Planning Life- One Week at a Time

Archive for February, 2011

MidWinter- Meal Planning

This week was mid-winter break and we enjoyed a great family trip away from all the snow and ice at home. I took a break from meal planning but still did some cooking on the trip. Now we are back home and back to reality. Not only did have to plan dinner for the end of this week but a few lunchs as well. So what are we eating?

Thursday- Cheeseburgers

Friday- Lunch: Chicken salad sandwiches and Greek Chicken Soup (made from a store bought roast chicken)
Dinner: Brinner! (breakfast for dinner I made Bananas Foster French Toast, eggs, and hash browns)

Saturday- Lunch: Egg Salad sandwiches and Cheddar Broccoli Soup
Dinner: Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes, and Asparagus

Sunday- Lunch: Grilled Cheese
Dinner: Sliced Steak Sandwiches and Salad (leftover meat from the roast on garlic butter toast)

Monday- Spaghetti and Meatballs (meatballs will be made on Sunday)

Tuesday- Take Out

The week will roll over on Wednesday and that will be the day I food shop. DH is off from work and I can get there easily.

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Date Night- Meal Planning

DH and I don’t always get out for date night as often as we would like.  Also between paying a babysitter, the cost of the meal or movie we go see it can really add up.  That’s why we often do at home dates.  Kids go to bed about a half an hour early and if we want to have a few drinks no one has to drive! This year for Valentine ’s Day we did just that.  Here is a rough break down of how much we saved staying home.

 

Going out:

Babysitter- $40 (2 kids, $10 an hour)

Dinner for two- $100

(including drinks, dessert, tip)

Movie or other activity- $30

 

Looking at around $170 for a night out, of course this is for a nicer dinner, a chain restaurant would have saved money.

 

Staying home:

Babysitter- $0

Dinner for two- $45

(for this dinner I made lobster tails, a porterhouse steak, baked potato, caesar salad, I had 2 glasses of wine, and DH had 2 beers)

Movie or other activity- $1 (for Netflix) $0 for a board game or blackjack.

 

By staying home and having a fancy dinner we saved around $120!  Very worth it!

Celebrate!- Meal Planning

This coming week is a big one.  My kids are turning two (is that possible?), it’s Valentine’s Day, and Thursday is my birthday as well.  We still all need to eat but two nights someone else is doing the cooking.  Last year for their first birthday I did self serve soups and my dad made chili.  It was great for a winter party.  But this year we are having a few more people and the thought of having to turn on my oven and fill the house with warm bodies is enough to make me crazy.  So we ordered some trays from our favorite pizza place and it will be delivered.  Hey I can’t be a kitchen superstar every night!

 

Valentine’s Day is a Monday.  DH and I have never been really into celebrating it.  But we do enjoy at home dates.  We fed the kids put them to bed a bit early and eat dinner like we did before we had kids.  On the couch in front of the TV!

 

Saturday- Orange Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice (variation on the Easy Lemon Chicken recipe, omit the wine and lemon and use orange juice, this is the original from my good friend)

 

Sunday- The twins turn 2!  Dinner coming from a pizza place

 

Monday- Kids will eat leftovers!  It’s Valentine’s Day, I’m cooking steak and lobster for us.

 

Tuesday- Cheeseburgers and Sweet potato fries

 

Wednesday- Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry with Rice

 

Thursday- My Birthday, I’m not cooking, Baked Ziti (already made and in the freezer)

 

Friday- Celebrating my birthday with family and friends at a restaurant.

 

Stuffed Shells- Recipes

Hit of the week!!!!

This one is such a hit with my kids.  Well they love anything with tomato sauce and cheese.  But little they (or DH) know there is a good helping of broccoli in the filling.

This recipe also has a get time saver/multi-tasker in it.  The prepared pesto.  I could chop basil, garlic, etc. for the filling or I could add a few spoonfuls of pesto and done!  I get it in the produce department of my food store.

Ingredients

1 box of jumbo pasta shells,

1- 32 oz container of part skim ricotta cheese

2 eggs beaten

1 cup of broccoli puree (spinach is great too)

¼ cup parmesan cheese

¼ cup of store bought pesto

salt & pepper

2 cups of mozzarella cheese

4 cups of your favorite tomato sauce

Gear-

Pasta Pot

Colander

Large work bowl

Baking dish or disposable pan

Blender or Stick blender

Spoon

Foil

Preheat oven to 350

Steps-

1- Boil the pasta shells until they are ala dente, they will cook more later. Strain them and toss with a little oil so they don’t stick when they cool

2- Steam the broccoli, I do it in the microwave in a glass dish with a little water for 6-8 minutes.  Puree broccoli in a full size blender.  Or I use a stick blender in the bottom of the work bowl.  Some of the cooking water may need to be added to get it smooth.

