Sunday, December 29, 2013

Menu Plan December 30 - January 5

January already???

As I say every year, this year has flown by! It's hard to believe this is the last menu plan of 2013. But it is. We're hosting a game night on New Year's evening with some friends. We'll play board games and card games and share some great finger foods and snacks. It will be a great way to start off the New Year!

So, what are your New Year's plans? Are you trying out any new recipes this week?

Now, here's what I've got planned:

Pizza with friends

Ham and white bean soup, pretzel bread

Wednesday - Happy New Year!
I'm trying this recipe for BLT roll-ups and this one for a blue cheese ball for our game night. And maybe these stuffed mini peppers, too.

Crockpot cowboy casserole

Crockpot chicken and rice soup


Roast beef and potatoes

Hope y'all have a great week and a very happy New Year!

Fore more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! We're going to spend the day with friends, then come home and pack to go visit my husband's family for a couple of days. I hope you enjoy your time with family and friends, too.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December Update

December is always a busy month. And in past years, I've made it even more busy by adding tons of activities - advent calendars with daily doings, our Elf on the Shelf alternative, and plenty of crafts.

But circumstances this year have dictated that we scale back on our holiday activities and focus on our family instead. We were vacationing at Disney the first week of December, and now we've traveled to visit my family. The day after Christmas we're traveling again to visit my husband's family. We just realized that every weekend in December, we have been or will be on the road.

I've set aside the twinges of guilt I've let creep in because we missed our church Christmas cantata. We've also missed two church-related Christmas gatherings. My yearly baking, one of my favorite parts of the holidays, has been virtually non-existent. My "usual" holiday preparations have been put aside.

I've come to the conclusion that none of that matters in the grand scheme of things. Are Christmas parties nice? Sure. Is it fun to countdown to Christmas with an advent calendar? Absolutely. But that's not what Christmas is about. Those are just superfluous events our society has added to this season. To make it more fun? More stressful, trying to do too many things in a short time?

 So this year will be our simple Christmas. And while at first I felt guilty and stressed about not participating in all the extras, now I feel liberated. It's okay to focus on family. And most importantly, it's freed me up to spend more time reflecting on the greatest gift of Christmas, God's Son. His birth gives hope to all mankind. That's what I'm celebrating this Christmas, more than I ever have.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Our Disney Trip December 2013

This is why I've always wanted to visit Disney World at Christmas. The castle is spectacular!

We took our fourth family trip to Disney last week and had an amazing time. We stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside resort and enjoyed it immensely. We paid a little extra for a Royal Guest Room with a princess theme, and even my guys said they'd stay there again.

The resort offered boat transportation to Downtown Disney, which was a nice way to get around. We didn't take advantage of the extras, but the resort also had surrey bikes for rent and horse-drawn carriage rides. We've already decided we'll do those things the next time.

Even though historically the week after Thanksgiving has been a low-crowd week, we found the crowds to be higher than we expected. Thanksgiving was late this year, so that may be part of the reason. But the taping of the Disney Christmas parade took place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All of the choirs, dance troupes and bands along with their families and sponsors descended on the place and it was packed! Not as bad as summertime, but we waited a little longer for attractions, bus rides, even meals, than we were used to.

But we didn't let that stop us from having a blast! The weather was fantastic. We were thinking it might be in the 70's. Nope, it got up to 80+ degrees every day. We never even got our rain ponchos out the entire trip, which is a first for us.

We ate at some amazing restaurants, too. My favorite was Be Our Guest in the new Fantasyland. Since it's the newest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, it's pretty crowded. But it's based on the film Beauty and the Beast, my favorite Disney movie. I could have stayed in there all day.
Disney has been testing out a new feature called Magic Bands. You're given a plastic band embedded with an RFID chip to wear instead of being given tickets. If you make your trip reservations in advance, you can order them and choose what colors you'd like. They'll be delivered to you before your trip. If you don't order them in advance, you'll get gray bands upon your arrival. Your Magic Band is your ticket to the parks and it contains all of your reservation information, including meals and fast passes. You can also use them to charge purchases to your room. You can choose what members of your party have the authorization to make purchases.

We weren't sure if we'd like the bands. They were definitely more convenient than having to pull out four key cards every time we entered a park. And the bands were so comfortable that we hardly noticed we had to them on. The thing I liked most about them was that the kids could use them to get into our resort room, meaning we didn't have to be with them every second of the day. Every once in awhile there was a glitch - someone's band wouldn't work for park entrance or a fastpass - but the cast members were extremely helpful and solved each problem quickly.

