Sunday, May 31, 2009

Monday Meal Planning

We're expecting a high-stress week around here, so dinners definitely need to be low-stress. We're also cleaning out the pantry and freezer, so that's the theme for the week - cheap, easy, using lots of staples.

Monday - Chicken Wraps, carrot sticks, chips

We buy some frozen breaded chicken fingers that work great in a tortilla with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, other veggies of choice, and ranch or bbq. We somehow have two whole bags of carrots, so we're eating carrot sticks a lot lately.

Tuesday - Brinner! Scrambled cheesy eggs, toast, fruit salad

This dinner will be Gabbie's first experience with eggs, so it should be interesting. We also always have a ton of fruit in the house, so chopping it up to make a fruit salad is a normal occurance on weekend breakfasts or with brinner.

Wednesday - Pork Chops with sauteed mushrooms, rice pilaf, steamed broccoli

This is one of Aaron's favorite meals. I'm not a big fan of pork chops, but the mushrooms make them worth it for me to make this meal. We just season pork chops with salt and pepper, sautee in some olive oil, and when they're almost done, add some more oil, some butter, some garlic, and a container of sliced mushrooms (fresh, not canned) and sautee until cooked through.

The rice pilaf is something my mom made all the time when I was growing up. Sautee 1/4 c. diced onion in butter or olive oil. Use this pan to cook the rice according to package directions, adding in some dried parsley when you reduce the heat and use chicken stock instead of water. So easy, yet so much better than plain white rice.

Thursday - Spaghetti, Garlic Bread, Salad

We always have spaghetti fixings on hand - we just use our favorite jarred sauce, stir in some sauteed mushrooms and zuchini, and some browned Italian sausage if we're feeling the need for a meaty sauce. This is definitely a household favorite.

Friday - Oven-fried chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed green beans and carrots

I'll post the oven-fried chicken recipe later this week, as I'm typing this up Sunday night and it is way past my bedtime. Other than chicken it uses strictly pantry staples to pull together. I mash my potatoes with at least milk and butter, adding in sour cream and/or cream cheese if I have any on hand.

Sunday -Asian Beef Skewers, steamed and salted edamame

After a week of frugal eating, we're going to step it up a notch and make something fancy! I know I've used this meal in past meal planning posts, because it is absolutely one of our favorites, and pretty easy on the budget too, especially if you substitute beef stew meat like we do. So easy and tasty, this meal is a surefire winner.

Ice Cream Sunday

Early last year I started a book club at work, which has been very successful and fun. In addition to reading and discussing a book each month, we meet over a potluck lunch. I typically bring dessert, mostly because everyone requests that I be in charge of that course (no one else in my department really bakes much). One month we were reading something where the main character was of Italian descent, and I decided that, because it was summer and I didn't feel like turning on my oven, I would make some sort of ice cream.

I'm pretty sure that this was during June, because I had a refrigerator full of Michigan strawberries and needed something to do with them. In my opinion, Michigan strawberries are so much better than the big California strawberries that are available in stores right now. They have so much more flavor, and are a much deeper red throughout. So, given that I wanted to make ice cream and I had a bunch of strawberries, I made this strawberry gelato. It was so well received that there was some discussion of finding room in some budget to pay me to make gelato once a week. I hope you all enjoy it just as much!

Strawberry Gelato

4 egg yolks
1 c. granulated sugar
2 c. whole milk
2 c. pureed strawberries (about 3 c. whole strawberries) (best if made at the height of the strawberry season)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
In a bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until thickened and pale yellow. Set aside.
Strain pureed strawberries to remove seeds. Push on the solids to get as much of the puree/juice as possible.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring milk to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Gradually whisk into the egg mixture. Return entire mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring often, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Be careful (really, really careful or else you have to start over - I know this from experience) not to let it boil. Strain into a large, clean bowl. Let cool to room temperature.
Stir in the strawberry puree and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until completely cold or overnight. Stir the milk mixture and transfer into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for 3 to 4 hours, or until firm.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ice Cream Sundays

My favorite kitchen gadget, by far, is my stand mixer. I use it all the time to mix up cookies, cakes, and doughs, but I can do much more with it than that. I also have pasta making, meat grinding, and (my favorite) ice cream making attachments. Before Gabbie arrived on the scene I regularly made ice cream, and I miss it.

