Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ... on Tuesday

As you can see, this week I'm trying keep it simple, and to use stuff from my freezer.

- Southwestern BBQ Chicken Salad
- Chicken Milano (already pre-cooked a bunch of chicken in the crock pot so I'm going to use that)
- Sweet and Sour Meatballs over rice (meatballs already made in freezer)
- Taco Soup (leftover in freezer), cheese crisps
- Potatoes and/or cornbread with chili, salad
- Crock pot pork (The pork is in the freezer--this has been on my list for several weeks and I still haven't made it), mashed potatoes, veggie
- leftovers/out to eat/Papa Murphy's

Other non-dinner items on the menu:

Peach cobbler (peaches were on sale so I bought a bunch plus vanilla ice cream ... anyone have a favorite peach cobbler recipe to share?)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Chicken Korma (with pre-made, jarred simmer sauce) over jasmine rice
Crispy Southwest Wraps (vegetarian)
Meatball subs, spinach salad
Roast pork (carry-over from last week)
Asian turkey lettuce wraps and fried rice and/or (if I'm ambitious) easy egg rolls
leftovers/freezer meal

And now since Dee is at preschool and Mouse just got up from his nap, I'm going grocery shopping with only ONE kid in tow (woo hoo!).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Beautiful burger buns

Yes, homemade burger buns. You read that right. How come no one ever told me that making buns was super easy (easier than rolls and breadsticks) and that they taste SO much better than store bought? I don't know if I'll ever go back. Oh yes I will, but maybe only in a pinch.

So here are the buns that have been gracing our table the last few months whenever we have had a need for buns. Original recipe here.

Beautiful Burger Buns


1 cup warm water
2 T butter, softened
1 large egg
3 1/4 cups flour (I use 2 1/4 cups white, and 1 cup white whole wheat)
1/4 cup sugar
1 t salt
1 T quick-rising yeast
1 t onion powder
1/2 t dried onion flakes

  1. Combine all the ingredients and mix and knead them together, by hand or by mixer, until you have a soft, smooth dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour. (I just throw the ingredients in my bread maker and run the "dough" cycle.)
  2. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape each piece into a flattened ball; place the buns on greased baking sheets, cover and let rise 30-40 minutes, until they're puffy.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°.
  4. Bake the buns for 12-15 minutes, until they're golden brown; remove from oven and baking sheet and cool them on a rack.
  5. Slice in half with a serrated knife and use for burgers or sandwiches.
  6. (Optional) For burgers, butter the split sides and fry them, buttered side down, until they're golden brown and warmed through.
(Talk about poor presentation. Yes, I know my pan looks awful! Someday I will replace it.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

It's that time again ... already! Here's what's on the menu this week:

Chinese Chicken Salad - this is a carry-over from last week - and fried cream cheese won tons

Crab Salad on buns/rolls

Chicken Parmesan (I'm using leftover frozen sauce from this recipe), pasta, veggie

Easy Roasted Pork, mashed potatoes

Pizza (Margherita on half, Pepperoni/cheese for the picky eaters)

Grilled Grande bowls (this is my take on one of my favorite menu items at Rubios)

Other items I'm making this week:

Peanut butter cookies
hummus for dipping veggies
banana honey muffins

Friday, September 10, 2010

What's in the Lunch Box?

{These are my girls' lunch boxes, packed and ready to go}

This year is my first year packing school lunches. Last year Mia was in half-day Kindergarten and there was no need. And since Dee's new preschool is three mornings a week and dismisses right after lunch, I now have two lunches to pack. I admit the novelty hasn't worn off yet and I still think it's kind of fun. I like to pack healthy foods that I know they will like and that will remind them of home.

My take on the school cafeteria lunch (an option for Mia) is this: I'm okay with it now and then, when there's something she really likes on the menu. But I feel that the nutritional value of the food I'm sending with her is higher than the cafeteria food. Luckily she's usually only interested in what they are serving in the cafeteria about once a week, so it works out fine.

