I am still working on a Christmas post but did want to recap Christmas dinner. The crock pot duck was a HUGE success. Anyone out there hesitating on whether or not to try it, go for it. It was massively easy. I did not skin it and Jeff said it was really good. Not 'under the broiler' crisp, but crisp considering that it was in the crock pot. Also, (he says) between sitting up on a rack and being in the crock pot it wasn't fatty and was moist and tender. Couldn't have been better. I meant to take a picture of the 'after dinner' duck as .... he ate almost 3/4 of the duck (!!) but forgot. Granted it was a small one, but I'd say that was a success, any way you slice it (haha). Oh, and no, I wasn't brave enough to try it but my steak was perfect!

I made the Stuffed French Toast for Christmas morning and this is another very easy recipe that is so doable, even by non-cooks. Jeff and I loved it but Emi ... adored it! She couldn't get enough and ate two Emi-sized squares (without maple syrup). It's been requested again for this week and seeing as how Jeff is off all week, I don't see why not. It takes about 15 minutes the night before you want to serve it, and most of that is just cutting up the bread in cubes. Secrets to success: (1) Make sure you get bread that will hold up to cubing and soaking all night in the egg mixture, that white Wonderbread isn't going to cut it! I use an oatmeal/grain but a wheat combo also would work, just not soft white bread. And (2) make sure your cream cheese is COLD (oh, and I use the 1/3 less fat stuff ... you know, the one that no one can pronounce). Right before I am going to cube the cream cheese I pop it into the freezer for about 5-7 minutes - and set the timer, if you forget to take it out give up on slicing it. Just saying.

Both of the crock pot chicken recipes rocked. I was so happy I finally got to make the brown sugar one - and it's so easy there was no excuse for it being on my menu plan for weeks! It was a huge hit, even Emi (the no meat gal) gobbled it up! I did make the pork loin but it was only so-so, I think I should have marinated it longer than an hour (I forgot to start it the night before, which is how I usually marinade - big mistake!).

P.S. Don't forget to head on over to Laura's at I'm an Organizing Junkie for more MPM!

Our menu for the week is going to be pretty loose. With Jeff home, we just want to hang out and not worry about anything - but we still have to eat! I am also going to try and whittle down our freezer, fridge and pantry. In no particular order, here is a general plan for the week:

  • Leftovers (!!) - and we have lots!
  • A big pot of Barbara's chili
  • A big pot of soup
  • Spaghetti
  • And, if I can find any, catfish for New Year's Eve for Jeff ... we don't go out and this year we are planning on watching a movie together that night
  • Last, but not least, it was requested that an apple pie get put onto this week's menu. So, I made it this afternoon. Oh my goodness, does the house smell divine! I wonder if we can just have pie for dinner tonight?

Oh, and because what's a menu plan without a picture of a little cutie cooking?
Come back in a day or so for more cute Emi pic's from Christmas!

Original Post: Menu Plan (Dec 28 - Jan 3)
CrockPot Peking Duck Recipe

From Kiy: About two weeks ago I had a brainstorm (scary, yes). I decided I wanted to surprise Jeff with a duck for Christmas dinner. He loves it and I've only made it once in our 15 years of marriage. You see, it completely trashes the inside of the oven. Grease and yuck *everywhere*. So, while he says it was tasty I never again attempted to make duck as the cleanup was so over-the-top. Seriously.

At first, I was thinking make it in one of those baking bags. But then, got to thinking of Steph over at A Year of Crockpotting. I searched and searched her blog but could not find anything about duck. So a quick email later, I had my duck recipe. Not only that, but she make duck TWICE! I am telling you, this gal rocks! She made two, both of which look amazing. I chose the one I am posting but linked to both as they both do look good (if I were to actually eat duck, which I don't). Thanks Steph, you made it possible for me to give my sweet hubby the Christmas dinner I wanted for him!

CrockPot Peking Duck Recipe

(This was her first post on crockpot duck.)

