Category Archives: Recipes

September Menu

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September Menu

I started working on our menu for next month over the weekend, but I was not able to complete it until Monday afternoon.  I love having a plan.  It helps me plan my grocery shopping list and keeps me from becoming stressed over what to cook each evening.  Links will be included for specific recipes.  I hope this list will give you some ideas, new recipes to try, or motivation to plan your menu.  I have made almost all of these recipes several times, and many of them are family favorites.  Maybe you will find a new favorite for your family.  

  1. Leftovers/yoyo (your on your own)
  2. Spicy Shrimp Pasta in Garlic Tomato Cream Sauce
  3. Dinner Out
  4. Bacon, scrambled eggs, Biscuits, fresh fruit
  5. Hamburgers
  6. Cajun Chicken Pasta
  7. Crockpot Sloppy Joes/Stuffed Bell Peppers (low carb, gluten-free alternative)
  8. Leftovers/yoyo
  9. Chicken Cordon Bleu
  10. Dinner Out
  11. Chicken Fajitas (grill extra meat)
  12. Grilled Chicken Salads (leftover chicken from previous night)
  13. Leftovers/yoyo
  14. Spaghetti
  15. Leftovers/yoyo
  16. Southwest Skillet Chicken and Rice
  17. Dinner Out
  18. Sausage, scrambled eggs, Pancakes, fresh fruit
  19. Cheesy Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole (crockpot)
  20. Tacos
  21. Grilled Chicken, Tex Mex Pasta Salad
  22. Leftovers/yoyo
  23. Hobo Dinners
  24. Dinner Out
  25. Tortilla Chip and Pepper Jack Crusted Chicken
  26. Spicy Sausage Pasta
  27. Leftovers/yoyo
  28. Chicken Enchilada Casserole
  29. Leftovers/yoyo
  30. Baked Ravioli

Now I want to share a little tip that has made my life easier.  We purchased a new set of stainless steel cookware about three years ago.  This was my first experience cooking with stainless steel, and I hated how difficult they were to clean, especially after browning or sautéing meat.  

Even after soaking and scrubbing, the pots and pans would have cloudy white spots all over the inside.  About a year ago, I read somewhere that tomato products would fix this problem, so I tried squirting some ketchup in the pan and adding a little water.  


I heated this mixture over low heat for a few minutes and gently scraped with my nylon spoon, and all of that cooked-on residue came right off!  I have used pasta sauce, tomato paste, salsa, diced tomatoes, etc.  Once the acid in the tomatoes has worked its magic, simply wash and dry the pan as usual.  Now I love using my stainless steel cookware!

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August Menu

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I have finally completed our menu for next month.  Planning ahead saves time, money, calories, and frustration, so it is definitely worth the effort.  I probably overthink the entire process, but I need variety or cooking becomes another chore for me.  I try not to have chicken two nights in a row.  I alternate with beef, pork, or shrimp.  I also mix up our cuisines, alternating Italian, Mexican, and American dishes.  My son and I could eat Mexican food every night, but my husband would rather have Italian more frequently.  I do my best to keep things fairly even.  I also try to incorporate recipes using produce from our garden.


Busyness complicates our menu planning as well.  School starts in a few weeks, and we will have a few school functions in the evenings, which will require quick dinners or leftovers.  The girls have gymnastics one afternoon a week, so I plan a crock pot meal that day to have dinner ready when we get home.  My husband has a few meetings in the evenings, and I don’t cook if I have to clean it all up by myself, so we have leftovers then too.  We attend church on Saturday nights, so we are away from home during dinner hours and always pick up fast food on our way home.  

That being said, I have come up with a menu that will work for our family for the coming month.  You are welcome to use my menu or just use some of these recipes.  I have included links for all the recipes I use, most of which I found on Pinterest.  I love trying new recipes.  I hope you find a new recipe that your family will enjoy. 

