Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Week 11 Menu (June 28-July 4)

I know that I've really gotten behind on posting lately. But with 6 weeks till my due date with #3, I have been really unmotivated to do anything above the bare minimums. So here is this week's menu. I have already started next week's so hopefully it will get posted before this weekend.
  • Sunday - My sister took us out for lunch while she was in town visiting (we went to Red Robin, YUM).
  • Monday - We had Roast Chicken, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy (just add a little cornstarch-n-water to the drippings, no need to add anything else), and Fresh Steamed Broccoli.
  • Tuesday - We are having Grilled Pizza for supper tonight. It will be some sort of chicken pizza, but I still haven't determined what else to put on it.
  • Wednesday - I plan to make Chicken Enchiladas for supper (just look for the highest rated recipes on allrecipes.com and combine your favorite things from each; or you can use my recipe for enchiladas, which I adapted from one of the recipes at allrecipes.com)
  • Thursday - I am making Chicken Salad Sandwiches and I'm also planning to make my own croissants (the Butter Crescent Roll recipe - I start shaping them like crescents but then link them into a circle). I serve these sandwiches along with some fruit salad and yogurt.
  • Friday and Saturday - We will be at my parents' for the 4th so I am not making up any menus for either of these days. Although, I'm sure I will be cooking at some point.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Week 10 Menu: June 21-27

Sorry that I still haven't posted the menu for this week. I had planned to do it while we were on vacation but was too busy enjoying it:) Then when we got back, the hubby got called in to church right away (he's the treasurer) with some "emergency" stuff to do within an hour of us getting home from vacation. Now I've started the menu but am only half done. I'm hoping to post it tomorrow night when I make out my grocery shopping list.

Here's what we've had so far or we're going to have in the next day or two:
  • Baked Ziti and Cheesy Garlic Biscuits
  • Chicken Alfredo with Sun-Dried Tomatoes over Penne and Fresh French Bread
  • French Toast with Strawberry Blueberry Syrup
  • Either Sloppy Joes with Mac-n-Cheese or Taco Casserole (hamburger, onions, taco seasoning, mac-n-cheese, and tomato sauce)
  • Jambalaya

Chicken with 4 Cheese Ravioli and Basil Pesto Sauce

I cut up 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1/2" x 1/4" x 1" strips and then cooked them in olive oil. I also cooked up two 6 oz. packages of four cheese ravioli. I mixed the chicken, ravioli, and pesto together, then topped with fresh grated Parmesan cheese. I also made a batch of cheesy garlic biscuits (see Miss Betty's Super Quick Diner Rolls)

Easy Pesto Sauce
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1-1/4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 a roasted red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Place almonds on a cookie sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.

2. In a food processor, combine all ingredients and process until a coarse paste is formed.

Homemade Magic Shell Ice Cream Topping

I was visiting my sister while we were on vacation and she made homemade magic shell for us. It really works and tastes just as good as store-bought. I forgot to ask her the exact measurements for each ingredient so I experimented on my own and this is what I came up with.

Homemade Magic Shell Ice Cream Topping
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (you can use dark chocolate or flavored chocolate)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (Do not substitute another oil for this)
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil until blended smoothly. Drizzle over ice cream to harden.

I made this on Sunday afternoon and served it with fresh-picked strawberries over ice cream. Then I stored the leftover topping in a small jar and have it sitting on my counter. I'm not sure how long this would last if you made it up ahead of time, but it is so easy and delicious that I doubt it will last long! :o)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Travel Snacks

I decided to make up some snacks for travelling, which helped save us some money. Here are two that I absolutely love (and the rest of the family did too).

Beth's Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening (I used 1/4 c. shortening + 1/4 c. coconut oil)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I omitted this because the hubby isn't a fan of cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, butter flavored shortening, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Stir in the oats and raisins. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake 10 minutes until light and golden. Do not overbake. Let them cool for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

I think I may try adding a little coconut flake to this recipe as well, but not too much as the hubby isn't a fan of coconut either.

