What it's all about:

Each week I will put together an easy, kid friendly menu for a week's worth of meals, cooking tips and a shopping list so all you have to do is go to the store. It's an online support system to help you eat better and easier.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Week 7 - BH&G Spaghetti Pie, Prosciutto Spinach & Pasta, Spicy Chicken & Rice, Pork Chop & Broccoli Tots

Well, I'm going to have to admit a dinner fail. Sunday afternoon I got three out of the four dishes done while the girls were sleeping. I had planned on the pork chops, broccoli tots and sweet potatoes for dinner and so saved that for last and I guess it turned into a scramble to finish in time while working around the girls. The pork chops were overdone and the broccoli tots were a complete miss. *sigh* The sweet potatoes were good though; plain, boiled sweet potatoes, can't go wrong. I will keep this as part of the dinner plan and just cross my fingers that you have better luck.

This week I went a little old school. I used a cookbook. An actual physical cookbook, so I've copied out the recipes for you. Better Homes & Gardens is my go to for pretty much anything, when I'm not on a computer. These definitely qualify as basic meals. Nothing fancy. Nothing spicy. Basic meals that go together pretty quickly.

(with chicken)


Pork chops with Broccoli Tots and Sweet Potato

Slice, oil, salt & pepper two chicken breasts, bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until done. Set aside.

Cook 8 oz (approx half a box) of ziti and set aside.

While the chicken and ziti are cooking.

Chop one large onion and one large green bell pepper.

Put half the onion and pepper into Large Bowl 1. Add one clove of garlic, half a pound of raw ground beef and 1/2 tsp fennel seeds crushed. (If you have fennel seeds on hand, I would recommend using them. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. To crush them use the flat side of a kitchen knife and push down with the palm of your hand. Doesn't take a lot of work, just until you can smell the seeds.)

Put the other half into Medium Bowl 2. Add two cloves of garlic.

Take second onion and slice into crescents.


Spicy Chicken & Rice Bake

In a large sauce pan heat 1 tbs vegetable oil and cook Medium Bowl 2 onion mix.

When onion is tender, stir in:
1 can black beans (drained & rinsed)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato juice
1 cup frozen corn
2/3 cup uncooked rice
1 tsp chili powder (I only used half)
1/8 - 1/4 tsp ground red pepper (I omitted)
1/2 tsp salt

Allow mixture to boil and then transfer to a 3 quart casserole dish.
Arrange 3 lbs of chicken pieces on top, sprinkle with paprika.
Bake, covered, for 45-50 minutes at 375 until chicken is done and rice is tender. Mine took the full 50 minutes.


Spaghetti Pie

Cook 4 oz of spaghetti. If you have a kitchen scale I recommend using it to weigh the pasta. Using too much more than the 4 oz the recipe calls for results in more pasta than topping in your 'pie.'

While the pasta cooks, in a large sauce pan (freshly washed in my case) cook Large Bowl 1, beef and onion mixture until the meat is brown and the onions are tender. Drain if necessary.
Stir in:
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp dried oregano

Heat through.

Once spaghetti is done, drain and return to warm pan.
Stir in:
1 tbs butter
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Spray a 9" pie plate with nonstick spray. (I actually forgot to do this and it's been fine)

Using a wooden spoon press the spaghetti into the pie plate and up the sides.
Spread 1 cup cottage cheese on top and over sides.
Spread meat mixture over cottage cheese.
Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella.
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Cut into wedges to serve.


Prosciutto, Spinach & Pasta
(with chicken)

In a large saucepan (once again, freshly washed) heat 1 tbs butter and cook sliced onions with 2 gloves of minced garlic.

Stir in 1/4 cup flour and 1/2 tsp anise seeds, crushed. (I consider these optional. If you have anise seeds on hand, and want to use them, great. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. To crush them use the flat side of a kitchen knife and push down with the palm of your hand. Doesn't take a lot of work, just until you can smell the seeds.)

Immediately add
1 3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cup chicken broth

Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. (5 minutes or so)
Stir in:
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Precooked Ziti
10 oz chopped fresh spinach (the recipe called for frozen, which I used, and regretted, fresh is better)
2 oz prosciutto sliced into thin strips
2 precooked chicken breasts chopped into bite size pieces.

Transfer mixture to a 2.5-3 quart casserole dish.
Bake covered at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
Top with chopped fresh tomatoes to serve (totally forgot that part, but Alice hates tomatoes, so, oh well.)


Pork Chops, Broccoli Tots and Sweet Potato

I don't have an actual recipe for my pork chops. I use the 'pinch of this' method.

Peel and slice sweet potatoes. Boil for 10-15 minutes or until done. Mash and set aside.

