Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats: January 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread


Nothing beats a crunchy, sweet, hot piece of toast in the morning
with your cup of joe or tea. 
And why not make it homemade?
 
 
So my kids have been getting up early.  The baby likes to start her day at 6:00 a.m. {like clock work} and frankly I'm not liking it.  I shouldn't complain because she sleeps about 10-11 hours straight each night, but why can't she tag on another hour?
 
When I think back I used to get up earlier when I worked, but gosh staying home with three little bitties each day sure makes this mama tired.  I compare them to Vegas.  If you've ever visited Las Vegas do you notice how your eyes are darting each and every way about every 3 seconds?  The lights, the music, the never ending people watching?
 
Sometimes I feel like that is my house.  I usually have one singing, one crying and one chatting about something, all the while playing with a LOUD toy.  It's like Vegas!  {Minus the prostitutes.}
 
Anyway, where am I going with this?
 
Well, these early mornings have kind of put me into a routine.  Wake up with baby.  Feed baby.  Make myself some hot tea and have a piece of toast.  It just tastes good.
 

I grew up eating homemade English muffin bread from my mom.  It tastes just like a store bought English muffin but better.  We always {and still} slather it in butter and homemade strawberry jam.  Nothing beats the original.  But...I wanted to try another version.  A take on the classic cinnamon raisin toast.

Now I can buy a perfectly good cinnamon raisin bread at the store and throw it in the toaster, but you know me, I NEED to try and make it on my own.

And let me tell you it turned out fab.  I froze one loaf and sliced another, put it in a baggie and kept it in the fridge for over a week.  It is hearty from the whole wheat with just a tad of sweetness from the raisins.  Put a pad of butter on it and you're golden!

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread
Print this Recipe!

2 pkg. yeast
1 T. sugar
2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
2 T. cinnamon
3 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. milk
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. water
2 c. raisins

1.  In a large bowl combine the first 7 {dry} ingredients.
2.  In a glass measuring cup heat together the milk, honey and water in the microwave until very warm.
3.  Combine the wet and dry and mix well.  Fold in raisins.  Pour into two greased muffin loaf pans.
4.  Cover with a towel and let the loaves rise for 30-45 minutes in a warm area.
5.  Bake both loaves at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
6.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Take out of the pans.  Can be wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil and frozen for up to 3 months or eaten right away.  Keep wrapped and in the fridge when eating right away.
7.  To toast cut the bread into 1/2 inch slices.  Toast dark {sometimes running it through twice}.  It is a very dense bread and tastes better pretty dark!  Spread with butter and jam to eat.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Epicurean Customized Cutting Board GIVEAWAY!

*I was sent a complimentary Epicurean cutting board and the following review and opinions are my own.



If there is one thing I use a LOT in my kitchen, besides the trusty KitchenAid mixer, it is a cutting board.

I am constantly chopping lettuce for a salad, fruit for the kid's lunch, cheese for a snack or meat for this recent stir-fry.  I always have one sitting in the sink, one in the drying rack or one in the dishwasher.  There is a constant rotation.

When Epicurean recently contacted me about their new custom designed State Shape boards I was hooked.  I love anything cooking related and I love it even more if it lets you show off your home state pride.

Epicurean a Duluth, MN company takes pride in these novelty boards.  They are heavy duty and can be used for both cutting, chopping and serving.  What is more impressive is that they manufacture all of their products here in the United States, using unique materials {think, excess skate park materials that would have gone to waste!}.  These cutting boards are eco-friendly, dishwasher safe and NSF approved.  I was hooked!

Epicurean sent me the Iowa cutting board and I quickly got to work this past week.  As a mom who cooks almost every meal at home it got some great use.  Take a look!




I would recommend these state cutting boards to anyone.  Not only are they durable and easy to clean, but they are darn cute!  The perfectly cut hole at the top allows someone to hang it as decoration or keep it on a peg in their kitchen for easy use.  And what a fun gift idea for a college student, a friend who has moved away or that little chef in your life.

Upon receiving my Iowa board I also asked if I could give one away to a reader of mine allowing them to pick their own state.  And those generous folks at Epicurean obliged.

So, here is your chance!  One lucky ready will win a custom State Shape cutting board for their kitchen.  Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.  I will choose one random winner this Saturday, January 31st.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Beef and Snow Pea Stir-Fry


Never be afraid to make your own Chinese take-out. 
 It is much easier than you think and so much cheaper!
 
 
I had been promising the husband my homemade egg rolls since Christmas Eve.  Well now we are nearing the end of January {what?} and I still had not made them.
 
I just kept forgetting to pick up egg roll wrappers at the store.  EverySingleTime.  Finally this week when he was running into town he asked if I needed anything.
 
