Meal Plan Monday: Happy President’s Day (and lotsa lasagna)

Meal Plan Monday

Happy President’s Day, everyone!!!  It’s pouring here, so Muffin and I are sitting at home relaxing (me with a very heinous sinus infection) while I plan out this week’s menu.  Yes, shocker!  I don’t have the meal plan done, so I’m going to seriously play it by ear!

Saturday:  lasagna! (I will be posting the recipe tomorrow…with pics!)

Sunday: cheese plate

Monday:  chicken spaghetti (haha), salad

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday:  leftovers

Thursday: leftovers

Friday:  There is a pattern forming…

Saturday:  not lasagna or leftovers (but probably another casserole)

Sunday:  not lasagna or leftovers (but probably a roast of some kind)

So…what’s on your meal plan this week?

Meal Plan Monday: American Thanksgiving Week!

Meal Plan Monday

Happy (early) Thanksgiving to all people who celebrate the U.S. holiday.  This year, LFam (Josh, Muffin, and I) are eating with my parents at my parents’ house.  I’m supplying Yams Richard (by my mom’s request) and Red Velvet Sheet Cake with Ermine Frosting (by Muffin’s request).  I will also probably help my mom with her cooking to-do list, especially the gravy, on Wednesday and Thursday.

But before we get to Thanksgiving, I do have some things to prepare to feed a hungry Muffin (not to mention Josh and me).  So, this is how things are going to shape up:

Saturday:  Diablo Burgers (Recipe forthcoming) and Poutine (Recipe forthcoming for the non-Canadians who read this)

Diablo Burger

Poutine

Sunday:  Taco Tuesday (but still on a Sunday!) while watching The LEGO Movie

Monday:  Muffin will be at my mom’s tonight because I have to work a basketball game at work.  I will probably pick something up from somewhere.  Josh will probably scavenge at home.

Tuesday:  Chicken Parmesan (will try to post the recipe once i figure it out), green beans with bacon and onion

Wednesday:  Eggnog French Toast from A Beautiful Mess and homemade sausage

Thursday:  Gee, I wonder…Thanksgiving dinner, duh!

Friday:  Leftovers!

Saturday:  Leftovers (fingers crossed hopefully)

Sunday:  King’s Ranch Chicken from The Cotton Country Cookbook

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

Meal Plan Monday: Leftovers, Straight Up!

Meal Plan Monday

First of all, let me say, “Happy Canada Day!” to all Canadians, spouses of Canadians, and parents (or children) of Canadians.  As mentioned last Monday in the blog, I planned for our annual Canadian Thanksgiving meal to be on Sunday (yesterday).  And, it was a doozy.

LOTS of work, a few meltdowns (yes, I have those), but, in the end, totally worth it!  This is especially true considering the mountain of leftovers we have in the fridge.

How do you treat Thanksgiving leftovers?  Do you re-invent them into turkey casseroles and soups and turkey and stuffing sandwiches with cranberry sauce?  Or, do you consume them straight-up, continually reliving the original meal as you reheat plate after plate of yummy comfort food for as long as the goodness lasts, as we do?

We are definitely in the latter category.  Sure, we will have a turkey sandwich or two, but, by and large, I want to relive the meal over and over.  For the main reason of (and I never understood this until I became an adult and started cooking Canadian Thanksgiving) cooking and cooking and cooking and being so exhausted and tired of food by the end of the preparation that you take an obligatory plate of food for THE MEAL, but then not really enjoy it.

So, that’s how I relive it.

I will not be putting Muffin’s lunches in this post.  My goal is to make a post for tomorrow (an actual Tip Tuesday post) with how I plan out his meals with a handy dandy printable!

But, here’s the menu for the week (It may seem a bit repetitive):

Saturday:  We ended up eating Super Subs again!  with canned soup

Sunday:  Canadian Thanksgiving

Monday:  Canadian Thanksgiving leftovers

Tuesday:  Josh is off, so hopefully he’s going to make breakfast (and I don’t mean turkey and gravy omelets)

Wednesday:  Because Josh will be working on my birthday, we are going out for my birthday dinner this day.

Thursday:  C’mon.  It’s Thursday.  LEFTOVERS!

Friday:  (My actual birthday):  I’m hoping to use one of those birthday meal things to take Muffin out to dinner.

