Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 26-April 1

Quick post today :)

  • Spaghetti w/ italian sausage
  • salad
  • Papa Murphys stuffed pizza. It's the end of the month, and I've done well with my grocery budget. Also, it's spring break, so I'm watching the girls I nanny all day, and so I'm not as enthusiastic abouting cook dinner when I get home.
  • Marinated grilled chicken
  • Truffled Mac & Cheese . I'm not a big fan of macaroni and cheese, but this sounded really yummy, so I thought I'd try this really decadent recipe and decide once and for all if I like it. :) On a side note, I have never spent this much on cheese. haha
  • mixed greens salad w/ tomatoes, avocado, and sunflower seeds
  • Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya . Another new recipe.
  • Spinach salad with with raspberry vinaigrette, strawberries, sliced almonds, and feta cheese

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19-25

Last week didn't really go as planned. I was sick most of the week. Sleeping 13 hours a day, having no energy, head pounding for 4 days straight, wanting saltines and 7-up and tomato soup....yes, that is my idea of an awesome vacation.

Needless to say, I didn't follow my menu plan very well. Even once I was feeling well enough to eat normally, I didn't have the energy to cook. Thank goodness for freezer meals, crock pots, and a helpful husband! I taught John to make his favorite chicken thighs recipe, we grilled frozen mahi-mahi (pre-marinated), and had lots of carnitas left-overs.

Thus, this week, I'll be re-running the recipes I didn't make last week, since I still have all the ingredients.

  •  Subway, on our way to Bible study
  • Chicken Enchiladas , didn't do these last week. They're one of our favorites!
  • steamed green beans
  • chicken salad sandwiches (for lunch)
  • Date Night! We're going to see a matinee Hunger Games, and then we'll be using a Groupon for a yummy Thai restaurant!
  • Leftovers

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 12-18

Last week when I went grocery shopping, I was happily surprised to find some great meat sales I had missed when looking through the ads! Pork tenderloins for $2.99/lb, boneless skinless chicken thighs for $1.19/lb, prosciutto (don't remember the sale, but it was good), and pre-marinated frozen tilapia and mahi-mahi for $3.50 per box (2 servings). Needless to say, I filled my freezer and am excited to be adding some variety to my menus in the next month or so. I'm still sticking to my standard chicken breasts for the bulk of meals so that I don't run out of the others too quickly.

Also, I usually love having a great variety in my vegetable dishes. We are borderline fanatical about our veggies. :) But as far are produce is concerned, it's still to close to winter, which means quality is down and prices are up. This is my excuse for why we've been having boring salads multiple times a week.

  • Papa Murphy's pizza. John has been/is bombarded with stress right now, so he wanted some comfort food; enter the Chicken Bacon Stuffed pizza with a free cookie dough coupon! Now we have leftovers for lunch all this week. :)
  • Chicken and Rice soup . I put lots of extra veggies in it so that it can be a one-dish meal and I don't have to worry about salad and all that jazz.
  • fresh bread in the bread machine.
  • Carnitas . My sister makes carnitas a lot, and she recommended this crock pot version. As suggested, I will be almost doubling all the spices in order to hype up the flavor. This will be my first time making carnitas, so I'm not sure exacting how they should be served, except for on corn tortillas.
  • steamed green beans with bacon bits
  • Chicken Enchiladas . I've made many enchilada recipes in the past few years, and this one is definitely my favorite. Although that could be that I've just forgotten some of the other winners. I suppose we'll never know, unless I come across them again and post them here. But either way, these are phenomenal.
  • green salad
  • left-overs! I usually make muffins or omlettes for brunch, then we have left-overs the rest of the day.
  • Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca . Second new recipe for the week. I haven't gotten a chance to try this one previously, because prosciutto is so incredibly expensive usually. I was so happy to find it on sale, since that meant I can now try some of these recipes!
  • Angel hair pasta, with butter and lemon juice. This will be as a bed for the chicken
  • salad

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Recipe Review: Chicken and Chorizo with Beans and Yellow Rice

We just finished up with our tasty dinner of the chicken and chorizo recipe.

