Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chicken Stir Fry

You don't really need a recipe for stir fry, but just in case...

My kids love stir fry, and lately, they end up eating more of the veggies I throw in than they leave on the side of the plate.  You can usually throw together a good stir fry meal with things you have on hand.  Keep some rice in the pantry, some soy sauce in the fridge, and then use whatever protein you have on hand.   If you feel productive one day or find a great deal at the store, slice up some strips of chicken, beef or pork, and then freeze them so you can just thaw what you need and skip the whole cutting raw meat mess.  This helps cut down on contamination when you're cutting up veggies, too.

You don't have to buy a frozen mix of veggies - make your own!  I always have a small amount of various veggies left over from various recipes, or something wasting away in the fridge, so I chop them up, throw them in a freezer bag, and then when it's time, I can grab what I need and make a quick stir-fry without all of the chopping (this works for soups and lots of other things, too).  Anyway, here's the basic "recipe" I follow:

Chicken Stir Fry

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (or pork, or beef), sliced into about 1" pieces
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. evoo
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1/2 a lemon
a dash of salt

VEGGIES - lots of them!  I use a combination of the following:
broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
carrots, cut into "matchsticks"
onion, thinly sliced - red or whatever you have
bell peppers (red, green, yellow, orange), sliced into thin strips
snap peas or snow peas
whatever else you have on hand

To get this nice color, leave it alone!
To prepare, season your chicken with salt and pepper, heat the oil in a skillet, and add your chicken.  Then leave it alone for a bit!  Don't mess with it, or you won't get a nice golden color.  Don't add too much at one time, either, so you don't lose your heat.  Once the chicken is close to being done, you can remove it and set it on a plate, while you cook your veggies.  I usually throw a little chicken broth or water in with the veggies to help things along - just a little.  Cover for a bit, then stir, and add back your chicken.  Add the lemon juice, and then heat it all up, and serve on top of some , or just on its own. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chicken Philly Sandwiches

They were really good - so good, I couldn't get the camera for a photo fast enough.

Last week, we got off track from the menu plan - we had to make some room on the freezer with a crazy meal swap coming up, and we're trying to finish off some of the mystery packages in the bottom of the freezer.

One of the random fridge/freezer-clearing meals turned out to be chicken philly sandwiches with some boneless, skinless chicken breast, frozen green peppers I had sliced up a few weeks ago, and sliced onion left from the endless carnitas I'd been making.  I threw in some garlic and pepper for taste, and then served them on some french bread rolls I had in the freezer with provolone cheese and a little horseradish sauce.   We had some roasted broccoli on the side, and a few leftover fries we had in the freezer.  SO, here's a recipe (I'm guessing on amounts, since I just toss) - I think this could easily be made into a freezer meal.   You can tweak the flavors, too...

Chicken Philly Sandwiches

1-1/2 lb. or so boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into 1/2"pieces
1 tsp. evoo
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp.  freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly

6 slices of provolone cheese
french bread rolls, sliced
horseradish sauce (optional)

To make a freezer meal of it, I'd slice the chicken, add the garlic, Worchestershire, evoo and seasoning in a bag.  Then I'd include the veggies in a separate bag.  It's pretty simple, but hey....

To prepare, season the chicken, heat the oil in the pan, then add your chicken.  Once the chicken is cooked, add the veggies, and cook until tender.  You can add a little broth or water if you need some liquid.  Toast your rolls, add the cheese, and then scoop on the meat & veggies.  Spread a little horsey sauce on, and you're ready to rock.

Meal Plan Monday - ACK!

So... we had the ULTIMATE "best laid plans..." week - and we managed to consume a record TWO of SEVEN planned meals.  Here's what happened:  we went to Elkhart Lake for a few days, since the kids had a day off and life was brutalizing our family, and planned to buy food, but the local market is closing (sad), and we were lazy (sad in a different way), so we ate out for most meals or skipped and used leftovers for others.