Saturday:  Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets, fries, veg sticks

Sunday:  Baked Ziti with Two Mozzarellas and Parmesan Cream Sauce, salad (to round out my birthday weekend)  I’m really looking forward to try this recipe. 🙂

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

Meal Plan Monday: A Week of New’uns!

Meal Plan Monday

This week I’m trying out several new recipes, including a few from Taste of Home and one originally found on Better Homes and Gardens.  I also have built in stuff so that I hopefully will have the opportunity for Thursday leftovers.  Yes, it’s the return of Thursday leftovers.  Most of the dishes this week have to be prepped on the weekend.  So, there’s only so much that can happen on the weekdays.

Here’s the meal plan!

Saturday:  slow cooker rotisserie chicken, rolls, broiled asparagus

Sunday:  Apple Pecan Pork Chops, roasted vegetables, peas, rice

Monday:  Ranch Chicken Enchiladas, avocado (with lemon, lime, salt, and pepper), chips, and salsa

Tuesday:  Mini BBQ Cheddar Meatloaves, green beans, mashed potatoes (hopefully make-ahead on weekends)

Wednesday:  Bourbon Street Chicken, rice, veg (probably greens), fruit

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dogs

Friday:  mini pizzas, canned corn, veg (bell pepper sticks), dip

Saturday:  Smoked Kielbasa and rice, green veg, maybe a mug cake

Sunday:  Cranberry Chicken, stuffing, green veg

As usual, I plan on linking up with Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday!

What’s your plan for the week, Stan?

We Plan Wednesday: Injecting the Meal Plan with Mass Reading Blogs’ Recipe Indices

We Plan Wednesday

After the recent meal plan desert of a few weeks ago, I have decided to do whatever I can to ensure that doesn’t happen again.  And, let’s face it, a few of my meal plans have been less than inspired as of late.  They needed an injection of newness.  They had started to be comprised of hot dogs, chili, pizza, tacos, nachos, and the combinations that can be made thereof.  Is it any wonder that I hit rock bottom?

When I meal plan, I try to have in mind at least the dishes (if not the order) that will be made for the following Saturday through Sunday of the following week by Wednesday.  I block out any days that I know we will eat out and that I know that Josh will probably be cooking.  Unless I have a dish-heavy week, I now block out Thursdays as leftover night (I know that OrgJunkie refers to these times as “YOYO” or You’re on Your Own and schedules them for the weekends.  That’s great for stay-at-home mamas.  For work-outside-the-home mamas, the weekends are your days to actually cook.  Thursday, as I’ve previously mentioned, this the worst day of the week sticking-to-the-meal-plan-wise.  It’s when you are desperately counting down until the end of the week, and even setting something in the microwave to reheat may be beyond your energy level or brain power.).  This week is the exception.  Thursday, we are trying out a new-to-us sloppy joe recipe that was prepared earlier this week.  Reheat the meat, slap on a bun, serve with a handful of grapes or fruit, and call it done.

I usually don’t try that many new dishes when Josh is on call because then it’s just Muffin and I.  If I’m exhausted and Muffin has eaten a lot at Granny’s, I know that a huge, elaborate meal will go unappreciated by us.

The first thing I did to get out of this funk was to scour my cookbooks and recipe magazines (including the Taste of Home collector’s editions and Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications).  I notated in a special meal planning notebook that I’m building the source and the recipe name.

Then, I began going through my bookmarks (just as I had on the previous two recipe challenges).  I listed the recipes from my bookmarks.

That didn’t seem to be enough because I had made or combined several of those recipes in previous meal plans.  So, I dug deeper.  I made a list for each blog or site that I had bookmarked recipes from in my bookmarks and began dissecting each of the sites.  Those that had an alphabetical recipe index (rather than an index with a list of linked clickable categories, or worse a regurgitation of posts tagged recipes) became my new besties.  And it reminded me that I needed to beef up my recipe index page, as well.  By the end of this summer, I hope to.

I made a comprehensive study of the ones that I had only bookmarked one or two recipes from and jotted down other recipes to try.  The inspiration for Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce was one such example.  I made a list of some that have appeared on meal plans that I haven’t tried (found a reason not to, didn’t buy the ingredients in time, etc.).  I penciled down those to try soon because a few have appeared on several meal plan lists and never been tried.

My next venture is to go through Pinterest (haha…20K pins and growing) and list possible recipes to try (and then to go through each of the sites that I pinned from and do the comprehensive study I mentioned above).

Will it take a lot of time?  Most definitely!

Will it be worth it for us in the long run?  Most definitely!