3-In a large bowl mix ricotta with eggs, broccoli, parm, pesto, salt, and pepper.  Pesto and parm can be salty so use your judgment.  Stir everything until it is fluffy.

4- When the shells are cool enough to handle. Set up a work area with the shells, baking dish, and bowl of filling.

5. Pour about 2 cups of sauce into the bottom of the dish so it is covered generously.

6- Spoon a heaping tablespoon into each shell and create rows in the baking pan.

7- When the pan is full top the shells with more sauce.  I like to leave some of the pasta showing. And sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella cheese.

8- If you still have filling and shells make a second tray for the freezer.  I often double the recipe; if I’m in the mode to make this dish I might as well make a lot!

9- Bake covered with foil for about 20 minutes, uncover the dish for 5-10 more, or until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

A Tale of 2 Stews

Growing up my mother made a really great but simple to make beef stew.  One advantage she had was there is an old world Italian butcher shop right in my hometown.   The fresh chuck stew meat she got there was perfect for this recipe.  Here are two way to prepare this stew, both are favorites at my house.

The Basic

1lb- Beef Chuck Stew meat cubed

1- medium onion

3- Russet potatoes

2- Carrots or about 10 baby carrots

1- can condensed tomato soup

¾ – can water

Black pepper to taste

Gear-

vegetable peeler

Cutting board

Chef knife

Heavy bottom cooing pot or slow cooker

Spoon

Steps-

1. Wash and peel potatoes and carrots

2. chop potatoes and carrot into even sized pieces

3. Dice the onion

4. In a large cooking pot or slow cooker place the meat, potatoes, Carrots, and onion.

5. Dump the whole can of tomato soup on top.

6. Fill the can ¾ with water, use a spoon to scrap the sides of the can to get the rest of the soup

7. Add the water and stir, it won’t look like enough liquid but the meat will add a lot.

8. Place over your lowest heat for 3 hours stirring occasionally. If it starts to really boil turn off the burner and give it ten minutes.  Or turn the slow cooker on to low for 6 hours.

9. Finish with black pepper, tastes even better the next day.  I don’t add salt normally because the soup can be salty enough.

 

The Advanced

1lb- Beef Chuck Stew meat cubed

1- medium onion

3- Russet potatoes

2- Carrots or about 10 baby carrots

1- can condensed tomato soup

½- can beef stock

1/4- can red wine

3- Garlic cloves

Herd blend

Black Pepper to taste

2 tbsp- olive oil

Gear-

vegetable peeler

Cutting board

Chef knife

Heavy bottom cooing pot or Dutch oven

Spoon

Tongs

Steps-

1. Wash and peel potatoes and carrots

2. chop potatoes and carrot into even sized pieces

3. Dice the onion, peel, smash and rough cut the garlic

4. In a large cooking pot or Dutch oven heat the oil.

5. Brown the meat on each side, turn with the tongs

6. remove the meat from the pot

7. Add the onions and garlic to the pot and let them sauté a few minutes in the drippings and oil

8. Add the carrots, potatoes, and meat to the pot and stir

9. Dump the whole can of tomato soup on top.

10. Fill the can ½ with beef stock, use a spoon to scrap the sides of the can to get the rest of the soup

11. Fill the can ¼ with red wine

12. Add the stock and water, stir, it won’t look like enough liquid but the meat will add a lot.

13. Add a tablespoon of your favorite herb blend.

14.  Bring to a gentle boil, cover and place over your lowest heat for 3 hours stirring occasionally. If it starts to really boil turn off the burner and give it ten minutes.  Or if you are using a dutch oven place in a 250 degree oven for 3 hours.

15. Finish with black pepper, tastes even better the next day.  I don’t add salt normally because the soup can be salty enough.

Winter Squash Soup- Recipe

The winter storm was more like the winter drizzle. I’m glad I got food shopping done last night but we were hardly snowed in. I did make the soup for the freezer and at the request of another twin mom here is the recipe. And I’ll take any reason to stay home in my pjs.

I love to make soups in the winter. A warm, comforting bowl on a chilly afternoon is just the best. Plus they freeze great and I can grab one for my lunch at school. And one basic soup base can be turned into so many types. G & L first table foods were soups. I would make one for lunch and they would eat the bits of soft veggies, pastas, and meats. Now they happily slurp off spoons.