THEN, we have a freezer meal swap coming up Monday, so we had to make room for a ton of frozen goodness, which required lots of reorganizing and thawing of those freaky, frosty, unlabeled lumps.  We found edible Glazed Pork Tenderloin (Pork Page), BBQ Chicken, and an UBER old carnitas we voted off the island.  OOPS.

So..... for this week, I won't repeat, though that was a darn good menu.  If you didn't use it, do ahead and do so - it rules!  But if not, here's what I'm trying this week, also being a ridiculous week, schedule-wise.  Based on our meal swap, since we already spent the cash, and having a nutty schedule, here's our plan (most of the recipes can be found on the main recipes pages - i.e. beef, pork, etc.) I promise to add links in the AM and finish it all off, but it's late, I was gone all night, and I got sucked into a cable movie, so I'm just trying to do the best I can tonight!).... BTW, Elkhart Lake is awesome and close, so ask me about it if you need a quick, affordable getaway.

Monday: Meal Swap Night, so we're eating one of the meals I did, which was Mini Turkey Meatloaves, and I made a load of mashed taters this weekend, and we have some snap peas from Costco we need to use up (previous impulse buy!).

Tuesday: Baked Ziti - freezer meal swap.  Salad for a side, maybe some bread.

Wednesday: Italian Beef Sandwiches with some veggies, maybe oven fries.

Thursday: Chicken Chili with a side salad.

Friday: possibly eating out with sports, if not, carnitas with chips & salsa

Saturday: guests in town, possibly eating out, if not, grill some honey garlic pork chops, broccoli, red potatoes

Sunday: Super Bowl snacks!  some leftover Italian Beef on small buns, some baked chicken wings, some delish dips, etc.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Minestrone Soup

It's been REALLY cold lately. 

We were up in Elkhart Lake this weekend, and stopped in to grab some soup and a sandwich at Off The Rail Cafe (love it). We had some minestrone and chili - both were awesome, and totally warmed us up from the inside out.  I was inspired to put some soup on the menu plan for this coming week, but also wanted to share a minestrone recipe we use for our freezer meal swaps.

Minestrone Soup

2 tbsp. EVOO
1-1/2 lb. Italian sausage, broken up
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ c. celery, chopped
½ c. carrots, chopped
½ c. green pepper, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 c. fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper to taste (about ½ tsp.)
2 c. diced tomatoes (1 19 oz. can)
6 c. chicken stock (Swanson Natural Goodness or Kirkland's Chicken Stock are great)
2 c. shredded cabbage

Include 1 can kidney or Great Northern beans, about 1 c. dried pasta (ditalini, elbow macaroni or other small pasta) packaged separately. Have Parmesan cheese on hand.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven, lightly brown sausage and drain. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrots and green peppers. Cook until somewhat softened (leave a little more firm than you normally would, if you're freezing and reheating the soup). Stir in parsley, bay leaf, salt & pepper. Stir in tomatoes and stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer about 10 minutes. Add cabbage and spinach. Take off heat, and let cool completely.  Freeze once it has cooled completely.

To prepare: thaw, add noodles & beans, and bring up to simmer. Heat through, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Every Monday I'll try to share my planned dinners for the week - it may or may not pan out, but but it's a good idea to have a plan, and remain flexible. This past week, we had all sorts of craziness, so we're bring a few things from last week back that we didn't get to. I've added a few alternative ideas below in case you happened to knock them all off your list!

What's for dinner this week?

Monday: Skillet Chicken & Penne with Broccoli & Asiago

Tuesday: French Dips with sweet potato oven fries

Wednesday: Breakfast sandwiches (English muffins + eggs + Canadian bacon) with fruit

Thursday: busy night, so it's got to be simple - Spaghetti (try this sauce) with salad

Friday: Southwest Chicken Salads

Saturday: Cuban Sandwiches - I've been dying to try this recipe from Tyler Florence

Sunday: Broccoli Cheese Soup

Now I'm getting hungry!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Every Monday I'll try to share my planned dinners for the week - it may or may not pan out, but but it's a good idea to have a plan, and remain flexible. This past week, we had all sorts of craziness, so we're bring a few things from last week back that we didn't get to. I've added a few alternative ideas below in case you happened to knock them all off your list!