On thing that complicates lunch packing is that my girls could hardly be more opposite when it comes to their taste in foods. There are lots of things on my list that Dee will eat and Mia won't, and vice versa. And at Dee's preschool they will heat up food, but Mia doesn't have that option.

To help prevent lunch-packing burn-out, I have compiled this list of yummy, healthy, lunch-box friendly foods that I can refer back to:

  • Sandwiches of course - PB & J or PB & H usually - on whole grain bread
  • granola (with yogurt)
  • mini bagels with cream cheese
  • tortilla wrap (with meat/cheese or pb&j)
  • 'healthy' crackers like whole grain Ritz or goldfish, triscuits
  • leftover dinner rolls or breadsticks
  • homemade baked goods - muffins, banana bread, etc.
  • granola bars
  • pretzel chips
  • whole grain dry cereal
  • Yogurt (I like this kind) and granola
  • string cheese or cheese cubes
  • cheese rolled up with meat and and secured with toothpicks
  • hard boiled egg, peeled and sliced
  • milk
  • cream cheese (on bagels - I'm also going to try on cucumber slices)
  • Nuts: pistachios are a big favorite, peanuts, cashews, trail mix, etc.
  • hummus (for dipping veggies or pretzel chips)
  • turkey dogs
  • chicken nuggets
  • lunch meat (turkey usually) rolled up with cheese and secured with toothpicks
  • peanut butter (on a sandwich or as a dip for carrots/apples)
Fruit/Veggies (sometimes I'll include ranch dressing for dipping the veggies):
  • carrot sticks
  • cucumber slices
  • radish slices (weird but true)
  • lettuce
  • cherry tomatoes
  • apple sauce
  • blueberries, strawberries
  • grapes
  • slices of cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, apple
  • clementines or orange circles
  • raisins/Craisins
  • bananas
  • fruit leather or "simply fruit" fruit roll-ups
  • granola bars - homemade or store bought
  • muffins
  • trail mix
  • pretzel chips
  • tortilla chips
  • 'healthy' crackers like whole grain Ritz or goldfish, Triscuits
  • peanut butter crackers
  • graham crackers
  • pop corn/kettle corn
Once in a while I will stick in a couple of cookies, a handful or M&Ms or a couple of Starburst for a treat. But not every time.

As a side note, I try to use a lot of tupperware as opposed to baggies that have to be thrown away.

And for fun, here are a few other moms' takes on what to pack in the lunch box:

Trainer Momma

Salt and Chocolate (lots of great comments)


Weekly pictures of lunches from Wendolonia

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Oh. My. Yum.

That Julia Child really knows what she is talking about. Yesterday I made the Supremes de Volaille a Blanc (Breast of Chicken with Cream) from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. There are several variations of the dish and I made the one "aux Champignons" - with mushrooms. The chicken was so flavorful and the cream sauce sent me over the moon. I served it with angel hair pasta and a side of fresh asparagus sauteed in butter with garlic and onions. I was oohing and ahhing and tooting my own horn all through the meal. Everyone else cleaned their plates too. (It might have helped that we told the kids they had to clean their plates before we could go swimming at the YMCA--but still, they didn't complain which speaks volumes.)

Overall, this is really quite a simple dish. If you're interested in the recipe, HGTV did an article that includes it here. They include a few more veggies and a rice dish, but basically the chicken and sauce is the same. I made a few minor changes such as using basil instead of parsley on top, and cooking it a little lower for a little longer.

This more than makes up for Tuesday night's flop. It felt good to redeem myself!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Witching Hour

This morning at 6 a.m. I was checking my Google Reader from my iPhone on the couch while 11 month old Mouse played on the floor (much too energetically for 6 a.m.). I came across an article on Simple Mom called "How to Bring Peace to the Witching Hour" - the witching hour, of course, being that hour before dinner when kid neediness is at its peek and adult patience as at its low.

The article was just what I needed after yesterday's very cranky witching hour at our house. I spent way too long in a steamy kitchen (cursing the heat and the never ending summer) making food that it turned out none of us liked, all the while three kids were having meltdowns about various things.