To get back in the swing of things I'm going to start Ice Cream Sundays. Every Sunday I'll share one of my favorite ice cream recipes, and even try a few new ones along the way. Join me this Sunday for Strawberry Gelato - the very best ice cream I've made to date. And, you can join me for Ice Cream Sundays on your site as well if you'd like to play along! I'll have a button you can grab when I post the first Ice Cream Sunday post this week.

I really, really can't wait!

(P.S. Since Monday was a holiday, and my daughter's first birthday, Monday Meal Planning took a vacation this week. Never fear, it will return next week with some excellent new meal ideas and recipes!)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Meal Planning Addendum

I forgot to add my meal for Sunday on the meal plan. Oops! Here it is:

Sunday: Vegetarian Pot Stickers, Teriyaki Chicken, Rice

These pot stickers are so good, and though time-consuming, pretty easy too. For the chicken, I just sautee some chicken tenders and toss in some teriyaki sauce (I prefer Soy Vey's Veri Veri Teriyaki. Strongly.) at the very end of the cooking process to coat. Served over rice, this is one great meal. Oh, and in the dipping sauce for the pot stickers, I use sriracha instead of sambal, because it's what I can find around here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Monday Meal Planning

I've taken this entire week off of work (the last week before my baby turns 1!), so I have plenty of time to cook and enjoy the process rather than throw everything together last minute. Still, these recipes are all pretty quick and simple. I want to spend more quality time with Gabbie and less quality time cooking and cleaning if I can help it.

Here goes all quick-like since I'm trying to get this in quick before she wakes up from her afternoon nap:

Monday: Grilled chicken, Simple Risotto with Parmesan and Peas, mixed greens with mustard vinaigrette.

This is one of Aaron's favorite meals. He frequently requests it with roasted cauliflower, but I tend to do a salad instead because otherwise it's a rather white meal. I need some color! 

The mustard vinaigrette is truly simple. I like my dressings sour, so I don't pay attention to the usual ratio used in salad dressings. In a small jar, mix together 1/4 c. olive oil, 3 T. red or white wine vinegar, 1 clove minced garlic, 2 tsp. dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. Put on the jar lid, seal, and shake to combine.

Our local grocer carries some pre-made naan in the bakery section, that's totally passable if you brush it with butter when it's hot. So good! I make the rice with chicken stock instead of water, and it makes it so much better.

Wednesday: Brinner! (aka breakfast for dinner) Grilled Portobello Benedict, Fruit Salad

This recipe is so good. It's what Aaron made for me on Mother's Day, and I was pleasantly stuffed when I was finished. Next time I think we'll make it vegetarian by substituting a slice of tomato for the Canadian bacon.

Thursday: Tacos, Pico de Gallo, Mexican Rice

We usually make tacos with ground beef and packaged taco seasoning (although I'm working on finding the perfect made-at-home mix, and I'm thisclose to getting it right) topped with shredded cheddar, pico, and diced avocado. I top the rice with cheese and sour cream, since I'm apparently determined not to lose those last few pre-baby pounds.

Friday: Beer-boiled, grilled brats with green peppers and onions, pasta salad, roasted asparagus

It's grilling season! We make our brats by boiling them in beer along with some sliced green peppers and onions, then once they're nearly cooked through, draining the mixture and throwing it all on the grill to brown it up and finish cooking. 

Simple Risotto with Parmesan and Peas

There's not much that's more delicious than good risotto. This recipe is endlessly adaptable, and I've never made a batch that tasted anything less than absolutely wonderful.

Risotto with Parmesan and Peas

4 c. chicken stock
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 cup Arborio Rice
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
Salt and pepper
2/3 c. Parmesan cheese

Bring the stock to a simmer in a sauce pan. 

In a sautee pan or large saucepan (at least 3 qt.), heat the olive oil over medium. Add in the onion, stirring until onion is golden, but not brown - about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. 

