To my regular readers: Yes, lots of new posts today. I was looking for ideas for this week and realized it made more sense to post my menu plans over here. Since I started them on RC&T, I will continue to post them there and then copy them here. I fed them in on the original dates published but those that read in google reader or other formats will most likely see 50+ posts from me today. Sorry about that! (And yes, I plan to try to get back into the MP saddle. I’ve been slacking!)
Well, back in the MP saddle again. I may not get to this every week, but going to try to do better. We eat healthier, cheaper and frankly, just plain better when I take the time to meal plan.

We are going to try to do fresh fish at least twice a week, sometimes adding a third night of fish if we feel like it. Jeff and I were talking meals and realized that we love fish and really don’t have it as much as we used to. Add to that it is SO good for us, seems silly not to.


We have a great fish monger near Jeff’s office so he is going to stop on his way home to see what looks good that particular night. Whatever looks good will decide how it’s made. Here are the choices:

Billie Ruth’s Catfish
Asian Marinade (our fav fish marinade - great on any fish!)
Ginger-Soy Marinade

Don’t forget to check out Laura’s for more MPM!

~~~~~

Mother’s Day: Jeff is in charge and is making one of my fav meals! Steak on the grill (with Cowboy Thai Marinade), baked sweet pots, corn on the cob

Taco Salad - perfect for a hot night when I don’t feel like cooking. What we like in ours (I put all the stuff on the counter and we sorta buffet-it): ground beef or turkey with taco seasoning, taco chips of some kind, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, canned corn (rinsed and chilled), pineapple (I know it’s odd, but it really works!), sliced olives (for Jeff & Emi), shredded cheese and salsa (both mild and whatever Jeff is eating at the moment, varies from medium to oh-my-gosh stomach walls burned away).

Chicken Tortilla Bake

Spaghetti and Meatballs - Nothing fancy, jarred sauce with tons of chopped vege’s tossed in, frozen meatballs. Easy, simple, can be tossed together in less than 15 minutes.

Shortcut Lasagna

And the two nights of fish.

Original Post: Menu Plan

So last week went pretty well, menu-wise. Except, I still haven't made this: Balsamic Chicken & Mushrooms! How is it possible. It looks divine. It looks easy. Magi made it, I know it will rock. What's up with me? It is, again, on my menu plan this week. I *must* make it!

The birthday 'boy' selected fish, rice and butternut squash for dinner last night along with blueberry pie. Not surprising. At all. We had this marinade for the fish - salmon for him, tuna steak for me, we made Emi a Tilapia fillet and she rejected it! We were amazed, but since the whole brown rice discovery, nothing comes between Emi and her rice these days. She even said no to the butternut squash, which she loves. We are going to have to hide the rice steamer from her to get her to eat something else first. Go figure, since this is the little gal that for the first year she was home with us wouldn't touch rice (well, she'd devour wild rice).

Since my fiasco with the Stuffed Pork Loin, I am once again going to attempt it. No, it wasn't on sale. I just can't get it off my mind. We love us some pork, and stuffed ... yum. That and it's Barbara's recipe, I know I can't go wrong (as long as the meat doesn't spoil!).

So, for next week:
Balsamic Chicken & Mushrooms
Stuffed Pork Loin
Chicken Tortilla Bake (doubled for leftovers)
Grilled Chicken Breasts using this marinade
Quick Spinach Roll-Ups

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

Original post: Menu Plan (Mar 22 - 28)
Blueberry Pie

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 cups blueberries - fresh or frozen

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar ~OR~ 1/3 cup each: sugar Splenda
  • ¼ cup tapioca (or 7 tablespoon corn starch)
  • ½ tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ tablespoon allspice (optional)

  • 3 tablespoon water (or grape juice)
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2-3 teaspoons of minced lemon zest (optional but SO yummy!)

  • 1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust (2 crusts for double crust pie or 1 crust for a crumble topping pie, see below)

Crumb Topping (optional)

  • ¼ cup sugar ~OR~ 1/8 cup each: sugar and Splenda
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine, chilled

Instructions:

  • Use your favorite pie crust recipe or cheat like I do and buy the one pre-made in the handy red box found in the dairy section of the grocery story. I make a terrible pie crust and over the years have learned to make do with the boxed kind. It’s not as oh-my-gosh delicious as a truly wonderful homemade one, but it’s far better than any of mine have ever turned out. (Remember to take it out about a half an hour before you want to use it.)

  • I used frozen blueberries as it’s not blueberry season right now, and blueberry pie was specifically requested by the birthday, um, boy.

  • Rinse in a colander under cool water, it’s not necessary to defrost and actually I prefer not to as I feel it makes them mushy and disgusting (but that’s my opinion).

  • In a small to medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients combining sugar, tapioca, and spices in a bowl. Then mix in the lemon juice and water. Do NOT mix the blueberries with the bowl ingredients!

  • Fit the bottom crust gently into your pan (I usually spray my pan first with Pam and dust a bit of flour).

  • Now, take your blueberries and pour them into the piecrust, mounding a bit as needed. Pour the bowl mixture over the blueberries trying to hit each berry as best you can.

  • Here is where you would make the crumble topping if you want this option. Just mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and then cut in with a pastry blender (or two butter-type knives) and then sprinkle all over the pie. That is actually my fav way of making just about any pie. Jeff likes a more traditional pie with a piecrust topping so that is what I used this time.

  • Fit the top crust over the berries, either using a lattice design or a single crust that you would then put slits in the top. Make sure to seal the edges well and flute as desired.

  • Something I do that some would cringe at – gently spray a bit of Pam (most folks would melt some butter) over the top of the crust and dust with sugar.

  • Bake at 375º for about 1 hour until the pie is all bubbly; start checking at about 45 minutes as all ovens are different (mine took about 1 hour 20 minutes - I hate electric ovens!). Cool on a rack for an hour or so (if you can bear to, we never make it that long!). Yum.
