Monday, October 20, 2014

Brand New Meal Plan! October 20-26th

Happy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and I very much hope you've been looking forward to this meal plan! This is actually the same meal plan my family and I are eating this week too, although I'm a few days ahead of you. I've tried almost every one of these recipes, aside from the Carrot Zucchini Spiced Muffins, and the Ham and Cheddar Chowder. And now, onto a few explanations of the meal plan.

This meal plan typically feeds a family of four, so adjust the recipes to fit accordingly. We like leftovers for lunch, so some weeks there won't be any lunchtime recipes, just leftovers with a sandwich or something. That's just how we roll. If I've made any changes to a recipe, I'll explain in the following paragraph. I'll also let you know which recipes freeze well! Since it's just the four of us, I like to take a casserole that normally bakes in a 9X13 dish, and split it into two 8X8 dishes and freeze one for a later time. The breakfasts will usually feed our family twice, that's why I only put four recipes up.

Notes for This Week's Recipes:
  • Both oatmeal recipes for this week will reheat wonderfully with a little extra milk or water added.
  • The Vanilla Coconut Granola will leave you with plenty of leftovers, so use some for next week. It also makes a great snack all on it's own or as a hearty bowl of cereal. My kids like it with raisins added in. 
  • I used 8-10 bone in chicken thighs for the Mustard Roasted Chicken. Worked out great! Use whatever bone-in chicken you like, or whatever is on sale this week. I also forgot to pick up lemons for the lemon zest so I left it out. And I used fresh rosemary instead of thyme. Turned out amazing!
  • The Chicken Enchilada Quinoa Bake is so yummy! However, when I made it once before it was pretty watery - closer to a stew than a casserole. So you may want to consider using less enchilada sauce. It wasn't bad with a soupy consistency, I just wanted to let you know so you can adjust the recipe if you'd like.
  • Ok, so Tater Tot Casserole... I love comfort food! I just do, and this is my favorite. I make my own cream of whatever soup instead of store bought, and it has an entire pound of vegetables in it, so I actually feel really good about serving this to my family. Plus, both of my kids (almost 2 and almost 4) gobble it up!
  • I'm going to cut the recipe for Ham and Cheddar Chowder in half because it makes 8 servings, and I didn't need that much. Although she says that it freezes wonderfully!
  • The Meatballs and Spaghetti are the best I've ever had. My daughter LOVES these. Although the sauce seems really simple, it's out of this world amazing. I didn't use a Chianti in the sauce, I used a Cabernet Sauvignon because it's also a red and I already had some on hand. We ate this one night, my husband took some to work for lunch, then I froze the rest. So now we'll have another night of spaghetti and meatballs, or we can do meatball sandwiches. YUM.
  • These Chicken Nuggets aren't just for kids! You won't believe how good these are!! Double the amount of chicken (you'll have enough coatings) and freeze some for later. 
  • The recipe for Whole Wheat Pizza dough makes enough for two pizzas. You can make one for that night, and freeze the other! She gives instructions on how and when in the process to freeze. You can also make one pizza, then make pizza pockets out of the other dough and freeze them. Just cut the dough into pieces, roll into a circle, add your sauce, cheese and toppings. The fold it over to make a crescent and pinch the seams down with a fork. Bake with your pizza, then freeze for another time. 

Vanilla Coconut Granola with Yogurt and fruit

Sandwiches with Applegate Farms Ham

Crispy Mustard Roasted Chicken, Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli
Chicken Enchilada Quinoa Bake (using leftover Mustard Chicken)
Whole Wheat Pizza, carrots, celery, cucumbers with dip

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Greetings from North Carolina

It's amazing how much life can change in a relatively short amount of time, isn't it? The last blog post I wrote was a month before my son was born. He's going to turn two in five months. I had fully intended on keeping up with the blog after he was born, and even had a few drafts written to prepare. I had fully intended on being super mom, and not skipping a beat after having my second child. But you know that quote, "We make plans and God laughs"? Yeah. Well God has taught me a lot in the time that I've been absent here on the blog. I'm learning to become a better wife, mom and friend. I'm learning about this crazy thing called balance, and how good necessary it is. God has opened my eyes to some wrong thoughts I was holding onto, and showed me some areas of my life I needed to change. I'm still working on things, and perhaps I will share more about that another day.