Not good.

I'm realizing that now is not the stage in my life for fancy dinners. I'm realizing that I need to not only plan the meals a week in advance (simple meals at that), but I need to do some of the dinner prep earlier in the day, and I need to spend the witching hour giving my kids the love and attention they need most during that time.

I love food and experimenting in the kitchen, but not at the expense of peace in our home. Hopefully I can find a balance! If you have any tips on what works for you, I'd love to hear them.

P.S. If you're wondering which recipe I made last night, it was the sweet potato ravioli. I liked the filling, and I liked the sauce, but together and with the ravioli, it just didn't work for us!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Last week I finally got a copy of Julia Child's famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking from the library--I was on the hold list for months! I've been browsing through it and everything is butter this and cream that, and the recipes are named beautiful things like Gateau de Crepes a la Florentine and Caneton a L'Orange. Mmmmmm. Admittedly, I'm a little overwhelmed by it all, but I'm going to include at least one recipe from the book this week, and then when I have a chance to look through it in more depth, I'll hopefully try a few more the next week.

So, on the menu this week:
  • Sweet Potato Ravioli with Asiago Cheese - This was on the menu last week but I never got to it. I'm planning it for tomorrow!
  • Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons (Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Cream) from Mastering the Art of French Cooking with pasta and a salad
  • Chinese Chicken Salad - this is a recipe my mother-in-law emailed to me. If it's a winner at our house, I'll post it!
  • Grilled burgers (have some leftover in the freezer) with homemade buns, cole slaw, corn on the cob
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches and Carrot-Tomato Soup
  • Breaded, fried chicken tenders with mashed potatoes, gravy, and a veggie
  • Out to eat/leftovers
Happy cooking!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Homemade Dinner Rolls

No recipe blog of mine would be complete without my go-to dinner roll recipe. I loooove these rolls, and I love that I can bring a little bit of happiness to family and friends just by making them. I've made them so many times that I have them down almost without having to consult the recipe. They are simple too and they always impress people, which is fun. :)

First, pull out your bread maker or dough mixer (or your good old fashioned bowl and wooden spoon).
Next, get out your ingredients:

1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1/2 cup warm milk
1/3 cup white sugar
1 t salt
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, softened
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use whole white wheat flour for ONE of the cups but if you don't have it just use white)
2 1/4 t (or one .25 ounce package) active dry yeast
1/4 cup butter, softened

Place all ingredients (except for final 1/4 cup butter) into bread machine, mixer or bowl. At this point I just run the dough cycle on my breadmaker. If you're using a mixer you can mix until a soft dough forms, and then let it rise in an oiled bowl for about an hour. (Or, if you're using a bowl and wooden spoon/your hands, do the same. And let me know how it turns out!)

Here is my dough after rising for an hour:
Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and divide it in half:
Use a rolling pin to roll each half into a 12 inch circle, then spread with the 1/4 cup butter (I usually save some of the butter to spread on top after the rolls bake).
Dee was helping me and as you can see her dough is not in a perfect circle. This is perfectly ok - don't stress about it. The rolls will still taste just as good.

Then, use the blunt side of a butter knife to carefully cut each circle into 8 wedges (obviously this is only partway into the process):
Roll each wedge starting at wide end. Use both hands, not like me in this picture:I always make my rolls in crescent shapes like this because I get the best results this way. If round rolls float your boat, by all means make circles instead.

Place crescents point side down on a cookie sheet:Cover with a slightly dampened clean kitchen towel or sprayed plastic wrap. Let rolls rise double. Toward the end of rising time, preheat oven to 400 degrees. The rolls should look something like this after rising:
Bake 10-15 minutes, until golden. Oven temperatures vary, so if you're making these for the first time, just keep an eye on them so they don't burn. My old oven cooked hot and fast, so I used to have to cook them on 375. They bake just fine at 400 on my new (more accurate) oven.

Take a moment to stop and appreciate the beauty and the mouth watering smell that has entered your kitchen.
Go ahead and take a bite. Try not to burn your tongue.