Day 351.

I have cracked the duck-in-the-crockpot code. You need to use a rack. Too much liquid forms in the pot, and the meat needs to be up above it. I used a little round rack that came with my rice cooker, but you could use anything---an inverted ramekin to lift the bird up out of the collected juice, a collapsible steamer basket, foil balls, etc.

This duck tastes great, is seasoned nicely, and held up in the crockpot. Here's how to make traditional Peking Duck, and here's how I made it crockpot-friendly:

The Ingredients:

4 to 5 pound duck
5 whole green onions
4 star anise
1 inch ginger, peeled
2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice (or you can make your own)
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 T honey
2 T soy sauce (La Choy and Tamari wheat-free are GF)

The Directions:

Use a 6 quart crockpot, and insert a cooking rack of some sort in the bottom of your pot. Wash the green onions and lay on top of the rack.

Skin the duck the best you can. Peel ginger and stuff inside cavity, with the star anise. In a small bowl, combine dry spices. Rub all over the bird, inside and out. Place the duck inside your crockpot, breast up. (I did breast down yesterday, and that was a mistake. It got too soggy.) Drizzle on soy sauce and honey.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. Serve with plum sauce.

I made a down-and-dirty plum sauce:

1/3 cup plum jam
1 T soy sauce (La Choy is GF)
1 T sugar
1 tsp garlic powder

The Verdict:

I was much happier at how this duck held up in the crockpot, and how most of the grease dripped away. The meat was nicely seasoned, and tasted great. We really liked the plum sauce. The kids ended up eating little smokies in bbq sauce because it was the Girl Scouts Holiday Party and that was our offering (done in a crockpot, of course).


Question was asked in her comments: Does the duck need to be skinned.?

Steph’s reply: It needs to be skinned *for me*---I have weird skin issues.

I think the skin on top will brown, but the skin on the sides and bottom will be pretty soggy. If you're up for it, you can remove the bird and broil it for a bit to brown and crispify the skin.


Update: I forgot this was also Family Favorites Edition!

Well, here we are, the Sunday before Christmas. Everyone ready? Me either.

Well, to be truthful, I am 'mostly' ready. All the gifts are purchased and all the ones that needed to be mailed are gone (whooohooo!). The kitchen is about half put together (for us, that's ahead of schedule!). I still have a few gifts incoming, a few things for Jeff and a couple little things for Emi (or is that Mama?) that I saw and just couldn't resist (although, I may hold those for her birthday). I still haven't decided - they were last minute add-ons when things went massively on sale at amazon. But other than that and wrapping those few things, the gifts are done. It seemed real easy this year and once again, no mall shopping. Sweeeeet! Emi and I went once for the Santa photo (isn't that sweet?) but never quite found the time to go back. I wanted to go back and just wander around to look at all the decorations and to see if I could get another pic of Emi with Santa. But, that's okay.

The good news is, even with the huge amounts of snow we got this weekend, I got to the grocery store this afternoon! I was going to wait and go tomorrow, but they are forecasting even more snow all week. So we are going to hunker in and stay warm. Well, Emi and I are. Jeff has to go to work Monday and Tuesday but then he is off until January 5th. I am SO excited! We have nothing special planned for that time, just hang out and enjoy being together (and not on the road!). Emi has been unimpressed with the snow this year (yay me!) so going out adventuring isn't on the list of things to do. If the mood hits we may go and get a sled to pull her around but we aren't sure she'd even be happy about that. Maybe just hang out at home and let her cook for us for a change. :)

So, that's the news here. Menu-wise, meals went great last week. Except ... I kept forgetting to start my chicken in the crock pot each morning! What's up with that? I'd think of it oh around 2-3 pm each day. I made myself a sticky note for tomorrow as I am determined to make it. It sounds delish ! (And easy.)

Here's the menu for the upcoming week. I have lots planned, but still simple. The exciting thing on the menu is Christmas dinner.

