Category Archives: Recipes

How I do Meal Planning

I’ve noticed a lot of chatter online these last couple of weeks about meal planning and the dreaded question of “what’s for dinner?”. It got me to thinking about my meal planning…it’s something I’ve been doing for quite a while and while I’ve posted about it before in various areas, I thought I’d pull all my thoughts together in one place.

This week for dinner I have oven fajitas, pork chops & rice, crock pot mongolian beef, pesto italian paninis and more on my menu plan. We rarely eat out. All in all it’s not that big of a deal. If you ask me, it’s just as quick and easy as going out to a restaurant, going out to bring something home or waiting for dinner to be delivered. Of course, my biased could also come from us not really having the luxury of option thanks to budgets.

Originally posted on Liberating Working Moms, here are some of my favorite tips & tricks I’ve learned over the years…

  1. Plan Ahead. I feel like this is kind of the glaringly obvious one, but needs to be said anyway. Each Friday night after the kiddo is in bed, or even Saturday morning durning breakfast, I’ll sit down to make out a meal plan for the week. I only plan out a week at a time, but I know people that will do an entire month at once…that’s a little too ambitious for me. I’ll look at the week coming up…anything special going on that I need to plan around? Hubby planning on working longer than normal any nights? Once I know what’s going on, I’ll see what’s on sale this week, see what we’ve already got on hand, make out my meal plan day by day, then make a grocery list accordingly. I created my own meal planning sheet that I use literally every week. 
  2. Stock Up & Save! This isn’t just some clever grocery store marketing. For example: I can’t stand eating chicken off the bone, so I only buy the boneless, skinless chicken breast. If I see it on sale for $1.88 per lb I will buy about 10 pounds, bring it home and vacuum seal them in 2-packs. It’s a great way to always have meat on hand and save some moola. We also buy a HALF of a beef at a time and it lasts us just over a year…deep freeze recommended for this one, folks.
  3. It doesn’t always have to be fancy! For real you guys…not every night needs to be some gourmet meal…in fact most nights are not. We have tacos every single Tuesday…my kids LOVE Taco Tuesday! And? Confession: we eat pasta-roni as a side dish every once in a while too.
  4. Be resourceful with your leftovers. When I roast a whole chicken, we always have a ton of leftovers. I also have a husband who is super picky when it comes to eating said leftovers. So, instead of tossing what we don’t eat, I’ll debone the chicken and use it within the next couple of nights and make something like homemade fettuccine  alfredo, tortilla soup or chicken curry.
  5. Pre-Make when possible. On a Sunday evening, it’s not uncommon that I pre-prep a pan of enchiladas or lasagna or something else that otherwise takes too long to prep on a typical weeknight to eat later on in the week. It makes the evening rush after work so much smoother. For that same reason, I also love prepping freezer meals. {more on this later}
  6. Repeat after me: The Internet is your friend! Sure, I have some favorite cookbooks, but I have found some of our favorite go-to recipes on the interwebs. It also serves as a great place to find some new ones for spicing things up a bit. Obviously Pinterest is a good one, but I also really like Kraft Foods for easy, weeknight meal idea. Bonus: Kraft Foods has a search feature that let’s you put in ingredients you have on hand and gives you recipes to fit!
  7. Always have an easy back-up. Sometimes, I plain forget to take meat out of the freezer in enough time for it to defrost, so that grilled steak kabobs I may have had planned? Not really going to work. In our house, our go-to back up dinner is grilled cheese & soup. Nothing has to defrost and dinner can be ready in about 15 minutes.
  8. Save the in-depth stuff for the weekends. I typically don’t cook anything during the week that’s going to take longer than 45 minutes to get on the table, or about 30 minutes if the whole thing is hands-on. I don’t normally try a new recipe during a weeknight either. I also only do my crock-pot cooking on the weekends…but then again, I hate my crock-pot, remember?
  9. Keep your staples stocked. For us, our staples are cheese, bread, tortillas, yogurt and black beans. We also always have a few boxes of pasta-roni and cans of vegetables in the pantry ready to go as sides in a pinch.
  10. When in doubt…invite someone over that never cooks and be prepared to be worshiped. I’m mostly kidding, but I remember one time we had some friends/Andy’s coworkers over for an impromptu dinner that had never been over before…Taco Tuesday even, so nothing fancy. Anyway, as I was making dinner, she was looking at my calendar where I write out our dinners and she.was.amazed. She called into the living room to our other friend and was reading off some of the dishes…Stuffed Manicotti…Elk Stir Fry…Halibut…Turkey Burgers. Then next week at work? I guess she was STILL talking about it. What’s funny, is the week before, I was really feeling like we were getting into a food rut.

So those are some of my tips! One thing I’m super excited to incorporate into some of my meal planning tricks is Trader Joe’s meals…my new office will be just down the road from one!

Do you meal prep? What’s your favorite go-to weeknight meal?

Dinner Disappointment: Crock Pot Mongolian Beef

For the last four weeks I’ve had the same dish on my meal plan…each week something has come up and I haven’t been able to make it. I came across the recipe on Pinterest nearly 2 months ago when I was searching for a steak recipe. I pinned it knowing for sure it’d be a hit for the family. Today was the day. I made sure I had meat out of the freezer and by 1:30 I had everything in the crock pot ready to go. That should have been my first clue…the crock pot.

I got everyone’s plates ready to go. Andy sat down and started to feed Reese. I came over to the table just as he was taking a little taster of the meat. He kind of made a funny face. That was my second clue. I asked if it was ok…he said he thought so.

As we all settled in at the table and started to eat it became very apparent that this was definitely not a hit. It was…gross to say the least. All we could taste was salt. I covered my plate in ground pepper and was able to eat it as long as I didn’t stop. Andy couldn’t even finish half of it.

