Friday, February 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It's that time again. Time to plan the menus for the month. This month I'm really trying to find a good balance between economical meals and healthy habits. The hubby is diabetic so we really should be limiting the number of starches and sugars he's eating, however as most realize, healthy food is not cheap. Foods that tend to stretch your budget seem to be those pastas, potatoes and rice. So in addition to finding this balance I'm working to incorporate new recipes. New dishes like the Cabbage Rolls really bring some variety and introduce our family to a variety of ethnic and cultural cuisines. Ok maybe that's stretching it but still, we're very Tex-Mex so maybe something different than that will be a change.

For this month I purchased the Angel Food ministries Regular box and February Special #5.
Here is what we will be working with....

Regular Box
1.5 lb Sirloin Strip Steaks (4x6)
2 lb Tray pack Chicken Breast
1 lb Boneless Pork Chops
2 lb Breaded Chicken Nuggets
28 oz Salisbury Steak Entree
12 oz Sliced Bacon
1 lb All-Meat Hot Dogs
1 lb Stir Fry (Broccoli, Red Peppers & Onions)
1 lb Carrots
8 oz Breakfast Cereal
32 oz 2% Shelf Stable Milk
35 oz Crinkle Cut Fries
7.25 oz Mac 'n Cheese
1 lb Rice
1 lb Bean Soup Mix
1 Dozen Eggs

February Special #5 (Fresh Fruit and Veggie Box)
3 lb Premium Idaho Baking Potatoes
3 lb Premium North Carolina Sweet Potatoes
2 lb New Crop Western Grown Yellow Onions
9 oz Premium Raisins
1 lb California Grown Carrots
1 Green Cabbage Head
3 lb Red Delicious Apples
2 Anjou Pears
1 Golden Pineapple
3 lb Valencia Oranges

Items from the boxes will be in blue

This month's baking and feed the freezer will be:
  • Applesauce, Bran, and Oatmeal Muffins x2 to freeze half, I will also be substituting the corn syrup for Agava Nector since the hubby is diabetic. (See Review)
  • Coffee Cake Muffins by Martha Stewart
  • Carrot and Sweet Potato Pancakes x2 to freeze half
  • New York Style Cheesecake (for the hubby's birthday) Review: Well this bombed, it cracked all over while cooking and then didn't even cook all the way through using the suggested time in addition to cooking for longer than suggested. I'm not sure if it was the change in ingredients or what but I WON'T be trying this recipe again. My full fat cheesecakes never have this problem.

Saturday, February 28th
Lunch: Sandwiches & Soup
Dinner:Hamburgers, Potato Salad and Grilled Corn on the Cob

Sunday, March 1st
Dinner: Chicken Fried Steaks, Mashed Potatoes (Idaho Potatoes) and Gravy

Monday, March 2nd
Dinner: Chicken Stir Fry and Brown Rice

Tuesday, March 3rd
Dinner: Paula Deen's Swiss Steak (onions) and Rice
Review: This was a pretty good quick recipe, the meat turned out very tender w/o having to cube it. Not high on the taste scale but a good solid meal.

Wednesday, March 4th
Dinner: Pasta e Fagioli (bacon instead of pancetta, carrots) and French Bread
Review: Well I butchered this one, I did it in the crockpot and forgot about the noodles. I put them in about 30 minutes prior to turning it off but forgot about it all together and so the noodles ended up mushy and ruined the soup. Overall I think I prefer a fagioli with spinach in it too.

Thursday, March 5th
Dinner: Mole-Style Pork Chops with Black Beans and Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Review: This was amazing! The mole turned out great, I thought it'd be a dry rub but while cooking it turned saucy and was perfect. The sweet potatoes were the perfect compliment to the pork. A real nice meal.