I then hope to compile a list of active (meaning people still post on them) websites and blogs to visit every so often for new recipe inspiration (from those I make a comprehensively study).  That serves two purposes:  it gives me fairly safe things to Swag search, and I will find new recipes faster.

Critics to this method will say, “What about meal rotations?”  Meal rotations are perfectly lovely provided that 1) you and your family are okay with eating the same thing twice a month without fail, 2) you have a very hefty stockpile of the proteins and other ingredients involved, and 3) your mind isn’t hardwired to think in food.  Sometimes I wish my mind were not hardwired to think in food; I would probably be at least 80 pounds lighter.  But I think in food.  How to arrange it on the plate.  How to make sure that there is a rainbow on the plate.  How to adapt it, craft it, copy it, make it more kid friendly.  Seriously, a restauranteur would be overwhelmed in my brain.

Case in point:  My class is studying The Odyssey.  I’ve been trying to think of an appropriate menu to serve for Josh and me when we watch the Armand Assante version (or to bring as treats for my students when they do well on the test).

Testing is right around the corner (state standardized testing, that is), and I’ve already been trying to think up little treats to bring for those students in my testing group after they finish testing each day.

So, I shudder to think what might happen to my brain if I don’t have a very changeable meal plan.

My sister scrapbooks.  I meal plan.  That’s my creative outlet.  (In fact, the only successful scrap book I have ever made was a recipe book that presently resides on my mom’s cookbook shelf.)

What is your creative outlet?

Summary Sunday: Three New Recipe Hits of the Week

Summary Sunday

 

This week, quite unintentionally (as in, I didn’t plan a new recipe cooking series), Muffin’s family tried out two new recipes.  Well…we tried out one-and-a-half, actually.

As you can tell from Monday, we have A LOT of pulled pork in our house.  As delicious as sammies with coleslaw and soft buns (toasted) are…the delightful novelty fades after 10 or so.  So, in an effort to find a way to use more of the leftovers up, I came across a recipe for…Pot Roast and Cheesy Ranch Grits from A Sprinkle of This and That.

I have a huge confession that challenges my southern-ness to the core.  When I was younger (until I was a grown adult and teaching), I could not stand grits.  Could.  Not.  Stand.  As in, I would gag around a throatful.  My earliest memory of grits is stopping at a restaurant between New Orleans and Shreveport, Louisiana (where my grandmother lived).  I must have been two or three.  My mom ordered grits (probably against her better judgment and with the caveat “You’re not going to like them.”) for me.

(I’m sorry for those of you who are eating while reading this in advance.)  I upchucked my first (and only) mouthful of the plate.

In general, I am not a picky eater (other than chili mac, raw potatoes, hard boiled eggs by themselves, kale jerky, and hockey puck slow cooker orange chicken).  Most picky-ness that I qualify for as a picky eater come under the category of texture, rather than taste.  Broccoli florets.  (I love the stalks.)  Grits.

Now, I love cornbread.  Adore it.

But plain, instant, just barely boiled long enough grits?  I’m sitting at my laptop shuddering even now.

When I first became a teacher, my principal cooked for the teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week.  (I won’t step on my soapbox now about Teacher Appreciation Week; I’ll save that for a particularly scathing Thoughtful Thursday post.)  To me, that was about the most thoughtful thing possible…a gift of food…prepared by one’s own (or loved one’s) hands.  (After all…don’t take away my Southern card just yet.  Love=food and food=love.)

One year, he made grits.  Because of my aforementioned gag-worthy (and gagging) aversion to grits, is it any wonder that I reached my mid-twenties full of trepidation about trying the dish?  On one hand, I hated (and feared) grits.  I had the phobia covered on both ends.  On the other, my principal was a fabulous cook.  And I hated to offend him by not eating it.

I tasted…a soft creamy (not gritty) heaven, the grits swelled to nearly gelatinous bubbles of yummy-ness.  I may have cried in pleasure…or blacked out.  However, I do remember hounding him for information about how he prepared the grits.

He baked them, probably more of a braise, thus softening up the (previously gritty) bits of ground grain.

Yup.  I was in luuuuuuv.

I began trying shrimp and grits and grits and grillades whenever I had the chance at restaurants.  I experimented with cheesy grits, devoured grits doused in Southern gravy, and dreamed of other ways to prepare them.

Josh, newly planted in the South, does not share my newfound lust for grits.  Considering it took my 25 plus years to be okay with grits, I find that perfectly understandable.

