Meal Plan Monday: Please Do Not Heat Up That Kitchen!

Good Monday morning, Pinteresting Blogosphere!  If there is one thing I learned in all of the advance meal prep coming to fruition for my in-laws’ visit, it is this:  when premaking dishes in advance for recooking in the summer, make them ones that can 1) go in the slow cooker, 2) be grilled, or 3) go in the microwave.  As wonderful as knowing that the main dish for dinner was ready each night (other than baking/warming), the kitchen really got overheated each evening.

It.  Is.  Hot.  Here.

So I returned to the idea of the Please Don’t Heat Up the Kitchen New Recipe Challenge for inspiration.  If it can’t go in the slow cooker, in the microwave, or on the grill?  I didn’t want it.

With that in mind, this is what I decided:

Saturday:  chicken salad sandwiches (chicken poached in the slow cooker), Rainier cherries (yay!  Aldi sale for $2.49/lb.)

Sunday:  big salad and crackers

Monday:  grilled ribs, slaw, beans

Tuesday:  Crockpot Fajitas from Cooking Classy, Jumbo Pico Salad

Wednesday:  leftovers or hot dogs (because Josh is off Thursday)

Thursday:  grilled chicken thighs (thinking a variation of this recipe), rice, beans

Friday:  pizza from Johnny’s pizza

Saturday:  grilled hamburger and chips

Sunday:  grilled pork chops (from pork loin), microwave rice, broccoli

What is on your meal plan for this week?

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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?

The 25 Days of Holiday Goodies Day 10: Blue Cheese Dip

25 Days of Christmas Goodies Button

I love blue cheese!  In a perfect world, blue cheese would be the only cheese.  But then I would miss cheddar.  And all of the other cheese varieties.  So, no, blue cheese cannot be the only cheese.  A week or so ago while decorating the tree, I made a ton of recipes, including this super yummy blue cheese dip.

I could wax poetic about the wonder of it, but what makes it truly fantastic is the fact that it has Worcestershire sauce in it.  Yes.  Worcestershire sauce in blue cheese dip.  Fantabulousness!

And it was all mine…mine!  (Because no one else in the LFam house loves blue cheese as much as me–or even likes it)

And…it comes from Pioneer Woman.  All recipes of hers that I’ve tried have been awesome.

Blue Cheese Dip

Source:  Pioneer Woman

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup whole milk

1/4 cup sour cream

Dash Worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles

Salt and pepper
To a bowl add the mayo, milk, sour cream, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk until well combined.  Stir in blue cheese.

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Meal Plan Monday: Back After a Week Hiatus

Meal Plan Monday

Let me just say, I had a week’s worth of blog entries planned when I sat down to blog last weekend.  I think I burnt my little blogging star out a bit, though.  Maybe even my little writing star out.  Fiction writing didn’t happen last weekend.  Journaling was pretty much moot.

I blame exhaustion.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have great material.  I did.  Awesome stuff.

But, I sat down to write.  And didn’t have anything.

And, in the process of banging my head against the metaphorical wall, I made myself a promise:  Never go a week without posting some kind of content, even if it’s a picture of Muffin.  Something.  Anything.  There’s no excuse.

But, y’all didn’t come here to read my whining about my writer’s block.  Y’all want to know what we are having, meal-wise, this week.

Saturday:  burgers and poutine

Sunday:  Baked Ziti with Two Mozzarellas and Parmesan Cream Sauce (Serious Eats), salad, garlic bread, Olive Garden Copycat Tiramisu (A Top Secret Recipes formula found at Food.com)

Monday:  Red Beans and Rice from a box of Tony Chachere’s (think the Creole equivalent of Hamburger Helper), green veg

Tuesday:  Orange Chicken (from Pioneer Woman’s Dinnertime cookbook), rice, egg roll

Wednesday:  Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes (from Southern Living)–another reader recommendation, chips, cucumber and tomato slices

Thursday:  leftovers

Clean Out the Refrigerator Leftovers for Dinner

Friday:  More than likely, this will be the first of two dinners out this week.  Josh and I celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary on Monday the 16th (Love you, Dear!), so we will probably eat out tonight.

Saturday:  Again, this will probably end up being our “date night” out.

