Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hey Good Lookin... What Ya Got Cookin?

Scenario One:

5:30 in the evening, starving child approaches you and asks with an ear grating whine:

"Mommmmmmm????  What's for dinnerrrrrr????"

You sigh and say the following:

"Blah. Let's jump in the car & grab Chick-fil-A"

Sound familiar?  Yep.

Not that jumping in the car & grabbing Chick-fil-A is a bad thing (we're doing it tomorrow!) It's when you do it three times a week because you haven't planned ahead that's bad.

Scenario Two:

5:30 in the evening, starving children come to the kitchen to eat the dinner they've been looking forward to ever since you posted the weekly menu Monday morning.


There is a law irrevocably decreed in my house: If Mom doesn't plan ahead, we will eat copious amounts of fast food. There's also a law that states: If there are Oreo cookies in the house, Mom will eat them until they are gone. All of them. Mmmmm Oreos.

After years of trial & error, I've finally come up with practical menu planning that works for us.  I don't get the whiney "What's for dinner" question anymore, and if for that reason alone, I'm a believer :)

So here ya go... "How to Menu Plan" Becky style.  Which, to be clear, means only that this is what works for us.  It's not an exact science, nor do I claim to be a professional anything.  Maybe a professional geek if there's such a thing.

1.  Sit down right now & make a list of all the meals your family eats.  Open up your Pinterest account & try one of the 1,000 recipes you pinned last week.

2.  Grab your calendar, and make a menu based on what you've got going that week.  You won't be able to make Chicken Milano & Breadsticks on Tuesday because you'll be at piano lessons, the orthodontist, that guitar concert at the junior high, dropping the twins off to scouts, and somehow squeezing in baseball practice and mutual. Yeah... let's be realistic.  It's days like this that grabbing Chick-fil-A is soooooo totally ok :)

3.  Write your shopping list as you go!  Nothing puts the brakes on dinner prep like not having the stuff to make it... no brainer.

4.  Post the menu in the kitchen on Monday morning where everyone can see it.  You can just scribble your menu on a Post-It note & stick it on the fridge if you want... it's all good.  You can also make a fancy schmancy menu board for almost as much effort.  Download my template HERE. Download the original size.  Print it on a cute piece of 8.5x11 paper, trim to fit an 8x10 frame that you bought for 50% off at Hobby Lobby cause you're awesome like that.  Use a dry erase marker, and tah-dah!  Fancy schmancy!

5.  You can make menu planning even easier by establishing routines in your menu.  For example:  Mondays: Soup Night, Tuesdays: Crock Pot Meals, Wednesday: Casserole Night, Thursday: Pasta, Friday: Grill, Saturday: Breakfast for Dinner, Sunday: Kid's Choice.... you get the idea.  Routines make menu planning sooooooo much easier.  Trust me!  What's for breakfast Monday morning?  It's pancakes! Every time!  All you have to do is decide what kind: Pumpkin, blueberry, chocolate chip, plain... Easy like Sunday (or Monday) morning.

6.  Start slow... plan a week of dinners.  Once you've mastered that, add breakfast.  When you've mastered that, try planning two weeks!  I think you'll find that it becomes a way of life really quick.

I pinky swear, this works for us.  I hope it works for you.  We eat waaaaaaaaay less fast food these days.  My kids are so excited about homemade breakfast & dinner that I feel almost accountable to make it... they'd be so disappointed if they looked forward to baked mac & cheese all week, only to get a crappy happy meal.  There's also the added bonus that I'm more excited about cooking because I've been recipe hunting to keep things exciting, ingredients are on hand, and let's face it, I love eating good food.

Al-righty... time to stop bloggin'... Dinner's at 5:00!

For those of you dying to know what the heck Spongebob Squarecakes are, they're German Pancakes.  I just named them that 10 years ago so my picky twinners would eat 'em :)  I owe that little square dude so much.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Soup. It's What's For Dinner.

(Original Post Date October 2012)

I don't have anything particularly clever to blog about today... feeling kinda tired & calorie deprived.  I have a love/hate relationship with the "Hunger Games" fitness challenge I'm currently competing in.  On the hate side: 1420 calories a day & a ton of exercise during the holidays is making me the teensiest bit cranky.  On the love side: This challenge makes me feel good most days.  Fitting into my clothes and recognizing the fact that my bad eating habits could be the death of me, is a good thing. Love/hate.  I refer to it most days as "My Stupid Calorie Challenge." I think the worst part is that my children have turned into the calorie police.  Andrew said to me the other day at Brick Oven Pizza: "Mom, you're getting a lot of calories!" 

Thanks son.

Fall and Winter, or as I like to call them: "Comfort Food Seasons", are my favorite.  I can explain my current crankiness best by describing it thus:  I want to eat four bowls of soup, not one.  Self control is not one of my better qualities :)  I'm working on it.  Stupid calorie challenge.

Monday is soup night at our house during Comfort Food Season.  It's the best night of the week!  I thought I would share some of our most loved recipes with you over the next few months... sound good?  Not every Monday mind you, just when I get two free seconds to take pictures of my food before inhaling it... and another two free seconds (two hours) to blog about it.