I just must say this first......WOW!

I was very impressed with this dish. It's not often that I find a dish that satisfies everything I look for in a week night recipe: delicious, cheap, fast, and healthy. This one did!

That definitely makes it a keeper in this house.

I'm already thinking of the versatility this dish offers. The leftovers from tonight will be great either as we ate them tonight, or thrown into a tortilla and topped with cheese. I really think it would do well in the freezer too, so next time I plan on making a double batch to put some in the freezer for the Mr. when I'm gone sometime.

I usually plan a little extra time when I'm trying a new recipe, but tonight, this actually resulted in me having dinner ready 15 minutes before John even got home! It's that easy.

First I cooked the chorizo. I used the kind that feels like ground meat--not sausage in casings--so I wasn't able to get it into "cubes" like the recipe said, but I actually preferred having it in smaller chunks so it permeated the dish better. I also wanted to taste the chorizo more, and I didn't quite have a pound of chicken, so I increased the chorizo from 2 ounces to 6 ounces. I think next time I'll do 4, because it was a bit too spicy, but the extra flavor was amazing.

I started the rice cooking on another burner. Then I browned the chicken, chopping the tomatoes while it cooked. Added water, tomatoes, chorizo, salt and pepper, and let it cook down, then added the black beans. I used beans that I had soaked, cooked, and frozen previously, instead of a can.

And that was that.

I had a meal....even though I felt like I hadn't done much yet!

John and I agreed that the taste was very complex and flavorful--amazing since it has so few ingredients, but had a certain authenticity and rusticness.

Also, this was the first time I tried chorizo, I really loved it, and am excited to try more recipes with it!

I'm thinking with the remainder of this pound (since I only used 6 ounces), I will cook it up and use it for breakfast burritos! Idea courtesy of my sister, who cooks a lot with chorizo because of her Mexican hubby. :)

Hurrah for finding new tasty things to cook and experimenting with new meats!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March 4-11

Chicken is cheap. And healthy.

So I cook it. A lot.

John jokes that I know 487 awesome ways to cook chicken breasts. I'm not so sure it's a joke. :)

That being said, what with this being a short week for menu planning (we're visiting family in Chattanooga TN this weekend), and with "Subway Tuesday" (when we dash to Subway and scarf down on our way to Bible study), chicken is the only main meat I'm doing this week.

So, here is chicken week for ya :)

  • Chicken Marsala . This is just one variation of my standard go-to yummy chicken dish that I don't use a recipe for any more. But I included a good starter in case I lose my mind in the future and can't even cook this. My cousin says having children sucks all your brains away.
  • Roasted Red Potato Wedges. I don't use a recipe for this. Just cut washed potatoes into wedges, spread onto greased pan in a single layers, and drizzle olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, and parmesan cheese over them. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, flipping onces
  • Caeser salad
  • Subway. Sadly, "FebruAny" is over, so we have to go back to the cheap-o $5 options.
  •  We'll be out of town. I will be making a ham and broccoli quiche so we have something to eat when we get back. And I have some leftover ham bits that need to get used. :)

February 27-March 4

  • We have Bible study on Tuesdays, and run there straight from work. So, Tuesday is always: Subway! Usually the ham on italian herb bread, piled with tons of extra veggies. :)
  • Creamy Turkey Meatballs . My new recipe for the week! I don't usually go for ground turkey, but these were delicious! I think I liked them better plain
  • whole wheat penne pasta
  • caesar salad
  • Marinated grilled chicken (my favorite marinade is Allegro)
  • couscous
  • steamed green beans with bacon bits
  • Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs. Again, this is one of our favorites. It's a very quick dish...only about 20 minutes! and SO yummy---you can control the spiciness of it too.
  • coconut jasmine rice (just cook the rice in coconut milk instead of makes it really rich)
  • green salad
  • usually leftovers. But tonight we got to go to some friends for dinner and games! I got the recipe for the Kielbasa-Lentil Soup....look for it another week!
  • Dal Nirvana . This is my favorite dish right now. I had never made an India dish before this. We have it pretty much once a week. Meatless (which is great on my budget), so easy, surprisingly flavorful, and makes crazy good leftovers.
  • jasmine rice
  • green salad

On to next week!

