Meal Plan Monday: Muffin’s Birthday Week!

Good Monday morning, meal planners!

In honor of Muffin’s seventh birthday on Wednesday, here are seven classic photos of Muffin:

In lieu of going out to eat on his birthday, we instead took him to brunch yesterday, and I will be making his birthday dinner on Wednesday.  The only thing he asked for was macaroni and cheese, so I will be serving that with some chicken made infamous by the fact that Muffin once stole it off of my plate.  We will also have green beans (one o his favorite veggies).

So, how does the week shape out?  Here’s how:

Saturday:  I chaperoned the prom.  I snacked there.  Josh and Muffin had pizza leftover from his birthday party, I think.

Sunday:  grill

Monday:  hamburger helper, veg, bread

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

Wednesday:  Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken (A Bountiful Kitchen), macaroni and cheese, green beans

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dogs

Friday:  pizza in some form

Saturday:  Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps (Fifteen Spatulas–triple the batch and freeze leftovers), egg rolls, soup from Chinese restaurant

Sunday:  Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce (Life in the Lofthouse), rice, green veg

What is on tap for you this week?

Meal Plan Monday: More New Recipes

Meal Plan Monday

Good morning!  Do you have any Easter plans?  Is the bunny planning to visit you?

Easter, in our family (and probably yours), means ham.  I am not the biggest ham fan.  My mom tries to dodge turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I try to dodge ham at Christmas and Easter.

Last Easter, I was lucky, and I was able to talk my mom into a pork loin.  I don’t know if I will be as lucky this time.

But here is the plan as it is (not etched in stone).

Saturday:  Creamy Chicken Casserole (Kraft), canned veg, bread

Sunday:  Chicken and dumplins, cornbread, salad

Monday:  Teriyaki Chicken and Buttered Rice (Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures)

Tuesday:  tacos, chips, and salsa

Wednesday:  Roasted Garlic Spaghetti with Italian Sausage (Pillsbury), asparagus

Thursday:  hot dogs or leftovers

Friday:  pizza

Saturday:  Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken (Just a Taste), rice, egg roll

Sunday:  Easter Dinner

Do you try to avoid ham at Easter dinner?  What is on your meal plan for the week?

Meal Plan Monday: The Spring Break Edition

Meal Plan Monday

Good morning, Pinteresting Blogosphere!  It’s been an interesting couple of weeks.  I am hard at work on a side writing project (more info to come on that later–hopefully!), and IT IS SPRING BREAK!

It was great not to wake up at 5:30 (although I my internal alarm clock woke me at 6).

This week I’m trying a mix of old and new.  For my subscribers who get e-mails when I post, you know the joy (hopefully) of finding recipes that you would like to try.

Such happened to me when I recently received an e-mail update from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures.   There was a recipe that totally intrigued me!  Now, I’ve tried a few taco/Mexican casseroles in my day, but this one looked really promising.  I will let you know Wednesday how it turns out (or when I get around to that post).  It’s a taco salad casserole.  Everything is all cooked and yummy, and then you sprinkle shredded lettuce on top (or, as Muffin calls lettuce, salad).

And when am I serving it?  Taco Tuesday, of course!

Also on the menu this week was a variation of my Great-Aunt Gene’s, Oriental Chicken Wings (I used chicken thighs).  I consider this truly a family heirloom recipe.  Yes, I mean the Great-Aunt Gene who made the “pina colada cake.”  I think next time I will make the chicken with the pina colada cake.  That would be a true tribute in her honor.

So, here is the menu plan for the week (including Easter weekend):

Saturday:  Oriental Chicken (Thighs), rice, corn

Sunday:  Easter Dinner:  My responsibility was the Honey Mustard Glazed Pork Loin with Cranberries.  My mom made her macaroni and cheese, baked sweet potatoes, and steamed broccoli (as well as cake mix brownies with chocolate cream cheese frosting).  I know I haven’t posted the pork loin recipe yet, but, trust me, grasshopper, it’s coming (and will be totally worth it)!

Monday:  Easter leftovers (I made us each a plate from the leftovers and left the rest of the roast with my mom.)

Tuesday:  Taco Salad Casserole (Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures), Spanish rice (think the Mahatma rice blend), chips, salsa

Wednesday:  Pizza Meatball Subs, chips

Thursday:  Creamy Swiss Chicken Bake, rice, green veg

Friday:  pizza and corn

Saturday:  Caramelized Pepper Chicken (Just a Taste), rice, egg roll

Sunday:  Another Lazy Day Sunday Casserole (Kayotic Kitchen), fruit

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

Please Don’t Heat Up the Kitchen New Recipe Challenge: Biscoff Baked Oatmeal in the Slow Cooker

Please Don't Heat Up the Kitchen New Recipe Challenge

I really really really pretty much followed a recipe…ingredients-wise, that is.  My goal, as you know, is to not heat up the kitchen this summer.  Baking something in the oven would heat up the kitchen.  Therefore, if an oven recipe can be converted to the slow cooker…so much the better.