Okay, first. Gosh you guys are brutal! lol On the hair front, Emi and I have a lunch thing to go to at Jeff's office tomorrow so I will have to do it - and do it well! If it turns out, I will try to remember to have Jeff take our picture. IF the picture turns out, I will post it.

On to the menu planning. Well, needless to say menu planning didn't happen yesterday. I wish weekends would slow down! First, the crock pot fish chowder was so-so at best. Not sure if it was the fish I used or if we had different expectations but Emi was indifferent to it (she drank the broth), I didn't care for it at all and Jeff liked it well enough. So, I am moving that recipe to my so-so category and will keep looking. If anyone has a great (easy) crock pot recipe for clam/fish/corn chowder please share it with me!

I didn't get to the Balsamic Chicken & Mushrooms, that's my plan for tonight. The Spinach-Artichoke Cheesy Tortellini as always, was totally wonderful. I do use fresh spinach that I chop, and use half the cheese and fat-free half and half for the cream and it is wonderful. Now that I've made it a few times, it takes about 20 minutes tops. Easy and yummy. If you haven't tried it, it's a keeper for us. (Well, except for Emi. It's a bit too much for her, so I leave some tortellini's out for her and usually give her a vege and/or fruit to go with it.)

Something I that I was seriously bummed about, was the pork loin. I actually remembered to take it out of the freezer and pop it into the fridge (too many years spent in the restaurant biz - I am crazed about thawing meats, I never ever ever thaw on the kitchen counter). So Monday I make the stuffing and while it's cooling down I take the pork loin from the fridge, open the package and .... yuck! Eight dollars worth of pork loin had gone bad at some point. All we can think of is that it happened at the store, before I bought it. I am also crazed about meat handling. I buy it last when shopping, even though it requires backtracking. I always put it away first. So, I know it wasn't me. But, when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter, my dinner was trashed. Jeff ran back to the store and picked up some ready-made chicken (yum), I tossed a vege in the nuker and with the stuffing, that was dinner. But, at least we didn't scrap it totally and call out for pizza. Although I am not sure where running out for rotisserie chicken falls into 'not eating out'. But, it worked in a pinch.

Meals for this week:
Balsamic Chicken & Mushrooms
Udon-Beef Noodle Bowl (with chicken)
Quiche (yes, it's that easy)
Breakfast (grits, eggs and turkey or chicken sausage most likely)


Only four meals planned as we have a birthday to celebrate this week. Jeff's! I still haven't decided exactly what to make and since I want it to be a surprise - I can't post it! Nope, not duck again. I am hoping for something different.

Original Post:
Hair Update and Menu for the Week
So, menu-wise, meals went better than expected last week. We did send Jeff out for pizza once and go out once. Not good, I really want to step on that. If I am too pooped to cook, I want to at least do 'vege night' which we did do once. And hey, we lived through it and enjoyed it. AND ... it didn't set us back $20-30. We need to do more of that, and we will.

So, Emi and I headed off to the grocery store with almost no plan in place (not good). Fortunately, a very nice tuna steak just jumped into my cart. Since that happened, I decided to add a nice piece of salmon for Jeff (I love and adore tuna steaks, even more than beef or bison!). Emi, for once, refused fish. But I am wondering if it was just because she was too busy with the (gasp) brown rice, and peas. I can't believe I now LOVE brown rice. We finally broke down and bought a new rice steamer and whoa, does it rock. It takes forEVER to make the rice (both white and brown) but it's worth the time. Oh, and it makes the best ever sticky rice. Ahhh, heaven. But now that I've discovered brown (nice nutty flavor, needs extremely little butter!) we rarely do white any more. And, as a bonus, Emi loves the brown and is quite indifferent to the white. The recipe used was the Asian-Style Grilled Tilapia. (Not suprised?) YUM!

What else did we have? Jules' Homemade Tomato Soup and grilled sandwiches, Vege Nite (udon noodles with a bit of ginger and soy sauce, corn on the cob on the grill), um ... well, we did eat, I just can't remember what else!

BTW, I can't remember if I posted about the Pasta with Creamy Pancetta-and-Pea Sauce. If I did, just skip this as it will be a repeat! It was amazing. Really really amazing. Emi picked through and ate the pasta, wouldn't touch the peas ... she kept trying to get the sauce off them (yes, the same sauce that the pasta had on it). I finally gave up and nuked her some plain ones. Kids. :) But Jeff and I almost climbed into the pan, it was that good. I did use Lythrum's hints - the ham was a very nice touch, but the biggie was using less pans. I hate to do dishes and clean up, so that was a great tip. Oh, and I thought it was a pretty easy and fun recipe to do. It's a keeper here. (Oh, and Serdmom's Apple Crisp has been banned from the house ... oh my, I didn't want to share! Seriously though, total yum and quite easy. Too easy.)

So, now the question is, what are we having this week? I have no idea! Going to figure it out as I type. But it has to be quick and easy, which seems to be a theme these days.

CrockPot Fish Chowder Recipe
Emi has been on a chowder kick lately. No, really - every time we go out for lunch or dinner, this is what she's been eating. I ordered it once awhile ago and she wanted to try it, she ended up eating the whole bowl. So I've been toying with trying my hand at making it at home. HA! I just knew Steph at A Year of Crockpotting would have something. I am going to attempt this this week. If I get to it, I will report in. (Oh, and it's not just chowder - you mention the word soup and she's ready to eat. Heh, go figure.)

Pork Loin
I have one in the freezer that I bought when our grocery store was having a big sale. I may just bake it (it's a pre-marinated one, lemon zest I think) but I am seriously toying with trying this. If I do, I will report in. But since it's a Barbara recipe I already know it will rock.
Update: I decided to add it to my Recipe Box, it just looks too good not to try. But I will still report in! Stuffed Pork Loin

Balsamic Chicken & Mushrooms, Mashed Potatoes
I had hoped to make this last week and I didn't get the chance. With luck, I will give it a go this week. It looks total yum!

Quiche
We actually didn't have this last week (I know, I'm shocked too) but now, I can put in on this week's menu. I am thinking cheese (whatever we have), spinach and mushrooms. Maybe a nice loaf of specialty bread and call it dinner.