Needless to say, a lot has happened! My kids are almost two and almost four. We've dealt with some heartbreaking family issues. My Mom passed away, and a month later my family and I moved across the country. Washington to North Carolina. And we drove. With two small kids. It wasn't that bad, actually.

I feel like I've grown a lot after having gone through one of the toughest years of my life. But one thing I know about going through rough times, is that we can help others by sharing our testimony. So, I may share some personal things from time to time on the blog. Along with yummy recipes and some cool crafty things of course! I just want to be real with you guys. I don't think we have enough of that going on in the age of social media. I don't have it all together, and don't want to act like I do. I'd rather be transparent, and honest, and be able to encourage someone else in some way. Because I bet you can relate to a someone who is not the perfect parent, has laundry piled up, made PB&J for lunch AGAIN, has missed a few days of her Bible reading, let the kids watch TV all day, and maybe spent too much time on Pinterest that morning. Well, that's me :) I'm not content to stay where I am, but I also don't always hit the mark. And you know what? That's ok.

So I'm back. Glad to be back. Hopefully you'll see posts 1-3 times per week to start. If there's any recipes or crafts you'd like to see, comment below and let me know! I missed you guys.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Freezable Chicken Enchiladas with Avocado Cream Sauce

I found this recipe on Pinterest a couple of months ago. It was love at first sight. Enchiladas packed with chicken, onion, peppers and cheese covered in a creamy avocado sauce... Who wouldn't swoon? I did, and I made this within a few days of finding the recipe.

I'll tell you this, these are some of the most unique and delicious enchiladas I've ever had. They are packed full of flavor, and don't take very long to prepare. We enjoyed these with homemade re-fried beans and Spanish rice.

The recipe made 12 enchiladas, so I split them into two 8X8 dishes and froze one. You'll definitely want to give these a try, and don't be afraid to double the recipe so you can freeze some yourself.

Chicken Enchiladas with Avocado Cream Sauce

Enchilada Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled diced
2 poblano peppers, stemmed and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
12 taco sized flour tortillas
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie works best) (I used leftover pulled pork)
2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese
optional garnish: fresh cilantro, sour cream, and/or shredded cheese

Avocado Cream Sauce Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of one lime

First make the avocado cream sauce: Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the flour, whisking until golden and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk the broth into the flour mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, cumin, salt, garlic powder and pepper, whisking if necessary to remove any lumps. Remove from heat and transfer mixture to a blender or food processor. Add avocados, cilantro and lime juice, and pulse until smooth and well-blended. (Be very careful blending hot liquids — the heat will expand! So be sure to remove the lid occasionally so that the heat can escape.) Season with additional salt or pepper if needed.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, poblano and jalapeno, and saute for 5-6 minutes until the onions are cooked and translucent. Remove from heat.

To assemble the enchiladas, place a tortilla on a flat surface. Spread a tablespoon or two of the avocado sauce down the middle of the tortilla. Then layer on some of the vegetable mixture, shredded chicken and cheese. Carefully roll the tortilla and place it seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Drizzle the top with about half of the remaining avocado cream sauce, then cover the dish with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, or until tortillas are heated through and begin to harden.

Remove from the oven, then serve individual enchiladas drizzled with the remainder of the avocado cream sauce. You can also garnish with additional cilantro, cheese, and/or sour cream.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Homemade Wonton Cups

Don't you love wontons? I do! You can make egg rolls, pot stickers, gyoza, raviolis, the list goes on! This recipe turns them into crisp little cups that become a vessel for any filling of your choice! In the picture you see, I stuffed mine with a baby lettuce salad tossed in a mango vinaigrette. But really, there are countless ways you can fill these little guys up. Caesar salad, chicken salad, crab salad, tuna salad, cream cheese and chutney, salsa and guacamole, bean dip, taco fillings, whipped cream and berries, smoked salmon with cream cheese and cucumbers, spinach and artichoke dip, so on and so forth...  

You can make these a day or so ahead of time, just make sure you keep them stored in an air tight container away from moisture. I like to salt my wonton cups, but if you want to stuff them with something sweet you may want to nix the salt. These are great for a party, especially for a football game! Imagine the possibilities for fillings! These are super fun to serve, and everyone loves them. You're sure to be the hostess with the mostess when you make them! 

