Thursday, February 28, 2013

Recipe: 5 Basic Pasta Sauces from Rachael Ray

Below is a link to 5 Basic Pasta Sauces by Rachael Ray.  The one I think is missing is a Pesto Sauce but that's just my opinion!  Enjoy

Rachael Ray Pasta Sauces Here

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Recipe: Chuckwagon Cheddar Chicken

This recipe is from the Steamboat Entertains cookbook.  It is hard to find but there are a few used copies on Amazon here.  My family loves this recipe and I don't know why I don't make it more often as it really is pretty simple!  It reminds me a lot of the Kraft Fresh Takes Italian Parmesan but the cheddar cheese just adds another layer to the flavors.

Looks very similar to this once baked.  I'll try to remember to take a picture tonight.

Chuckwagon Cheddar Chicken
(I cut this recipe in half except for the cheese - I use more :-) )

8 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1/2 cup Butter
4 cloves Garlic, minced
3/4 cup Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/8 tsp Pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar Cheese

Melt butter, add garlic,  Mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan, pepper and cheddar cheese in a bowl.  Dip chicken in garlic butter, then dip in breadcrumb mixture, coating well.  Put into a baking dish. Pour any extra butter or breadcrumb mixture over the checken.  Bake, uncovered in a 9" x 13" baking dish at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Serves 8.

I am serving this with garlic mashed potatoes tonight.

Menu Plan Sunday (well actually Tuesday)

Last week was our first real week of doing a menu plan.  It went pretty well, due to some unscheduled activities and more leftovers than expected we skipped the Homemade Pizza on Friday and moved the Taco Salad to Saturday.

This week, I put out all my entree cards and asked my husband and sons to pick out 2 items each that they would like this week.  From that we narrowed it down to 3 meals and a couple of lunches (we don't normally plan those).

Menu Plan for week of February 24-March 2:
Sunday - Leftovers
Monday - Chicken and Dumplings
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Chuckwagon Cheddar Chicken
Thursday - BBQ Pork (from the freezer)
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - Pizza Wraps (Lunch) and Orange Chicken (Dinner)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Recipe: Meatballs

My boys and I made meatballs today with hamburger I picked up at my local King Soopers a couple of weeks ago for .98/lb.  I froze the meat and then thawed it out yesterday.  Our recipe is pretty loose, throw in some spices/herbs (whatever you like), eggs and bread crumbs.  There really isn't much measuring going on, I just throw in whatever looks good.  6lbs is a lot of meat so make sure you season it enough :


6 lbs Ground Beef
6 Eggs
1 cup Homemade Bread Crumbs or Crackers
1 cup Parmesan Cheese
Onions (Chopped)
Garlic Salt
Onion Powder
Liquid Smoke
Italian Seasoning

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl until well mixed.  Form into even sized balls (so they bake evenly) and put on large cookie sheet (if you put cooling racks on the cookie sheets the grease will run down into the cookie sheet making these a bit more healthy for you). Bake for 20-30 minutes until no longer pink in the center.  You can also fry these on the stove until all sides are browned and no longer pink in the center.

We made fairly large meatballs so we only got about 60 from our 6 lbs.  They were delicious in our spaghetti for lunch.

Menu Plan Sunday

I finally finished my menu planning board.  I think it took more time to figure out the papers to use than to actually make it.  I'm still thinking about more I might want to add to it, but it is functional.  Now I am finally ready to do my first menu plan with it!  I will do a separate post with a few photos and details of how I made my board.

Today was a Bountiful Basket pick up so I got lots of fresh fruits and vegetables so while planning my menu for this week, I tried to think of a few meals I could make using what I got.  Later today, my boys and I will be making meatballs with 80/20 hamburger I got for .98 cents per pound. We will also fry up some of it for taco meat.

Menu Plan for week of February 17-23:
Sunday - Spaghetti with meatballs
Monday - 40 Cloves Garlic Chicken (in the crockpot)
Tuesday - Taco Salad
Wednesday - Leftovers
Thursday - Meatballs
Friday - Homemade Pizza
Saturday - Leftovers

I am only menu planning dinners as I usually just eat left overs for lunch.  I anticipate that Tuesday may end up being a left overs night too and that is ok with me.  I would rather eat up the leftovers than throw away the food.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Recipe: Crockpot BBQ Pork

I purchased a pork butt roast for $1.79/lb on Monday.  I brought it home and put it in my new Elite pressure cooker.  Added spices and seasonings below and BBQ sauce and turned it on.  When the timer went off after 30 minutes of pressure cooking it was not done inside (i.e. raw) so I put it in again.  This time after another 30 minutes (plus about 10 minutes to come up to pressure) it was done but not "fall off the bone tender".  We pulled some off and made sandwiches and then I threw the rest of it into my crockpot for 2 hours on high.  I should have only put it in for an hour but it still turned out well.  I normally cook this is my crockpot but wanted to try the new pressure cooker.  Now I have 2 appliances to clean up :-(.