Spinach-Artichoke Cheesy Tortellini
I didn't get to this the other week and still have the tortellini in the fridge. This is so easy, there is no reason not to make it. I am determined! :)

There, five meals! Between leftovers, rice in the rice steamer, udon noodles and tons of frozen vege's, breakfast for dinner - there should be absolutely NO reason to go out or have Jeff pick up anything on the way home. Let's see how I do, shall we? Maybe a little challenge? Anyone up for it? A whole week of only eating at home (dinners). Hmmmm, this could work!

Original Post:
Menu Plan (March 8 - 14)
BALSAMIC CHICKEN & MUSHROOMS
Courtesy of Magi @ Kaffee Klatsch
(Her comments are in red.)

2 tsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, four 4-oz pieces (cut into strips)
2 cups mushrooms, small, halved (sliced crimini mushrooms)
1/3 cup canned chicken broth
1/4 tsp dried thyme, crumbled (discovered that this is the only herb known to mankind that is NOT in my spice cabinet, just left it out)

In a nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of oil.

In a medium bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of vinegar, the mustard and garlic. Add chicken and turn to coat.

Transfer chicken and marinade to skillet. Saute chicken until cooked through, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a platter and keep warm.

Heat remaining teaspoon of oil in skillet. Saute mushrooms for 1 minute. Add broth, thyme and remaining tablespoon of vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are deep brown, about 2 minutes longer. (I added the chicken back to the pan, covered, and let it simmer for another minute. I then turned the heat off and left it covered until the mashed potatoes were ready.)

Serve chicken topped with mushrooms. (I served mashed potatoes with this. It's the perfect accompaniment.)
Stuffed Pork Loin
Head over to Barbara's (click link above) for awesome step-by-step photos!)

From Barbara: Stuffed tenderloin is easy, yet elegant looking. It can even be assembled quickly on a weeknight. The beauty of it is in the presentation. I used ground mustard because I was serving with a mustard sauce, but feel free to adapt the spices to what you are serving on the side. Be sure to separate the 2 cups stuffing from remaining stuffing to avoid cross-contamination as you are touching the raw meat. I must have washed my hands 20 times so I could touch my camera, see what I do for you.

Tenderloin Sliced

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

INGREDIENTS
2.5 lb pork tenderloin (this was 2 tenderloins in a pack for me)
2 cups stuffing, prepared
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground mustard
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh-ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 425
Stuff tenderloin
Drizzle with olive oil
Sprinkle with mustard, and remaining salt and pepper
Cook at 425 for 20-25 minutes, or until meat thermometer reaches 170.

Also from Barbara:
Ok, I cheated a little... stuff tenderloin, that's it? No instructions???

There are a few ways you can accomplish this, 2 works best with a thicker tenderloin with less risk of poking through the side:

1) BUTTERFLY: Arrange tenderloin on a work surface with thinnest end nearest you. Starting at thickest part, make a lengthwise incision down center of tenderloin, cutting two thirds of the way through thickness of meat, adjusting depth of incision as tenderloin tapers, be careful not to cut all the way through. Open tenderloin. Turning knife horizontally, cut tenderloin open on either side like the flaps of a book jacket, being careful not to cut all the way through. Season inside of tenderloin with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Layer stuffing on tenderloin, roll up and secure with toothpicks.

2) HOLE IN CENTER: Make a hole for stuffing that runs lengthwise through pork loin: Beginning in middle of 1 end of roast, insert a sharp long thin knife lengthwise toward center of loin, then repeat at opposite end of loin to complete incision running through middle. Open up incision with your fingers, working from both ends, to create a 1 1/2-inch-wide opening, then pack with all of stuffing, pushing from both ends toward center.

3) ROLL: Arrange tenderloin on a work surface with thinnest end away from you. Starting at thickest part, make a lengthwise incision starting 1/3 of the way down the short side down edge of tenderloin, cutting two thirds of the way through thickness of meat, adjusting depth of incision as tenderloin tapers, be careful not to cut all the way through. Rotate knife 90 degrees and continue to cut into tenderloin until 1/3 through, rotate knife and cut into tenderloin 1/3 through. Unroll tenderloin. Season inside of tenderloin with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Layer stuffing on tenderloin, roll up and secure with toothpicks.

Remember, follow the link above to see step-by-step's of these.
CrockPot Fish Chowder Recipe



Day 46.
Friday fresh fish, all you hungry bloggers come and eat it up...
although the fish I used wasn't fresh, it was frozen.

The kids went through a phase where they ate a can of Progresso Clam Chowder every day for lunch. It was a very easy time for me.

This tastes remarkably similar without chemicals, a tin-can taste, or boatloads of sodium.

And it was easy.

The Ingredients:
--1 lb of white fish (I used frozen Orange Roughy from Trader Joe's)
--3 cups of chicken broth (I'm now officially out of my homemade stuff. I'm kind of bummed.)
--9 baby potatoes (or 10. but not 11.)
--1 cup frozen roasted corn
--1/2 white onion
--handful baby carrots
--heart of celery
--3-4 cloves of garlic
--1/2 t black pepper
--salt (to taste, especially if using homemade broth)
--2 cups frozen shrimp (to add later)
--1 cup heavy whipping cream (to add later)


The Directions:

--chop up all the vegetables. I used my handy-dandy Pampered Chef chopper because I like it and it reminds me of when I used to be invited to those kind of parties. How come people don't have those any more?

--cube the fish, it's okay if it's still frozen.

--dump everything except the cream and the shrimp into your stoneware insert

cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until the potatoes are tender. If your veggies are too big for your taste, use an immersion blender to smooth it out.

30 minutes before serving, stir in your cup of cream and the frozen shrimp. Turn your crockpot to high for the last 30 minutes.

Serve with a bit of fresh parmesan cheese.

The Verdict:
Instant hit. We all loved it.
