Planning Life- One Week at a Time

Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

I’ve been trying to incorporate my new slow cooker into my meal planning at least two days a week. I find it so wonderful to come home to dinner ready but I also find it takes some planning. I don’t always have time in the morning to brown something or chop something. So far some prep the night before seems to be good. From chopping some veggies to putting the whole thing together in the stoneware and refrigerating it over night.

For this soup I did some prep the night before and some in the morning.


3 oz of Pancetta or bacon, rendered and crumbled (leave it out for a vegetarian)

1 white onion chopped fine

1 big handful of baby carrots chopped

1 celery rib chopped

1 bunch of greens cleaned and chopped (Swiss Chard, Spinach, Kale)

3 Cloves of garlic crushed and chopped fine

1 russet potato peeled and chopped

1 14oz can of diced tomatoes with juice

1 14oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

28 oz of stock your choice (I used beef)

1 pack of flavor boost (I used a beef one)

A shake of Italian Herb Mix

black pepper

salt to taste at the end the stock and pancetta may be salty enough


Cutting board



frying pan

Slow Cooker

Night before:

-Brown pancetta, chop onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and greens. Remove the pancetta and saute the onion briefly in the fat. Put everything in a container in the refrigerator. About 15 minutes of work.

In the morning:

-Dump everything you prepped into the stoneware of the slow cooker. Wash peel and chop the potato. Pour in the stock, tomatoes, beans, flavor pack, herbs, and pepper. Stir. Push any pieces of potatoes under the liquid. Set the slow cooker on low for 7 hours. Took about 10 minutes.

– When you get home take a quarter of the soup out and puree it in a blender or with a stick blender. Pour it back in and stir well.

-Serve with crusty bread. I froze about half of the leftovers for lunches or another meal.


What to cook when you haven’t been shopping

This week a had to wait until Wednesday to food shop. Leaving two nights getting by with what’s around. I always say I could live for a few weeks on the food in my pantry and freezer. It just might not be what I want to eat. Well this week it was a requirement. So Tuesday I made a frittata. They are like a crustless quiche. I told the kids it was egg pizza. The great thing about them is like quiche you can change up the flavors to your liking or what is around. No bacon? Try ham. No onions? Try garlic. The one thing you do need is eggs. I made a big one and froze 3 slices to eat for breakfast another day. This would also be a great brunch item if you are playing hostess to a crowd.

Monday- Lasagna from the freezer I made a month ago
Tuesday- Frittata with Soup
Wednesday- Swai fillets for the kids and I, stack for DH, rice, and a veg
Thursday- Take Out (DH requested chinese)
Friday- Sante Fe Cheesy Beef (test driving a slow cooker recipe)
Saturday-Penne ala Vodka with bread and salad
Sunday- Minestrone Soup in the Slow Cooker (I’ll most likely make it Saturday and reheat it)

Super Frittata
about 40 minutes start to finsih


5 Slices of Bacon
1/2 White Onion, diced
3/4 of a large Red Pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
2 medium white potatoes
6-8 eggs depending on their size
1/2 cup milk
Dijon Mustard
Lea and Perrin’s Chicken Marinade
Poultry Herds
Shredded cheese
Salt and Pepper

large oven safe non-stick frying pan
cutting board
chef knife
food processor with grating blade or box grater
large bowl
salad spinner or lots of paper towels


1. Pre heat the oven to broil

2. Place your largest non-stick pan on a burner and ad your bacon to the cold pan. Turn it on to the lowest heat setting. Low and slow will give you great crisp bacon that doesn’t spit at you.

3. Dice the onion and peppers (that was all I had, squash, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, all would be great) while the bacon is cooking. Check the bacon and flip it once. Chop the garlic.

4. Wash and trim any funky spots off the potatoes. Shredded them in the food processor or box grater. Place the shreds in a bowl and fill with cold water to wash the extra starch off.

5. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain it on paper towels.