Winter Squash Soup

Ingredients

1- medium Acorn squash
1- medium Butternut squash
1/2- a large white onion
1/2- a red pepper
2- carrots or a handful of baby carrots
1- 32oz box chicken cooking stock (vegetarian? use veggie stock or water)
4- tbsp butter
2- tbsp olive oil
3- tbsp flour
About a cup of milk or cream
Salt, pepper, poultry herb mix (sage, thyme, rosemary)
(need to be dairy free? Use more oil and add one Yukon Gold potato to help give the soup body)

Gear-
Cutting board
Chef knife
Glass bowl or microwave safe dish
Large cooking pot or pasta pot
Blender or stick blender
Large spoon

Steps-

1- Cut the acorn squash in half, careful it is a very hard squash to cut. Scoop out the seeds and pulp
2- Cut the butternut squash in half, careful again, scoop out the seeds
3- place the squash in a microwave safe bowl or dish, fill the bottom with about an inch of water and a pinch of salt.
4- microwave for 10 minutes, check for doneness with a knife it should slide is smoothly with no residence. Cook longer if needed. I had to cook the two squash separately because they didn’t fit the microwave dish together.
5- take them out and set aside to cool
6- while they are cooling chop the veggies to the same size
7- heat olive oil and butter in the cooking pot, when butter melts add the veggies
8- sauté the veggies until they are soft, about 10 minutes.
9- sprinkle in the flour and stir well, continue stirring for for 2 minutes to cook the rawness out of the flour. This doesn’t really thicken the soup just gives it a smooth body.
10- pour in all the chicken stock
11- scrape the flesh of the squash out of the skin and add it to the pot (now would be the time to add potato for a dairy free soup)
12- bring the pot to a gentle boil for ten minutes, stir regularly to prevent burning
13- time to puree! The stick blender is my friend I can do it right in the pot no mess! If you don’t have one puree in a blender, vent the lid, hot soup will pop the lid! Add the milk until you have a texture you like.
14- taste, add salt and pepper to your liking. In have add a tablespoon of sugar and some lemon juice to this soup to brighten the flavor. Finish with the herbs.

Fill a bowl and enjoy!

Variations-
use all potatoes for a cream of potato soup,
use broccoli, include the stems, and some cheddar cheese for a great Broccoli Cheese Soup
Lots of mushrooms, asparagus, there are so many possibilities.
Use your imagination!

Another Snow Storm!- Meal Planning

I listed my rules before and one was shop once a week and I really stick that one.

The main reason is it’s very difficult for me to get to the store.  The closest supermarket is about 20 minutes away.  The few times I’ve attempted to get there after work and pick of the kids on time from daycare has been very stressful.  I do bring them with me on occasion but them I’m limited.  I can try to use the one oversized double cart the shop has that steers like an old piece of farm equipment.  I can push them in the stroller and load it with as much as I can.  Which isn’t a week of food and milk.  Or my last option is to push the stroller and pull a cart.  I know many moms of two or more who do this regularly.  I take my hat off to you.  I’ve done it a few times and it is hard!  In the end I shop alone whenever possible.

Another round of snow threatens the northeast for Saturday morning.  Saturday morning is normally when I have a chance to food shop alone.  I relish this time.  Isn’t that sad?  I’m so rarely alone that just walking through the supermarket unencumbered is a treat.  So my solution is to go Friday night once the kids are in bed.  I’ll be out of the house after dark, wow big deal!

So what’s on the list?

Saturday- Bone in NY Strip Steaks (on sale $4.99 lb), Caesar Salad, mixed veggies, & bread

Sunday- Whole Roast Chicken with Potatoes and zucchini

Monday- Beef Stew (my mom’s recipe made on Sunday)

Tuesday- Quesadillas made with chicken leftover from Sunday, peppers, onions, and any leftover veggies in the fridge

Wednesday- Stuffed Shells (Shhh the filling contains pureed broccoli, look for the recipe coming soon)

Thursday- Take Out Night

Friday- Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie (homemade in the freezer)

Weekend cooking project- Sunday I will make the Beef Stew.  It not just a time saver for Monday it really tastes much better reheated the next day.  And with the threat of being snow bound again I will make something for the freezer.  This weekend is a Winter Squash Soup using, butternut and acorn squash.  Yum!  Kids love this one.

Happy cooking!