I am SO uninspired this week. I had to actually make myself sit down and do this. Jeff said to just blow it off if I wanted, but we still have to eat. If I don't come up with a plan I know we will just eat out or do take out. The budget (and waistlines!) just can't afford that simply because I am feeling lazy. I think it's the time of the year. Blah. February/March is probably my most unfav time. Grey skies, cold and rainy (or worse, cold and snowy!), cooped up in the house all the time. Gosh Kiy, whine much? But I think that most of us feel that way about now (well, except for my friend Christina who lives in Australia who is enjoying her summer right now, and the lucky folks who live in places like Key West!).

I am carrying some things over from last week, again. We have some projects around the house that we are working on and I find myself with limited time. I can either work on those or watch/play with Emi. Emi 'helping' is a scary thing! So, instead of working on dinner during nap times, I am working on the projects. So, the next several weeks I will be doing massively simple and easy, tried and true, and crock potting. I want healthy, fun and yummy ... with none of the work! I can fuss over meals another time (like summer and fall when it's fun) but right now, it's all about getting a meal on the table.

With that said, here's the plan with no specific days mapped out. What we have will be determined by how much time I have on any given day.


Pasta with Creamy Pancetta-and-Pea Sauce (carry-over from last week), possibly something in reserve for Emi in case she turns her nose up at this - but I doubt she will, except for the meat these are things she loves - pasta, sauce of some kind and peas! I am so determined to make this. It looks amazing and fun and yummy, and I have all the ingredients in the house except .... the noodles! In fact, I went to make it last night and found out, no pasta. How is that possible in this house? But, sent Jeff to the store today so we now have the pasta!

Chili with a Little Sass (also a carry-over from last week), cornbread, frozen vege (Is it summer yet? I sure do miss the Farmer's Market!)

Garden Vege Burgers on the grill, Oriental Salad (this can also be used as a stand-alone meal, but using it as a side dish will allow for leftovers and take-to-work lunches for Jeff)

Spinach-Artichoke Cheesy Tortellini
(One pot meal although I will toss together a frozen vege for Emi who is not a big fan of spinach OR artichokes. In fact, I will probably save out some pasta plain for her so I do not have to pick through the dish to get what she will eat).

Jules' Homemade Tomato Soup and grilled sandwiches

Bison Burgers on the grill, frozen vege (for Emi), Spinach and Mandarin Orange Salad (I've been craving this!)

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


Original Post: Menu Plan (February 22 - 28)



How sad is this. Last week's ENTIRE menu, is being carried over this week. And, I can honestly blame it on Emi. No, she wasn't in charge of cooking (although, I am sure that time will come!). She came down with a cold last Saturday, which meant little-to-no sleep for Mama and Daddy on both Saturday and Sunday. Needless to say, I could have cared less what we ate Sunday night, we may have had one of my stand-by's: eggs and grits. Considering that I think of myself as a northern gal and Miss Emi most definitely is not from the American south, we all love it and have come to think of that as a sort of comfort food. Funny how finally learning how to cook grits (several minutes longer than the package states and at a lower temp) can make a person fall in love with them.

Miss Emi woke on Monday morning with most of her cold gone. Hurray! Sadly, Mama had the beginnings of it that same morning and it was raging by afternoon. Daddy had it by Wednesday. Emi had her cold for 48 hours (roughly), Jeff and I had it most of the week and still are feeling a bit off. Figures. But, that works as this one kicked me in the butt and caring for both Emi and I while sick would not have been fun. Although she was quite herself all week, which made keeping up with her interesting!

We lived off whatever we could find in the fridge and pantry. Also, I hate to say, take-out. Although no MickeyD's or anything like that. We had Japanese one night (miso soup and yakisoba noodles, yum ... Emi can almost eat/drink us under the table with miso soup, she loves it!). We did have the bison burgers (as they are easy - grill food!), and Jeff brought Applebee's home one night. I know we had something else but darned if I can remember what!

So, here is last week's menu this week. I am *determined* to make each and every thing on this. So help me! :)

I am not going to link up my menu plan this week, as there's nothing new but if you are looking for inspiration head on over to Laura's at I'm an Organizing Junkie for more MPM!


Chili with a Little Sass

Cinnamon-Beef Noodles

Toasted French Toast & Oven Poached Eggs

Bison Burgers on the Grill

Billie Ruth's Catfish Parmesan

Pasta with Creamy Pancetta-and-Pea Sauce


Extras:

Stuffed French Toast

Serdmom's Apple Crisp



Original Post: Menu Plan (February 15 - 21)



In honor of Valentine's Day (reminder: next Saturday), I am doing a special Friends Week. This is a week full of recipes that I have been given (or 'borrowed') from friends, some I have tried and some are new (the recipes, the friends are all old ... err, wait). I am not going to pick days, just list the recipes in no particular order). I haven't decided yet which meal will be on which day (hey, today I am going to be lucky to get this post done at all!) :)



Meals:

Chili with a Little Sass - this recipe is incredible and we always get a smile when we have it. For one thing, Barbara (Candy Hearts & Paper Flowers) posted it and I totally had to try it. For another thing, poor Jeff's life is filled with a little sass (both wife and child). I love Barbara's site. I rarely do what she has going on as, I will never ever have a love of housework (yikes, don't read this mom!) even though I love a neat, tidy and clean house. Keeping house is a chore to me, something to get done as quickly as possible. Barbara really cares about doing it well and right, I just want it done and forgotten about! However, I do think if I followed along on her daily ideas that maybe the house wouldn't be such a chore to me. Maybe. Some day.

Cinnamon-Beef Noodles - Gina (Olivia, Opinions & Occasions) shared this recipe with me. I have only made it the one time, but we loved it! I have been wanting to make it again, and this week is the perfect time. I am toying with saving this for Saturday night, as I want something special but not something that keeps me in the kitchen all day long. Gina and I met through the adoption of our two girls. Sadly, we were not in China at the same time but we have made a friendship that makes me *know* that we will meet someday! I love her sense of humor and I find the longer we know each other, the more in common we have. Head on over to her site, meet the ever-wonderful Olivia. She's a delight and her parents are just simply great people!