Long ago, I had bookmarked Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures’s Biscoff Baked Oatmeal.  I was hoping to find more slow cooker breakfast ideas when I looked through all of my recipe bookmarks…and I do mean all…to find recipes for the challenge.  I saw this one, and I knew I wanted to make it, but it involved the oven preheated and then on at 350 for a while.  That was a no-go.  But it got me to thinking…if I mix it all up and put it in my slow cooker, how could I convert it, cooking-wise, to the slow cooker?

My goal was to mix it all up last night.  HA!  Cleaning as hard as I did yesterday caused me to be tired and in a world of pain.  So, I pretty much passed out cold last night.  Around 4:00, I woke up and remembered that I had not even set it up to cook.  So, I rapidly went into the kitchen and mixed it all up (and easy mix), sprayed “Red,” spread it all in the bottom, and set it to high.  I figured in an hour or so it would be done (since the original recipe has very little cooking time in the oven).  After an our, the edges were brown (heading to burnt), but the middle was not done.  I stirred it and then checked back half an hour later.  Done!

Verdict:  Muffin ate every bite of his (with milk).  Josh ate more than he has lately (he has a touch of pneumonia which has made it hurt to swallow) of anything.  I liked it, too.  I mean…it has Biscoff spread.  I love Biscoff in any form (spread or cookies), so this made it all good.

This was not as “hands off” as most slow cooker recipes, but I think if I had a timer delay (like for the lights when you are out of town), I could start it about an hour before wake-up on a lazy Saturday and then be able to stir as necessary.  It did meet the qualification that it did not heat up the kitchen, however.

I have bookmarked an arsenal of baked oatmeal recipes, so I look forward to trying them in the slow cooker.

Here’s how it happened.

Biscoff Baked Oatmeal (in the Slow Cooker)

Adapted from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Biscoff Spread

In a bowl slowly combine milk, Biscoff spread, and vanilla.  Dissolve brown sugar in liquids, stirring to combine and breaking up any brown sugar lumps.  Stir in melted butter.  Fold in oats, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in egg.  Once fully combined, spray your smallest slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread the mixture into the bottom of the slow cooker.  Set to high.  Cover.  After one hour of cooking time, stir the mixture.  Cook 30 minutes more.  Stir again after thirty minutes, making sure that the mixture is no longer liquidy.  Serve in a bowl with a bit of milk or cream (if feeling particularly decadent) and fresh fruit.  Enjoy!

This recipe is definitely Muffin Approved.

Muffin Approved

How do you like your oatmeal?

I get the cutest fonts from Free Scrapbook Fonts! kevinandamanda.com/fonts

Please Don’t Heat Up the Kitchen New Recipe Challenge: The Graphic Revealed!

Please Don't Heat Up the Kitchen New Recipe Challenge

Yup.  There it is.  The new graphic for the new challenge.  The following recipes are planned for Week 1:

Crock Pot Creme Brulee French Toast from Plain Chicken

Chipotle’s Crock Pot Barbacoa from The Slow Roasted Italian

Chipotle’s Cilantro-Lime Rice from The Slow Roasted Italian

Chipotle’s Corn Salsa from Better in Bulk

Pico de Gallo from The Slow Roasted Italian

No-Boil Crock Pot Baked Ziti from Thrifty Jinxy

Biscoff Baked Oatmeal from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmigiana Meatloaf from Recipe Girl

Crock Pot Cheesy Ravioli Casserole from Six Sisters’ Stuff

Pizza Meatball Subs (adapted for Crock Pot) from Kraft Recipes

Chef Salad–Food on a Stick from Pocket Change Gourmet

The Best-Ever Grilled Margarita Chicken from The Slow-Roasted Italian

Caesar Basil Pasta Salad from the Country Cook (I will probably add a protein)

Aunt Ginny’s Chicken Salad from The Sisters’ Cafe

Why the challenge?  Well, I really enjoyed trying out all of the new recipes during the Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge, and now that I’m out for the summer, I felt this was a perfect opportunity to try out some more new recipes.  But…I live in Louisiana.  We tend to have more than 30 consecutive days surpassing the 100 degree (Fahrenheit) mark each summer.  While trying to eat frugally at home in the summer, I think we make the money saving counter-productive because we spend so much money cooling the house as we heat it up.

And…honestly…I haven’t met an air conditioner yet that can keep up with kitchen activity and a Louisiana summer.  Ours definitely can’t.

So, I added an extra dimension to my challenge.  For months, I have attempted to bookmark, pin, and collect hundreds of recipes that would not heat up the kitchen during the hottest part of the day.  Recipes made in the slow cooker.  Recipes that can be made in the microwave.  Recipes that can be made (like pasta salads) in the morning when it’s cooler and chilled until dinner time.  Recipes made on the “Barbie.”  Cool sips and even cooler (frozen) desserts.  Salads.

So, most new recipes that I try in this challenge will fit one of those categories.  Or can be adapted (hopefully) to fit one of these categories.  I’m not going to go super wacky as I did with the Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge and have multiple new recipes daily.  We will probably utilize leftovers from each of the challenge meals for lunches (or even dinners).  Leftovers are great because they can usually be microwaved, thus adding to the air-cooling-saving of the day.  Of course, I will (probably) be taking the Canada vacay off from the challenge.  Although I might try to help my mother-in-law out with the cooking with those requirements.