Here's the plan for this week:

Monday: Turkey Divan with a side salad and some bread we had leftover from the weekend. Using the recipe from a previous post for Chicken Divan Revisited. We just didn't get to it last week...

Tuesday: Manicotti with salad.  Sorry - it's a repeat!  This is a meatless meal, which we're trying to add more of.

Wednesday:  Chili & Baked Potatoes.  I've got some chili frozen from my massive batch a few weeks ago, and we like to serve it over a baked potato sometimes for a different take. 

Thursday: Chicken Stir-Fry with brown rice

Friday: We've got an away game, so we might end up eating on the road, but I PLAN to have dinner ready to rock so we can eat early and run. I'm thinking we might have some leftovers, or I could whip up Easy Cheese Steaks.

Saturday/Sunday: We've got weekend plans that involve eating out, so check out the additional meal ideas and plug something in, or hit up a restaurant, too!

Additional Meal Ideas:
  • I actually ended up using some cooked ground beef and throwing together some sloppy joes for one meal, since it was faster - so here's a recipe for Eating Well's version of Sloppy Joes, in case you want to substitute that in for one of our do-overs (it's toward the end of the beef recipes).   Serve with some oven baked fries and some raw veggies.
  • Leftover night - we do this for a weekend lunch sometimes, or dinner - depends on what's leftover from the week.  Then we supplement with fruit and veggies, and of course always have the makings of a sandwich on hand.
  • Breakfast for dinner - countless options - pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, a baked egg dish, etc.
  • Grilled cheese & soup - we have some chicken noodle in the freezer, or you can always fire up some of the famous Mrs. Grass with the mysterious flavor nugget!
  • Grill out!  Sure it's snowy, but throw on your boots, brush off the grill, and grill some burgers or brats.  Make some baked beans, or some potato wedges, or potato salad, etc. for a side.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Joey's Chopped Salad

This is my favorite salad (there's nothing healthy about it, though). 

Any salad that combines blue cheese and Fritos is my kind of salad.  Seriously, though, this is a really tasty salad.  The recipe was posted in the Journal Sentinel several years ago, and I was super happy when I saw it!  It's from Joey Buona's Pizzeria Grille, and the chef, Roger Ruzek, sent in the recipe (in case you get excited about those kinds of details).

I make the vinaigrette from time to time without doing the fancy salad, since it's really tasty on a plain side salad, too.  I made it for Christmas one year for a big family-style dinner for 14 or so, and something weird happened when it was refrigerated, and it looked like gravy - it would have been funny, but it totally stressed me out, and then I didn't have a cruet, so it got spooned out of a bowl and TOTALLY looked like gravy.  I almost cried.

Joey Buona's Chopped Salad

2 tablespoons diced prosciutto
8 cups romaine and iceberg lettuce blend, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup sliced black olives (any kind)
1/4 cup carrots (sliced in coins, then halved)
1/4 cup diced and seeded cucumbers
1/4 cup crumbled corn chips
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup red wine vinaigrette (see recipe)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place prosciutto on a cookie sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.  To make salad, combine all remaining ingredients except vinaigrette in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette and mix well. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Red Wine Vinaigrette

1 green onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly chopped garlic
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place onion, garlic, honey and vinegar in a blender. Start mixing on highest speed. Very slowly add the olive oil into the blender to emulsify. If oil is added too quickly, ingredients will not combine. After all the oil is added, season with salt and pepper. Store unused vinaigrette in refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and shake well before using. Makes 2 cups.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Every Monday I'll try to share my planned dinners for the week - it may or may not pan out that way, but it's good to have a plan, and remain flexible.  

Here's the plan for this week:

Monday: Turkey Dinner - bought a turkey at Thanksgiving even though we weren't hosting (had to use those stupid Turkey Perks).  I'll do mashed potatoes and gravy, and some steamed carrots and green beans.

Tuesday: BBQ Shredded Pork Sandwiches - basketball game at school means we need something easy - I've got some prepped meat in the freezer ready to rock.  Serving on buns with some baked fries and homemade coleslaw and raw veggies on the side.