Toasted French Toast & Oven Poached Eggs - I've tried a variation of Tamy's (3 Sides of Crazy) french toast before (mainly, toasting the bread) but wanted to give the whole thing a whirl. This is the week. She has also raved on her baked eggs and I seriously have wanted to try them. I keep getting stuck at the bacon. Oh, I love bacon but not the mess. But, this once, I will make it and see how it goes (probably in the microwave, however). I can't remember exactly how I met Tamy. It was either from menu planning, or quite possibly, through Barbara. But we continue to chat in short emails (almost like IM'g without the, you know, IM!) and I have enjoyed getting to know her better.

Bison Burgers on the Grill - Two of my very best friends do not have blogs (hi Aunt M and Uncle R!). The she part of the couple doesn't like to cook all that much (although I hear that is changing a bit!), and he does but I am not sure he is a recipe kind of guy. But, one of my fondest memories is when we had cookouts at their home. He makes a mean ANYthing on the grill. No, really, he does. Their home feels like home, every time I walk in. Which, sadly, isn't as often as it used to be as we live on opposite ends of the country (working on that!). Their home continues to be one of my most fav places to be. I could spend hours on their back patio, drinking sweet tea, soaking up their wonderful landscaping, and chatting. Some friendships become family, this is one of those. In their honor we are having yummy bison burgers on the grill this week. We love them and while we have not had these burgers with this couple, I know they'd love them!

Billie Ruth's Catfish Parmesan - I am actually making this for a friend, rather than getting the recipe from a friend. That friend would be my very best friend, my husband. My life is richer for having him in it. I am happy, contented, loved and so very very lucky.

Pasta with Creamy Pancetta-and-Pea Sauce
- Lythrum (Goblins in My Garden) shared this recipe with me several years ago. I keep wanting to make it but then forgetting about it. I found it again today when I was wandering through my recipes. Lythrum and I seemingly have very little in common, yet have a lasting friendship. We can go awhile without chatting (emailing) and then pick up like we talked yesterday. We are both (sorta) new moms learning our way, with our girls just about a year apart in age. My one big wish is that we lived closer, as I would love to have my backyard look a teensy bit like hers (okay, I'd love it if it looked a LOT like hers but I am just not willing to do what it takes!).



Extras:

Stuffed French Toast - Not everyone is lucky enough to call their mom, friend. I am. And I know it. This recipe is a memory trigger. It reminds me, of course, of my mom but also of one of Jeff and my first Christmases together. I have just recently started making it again for special occasions and we love it. It also is a hit with Miss Emi. My current plan is to make this Friday evening for Valentine's Day Breakfast. Mom and I talk, almost every day. Someone once asked us, separately, what we talked about. Everything and nothing. We have a special relationship that has formed into a friendship. I don't take this for granted, and neither does she. And no, it wasn't always like this. See above, Chili with a Little Sass. But I grew out of it, or rather the teen sass, the adult sass is here to stay. :)

Serdmom's Apple Crisp - Serdic (Tritely Banal) has many recipes (ginger sparklers!) but he tends to like to fuss more than I have time for these days (I'm told he is an *amazing* cook and his baking - ooh la la!). This is quick and easy, and I am not sure that I have ever told him I've made it (oops). Serdic is a friend that I made long ago, who also lives far away. He was there from day one when we started our paperchase for Miss Emi. He always had a shoulder, ear and heart to lean on when needed during that time. He has also been one of our biggest cheerleaders (yikes, visual, sorry - no short skirts were involved!) when it came down to 'do we stay in the program or give up'. Thankfully, we stayed in. Now, Miss Emi has an Uncle Serdic (and Aunt TheSinger @ Reports from the Dewey Decimal Zone!). They love her dearly, and we love them.


I have more recipes from other friends, but only so many days in a week. This was so much fun I think I will do it again! I hope you have enjoyed meeting my friends.

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

Original Post: Menu Plan (Feb 9 - 14)
Pasta with Creamy Pancetta-and-Pea Sauce
Thanks to Lythrum for this recipe!


1/4 c. chopped pancetta or bacon
1 tsp. olive oil
1 c. diced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 c. 1% low fat milk
1/4 c. (2 oz) 1/3 less fat cream cheese
2 1/2 c. frozen green peas, thawed (Note from Lythrum: I use baby ones)
1 1/4 c. (5 oz) grated fresh Parmesan
1/3 c. chopped fresh basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
5 c. hot cooked pasta (I like farfalle for this)

Heat a nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add pancetta; cook 1 minute or until browned. Place pancetta in a large bowl. Heat oil in pan.
Add onion and garlic; sauté 7 minutes. Add onion mixture to pancetta. Place flour in pan, gradually add milk; stir with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick (about 5 minutes); stir constantly. Add cream cheese; stir until cheese melts. Stir in peas, 1 c. Parmesan, basil, salt and pepper. Add cheese sauce and pasta to pancetta mixture; toss well. Sprinkle with 1/4 c. Parmesan.


Note from Lythrum: I have found that about 1/2 c. of thinly sliced, chopped ham is outstanding with this. I saute the onion and ham in the bacon drippings, then add in the peas (because I always forget to thaw them) and cover the pan for a few minutes to let the peas cook. I add the flour to the pea-onion mixture and stir it, then add the milk. This gives you less chance for flour lumps to show up. I make the cheese sauce in with everything else, because it works fine and makes for easier clean-up.

Had this for dinner tonight, it's pretty quick, and really good. It's from Cooking Light, so it's healthy as-is. If you use my ham suggestion at the end, it will add to the fat content a bit, but I think it's worth it.
Serdmom's Apple Crisp
Thanks Serdic!


3 lbs apples, peeled, cored and sliced
Place apples into glass baking dish, 11 X 7 x 1.5

Sprinkle with the following:
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves

For the crisp:
3/4 C flour
1/2 C butter
1 C brown sugar

Mix these together and form crumbly mixture. If it's not crumbly enough, put it in the fridge for a bit. Once it's crumbly, sprinkle over the apples.