 As much as we enjoyed being there during this time of year, we all decided we'd rather go back in February (not this coming February, of course) due to the low crowds. But I'm so, so happy that we got to experience Disney at Christmas.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Menu Plan December 9-15

After a fun-filled week at Disney World, I'm back in what is known as the Real World. Which means that instead of enjoying the many fabulous restaurants at Disney, I have to plan and prepare meals myself. This will be a short week, though, because on Saturday we're headed to West Virginia to spend some time with my family.

I'll do a more detailed post about our Disney trip later this week, so be sure to come by for that.

Now on to this week's menu plan.

Pollo fundido, Mexican rice

Beef stew, pretzel bread

Baked spaghetti, garlic bread

Quesadillas, refried beans

Steak bites, twice baked potatoes

Heading to WV, making some pepperoni rolls to take with us

For some more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thankgiving!

Our front entryway during this season

I hope that all of you have a lovely Thanksgiving Day as we take time to reflect on the blessings we've been given. And may we not confine our gratitude to one day out of the year. Let our hearts always be thankful, rejoicing in the Lord and His goodness.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Menu Plan November 25 - December 1

Happy Thanksgiving week! For the first time ever, our family isn't going to have a big, traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We actually had our Thanksgiving back in August with some dear friends.
We're going to eat out because the next day, we're headed to Walt Disney World! Whoo hoo! A couple of college girls from our church are going to house and dog sit for us, which we've also never done. Usually we board our dog in a kennel when we go on vacation, which she absolutely hates. Thank the Lord, we found some sweet young ladies to stay with her while we're gone.

So because we're leaving the day after Thanksgiving, we'll eat at a local buffet restaurant so we don't have to worry about leftovers. And we'll be packing so I won't have time to cook a huge meal.

As you can imagine, this week's menu plan is rather brief. We're going to eat on the road, then take advantage of the Disney dining plan while we're in Florida. I'll give a full report when we get back.

Here's what we've got planned for this short week:

One Pan Cheesy Smoked Sausage Pasta Skillet, broccoli

Homemade chicken patty sandwiches (from the freezer), fries

Cheeseburger soup, pretzel bread

Happy Thanksgiving!

Disney World, here we come!!!

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Menu Plan November 18-24

It's the last full week for Thanksgiving! And only 37 days until Christmas! But despite the busyness of this season, it's one of my favorite times of year. I enjoy cooking and baking for friends and family. I like spending time with those I love. And I'm grateful for the opportunities to reflect on how good God is to me. As we start into this hectic holiday season, don't forget to count your blessings, too!

Now on to this week's menu plan.

Cheesy crockpot cowboy casserole, green beans

Hamburger and fries

Roast beef and potatoes in the crockpot

Cheddar Chicken Potpie

Homemade pizza

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce

Brunswick stew, pretzel bread

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chicken Meatball Soup

Whenever I think of comfort food, chicken noodle soup immediately comes to mind. It soothes a sore throat and warms a person up on a cool day. It's just comfort in a bowl, ya know?

And while I do make pretty good chicken noodle soup, it gets a little routine at times. This yummy soup recipe is a great alternative to traditional chicken noodle soup. It's got a burst of flavor from the dill and uses small pasta instead of noodles. My family couldn't get enough of it.

My recipe inspiration came from a lady at church who brought a similar dish to a church dinner. She got the recipe from the Ukraine where she's been on several mission trips. I searched online and found this recipe at Will Cook for Smiles which is very similar to the Ukrainian one. I added a few tweaks of my own to the prep and ingredients and this is the result.

First, you need to make the chicken meatballs, so here's what you need:

1 lb ground chicken
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 teas minced garlic
1 egg
1 teas dried dill weed
1/2 teas sea salt
1/4 teas pepper

Combine the meatball ingredients in a mixing bowl. Form into small balls (you should get about 30-35 meatballs) and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until meatballs are no longer pink in the center.

While the meatballs are baking, you can get the rest of the soup ready. You'll need:

1/2 onion, diced
1 cup shredded or finely chopped carrots
2 teas minced garlic
4 cups chicken stock (1 32-oz carton)
4 cups water
1 1/2 teas dried dill weed
1 1/2 teas sea salt
1/4 teas papper
1 cup orzo or other small pasta like ditalini

In a soup pot, cook the onions with a little olive oil. Add the carrots and allow to soften. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients except the pasta. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.

