Meal Plan Monday: Almost Time for Visitors!

Good Monday morning, everyone!  By the time this meal plan concludes, our guests (my mother-in-law and stepfather-in-law) should be on their way down to visit us.  We are excited for their trip, and have been planning it for months.  Muffin, especially, has all sorts of things he wants his Grandma and Grandpa Mark to do with him while they are here!

This is also the week that sees the official start to summer!  (Even though we have had summertime temperatures here in Louisiana for several weeks)

I hope your summer plans are going well, and that you are finding ways to keep your cool (both with your little ones and in the kitchen)!

So, without further ado, what we are planning on eating this week!

Saturday:  fried rice, egg drop soup (Gimme Some Oven)

Sunday:  chili

Monday:  frito pie

Tuesday:  taco burgers, chips, and salsa (with extra guac to dip)

Wednesday:  Baked Chicken Croquettes (Life in the Lofthouse), broccoli, rice, gravy

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dogs or sandwiches

Friday:  English muffin pizzas, corn

Saturday:  Ranch Chicken Enchiladas (Life in the Lofthouse), Jumbo Pico Salad (Pioneer Woman), rice, beans

Sunday:  Sweet Tea Fried Chicken (Growing Up Gabel), potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese, greens, biscuits, green beans

What is on your meal plan for this week?

Meal Plan Monday: A Combo of the Last Two (Failed) Meal Plans

Okay, so sometimes, even when it is summer vacay, things don’t go according to plan.  In shopping for the two weeks of meal plans at Aldi, I miscalculated–a lot!  Stuff that I thought was okay (chicken breasts) in the freezer were freezer burnt, and so the meal plan didn’t quite happen the way it should have.  For the past two weeks.  There were some awesome hits.  But there were spectacular misses.

So, this time, in making my shopping list and checking it thrice (including obsessively putting the items in order of where they appear in the store), I made sure to figure out amounts to purchase.

This is because, yes, meal planning is important, but if you don’t have the materials to execute the plan (whether time, cooking hardware, or food products) you are sunk. (Play appropriate game over video game music here.)

So, this is the new (and improved) meal plan (with the properly purchased food stuffs):

Saturday:  Sheet Pan Asian Stir Fry (with my personal amendments), rice, egg rolls

Sunday:  Sunday:  mini meatloaves (using Oma’s recipe but scaled down to muffin-size), green beans, mashed potatoes (thinking putting the mashed potatoes atop like cupcakes and frosting)

Monday:  chicken spaghetti (Six Sisters’ Stuff), garlic toast

Tuesday:  fajita rice (Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures), chips, salsa

Wednesday:  burgers and seasoned fries

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dogs

Friday:  pizza, corn

Saturday:  fried rice, egg drop soup (Gimme Some Oven)

Sunday:  chili

What’s on your meal plan for this week?

Meal Plan Monday: Welcome to June!

Meal Plan Monday

Welcome to the first full week of June!

All of our “summery” summer stuff starts this week:  the movies, going to the pool, all of our outdoor stuff on our summer bucket list, and lots of Mama-Muffin days!

This also is my opportunity to try new recipes and rediscover old favorites (and even try my hand at crafting a new recipe or two!).

All of that happens this week in the meal plan.

Saturday:  Sheet Pan Shrimp Stir Fry with Oyster Sauce, rice, egg rolls

Sunday:  mini meatloaves (using Oma’s recipe but scaled down to muffin-size), green beans, mashed potatoes (thinking putting the mashed potatoes atop like cupcakes and frosting)

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Monday:  grilled cheese and La Madeleine’s tomato-basil soup (otherwise known as the recipe that sparked a war)

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Tuesday:  taco burgers (a recipe I dreamed up in my mind), chips, salsa

Wednesday:  chicken spaghetti, garlic toast

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dogs

Friday:  mini pizzas, corn

Saturday:  fried rice, egg drop soup

Sunday:  Dr. Pepper pulled pork sandwiches (made using the same recipe as the Root Beer Pulled Pork but changing out for Kroger Real Sugar Soda’s Dr. Pepper “knockoff”), coleslaw, chips

What is on your meal plan for the week?

The Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge: “The Best Crock Pot Pork Chops Ever,” Rice, and Peas with Red Pepper

New Recipe Challenge

Weeks ago, my mom told me about a recipe that was extremely successful in my sister’s family.  It was a slow cooker recipe for pork chops that used ranch seasoning and condensed creamy soup.  EVERYONE in my sister’s family loved it (a major feat).  My sister thought I should try it.