Crockpot BBQ Pork

1 Pork Roast/Shoulder/But (trim off fat)
1 Package Lipton Onion Soup Mix (or make your own)
1 Bottle Dark Beer (or whatever kind you have on hand)
Water to cover roast
Garlic Salt
Chili Powder
Whatever Seasonings/herbs you want to add

1 Bottle Light Beer (or whatever you have on hand)
1 Bottle BBQ Sauce

Put roast in crockpot fat side up (so that fat runs down through the meat giving it good flavor)
Add 1st bottle of beer and the seasonings.  Cook on high for 4 hours or low 8 hours.
When meat is literally fall of the bone tender, drain liquid, shred meat and add the 2nd bottle of beer and BBQ sauce (I sometimes add 2 bottles of BBQ sauce depending on how much meat I have).  Cook on low for hour or until you are ready to eat (really just heating up the sauce).  If you have kids in the house you should eliminate the 2nd bottle of beer as the alcohol will not cook off - I don't usually add a replacement liquid.

Serve on buns with pickles, cheese, whatever condiments you like on your BBQ.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Recipe: Crockpot Mashed Potatoes

A couple weeks ago I found a recipe on FirstADream blog for making mashed potatoes in the crockpot.  I had a bunch of potatoes from Bountiful Baskets that I needed to use up and this recipe sounded delicious but in reality it was OUT OF THIS WORLD.  I have some more potatoes that I need to use so I'm thinking this will be part of our dinner tomorrow night!.

I pretty much followed the recipe but I saw other recipes that added cream cheese in place of some of the milk.  I did not want the extra calories and the original recipe was outstanding as it was.

Picture from

Crockpot/Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs potatoes, diced with peel
1 cup water
1 cup butter, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon salt, plus
¾  teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/3  cups milk, warmed

1. Place the potatoes, water, and butter into a slow cooker.
2. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Cover, and cook on High for 4 hours.
4. Do not remove the excess water from slow cooker. This adds to the creamy texture.
5. Mash potatoes with a masher or electric beater, adding the desired amount of warm milk to achieve a creamy consistency.
6. Keep warm on low until serving.
7. Potatoes keep consistency for a couple of hours after mashing. Just keep the lid on the slow cooker and serve directly from there.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bountiful Baskets

In my quest to cook more at home using fresh ingredients, I happened upon a website called Bountiful Baskets.  If you have not experienced Bountiful Baskets, you have no idea what you are missing.  Bountiful Baskets is a food co-op in which participants contribute $15 (plus $1.50 processing fee) and they will receive a basket of fresh fruits and vegetables.  The value of the baskets is at least $35-$50.  They even offer organic baskets for an extra $10.

Here is a photo of the items I received in my basket one week.  Try buying all that at the grocery store for $16.50.

Bountiful Baskets was started by 2 women in Utah who were just trying to find reasonably priced fruits and vegetables for their families.  It has now expanded to 20 states and is growing every week. The site where I pick up my baskets just went from an every other week (always on a Saturday) pickup to now being available every Saturday.  They rely on volunteers to sort the fruits/vegetables into baskets and handle the distribution.  I used to volunteer every time I did a pick up but I enjoyed it so much that I am now a site coordinator and oversee the operation at my site every other week.

On the Bountiful Baskets website, they have a blog with recipes for several of the items you will receive in your basket.  They also have a facebook page.

Check out Bountiful Baskets to see if they have a location near you.  I guarantee that once you try it you will be hooked and will never pick up produce at your grocery store again.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Recipe: Double Crunch Orange Chicken

I found a recipe for Double Crunch Orange Chicken and knew I had to try it.  Here is the link to the original recipe.  I followed it pretty closely except that I only had 2 (large) chicken breasts (that is really all the 4 of us will eat in a single meal) so I had to cut it down so I would not have waste.  I'm going to try it baked next time to lower the calories.  Mine was not quite as dark as the picture below, I was afraid of it being too dry.  They also have a recipe for Honey Garlic Double Crunch Chicken that I plan to try soon!

Double Crunch Chicken a L'Orange

I served it with rice and a spinach salad with strawberries and feta cheese.  My boys declared this recipe a keeper.

Double Crunch Orange Chicken

6  large boneless chicken breasts
Place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and using a meat mallet, pound the meat to an even 1/2 inch thickness. Alternatively, you can slice the breasts by placing them flat on a cutting board and using a very sharp knife to slice them into halves horizontally.

Sift together:

2 cup flour
4 tsp salt
4 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp ground ginger
2 tbsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground thyme
2 tsp ground sage
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper 

Make an egg wash by whisking together:

4 eggs
8 tbsp water

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then dip the meat in the flour and spice mixture. Dip the breast into the eggwash and then a final time into the flour and spice mix, pressing the mix into the meat to get good contact.  
 Here is where I changed the recipe - instead of dipping into flour mixture again, I put them in Panko to which I added a bit of garlic salt and onion powder.  Made the chicken very crunchy.

Heat a skillet on the stove with about a half inch of canola oil covering the bottom. You will want to carefully regulate the temperature here so that the chicken does not brown too quickly. The thinness of the breast meat practically guarantees that it will be fully cooked by the time the outside is browned. I find just below medium heat works well. I use a burner setting of about 4 1/2 out of 10 on the dial and fry them gently for about 4 or 5 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy.