Seminary Muffins
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/3 cups mashed ripe banana
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used raisins instead because they make less of a mess)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (none of us like nuts in foods so I omitted)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease one 12 cup muffin pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine egg, banana, brown sugar, applesauce and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
Gently stir flour mixture and oatmeal into banana mixture. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups.

3. Bake in preheated oven or 15 to 20 minutes, or until light brown. Remove muffins from pan and place on a wire rack to let cool before serving.

Crunchy Caramel Snack Mix - I was also going to try making some snack mix before we left, but with packing, cleaning, and trying to manage the two kids, it just didn't happen. If you try it let me know how it turns out.

Vacation Restaurants

Well, we got back from vacation yesterday. We had such a good time spending time with just each other and the kids. We made it a point to visit only non-chain restaurants if possible so that we could try new things. Here are some of the places that we visited:
  • Mickey's Diner (36 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102) - It is an original American diner established in 1939. The pancakes are absolutely delicious. Also, my husband is not a baked bean fan but he actually ate all of the beans that came with his meal, they were very good. I would highly recommend stopping in if you are near Minneapolis/St. Paul.
  • Izzy's Ice Cream (2034 Marshall Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104) - We made it a point to stop in at this ice cream shop as it was featured on an episode of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" (yes, we do watch too much Food Network). They had so many interesting and delicious flavors, and they top every cone/dish with an "Izzy scoop," which is a small scoop of any flavor ice cream that sits on the very top of your main selection. I had Creme Coffee Crunch with an Izzy of Coconut. Jared had Cream Cheese with an Izzy of Fresh Cantaloupe, which really truly tasted just like a fresh cantaloupe! Our 2-1/2 year old ordered just plain chocolate but then told us later that it had strawberries, broccoli (which he actually hates), and jumping beans in it:)
  • Rainforest Cafe (Mall of America) - Our food was really good until we found a hair in our son's meal and one in my husband's. But they were really good about giving us some hefty discounts because of this. We had the Spinach and Artichoke Dip for an appetizer. I had the Tuscan Chicken (two chicken breasts topped with a sauce of grilled cucumber, tomoto, kalamata olive, and one other thing that I can't remember) with a serving of garlic mashed potatoes (they were made with baby reds and were sooooo delicious). The kids had the shrimp kid's meal and the grilled cheese kid's meal.
  • Ebeneezer's (200 Pearl St, La Crosse, WI 54601) - We got to have a "date night" while on vacation and this is the restaurant we went to for dinner. We had the Pizza Fries for an appetizer. I had the Californian 10" pizza (a basil pesto sauce, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and then I added diced, grilled chicken), it was so good! I think that I will try making pizza on the grill sometime this summer. Jared had a Chicken Bacon Club pizza, which was also very good. If you ever try Ebeneezer's and you still have room for dessert, there is an ice cream shop right across the street that is really good (The Pearl), they also sell homemade candies, fudges, etc. and they just opened a coffee shop next door. We didn't have room for dessert this time, but I have been to The Pearl on other occasions.
  • Jackie O's Coffee House (16846 S Davis St, Galesville, WI 54630) - We took my sister and brother-in-law here for lunch the day after they watched our kids overnight (so we could have a date night). Jared and I have been there at least a half dozen times. They have really good coffees, but they also serve a very simple lunch menu (you can get either the "Sandwich on the Square," which changes every day, a salad, or soup de jour). This time the "Sandwich" was a ham, swiss, spinach, and pineapple wrap with homemade mayo sauce. It was really good and I will probably try making this at home as well.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tip 2: Inexpensive and Delicious Substitute for Steaks

Within the 1st year that my husband and I were married, a couple from our church had us over for supper. They had 5 of their 7 kids still living at home and served steaks! They weren't terribly well-off financial so we asked how they could afford to serve good steaks to that many people. They told us that the trick was Spoon Roast, which just happens to be on sale at Festival Foods this week. Festival is the only grocery store that I know of who sells it.

