Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Meal Plan

My husband and son just told me they want to be in charge of appetizers this year; we make certain traditional appetizers, and hubby wants to mix things up this year.

I usually take advantage of our grocery store's free ham promotion, but I came up just short ($20... ARGH!) of making the shopping requirement to do so.  I have to admit, I'm sort of happy to have to make something other than ham this year!

The challenges include that it can't be beef and it can't be "fowl."  I'm thinking lasagna.  I'm thinking THIS lasagna, which my husband has made for us once before.  It's really time consuming, so I'm glad we have the longest possible Christmas break this year!

So here's the menu so far:


Main course:
Classic Italian Lasagna
Garlic Bread
Vegetable (maybe green beans?  broccoli? something different?)

I haven't started to think about dessert yet.  In my lasagna searching, I came across some interesting looking lasagna style desserts, which might be fun to play on the theme.
Apple Pie Lasagna
Chocolate Peppermint Lasagna
White Chocolate Cranberry Bars

Any suggestions to improve my menu?  What are you making this holiday season?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Another wrap

I didn't plan lunches this week.  I know, this will go well.  I did, however, have to use some chicken breasts sitting in the fridge, so in addition to turkey leftovers, I now have shredded chicken.

So I turned it into this wrap:
Spread hummus (I used roasted red pepper) on a whole wheat tortilla.  Top with matchstick carrots, shredded chicken, sliced peppers, and spinach.  Roll up, and pray both kids eat.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Black bean roll up

Clearly, I've been horrible about blogging.  But I'm running out of lunch ideas, and can't remember what was successful last year.

I found this on bentoriffic, which focuses on lunches bento style, but also vegan. 

Fingers crossed that the boys like it!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stuffed pizza

This is one that I made a very long time ago and somehow didn't make again.  So when we had an extra pizza dough from an emergency "we need pizza dough so let's buy it from the grocery store," I decided it was high time we made it again.  I also got the incredibly brilliant idea to cook it in a cast iron skillet rather than any of my more typical pizza making methods.

Of course, "hit" was written all over this one.  It was fairly easy to make (though the steaming and the sauteeing does create more dishes than such an easy dish would suggest), it's loaded with veggies, and it's quite tasty.
It looks like I've made this twice before, once with roasted red peppers and once with tomatoes.  This time, I had no roasted peppers in the house and an abundance of tomatoes about to go bad, so the choice was easy.  I think this is probably my preferred version any way.

Stuffed Pizza Source:  Picky Palate, via Lauren's Kitchen
16 oz whole wheat or white pizza dough
1 Cup ricotta cheese
¼ Cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 Cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
2 Cups fresh broccoli florets, steamed until fork tender, about 3 minutes in boiling water
Pinch of salt
½ Cup Roasted red bell peppers, from can or fresh
1 ½ Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Spread and press one piece of dough into the bottom and sides of a 9-9 ½ inch round cake or tart pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. (I used a 9 ½ inch deep quiche pan with a removable bottom that worked perfectly) In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta and parmesan cheese until well combined. Spread into pressed pizza dough.
2. Place olive oil into a medium skillet over medium heat. Saute spinach until wilted down, about 3 minutes. Place evenly over ricotta cheese layer. Place steamed broccoli florets over spinach and season with a pinch or two of kosher salt. Layer roasted red peppers, then mozzarella cheese over top. Press out remaining piece of dough and place over filling, tucking edges inside of pan. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with Italian Seasoning. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cooked through.
3. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan or cutting into wedges.
8 slices

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pork Tenderloin with apples

This recipe had disaster written on it when I realized my supply of quick barley was way lower than I realized and that regular barley takes about an hour to make.  No bueno for a weeknight in our house.  So I went with what I had and we all got a smaller than normal portion of barley, which worked out fine.
I also made some of the other barley for the freezer so it's on hand should this happen again!

This was a perfect fall dish.  It came together reasonably quickly (the folks at Food Network suggest 40 minutes, which was about right for disaster cook me), and was delicious.  My three year old didn't really eat much more than the apples and barley, but the rest of us enjoyed the whole meal, though both boys did scrape the "onion things" out of their apples.

Oh, and I also made up my own pumpkin pie spice, which was super easy and surely way cheaper than buying a jar in the store!  I'm not sure exactly which I used (pretty sure mine did not use allspice), but here's one that looks easy enough!  I stored mine in an old cinnamon container I had around (I saved it for craft purposes, but this seemed like a better use!), after taking off the label and making sure to mark it.

Pork Tenderloin with Apples Source:  Food Network Kitchens

1 large pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 baking apples (such as McIntosh)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 cup quick-cooking barley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Sprinkle the pork with the pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes.