After dinner was all cleaned up, I reviewed the recipe to see where I went wrong. I followed it to a “T”…needless to say I won’t be trying that one again.

So, here’s my public service announcement/good deed for the day: do not…I repeat do not try this crock pot Mongolian beef recipe.

Ya welcome.

Taco Tuesday Remix: Pillsbury Taco Melts

It hasn’t exactly been a secret that our {read: my} transition from summer to school year has been…rough. Things seem to be settling into a groove now. I think. I hope. It gets easier right?

Through this transition, I’ve found that there are just some things that are out of my control. Like how long Reese naps at daycare, for example. But other things, I have complete control over. If you’ve been around these parts for long, you know I’m a huge advocate for meal planning. These last couple of weeks I’ve added another aspect of meal planning to my arsenal: pre-prep. Anything that can be prepped the night before, once the kids are in bed, is automatically at the top of my list of recipes to try.

When I was perusing the different recipes on Pillsbury’s website, I had specific criteria in mind. It had to be easy, quick, something that could be pre-prepped and I wanted to have the ingredients on hand {sponsored post aside, we almost always have a can of Pillsbury biscuits in our fridge}. When I found the recipe for Taco Melts, I knew I’d found the winner. Anything that incorporates Taco Tuesday is a always going to be a hit in my house.

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Anytime Rylee gets to use the rolling pin she’s all about helping with dinner prep! Plus it frees up my arms to hold a certain fussy one-year-old.DSC_0717

Since we eat dinner as a family 99% of the time, Ry & I were able to prep this meal as soon as we got home and then wait until Andy was close before we put them in the oven. Then we were sitting down for dinner just minutes after he walked in the door!

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In addition to the taco melts, I also warmed up some refried beans and opened up a bag of pre-made salad mix. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

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While I didn’t follow the recipe to a T {get it? T for taco!?}, I didn’t make many changes. The main thing I did was melt the cheese in with the meat and seasoning instead of sprinkling it on top of the meat before crimping them closed. I’ve found the melty cheese works well as a binder and makes them less messy for me to assemble. I also set aside some of the meat without the salsa to make melts for the girls since they aren’t so much into spicy things.

Overall, this recipe was great. Like I said, it was easy to prepare, it got Rylee involved and the whole family loved it {I totally ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning}. Win-win-win.

I’m already thinking of ways I can incorporate this style of recipe into more of my meals…next up? Ham & Egg melts. Who doesn’t love brinner? YUMM! For more ideas, they’ve even put together a free downloadable recipe book!

Thanks to Pillsbury for helping make my transition back to school a little bit easier!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. The content and opinions expressed here are all my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of General Mills. Compensation was provided by General Mills via Clever Girls Collective.

Recipe Review: Ranch Pork Chops

I found this recipe originally on Budget Bytes. Some pretty good recipes on that site…I’ve got a couple more reviews from there coming up. Andy LOVES breaded pork chops and I don’t make them very often so when I saw this recipe, I decided to give it a try.

 


Level of Difficulty: Pretty easy. The “work” for this recipe is pretty front loaded. Very hands on the first 10 minutes or so, then the rest of the time can be spent prepping sides.

What I did Differently: The recipe calls for buttermilk. I never buy buttermilk, and if I did, I wouldn’t use it before it went bad. So, I used the milk & lemon juice trick to make my own. I also didn’t use as much oil for the frying. And speaking of frying, I used EVOO instead of vegetable oil.

Serving Suggestions: I served this with steamed veggies and some pasta. It’d also be good with rice or mashed potatoes. Or even just a big salad.

PROS: Well, first of all, it was super good. Second, I was able to pre-prep a lot of it the night before…I let the pork chops marinate in the buttermilk overnight and throughout the next day. I also mixed the panko & seasonings up the night before and had them all ready to go in the same dish I used for dredging.

CONS: It wasn’t as “ranchy” as I was expecting. The two-step process of pan-frying then finishing in the oven some people may find annoying.

Would I Make it Again?: Absolutely. The whole family loved them!

Any thoughts on what you’d like me to review next? I’ve got Chicken in Peanut Sauce, Chicken Enchilada Pasta or Southwest Chicken Wraps we’ve recently tried. Wow…I’m thinking I really need to find some new beef recipes to try out.

Recipe Review: Coconut Lime Chicken

I think I’m on to something here….sharing my recipe reviews on a Friday…just before you {I} do my weekly meal planning and shopping over the weekend!

 

Level of Difficulty: Pretty simple, really…mix up some sauce, marinate your chicken in it, cook chicken, boil sauce for serving over rice. Doesn’t get a whole lot simpler than that.

What I did Differently: I did a few things differently. First, I used already thin chicken breasts, cutting out the step of flattening {what a pain!}. I also marinated overnight because that’s what works best for my schedule…no way I’m putting this together in the morning before work. Cooking wise, I broiled it instead of pan frying it…I also think it’d be great on the grill. Instead of the chili pepper it called for, I used red pepper flakes…mostly because I forgot to pick up a pepper at the grocery store.

Serving Suggestions: I served this with jasmine rice and bell peppers I broiled alongside the chicken.

PROS: Easy to put together, the meat is thin enough it cooks pretty quickly. It’s a great weeknight meal that’s got loads of flavor and tastes like you spent hours preparing it!

CONS: It did have a bit of a kick to it…not bad for us, but some may not care for that.

Would I Make it Again?: Oh yes. Last time I made this, Andy was out with some friend for the evening. I know this is a dish he’d really enjoy. As a matter of fact…I’m going to put this on the meal plan for next week!