Turn the heat to medium-high, and add about 1/2 cup of the stock. Keep the mixture boiling, and stir constantly. As soon as the stock has been absorbed, add another 1/2 c. of stock and stir (I usually do a ladleful or two each time I need to add stock.) This mixture must be kept boiling, but don't let it stick to the pot. Continue to add stock until all has been absorbed and the risotto is tender, about 25-30 minutes total. 

Once all of the stock has been absorbed, add in the peas and stir until heated through. Remove the pan from heat and quickly stir in the butter and parmesan. Enjoy!

Mrs. Ca's Pasta Salad

Aaron and I brown bag it for lunch most days of the week. While he loves to take leftovers, I can't do re-heated meat for some reason, so I tend to take soup, sandwiches, and/or salads. I love all types of salads, and try to keep a few ready to go in the fridge for easy lunch or dinner sides. One I frequently make as a way to keep something there and to use up vegetables is this quick and simple vegetable salad. You can substitute in any vegetables you have on hand, but these are the veggies I usually throw in.

Mrs. Ca's Pasta Salad

1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked al dente in well-salted water
4 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed
1 to 2 tomatoes (depending on size), diced
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 medium cucumber, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 to 3 carrots, sliced thin
Prepared Italian salad dressing, to taste (I like Newman's Own Family Recipe Italian)
Ground pepper, to taste
(Sometimes to spice it up, I add in some diced salami, but only if I have it on hand.)
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Chill.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Butternut Squash with Coconut Milk and Curry

There are three things you should know about me:

1) I love Indian food
2) We're trying to eat more vegetarian meals
3) I really, really, really love Indian food

A little while back I got a raise at work and decided that as a raise present to myself I would by Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian to increase my vegetarian recipe repertoire. And boy, has it.

So far our favorite recipe from the book is one, that like many from this book, is incredibly simple and delicious. I actually remembered to take a picture of this one (usually I'm too hungry and remember about the picture thing after I've already tucked in and decide it's too late), but it really isn't a pretty dish no matter how hard you try. The taste, however, more than makes up for the dish's appearance. Here's how we make it:

Butternut Squash with Coconut Milk and Curry

3 Tbsp canola oil
1 to 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into small (1 inch or less) cubes
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 to 2 Tbsp curry (more equals spicier)
1 c. coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
For serving: basmati rice, naan
Heat a pan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. When hot, add oil, garlic, ginger and curry powder. Sautee and stir for a minute or two, until garlic is just beginning to color. Add in squash, coconut milk, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and increase heat. Cook five minutes, stirring very little, until squash browns. 
Serve over rice with naan on the side.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mrs. Ca's Favorites

One of my favorite easy snacks is cheese and crackers. I always have a couple of nice cheeses and some fancy crackers around just in case we have company (which happens approximately never, so we just end up eating it ourselves, which is fine too). One time in high school, someone brought in some Boursin Cheese to a potluck lunch in French class, and I became an instant fan.

Then my mother-in-law bought me Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics , and I found a recipe in there for a make-your-own boursin cheese . It is just as delicious as the store-bought version, and seeing as how I like to make things from scratch as much as possible, I kind of like this one even better.

Last spring I was home from work one day and looking for something to eat for lunch, and found the following items in my refrigerator: cheddar cheese, roma tomatoes, half an avocado, and some of the home-made boursin cheese. I also had half a loaf of Italian bread that needed to be used, so I whipped up the following sandwich, and it has been a household favorite ever since.

Jessie's Extra Special Grilled Cheese
For each sandwich you'll need:
2 1/2-inch thick slices italian bread (or the bread of your choice)
a few thin slices of cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. boursin cheese
2 to 3 slices tomato
3 to 4 slices avocado
Butter one side of each piece of bread. Spread the opposite side of one slice of bread with the boursin cheese. Layer on the avocado and tomato, and top these with the slices of cheddar. Top with the other piece of bread, and place this side down into a hot pan. Cook until the bread is browned and flip. Cook until that side is browned and remove from the pan. Let the sandwich sit for a few minutes (if you can bear it) before slicing in half. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ravioli Soup

My husband tells me I'm a crazy person, but I persevere. Why does he say this? It's all because I eat soup year round. In fact, you'll frequently find me eating soup for lunch every day of every week, even the hottest weeks. It's my favorite food. I can't help it!