August 1:  Southwest Skillet Chicken and Rice, side salad
August 2:  church function with meal

August 3:  Baked Ravioli, broccoli

August 4:  Pecan-Crusted Chicken BreastsLyonnaise Potatoes

August 5:  Breakfast for Dinner–bacon, scrambled eggs, Biscuits, fresh fruit


August 6:  eat out

August 7:  Caramelized Chicken with Jalapeño Cream, rice, salad

August 8:  Spicy Sausage Pasta, grilled squash

August 9:  leftovers

August 10:  Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin, baked potatoes, Spicy Garlic String Beans

August 11:  Spaghetti, salad, garlic toast

August 12:  leftovers

August 13:  eat out

August 14:  Tomato Basil Chicken, corn

August 15:  Chicken Tortellini Skillet, green beans

August 16:  Beef Enchilada Casserole (recipe to come), guacamole, salad

August 17:  Cheesy Chicken Tater Tot Casserole, broccoli

August 18:  leftovers

August 19:  Spicy Shrimp Pasta in Garlic Tomato Cream Sauce, grilled veggies

August 20:  eat out

August 21:  Beef Tacos

August 22:  Cajun Chicken Pasta, salad

August 23:  leftovers

August 24:  Hobo Dinners

August 25:  Tortilla Chip and Pepper Jack Crusted Chicken, sliced avocado, corn


August 26:  Crock Pot Sloppy Joes/Stuffed Bell Peppers (omit the bun, fill bell peppers with the meat mixture, bake at 350 for about 30 minutes), Hassleback Potatoes

August 27:  eat out

August 28:  Julia Child’s Quiche, fresh fruit, French bread

August 29:  Italian Chicken Bake with Homemade Basil Pesto, pasta, salad


August 30:  Mexican Skillet Casserole, guacamole

August 31:  Sausage Spinach Pasta Toss, corn

MORE Zucchini Bread

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MORE Zucchini Bread


A few weeks ago, I made zucchini bread and shared my recipe.  I neglected to mention that my mom uses a similar recipe and instilled the love of zucchini bread in me at an early age.  My mom and her mom are both wonderful cooks and taught me well.  

This past Saturday, I had three large zucchini from my mother-in-law’s garden and decided to bake a few batches of bread and give it away to my terrific team of greeters at church.  I had no idea how much bread I would end up making!

I used my food processor’s grating blade to shred the zucchini.  Once I had it all shredded, I had about 18 cups of shredded zucchini!  My recipe only calls for 1 1/2 to 2 cups per loaf.  


I made four double batches and then one single batch, putting two cups of zucchini in each batch.  I was able to make 32 mini loaves (equivalent to 8 regular loaves) and a dozen muffins.  I borrowed my mother-in-law’s mini loaf pan and temporarily reclaimed the one I had loaned her.  (I love baking in/on Pampered Chef stoneware!)


I had plenty to give to every person on my team Saturday night, and then my husband took a few to his coworkers on Monday. We still have plenty left for our family to enjoy until we get another zucchini and make some more bread in a few days. 

Zucchini Bread

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Zucchini Bread


My mother-in-law brought me a huge zucchini from her garden yesterday morning, and she had already given me a small one, so I decided to make zucchini bread yesterday.  I used my food processor to shred the zucchini and ended up with seven cups of shredded zucchini!  I was able to make 2 1/2 dozen muffins and a large Bundt-shaped loaf of bread.  


I thought we had enough to share with a friend, but my girls decided they liked zucchini bread and ate almost a dozen muffins yesterday!  When I was mixing up the batter, they weren’t sure about the green stuff going in the bowl, but once they smelled the muffins, they all wanted one. Big Sister is my pickiest eater and said, “This is good, Mom,” and asked for more!  The little girls were so cute with their praise that I had to video them. 

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Zucchini Bread

2 1/4 cups flour

1 cup sugar

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

2 cups zucchini, shredded

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add all other ingredients and mix well.  Pour batter into greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean–about 20 minutes for 18 muffins, 35 minutes for four mini loaves, or 45 minutes for one regular loaf or a Bundt pan.

I use this same recipe for banana bread, replacing the zucchini with three mashed bananas.  Zucchini is my favorite though. Just look at those beautiful, green flecks. 