Hello, I'm Diana, and I'm addicted to menu planning

I love menu planning.

I love buying those cute little notepads for your fridge that have a different segment for each days meals.

I love browsing through my Cooking Light subscription each month, and tearing out the yummy-looking recipes to catalogue in my recipe binders (this results in my having 2 whole binders where every single page has a recipe that makes me drool....yum!).

I love attempting--and sometimes even achieving--to create the perfect balance of variety, health, low expense, ease, and total deliciousness throughout an entire week.

There are several things that hooked me on planning my meals (or really, just my dinners....I totally flake on the other meals). First, well honestly, I just love planning. Seeing an organized list makes my day. But for those people that aren't crazy in this way---co'mon though, you definitely have some crazy in another way still-- there are definitely other benefits.

Menu planning helps save money on groceries. When you know exactly what you'll be using, you tend to stick to your grocery list. And you actually have a grocery list. You also will be letting less food spoil, because again, you know exactly what you'll be using.

Menu planning also provides a time to try out new recipes. I thrive on trying new recipes, so I actually try something new a few times a week. But most people usually have one day a week that is less hectic, so when you plan your menu for a week, plan to try something new on that one day!

Menu planning saves time. Even though I only work part time, I don't get home til after 5:30, and coming up with something tasty, healthy, and easy to cook for dinner---and figuring out if I have the ingredients on hand and if the correct meat is thawed-- is about the last thing I want to do. If I have my menus planned, I know I have all the ingredients, my meat is thawed already, and I can just go on autopilot. It also means you only go to the grocery store once a week. Which is a huge time saver in itself.

I plan my menus a day or two before I go grocery shopping. I look at all the sales, make my grocery list, plan my meals for the week, then add any additional items I need from the grocery store.

Though it can be as simple as just thinking up 6 things you can whip up for dinner, like I said, I love planning and creating. So for me, I'll look through my cooking light binders, look at the grocery sales, look at my favorite cooking blogs, and only then choose a lucky 6 culinary delights to prepare that week.

I also don't stick to rigidly to the days; if it's Monday and what sounds yummy is "supposed" to be on Wednesday, I just go for it. I know...I live life on the edge. But just because you menu plan, doesn't mean you have to cook something that doesn't sound good that night.

One problem I'm using this blog to address is that I often forget recipes that were my favorites a year ago. Since I love trying so many different recipes and cuisines, it's easy to love something for a few months, then completely forget about it. By having a history of my menu plans, now I'll be able to revisit those classics that I haven't tasted in ages! Or even better, I won't forget about them at all, and will have more choices to fall back to on those days when I feel like I just don't feel like trying new recipes.

Also, since I don't have any kiddos yet, I have plenty of time to page through my recipes and plan my cooking adventures. But I know these days are numbered. So I'm hoping that by recording many weeks of menus, I'll be able to reuse a few in more hectic times.

So, if you've stumbled upon my little record of my menu plans, I hope you will find it useful and a time saver. Or maybe just find a new recipe or two that intrigue you!

One disclaimer:
Though I am no culinary mastermind, I definitely am no newby in the kitchen.

I had zero confidence in the kitchen when I got married 4 years ago, and since then I have spent tremendous times developing my skills. Now, I love cooking and learning new techniques.

So, some of these recipes are not particularly quick, easy, or use ingredients that you have on hand.  Others will be all of the above. I usually try to have a mix in each weeks menu, so that I can choose how much time and effort I feel like expending for dinner. Just pick and choose what sounds good to you!

Bon Appetit!