A while back there was a recipe site on the now-defunct Club Mom, and the author shared a recipe for Ravioli Soup that has become one of my favorites. Since the site no longer exists (and I can't remember what it was - let me know if you do), and I can't find the recipe anywhere else online, I thought I'd post it here. (With my edits, of course)

Ravioli Soup
1 package turkey sausage patties 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
32 oz. beef broth
1 (9 oz.) package cheese ravioli
1 1/2 c. frozen cut green beans
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare ravioli according to package instructions.

In a large soup pot, cook the sausage; drain if necessary. In the grease left clinging to the bot, saute the garlic for one minute, but do not allow to brown. Add the tomatoes with their juice and beef broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; stir in green beans. Heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste (I rarely need much of either). 

Add a few ravioli to each bowl. Top with soup. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and a crusty loaf of bread alongside. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday Meal Planning

Quick and easy this week because I'm trying to soak up as much family time as possible before a business trip to Boston next week. And because I'm coming down with a cold and don't feel like spending too much time on my feet if I can help it. So here goes:

Monday: Taco Joes & Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad

I forgot to mention in my post about these that we halved this recipe when we made it, but I suggest you make the full recipe for reasons you'll see further down in the week's plans. I'm a big fan of cook once eat multiple times, and not of leftovers as they are, so anything I can repurpose into an entirely different dish is awesome. I also recommend serving these on big, sesame seed buns, topped with american cheese and sliced avocado. The corn salad on the side is delicious, fresh, and fairly nutritious for a Paula Deen recipe.

Tuesday: Chicken Marsala , Wild Rice Pilaf, and steamed Green Beans

Okay, so this one is not exactly the quickest, but it is easy and relatively fast to put together, especially if you get everything ready to go before you start. We do make one edit to the recipe - we halve the amount of marsala wine, because the full two cups is just too much.

For the rice, just use a boxed wild rice pilaf mix, and toss steamed green beans with a little butter and salt.

Wednesday: Wild-Rice Stuffed Squash and Spinach Salad

This one is really easy and delicious. Aaron claims he doesn't like acorn squash, but he won't ever turn this dish down. It's one of the few vegetarian meals I can get him to eat without too much complaint. For the salad, we toss cranberries and pecans with torn spinach and a balsamic vinaigrette.

Thursday: Chili Lime Chicken Salad and Italian Bread

We love this simple, flavorful recipe from Better Homes and Gardens' Easy Family Food special edition. This is one of our go-to recipe books for fast and easy dinners. For the salad:

Toss 1 lb. chicken tenders or chicken breast pieces with 2 tsp. chili powder and salt and pepper to taste. Cook in a large skillet with 1 Tbsp. olive oil until the chicken is no longer pink. For the dressing, mix together: 3 Tbsp. lime juice, 2 Tbsp. snipped fresh cilantro, 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss cooked chicken and dressing with romaine lettuce, halved grape tomatoes, and one diced avocado.

Friday: Nachos

So, remember what I said earlier about making the whole batch of Taco Joes meat and saving some for another meal? This is what I was talking about. I used our leftovers to make nachos. Just put a bunch of chips on a cookie sheet, top with heated taco joes and cheese, and place in a hot oven until the cheese is melted. Then top with your favorite nacho toppings. We topped ours with avocado, pico de gallo, and sour cream.

Sunday: Spaghetti and Meatballs , bread, salad

Make the recipe as directed, adding an extra can of the tomatoes. Be sure to reduce the heat as the recipe indicates, or you'll end up with a large pan of meatballs in tomato paste. Don't ask how I know; I just do. If you have leftovers of the meatballs and sauce, and you probably will, they do well with freezing and reheating at a later date. We served ours both over spaghetti and then on another day in sub buns with melted provolone. So, so good!

Happy eating this week!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dinner: Solved!

I've been attending a conference the past two days which has me waking up at an ungodly hour at which no one should be awake (4 AM) and driving for a couple hours, then talking to people all day, and driving back a couple hours blasting the air conditioning and music to stay awake. To say I'm exhausted is a bit of an understatement.