Blackberry Cobbler

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Blackberry cobbler is one of my favorite desserts (I have several!), so I learned how to make cobblers from my grandma many years ago.  I like extra crust in my cobbler, so I prepare enough pie crust dough to have a solid crust on the bottom and a lattice crust on the top.  (My mom always made pretty pie crusts and cobblers with lattice tops, so I automatically do the same.)

Before I had children, I would take little balls of dough and mix them in with the berries for extra crust pieces throughout the cobbler, but now my children stand around our kitchen island waiting for me to give out pieces of dough to each one of them.  They aren’t satisfied with one piece either!  Just know that this is an option for your cobbler if you love crust and don’t have hungry little people clamoring for more.  

Back in October, I shared one of my pie crust recipes when I made a crust for a quiche, and I used the same recipe this evening for my cobbler, but I used butter this time and included the sugar.  (That’s probably why my children kept asking for more!)  I usually need to double this recipe for a double-crust pie/cobbler, but I only had about three cups of fresh blackberries (from our garden), so I used a small 8×8 baking dish.  If you make a 9×13 cobbler, you will need to double the recipe for this crust (unless you only want crust on the top). 

Sweet Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups flour

2 TBSP sugar

1/4 tsp salt

8 TBSP shortening or 10 TBSP butter, room temperature

4 TBSP cold milk

Combine all ingredients except milk.  Use a pastry blender or fork to cut the butter into the flour mixture.  Add milk and work into flour mixture with a spoon until dough begins to form a ball.  At this point, you can roll out your dough on your counter or on waxed paper.  I place about half of the dough in the baking dish and use a small roller to roll it out in the dish. For the lattice, I roll out the dough on a cutting board.  The dough doesn’t stick to the cutting board like it does to other things.

After you prepare your pie crust recipe, you can make a cobbler using your favorite fruit or berries–fresh or frozen.  I’ve had blueberry, cherry, strawberry, peach, and, of course, blackberry.  I have also used frozen mixed berries in a cobbler.  

My grandma doesn’t use many cookbooks or recipe cards.  She has cooked for so long that she just knows how much of each ingredient to add.  A scoop of this, a pinch of that, etc.   This makes it difficult for me to replicate her recipes, but she and I came up with this recipe for cobbler a long time ago.  I’ve never tried to find a different recipe because I like this one just fine.  It’s sweet and simple. 

Berry Cobbler

16 oz (about 4 cups) berries

1 cup sugar

1 TBSP flour

1 TBSP butter

Pour berries in baking dish.  (Place bottom crust in dish first if desired.)  Sprinkle sugar and flour over berries.  Cut butter into pats in baking dish.  Cover with top crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until berry juice is bubbling and crust is nicely browned.  

I hope you will try making this recipe sometime.  It’s worth the effort. 

November Recipes

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These are a few of our favorite recipes, and they also happen to be on our menu this month.  Give one a try and let me know what you think!

Taco Soup

1 pound ground beef, cooked, crumbled

2 cups frozen corn

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

1/2 – 1 can Rotel

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Water

1 can tomato paste (optional)

Combine all ingredients in large pot or slow cooker.  Add enough water to cover all ingredients; stir in tomato paste if you like thicker broth.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer at least 30 minutes.  You could also cook this in a slow cooker on low for several hours, adding more water.  


Chicken Cordon Bleu

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4-6 slices of Swiss cheese

4-6 slices of thinly-sliced ham lunch meat

1-2 cups seasoned croutons

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Trim chicken breasts and cut into 4-6 similarly-sized pieces.  Use the flat side of a meat mallet to pound the chicken to about 1/4″ thickness. Place the croutons in a plastic bag and pound with the meat mallet until breadcrumbs remain.  (You can use store-bought breadcrumbs instead, but I can’t find any without a couple of ingredients I avoid.)  Pour crumbs onto a plate or other shallow dish.  Top each piece of chicken with one slice of Swiss cheese and then one slice of ham.  Roll up each piece of chicken and then roll in breadcrumbs.  Place in a greased baking dish and put in oven for about 20 minutes or until center of chicken is done.  