Jeff, if you are still reading ... STOP NOW! It's a surprise.

I involved Steph over at A Year of Crockpotting as my partner in crime, and she rocks. Not only did she make this dish once in very short notice, but twice!

Have a wonderful week. And to those celebrating Christmas, however you celebrate, have a wonderful day.

P.S. Don't forget to head on over to Laura's at I'm an Organizing Junkie for more MPM!

Menu Plan for Week of: December 21 – December 27

  • Sunday: *What I Didn’t Get to Last Week
    • No matter how much I plan or promise myself I won’t laze out and just say, “scrounge night”, it happens. At least once a week. So, I end up with a menu and (usually) ingredients for one meal (sadly, sometimes more than one). So here is my plan to not waste anything and to use up that meal.
    • This week it was the CrockPot Brown Sugar Chicken. However, it is on the plan for Monday (see reason for this above). We decided to really goof off – cheese, meat, crackers, apples, and milk for Emi. Fun and easy!

  • Tuesday: Breakfast! Eggs, grits, chicken sausage, melon slices or grapes
    • This is a biggie on family fav's - even Emi loves and adores grits!
  • Thursday: Christmas!

Breakfast: Stuffed French Toast, chicken sausages, fruit salad
Not only a family fav, but a memory trigger of Chirstmases Past

Snacking: Crockpot Chex Mix
This very quickly became a family fav!

Dinner: Crockpot Peking Duck for Jeff and Steak with Thai Cowboy Marinade for Kiy (who knows if Emi will eat either although she will be offered both). Wild rice (made by Uncle Ben, I love that guy – he can come to dinner any time!), Cranberry-Orange Sauce, butternut squash, Emi’s making muffins again (probably out a box) and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (also out of a box – this year, next year I hope to get back to ‘real’ baking!).

  • Saturday: Pork Loin (going to use this recipe), pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese, green salad
    • Note: With Jeff home most of this week, I am purposely not counting on leftovers for dinners this week. Leftovers, it’s what’s for lunch!

Original Post: Menu Plan (Dec 21 - Dec 27)

CrockPot Brown Sugar Chicken Recipe

From the CrockPot Lady) Steph @ A Year of Crockpotting

Day 231.

It should be noted that this chicken has been named "Candy Chicken" in our house. I don't think my kids have ever eaten so much chicken in their lives. If you are bored with dried out, boring chicken, you must try this.

You simply must.



Go to the store and buy the ingredients.


The Ingredients:
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or 6 boneless, skinless breast halves
1 cup brown sugar (it's okay. you can brush your teeth after.)
¼ cup lemon-lime soda (stay with me...)
2/3 cup vinegar (I used white wine, but think regular white would be fine)
3 cloves smashed and chopped garlic
2 T soy sauce (La Choy and Tamari wheat free are GF)
1 tsp ground black pepper

The Directions:

Use a 5-6 quart crockpot for this recipe.

Plop the chicken into your crockpot. Cover with the brown sugar, pepper, chopped garlic, and soy sauce. Add the vinegar, and pour in the soda. It will bubble!

Cover and cook on low for 6-9 hours, or on high for 4-5. The chicken is done when it is cooked through and has reached desired consistency. The longer you cook it, the more tender it will be.

Serve over a bowl of white rice with a ladle full of the broth.

The Verdict: Seriously. Go to the store. This is what's for dinner.

Udon-Beef Noodle Bowl

Cooking Light, MAY 2002

This entrée falls somewhere between a soup and a noodle dish. You can eat it with chopsticks, but be sure to have spoons around to catch the broth.

8 ounces uncooked udon noodles
(thick, round fresh Japanese wheat noodles) or spaghetti
teaspoons bottled minced garlic
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 (14¼ ounce) cans low-salt beef broth
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons sake (rice wine) or dry sherry
1 tablespoon honey
Cooking spray
2 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 4 ounces)
½ cup thinly sliced carrot
8 ounces top round, thinly sliced
¾ cup diagonally cut green onions
1 (6-ounce) bag prewashed baby spinach

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain.