Wonton Cups

12 wonton wrappers
Cooking spray
Filling of your choice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

Spray the wonton wrappers with oil, and place each wrapper into a section of a muffin tin. Gently press each wrapper into the tin and arrange so that it forms a cup shape. The wrapper will overlap itself and stick up out of the cup. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned and crisp. Remove from the tin and allow wrappers to cool.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Vanilla Coconut Granola

I've been making this granola since Summer time and it's now my husband's favorite breakfast cereal. I found this recipe on 100 Days of Real Food a few months ago, and the combination of ingredients sounded delicious! She uses cashews, sliced almonds, raw sunflower seeds and raw pumpkin seeds, oats, coconut, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, butter and honey (I've used agave and real maple syrup instead of honey). There's a lot of things I love about this recipe, but one great thing is that a relatively small serving is more than satisfying! Also, there isn't an overload of sugar in it. Do you know how much sugar is in normal store-bought cereal? I'd say 90% of the time it's one of the first three ingredients, and since ingredients are listed in order of greatest amount to least, that means there's more sugar than you probably realized in your morning bowl. This next factoid might not surprise you, but this is also cheaper to make than it would be to buy. Especially if you buy your nuts, seeds and spices in the bulk section of your grocery store. I encourage you to find a grocery store that has a bulk section, especially for recipes like this where you only need 1/2-1c of nuts, or a small amount of a spice you may not normally use. You'll pay pennies for spices, and maybe a dollar or so for the nuts.

One thing I started doing to stretch the granola, was adding flax flakes or puffed brown rice (like rice crispies). There's some things you can do to customize this (according to 100 Days of Real Food). You can use all cashews or almonds, or an entirely different nut altogether. Same with the seeds. If you want to make granola bars, she suggests making it with steel cut oats instead of rolled oats. Also, adding dried fruit bits before baking granola bars is quite nice. For the cereal, she adds dried fruit after it's baked and completely cooled.

This one batch of granola (with our flakes or puffed rice added) usually lasts us at least two weeks. It has taken us longer to eat a batch, and we've not seen any ill effects from it. I would imagine that you'd want to be close to eating a whole batch within two weeks. If you're not sure you could eat a batch that quickly, just cut the recipe in half. I definitely recommend trying this out, especially if your family consists of cereal or granola eaters like mine!

Granola Bars/Cereal from 100 Days of Real Food

3 1/2 cups rolled oats (if you want bars use steel cut oats so it will stick together better)
1 cup raw sliced almonds (or walnuts or pecans)
1 cup raw cashew pieces (use bits and pieces if you can find them, they're cheaper!)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I had sweetened on hand, so I used that)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (I've used coconut oil instead)
1/2 cup honey (I've used agave and real maple syrup instead)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Also need – parchment paper (I usually just grease my baking sheet)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cover a rectangular baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the dry oats, almonds, cashews, coconut, seeds and spices together in a large mixing bowl.

Heat the butter and honey together in a small saucepan over low heat. Once the butter melts stir in the vanilla.

Pour the hot liquids over the dry ingredients and stir together with a rubber spatula until evenly coated.

Spread mixture onto prepared pan in one even layer. Bake for 75 minutes.

The granola will become crisp as it cools at which point you can break into pieces (if making bars) or break it up into small chunks by pounding it in a zip lock bag (if making cereal). Store in air tight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Meatless Monday: Freezable Ribollita (Vegetable, Bean and Stale Bread Soup)

Oh this soup... I made this a few months ago now, and I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to write the post for it because it's amazing! I saw it on Rachael Ray's show where she cooks an entire week's worth of meals in one day. I've seen Ribollita (stale bread soup) made a few times, but for some reason this one struck me as different and delicious. Plus I had most of the vegetables it needed already in my fridge, which is always a bonus. 

Let me just tell you, this soup is cozy, comforting, warming and oh so perfect for these cold winter nights. It's been in the 20's around here lately, and I'd like nothing more than to curl up with a bowl of this perfect soup. It's packed full of veggies, and the broth is made up of chicken stock with tomato puree and a bit of white wine, which makes everything a little more special. I would also recommend not skipping finishing the soup with the raw onion, olive oil and cheese. Unless you don't like raw onion, then obviously leave the onion out of the finishing touches. But these three components balance and compliment the soup making it even more perfect. 