When the chicken meatballs are cooked, carefully add them to the simmering soup. Stir in the pasta and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Menu Plan November 11-17

Last week was so gorgeous around here. The leaves were a myriad of colors. It's been so lovely to step outside to see God's creation in all its beauty.
This week we're supposed to have some cold weather, including the possibility of snow showers mid-week. In the Deep South. And that means these pretty leaves will soon be gone. But we are certainly going to enjoy it while it lasts!

Now on to this week's menu:

Chicken and noodles, broccoli

Spaghetti, garlic bread

Italian sausage sandwiches, fries

Quinoa burrito bowls

Chinese 5-spice beef and broccoli, rice

Chicken shawarma, fabulous flatbread

Chicken and corn chowder

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Bars

It's the first week of November and I just realized I hadn't posted any pumpkin recipes yet this season! Pumpkin is one of my favorite things about fall. I love pumpkin pies, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bars, you name it. This recipe produces a lovely pumpkin bar that's not too sweet and is simply delicious.

Here's what you need:

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 teas vanilla
2 cups flour (I used half unbleached and half white wheat)
1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice
1 teas baking soda
3/4 teas salt
1 pkg white chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. (You can use a hand-held electric mixer for this, too). Beat in the egg, pumpkin and vanilla.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Add to the pumpkin mixture slowly, making sure everything is combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips.

Line a 9x13 pan with foil, leaving an overhang that you can use to pull the baked bars out of the pan. Brush the foil with a little oil or butter. Spread the batter into the pan. It will be thick and sticky.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely. Using the foil, lift the bars out of the pan and set on a cutting board. Peel the foil away, then use a pizza cutter or knife to cut into squares.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Be Still

Last week was to be an extremely busy week for me. We had planned a soup supper for two of our church's Sunday School couples' classes to be held on Saturday, November 2. Everyone was invited to bring their favorite soup to share and either a dessert, bread or drink. We love opening our home to our friends and fellowshipping apart from church.

I had a daily to-do list because I was trying to avoid the last minute mad dash to get the house cleaned and ready. I was so pleased with myself for being organized. Believe me, it's rare enough of an occurrence that it should have been celebrated!

Then I fell.

What can I say? I'm far from graceful. I was standing still at my vanity mirror, then I stepped backward to turn around. I stepped right out of my backless shoe, lost my balance, and landed on my right hip.

Thankfully, my husband works from home. I was able to text him and tell him I'd fallen and I couldn't get up. Yep, I used those exact words.

For two days, I could do absolutely nothing. Sitting hurt. Lying down hurt. Bending down was impossible. Standing was a bit more comfortable. I iced the area non-stop and took anti-inflammatories. But I could do nothing to help prepare for the party.

I had tons of things to do and couldn't really do any of it. But I had a great deal of time to reflect on my misery. And I heard that still, small voice of God whispering, "Be still." Oh, that is so hard!

My family worked overtime to pick up the slack. The house was immaculate. Our friends had a wonderful time, if the amount of food consumed was any indication. Everything went off without a hitch.

Now I know I needed that time to rest. God knew it and even when I struggled to accept it, He extended grace to be still.

What about you? Do you need to be still and rest for a few minutes? Or even a few days? I know we're all busy. We're pulled in all different directions on a daily basis. But sometimes we need a recharge. Don't be afraid to take a few minutes for yourself to rest each day. And don't let an accidental fall be the reason you have to.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Menu Plan November 4-10

Last week was a crazy week. We were preparing for our soup supper - lots of cleaning and rearranging. And then I fell on Tuesday. Hurt my back. I was out of commission for two whole days, then on very light duty until the party on Saturday. Talk about frustrating! I'll post more about that later.

But a huge shout out to my husband and children who picked up the slack and worked diligently to make sure everything went off without a hitch. (I knew having kids would one day pay off!) We ended up with 42 people in this house, including us. Sixteen of those were children. We had a dozen different soups, tons of bread, and lots of yummy desserts. Everyone sampled to their hearts' content. It was wonderful!

Unfortunately I kept busy most of the time and didn't get any pictures. I'll ask around to see if any of our friends did.

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Sausage tortellini soup (I know, you'd think after all the soup on Saturday we'd be sick of soup. We aren't.)