6. Add all veggies to the hot bacon fat and sauté over medium heat. Don’t add the garlic right away or it will burn. It may seem like there is a lot of fat but the potatoes will be joining the pool. Allow the veggies to cook about 6-7 minutes until they start to get soft.

7. While the veggies are cooking. Drain and rinse the potatoes. Dry them well in a salad spinner or with lots of paper towels.

8. Add the garlic and stir. Add the potatoes and stir. They will need to cook about 10 minutes to soft up, under cooked potatoes are gross. Stir them often. I added a splash of water half way to help steam them.

9. While the potatoes are cooking beat the egg with the milk, mustard and herbs. Here is where you can get creative and add flavors you like. Don’t forget a good pinch of kosher salt and black pepper.

10. Taste the potatoes for doneness. Pour the whole egg mixture over and gently shake the pan to evenly distribute. Allow the frittata to cook over medium heat until you see the edges turn solid. About 2 minutes.

11. Top with some shredded cheese and move to the broiler. Set a timer for 3 minutes. Check it. If you shake the pan and it looks tight and springy you are done. If it is liquid and jello like give it another minute. There is a fine line between, raw, done, and burned.

12. Remove from the oven and run a spatula around the edge to free the whole thing. Slide it out onto a cutting board and serve it up!

Potatoes Cooking

Yum, Bacon

Before a 2 Year Old


Apple Cider Pork Chops

This recipe is for a 3.5 slow cooker with a timer on it.


6 bone in pork chops about 1/2 inch thick
2 Granny Smith Apples peeled and sliced
1/2 large white onion sliced
12 oz of Apple Cider
garlic powder
poultry seasoning
chicken broth
flour for dredging
vegetable oil

Cutting Board
frying pan
slow cooker


1. Wash and prep the apples. Slice the onion. Put half of them in the bottom of the stoneware of your cooker.

2. Pour some oil in the frying pan and set it to medium heat. Coat the pork chops in the flour. Brown them on each side for about a minute.

3. Move the chop straight front he pan to the stoneware. Arrange the chops in layers. Top with the rest of the apples and onion.

4. Measure the apple cider. Add some garlic powder and the herd mix to the liquid and stir. Pour into the stoneware over chops.

5. Add chicken broth until the meat is almost covered. Place the lid on and set the cooker to low for 8 hours.

6. When you get home remove the chops and pour off the liquid into a sauce pan. Reduce it over medium high heat until you have a glossy sauce or thicken with corn starch. Season with salt and pepper. While reducing the sauce boil up some egg noodles.

Can be made the day before and reheated.

Indian Summer

Ah bliss! A week after declaring cool weather it’s going to 80 today. So tonight is a chance to use the grill. Maybe one of the last. I’ve mentioned before my DH doesn’t like fish or seafood. I’m not normally into cooking two meals but for tonight I will grill two different proteins. The effort to do so is minimal. DH will have a steak and I will have salmon or whatever looks good at the fish counter today. I’ll put the steak on a few minutes earlier and just have to watch my timing.

Last week the slower cooker was a huge success. I’m using it twice this week. First I have parent night at school on Tuesday and that will be a life saver. I’m making a beef barley soup and as an easy side frozen rolls or bread that can be baked in the oven. I’m also going to use it for a pork chop dish that has apple cider in it. So even though it’s warm today. The rest of the week I have fall food on my mind.

Monday- Grilled Steak and Fish, Fries, and Green Beans

Tuesday- Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup with bread

Wednesday- Orange Chicken, Rice, and Peas

Thursday- Homemade Soup (no school!)

Friday- Slow Cooker Apple Cider Pork Chops over Egg Noodles, Veggies and Dip

Saturday- Away

Sunday- Leftovers or Brinner

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup

1lb Stew Meat cut into small cubes

1 onion diced

2 handfuls of baby carrots chopped

2 ribs of celery chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic smashed

1 bay leaf

1 cup of pearled barley

6 cups of liquid (beef or chicken stock, water, some beer)

1 beef stock concentrate or bouillon

salt and pepper

Place everything in the stoneware of your slow cooker. Stir. Set the timer to 8 hours on low.

other items you can add to this soup, mushrooms, potatoes, parsnips, hard squash like acorn, worcestershire sauce.