Would you like to join with me for this challenge?  Do you have any recipes that I should try?  If so, please let me know below!

Gyros Make the World Go ‘Round! (Or, at Least, a Crock Pot)

I have a mild obsession with gyros.  I have no idea why.  I have absolutely no Mediterranean bones in my body.  I had my first gyro at the Red River Revel, where they are sold as a fundraiser for something, but they are very cost prohibitive.  But addictive.  They probably use lamb and a rotisserie.

I didn’t.  Instead, I used a Crock Pot and modified the recipe from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures.  Because you know, I do that.  I can’t help it.  And I probably committed several forms of gyro sacrelige today.  But, this is how my gyro…rolls.  I should note that the gyro in totality is NOT Muffin Approved.  😦  He did like the cucumber, the tomato, and the meat, however, so I know I can get away with serving them again because they were definitely Josh Approved.  And I have to enjoy Crock Pot recipes that are Josh Approved because, well, there are so few of those.

Did I mention that I think I could have bathed in this tzatziki sauce?  That may be the reason I’m obsessed with gyros.

Changes that I plan to make for next time:

1)  Add a bit of breadcrumbs and an egg to the mixture (might be committing even more gyro felonies, there).

2)  Swap out the ground turkey for ground pork for moisture sake.

3)  Make my own Greek seasoning.  I used McCormick, and I did not like all the big chunks.  And I might add just a bit of honey or sugar to the meat…like 1/2 teaspoon or less.

I read somewhere on the web (several places actually), that to get the authentic flavor and texture, you have to pan fry the slivers of gyro meat for a few seconds.  Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures recipe does not mention doing this, but I did it, and I liked what it did to the texture.

I also added a few mint leaves minced to the tzatziki.  I think it really made a difference.

I also think next time I will use the onions from the pot and not fresh onions on the gyros.  I also think I will try to find flatbreads rather than pocket pitas for the bread.

Here’s what I did this time.

Crock Pot Style Gyros

(Heavily Adapted from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures)

1 pound ground beef (ground from a roast by my mixer is what I used)

1 pound ground turkey (I will use ground pork next time)

1 onion sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons Greek seasoning

salt and pepper, to taste

Place onion and garlic in the crock pot.  Mix together meat and Greek seasoning.  Form into two small loaves and place on top of onions and garlic.  Cook on low for 4-5 hours.  Remove the meat from the crock pot.  Rest/cool for thirty minutes.  Using your sharpest knife, thinly carve strips of meat off of the loaves.  Just before serving, spray a not-nonstick pan with nonstick cooking spray or pour in a thin layer of oil.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Position slices of meat one layer thick on the pan.  By the time you finish placing them in the pan, it will be time to begin turning them over.  It’s okay of the strips break; it actually makes it easier to build the gyro.  Evacuate the pieces to a serving dish.  Repeat as necessary for dinner service (I made two batches and saved the rest to “brown” later).

Spray pan again with nonstick cooking spray.  Warm first one side, then the other, of enough pita breads for dinner.  Evacuate to a plate to keep warm.

Build your gyro by spreading tzatziki sauce (recipe below) down the middle of a pita or flatbread.  I used copious amounts because I love the stuff.  Layer the desired amount of gyro meat, followed by tomato, onion, lettuce, cucumber, and more tzatziki sauce as desired (although I would recommend that you learn from my mistake and not put it on the top).  Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.  Use your hands and patience to mold the gyro into a roll (if you are like me and you put too much stuff in, this will be a challenge).  Wrap your gyro in foil in such a way that you can peel back layers to eat your gyro.  The reason for not putting your tzatziki as your top layer is that it tends to stick to the foil and you have to show poor manners and lick the tzatziki off of the foil greedily.

Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything.  (Innocent whistles)

I guess I better share the tzatziki sauce with you.  So that you can make some of your own and not judge when I wake up in the middle of the night to eat the rest of it and lick the bowl it’s in.  Erm.  Not that I’m planning on doing that or anything.  I promise.

Tzatziki Sauce

(Again, Heavily Adapted from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures)

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped, and then rechopped into a mince

8 ounces of plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage, but I’m not brand dependent)

1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning (Again, I want to find my own recipe)

1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice (fresh squeezed)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4-5 mint leaves (peppermint), minced finely

Mix together and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.  But, before you put it in the fridge, you need to sample it.  Take a big spoonful and place it in your mouth.  Swallow.  Realize you really gobbled that first spoonful, so you didn’t really get a taste.  Take another “taste.”  Repeat as necessary.

I like how this is generally a healthy recipe.  Just as with tacos, we tend to use very little meat and pile high with other toppings, including lots of veggies.  The only processed item in this meal was the pita breads (and I have thought about learning to make my own).  I guess the Greek seasoning is processed, as well (and something I want to make my own).

Are you as obsessed by gyros as I am?