Place garlic, pepper, and broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

Combine soy sauce, sake, and honey in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and carrot; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce mixture; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vegetable mixture to broth mixture. Stir in beef; cook 2 minutes or until beef loses its pink color. Stir in noodles, green onions, and spinach. Serve immediately.

Yield: 5 servings (serving size: about
1½ cups)

CALORIES 306 (16% from fat); FAT 5.6g (sat 1.8g, mono 2g, poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 22.4g; CARB 36.6g; FIBER 2.4g; CHOL 39mg; IRON 3.4mg; SODIUM 707mg; CALC 59mg;

Cooking Light, MAY 2002

With our event from last week, I didn't get two of our meals made. I did make one tonight, but only because Jeff was home to sit with Miss Emi.

She is feeling a bit better today, and now is quite clingy. Her temps were down all day, but still is quite grouchy, hungry then not hungry, tired then over tired. Poor baby. We are wondering, now that she is feeling sort of better, if she is remembering the events from Thursday. It was *not* a good day, and so very scary for her. Thank goodness they allowed us to stay with her, and hold her through all those tests. 'Back in the day', they didn't. I don't know how I would have handled that.

It was hard not to sit and cuddle with her all weekend. So you know what? I did! The tree still isn't decorated, the boxes are still waiting with the rest of the decorations for around the house but my darling girl needed me, so they waited. She is enjoying the Christmas tree as it is, with lights, tree skirt and the angel. So if that is what gets done this year, that is enough. Last weekend we put a tiny tree in her room that I found for $8.00! With tiny decorations (the tree came pre-lit) the whole thing cost about $12. Priceless. She loves it and already knows what "Christmas tree" is.

I do have cookies on my to-do list for this week (Monday and Tuesday). I want to take a couple of plates by the fire station, with Emi, as a small thank you. Sure, we (or rather our insurance) will get a bill, but the EMT guys were so amazing. Both with Emi and with me. A small token, a tiny gesture. I know now that Emi was never not going to make it through that, but at the time I thought they (and the 911 gal) saved Emi's life. I will never forget that.

If I actually do get those cookies made (all depends on how Miss Emi is doing), I will post my recipes. Each one is new, but supposed to be ultra-easy. Seeing as I want Miss Emi to be part of this, that is key.

So, after a quiet weekend, we expect a pretty quiet week. Emi has a follow-up with her ped on Tuesday. I have a feeling (and a huge hope) that by then she will be completely back to normal. We also have Jeff's holiday party on Wednesday. I really really hope she is up for that. She always loves the functions at Jeff's office, and of course tends to be the center of attention (that she laps up!), so we'd really hate for her to miss it. We will see.

Back to menu planning. Quiet week equals simple meals. Which, these days seems to be my norm. I think my days of elaborate and fancy meals are gone with a toddler in the house. All too soon I will have the time, and wish I didn't.

As always, don't forget to hop on over to Laura's at I'm an Organizing Junkie for more MPM!

  • Sunday: *What I Didn’t Get to Last Week
    • No matter how much I plan or promise myself I won’t laze out and just say, “scrounge night”, it happens. At least once a week. So, I end up with a menu and (usually) ingredients for one meal (sadly, sometimes more than one). So here is my plan to not waste anything and to use up that meal.
    • This week it was Chicken Tortilla Bake. ((Yum, it was so good. I really need to make this more often!))

  • Monday: Jules’ Homemade Tomato Soup, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, grapes
    • Note: This is probably our favorite soup. It's just as easy as opening a can of Campbell's but OH!, so much tastier!

  • Tuesday: Breakfast! Eggs, grits, kielbasa, melon slices, maybe toast
  • Wednesday: Jeff’s Office Holiday Party
  • Thursday: Leftover Buffet

Original Post: Menu Plan (Dec 7 - Dec 13) and Update