Halve the apples and scoop out the cores. Cut 1/2 tablespoon butter into 4 pieces; put a piece in each apple half. Sprinkle with half of the shallot and a pinch of salt. Add the apples to the skillet with the pork, cut-side up, and transfer to the oven. Roast until a meat thermometer registers 145 degrees F, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 1 3/4 cups water, the remaining shallot and a pinch of salt in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Add the barley, cover and cook over low heat until the water is absorbed, 12 minutes. Add the parsley.

Transfer the pork and apples to a cutting board. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the cider, vinegar and 1/4 cup water; simmer, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Slice the pork and serve with the pan sauce, apples and barley.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Crockpot Potato Ham soup

Chilly fall days call for foods that warm.  Comfort.  Satisfy.  

The hectic lives all young families seem to be living these days demand satisfying, healthful meals that don't take a lot of time to prepare.

Enter this soup.  

Everyone in my family loved this soup.  I'm not sure if it was the soup or the amazing 'Marco Polo' we used to dip into the soup, but this meal was a big hit.  It will also make one night this week easier when it's time to make the lunchboxes.  I loved the smokiness the ham brought and it was all those things I want from a hearty fall meal.

This soup was very easy (save a little bit of peeling) and is pretty versatile--I had extra carrots in the fridge, so I used them.  I added some cheese at the end.  As I was eating, I thought, "If not for the boys, this would be good with a little crushed red pepper or hot sauce mixed in."  I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

Go check out the Moms with Crockpots for more great Crock pot recipes!

Crockpot Potato and Ham Soup Source:  Adapted slightly from Moms with Crockpots 

  •     3-1/2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
  •     ⅓ cup chopped celery
  •     ⅓ cup finely chopped onion
  •     1 sliced carrot
  •     1 cup diced ham
  •     3-1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  •     1 t. salt
  •     1 t. pepper
  •     5 T. flour
  •     5 T. butter
  •     2 cups milk

  1. Add ingredients, up to and including pepper, into crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, making sure potatoes are tender before moving on.
  2. About 15 minutes before serving, make a roux by melting butter in a saucepan, then whisking in flour. Cook on medium for about a minute, and then and gradually add milk, whisking constantly over med heat until thick.
  3. Add the milk mixture into crockpot, and continue to cook 15-20 more minutes.
  4. Serve with crusty bread.

  • 3-1/2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
  • ⅓ cup chopped celery
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced ham
  • 3-1/4 cups water
  • 6 chicken bullion cubes
  • t. salt
  • 1 t. pepper
  • 5 T. flour
  • 5 T. butter
  • 2 cups milk
  1. Stir all but milk, flour and butter into crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, check tenderness of potatoes.
  2. minutes before serving, melt butter in a saucepan, add flour and gradually add milk, stirring constantly over med heat until thick.
  3. Stir mixture into crockpot.
  4. Let cook 15-20 minutes more.
- See more at:
  • 3-1/2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
  • ⅓ cup chopped celery
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced ham
  • 3-1/4 cups water
  • 6 chicken bullion cubes
  • t. salt
  • 1 t. pepper
  • 5 T. flour
  • 5 T. butter
  • 2 cups milk
  1. Stir all but milk, flour and butter into crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, check tenderness of potatoes.
  2. minutes before serving, melt butter in a saucepan, add flour and gradually add milk, stirring constantly over med heat until thick.
  3. Stir mixture into crockpot.
  4. Let cook 15-20 minutes more.
- See more at:
  • 3-1/2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
  • ⅓ cup chopped celery
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced ham
  • 3-1/4 cups water
  • 6 chicken bullion cubes
  • t. salt
  • 1 t. pepper
  • 5 T. flour
  • 5 T. butter
  • 2 cups milk
  1. Stir all but milk, flour and butter into crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, check tenderness of potatoes.
  2. minutes before serving, melt butter in a saucepan, add flour and gradually add milk, stirring constantly over med heat until thick.
  3. Stir mixture into crockpot.
  4. Let cook 15-20 minutes more.
- See more at:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Apple butter

I may have mentioned our recent apple picking trip with the family, during which we appear to have picked more than 70 pounds of apples.  You may have realized that this is way too many apples for a family of four to take on and you would be correct.  So we've decided we'd take them down in the fastest and easiest ways we can (since our lives are NUTS and evenings consist of dinner, hanging with the boys, pack lunches, and crash on the couch at 9:00... maybe that's not WE but ME, but I digress), and apple butter has been brought to the table.  

This apple butter recipe calls for 6.5 pounds of apples, which goes far further in taking 70 pounds down than each of us having an apple every single day in our lunches.  Did I mention how much I love my new apple peeler?