Line a casserole dish with foil.
Spray chops with olive oil.
Sprinkle with: Salt, pepper, dried thyme and paprika...and whatever else you feel the need to try. I sometimes add some parmesan, or garlic powder, or red pepper if the girls aren't eating it.
Bake at 350 for about 18-20 minutes depending on the thickness.

Add 12 oz of broccoli to boiling water for one minute and then quickly run them under cold water.
Finely chop.
Mix together with:
1 beaten egg
1 cup shredded cheddar (Calls for 2/3, I thought it needed more)
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
salt & pepper

Line a pan with parchment paper. Mush about 1.5 tbs of broccoli mix into a ball...sort of...
I had some trouble with the Broccoli tots. They wouldn't ball up well and this whole thing pretty much fits into the category of 'I don't have time for that'. I don't know if I didn't chop them finely enough or what, but I gave up and it turned into this:

Bake for 18-20 minutes at 400 degrees.

This one was kind of a miss for us. They were 'fine'. We all ate them, but it was not the crunchy, cheesy, broccoli experience I had hoped for.

I hope yours come out better!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Week 6 - Sausage Rigatoni, Burrito Bowls & Chicken Pot Pie

It was brought to my attention that the burrito bowls from this week are very similar to the Zucchini, Black Bean and Rice skillet from a couple weeks ago. Looking closer, they are basically the same idea with only slight variations in spices and veggies included. Oh well, they both taste good!

This week, if you only take away one recipe, you have to try the Sausage Rigatoni. It's four ingredients, so easy, and really good. All of these recipes save well, so it doesn't really matter which you choose to eat on night one. There are only three recipes this week, but all three should give some solid leftovers to last through the week.

A few notes:
The chicken pot pie recipe calls for half a can each of cream of celery and cream of potato. I have no idea what you're supposed to do with the remaining half a can. I just put both full cans in and it tastes great! I also don't blanch the frozen veggies, just throw it all in together.

The rigatoni recipe calls for 8 oz of pasta. I didn't think that was quite enough and next time will likely do 3/4 a box instead of 1/2. Also, I did the rigatoni and the burrito bowls on separate nights because I only had one large skillet and by the end of day one cooking, I didn't want to continue.

Once again, start one cup of rice in your rice cooker or on the stone. Set aside.

Slice two chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, spray with oil and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until done. Set aside.

Remove pie crusts from fridge and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes (set a timer!).

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook 3/4 a box of rigatoni (or your pasta of choice, I used Rotini since that was in the pantry already).

Chicken Pot Pie

Into large bowl 1 Mix:
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of potato soup
16 oz bag frozen mixed veggies (straight out of the freezer!)
1 tsp thyme
Two pre-cooked chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces.

Take room temperature pie crusts and layer one on the bottom of a 9" pie plate. Pour in chicken filling from bowl 1, top with second crust, cut a few holes to vet steam, and then cover the edges with foil.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
Remove the Foil.
Bake for 30 more minutes.
Allow to cool before serving.

Sausage Rigatoni

Into large skillet:
1 lbs sweet Italian Pork Sausage, casing removed, cooked until just done.
Drain any fat (I didn't have any to drain).
While cooking the sausage, slice zucchini lengthwise into quarters and then slice crosswise.
Add zucchini to sausage, cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add one box Campbell's Savory Portobello Mushroom Soup. Yes this is a real thing. I had to hunt for it a bit in the soup section but I found it.

Hiding in plain sight.

Box of Soup...

From here the recipe says to bring to a boil. I didn't really have enough liquid to really 'boil' but I let it start bubbling a little and then I added the pasta.

Cook for two or three more minutes to heat through. Top with Parmesan to serve.

Burrito Bowls

The instructions on the site for this recipe are spot on, so I've copied them here. The only thing I don't do is stir the cheese into the mix. I add it as a garnish along with the green onions and tomatoes. It may, or may not result in using less cheese, but in my head I'd like to think it does. So that's what we go with.

For prep:
Dice 1/2 a small yellow onion
Chop into small pieces 3 chicken breasts
After you add the rice to the skillet, use the cooking time to dice the tomatoes and green onions for serving.
  1. Start by sautéing onions in 2 tablespoon of olive oil until they start to soften.
  2. Season diced chicken with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
  3. Add chicken to pan and cook over medium high heat until chicken has started to brown.
  4. Move chicken to one side of pan, in the other side of the pan add an additional tablespoon of olive oil and sauté uncooked rice for about 2 minutes or just until some grains start to turn golden brown.
  5. Stir in black beans, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, garlic powder, chili powder and cumin.
  6. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to low.
  7. Cook about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.
  8. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
  9. Sprinkle with cheese, recover and let set for 2-3 off heat to melt cheese.
  10. Garnish with fresh tomatoes, green onions, sour cream and guacamole.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Not Your Kid's Grilled Cheese Sandwhich

I don't have a full dinner post this week as we not only had company this weekend but had a beautiful weekend and so spent as much time as possible outside and with family.