Pecan-crusted Chicken Breasts

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into four pieces

3 ounces cream cheese

1 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup seasoned croutons

1 1/4 cup pecans, divided

1/4 tsp salt

seasonings to taste:  onion, garlic, basil, cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix softened cream cheese and butter with about one cup of finely chopped pecans, salt, and seasonings.  Use the flat side of a meat mallet to flatten chicken pieces to about 1/2″ thickness.  Spoon about 1/4 of the cream cheese mixture onto each piece of chicken. Crush croutons in a bag using the meat mallet.  Mix crouton crumbs and about 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans; pour crumb mixture onto a plate or shallow dish.  Roll up chicken pieces to enclose cream cheese.  Use toothpicks, if needed, to keep chicken rolled up. Press chicken in crumb mixture on each side, coating with a layer of crumbs.  Place chicken on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the middle.  

November Menu

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Day 1:  chicken cordon bleu, corn

Day 2:  leftovers

Day 3:  shrimp, fish, broccoli, corn, raw carrots

Day 4:  Cheesy chicken tater tot casserole, green beans

Day 5: Hobo dinners, rice

Day 6:  Chicken enchilada casserole, chips, salsa, guacamole

Day 7:  dinner out

Day 8: beans, cornbread

Day 9:  chicken fajitas, rice, beans, guacamole

Day 10:  leftovers

Day 11:  Slow cooker pork tenderloin, baked potatoes, broccoli

Day 12:  Southwest skillet chicken and rice

Day 13:  spaghetti, salad, garlic knots

Day 14:  dinner out

Day 15:  pizza

Day 16:  Mexican skillet casserole, avocado, chips/tortillas

Day 17:  Spicy sausage pasta, salad, hot rolls

Day 18:  Chili, cornbread

Day 19:  leftovers

Day 20:  bacon, eggs, waffles, fruit

Day 21:  dinner out

Day 22:  dinner out

Day 23:  taco soup, cornbread

Day 24:  Chicken pot pie

Day 25:  Tortilla chip and pepper jack crusted chicken breasts, guacamole, chips

Day 26:  Thanksgiving Day

Day 27:  leftovers

Day 28:  dinner out

Day 29:  pecan-crusted chicken breastsLyonnaise potatoes

Day 30:  Baked tortellini with chicken gratinati, green beans, garlic knots

No-Spend Month: Day 27

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  • The kids and I stayed home all day and ate our meals at home.  I let Big Brother eat the leftovers I had planned to eat for lunch, and I made myself some nachos with diced tomatoes and jalapeño peppers from our garden.  I sure will miss having fresh vegetables.   I used up all of the sour cream and the girls helped me finish off my bag of Food Should Taste Good tortilla chips. 
  • My husband thinks he has a cold now, so he bought some more medicine today ($5).  If we could have kept everyone healthy this month, we could have saved even more money!
  • The kids ate shells and cheese for dinner.  I had leftovers, and my husband ate another corn dog.  He had a meeting this evening, so I didn’t try to cook dinner. 
  • Tomorrow, the teachers and staff at our school are having an “eat day,” where people sign up to bring various dishes or items to go with those dishes.  The theme this time is Mexican food, and I signed up to make a version of chicken tortilla soup.  I had all of the ingredients except the salsa verde, but I found a recipe for homemade salsa verde.  I only needed to buy tomatillos to make the recipe, and I had my husband buy those when he went shopping over the weekend.  I only spent a couple dollars to make enough soup to feed a dozen people!  I’m beginning to think I might still have too much food in my pantry and freezer.
  • I planned our menu for November this morning.  I tried to plan meals that require little to no extra ingredients, so that I can use up more of what we already have.  I’ll share my November menu as soon as I have time.  

No-Spend Month: Day 24

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Since I jumped into teaching without much preparation, I have been using the textbook and publisher’s resources for everything.  I prefer to teach with less worksheets and more hands-on activities, but I felt like I could barely keep up with planning lessons and grading papers my first week or two.  Now I feel more comfortable and have had a chance to open up my box of math resources from when I taught many years ago.  I am excited about using some games and activities I found for my students to review place value and estimation this week.  I feel like I’m finding my groove in teaching math again.   

