Sunday, September 30, 2012

Menu Plan October 1-7

October is here! One of my favorite months of the year! In just a couple of weeks, Charles and I will celebrate our 14th anniversary, which is one reason I love October. And the leaves will be starting to turn colors here in the Deep South. It's going to be a great month!

Now on to this week's menu plan.

Ladies Night Out at church, family will eat pizza

Cheeseburger soup, pretzel rolls

Parmesan crusted tilapia, cauliflower

Pesto chicken pasta, broccoli

Pot roast with potatoes and carrots, green beans

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce

Feel better chicken stew, biscuits

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday over at Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Garlic Roasted Potatoes

I have always loved potatoes. Cook 'em however you want to, and I'll eat 'em! But really, I think roasted potatoes are my favorite. I love the crispy-edged ones especially. This recipe is super easy and not fancy at all. But it delivers fantastic flavor. Sometimes simple really is best.

Here's what you need:

3 lbs small potatoes (I used Honey Gold but red works great, too)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teas sea salt
1/2 teas pepper
2 TBSP minced garlic
1 teas dried parsley (optional)

In a bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic. Allow to sit for a few minutes so the flavors can blend.

Quarter the potatoes, making sure all the pieces are roughly the same size. This ensures even cooking without some pieces getting burned while others aren't cooked through. Dump the potatoes into the bowl with the olive oil and toss to coat well. Spread in an even layer on a greased baking sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Flip the potatoes over with a spatula every 15 minutes or so.
Sprinkle with dried parsley if desired.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Skillet Lasagna

We love lasagna around here. It's one of Mr. Lego's favorite meals. This skillet version has all the wonderful Italian flavors but gets on the table faster than traditionally prepared lasagna.

Here's what you need:

1/2 lb pasta, cooked and drained according to the package directions
  (I used bowtie pasta because the ruffly edges resemble lasagna noodles. Penne
     would work just fine, too.)
1 lb ground beef, cooked and drained
29 ounce can tomato puree or sauce
2 TBSP dried oregano
1 TBSP each Italian seasoning and dried basil
1 TBSP minced onion
1 teas garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (I used mozzarella and Parmesan)

In a large skillet, combine the cooked ground beef with the tomato puree. Stir in the herbs and spices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. If the sauce mixture appears to be too saucy, don't worry. The pasta will soak up some of the moisture.
Stir the cooked pasta into the sauce, making sure all the pasta gets coated. Drop the ricotta cheese by spoonfuls over the entire skillet.
Sprinkle the shredded cheese over all. Remove from the heat and cover to allow the cheese to melt. Alternately, if you have an oven-proof skillet, you can pop the whole thing into the oven for a few minutes to let the cheese melt.

From start to finish, this dish took about 30 minutes. Considering that a traditional lasagna bakes at least 45 minutes in the oven after all the prep work, this is a huge time savings for me!
The entire family declared this quick, yummy dinner to be delicious. It will show up on our menus regularly.

I'm linking up this recipe to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday over at Blessed with Grace.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Menu Plan September 24-30

It's the last week of September. Can you believe it? I've enjoyed the cooler mornings and evenings here in the Deep South. Soon the leaves will be turning all sorts of colors. I can't wait to see their beauty!

This weekend I spent some time going through my kids' clothes in an effort to exchange some summer clothes for fall/winter clothes. And, as I expected, I didn't find much that still fits them from last spring! They have both grown so much. So it looks like clothes shopping is on my to-do list this week.

Now for this week's menu:

Sausage tortellini soup, garlic bread

Beef short ribs over rice (slow cooker recipe), broccoli

Chicken shawarma, flatbread

Grilled steak, garlic roasted potatoes

Oven baked chicken fajitas, corn

Pizza sloppy joes, fries

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce 

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday over at Organzing Junkie.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Tater Tot Casserole in the Crockpot

I found this recipe at The Country Cook while searching for crockpot recipes and knew my family would like it. I've made a similar dish with ham, hash browns and cream of mushroom soup. I loved that this chicken version didn't require any cream soup. I'll admit, I worried that perhaps it would be dry without the cream soup, but to my great delight, it was perfectly moist. The chicken provided plenty of juices as it cooked.