Friday, March 6th
Dinner: Steak and Blue Cheese Pizza with Mixed Greens Salad

Saturday, March 7th
Breakfast: Something Quick - Swimming Lessons at 9AM
Lunch: Family Fishing Ministry Day - Pack a Picnic
Dinner: Out to Eat, it's my Birthday!

Sunday, March 8th
Dinner: Breakfast for Dinner! Sweet Potato Hash (bacon and eggs) with Spicy Hollandaise Sauce
Review: I love breakfast for dinner nights, it just fills you up so well! This recipe was delish, I will definitely be trying this again. It was the 1st time I've poached eggs so I'll need the practice. I think the hash was a bit too sweet so I'm going to omit the maple syrup next time and just stick with the spicy savory combo.

Monday, March 9th
Dinner: Sausage and Spinach Soup with crusty French Bread
Fresh herbs are added after the soup cooks so they'll retain their bright color and flavor. You can substitute 1 teaspoon dried herbs for each tablespoon fresh, but add them with the tomatoes. Serve with a toasted baguette.
Review: This soup was SUPER. Quick and easy to make and choc full of nutrients. It's a broth base so its low on carbs and my hubby could eat his weight in it w/o worry about his sugars. I loved soaking up the crusty french bread with the leftover broth.

Tuesday, March 10th
Dinner: Traditional Tuna Casserole

Wednesday, March 11th
Dinner: Sizzling Salmon Salad and Crunchy Crackers

Thursday, March 12th
Dinner: Leftover (Frozen) Mexican Lasagna

Friday, March 13th
Dinner: Grilled Sirloin Skewers with Peaches and Peppers and cilantro lime rice
Review: Oh this was so yummy! We used deer sirloins (of course) so I soaked them in milk prior to skewering them (this gets rid of gamey tastes in the meat). The peaches just melted in your mouth and really added great flavor to the steaks. This was a great filling meal that didn't give you that overfull feeling.

Saturday, March 14th
Breakfast: Something Quick - Swimming Lessons at 9AM
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Smoked Paprika Pork Chops and Roasted Veggies

Sunday, March 15th
Dinner: Spanish Style Grilled Chicken with Spanish Rice Stuffed Peppers

Monday, March 16th
Dinner: Ham and Bean Soup with Biscuits and Greens

Tuesday, March 17th
Dinner: All American Chili Dogs Night (hot dogs)

Wednesday, March 18th
Dinner: Salisbury Steak Entree and Mashed Potatoes
Review: This was a boxed dinner, well except I made homemade mashed spuds. For a box meals it was great, my lil monster loved it! He's picky on meat textures but he ate this right up. Had lots of extra sauce to use as gravy on the potatoes.

Thursday, March 19th
Dinner: Stuffed Pork Chops and green beans, stay tuned for this recipe

Friday, March 20th
Dinner: Grilled Salmon, Sweet Potatoes and Orange Zest Broccoli

Saturday, March 21st
Breakfast:Something Quick - Swimming Lessons at 9AM
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Sirloin Steaks? and roasted cabbage side? stay tuned for this decision

Sunday, March 22nd
Dinner: Mock Thanksgiving - whole deep fried chicken w/cajun injector, creamed spinach, stuffing and glazed carrots

Monday, March 23rd
Dinner: Buffalo Chicken Chili and Blue Cheese Cornbread

Tuesday, March 24th
Dinner: Crockpot Breakfast Casserole and fruit salad

Wednesday, March 25th
Dinner: Honey-Pecan Crusted Chicken and veggie?

Thursday, March 26th
Dinner: Turkey Mini Meatloaves and Sneaky Smashed Potatoes
Feed six by doubling the ingredients and shaping the mixture into one eight by four-inch loaf. Bake time may increase to about 45 to 50 minutes; use a thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 165°.
Review: These were a great alternative to traditional meatloaf. I loved how they were perfectly portioned so I could keep the hubby from eating too much. Very flavorful with the hint of kick from the hot sauce.