Here's what you do to create GREAT "steaks" for less. Cut your spoon roast into good 3/4"-1" thick slices. Then grill just as you would regular steaks. The spoon roasts are already pre-marinaded so they are very juicy and flavorful. I'll be sure to pick some up this week to place on a later menu:)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tip 1: Saving Money on Vacation

I know this tip has nothing to do with recipes, menus, or any other food related topic, but I thought it was worth sharing. When I was a kid, our family took a 2 week vacation every other year. Most of these ideas came from watching how my mom planned and prepared for vacations.
  • Don't rush to book accommodations, make sure you look around for the best deal. I was able to get a 2 room whirlpool suite with refrigerator and microwave for $87/night (taxes included) by looking for deals on slickdeals.net. Also, know what you are looking for in a room (bed size, sofa sleeper, whirlpool, refrigerator, microwave, or just a coffee pot).

  • Sign up for visitor's guides to all of the places you plan to visit. Many guides have coupons in them for area attractions, restaurants, and hotels.

  • Plan ahead of time what attractions you plan to visit and on what day. Some attractions cost less or more depending on what day of the week you visit them.

  • Pack your own snacks, drinks, etc. for in the car. It's a lot cheaper to bring your own than it is to buy them at a gas station or convenient store. If you know you won't have time to bake muffins, cookies, etc. the day before you leave, bake and freeze them a week or two in advance.

Week 9 Vacation Menu (June 14-20)

Vacation menus can be a bit stressful depending on your accommodations, what activities you plan to participate in, etc. You don't want to overspend on food because you want to use the majority of your money to see all the sights, etc. So here is how we're going to handle the food situation while on vacation:
  • I've planned ahead and booked a hotel that serves a deluxe continental breakfast free of charge, so this will cover breakfasts. I also made sure to get a suite that has a microwave and a small refrigerator.  If you happen to be staying somewhere that doesn't have a continental breakfast, be sure to pack muffins, cereal, etc. Also, if you own an electric griddle, you can bring along pancake mix and eggs to save money on breakfast.

  • For lunches we will be packing sandwich fixings (pb&j, deli meat & cheese, etc.), fruit, and some snacks (homemade cookies, chips from Sam's Club, etc.). We've got an over-sized, insulated lunchbox for packing lunches while we are out and about seeing the sights.

  • As for suppers, we are budgeting $40/day for suppers and I'm already searching out kid-friendly, inexpensive restaurants on the Internet around the different attractions that we will be visiting.
I have also stocked up on frozen pizza so that we'll have a couple of suppers available when we get home from vacation. Just in case I'm not up for cooking right away when we get home:)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Week 8 Menu (June 7-13)

Week 8:
  • Roast Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Veggie, Fresh Bread (I'm programming my bread machine to bake while we're at church so it will be done when we get home) - Unfortunately, I didn't get the bread done, but I did make some very yummy Zucchini Brownies:)
  • Cows in a blanket (the beef hot dog version of "Pigs in a Blanket"), Green salad, and Macaroni-n-Cheese.
  • Chicken Enchiladas with olives, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa
  • Tater Tot Casserole
  • Slow Cooker Venison Stroganoff (I'm creating my own recipe based on a few recipes at Allrecipes.com) and veggies

Kid Pleasin' Jambalaya

 Both my hubby and I love Man Pleasin' Jambalaya, but it is can get little spicy for our children. I made it for supper last night and tried something a little different.

Usually I just do leftovers for the kids, but this time I decided to make two separate pots of "Jambalaya," one for us and one for the kids. I did make some changes to the kids' pot:

1 chicken breast, diced
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 small stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, diced
1/3 cup smoked sausage, diced
1/2 cup rice
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon parsley
1/3 cup shredded mexican cheese blend
salt and pepper to taste

I cooked the above ingredients the same way I cooked our jambalaya. Then at the end I added some shredded cheese.