Here's what you need:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pkg tater tots
1/2 cup bacon pieces - you can use the precooked stuff like I did or just dice up some cooked bacon slices
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk or heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a large, lightly greased crockpot, layer 1/2 the tater tots, then half the bacon pieces and half the cheese.
Layer the chicken pieces over the cheese. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.
Repeat the tater tot, bacon and cheese layer. Pour the milk over all.
Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

The bacon provides a great deal of flavor and is perfect with the chicken and cheese. The tater tots lose their shape and resemble hash browns, so if you want to substitute hash browns, it would work wonderfully.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sausage, Red Beans & Rice in the Crockpot!

I love crockpot meals. It's so convenient to toss a few ingredients together and let the appliance do the cooking. This is one of those meals that is so simple, you can hardly consider it cooking! When I found the recipe at Freezing Your Way Fit, I knew I had to try it. Of course, I tweaked it a bit. But it's a very hearty, satisfying dish that even my kids loved.

Here's what you need:

1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
3 cups chicken broth (I use low sodium)
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 lb smoked sausage or kielbasa
1 small onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
1 teas Creole seasoning
1 teas dried oregano
1 teas garlic powder
1 teas sea salt
1/4 teas black pepper
1/4 teas dried thyme
a pinch of cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy)

Stir all the ingredients together in a lightly greased crockpot. Avoid stirring during the cooking process to avoid excess gumminess. A little sticky is okay and perfectly normal. But you don't want mush.

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. All of the liquid should be absorbed.

I'm sharing this recipe at Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Menu Plan September 17-23

This weekend we spent a lovely day at a local state park and reached the highest point in the state of Alabama.

From the top of this observation tower (built in the 1930s) you can see for miles!
Fall has definitely arrived, bringing cooler temperatures, especially at night. We saw a few changing leaves on our mountain adventure. By this time next month, the mountain will be brilliant with color. I can't wait for that!

This week will see a few family favorites on the menu, as well as a couple of new recipes. Here's what we've got coming up:

Chicken tacos, corn

Beef stew, pretzel rolls

Skillet lasagna, cheesy garlic breadsticks

Homemade chicken nuggets, french fries

Homemade pizza

West Virginia pepperoni rolls

Crockpot beef stroganoff, green beans

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Home School Field Trip - Winn-Dixie!

Today we took a tour of our local Winn-Dixie with our homeschool group. It was fun to see behind-the-scenes places like the produce cooler and the meat cutting room.

We enjoyed samples of fruit, cheese, fresh bread, still-warm chocolate chip cookies, and ice cream!

But the kids' favorite part of the tour was getting to run the cash register!

They weighed produce and scanned groceries. They didn't actually handle any money, though, much to their chagrin.

It was a great morning of fun and learning opportunities.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sausage Pancake Muffins

Back when I taught in a private school, there were mornings when I didn't eat breakfast. I'd run through the McDonald's drive-thru on the way and pick up a McGriddle sausage sandwich. It was a sweet and savory combination that I really enjoyed. But the amount of sodium and the other unhealthy ingredients soon led me to make the decision to stop eating them. And did anyone besides me ever wonder how they got those little syrup "spots" in the sandwich part?

Goodbye, McGriddles! What could I eat instead?

I experimented with several different recipes to try to recreate those tasty breakfast sandwiches. The best alternative I've found is not a sandwich but a muffin. Well, a pancake in the form of a muffin. Because I didn't want to lose the "grab and go" aspect of the McGriddle.

I took my family's favorite pancake recipe, halved the ingredients, added some sausage and maple syrup and there it was! The perfect sweet and savory breakfast all in one little muffin!

Here's what you need:

1 cup flour
2 TBSP sugar
1 teas baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
1/4 teas salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
2/3 cup milk
2 TBSP real maple syrup
2 TBSP melted butter
1 cup cooked sausage, crumbled

In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, maple syrup and melted butter. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until combined. Add the sausage and stir again.