Egg roll wrappers!
 
And miraculously he remembered them.
 
Now we have been known to make a meal out of those darn things, but in an effort to make it a bit more of a "meal" rather than one big "appetizer", I also made this stir-fry.
 
This deliciously, simple, I-will-be-making-it-again-stir-fry.
 
 
You start by slicing a steak against the grain, really, really thin.  This is the key to fake-out take-out folks.  Cut it super thin.  Flank steak or skirt steak work really well, but in my opinion use whatever steak you have or whichever one is on sale that week.
 
And when you cut it this thin one steak will do ya.  I bought two, then realized after cutting one I had this HUGE pile of meat, so we saved the remaining steak for the following night and grilled it.
 
And don't forget the snow peas.  Why are snow peas so delicious?  Gosh, they are basically nothing, but when stir-fried and tossed in the special sauce, they are just so flavorful!  And they stay nice and crisp as they aren't cooked long.  Just enough to heat up at the end.
 

I have a feeling once you make this one and realize you can make your own Chinese take-out at home, you'll be bookmarking this and making it again.

Every single person in our family liked this.  Including the kids {minus the baby - she's partial to sweet potatoes, carrots and oatmeal}.

Give this one a try.  You can do it!

Beef and Snow Pea Stir-Fry
Print this Recipe!

Meat Marinade:
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. sugar
1 t. garlic powder
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. rice wine vinegar
1 t. worchestshire
1/2 t. sesame oil
1/8 t. baking soda

Cooking sauce:
2 T. soy sauce
1/4 c. beef stock
2 T. brown sugar
1 t. rice wine vinegar
3 T. olive oil
2 cloves of minced garlic

1 lb. thinly sliced steak
1 lb. snow peas

1.  Marinate the steak with the marinade for up to 6 hours in the fridge or at least one hour to prior cooking.
2.  In a very hot skillet or wok cook marinated steak, 1-2 minutes or just until browning.  Add in snow peas, stirring to combine.
3.  Mix together the cooking sauce and pour into the hot pan.  Stir to combine.  Mixture will thicken upon standing, another 1-2 minutes.
4.  Serve beef and snow peas over rice.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Day in the Life

No recipe today folks!  I often get asked how I juggle three little kids and still have time to develop recipes, photograph them and eventually churn out a blog post for the world to see.  So I thought...what the heck?  I'll just give them a 'day in the life' post and you, my dear readers, can really see what I do each day.

Each day is different in our house, as I'm sure yours is too.  Some days both kids are at school in the morning, sometimes just our oldest.  Some days the husband is working, some days he is home with us.  Some days I am focused strictly on parenting and keeping all my children alive and some days I'm a bit tuned out working on this blog and the husband jumps in and takes over.

But generally the week looks like this.

Very un-typical of the average family, as the husband doesn't have a normal 9-5, Monday-Friday job, so don't think I always have his help!  Although it is pretty nice when I do.

I decided to pick a typical Wednesday for us last week.  I'm just going to dive right in, here we go!

5:45 a.m.
Baby wakes up.  I rush in and try and stick a pacifier in her mouth, in the hopes she'd give me another hour of sleep, but to no avail.  I get her up, change her and quietly creep my way out to the kitchen in the dark to make her a bottle.  We get settled in the recliner.  She eats.  I watch the morning news.

6:30 a.m.
Baby is happy and full.  Our middle child, who has yet to learn how to sleep in, comes staggering out to start her day.  I turn on cartoons for her and make my way to the kitchen for some hot tea.

6:45 a.m.
I hop in the shower {baby is in her bouncy seat} as I have a MOPS meeting today.  Which means I need to look presentable.  I get ready while the husband and oldest are still sleeping.

7:15 a.m.
I wake up the oldest and try and get him moving.  Start breakfast for the two oldest.  Sit baby in her high chair and she munches on Cheerios.

8:00 a.m.
Dad is waking up {he tries to catch up on sleep on his days off}.  He gets ready to head to the gym to workout.  I finish getting kids ready for school {Wednesday's are a late start}.

8:45 a.m.
Dad loads up the older two and takes them to school.  I get myself and baby ready to head to MOPS.  Halfway there I realized I forgot a bottle.  Turn around.  Drop off baby in the nursery and head into my sanity meeting for the week.

9:00 a.m.
Load up on yummy breakfast treats {seriously, they have the BEST breakfasts} and settle in at my table.  I take a few minutes before the meeting starts to post a recipe on my social media sites from my phone on the blog.