So, it was with some trepidation that I added my variation of the pot roast with cheesy ranch grits recipe to the menu.  Cheesy ranch grits topped ever-so-flagrantly with root beer pulled pork.

Yup.  I totally went there.

The grits…especially if you let them sit at low for 20 or so minutes after they finish cooking…achieve that same gelatinous texture (swelled with liquidy chicken broth almost to the popping point) as those long-ago oven-baked grits.  The consistency is almost that of polenta…at the very least it is a very scoopable (and capable of holding its shape) grits dish.  No creamy ooze here.

I’m only going to include the recipe for the cheesy ranch grits below.  If you wish to see the recipe in its entirety, please click the link above.

Cheesy Ranch Grits

(adapted from A Sprinkle of This and That)

3 cups chicken broth (I ended up using two cans…a bit more than three cups because the mixture became VERY thick)

1 1/2 cups quick (white) grits

1 packet ranch dressing mix (If you remember the green potato catastrophe, trust me when I tell you this:  Buy Hidden Valley brand to avoid green grits.)

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Boil three cups of chicken broth in a large pot.  Slowly stir in the grits.  Continue stirring, fairly regularly, for five minutes, over medium-low heat.  At five minutes, the mixture will be VERY thick.  Add a bit more broth until you are able to stir the mixture comfortably.  Stir in the ranch packet and the cheese.  Continue stirring until cheese is melted.  Reduce heat to low.  Allow to sit for 20 or so minutes on low to allow the broth to swell the grits until soft.  Tasting the grits immediately after the cheese melts and tasting them 20 minutes later is a completely different mouth feel experience.

(I found this out by accident because the grits came together so quickly, and Josh was a bit late coming home because he kindly stopped by Brookshire’s for me.)

When ready to eat, spoon (and spread) the desired amount of grits on the plate.  Top with slow cooked meat and juices (in my case pulled pork).

Enjoy converting the skeptics!

IMG_0737

One thing I’m looking forward to is changing the seasoning and cheese.  I have a feeling that Parmesan with a tweak of herbs would turn this into a great mock risotto.

The second recipe was one that seemed very classy, very unlike anything I would make…Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  The recipe was a planned leftover use of her Lemon Garlic Chicken, so of course, I had to (sort of) make it, too.

Let’s go into the major changes I made first.  Instead of marinating and grilling the chicken (forgot to put it in the marinade and Josh was working–so grilling was out), I poached the chicken in the marinating liquid plus a bit more water.  Then, I used Penne Rigate rather than rigatoni.  Penne was nineteen cents a package at Kroger, so penne won.  And, since I used a package of penne, I had to decrease the amounts of the ingredients that the pasta boiled in (because I purchased a 12 ounce bag).

So, here’s what I did:

Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken

(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

Poaching Liquid:

juice of one large lemon

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

1 teaspoon dried oregano

6 cups water

Combine the poaching liquid ingredients in a pot (large enough for the poaching liquid and a pound of chicken breasts, cut into manageable strips).  Bring the poaching liquid to a boil, add chicken, stir, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Check for doneness periodically.  Mine finished in 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and allow to cool before shredding into bite-sized pieces.

While waiting for the chicken to cool, prepare the pasta.

Pasta:

4 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 4 1/2 cups water and 3 chicken bouillon cubes, crushed)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

12 ounces penne rigate

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

While waiting for the chicken to cool, bring the broth, garlic powder, and black pepper to a boil in a Dutch oven.  When in boils, stir in the pasta and lemon juice.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often to prevent sticking, until all liquid is absorbed (15-25 minutes).

Sauce:

Shredded chicken (see above recipe)

1 1/2 cups half-n-half or whole milk

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Stir remaining ingredients into the cooked pasta.  Cook, stirring often over low heat, for five minutes or until the butter melts.  Remove from heat and let stand five minutes before stirring.

We served this with asparagus roasted in a 375 degree oven (tossed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, fresh ground black pepper, and lemon zest, and drizzled with a bit of red wine vinegar) 15 minutes or so until slightly wilted and softened.

IMG_0731 The third recipe, also from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, is Korean Beef and Rice.  This one was an all-around winner.  My mom and a coworker asked for the recipe.  Muffin LOVED this one.  I loved this one; it reminded me of some boiled chicken wings (trust me, they were good) that my great-aunt Gene (my mom’s mom’s sister) used to make with sherry and ginger.