Update:This was so yummy, even better leftover, I served it with sourdough rolls. For the liquid I did 5 cups of chicken broth and one cup of beer. The beer flavor was a bit sharp so next time I’ll use only 1/2 a cup.

Licence to Grill!

At last some decent weather and I can fire up the grill! Throughout the spring and summer I use it as much as I can. I hate to turn the oven on in hot weather. I’m using it 5 nights this week. All the meals can be made indoors if needed.

Sunday- BBQ Chicken with cucumber salad and corn on the cob

Monday- Ham and Turkey Sandwiches with salad

Tuesday- Country style grilled spareribs and pasta salad

Wednesday- Grilled Chicken Fajitas with veggies, salsa, and avocado

Thursday- Cheese burgers and fries

Friday- Pasta in a light sundried tomato cream sauce and caesar salad

Saturday- Pork Loin with mashed potatoes and snap peas

Sunday- Take Out (Mother’s Day, now way I’m cooking!)

Sunday’s BBQ Chicken Legs
I can call this recipe BBQ because it is a low and slow method of using my grill. Most things I make out there are hot and fast, burgers, chicken cutlets, etc. But these Chicken Legs take about an hour to cook so plan ahead. I use a gas grill for multiple reasons. Control over the heat, lights in seconds, and easy clean up. Propane baby!!!


Chicken Legs and Thighs- about 8 pieces (I did all legs this time)

Vegetable oil

Grill seasoning

1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce


Gas Grill

Spring loaded Tongs

Work bowl

BBQ Sauce Brush

Wire grill Brush

Small mixing bowl

My Favorite BBQ sauce:

I fancy up a bottle kind.

½ cup ketchup

½ cup BBQ Sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays)

Then a splash of the following


-Balsamic vinegar


-1 garlic clove chopped up fine


1. About 30 minutes before you are going to start grilling take the chicken out of the refrigerator and place in the work bowl.

2. Coat the chicken pieces with a little vegetable oil. And sprinkle with grill seasoning. Toss with your hands.

3. And hour before you are going to eat light the grill and put all burners on high heat for 5 minutes. Take your wire grill brush and give the grill a scrub. A clean grill will help to prevent flare ups.

4. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting on all of the burners. Place the meat evenly on the grill. Close the lid.

5. Set a timer for 10 minutes. After ten minutes turn the meat and rearrange as needed for hot spots. If things seem too hot turn off the center burner. You want to be cooking at around 300 degrees.

6. Turn the chicken every 10 minutes for the next 30. In the mean time prepare the sauce.

7. Coat the chicken well on one side with the sauce. I really like a silicone brush because it cleans easily and the bristles don’t fall out. Allow to set for abut 5 minutes.

8. Turn the chicken and coat the other side with sauce. Give it another 5 minutes to let the sauce set but keep the heat low because sauce can burn quickly.

9. Remove from the grill to a serving plate. Let stand at least 5 minutes. Serve with your favorite sides. I did corn on the cob and a fresh cucumber salad.

A Bird in Oven

Perfect Chicken
Cooking a whole chicken to perfection is not that difficult but it can be overwhelming the first few times you are wrestling something roughly the size of a newborn out of the package and into to the pan. It’s slippery, kinda gross, and don’t forget that fun package of extras inside. The part that is easy in this recipe is I use a Dutch oven. A really big one that will hold the whole chicken and my handy digital probe thermometer. I love that thing. Set it up and walk away, it will tell me when the chicken is done instead of me having to guess. Yeah the chicken comes with a pop up timer but the last time I waited for that thing to go off I had a dry bird. Oh and you will want to take a bath in the gravy that comes out of this pot!!!