Friday, March 27th
Dinner: Stomboli and Salad

Saturday, March 28th
Breakfast: Something Quick - Swimming Lessons at 9AM
Dinner: Out to Eat?

And as usual for other great menus check out the Organized Junkie!

Shopping List will be updated by the end of the day.

Photos courtesy of CookingLight, FoodNetwork and RachelRay.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Feed the Freezer and Pantry.

I can see the writing on the wall and hence I'm feeling the urge to stockpile. Plus I've just got that cooking feeling again. I've decided that I need to jar some of my own marinara sauces instead of spending $3.50 a jar for the store bought stuff. So this week I'm going to make a batch of various marinara sauces, some simple and some more fancy. I'm new to this whole canning/jarring thing so I'm just going to use a big stock pot since I don't have a canner. I however am going to invest in a pair of canning tongs.

Here's a great guide for how long to let your jars boil....

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has lots of tips and guides on how to can and jar your own foods. They as well have trusted recipes.

Following their advice I'm going to use the "approved" recipes and then I'll make some of the non-approved recipes and freeze those instead. Lord knows I don't want to mess with botulism.

Non-Approved Marinara Recipes:

Basic Marinara Sauce by Tyler Florence

Heart Healthy Marinara Sauce by Giada De Laurentiis (I say healthy because it has yummy carrots in it)

And I plan on finding a good marinara sauce with mushrooms, since this is what we always buy from the store brands, but I'm going to have to wait and find a good deal on mushrooms.

In addition to the canning, I am going to make some homemade ice cream. There's just something about the thought of making it myself that gets me excited. I absolutely LOVE ice cream and the hubby and I got an electric ice cream maker as a wedding gift that we have yet to use. I always thought it'd be a time consuming, and expensive process but after doing some research on it it seems like a piece of cake, or wait maybe a scoop of ice cream!

Ice Cream Recipes:

Butter Pecan by Elise at Simply Recipes

Fudge Brownie Ice Cream by

Better than Blue Bell Vanilla Ice Cream by Betty, the low carb guru (I'll be trying this one out for my hubby since he needs sugar free ice cream)

My goal by the end of the week is to have a stockpile of yummy ice cream and marinara sauce sitting in my freezer and pantry!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

D.I.Y. Friday - "Kiddie Kitchen Korner"

Ok so this posted early so happy Hump Day!

I love my lil monster and I love LeapFrog's refrigerator toys. However what I don't love is the obstacle that they create when I'm in the kitchen trying to cook. The Fridge Farm keeps my son busy and away from his leg warmer tendency but I'm the type of cook who gets things in and out of the fridge on an "as need" basis. So having my leg warmer sitting in front of the fridge poses a hazard. 1) I have to spend 5 minutes to manuver the farm and all its animals to one side of the fridge (we have a double door fridge) or 2) I scoot the leg warmer out of the way for a minute to open the door and he sees all the goodies, tries climbing in or grabs anything he can reach and refuses to move so that I can close the door. Either way something had to change. Idea! Magnetic Chalkboard.

I've seen sheet metal at a reasonable price for squares at the hardware store and I know that they have great new chalkboard paint as well. Thus my plan was hatched.

I started out by deciding where this chalkboard needed to go, I chose the end of our cabinets (obviously a lower cabinet as my son isn't 8 ft tall). This end happened to be opposite the stove/oven and far away from the fridge. There is plenty of room for him to stand in front of this cabinet and I can still get into any cabinet I want. After measuring the space where the chalkboard would go I headed up to Lowe's and purchased 2 sheets of 18x26 sheet metal, metal primer and chalkboard paint.

Now when painting metal surfaces it's very important to use a primer. I chose a simple gray spray paint primer. I laid the sheets out and lightly coated one side with the primer. Following the directions I let it dry for about 2 hours before applying the 1st coat of chalkboard paint.