I would definitely say this is a complete meal all by itself since it has lots of veggies, and the bread is already in there. I hope you'll give this recipe a try, it's truly a new favorite around here!

Ribollita (Vegetable, Bean and Stale Bread Soup) from Rachael Ray

1 cup borlotti beans or other small dried bean of choice, soaked for 4 hours (I used canellini beans)
8 cups chicken stock
3 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 onions, 1/2 peeled, 1 1/2 chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 to 6 slices 1-inch thick peasant style bread, cut into coarse cubes or torn into pieces
About 1/4 cup EVOO, plus some for drizzling at the table
2 carrots, chopped
2 small ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1/3 palmful
1 fresh bay leaf
Herb bundle of fresh parsley, sage, thyme and rosemary
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch Tuscan kale (also known as lacinato or dinosaur) or Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped, (about 12 ounces trimmed greens)
1/2 small savoy cabbage, cored and chopped, about 2 to 3 cups (I used regular green cabbage)
A few grates of nutmeg
2 cups tomato puree or passata
Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus freshly grated to pass at table
1 small white or red onion, finely chopped

Variations: For a sweeter soup, add chopped fennel to your mix. For autumn, add zucchini or butternut squash to your blend.

Drain the beans and place in a pot with 4 cups chicken stock, 1 clove garlic, half an onion and some salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread until deeply golden and toasted. Store in foil.

Heat 1/4 cup EVOO, 4 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, remaining 3 cloves garlic, chile flakes, bay leaf and herb bundle. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, partially covered, to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, kale, cabbage and a little nutmeg. Stir. Wilt the greens, partially covered, 5 to 6 minutes more. Add the beans and their liquids and the tomato puree. Stir. Add 2 cups more stock (reserve 2 cups for the night you serve). Add the cheese rind to the soup. Simmer to combine flavors, 15 minutes. Remove 3 cups of the beans and vegetables, about half the soup, to food processor and puree. Then add back to pot. Cool and store the soup for a make-ahead meal.

To serve, heat the soup over medium heat, add the bread to the soup and let it absorb the liquid. Thin the soup with the remaining 2 cups of stock. Taste to adjust seasoning. Remove the herb bundle, rind and bay leaf. The ribollita is done when a wooden spoon can stand straight up in the soup. Ladle into shallow bowls and garnish with a generous drizzle of EVOO, finely chopped raw onion and cheese. Leftover soup can be fried in olive oil in a skillet like potato pancakes or hash, and topped with over easy or fried eggs.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms

Ah, my Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms... Hands down one of my most favorite things she makes. I request these babies all of the time. Birthdays, my bridal shower and my baby shower just to name a few. I remember having these at family get-togethers growing up, and they were always the first thing to go. I'll tell you something else, when it comes to stuffed mushrooms, you've never had anything like these ones. I've tried googling the recipe before, it's nowhere to be found. That secretly makes me smile because it's still my secret... Until now, because this recipe is too good to keep to myself. It deserves to be shared. 

The one thing that separates this recipe from the pack, is a special secret ingredient. One packet of Lawry's Spaghetti Seasoning. There's something about the flavor from this mix that is incomparable. Thinking about it now, a few of my Mom's secret recipes involve spice packets. Her famous tortellini recipe also includes Lawry's, and her "Special Mayonnaise" has a packet of Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing. I'll have to share those recipes with you too, they make me happy.

Anyway, these stuffed mushrooms make a great appetizer, but could also serve as a main course if you make enough of them. You can also stuff larger Portobello mushrooms instead of a bunch of button mushrooms. A few years ago, my parent's got the idea to use the stuffing inside of a stuffed zucchini. I shared that recipe with you at the end of last Summer. I suppose you could stuff any veggie with this mixture! 

My Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms

1 LB ground beef
1 onion, minced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely diced
4 mushrooms, minced
1 package Lawrey's spaghetti mix
1/2 cup Colby jack, shredded
1 T Parmesan
Large mushrooms hollowed out with a spoon, reserve stems and chop them finely

Heat a pan over medium heat, cook ground beef, mushroom stems and onion until beef is cooked through. In a large bowl, mix the ground beef and onion with the tomatoes, mushrooms spaghetti mix, and both cheeses.

Put beef mixture into hollowed out mushrooms. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-20 minutes, or until heated though.