I didn't get around to processing (see what our lives look like and consider how many dishes are usually left sitting in the sink; I didn't feel like dirtying another to use the immersion blender), which resulted in a chunky, more like applesauce, concoction, that is incredibly delicious and very sweet.

Quite good on apple bread, if I do say so myself.

I love that this cooked while we slept, and we all woke up to the most delicious aromas coming from the kitchen!

Going into the crock pot!
All finished!
 Thanks to Tastes of Lizzy T for the great recipe!

  • 6 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Place the apples in a slow cooker. Add the sugars, cinnamon, salt and vanilla to the crockpot. Mix well. Cook in slow cooker on low for about 10 hours, stirring every couple hours. The apple butter should be thick and dark brown. If desired, use a blender to puree the apple butter until smooth.
Cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks or freeze in small containers.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

I've been horrible about uploading and posting photos,  so mobile blogging it is.

We picked up SEVENTY FIVE pounds of oh my goodness thats a lot of apples apples.  The work week since has been absolutely nuts and I've done little with them, so here's my first offering. 

These are really good and will go straight to our freezer for lunches and breakfasts.  I got 20 muffins from the recipe and plan to make them again to really atock the freezer!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Meal Plan Monday

I have not been posting here as much as I would like, so let's bring back some organization to my food life.

I hope to get posting again really soon, starting with the mass of apples I'll be using up over the next week.  Did I say mass?  I meant 3/4 of my body weight.

B:  Overnight Oatmeal
L:  Tuna Fish Sandwiches
D:  Chicken Nuggets

B:  Green Monster
L:  Mango with Black Beans
D:  Goat Cheese, Sweet Onion, Apple and Brandy Chicken

B:  Banana Roll Up
L:  Breakfast for Lunch
D:  Portobello Parmesan

B:  Muffins
L:  Pita Pizza
D:  Crockpot Vegetarian Lasagna

B:  Nutty Strawberry Banana Quinoa
L:  Chili
D:  Pizza

Have a great week!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Oven Baked Tomatoes

As I mentioned, I had an abundance of delicious tomatoes that I was using to make baked fried tomatoes, and wanted to attempt a "Battle Royale" Fried tomato.  Here's the second version I made after the first, which I posted yesterday.

These were not my favorite way to make fried tomatoes. I think I'm used to a breadcrumb variety, so when I encounter the (decidedly more Southern!) cornmeal variety, I'm not satisfied.  I found these to be a bit bland, so added some salt and pepper and Italian spices to the coating in the second batch with improved results.  Definite add some of your favorite spices too; it will amp up that flavor for you!

Oven Baked Fried Tomatoes Source:  What's Cookin Chicago
3 beefsteak tomatoes
1 egg, whisked
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 C. panko
1/4 C. fine corn meal
1/4 C.  all purpose flour
2 t. kosher salt
1 t. fresh ground pepper
canola oil
1.  Preheat oven to 450.  Remove the tomato core and slice into 3/8" slices.
2.  Prepare your dredging station by adding egg to one shallow dish, buttermilk to another, and the combined panko and corn meal to a final dish.  Dredge each tomato slice by dipping first in the egg, then the buttermilk, and then the breading, pressing to adhere.  Set aside.
3.  Drizzle 2-3T canola oil on an ovenproof skillet (I used cast iron, which adds a great flavor; highly recommend!) and heat till oil is shimmering.
4.  Moving quickly, sear each side (about 1-2 minutes).  Transfer your skillet to the oven for 10 minutes.  Serve hot!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Parmesan Tomatoes

I wanted fried tomatoes, and went a little overboard in the produce aisle, buying a LOT of big beautiful, local beefsteak tomatoes.  (in my defense, these were delicious; I couldn't stop snacking on them!)

So I got creative, and made them two different ways.  There's this baked "fried" tomato recipe on allrecipes that I have made and LOVE, but I can never seem to find it there (of course I have it in my PAPER recipes, but I never thought to look there).  So I made these as the first method of making baked fried tomatoes.

These were tasty, but not quite what I was looking for.  They pretty much were nothing like fried tomatoes, other than they were tomatoes.

They were definitely good, and I'll have to give them another shot when I'm looking for something ooey and gooey and tomatoey.

Parmesan Tomatoes From allrecipes, NRWilson

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chicken Parmesan

My husband loves chicken parm, as I've said many times before.  He asked for it this week, despite my having made the Pinterest chicken parm casserole.

It's been so hot here, I have NOT been in a cooking mood AT ALL and somehow have managed to stay away from the takeout menu folder.  So I went scouring for a Quick Chicken Parm recipe when I came across this from Simply Recipes.  I made it even faster by using jarred spaghetti sauce, though their marinara sounds great too.

I modified ever so slightly by using crushed panko for the breadcrumbs, and I think that added the perfect amount of crunch to the outside.  It wasn't super fast, but I was happy with the results and it *seemed* faster because I was trying something new maybe?