Bake for 30-35 min at 350F.

Let cool, and enjoy.
Oven Poached Eggs

2 Jumbo eggs per person
1 tablespoon butter per person
2 slices bacon per person
grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cook bacon until crisp.
  • Melt butter and coat entire inside of ramekin or muffin tin.
  • Break 1 egg (try not to break the yolk) in each ramekin or muffin slot.
  • salt and pepper.
  • Bake 8-10 minutes or until just set.
  • Top each egg with a slice of crumbled bacon and then grated cheddar cheese.
  • Bake another 3 minutes.
  • Serve with chilled juice and toast.

I use oven safe ramekins at home, but when we're camping I use a cupcake tin.
Toasted French Toast ~ We hate soggy French Toast and this recipe conquers that.


8 slices thick white bread (Kiy Note: I will most likely use wheat or a wheat mix, it's a rare thing for us to have nice, wonderful, yummy white bread in the house. Bummer. I hate eating healthier!) :)
1 1/4 cup milk
5 egg yolks
1/8 cup flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Toast bread, but not browned.
  • Preheat griddle and coat with a small amount of butter.
  • Whisk together the egg yolks, milk, salt, vanilla, butter and cinnamon.
  • Whisk in flour until smooth.
  • Pour milk mixture into a baking dish.
  • Soak bread pieces for a few seconds on each side.
  • Grill for several minutes on each side until golden brown.
  • Serve with warm maple syrup.

Overnight Grits CrockPot Recipe



Day 134.

I am not from the south, which means I am not very familiar with grits. I did watch a southern cooking show on the Food Network that discussed grit cooking methods, and I love "My Cousin Vinny"---so I know that any self-respecting Southerner stays away from instant grits.

But that's pretty much where my knowledge ends.

So I turned to the experts: the blogosphere. I ran a google blog search for crockpot grits and found The Kitchen Madonna. She has a recipe for overnight crockpot grits.


And it's perfect.

The Ingredients:
1 cup grits
5 cups of water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 t kosher salt


The Directions:
I used my mom's 4qt round crockpot for this recipe. I haven't given it back since Easter. sorry, mom!

Combine all of the ingredients. I didn't spray the stoneware, or bother to melt the butter. I just threw it all in (butter floats!).

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

This cooked for exactly 7.

Stir well and top with desired fixens'. The kids and I used a bit of shredded cheese the way that The Kitchen Madonna recommended. My mom likes to stir in preserves.


The Verdict: Wow. I like grits! They weren't slimy the way I imagined them to be, and the texture was really nice in my mouth. The big kid wasn't terribly impressed, but the little one ate almost a whole bowl. I loved how easy they were to prepare, and that they are naturally gluten-free.

I have quite a bit of the package left over, and grits are now going to make it into the regular breakfast rotation.
Chex Mix (Crock Pot)
Kiy Note: Gina emailed me this morning asking if this was on my recipe box yet. Nope, I kept forgetting to put it up. Thanks for the reminder Gina! Oh, and we love this but I have to add extra Worcestershire sauce, at least double. Jeff and Emi like their Chex Mix extra spicy.



The Ingredients:
  1. 5 Cups General Mills Rice Chex Cereal
  2. 1-2 cups of dry roasted peanuts (salted or not, your choice)
  3. 2 cups pretzel sticks (I used Glutino)
  4. 1/2 t onion powder
  5. 1/2 t seasoned salt
  6. 3 T butter
  7. 1 1/2 T Worcestershire Sauce (Lea and Perrins is GF)

The Directions:
  1. Put the butter into the bottom of your crockpot.
  2. Turn it on low
  3. Add the onion powder and seasoned salt
  4. Add the Worcestershire sauce
  5. Add dry ingredients
  6. Stir. If the butter is still clumpy, it's okay
  7. Cover and cook on low for 2-3 hours, stirring every 45 min or so

Dump out onto a cookie sheet to cool. (Kiy Note: Jeff is usually standing there, picking out yummies to eat at this point, even though it's too hot to handle.)

Serve and enjoy.

The Verdict: We ate every last ounce of this in one day. It is seriously addicting. The kids liked it immensely, and have requested me to make it again today. But with less peanuts.

The recipe that I have written here has less butter than the original Chex Party Mix recipe, and I was pleased that it was still enough to coat the cereal, peanuts, and pretzels nicely without a layer of grease left on my hands. Or the kids hands. Because then the couch stays clean.
Odd week, menu-wise (but then, these days, when isn't it?). I worked on last week's plan on Saturday, thinking I was ahead of the game and quite impressed with myself. Then, I went shopping on Monday afternoon, and found different sales. Oops, that's right. Sale stuff changes on Sundays (mental head smack). Okay, regrouped and bought stuff on sale and decided to punt for the week. And actually, I didn't do too bad. But the question is, can I remember what I did? Um, no actually, I cannot. I do remember one thing I did, however.

I made stuffed pork chops, and they rocked! I bought thin ones and the dude behind the meat counter must have been in a good mood as he offered to slice a pocket in them for me. Color me happy! I also bought a box of mushroom and onion stuffing mix. (Seriously, did you think I was going to make homemade stuffing? I did that for Thanksgiving, once a year is plenty!). I don't really have a recipe for the stuffed pork chops. I added a bit of thyme to the stuffing mix 'cause I like thyme! Then I sprinkled the outsides of the chops with salt, pepper (freshly ground, of course) and thyme. Seared them in a very hot pan with some oil on each side, stuffed them and tossed them in a baking pan (sprayed with Pam, or Pam substitute). Pushed a meat thermometer in one of them and baked at 400 degrees for about 30 or 40 minutes (just before the done mark on the
thermometer - we like our pork a bit pink, but it has to be done - not like how we like our {beef} steaks .... moooooving!) . They turned out GOOD! Of course Emi only ate the stuffing (and the peas that I also made). She eye-balled the chops but didn't touch them, not surprising, she still isn't really into meat. But I don't care, as long as she loves fruits and vege's I can get protein into her other ways.