Steak bites, garlic roasted potatoes

One pot cheesy smoked sausage pasta, green beans

Roast beef with potatoes and carrots

Honey lime chicken bites, Parmesan couscous

Brunswick stew, homemade French bread


For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Broccoli Cheese Soup Revisited

I've posted a broccoli cheddar soup recipe before, but recently decided to tweak it a little. It had a can of cheddar cheese soup as one of the ingredients, but I'm trying to eliminate processed foods from my cooking. So I started using a homemade roux instead. A roux is just a mixture of butter, flour and liquid that is used to thicken soups and stews.

Now my family prefers this version. And I can't say that I blame it. It's thick, creamy and delicious. My kids have even declared it "better than Panera

Here's what you need

1 TBSP butter
1 small onion, diced
2 teas minced garlic
4 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups water
1 pkg (16 oz) frozen broccoli
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 teas salt
1 teas pepper
1/4 teas nutmeg
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I use sharp white and sharp yellow)

For the roux:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk

In a large pot, melt the 1 TBSP butter. Add the diced onions and cook until softened. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the broth and water, then bring to a boil. Carefully add the broccoli, carrots, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes until the veggies are soft.

When the broccoli and carrots have cooked, remove from the heat. With an immersion blender, blend until about half the soup is pureed. You want to leave some of the veggies chunky. If you don't have an immersion blend, pour about half the soup into a regular blender, making sure you leave some room for the liquid to expand. Blend until you reach the desired smoothness and return to the pot.

Return the soup mixture to the heat and allow to reach a simmer. Now it's time to make the roux.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour, making sure there are no lumps. Gradually whisk in the milk. Cook and stir until the mixture is thick. Add to the soup mixture, stirring well. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Now add the cheese and stir until it's all melted.

Serve in bread bowls to really wow your family!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Menu Plan October 28- November 3

And so here we are, at the end of October. Has this month just flown by or what? I realized today that I've done zero Christmas shopping. Zero! And there are only 58 days left! I need to get started!

This week we're hosting a soup supper with friends. Since the weather has turned cooler, it's the perfect time for it. We ask everyone to bring a pot (or crockpot) of soup to share, plus a dessert or bread/crackers or something to drink. We provide little styrofoam bowls and plastic spoons so guests can sample as many kinds of soup as they'd like. I think I'll be making Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with Bacon.

We've done this before and had a marvelous time of food and fellowship. Most of my week will be spent preparing for the party. So I'm trying to keep my menu plan simple. Here's what I've got planned:

Baked egg rolls, garlic sesame noodles

Broccoli cheddar soup, pretzel rolls

Panko crusted tilapia, Parmesan couscous

Beefy Spanish rice, black bean and corn salad

Stromboli, fries

Soup Supper!


Hope y'all have a great week! For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Beef and Bean Burritos

Frozen burritos were once a staple in my freezer. It was so easy to pop them into the oven or microwave for a quick meal. But the list of ingredients was a mile long. And frankly, the texture was a little scary at times.

These burritos are simple - just 5 ingredients, plus the tortillas. And they can be customized to suit your family's tastes. But best of all, they freeze wonderfully and taste delicious!

Here's what you need:

1 lb ground beef
2 cups refried beans (or one 15 oz can)
1 cup salsa - here's where you can adjust the heat if you like spicy
2 TBSP taco seasoning
1 cup shredded cheese
8 burrito sized tortillas

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and drain. Stir in the refried beans, salsa and taco seasoning until well blended.

Spread 1/3 cup of the mixture on the lower half of a tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese.
Fold in both sides, then roll up tightly.

Wrap the burrito in aluminum foil to bake immediately or to freeze for later. I have found it easiest to place the tortilla on the foil, then fill and roll up. Then it's a snap to wrap!

If you're serving these immediately, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes.

If freezing for later, place the foil-wrapped burritos in a freezer bag. These will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months. You have some options for reheating them. Pick the one that is easiest for you!

You can thaw them completely in the fridge overnight. Pop them into a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Unwrap from the foil, then put them into the microwave to defrost. Heat in the oven as directed above.

Or, if you want to reheat them from their frozen state, put them in the oven for about an hour. This method with ensure that you get some crispy goodness on the outside.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Menu Plan October 21-27

Last week was very pleasant. Charles and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary by spending the entire day together. We capped off the lovely day by eating at The Olive Tree in Villa Rica, Georgia. The food and atmosphere was amazing, as was our service. We would highly recommend if you're in the area, take some time to try out this fabulous restaurant.