I let the 1st coat of chalkboard paint dry for a day, because I had to work, before applying the 2nd coat. After the 2nd coat dried I grabbed my adhesive squares and went to work. Instead of attempting to cut the sheet metal (which you should only do if you have the right equipment) I overlapped my sheets to fit snuggly in the space. After the sheets were secure, I rubbed chalk on them and wiped it off. This sets the paint or something like that, hey I just did what the box told me to do.

I decided I need to add a piece of molding on the bottom to create a finished look, and catch any chalk dust so I'm working on getting that painted and attached. But for now I have a great place for my lil monster to play and stay safe and clear in the kitchen.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Calling out the Cabbage

So while rummaging through the fridge this weekend I realized, lo and behold I had a head of cabbage that I had forgotten about. It came courtesy of the Angel Food Ministries and I neglected to add it in my meal plan. It was about a week old and looked like it needed to be cooked quickly. But I've never bought, let alone cooked anything with a cabbage. I was really at a loss. So after scouring the internet I found a unique concoction called Cabbage Rolls. An interesting take on meatloaf was my first thought. This would be easy and I had all the ingredients in my freezer/pantry already. At first I was a little concerned about how to core the head but I found a great youtube video that showed how to make the rolls from start to finish.

After checking out the video I found my old buddy Emeril on and followed his recipe.

I was so surprised by how yummy these rolls were, even my picky toddler ate them up. Cabbage and all! This is a must for a hearty, pretty cheap and filling dish. I think next time I might add some celery and carrots to the meat mixture to sneak in even more veggies!

Of course so this means I've done a little rearranging of the menus but that's never set in stone and we'll make it up next month.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Going Organic

I feel comfortable to say that 2008 was the year of "Going Green", it became trendy and popular. Everywhere you turned everyone was talking about conservation and companies jumped on the band wagon. In addition to the "Going Green" trend, the market was flooded with the “organic” label. And with the fancy title of organic fruits and veggies doubled in price. I’m sure you’ve all read about the benefits and touts of how great organically grown items from fruit to open range meat so I will spare you. However since the economy is tumbling down most can’t afford to splurge on these new luxury items, and in turn many local farmers are having hardships. There is a solution and behold the CSA also known as “Community Supported Agriculture”. CSA’s are a great advantage to the community and yourself. For cheaper than you’d pay at the supermarket, you can get a bushel full of fresh, organic produce delivered or available for convenient pickup. And you’re helping out another family farm! What better satisfaction is there knowing that you’re helping to sustain a family’s livelihood.

Now I understand that sometimes the subscriptions/membership can seem steep, however I have found that if you are willing to put a little “sweat equity” into the farm they are more than willing to drop the price or work out a labor for food system. After all, these families would have to pay others to help harvest their crops otherwise.This barter system is what I have set up for my family this year, and I’m so excited. I come from a family of farmers/ranchers and am eager to get back out in the country and do a little work. The CSA that I am working with will be a one-stop shop will produce, fresh honey, open range poultry, pigs and cattle (Top Texas beef). So not only will we get these great fruits of our labor, my lil monster will have the fun experience of farm life once a week. I’m waiting for the picture perfect photo of him chasing those chickens, hehe.In addition to the CSA that I’m working with, I have found a Fruit Farm. And like the CSA Farm, this fruit farm needs helpers. So I will be working with them to help care for the peach trees and come berry season my lil monster can come get his fill on fresh peaches and berries of all kinds.

Now for the savings portion. By working together with these CSA’s I imagine that I will be saving at least $1000 in produce expenses alone. I’m looking forward to filling my pantry with preserves, jams and pickled items and saving on these items as well. Of course one could argue that time is money and though I might be saving money in my pocketbook, my hourly worth is much more than the benefits of produce. I am looking at it another way, this time will be quality time spent in a somewhat charitable contribution to my family and my community. And best of all it is time that we will be working together. And a family that does things together, stays together.

To find you own local CSA to get involved with or just become a member of one check out these links.