Sunday:  A snacky cheese board anniversary meal of amuse bouche-ness 🙂 (including one very special recipe I hope to share soon)

What’s on your plan this week?

Thoughtful Thursday: Review of Dinnertime by Ree Drummond

Thoughtful Thursday

What are the odds of having a not-rant-filled Thoughtful Thursday post.  I can feel the breeze caused by the collective eye rolls, y’all.  Truly, this one is more gushy than rant-y.  (Disclosure:  I received a copy of the cookbook that I will review below as a birthday gift from my parents.)

I promise.

For my birthday, my mom gave me three cookbooks, two on my birthday and one after (because it came out after my birthday).

Today, I will review for you the one that arrived after my birthday, allowing for the recency effect.

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Yup.  My mom handed it to me in the open package from Amazon.  She had to take a peek.  I now have all four of her cookbooks.

I love all three of the ones I had before, but the first one was the one I have always referred to as “the best.”  After skimming through (okay, absorbing every word, graphic, and photograph) the “new” cookbook, I have this to say:  the first one has a run for its money at last.

I LOVE IT!!!!!!

Most (if not all) recipes are available on her blog, and many have been featured on her TV show on Food Network.  This would be an excellent cookbook for the beginner cook for several reasons.  1) She photographs each step of the cooking process. 2) She has suggestions in the beginning to help streamline the cooking process (advanced prep, etc.).  Nothing new, but it is explained in the type of detail you would get from your bestie. 3) She offers serving suggestions and variations for each recipe.

So, it would (like her first cookbook) make a great bridal, housewarming, or college gift.

Her book is divided into breakfast, soup, salad, freezer food, 16-Minute Meals, pasta, comfort food, new favorites, veggie sides, starchy sides, and quick desserts.

Some of the highlights I’m looking forward to trying/trying again:

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

Waffles

Huevos Rancheros

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Croissant French Toast (once the croissants from Sam’s go stale)

Breakfast Quesadillas

Lazy Chiles Rellenos

Cobb Salad

Chicken Taco Salad

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Tomato Soup with Parmesan Croutons

Potato Soup

Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup (like Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana)

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Ready-to-Go Freezer Meatballs (including variations for Sweet-and-Sour, Sweedish, and BBQ meatballs)

Ready-to-Go Grilled Chicken

Ready-to-Go Chili Packets

Ready-to-Go Taco Chicken (with a variation for Chicken Nachos)

Ready-to-Go Beef Taco Filling (with variations for Salad Tacos)

Baked Ziti (that uses meat…I know!  Shocker!)

Lasagna Roll-Ups

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce (Every once in a while a recipe comes along that screams “TRY ME!” This is one of those recipes!)

Pan-Fried Pork Chops

Orange Chicken (Otherwise known as, I have now after tears, angst, massive feelings of failure, self-doubt, and much bad feelings, finally created Orange Chicken successfully)

Beef with Snow Peas

Cashew Chicken

Chow Mein

Pasta Puttanesca

Bow-Tie Chicken Alfredo

Pasta with Vodka Sauce

Cajun Chicken Pasta (This is truly an awesome recipe.  Adjust spicyness to taste.  I feel the need to make it.  Like now!)

Skillet Lasagna

Shrimp Scampi

Quick Shells and Cheese

Salisbury Steak

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Oven-Barbecued Chicken

Red Wine Pot Roast

Chicken Enchiladas

Pork Chops with Wine and Roasted Garlic

Pollo Asado

Chicken Marsala

Pork Chops with Pineapple Fried Rice

Chicken Milanese

Pawhuska Cheesesteaks

Green Chile Chicken

Burrito Bowls

Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole (I detest cauliflower and broccoli is not my favorite, but I want to try this one!)

Lemony Green Beans

Peas and Carrots

Colorful Coleslaw

Roasted Carrots with Vinaigrette

Veggies and Three Dips

Stovetop Mashed Potatoes

Breakfast Potatoes

“Slice-Baked” Potatoes

Rice Pilaf

Buttered Parsley Noodles

Risotto

Cheese Biscuits

Refrigerator Rolls

The Bread

Pudding (Vanilla, Butterscotch, Chocolate)

Quick Caramel Sauce

Slice and Bake Cookies

Quick Fudge

Rice Pudding

Dessert Panini

A Catch-Up Post: Sour Cream Noodle Bake

That picture really doesn’t do it justice.  This recipe is a godsend in egg-noodle form.