9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
These two glorious hours are spent with other moms in a friendly chat and no one is pulling on my pant leg asking for something.  I enjoy great food, hot chocolate and fellowship.  Honestly, the best decision I made this year was joining this group.

11:30 a.m.
Arrive back home.  Dad has picked up the kids from school. I get lunches started {quesadillas, fresh fruit and chips}.  Everyone is at the table yelling, fighting and eating.

11:45 a.m.
I set out butter and bananas to make banana bread for later.  The oldest has the school snack bucket for the next day.



12:30 p.m.
Older two are put down for naps.  It's rare our oldest naps, but he has to have quiet time.  It's hit or miss.

1:00 p.m.
Feed the babe a bottle and put her down for a nap.  The husband settles into the recliner for some downtime.  THE HOUSE IS QUIET.

1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
I settle in on the computer and do some blog work with reality T.V. on in the background.  Downloading photos, editing photos, writing posts, posting on social media sites, commenting on other sites, brainstorming for an upcoming sponsored post, etc.  It never ends.

3:30 p.m.
Baby is up.  Feed her and set her down to play on the floor {she has since mastered the army crawl, so it has become more difficult containing her}.

4:00 p.m.
Make banana bread and prep dinner.  We had a turkey pot pie that was made ahead, so I pulled it out of the freezer that morning.  It was thawed by mid-afternoon, so I just needed to wash and cut up lettuce for a salad.

5:00 p.m.
Dad takes kids outside before it gets dark.  They fill up the bird feeders and take the dog for a quick jaunt around the block.

5:45 p.m.
Dinner.  It's a mix of chaos and fun.  Kids eat well and are allowed a "treat" after dinner.  Cookies!



6:30 p.m.
Dad does baths and hands them off to me soaking wet.  They get dressed and settle down for some T.V. time before bed.  I clean up the kitchen, entertain the baby and wish it was bedtime for myself.

7:30 p.m.
All kids to bed.  Oldest two to their room and I feed the baby.  She falls asleep eating and I put her down for the night.

8:00 - 10:00 p.m.
The husband and I enjoy the quiet.  We catch up on T.V. shows, watch college basketball and hang.  I work some more on the blog and finish up this book before bed {it was really good!}.

10:30 p.m.
Lights out.  I'm pooped!

This is just a typical day.  Our weekends look a bit different as it is mostly just the kids and I.  So needless to say I'm even more tired!

Follow me on Instagram!  You'll see a lot more of our "days" on there.

What is your typical day like?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sticky Fruit & Nut Bars #TheFeelGoodFruit #CG



 
We are now about three weeks into the New Year and either people are still gung-ho into their healthy resolutions or they've already fallen by the wayside.
 
Which side are you on?
 
I have to say I'm still on {the good side that is}.  I am trying to keep a better eye on what goes in my mouth, but at the same time still eating really, yummy food.  New Year's resolutions are hard to maintain, we all know that, but there are some fun, unique ways to keep your in-between-a-meal snacks fun and tasty.
 
I also have a confession to make.
 
I love prunes.  I always have.  Growing up, my hometown had a lot of Czech influence, and if you know Czech food at all their claim to fame dessert is the kolache.  It is a delicious yeast type pastry filled with fruit.  I would say most kids gravitated towards the cherry or peach filling, but I always, always grabbed the prune ones.  They are just so sweet and flavorful! 
 

 
Having recently been sent a variety of Sunsweet products with the intent of creating a healthy snack, I got to quick work.
 
PlumSmart® Light: This juice is made from a special variety of fresh, juicy plums and has only 60 calories and 15g of carbs, and helps you stay fit on the inside by providing a good source of fiber. PlumSmart Light is a great addition to a smoothie.

Amaz!n Prunes: These little gems are a good source of fiber for only 100 calories per serving. Amaz!n Prunes are nature's perfect way to feel good with nutrition and delicious taste. Prunes also have a low glycemic index, which means they keep you feeling fuller longer. They add a powerful boost of nutrition and fiber to snack time or your favorite recipe.

Amaz!n Diced Prunes: Grab a handful of these delicious diced prunes for nutritious snacking. Toss them in cereal, oatmeal, salad or your favorite recipes for added flavor and fiber. One serving of Amaz!n Diced Prunes is a good source of fiber for only 100 calories. Add to your favorite snacking recipe for extra fiber and a fruit flavor boost.
 
Prunes have a low glycemic index, which means they keep you feeling fuller longer. They also add a powerful boost of nutrition and fiber to any snack.  I knew that I wanted to sandwich these beauties into a bar, chock full of healthy whole wheat flour, almonds and just a bit of sugar to sweeten.
 
And it worked splendidly!
 