I used the leftover chops (bought four, we didn't each finish one - they are huge this way!) for a pork lo mein dish. I'd post the recipe but I am not sure I would use it again. Lots of steps. Plus, I really want to try Gina's yet so want to see which is our favorite. Emi also loves lo mein. Okay, truth-be-told, Emi loves noodles. She could give a fig what you do to them!

Gosh, I use commas a lot. BUT, I do know that a lot is TWO words. That has to count for something, right? :)

Oh, another thing I did do:
Steaks on the grill with Thai Cowboy Steak Marinade. Oh my, yum. Seriously, if you haven't tried this marinade do it! And for those that freak at the oyster sauce, you can't taste the oyster. I promise. I don't eat oysters. Yuck!

So, since I made very little from last week's menu, there is a bit carried over. Sorry folks, no reason to make a completely new menu!
Wow, it sure is a crock pot kind of week I have planned.

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


  • Tuesday: Breakfast Nite! Eggs, grits, chicken sausage, melon slices
  • Friday: We are going out for a Chinese New Year party - yay, no cooking!
  • Saturday: Free Nite (actually, since we are going out on Friday, I am going to do the Leftover Buffet on Saturday)
    • We tend to go out one night a week. Scratch that. Trying to not go out as much. But I am going to keep this as my ‘whatever night’ as we still will probably need a night of not making dinner for various reasons. I am factoring this in my menu plan each week, but it won’t necessarily always (or often) be on a Saturday. We may use this as our leftover night if there are any by this time.

Original Post: Menu Plan (Jan 25 - 31)

Chicken Chili (crock pot)


4 chicken breasts
2 cups water
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
1 tablespoon olive oil**
1 teaspoon minced garlic (jar)
2 large onions, chopped
¼ cup lime juice
4-ounce can diced green chilies
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1-tablespoon chili powder
2 cans cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
1 cup shredded jack cheese

  1. Cook chicken in broth and drain reserving liquid.*
  2. Shred the chicken and set aside.*
  3. In the olive oil, sauté the garlic and onion until caramelized.*

  1. Place chicken, garlic and onions in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. In the reserved broth stir in the lime juice, seasonings and chilies.
  3. Pour over the chicken mixture.
  4. Cook on low for 2-4 hours.
  5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheese.
  6. Enjoy!

*If you're in a hurry you can skip these steps, cut the chicken into small chunks and increase cooking time to 6-8 hours. We prefer the caramelized flavor of the garlic and onions and shredded chicken versus chunks.

**Omit if not sautéing.

CrockPot Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

The Ingredients:
1 butternut squash
2 T olive oil
2 small medium onions, or 2 T onion flakes
4 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
2 small apples, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon

The Directions:

Use at least a 5 quart crockpot for this soup.

Cut the squash in half long ways. This is terribly hard to do. If you microwave the entire squash for 2 to 5 minutes on high, the skin will soften, but you will still need to use a pretty powerful knife. If you can find already peeled and cubed butternut squash use that.

I couldn't believe how difficult it was for me to cut the squash. My knife got stuck.

Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Brush olive oil on the inside of the squash and roast it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until you can peel the skin away from the flesh.

Plug in your crockpot and turn to high. Add the broth, and the onion and apple. Stir in the spices. Cover to let heat.

When the squash has finished roasting, add it to the pot. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for about 4.

Blend in small batches with a stand blender, or carefully blend with an immersible wand.

The Verdict: This is a comfort soup. I like to curl up with a mug and watch TV. My mom, grandma, and I all like squash soup, but we're the only ones who do in the family. This is what I'm going to have for lunch this week.
I made a longer post today (here) so this is a quick and dirty post. Post the menu plan and go to bed! We've had a fun weekend, but Emi's sleep is still disrupting and thus, disrupting mine too. Oy, this gal's beat! Have a great week folks.

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


  • Sunday: Chicken Tortilla Bake (Yes, it's still on the menu, Emi has been a handful later in the day, so I last week there were a few toss together meals that didn't require me to stay in the kitchen long. While this is a great recipe, it takes a bit of time. Something Emi wasn't willing to give last week. Making this on a night Jeff is home to play with her.)
  • Tuesday: Breakfast! Eggs, grits, chicken sausage, melon slices, maybe toast
  • Thursday: Leftover Buffet
  • Saturday: Free Nite
    • We tend to go out one night a week. Scratch that. Trying to not go out as much. But I am going to keep this as my ‘whatever night’ as we still will probably need a night of not making dinner for various reasons. I am factoring this in my menu plan each week, but it won’t necessarily always (or often) be on a Saturday. We may use this as our leftover night if there are any by this time.

Original Post: Menu Plan
Last week was an odd week, cooking-wise. I ended up not making most of what was on my plan, but still cooking each night. Or rather, cooking part of what was on the menu plan. Take the ham steak and hash brown casserole for example. We ended up having the casserole, with eggs! It was a mood thing. Not sure I am joining to buy another ham steak again, maybe it's a mood food or something, but for whatever reason it's been in the fridge for a couple of weeks and I still have yet to make it. I think I need to make it for one of our breakfast dinners, so that's my plan!

What I didn't get to (besides the ham steak): Asian-Style Grilled Tilapia, Chicken Melt on a Bed of Spinach, and the Chicken Tortilla Bake.

I also have a strange hankering for baked apples. Now, usually I would just toss them in the microwave but Steph has been a bad influence on me! Now my first thought tends to be can I make it in the crock pot? So I had to wander over to see if she had made these this past year, and she had! So, one night this week we will have baked apples - crock pot style. This is still keeping in plan with my 'eat smarter' plan. It's not a 17 layer cake with ice cream (oh my, bad visual on that one, sorry folks). It's still a sweet, but not a totally bad one - depending on how much brown sugar one uses (and I tend to hold back on sugars a bit, both Jeff and Emi like their sweets not so sweet, so that helps me too).

CrockPot Stuffed and Baked Apple Recipe


They are all going back on this week's menu as I have all the ingredients on hand.