But, I did try a new recipe that I had to share that was really good! Plus, I love grilled cheese sandwiches.

One of these days I'll remember to take pictures of my actual cooking, but for now am just stealing the photos from the websites.

Pretty much all of these things live in my kitchen and pantry at all times with some variation on the cheese. I used ciabatta bread, which I may or may not do again. It made for a very TALL sandwich, but it was super tasty with an extra crunch.

2 Slices Bread (Italian is recommended, but anything works)
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Slice American Cheese
1 Slice Provolone (I'll be trying it again with Havarti, just for fun)
2 Slices Tomato
1 Tbsp Pesto

Butter the bread, layer pesto, american cheese, tomato and provolone, pan fry for 5 minutes per side.


I cooked mine in the broiler (my mother in law's suggestion) since with the ciabatta bread, cooking in a pan was going to be challenging and I only buttered the top of the bread.

That's it! We loved it!


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Week 5 - Spinach Tortellini, Pork Fried Rice, Salmon (yes salmon) and Sesame chicken

Two weekends in a row of feeling pretty productive, makes for a nice start to the week! This week I again split the cooking into two nights, two dishes on Saturday and two on Sunday because that's what seemed to make the most sense at the time.

This week's menu has lots of fresh veggies, spinach, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, lots of good stuff. It also has a salmon dish which I encourage everyone to try. We love fish here, even the kids. This one is really good and while it calls for a Dijon mustard, I only had spicy brown on hand and that worked just fine. 

(with Rice & Spinach)

(with broccoli and sweet potatoes)

(with Chicken)

Again, I split it into two nights, but assuming you're doing a marathon cooking for four meals, plan on having the salmon for dinner that night, fish is always best fresh and hot from the oven. Everything else will keep.

Start two cups of rice in your rice cooker (or on the stove).

Slice two chicken breasts, spray with oil, salt & pepper, and cook for approx. 18 minutes at 350 degrees. Set aside.

Sesame Chicken with Broccoli & Rice

Chop & steam two of the heads of broccoli.

Line a casserole pan with foil and place the chicken thighs in, skin side up. 

In a small bowl whisk together:
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp ground ginger (the recipe calls for fresh, but I don't have time for that)
1/4 cup honey (eyeball it) 
2 tbs soy sauce 
1 tbs rice vinegar (or white)

Pour this mixture over the thighs and top with pepper (to taste). Once the chicken breasts are done, put these in at 375 for 15 minutes, remove and use a spoon to baste the chicken with the juices and then bake for another 15-20 minutes or until done.  Serve topped with sliced green onion, with rice and steamed broccoli. (I skipped the sesame seeds, again, who has time)

While the chicken is cooking...

Pork Fried Rice

Into medium bowl 1:
1/2 cup carrot chopped
1/2 cup broccoli chopped
2-3 green onions chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas

Into medium bowl 2 cube 12 ounces of pork loin.

Melt 2 tbs butter in a large pan and add veggies and pork from medium bowls 1 & 2. Saute for 7-10 minutes until pork is just barely done. Remove pork & veggies, set aside.

Scramble two eggs and then return the pork & veggies to the pan. Stir in two cups of the cooked rice (about half of what was made) along with:
6-8 tbs soy sauce (to taste)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Mix well and heat through, 7-10 minutes.


Spinach Tortellini

In a large pot cook the tortellini according to package directions and drain.

While that is cooking, in a medium sauce pan combine:
1 can diced tomato with garlic & onion
1 chop chopped fresh spinach (or more, I added closer to two cups)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp minced garlic

Cook until mixture begins to boil. 

Whisk together:
2 tbs flour
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup cream

Add cream mixture to diced tomatoes, reduce heat and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Add tortellini and chicken breasts, stir to coat.

Salmon, Sweet Potatoes & Salad

Peel and slice sweet potatoes, boil for 10 minutes or so until done and mash.(Or you can make sweet potato sticks which is what I did since the girls love them. Slice into sticks, spray with oil, sprinkle with salt and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes). 

Into small bowl one whisk:
1/4 cup butter melted
3 tbs mustard
1 1/2 tbs honey

Into small bowl 2 stir:
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I like panko)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
4 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Line baking dish with foil. 
Spread mustard mixture over salmon fillets. 
Top with bread crumb mixture
Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

While salmon is baking put together super fast salad. Bag of greens, cherry tomatoes, feta and sliced green onions (if you wanted to toss a few of the pecans on there that's yummy too).