What I like about this one is the ease of preparation.  I prepped it on Monday ostensibly for Wednesday but was able to talk myself in to eating it on Tuesday (when I couldn’t find the grits or ranch dressing powder I had purchased).  Muffin and I tasted it, and I had to use all the willpower I had not to inhale the entire pan.  The preparation took, at most, 15 minutes, as long as it takes to brown meat, whisk together and pour in a sauce, and simmer it for a bit.

This one is definitely a repeater.

I didn’t change the recipe up too much, only to add in a bit of sesame seeds as a garnish on top with the green onions.  I sliced my green onion fairly thinly.  (I do apologize for the incompleteness of my picture.  I had already taken a few bites when I remembered to snap a shot.)

Here’s what I did:

1 1/2 pounds ground meat (I used 12 ounces ground turkey and 12 ounces ground beef.  I am looking forward to seeing what ground pork does to the mix.)

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup dark brown sugar (It’s what I had)

1/2 cup soy sauce (I used full-sodium and compensated accordingly)

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon sesame oil (an absolute love of mine!)

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (The author also recommends 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger.)

3 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

sesame seeds

hot cooked rice

Brown the meat with the garlic in a large skillet over medium heat.  Mush and mash up the meat so it is in fine crumbles.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Drain excess grease.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Stir the sauce into the meat mixture.  Simmer over medium heat for five minutes, stirring to fully “sauce” the meat.

Serve over hot cooked rice, garnished on top with green onion slices and sesame seeds.

IMG_0734

This recipe (and the other two) were Muffin Approved.

Muffin Approved

What new recipes did you try successfully this week?

Tip Tuesday: Make a Sunday Roast to Eat All Week

Tip Tuesday

I know I’ve probably mentioned this before, but this tip bears repeating (especially for those weeks when you really can’t think of anything to do for dinner).  If you make a really big roast, you should be able to eat for a few days of the following week (or at least make a few yummy lunches).

Thus is the truth with my mom’s slow cooker pork loin.  This was what we ate for New Year’s Day dinner (along with the hot water cornbread I made).  Muffin really liked the potatoes and carrots.  Of course, Muffin adores carrots anyway.  Sunday, as I prepared the carrots for the roast while he was eating breakfast, he asked for a “big carrot.”  I handed him one that I had already peeled, trimmed, and washed.

I have hopes that this will make several meals for Josh’s big cooker.  And a meal or two for Muffin and me in the upcoming week.

It really is an easy-cheesy recipe, especially the way my mom makes it (with baby carrots).  I tend to make it with peeled and cut up carrots (because that’s usually all we buy), but I figure that since I already have the vegetable peeler out for the potatoes, I might as well do the same with the carrots.

I know I probably use different amounts than my mom does (I tend to go very heavy on the potatoes and carrots because they are a family favorite…I could eat a huge bowl of them, alone, for lunch).

Another reason that I use the “big” carrots is that they are the most cost-effective way to buy organic.  Carrots tend to be my one organic splurge.  I know the rule is if you eat the outside, you buy that in organic, but I can actually taste the pesticide in the “inorganic” carrots.  And, they tend to be the most cost-effective organic.

Mom’s Pork Loin

Adapted from my mom’s application

1 whole (or half, if you are using a smaller slow cooler) boneless pork loin

6-8 large carrots (as opposed to baby), pared, trimmed, cut into sticks (of the size you would eat on a crudite platter)

6-8 small russet potatoes (in other words, save the bakers for another purpose), pared and cut into large-ish chunks (think rustic hashbrown size in a diner)

one large onion, peeled, cut into fourths, leaves separated

salt and pepper to taste

a handful of garlic cloves, peeled, optional (I used about half of a small bulb)

Arrange the onion leaves/petals/layers as a bed on the bottom of the crock.  Arrange the carrots above the onion.  Smoosh in the pork loin (Even in Big Bertha, this activity took some arranging to fit) into the crock.  Sprinkle with salt.  Crack copious amounts of black pepper over the top of the loin.  If using garlic, place the whole peeled cloves in gaps around the meat.  Stuff the remaining space with potatoes.  Cover.  Set heat to LOW for 8 hours.  At six hours, check every 30 minutes for doneness.  When done, remove the roast, slice, and serve on a platter.  Serve the vegetables and juices alongside.  Repeat as necessary and enjoy!

***

If I were making this on a workday, I would probably prep the vegetation the night before.  This entire dish makes fantastic leftovers!