Wednesday:  Basic Beef Tacos - mom's got a commitment right at dinner time, so gotta keep it easy.  We ended up not having this last week, so it's back in the rotation.  Chips & salsa, pineapple chunks (fresh) on the side.

Thursday: Manicotti with salad, homemade ciabatta.  I might make a red wine vinaigrette for the salad - I'll post my favorite recipe tomorrow.

Friday: Breakfast for Dinner - there's a quiche recipe I want to try - check it out here: Bacon & Spinach Quiche.  We'll serve it with fruit.  If I don't have a chance to do the quiche, we'll just do breakfast sandwiches - eggs, Canadian bacon or regular bacon and cheese on an English muffin, served with hash browns and fruit.

Saturday: We've got dinner plans, so sandwiches or pizza or something with the sitter for the kids.

Sunday: Turkey Divan - If there are leftovers from Tuesday, I'll throw this together right away Tuesday night or Wednesday AM, and then stick it in the freezer. If not, we'll grab a rotisserie chicken at Costco or something... Using the recipe from a previous post for Chicken Divan Revisited. Salad for the side.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ciabatta Bread for the Bread Machine

I love bread.

I know.  Bread's bad, blah, blah blah.  Too bad, we're still enjoying it from time to time.  We don't eat white bread much here, and when we do, I make it, or buy a nice loaf of sourdough or something delish.   I tried making whole wheat rolls with flax seed yesterday from the ripped out recipes pile, and I imagined it was going to be this amazing, therapeutic process, and I would love the feel of kneading the dough, and they would be amazing and healthy and delicious, and I would be awesome.

Well, insert reality here:  the stupid dough was like a rock, and I got a full workout in trying to knead it.  The rock never rose, and for kicks I baked a little of it to see what would happen, and it was like a hockey puck, and I was stressed and crabby.  Epic fail, as the teen boy would say.  SO, back to the bread machine method, where fabulous soft, elastic balls of dough appear magically after I press a button and walk away.  I'm a COOKING Baker for a reason, not a BAKING Baker.  Anyway, here's a recipe (I THINK it was from allrecipes.com, but I've since lost the source, sorry.) for a good loaf using the bread machine to do the hard work.  We like to dip it in olive oil & balsamic vinegar.

Ciabatta Bread
1 1/2 c. water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. white sugar
1 tbsp. olive oil (I sometimes use a rosemary-infused oil - delish)
3 1/4 c. bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. bread machine yeast

Place ingredients into the pan of the bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer.* Select the Dough cycle, and Start. Dough will be quite sticky and wet once cycle is completed, resist the temptation to add more flour. Place dough on a lightly floured board, cover with a large bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Lightly flour or use parchment lined baking sheets. Divide into 2 pieces, and form each into a 3x14 inch oval. Place loaves on prepared sheets, dimple surface, and lightly flour. Cover, and let rise in a draft free place for approximately 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Dimple dough for a second time, and then place loaves in the oven, positioned on the middle rack. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. During baking, spritz loaves with water every 5 to 10 minutes for a crispier crust.

* If you're like me, the manual is long gone, or you never had it to begin with.  I found this helpful guide to bread machines.

Nutritional Information
Servings Per Recipe: 24
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 73
Total Fat: 0.9g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 146mg
Total Carbs: 13.7g
Dietary Fiber: 0.5g
Protein: 2.3g

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bell Pepper Soup

This is soup weather.

My husband and I LOVE soup.  Our kids USUALLY love soup.  This is a great time of year for a nice, hot bowl of soup with a sandwich or salad, or just on its own.  Sometimes, you need to break out of the box and try a new one - this was simple, pretty healthy, and can be made vegetarian if you leave out the meatballs (you can find that recipe under Poultry).