1 whole chicken, bonus pack removed, rinsed, and patted dry
1/2 Cup- White Wine (I used pinot grigio since it’s a bit dry)
1- medium onion rough chopped
4-6 – garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
2- large carrots chopped or a handful of baby carrots
4- Golden or white potatoes (something creamy rather then starchy) washed, cut into quarters, leave the skins on they are thin
1 tablespoon- Poultry Herb mix
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Large Enamelware Dutch Oven
Cutting board
Wooden Spoon (no metal on Enamelware)
Probe Thermometer
Slotted spoon
Mesh Strainer


Oven 350
1- Prep all the veggies and put them aside
2- When the chicken is dry sprinkle it with salt and pepper.
3- Heat dutch oven on the stove over medium heat, you don’t need high heat for this cooking pot. Cover the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil. Place the chicken in breast side down for 5 minutes.
4- Hold onto the pot with a potholder and insert the wooden spoon inside the chicken and flip it over. Sear another 5 minutes.
5- Remove the chicken and place it on a plate. Pour in wine and let it bubble, scrape the bottom of the pot with the wooden spoon. Add the herbs.
6- Place all the vegetables in an even layer in the bottom. Give them a stir. Place the chicken back on top.

7- Insert the probe thermometer into the breast at an angle. Be sure it is in the meat and not the cavity.

8- Lid on and into the oven until the probe reads 180. Don’t open the pot magical things are going on in there. (Mine took and hour, yup an hour for a whole chicken, I have made this dish on a weeknight)

9-Carefully lift the pot to stove, it’s heavy! Move the chicken to a cutting board, let it rest, keep the probe in place.

10- With a slotted spoon remove the potatoes, onions, and carrots into a serving bowl and cover them.

11- Place a mesh strainer over a container in the sink. Strain the liquid away from the bits of garlic and other stuff.

12- Wipe the inside of the pot with a paper towel and pour the liquid back in. Bring it to a boil.

13- In a cup mix about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with ½ cup warm water, stir it up good to make a slurry. Gently pour about half the slurry into the bubbling liquid. Stir with the wooden spoon as you do it. See how thick it gets. Add more or thin with warm water.

14- Taste the gravy, what does it need? Salt, pepper, more herbs, a little lemon? Oh it’s heaven!

15- Now the bird has rested. I peel off the skin and crave the meat away in chucks. Serve with the carrots, onions, and potatoes. A mixed salad made this a nice meal for us.

Leftovers? Chicken salad. Or even better an awesome potpie using the leftover gravy in the sauce. Coming Soon!

Stuffed Peppers

Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Classic stuffed pepper recipe using ground turkey. Some tips on ground turkey. It is leaner then beef, especially if you use the all white meat kind. It is subject to drying out and needs some help, things like onions, apples, carrots can give it the need moisture. I also add an egg to most dishes I make with ground turkey. And the best tip is not to over cook it. I use a probe thermometer and cook it to 175. That is 5 degrees shy of done. The carry over cooking time will do the rest.


1 package ground turkey breast

1- egg

1/2 Cup- instant rice

1- small onion chopped

1/4 – cup parm cheese

Herbs and spices to your liking

I use poultry mix, grill rub, salt, and pepper

1- can condensed tomato soup

4- large Red Peppers with tops cut off and cleaned out (choose one that can stand)


Mixing bowl

Baking dish

Cutting board


Clean Hands

Probe Thermometer


Oven 375

1- Open the soup can and pour ¾ of it into the bottom of the baking dish

2- Cut and prep the peppers, stand them up in the baking dish, I use a round corning ware one where they touching and in very tight.

3- In a large mixing bowl mix turkey, egg, rice, onions, parm, herbs and spices, and the rest of the tomato soup together with you hands. Mix gently and don’t over mix.

4- Place filling into each pepper. Insert a probe into the filling the largest pepper.

5- Bake uncovered until the thermometer reads 150, sprinkle the tops with more parm cheese, and continue to bake until 175.

6- Let stand a few minutes before serving. Great Leftover!