Here is the plan:

  • Monday: Breakfast! Ricotta Pancakes adding a cup of pumpkin and a teaspoon or so of pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and ginger - omitting the blueberries, honey, most of the sugar and will use half the vanilla. Ham steak (question of the week, will I really use this? The death date is 2/01/09 so I still have a few weeks, haha!), eggs (if Jeff wants any).

  • Tuesday: The quiche was such a hit last week (even Emi ate it!) that it's back on the menu again. Does this count as two breakfast dinners? :) Not sure what all I will add to the quiche but it won't be bacon (I don't cook bacon!). Probably onion and spinach again, as it's rare not to have some on hand, cheese of some sort (whatever's on hand) and if there is any ham left over I will chunk that up and toss it in here. Yummm, this sounds good already!
    • The other thing I am going to do with this is to make two. Not that much more work, we all love it and it's an easy lunch for taking to work or nuking at home.

  • Thursday: Leftover Buffet

  • Saturday: Free Nite
    • We tend to go out one night a week. Scratch that. Trying to not go out as much. But I am going to keep this as my ‘whatever night’ as we still will probably need a night of not making dinner for various reasons. I am factoring this in my menu plan each week, but it won’t necessarily always (or often) be on a Saturday. We may use this as our leftover night if there are any by this time.
P.S. Don't forget to head on over to Laura's at I'm an Organizing Junkie for more MPM!


Original Post: Menu Plan (Jan 11 - Jan 17)
Boy, did I learn my lesson! Never again will I not really plan a menu for the week. It was almost too loose last week, and we kept on just goofing off and not eating what was on the sort-of-plan. Mostly as I didn't have it really planned out, so none of the prep would get done (mainly, defrosting). So, a good lesson but one I hope I don't have to learn again.

BTW, a couple notes from things I actually DID make last week. First off, the catfish. Whoa, we had forgotten just how amazingly good this is, I am not a huge fan of catfish and I loved it! Jeff picked up three fillets, one on the smaller side for Emi. She ate the whole thing, and then ... had some of mine! She was put off at first at the looks of it (she's not into crumbly textures right now), but I shared a bite of mine and then she couldn't get enough. We had wild rice (a fav of her's) and peas (another fav), she barely touched either. It was fish fish fish! This is another SUPER easy dish to make. Really, it's hard to not make it just right. I set up two wide bowls, one for the butter (I halved the amount) and one for the breading mixture (used less than the recipe called for on the bread crumbs as I wanted to really be able to taste the cheese). Then the baking pan (spray it good) was next in line. Took no time at all! This is a recipe that would lend itself very well to a few people or a crowd. It was just like having it breaded (heavily breaded, not lightly like this was) and deep-fried. It was tender on the inside and crisp and fun on the outside! I think you could use any fish that can hold it's shape, I wouldn't use Tilapia or sole as they are pretty thin, but the catfish was perfect and I'd even try it on salmon, grouper, sea bass, halibut, etc.

The other thing I did was make the Stuffed French Toast, but I did it MY way and thought I'd share. See the recipe for my changes.

In keeping with my post on Saturday, I am looking for healthy foods and recipes for this week but also want to keep working on clearing out the freezer, fridge and pantry. Jeff and I talked about what we wanted to do this week, so here is the plan we came up with:

  • Monday: Leftovers from last week (we still have spaghetti left and some odds and ends)

  • Thursday: Ham steak (I never used the one I bought a couple of weeks ago), quiche (not using the bacon, going with mushroom, onions and zucchini with maybe some ricotta cheese as I still have quite a bit left in the fridge)

  • Friday: Chicken Tortilla Bake (requested) – one-pot meal!
    • One change I make to this, I halve the amount of refried beans. Jeff's not crazy about them and I don't need them!

  • Saturday: Free Nite
    • We tend to go out one night a week. Scratch that. Trying to not go out as much. But I am going to keep this as my ‘whatever night’ as we still will probably need a night of not making dinner for various reasons. I am factoring this in my menu plan each week, but it won’t necessarily always (or often) be on a Saturday. We may use this as our leftover night if there are any by this time.
P.S. Don't forget to head on over to Laura's at I'm an Organizing Junkie for more MPM!


Original Post: Menu Plan (Jan 4 - Jan 10)

Island Chicken on a Bed of Spinach
Kiy Note: This is my version, I have found various recipes for this all over the web but I have found that this is tastier and easier done my way!

1/15/2009: I made this tonight and realized that I had forgotten all about the cheese, hence the 'melt' part of the recipe. However, I made it without and it was just as good. In fact, we didn't miss it at all. So, saving the calories, I am reworking the name! Was: Chicken Melt Now: Island Chicken
Oh, and really, this is SO good. And for those that don't really like mustard (mom) you don't taste it. I had to add a bit more to get the mustard kick.

Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Ready In: 30 Minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
4 (6 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (or equiv)
1 can of sliced pineapple –OR- 1 (1 pound) piece peeled, cored fresh pineapple, cut crosswise into serving slices
¼ cup Dijon Mustard
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 (10 ounce) bags baby spinach
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped toasted almonds (optional)

Directions:
1.
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Arrange chicken pieces and pineapple slices in a single layer on rack in a baking pan (I use a 9x13 pan).
2.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine mustard, honey, oil, and lime juice. Spoon half of the mixture evenly over chicken and pineapple; set remaining mustard sauce aside. Bake chicken in a 450º about 12 to 15 minutes.
3.
Meanwhile, place spinach in a large frying pan or even a wok works well. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of water (sometimes I will use soy sauce, oyster sauce or fish sauce if the mood strikes). Cook over high med-heat, turning the spinach often, until leaves are softened/wilted (2 to 3 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper (or if you used one of the sauces, skip this). Pour spinach from pan into a colander, drain (some recipes say to press a spoon against the spinach to really get the water out, I don’t but some might way to).
4.
Microwave remaining mustard sauce, stirring once, on high (100% power) for 30 to 45 seconds or until heated through.
5.
To serve, top spinach with chicken and pineapple. Drizzle with sauce, sprinkle with nuts (optional).