Bell Pepper Soup

1 tbsp. evoo
3-6 bell peppers (green, yellow, red, orange, yellow - you pick), diced
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped, or 2 tsp. dried
2 tsp. dried oregano
64 oz. can tomato juice
4 c. water (I use 2 c. vegetable or chicken broth, and 2 c. water)
1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
small pasta shells or rice (include with a freezer meal)
1 recipe turkey meatballs (make them small)

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 2 min. Add peppers, and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, basil, parsley & oregano. Stir in tomato juice and water, bring to a boil, stir. Cook pasta to al dente, and stir in before serving (skip this if you're freezing).  To freeze: let cool completely, freeze.

To prepare: thaw soup in refrigerator, reheat. Add meatballs while reheating, and stir in al dente pasta just before serving. Could also use rice. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley if you have it, and maybe little shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Having a meatless meal once a week is a good thing.

This year, I'm going to try to do 1-2 meatless meals every week - I don't think it will be too hard.  It's good for the budget and the body, so we'll see how it goes.  Here's a soup recipe I pulled from the stacks, from a cooking class I took years ago.  I haven't frozen this one before, but I know SOME potato soups you can, so I will freeze some of it and let you know what happens.  Potato and dairy can be tricky in the freezer, but I have high hopes.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
Makes 8 Cups

4 large russet potatoes, baked - about 4 c. flesh, lightly mashed (Yukon golds are fine, too)
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. onion, diced
1/4 c. flour
2 c. chicken broth
2 c. whole milk (using skim will result in a really thin soup)
2 tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt & pepper to taste

optional garnish: crumbled bacon, sour cream, chives or sliced scallions, sharp cheddar, etc.

To save some time, bake the potatoes in advance - scrub, dry, and pierce with a fork.  Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Place directly on the rack in the over and bake about 1 hour, or until completely soft inside.  Scoop out flesh and lightly mash.  Heat skillet and add butter, then saute onions about 5 minutes, or until softened.  Whisk in flour, and cook about 2-3 minutes to remove raw flour taste.  Whisk in broth and milk.  Continue cooking, and stir until thick, about 4-5 minutes.  Add potato and simmer about 5 minutes (don't let it boil).  Stir in parsley and season to taste.  Serve hot with garnishes.

You can set the skins aside, and then slice them into thin strips.  Brush with olive oil and season with salt & pepper and bake at 400 degrees about 15 minutes, or until crisp.  They make kind of a fun garnish for the soup.  You could also do some potato skins and freeze them to have a tasty ap on hand.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Here's what we've got on the menu for this week:

Every Monday I'll try to share my planned dinners for the week - it may or may not pan out that way, but it's good to have a plan, and remain flexible. 

Monday - snacks & aps for the Rose Bowl! (check out the aps + desserts page for some ideas - I added some of our favorites)

Tuesday - Taco Tuesday (using the chicken from Southwestern Chicken Salads - I made a double batch and froze some)

Wednesday - Loaded Baked Potato Soup (I'll post the recipe tomorrow)

Thursday - Stuffed Peppers (remember, I made and froze some filled with the Spanish Rice Bake mixture?)

Friday - Ravioli (I've got some frozen, not makin' my own)

For sides, we're planning on lots of salad, raw veggies and fruit, since we had a crazy weekend of overeating.  I've got a big container of carrots and peppers sliced and ready to rock in the fridge, and we found a yogurt-based ranch dressing the kids like for dipping that has very few calories, but skips all the weird ingredients that come in lots of low-fat or fat-free dressings.  It's nice to have bread on the side with a soup or pasta sometimes - when we do go for the bread, we like to get a nice chewy baguette, and do some olive oil & balsamic vinegar to dip in. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Meal Plan Mondays

Meal planning is a necessity for me.

If I don't do it, I end up spending too much at the grocery store, going there about 15 times, and having those "oh shoot, it's 4:30pm, what are we doing for dinner?" moments.  I don't stick STRICTLY to the plan, but I have all of the ingredients for those meals on hand, and a rough schedule of when we would have them.  If we end up swapping meals for different nights, or going out, we just adjust things.  I used to get nerdy and have a print out that I filled in every week, but now I just write it on the back of an envelope.

SO....... I am going to share my meal plan for the week with you every Monday (that I remember), and provide the recipes where needed.  What do you think?  Feel free to share what YOU'RE having for dinner in the comments!