We started off with the saganaki or flaming cheese. Unfortunately the flame had already died out before I grabbed my cellphone to take a picture. But the Kaseri cheese was melty and delicious. Lemon juice drizzled over the dish added a lovely tang.
Charles ordered the Greek Combo platter with moussaka, pastitsio, and gyro meat.
I ordered the Tour of Greece. It had gyro meat, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita, chicken souvlaki, and house made potato chips seasoned with Greek seasonings. The pita slices that accompanied the appetizer and entrees was amazing.
I am currently hunting down recipes to recreate these traditional Greek dishes so we can have a Greek night here at home.

But until then, I have to keep my family fed. Here's what I've got planned for the week:

Ladies Night Out at church (hubby and kids will eat out)

Pumpkin cashew chicken curry, rice

Philly cheesesteaks sandwiches, waffle fries

Crockpot chicken and broccoli, salad

Taco soup, sweet buttermilk cornbread

Crockpot sweet garlic chicken, noodles

Beef roast in the crockpot, mashed potatoes

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Comforting Chicken and Noodles

Chicken is one of my favorite things to eat. And mixing it with noodles and gravy for a lovely, comforting dish is one of my favorite ways to eat it. I used to grab a can of cream of chicken soup for this dish and call it good. Now I make my own homemade gravy - way better for you and so much flavor! Sure, it takes a little more effort but knowing I control the ingredients that go into the food I prepare for my family makes it well worth it.

I like that I can make this on the stove top, or if I want to get fancy, I can mix it all up and pop it into the oven with a breadcrumb topping for some crunch. Either way is delicious!

Here's what you need:

Gravy (makes 2 cups)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock or broth (stock is usually a little richer)
1 teas parsley
1 teas garlic powder
1 teas salt
1/2 teas poultry seasoning
1/4 teas black pepper

The rest
8 oz wide noodles, cooked according to the package directions and drained
1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, making sure there are no lumps. When the mixture starts to bubble, slowly pour in the chicken stock/broth, whisking the entire time. Cook until the mixture boils, allowing it to thicken to your desired consistency. Stir in the seasonings.

Stir in the cheese and chicken, allowing the cheese to melt.
Turn off the heat and carefully add the cooked noodles. Make sure all the noodles are coated with the yummy gravy!
Now serve and enjoy this simple, tasty dish!
Oh wait, you want the fancier version? Okay, just transfer the chicken and noodles to a baking dish. Melt 2 TBSP of butter and mix with 1/2 cup dry Italian bread crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the noodles. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the topping is a little crunchy.
You can't go wrong whichever way you serve it!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Menu Plan October 14-20

This week is my favorite week of the year. See, fifteen years ago this week, I married this guy.
He's my best friend and cheerleader. I love him more now than I did then. So we're planning a day to ourselves, thanks to a wonderful friend who's keeping the kids. I can't wait!

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce, fried potatoes

Calico beans, twice-baked potatoes

Beef and quinoa soup, homemade French bread

Anniversay Day! Yay!

Herb crusted tilapia, broccoli

Stuffed shells, garlic bread

Feel Better Chicken Stew (crockpot)

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Crockpot Sesame Honey Chicken

I've been giving my crockpot a workout lately, trying to prepare meals that are simple and yummy without spending all my time slaving away in the kitchen. This recipe fits the bill perfectly. I'm thrilled that my kids, who usually don't care for sauce on anything, will eat this one without complaints. They even ask for more!

Here's what you need:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup flour (I used white wheat flour)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup corn starch
3 TBSP ketchup
2 teas sesame oil
2 teas minced garlic
1/4 teas red pepper flakes
2 teas sesame seeds, toasted

Place the flour in a Ziploc bag. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time. Shake to coat, then repeat until all the pieces are coated. Heat a little oil in a pan and brown the chicken pieces on all sides. You're not trying to cook it all the way through, just brown it. Set aside.

In the bottom of a crockpot, combine the vinegar, honey, soy sauce, ketchup, corn starch, sesame oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved.

Add the chicken pieces to the crockpot and make sure all of it is covered with the sauce. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or until the chicken is tender. Stir in the toasted sesame seeds. Serve over rice.