My mom tried it a bit later, and she was positive about the results.

When my sister visited my mom last week, my brother-in-law raved about the recipe.

I had already had it on the meal plan tentatively.  I mean, this recipe has almost a cult following in the Pinteresting Blogosphere, much like kale chips.  Yes, I should have been afraid.

So, with a bit of trepidation (being that it was a slow cooker recipe and Josh is not that found of slow cooker recipes), I added it to the challenge for this week, the only pork dish.  One of three slow cooker offerings.

I guess I should preface this paragraph with:  I have a pork loin I recently purchased in the garage freezer, waiting to meet the “meat factory bee-sheen,” as Muffin calls the meat grinder attachment on the Kitchen Aid.  I would have been willing (sort of…well…under extreme duress) to sacrifice part of the roast for tonight’s challenge offering.  Maybe.

But I KNEW there were pork chops (cut from a pork loin from before we had the meat grinder) somewhere in the kitchen fridge.  So, I had Josh search for them.  This might be a good time to mention that my freezers are not exactly organized.  And, at times, if you open the freezer half of the kitchen refrigerator, you might want to step back out of the way because you never know what might fly out, frozen solid, to conk you on the head or fracture a bone in your foot.  Now is one of those times.  Josh managed to dig a set of pork chops (three, to be exact) out of the bowels of the kitchen freezer.  Of course, this involved removing most of the freezer’s contents and putting them back in place.

I’m pretty sure there are others in there somewhere…but we didn’t find them.

The pork chops might have been a bit…oldish.  Which may have determined the final result.  Possibly.

Since I decided to make the Homemade Ranch Seasoning from Gimme Some Oven without the buttermilk powder (as I didn’t have any and it’s one of the more expensive ingredients on the spice/baking aisle), I decided to add to the tablespoon of seasoning that I was going to include in the dish one-half cup of milk mixed with half a tablespoon of white vinegar to make buttermilk.  I let it sit out for fifteen minutes or so this morning, whisking every few minutes (to make it thick and not lumpy or clumpy–lumpy or clumpy buttermilk is not good eats), before adding the liquid to the ranch seasoning.  Then, I whisked like a maniac.  I slowly incorporated the buttermilk’ed ranch seasoning into the condensed cream of chicken soup.  It looked yummy.  I might try making it as a cream of ranch chicken soup next time, diluting it with milk and eating it as soup.

Following the rules for enchiladas, I spread a bit of the sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker to provide a saucy bed for the pork chops.  Only two of the three fit on the bottom layer, so I slathered some sauce on those two before topping them with the final chop and dumping the rest of the sauce over the mixture.

I cooked it on low for 4 hours (which was plenty).  I served the contents over rice with the chops on the side and with a healthy serving of peas and peppers.

Verdict:  Josh mentioned freezer burn after tasting these.  The sauce on the chops and the rice was good, though.  The recipe is Muffin Approved.

But here’s what I did with amounts in one easy highlight and print selection thing (because I haven’t quite figured out yet how to set up a printable recipe thing on Word Press)

Crock Pot Ranch Pork Chops

adapted from Raining Hot Coupons

3 pork chops, cut from a boneless pork loin, thawed

the equivalent of 2 cans of cream of chicken soup (one recipe of the condensed soup from Gimme Some Oven)

one packet of ranch seasoning or 1 tablespoon Homemade Ranch Seasoning from Gimme Some Oven

one-half cup buttermilk (or half a cup of milk whisked with half a tablespoon of vinegar or some other acid)

additional freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk together the ranch seasoning and buttermilk.  Whisk the ranch buttermilk into the cream of chicken soup until smooth.  Ladle and spread about 2 tablespoons of the ranch-y soup mixture on the bottom of your slow cooker.  Layer pork chops and sauce, dumping the remaining sauce over the contents after the last pork chop is placed.  Crack on some black pepper.  Cook on low for four hours.  Serve pork chops with rice on the side covered with the sauce.

Yes, I had to add some color because the tan and white was killing me.  So, I made up a recipe on the fly.


Peas and Peppers

12 ounces frozen green peas (petite, if possible)

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

3 cups water

freshly cracked black pepper

one bouillon cube (chicken)

Microwave the contents on high for three minutes.  Stir.  Microwave three more minutes or until hot.  Stir.  Drain in a colander and serve.