Several comments on the website suggest that for baking, that you should spray a baking pan lightly with oil and then spriz some on top and then turn the chicken over about half way through. Bake at 350 degrees for approx 25-35 minutes.  Internal temperature should be 165 degrees.

Orange Sauce 

Begin by adding to a medium saucepan over medium low heat:

3 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp peanut oil
Sauté for a couple of minutes until the garlic is softened but not browned, then add:

3 cups orange juice
finely grated zest of one small orange
3/4 cup honey
1/3 cup rice vinegar

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp chili flakes or 2 tsp crushed chili paste ( more or less to taste, use 1/4 of this amount if you don't like spicy sauces) - I left this out completely as my sons don't like spicy.

Simmer together slowly for about 20 minutes or until the volume has reduced by about half. Skim off any film that may come to the surface.
Mix together:

1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup water

Pour slowly into the saucepan stirring constantly to thicken the sauce to a glaze-like consistency. You can use a little more or less cornstarch mixture to bring it to the consistency you want. Boil for only another minute and remove from the heat.
Coat the chicken breasts with the sauce before serving. Serve with rice or noodles.

Be sure to check out Rock Recipes for more recipe ideas!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Menu Planning Made Easy

While working on my menu planning board, I thought of another idea to share with you.  Problem is I have SOOO many thoughts/ideas around menu planning that either this could be a REALLY long post or I am going to have to break it down into several posts.  I'm going for the several posts idea, although this will still be a long post!

So this post will be about the websites/blogs that can help make menu planning easier for you.  Some of the sites go so far as to prepare not only the menu for you, but also a shopping list based on what is on sale that week.  If you aren't into couponing, at least by buying items that are on sale, you can save your family significant amounts of money each month.  And, buy multiples of items that are on sale and store in your pantry or freezer so you don't have to pay full price next time.

I do not take advantage of most of these services however I have done a trial period for a few and have incorporated several ideas into my system.  Since I already have a large stockpile I like to use what I have on hand.  I'm also a fairly picky eater and sometimes just don't care for the menus they have planned out.

Below is a list of some of the sites I've discovered that do the menu planning for you.  Some are free and many have a nominal fee (check them out via their trial period if offered).  Some offer just basic menu planning for a week or a month at a time (WHOA!) and others will create your shopping list for you.  Some even have pretty printables you can download and print to write out your plan for the week.  Be sure to check out their recipe pages too for even more ideas.

If you know of a menu planning site/service that should appear in this list, please send me their link and I will add it.  If you need more ideas, go to Google or even better is Pinterest and type in Menu Planning in the Search box.  Be prepared to spend a few hours looking through all the sites and on Pinterest understand up front that you will go off on many tangents as you keep clicking on pins not related to menu planning.  Don't say I did not warn you!!

5 Dinners 1 Hour
Chocolate on My Cranium (no menu planning but lots of delicious recipes)
Crockin Girls (just starting to post menu plans but check out their recipes!)
Deals to Meals (menus based on what is on sale that week)
Eat at Home Cooks
Jamie Cooks It Up (she has some great monthly meal plans)
Oh So Chi Chi (Great Menu board tutorial)
Menus for Mom
Once A Month Mom (Now this is SERIOUS menu planning - holy grail of menu planning)
Semi Homemade Mom
Shrinking Kitchen (Healthy meal plans)
Six Sisters Stuff (they have just started posting menu plans, but check out their list of recipes!)
Sout hern Mom Cooks (lots of printables too)
The Fresh 20
The Shabby Creek Cottage (simple menu planning printable)
Whipper Berry (LOVE this Chalkboard menu planning board - this is the one in the picture above)

My advice to you is try a few of the services and then start small.  Plan a week at a time rather than trying to plan out the whole month.  Also be flexible. Sometimes you will forget to pull out the roast to thaw, just switch days then. Sometimes you will decide to eat out or just are not in the mood for whatever you planned.  It's ok!  This is a plan, it is not set in stone.

One more piece of advice, do a Google search before buying the paid services to see if the service you are interested in is offering a code (usually promoted on blogs).

Friday, February 1, 2013

Menu Planning Board

I've been looking at blogs and website about menu planning for the last several months.  Every time I think I've decided on a method, I change my mind and decide it isn't the right one for me.  I will only plan my dinners but some people plan breakfast, lunch and dinner.  More power to them, I am going to start small.  Here is the menu planning board I saw on Pinterest that I keep going back to and I think I've decided on.

Check out the post on this blog:

Let's be clear, this was not my idea/creation.  I am going to modify theirs to fit my needs and will post photos when it is done. I plan to do mine on a magnetic board that I got at IKEA.  I will cover it with some crafting paper in colors to match my decor and use magnets for the clothes pins (if I use them) and the card holding boxes. If you do yours in with a glass picture frame like they did, you could change it out the background every season if you wanted.  Make a few extra of the card holding boxes in other patterns/colors and use velcro so you can change them out as you wish.  Also if your picture frame has glass, you could write on it with a dry erase marker.

Do you menu plan?  What works for you?

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