To toast the sesame seeds, simply heat a small skillet over medium heat. Don't add any oil or cooking spray. The seeds will release plenty of oil as they toast. When the skillet is hot, carefully pour in the seeds. They might jump around a bit. Stir so they don't burn or stick to the pan. It will only take a minute or so. When the seeds have browned, remove them from the heat and the skillet. You don't have to toast the seeds, but the nutty flavor is certainly more noticeable if you do.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Menu Plan October 7-13

Last week I used my crockpot and rice cooker like they were going out of style! My stand mixer saw a lot of use as I baked bread and made cookies. I so love being able to free up some time in the kitchen by using my favorite appliances. I don't know what I'd do without them. What are your favorite time-saving kitchen appliances and tools?

This week I'm going to do more oven and stove-top meals, all of which are quick and easy.  Here's what I've got on the menu:

Chicken bacon subs, fries

Beef and bean taco casserole, corn

Tasty tilapia, Parmesan couscous

Spaghetti and Italian meatballs, garlic bread

Steak bites, twice-baked potatoes

Cheeseburger soup, pretzel rolls

Creamy black bean and salsa chicken (crockpot), rice

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Easy Ramen Noodle Stir Fry

Who doesn't love a quick and easy meal on busy weeknights? This stir fry is so delicious and can be on the table in less than 30 minutes. And it's versatile. You can choose the veggies your family likes. You can incorporate whatever meat you have available - chicken, beef, pork, even ground meat.

For ease of preparation, I used a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables. Then I noticed the blend had snow peas in it. And I hate peas! I thought, since the pods were still intact, I could just easily pick them out. Uh, no. As they heated, the pea pods popped open and little peas spread throughout the skillet! Fortunately, I was able to separate most of them from my portion and donate them to my husband who adores peas. Next time, I'll chop up my own veggies! No peas!

Here's what you need:

2 pkgs ramen noodles
1 lb meat - I used cube steak, thinly sliced
4 cups veggies or 1 pkg frozen stir-fry veggies
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP corn starch or arrowroot powder
1 teas ground ginger

Before you start cooking the meat and veggies, prepare the stir fry sauce. In a small saucepan, combine the water, soy sauce, brown sugar, corn starch and ginger. Whisk until there are no lumps. Bring to a boil and cook for one minute. Set aside. This will thicken as it stands.

Break the ramen noodles up a little. Cook according to the package directions but discard the seasoning packets. You won't need them for this recipe. Drain the noodles.

While the noodles are cooking, pour a little oil into a skillet or wok. Cook the meat until it reaches your level of desired doneness. Add the veggies and cook until crisp-tender.

Turn off the heat and add the noodles to the skillet. Pour the stir-fry sauce over all and make sure everything is coated.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Menu Plan September 30-October 6

We had such a lovely weekend here in the Deep South. The weather was perfect and our family spent some good quality time together. Let's just say I'm still the Sorry board game champion! Whoo!

This week I'm going to try some new recipes and make good use of my crockpot. Here's what I've got planned:

Creamy tomato tortellini soup

Crockpot honey sesame chicken, rice

Crockpot pepperoni pizza pasta, garlic bread

Chicken and noodles, green beans

Crockpot balsamic beef, mashed potatoes

Crockpot potato soup, homemade French bread

Cube steak and gravy, noodles

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with Bacon

Cooler weather is upon us, and there's nothing I'd rather eat during this time of year than soup. Okay, I'd really rather eat chocolate, but that's true for every season so I guess it doesn't count as my favorite.

This particular soup is creamy and delicious. It combines chicken and hearty wild rice, with just a touch of smoky bacon. And it's so easy to prepare.

Here's what you need:

2 cups shredded or cubed cooked chicken
1 cup wild rice - I actually use a brown rice/wild rice blend
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled - you can sub a pkg of real bacon pieces
1/2 teas poultry seasoning
1/2 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas onion powder
1/2 teas sea salt
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 teas dried parsley

In a large slow cooker, stir together the chicken, wild rice, broth, water, bacon, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until the rice is tender.

About a half hour before serving, make a roux to thicken the soup. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour until smooth, then cook until bubbly. Gradually stir in the milk, making sure there are no lumps. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture thickens. Stir in the parsley. Pour the roux into the slow cooker and stir well. Allow to heat through for another 20 minutes or so. If the soup gets too thick, add a little broth or milk to thin it out.