It should be noted that this is the recipe that made Muffin like red bell peppers.  He said they taste like strawberries.  🙂


Rice

Note:  Rice and pasta have often eluded me (at least perfectly cooked specimens of both).  I still struggle with pasta, but my husband has finally taught me an almost foolproof formula.  Gone are the days where I have hard uncooked grains, mushy grains, and perfectly cooked grains all in the same pot.

2 cups water

1 cup rice (long grain, white, Louisiana-grown, preferably)

1/2 tablespoon butter or margarine (preferably unsalted)

1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Bring the water to a boil over high heat with salt and butter.  Once boiling, stir in rice and cover, reducing the heat to low.  Allow the water to be absorbed until there is no visible evidence of water in the pot (around 20-25 minutes).  Fluff with a fork and serve while hot.

Muffin Approved

How was your dinner this evening?

Day 5 of the Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge: Monterey Chicken and Others

New Recipe Challenge

Today was a pretty low-key day.  I spent time researching preschool home school options (My sister offered up excellent suggestions via Facebook text and when I talked to her on the phone today).  I spent time with Muffin, watching him play with trains and just be an almost-four-year-old boy.  Lots of snuggles and cuddles, as well (although no nap to speak of, except napus interruptus right around lunchtime).

I also (very quickly) prepped two components/ingredients for tomorrow’s meal (the Crock Pot Ranch Pork Chops):  I made the Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup from Gimme Some Oven and the Homemade Ranch Seasoning also from Gimme Some Oven.  I left the buttermilk powder out of the Homemade Ranch Seasoning, so I will probably add a bit of “buttermilked” milk to the Crock Pot tomorrow.  Here are the pickies:

The cream of chicken.

The cream of chicken soup tasted spot on, and I love that it didn’t taste so chemically as the canned version has tasted lately.  Plus, I got to add in some of the Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken to it.  Bonus!  And one recipe makes two cans worth, and I needed to cans for the recipe tomorrow.  Did I mention that it was easy peasy?  Seriously.  Came.  Together.  Perfectly.

The ranch seasoning minus the buttermilk powder but with a bit of paprika thrown in for color.

It’s seriously a disease.  I can’t help but change a recipe up.  I’ve decided something must be wrong with me.  I would recommend using the link for the cream of chicken (because I actually followed that recipe verbatim, for once), but the ranch seasoning…well…I followed the cream of chicken recipe verbatim.  Here’s what I did:

Homemade Ranch Seasoning Mix

Heavily adapted from Gimme Some Oven (Link above)

2 tablespoons dried parsley

1 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons dried onion flakes

1 teaspoon ground black pepper (freshly ground!)

1 teaspoon dried chives, slightly crushed

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika (I used Spanish)

Layer ingredients in an empty jar (I used an empty jelly jar that had previously held another recipe of ranch seasoning).  Cover and shake shake shake.

Gimme Some Oven suggests using 1 tablespoon mix with 1/3 cup mayo and 1/3 cup milk and whisking to combine.  I plan on adding in 1 tablespoon plus a bit of “buttermilked” milk tomorrow when I make the Crock Pot Ranch Pork Chops.

But now, for the main event.  And if you notice the discrepancies between the Ranch seasonings, this is so much worse.

In my defense, I kept the ingredients the same.  I changed some of the amounts and definitely changed the process.  I would also make a few tweaks before next time.  I will say that this was another LFam Approved recipe.

Let me just write it as I did it.

Monterey Chicken

Heavily Adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

2 huge boneless, skinless chicken breasts, excess skin and tendons removed, halved to make four moderate sized breast pieces

salt and pepper

barbecue sauce (The original recipe calls for one cup, but I probably put more on each piece)

8 pieces of bacon, cooked using the method described below, and broken in half

3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, hand shredded (or more until it makes things cheesy)

3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, hand shredded (I didn’t and I regretted it)

fresh diced tomatoes

diced green onions

A few notes and disclaimers:  Like the Pioneer Woman, I am becoming less inclined to use pre-shredded cheese, especially if it’s something that I wish to melt.  She’s right about most things, including that.  Pre-shredded simply does not melt as well.  I grated the Monterey Jack but not the cheddar, and I could tell the difference in meltability.  And yes, I know that isn’t a word.  But it should be.  That is not to say that grating cheese is my favorite kitchen chore.  It isn’t.  At all.  But it does produce better results.  Also, I tended to go with more is better in terms of barbecue sauce, cheese, tomato, and onions.  And while I know this is supposed to be a copycat of a Chili’s recipe (that I never consumed), I would probably want to add sauteed mushrooms somehow in one of the layers–maybe on top of the bacon.  Also, I used Kraft Honey barbecue sauce.  I wish I had used Garland Jack’s or Sweet Baby Ray’s.  Kraft products, in general, seem to be more processed than most, and rather than tasting barbecue sauce in the final product, I tasted Kraft chemicals.  (Can I please go back to the days when I thrived on processed foods?  Please?????)