 

  • My husband went to the store this morning to get us a few groceries and some allergy medicine for himself.  He used $47.17 cash.
  • I made chili and cornbread for lunch and finally made use of my pressure cooker (see below).  My in-laws joined us for lunch, and I should have gotten a photo from my mother-in-law of my father-in-law playing with play-doh with the little girls.  It was sweet.  I should have taken a photo of one of our bowls of chili or the cornbread, but I don’t think of these things at the right time. 
  • We picked up fast food on the way home from church and spent $21.50.

A couple of years ago, I saw on Pinterest or somewhere that a pressure cooker would make my life better (ha ha), so I requested one for Christmas, and my mom obliged.  I read through the owner’s guide and felt intimidated.  Plus, I was in a state of disbelief.  This thing says it can cook beans in 10 to 12 minutes.  Seriously?!?  I used it once a few weeks after I received it, washed it, and stored it in my cabinet for the next year and a half (sorry, Mom).  I had planned to make chili today, and I usually add a can of kidney beans to mine, but I had bought a bag of red beans, thinking we would have red beans and rice this month, not realizing that most recipes call for meat that I don’t have.  Anyway, I had written myself a note on my paper menu for the month to cook the red beans for the chili, but I didn’t write that note on my menu board for the week, so I forgot until about 8:00 this morning.  No problem.  I could use my pressure cooker, right?  Well, first, I had to soak the beans for four hours.  Then, it took a good 15 minutes to get enough pressure built up to start the timer for 12 minutes.  After the cooking time ended, it took another 10 minutes for enough pressure to release to be able to remove the lid.  So the actual time in the pressure cooker was around 37 minutes, which is still considerably less than the traditional ways of cooking beans, so I think I will start using my pressure cooker more.  I am still a bit intimidated by it, but I think that I will get more comfortable with practice.

My Chili Recipe

2 lbs ground beef

6 oz can tomato paste

15 oz can diced tomatoes (I chop mine up a little more with a manual food processor.)

2 – 3 cups water

15 oz can of kidney beans (or 2 cups cooked red beans)

1 onion, chopped (or 1 TBSP onion powder)

1 clove garlic, pressed (or 1 tsp garlic powder)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp cumin

1 1/2 tsp paprika

2 TBSP chili powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 – 1 tsp cayenne (optional)

In a large skillet (or a 4-quart pot), brown ground beef.  Add onions and cook until translucent.  Add garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes.  Transfer to a 4-quart pot (if you started in a skillet).  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, beans, and seasonings; stir well to combine.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.  Serve with cornbread and optional toppings:  shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, ketchup, diced onions, etc.  Makes six servings.

No-Spend Month: Day 23

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I. Am. Exhausted. Between Big Sister sleep walking at 10:00 pm, a thunderstorm, my husband’s phone going off several times because there was a fire in a neighboring town, the twins waking up at 2:30 am, and then my alarm going off at 5:00 am, I didn’t get much sleep last night.  I feel like I did when I had one newborn.  (Having two newborns was exponentially more exhausting.)  That storm last night and the continued rain today has caused some flash flooding in our area.  We took this photo on our way home from school early this afternoon.  

 There is a creek to the far right in this photo, but it completely flooded this family’s yard.  Part of their driveway was covered with water.  If you zoom in, you can see a basketball goal down the driveway and a tire swing hanging from a tree but almost halfway covered by water.  Fortunately, their house is built on a small hill to the left. 

  • The kids and I packed lunches to take to school today.  My husband had lunch with a friend, who bought his lunch.   He obviously has some great friends.
  • I made southwest skillet chicken and rice for dinner for the first time.  We really enjoyed it, and this meal will definitely go on our monthly menu.  Speaking of that, I need to start working on my menu for November.   I’m hoping to do a better job of planning ahead in regards to groceries and not go to the store as often as I had been before we started this no-spend month.  That’s definitely one lesson I’ve learned this month.  
  • We didn’t spend any money today.  I’ve been so busy since I started teaching that I haven’t posted any garage sale items, so we didn’t make any money either.  I’ll work on that tomorrow because I want to make sure we have enough to get us through the end of the month.