(And I’m usually not a fan of egg noodles.)

A few things went wrong with this picture.  I had obviously already started eating.  Sometimes this happens before I can take a glamour shot of the dish.  To me, that makes it more authentic.  I can gussy it up (and I have before), but it shows me that I actually liked the dish enough to take a picture of it after having a bite.  Meaning that it was blog worthy.

The second problem is that this was during my time of using filters in Camu, so it really doesn’t look like that.  A bit more red and a bit less yellow, in fact.

I first saw this recipe on Pioneer Woman’s Food Network show.  She sets it up as a freezer meal, and the next time I make it I’m going to make two and freeze one.  It’s easy cheesy and peasy.  Well, not peasy, but peas of all kinds would go well with it.

She stresses the need to make it in separate layers, almost like a lasagna.  I have since seen it other places where they mix it all up in a big hodgepodge.

Even though it makes the process a bit more difficult, I have to agree with the layered, strata method.  So that you don’t ruin the effect, make sure to let your baked casserole sit for 10-15 minutes to “re-solidify” and be cut-able.  Otherwise, you end up with hodgepodge (see the picture above).

One aspect I love about this casserole (that Muffin, of course, does not) is the green onion.  The lovely little bits of green and white confetti really brighten up the flavor and make it not just another casserole.

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

Adapted from Pioneer Woman via Food Network

1 1/4 pounds ground meat (The chief deviation from her recipe:  I used ground turkey)

15-ounce can tomato sauce (or two 8-ounce cans if you can’t find it or already have the 8 ouncers in the pantry)

1/2 teaspoon salt

pepper, freshly ground, of course

8 ounces egg noodles (half of a 16-ounce bag…see how it’s made for doubling and freezing one?)

1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/4 cups small curd cottage cheese

1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, plus more for topping

1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded

*Note:  Ree Drummond recommends grating your own cheese.  It really gives a much better melting result (other than the negative effect of fingernail breaking).

Now, that I’ve grossed everyone out, I’ll continue with the directions.

If cooking immediately (AKA not freezing), preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the meat in a large skillet and drain meat.  (I’ve been known to forget this step and end up with an oil slick in some dishes…sorry.)  Add tomato sauce and stir.  Add salt and pepper and stir, leaving the skillet contents to simmer while you prepare the rest.

Boil noodles in salted water until al dente.  Don’t overcook or you will have mushy noodles in the casserole.  Drain and set aside (but don’t rinse).

Now for the white ingredients:  combine the dairy ingredients (sour cream and cottage cheese) in a large bowl.  Stir in green onions, pepper and pepper flakes.  Stir the noodles into the mixture.

Spray a large baking dish with nonstick spray.  (You will need a deep 9×13 dish or larger.)  Make a bed of half of the noodle mixture on the bottom.  Then layer on half of the mixture of meat and top with half of the cheese.  Repeat the layers.  Top with extra green onions.  (This makes it totally delish!)

Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, approximately 20 minutes if your other ingredients were warm (meat sauce, noodles).

WAIT at least 10 minutes before cutting into the dish.

Serve with warmed crusty French bread.

This recipe (once Muffin removed the green onions) was Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved

Funny Muffin Friday: Can I Have Some of Your Chicken?

Funny Muffin Friday

The crime:  Stolen pieces of fried chickeny goodness  (See below for the meal in its pristine state)

The victim:  ME!!!!!

The culprit:  Muffin!

The motive:  This chicken was totally Muffin (and Mama!) Approved!

Okay, enough of the drama (but I’m still missing my chicken!).  On Tuesday, when I was supposed to make the sesame chicken (yup, it got delayed again), I realized that I didn’t have chicken thighs.  I thought, that’s okay.  I’ll go ahead and make it with chicken breasts.

Then, I couldn’t find the sesame oil.  You aren’t going to get too far with sesame chicken without sesame oil.  I have since found the sesame oil, but that was after I had already started making another chicken recipe, Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken from A Bountiful Kitchen.

Now, I have made fried chicken before.  It’s a pain in the proverbial neck.  Alton Brown’s fried chicken from the Fry Hard 2:  The Chicken episode of Good Eats is my gold standard.  If you want to go through the entire process, that’s the one you should use.  Or Pioneer Woman’s.