But now to what I did.  I actually pre-baked the bacon a few hours in advance because I wanted to give it time to cool, drain, and stiffen up.  Limp bacon is not wanted here.  If it bends when you go to break it, you have not cooked it long enough.  And I baked mine.  Alton Brown swears by it as well as several other people in the Pinteresting Blogosphere.  And it produces flat, evenly cooked, bacon.  I’m a bit picky that way.  However, it takes 25 minutes to produce perfectly cooked thick-sliced bacon.  And I had to do it in two batches.  So keep that in mind if you are using this method.  On a lipped cookie sheet (size doesn’t matter) place a small baker’s rack (one that will fit inside the cookie sheet).  Arrange slices of raw bacon over the rack, taking care to ensure that they are not touching.  Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (remember to preheat) for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, take the bacon out and turn each slice.  Bake another 10 minutes.  Evacuate to a plate to drain and cool.  Once drained and cooled, break the bacon in half.

Reserve the bacon drippings for searing the chicken breasts (go ahead and pour them into the skillet you plan to use).

Gently pound the chicken breasts to a uniform thickness with a mallet or (if you cover the breasts with plastic or wax paper) your rolling pin.  Don’t mutilate the chicken, however.  This is not a project to take your road rage out on; just sayin’.  Season both sides of the breasts generously with salt and pepper and seal in a zippy bag for the seasonings to do some work.

When ready to continue the cooking process, heat the bacon over medium-high heat until hot.  Arrange chicken breasts in the pan (I fit three out of the four pieces).  Cover and sear for 3 minutes.  If you don’t cover, expect bacon fat splatters.  Trust me, they are not as much fun as confetti being thrown at your face and arms.  And they hurt a lot worse, too.  After three minutes, use your trusty spring loaded tongs to turn over the chicken.  The chicken may be stuck at this point.  Finesse it off of the pan with the tongs (Translation:  Scrape as hard as you have to to get the chicken off the pan so that it doesn’t burn).  Cover and wait three more minutes.  Realize as you notice the spatters on the lid how lucky and smart you were to cover the pan (because you would be wearing those spatters–it may have taken me the first half of the cooking process to realize I needed a lid).  Evacuate the chicken to a glass 9×13-inch pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Repeat with remaining chicken breast(s).

Pour (Glug) barbecue sauce over chicken.  The point here is flavor and coverage.  You want the maximum of both.  The barbecue sauce provides a grout for the bacon tiles to come.  Arrange the bacon artistically (you may have to break one of the halves into smaller pieces) over the chicken breasts, 4 bacon strip halves per breasts (a total of two complete bacon strips).  Cover with Monterey Jack and then with cheddar.  Here’s where I made a huge deviation from the original:  sprinkle liberally with the tomato and green onions.  Cover with foil.  Place in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  Uncover.  Turn your oven broiler to HI, and broil until the cheese bubbles on the surface (browning would be great here as well!).  Serve with Parmesan Garlic Toast and a salad.

And, since, I can’t leave you hanging in suspense, here is the “recipe” for Parmesan Garlic Toasts:

Parmesan Garlic Toasts

Source:  Me!

2 hot dog buns, split along the split and separated into four halves total

2 teaspoons margarine spread (or butter), softened

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes, crushed finely with the fingers

2 tablespoons grana padano (or another Parmesan-style cheese), grated with a Microplane grater/zester

Spread the “white innards” of the hot dog buns with the margarine spread or butter.  Sprinkle with garlic powder, pepper, and parsley flakes.  Grate the cheese directly over the buns until the surface resembles snow drifts (low, small snow drifts, but still…snow drifts).  Broil until the cheese is melted delightfully and the surface is browned.  Eat.  Repeat.

As the untoasted toasts entered the oven.

Garlicky, Parmesan toasty perfection!

There were leftovers.  I could only eat about half a breast.  Other sources for the Monterey Chicken mention that it is served as a sandwich, so I cut the remaining breast pieces in half and plan to make sandwiches with them tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

How did your dinner plans go today?