Today I want to share "my" recipe for Easy Peasy Chicken Noodle Soup.  I call it "mine" because I've tweaked the original version so much it's silly.  My favorite food.com contributor is MizzNezz.  Her recipes never fail me. Ever. This is her chicken noodle soup recipe, and I want to give her proper credit.  The original recipe is here.  It is the highest rated chicken noodle soup recipe on food.com, and deservedly so.  You really must check out her other stuff as well... she's great :)

All the easy peasy ingredients... yes, I enjoy posing my food.

Easy Peasy Chicken Noodle Soup

2 teaspoons butter
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion (I use a couple shakes of dried chopped onion)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
4 (14 oz) cans of chicken broth
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cooked chicken breasts cut up
Half a package wide egg noodles (about 6 oz)

Regular Instructions: Saute celery, carrots, and onion in butter for two minutes.  Add thyme, poultry seasoning, chicken broth, and bouillon.  Bring to a boil.  Add chicken and noodles.  Cook on low for 20 minutes.  Serve immediately with warm homemade bread.

Easy Peasy Instructions: Throw almost everything (butter, celery, onion, thyme, poultry seasoning, chicken broth, bouillon, 2 raw chicken breasts, but NOT the noodles) in the crock pot & cook on low all day (4 hours on high).  Remove chicken, chop, put back in pot.  Add egg noodles, and let cook for 15- 20 minutes longer on low.  Do NOT let the noodles cook for too long... you will have mush for dinner instead of yummy delicious soup. Learn from my mistake.  Serve with a loaf of Rhodes Bake & Serve bread that you set out to thaw when you started the soup!  There's no shame in doing that once in a while.

Here are even more shortcuts with the crock pot:  

- Use frozen chicken breasts.  Just throw them right in the pot.  Easy!  

- Chop a TON of celery and carrots the first time you make this soup.  Put a cup of carrots & a cup of celery in a quart size freezer Ziplock.  Freeze for later use.  Throw them in the crock pot frozen.  They cook up just like fresh.  Again, so easy!

No seconds of soup for you.

Now go ahead... let's see if you can eat just one bowl of this heavenly soup & not be cranky.  You're gonna want three more bowls sista... it's THAT good :)  Happy Monday!

Twinner Winner Baked Mac & Cheese

(Original Post Date: 10/15/13)

Heaven help my waistline, it's comfort food season.  There's nothing like coming home on a cold day to the smell of soup simmering on the stove, or a casserole baking in the oven.  Don't even get me started on homemade bread!  I'm putting on pounds just thinking about it.

To my prideful delight there has been over the last few days a huge surge of re-pins for my Easy Peasy Chicken Noodle Soup on Pinterest... It makes my heart happy that random people all over the world are making MY soup for dinner.  So I've felt a sudden urge (even though I'm ridiculously busy) to appease the mass demand for comfort food recipes that is currently trending on the nom-nom boards.

Without further ado, I now bestow upon you, my loyal friends & Pinterest followers: Twinner Winner Baked Mac & Cheese. THE best baked mac & cheese recipe, EVER.  Named after my twinner winners Spencer and Erik because they swoon & get cartoon hearts in their eyes every time I make it, and I always have to double the recipe 'cause they eat so much.  
Double the recipe. Twins. Get it? Food humor. 


You just drooled on your keyboard.

Twinner Winner Baked Mac & Cheese 
(Original recipe from my friend, Sariah Fuller...Thank you dear, my twins are forever in your debt)

1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
2-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (who am I kidding, I always use 3)
2 cups crushed corn flakes
2 tablespoons melted butter

Cook elbow macaroni until just done (don't let it get too soft!!). Rinse. Combine soup, sour cream, milk & cheese. Add the cooked macaroni.  Spoon evenly into a square casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Top with crushed cornflakes coated in melted butter.  Bake for 35 minutes at 350. If you double the recipe, increase baking time to 50 minutes.

My Twinner Winners Erik & Spencer... Oh how I love these two!!

Pizza Sauce

1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp dry oregano
1/2 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Combine & let sit for one hour

SImple Peach Pie



Pastry for double crust 9 inch pie
5 cups fresh peaches sliced
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  1. Stir together flour, 1 cup sugar, and cinnamon and set aside.
  2. Wash, peel, and slice fresh peaches.
  3. Mix together peaches with the combined dry ingredients.
  4. Turn into pastry-lined pie pan and dot with butter.
  5. Cover with top crust, cut slits in it, seal the edges.
  6. Sprinkle top with 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  7. Cover the edges with foil to prevent over browning; remove foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.
  8. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through the slits in the crust.

Cajun Chicken Pasta

INGREDIENTS

    • 2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into thin strips
    • 1 lb penne, cooked al dente
    • 2 teaspoons cajun seasoning 
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
    • 2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

    • DIRECTIONS
    • Place chicken and Cajun seasoning in a bowl and toss to coat.
    • In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté chicken in butter or margarine until chicken is tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
    • Reduce heat add heavy cream, tomatoes, basil, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, parmesan and heat through.

Sweet Cornbread

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 1/2 cups flour
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup cornmeal
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/4 cups milk
    • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1/3 cup oil
    • 3 tablespoons butter or 3 tablespoons margarine, melted

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F Grease 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, eggs, oil and butter in small bowl and mix well. Add to flour mixture and stir just until blended.
  3. Pour into baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean.
  4. For corn muffins, spoon batter into muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans.
  5. Original Recipe Link: http://www.food.com/recipe/sweet-cornbread-83625#activity-feed