But things like “Is the chicken done around the bone?” tend to worry me, exceedingly so.  As a result, I tend to shy away from southern fried chicken unless it can be purchased in a bucket or a bag.

I know that I’m committing Southern Sacrilege by saying that, but there it is.

When I found that recipe at A Bountiful Kitchen, I was intrigued because it uses boneless skinless chicken breasts and has finite amounts of time that the chicken sits in the oil on each side (I will probably lessen the amount of time next time because mine got a bit too caramelized, even at a lower temperature).

That’s how it ended up on the menu…for Saturday.

But, it was really the only option as a stand in when, at 1:30, I couldn’t find the sesame oil.  It was too late to thaw the pork chops for the Crock Pot Ranch Pork Chops, and too late to start the pizza pasta dish (or the other slow cooker dish for the week).  And I really am planning on making the cornbread in advance for the cornbread chicken casserole.

That left the fried chicken.  Luckily, we had plenty of mashed taters left over from Monday night.  I decided to make brown gravy using a mix (Yes, I know, but I was so frustrated for having to change the menu at that point) and some green beans.  I wouldn’t be able to let the chicken soak in the buttermilk mixture as long as I wanted to.

Next time I will soak it overnight so that it can be affected by all of that yumminess.

I pretty much followed the recipe exactly, other than shading off some of the time.  The reason was my fault, of course.  I divided my breasts in half lengthwise, and I’m not great at dividing them evenly.

I kept my stove a shade cooler, too, setting 6 instead of between the 7 and 8 for medium-high.  My stove tends to run fairly hot, though.

Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Adapted Pretty Closely from A Bountiful Kitchen

2 1/2 cups milk

roughly 3 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot Sauce or another Louisiana-style variety (I would think Tabasco too hot and thin for this recipe)

2 large (humongous) chicken breasts, divided into two-three pieces each

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon or so salt, to taste

1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I actually used closer to a half, and no one was the wiser)

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil with a smattering of bacon grease)

In a four-cup measuring cup (think Pyrex! or Oxo) pour the milk and vinegar.  Whisk.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Whisk again.  You’ve just made buttermilk!

Add in the pepper sauce and stir to combine.

Place chicken pieces in the mixture, cover, and place in the fridge at least one hour (but hopefully overnight!).

When ready to fry, pour the oil in the pan.

Mix up the flour, pepper, cayenne, and salt in a gallon-size zip-top baggie.  Resist the extremely overwhelming urge to add anything (such as Dash or Montreal Chicken Seasoning) to the mix.  Seriously.  Resist.  Consider this Southern Rocket Science.  Or at least Southern Fried Chicken Science.

Heat the oil until it’s hot on medium-medium-high heat (Setting 6 on a 10 setting system).  Don’t pour a cup of water in it to test.  I’ve never done that, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a good idea.  Then, the Southern Fried Chicken Science may become Southern Rocket Science entirely on accident.

Instead, to test, add a cube of bread.  If it browns delightfully without immediately burning, the oil is ready.  If not, wait or adjust accordingly.

Shake the chicken, a few pieces at a time, in the flour baggie.

Add the chicken, as many pieces that will fit with a half-inch apart, to the pan.  Fry 6-7 minutes on the first side.  Leave the chicken alone!  Do not poke, prod, turn, or anything else the chicken during that time.  Turn the chicken.  Repeat.

Evacuate the new golden brown deliciousness to a paper-towel-lined plate.  Note:  I know that there are people who hotly contest the evacuation resting place.  I cannot bring myself to try newsprint.  I’m not going to fry-grease pollute my cooling racks.  Paper towels is how I was raised, and paper towels it will be.

Repeat as necessary with the remaining chicken.  If it’s going to be a while while the rest of it finishes, you may keep it in a warm (200 degree) oven.  Our first pieces were still rocket hot when the last ones finished.

Serve with appropriate sides.

Verdict:  Muffin ate his piece of chicken, most of his taters, and a smattering of green beans.  Then, he started begging for my chicken.

He took my chicken!!!!

And, in doing so, asked me at least five times to make the chicken again.

Did I mention that he took my chicken?!?!

Muffin Approved

The one thing this recipe was missing?  Greens!  Oh, well, I guess that’s for next time.