Divide the batter among 9 greased muffin cups. Don't use paper liners because the paper will stick to the muffins and be terribly difficult to peel off. Just grease the muffin tin VERY well with butter or olive oil. Also, pour a little water into the empty muffin cups if you're using a 12-cup pan. This keeps the pan from warping in the heat of the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean.
Carefully remove from the muffin tin. I take a toothpick and loosen the edges of the muffins, then lift them out with a spoon. If desired, drizzle with a little more maple syrup.

These freeze well, too. Just allow to cool completely, then place in a Ziploc bag to freeze. To reheat, allow to thaw in the fridge. Heat for 20 seconds in the microwave or for a few minutes in the oven. Of course, all this is assuming they last long enough to freeze.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning - repost

I was on my way to work on that beautiful September morning, listening to the radio as always. The first plane had hit, and the DJ's were discussing what could make a plane veer off course that much. Then the second plane hit. I could hear the disbelief in their voices when they realized it wasn't a coincidence that two planes could hit the Twin Towers within minutes of each other.

When I got to work, my co-worker had the TV on in one of the attorney's offices. We sat there in stunned silence and watched the news coverage. I remember sliding out of the leather chair onto my knees when the first tower fell. It was inconceivable to me that the lives of countless people had just been wiped out.

By this time came news of the Pentagon being hit. We were under attack. In my lifetime.

It was simply unbelievable.

Charles was driving to Atlanta to a telecom trade show with a co-worker and another friend. As they neared the city, the electronic traffic signs over the interstate said "Due to national emergency, the airport is closed." He called me on his cell phone and I cried as I told him the news. When he arrived at the trade show, the large screen TVs that had been set up around the Georgia World Congress Center were all tuned to the news. Nobody bustled around the booths and spoke of technology. Everyone was glued to the TVs.

I left work and picked up Mr. Lego from the babysitter. He was only 7 months old. When I got home, I sat in front of the TV all afternoon, holding him close. I called my mom just to hear her voice. I cried as I watched the horror unfold.

For the first time in my life, I realized the depth of hatred that these people had for us and our freedoms. I had grown up in the 80's when communism was the enemy and nuclear war was the biggest fear the country faced. When the Cold War ended, we got complacent. And underestimated the threat that terrorists posed. Oh, there had been terrorist attacks on Americans on foreign soil. But I guess like most Americans, I thought we were safe within our own borders. How wrong we were!

September 11, 2001, changed everything.

May we never, ever forget.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Southwest Chicken Wraps

Earlier this summer, we ate at a local deli and I had a delicious southwest chicken wrap. I knew I could probably recreate it at home much cheaper, and I was right. And the best part is, you can make up a big batch of these yummy wraps and freeze them for later!

Here's what you need:

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups shredded chicken
1/2 cup salsa or taco sauce
1 TBSP lime juice
1 teas chili powder
1 teas cumin
1/2 teas garlic salt
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 burrito-sized tortillas (I use homemade)

In a bowl, mash up the black beans until about half of them are mashed. Add the remaining ingredients, except the tortillas.

Divide the filling among the 8 tortillas.

Roll up like a burrito - sides in first, then roll from the bottom and fold over as you go.
To serve, heat up a panini press or an indoor grill, like a George Foreman. You can also do this in the oven, but they won't be as crispy. Try it at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Brush the wraps with a little butter or olive oil. Grill until the tortillas are golden brown and the edges are crispy-looking.

Slice diagonally and serve warm. You can serve with sour cream or salsa if desired.
Look at all that melty cheese oozing out! Yum!

For a sweeter Southwestern flavor, substitute 1 cup of the shredded chicken for 1 cup sweet corn. You could also use 1 cup of brown rice in place of some of the chicken to reduce the amount of meat.

To freeze, place wraps on a Ziploc bag and squeeze as much air out as possible. Thaw in the fridge overnight or for at least a few hours before reheating.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Menu Plan September 10-16

I'm so thankful for the cooler fall temperatures we've enjoyed around here this weekend. We got a bit of rain which no doubt helped bring the temperatures down. This kind of weather puts me in the mood to bake and cook! I'm going to try to get ahead on some freezer cooking this week in addition to our regular meals. To do this, I'm going to rely on some crockpot meals to free up my kitchen time. I love being able to throw ingredients into the crockpot and go on to other things!