Chicken Parmesan by Simply Recipes
  • 2 chicken breast, butterflied or pounded thin
  • Salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs, slightly crushed
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 2-4 cups prepared spaghetti sauce (I used a tomato basil version with great success)


1.  Preheat oven to 400°F.  If serving with pasta, cook pasta according to package directions.
2.  In a pie plate, set up your dredging station--mix panko and 1/2c Parmesan cheese in one shallow dish, and slightly beat the eggs in another one.  Dredge by dipping each chicken piece first in the eggs then in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to adhere.
3.  Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat until shimmering.  Add chicken until golden, about 4 minutes a side (don't crowd them; better to do them in two batches).
4.  Coat a baking dish with a layer of spaghetti sauce, then nestle the chicken pieces in the sauce.  Top each breast piece with sauce, then basil, then some cheese.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese starts to brown.
5.  Serve with bread, pasta, and some delicious veggies!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tortellini spinach Bake in Lemon Cream Sauce

I'm not sure how I stumbled across this one, but it's likely something I found on Pinterest.  It looks like a mess, but it's delicious.  I was actually talking with a man at the pizza place about it; he asked the checkout girl if people ordered a lemon cream sauce because it sounded strange, and I chimed in that I'd made one and that it was so light and fresh and summery.  A definite must try.

This is the same, but add in the freshness of spinach and you're in for a treat.  Then it also has bacon!  I billed this to my kids as special mac and cheese, and it is in a lot ways.  The preparation is basically the same, though the pasta and other add ins are a little different.

Tortellini Spinach Bake in Creamy Lemon Sauce Source:  Our Best Bites

12 oz bag Barilla Cheese & Spinach Tortelini
 4 oz bacon or pancetta, (about 4 strips bacon)*
3 cloves garlic, pressed in garlic press or finely minced
2 Tbs flour
2 C milk
¾ tsp kosher salt
⅛ tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dry basil
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp or more if you like spicy)
1 medium lemon, zested and juiced
2 C loosely packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
¾ C grated mozzarella cheese, divided
¾ C grated Parmesan cheese, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.
  2. Cook bacon until crisp; drain on paper towels.  Reserve two tablespoons bacon grease and discard the rest.
  3. Add garlic to bacon grease and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Whisk in flour and cook for about a minute.  Add milk, continuing to whisk until smooth.  Add basil, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and stir.  Bring to a simmer.  Add 2 teaspoons lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.  Continue to stir until thickened, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  4. Reserve all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon and add the rest to the pasta.  Add spinach, 1/2c mozzarella, and 1/2c Parmesan, then add sauce.  Stir gently.
  5. Transfer to an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish.  Top with remaining cheese and bacon.  Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake until cheese is melted and pasta is bubbly, about 5-10 minutes.    Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
*Omit bacon to make a vegetarian meal.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Smothered Italian Chicken

Some times, my husband doesn't say anything about dinner.  Some times, his body language says it all (for better or for worse).  And some times, he says something along the lines of "you can make this again ANY time."  This meal was in the latter category.

Struggling with a not-quite-working-properly camera, the focus is horrible, but I assure you the meal is amazing.

Smothered Italian Chicken Source:  Stephanie Cooks

2 chicken breasts
1 egg
3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Vegetable oil
1 roma tomato, sliced
1.5 cups baby spinach
1/3-1/2 tub Philadelphia Italian Cooking Creme
Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.  When preheated, place tomato slices in a small baking dish and bake, covered with foil, for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, crack egg into a shallow dish and lightly scramble; place bread crumbs in another shallow dish.  Dredge the chicken by dipping in egg, then bread crumbs pressing to adhere. Heat oil and fry chicken until crisp and cooked through. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
  3. When tomatoes are done, remove from oven and add spinach and cooking creme. Re-cover with foil and bake for another 10 minutes or so, stirring well.
  4. Smother the chicken with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mango, Black Beans, and Rice

This is my boys' most requested lunch.  Well, after "Peanut butter and jelly with a baseball bat," that is.  This was the last lunch I packed for the school year, and I was, surprisingly, out of mangoes but had some super ready to be used peaches and tried them with great success.

I found inspiration here, but my boys' aversion to all things spicy led me to only add the three ingredients.  I tend to use dried beans and brown rice, so I often make up a big batch of each for the week.  If, like me, you struggle to properly cook brown rice, this method has never failed me.

So, I mix it all up in a big bowl--one chopped mango (or peach), an eyeballed amount of black beans, and a serving of rice.  They loved it every time!

Also with this lunch are halved fresh cherries at the top left and Terra Chips at the top right, packed in an Easy Lunchbox.
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