For this reason, I had to find something quick and easy for dinner tonight (I forgot about the conference when I planned meals, so our plans didn't quite work out). I saw this recipe for Taco Joes on Foodie with Family a few weeks back and have been wanting to try it ever since. As Cassie said when I shared the recipe with her, I was convinced when I saw the avocado.

Basically this is a taco-flavored sloppy joe that you top with taco toppings. I made it tonight and it was one of the simplist, most flavorful meals I've made. We topped ours with sliced avocado and a slice of american cheese. I'm so glad Rebecca shared this recipe!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Quick Sweet Treat

After dinner tonight I felt the craving for something sweet. The bad news? We didn't have anything already made in the house. The good news? We had the ingredients for one of my favorite sweet treats.

Banana Boats

For each serving you will need:

1 banana
a handful of mini marshmallows
a handful of chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Peel the banana and slice it nearly in half. Place the banana on foil and open it slightly (it's okay if it breaks in half). Sprinkle with marshmallows and chocolate chips. Wrap tightly in foil and bake in preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes (until you've reached your desired level of gooey meltedness).

Open the foil and enjoy!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mrs. Ca's Favorites

I thought I'd start sharing a few of my very favorite things, both food-wise and kitchen gadget-wise. This week is one of my all time favorite things:


I absolutely love peanut butter and I eat it almost every day. There are two things I particularly love with regards to peanut butter. First is Peanut Butter & Co.'s Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter. (Also - note to Aaron - I want this 6 variety pack for Mother's Day. Thanks.) I especially love it on a whole wheat bagel, or used in oatmeal peanut butter cookies .

Secondly, this is the most common way I eat peanut butter. Some may think it's weird, but I swear it's a delicious way to start the day. I present to you:
Peanut Butter Raisin Oatmeal
(Makes 2 Servings)
3/4 c. old fashioned oats
1 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. raisins
3 T. peanut butter
Bring water to a boil. Add in oats and raisins and boil for five minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes. Stir in peanut butter and serve.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Monday Meal Planning

New Home Edition
For Monday Meal Planning, not me (yet - we're still on the house hunt). For a while I have been saving up recipes, tips, methods, and links, and I recently decided that they really needed their own space. So here it is: Mrs. Ca Cooks. I hope you enjoy it!
This week is one of our favorites of the year, made up of Cinco de Mayo, Aaron's birthday, and for the first time this year, Mother's Day! To say we'll be busy is a bit of an understatement. We also eat very well this week, and here's what we're planning:

Monday:  Huevos Rancheros and Fruit Salad

We love brinner (breakfast for dinner) around here. A lot. And, a special week like this is the only time I can do something like Mexican food two days in a row. This meal is easy, fairly healthy, and delicious.

Tuesday: Cinco de Mayo! Chicken Fajitas, Pico de Gallo, Cheese Dip and Chips

If only I could drink margaritas this would be just about a perfect meal. The cheese dip is modeled after the dip served in a popular local Mexican restaurant. We bought some cottage cheese for Gabbie, but she won't eat it, so this is the absolute perfect way to use it up!

1 c. cottage cheese
1/2 c. sour cream
1 c. shredded monterey jack cheese
1 clove garlic minced
1 - 2 jalepeno peppers, minced
2 green onions, chopped

Combine all ingredients, mix well. Chill for an hour or two before serving to let flavors meld.

Wednesday: Bacon, Onion, and Tomato Quiche and Salad

Using this recipe again, I substitute chopped cooked bacon and diced tomato for the broccoli, and use whatever cheese I have on hand. Yum!

Thursday: Chicken Cobb Salad and fresh bread

This is one of my favorite meals ever. I could eat this weekly and never tire of it, seriously.

Friday: Midwestern Grilled Bratwurst Sandwiches and potato salad

Easy man-food is on the menu tonight. We make the sandwiches both with and without the saurkraut. Both ways are equally delicious. A quick potato salad, or even some from the local deli case work well here.

Sunday: Meatloaf, Paprika Roasted Cauliflower, and Roasted Asparagus

This is Aaron's desired birthday dinner, and even I'm looking forward to it, because this is one tasty dinner. Pretty easy too, so I get off easy after telling him I would make absolutely anything he desired.


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