So, do you like to cook ahead and freeze meals or specific dishes? My favorite thing to make and freeze are pizza crusts so I can make quick and easy lunches. Here's my post on my frozen pizza experiments if you want to see how I do it.

Now on to this week's regular dinner menu:

Savory beef sandwiches (crockpot), crispy potato wedges

Chicken tater tot casserole (crockpot), green beans

Cheeseburger rice, broccoli

Greek chicken pasta, cauliflower

Red beans and rice with sausage (crockpot)

Grilled pork chops, Parmesan zucchini

Pizza soup, garlic bread

For more meal planning inspiration visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Homemade Chicken Patties

When I saw this recipe on Heavenly Homemakers, I knew I had to try it. Chicken patty sandwiches were a staple at our school cafeteria, but no one really knew for sure what was in them. Well, thanks to this recipe, you will know exactly what is in your chicken patties and be assured the ingredients are healthy!

The original recipe called for 6 eggs, but I experimented and dropped that amount down to 4, mainly for texture. Six eggs was too "eggy" in my opinion. My family agreed. They frequently ask for these chicken patties for lunch. Since I make them up ahead of time and freeze them, it only takes about 15 minutes to get lunch on the table.

Here's what you need:

3 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
2 teas garlic powder
1 teas black pepper
1 teas sea salt
4 eggs

In a food processor, grind the chicken, onion, carrots and seasonings together until no big chunks remain. Add the eggs and mix well. The mixture will be gooey and orange. Don't worry, it will brown as the chicken cooks. Transfer from the food processor to a bowl. It will be much easier to scoop this way.

Heat coconut oil in a skillet until very hot. I used about 1/2 cup coconut oil. Using a 1/4 cup measuring spoon, scoop mixture into hot oil.

The mixture will spread a bit, so be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Brown on one side, then carefully turn over so the other side can cook. I had to use two spatulas to do this, otherwise the half-cooked patty would slide off and make a huge mess.
Because the chicken is not as dense, it won't take long to cook, maybe 3 or 4 minutes on each side. When the patties are cooked through, drain on paper towels. Use sandwich or hamburger buns to make chicken patty sandwiches.

I usually get about 12 patties from this recipe. If I'm not serving them right away, I freeze them in Ziploc bags after they've completely cooled. To reheat, remove from the freezer and bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes until heated through.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cinni-Mini Muffins

I recently went through some recipe files and found this old gem of a mini muffin recipe. I've used this recipe for breakfasts, treats for school, and gifts for neighbors. It's simple but delicious!

Here's what you need:

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teas baking powder
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk (see note below if you don't have buttermilk on hand)
5 TBSP butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, blend the egg, buttermilk and melted butter together. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Spoon into paper lined mini-muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Melt another 2 TBSP of butter. Combine 2 TBSP sugar and 1/4 teas cinnamon. While the muffins are still warm, dip the tops of each one into the melted butter, then into the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Enjoy with a cup of coffee!

*Note: If you don't keep buttermilk on hand, as I usually don't, simply place 1/2 TBSP vinegar into a measuring cup. Add enough milk to equal 1/2 cup. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.

I'm sharing this recipe with Tempt My Tummy Tuesday over at Blessed with Grace. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Menu Plan September 3-9

The first full week of September is upon us, and I'm ready for fall! Are you? I baked some soft ginger bars to get myself in the mood. And Starbucks is gearing up to start serving pumpkin spice lattes this week, but I'm going to make mine at home. You can find my easy directions in this post.

Tomorrow is Labor Day, and we usually plan a picnic/hike at a local state park with friends. But the weather forecast has been pretty insistent that we'll see rain, so we've decided to have a cook out at our house instead. No doubt the weather will be perfect! LOL.

Here's what on the menu this week:

Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs (with West Virginia hot dog sauce)

Stuffed pepper soup, garlic bread

Crockpot roast, mashed potatoes

Chicken and corn chowder

Skillet lasagna, breadsticks

Chicken shawarma, yellow rice


For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie.