’s a favorite is that it brings back memories, and I love recipes that remind me of the past.

This recipe is from my college roommate Karen, from the cookbook she made for me when we graduated.  The thing is, I can distinctly remember a time when we were roommates that I had a terrible sore throat and laryngitis.

Karen made me this soup. I can picture myself sitting at our kitchen table that day, eating her soup. Every time I eat broccoli soup actually, I think of that day.

And a few weeks ago when I made the soup, I thought once again, of that day.

This was the first time I actually made the soup. I’ve never been very brave with soups before, I’ve mostly left them to Don other than a basic chicken soup. But since my friend Paula’s My Soup For You blog has been in existence, I’ve gotten very brave and I’ve since made several soups. In fact, she and I each made a version of a cream of broccoli soup within a day of each other and we didn’t even know it.

As far as my family goes, Caroline and I loved this soup the most. Between the two of us, we enjoyed it over several days’ time, and she liked coming home and having a mug of it after school on cold afternoons.

Here is the recipe for Karen’s Cream of Broccoli Soup. I hope it warms you up on a cold winter’s day!

I used fresh broccoli for my soup.

I used fresh broccoli for my soup.

CREAM OF BROCCOLI SOUP
INGREDIENTS

6 cups chopped broccoli

3 and 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup flour

2 cups skim milk

1 tsp. butter

8 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed (I used fat free cheddar, shredded.)

Although I used a blender for this, it was definitely more of a food processor recipe, and I didn't use ours!

Although I used a blender for this, it was definitely more of a food processor recipe, and I didn’t use ours!

DIRECTIONS

Simmer broccoli in chicken broth until tender.

Remove bulk of broccoli and in blender or food processor, process the broccoli, onion and celery until smooth. Set aside.

Combine milk and flour in a separate container until dissolved.

Slowly add to broth, stirring until it begins to thicken.

Add puree, butter, salt and pepper to taste.

Stir until it begins to simmer.

Add cheese and stir until melted.

Shrimp and Asparagus Pasta

10 Apr

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I really love the “Daily Recipes” that I get in my email inbox from Allrecipes.com. I’m constantly making a note to try one out “some day” and last week I had a chance to try a new one. I had everything on hand with the exception of one ingredient: mushrooms, which I had actually had on hand but it turned out they weren’t good anymore so we threw them out. The recipe was fine without them but I’d add them in if I had them next time.

Everyone loved this recipe and I’d definitely make it again. I made some notes and adjustments below.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus (I used a bag of frozen from Aldi’s.)
  • 1 (16 ounce) package egg noodles (I used a pound of wheat spaghetti.)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (This was a lot. I’d do less next time and add a bit more lemon juice instead.)
  • 1 cup butter (I think you could cut some of this out as well. Maybe down to  1 1/2 sticks instead of two.)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pound medium shrimp – peeled and deveined (I used a bag of frozen from Aldi’s.)
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small saucepan, boil or steam asparagus in enough water to cover until tender; chop and set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to full boil, place the pasta in the pot and return to a rolling boil; cook until al dente. Drain well.
  3. In a large saucepan, saute garlic in the olive oil over medium-low heat until the garlic is golden brown.
  4. Place butter and lemon juice in the saucepan. Heat until the butter has melted. Place the shrimp in the saucepan and cook until the shrimp turns pink. Place the mushrooms and asparagus into the saucepan, cook until mushrooms are tender.
  5. Toss the shrimp and vegetable mixture with the egg noodles and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.