I knew if I pureed the prunes into a smooth paste it would make a perfect chewy center to this hearty, healthy snack bar.  And really it is just 8 easy steps {minus baking them in the oven} and these bars come together very easy.



 
Not only do Sunsweet prunes make an ideal grab-n-go snack, studies have also suggested the health benefits.
 
Bone Health: Prunes may promote healthy bones. Dr. Bahram H. Arjmandi of Florida State University says, "Dried plums (prunes) are the most bone-friendly fruit that I have seen in decades. They are nature's solution to maintaining good bone health." Dr. Arjmandi hypothesizes that the many compounds and nutrients contained in prunes, such as vitamin K, potassium, copper and boron, likely work synergistically to have this positive effect. Additional research is currently being conducted to learn more about prunes and bone health.

Potassium: Potassium may help prevent hypertension and stroke and play a role in helping support cell energy by regulating fluid balance, nerve impulses and muscle contraction to increase energy.

Fiber: A diet containing foods with fiber can replace fats and sweets, and contributes to heart health.

Regularity: A fiber rich diet may contribute to maintaining a consistent digestive tract which helps lead to improved digestive health.

 
Once these bars cooled, I cut them into small squares and laid them on a baking sheet.  I then froze them for an hour and placed them individually in a plastic freezer storage bag.  This way they will stay fresh and are easy to grab for a mid-morning or afternoon snack.
 
In fact, I think I may secretly be turning British {I'm probably watching too much Downton Abbey} as these are really good with an afternoon mug of hot tea.
 
If you are still on track in 2015 with your healthy eating or you need to get BACK on track, give these bars a try!
 
Sticky Fruit & Nut Bars
 
9 oz. bag Sunsweet Pitted Prunes
2 T. water
2 1/3 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. oatmeal
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1 t. salt
1 3/4 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. honey
 
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease an 8x8 baking dish and set aside.
2.  In a food processor combine the prunes and water.  Puree until smooth.  Set aside.
3.  In a saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar and honey over low heat, stirring until completely melted.
4.  In a bowl combine the flour, oatmeal, almonds and salt.  Add the melted butter mixture to this and combine.
5.  Spread half of this mixture into the bottom of the baking dish.  Carefully spread prune puree over the bottom layer.  Then press the rest of the flour mixture on top of the prune layer.
6.  Bake for 25-27 minutes or until the top is golden.
7.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Cut into bars and serve immediately or freeze for later.


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Smoky Pan-Seared Paprika Chicken


 
Do you ever pull chicken out of the freezer to thaw in the morning and then sit and fret all day trying to figure out what to do with it?
 
No?
 
Just me?
 
This happened the other day.  I remember fretting about the chicken during the morning, not knowing what I was going to make.  Then, per usual, I got busy with the kids and forgot about the chicken {which had been put back in the fridge} until around 4:00 p.m.  Then, I really started to fret AGAIN when I realized everyone would be hungry soon and I still had nothing planned with this damn chicken.
 
Ugh.
 
And then like a lightning bolt I had remembered seeing a recipe in a magazine where they had coated the chicken generously with paprika and other spices, pan-seared it and finished it with some nice butter and cream.  That my friends was the inspiration for this dish.
 
They served it over angel hair pasta, but since I only had elbow macaroni on hand, I opted for my roasted garlic mashed potatoes.  Which in my opinion offers a great counter balance to the smoky, spicy chicken.

 

This spice rub?

Fantastic!

I think it would also be good on chicken wings, then drizzled with a swirl of honey.  Maybe an idea for Super Bowl Sunday?

Speaking of the Super Bowl....would you be interested is seeing a round-up of recipes for the big game?  Tell me in the comments if you do.

Anyway.  This chicken.  So good!


Smoky Pan-Seared Paprika Chicken
Print this Recipe!

*I use this smoked paprika from New Frontier.  If you can't find it in the store, you can order it here.

Rub seasoning:
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 t. parsley
1 t. chili powder
1 1/2 t. onion powder
2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. cayenne
1 t. smoked paprika {regular paprika is fine, but smoked paprika has a great flavor!}

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken, cut into strips
4 T. butter
1 c. heavy cream

1.  Clean, dry and cut chicken into strips.  Generously rub the seasoning onto both sides of the chicken.
2.  Preheat a skillet to medium-high heat.  Melt in 2 T. of the butter.
3.  Cook chicken in the skillet on both sides, about 4-5 minutes a side, depending on the thickness of your chicken.
4.  Once chicken is cooked through, turn the heat down and add in the heavy cream and remaining butter.  Scrape up the bits at the bottom of the pan.  Let the chicken simmer in this sauce until it starts to thicken, about 5 minutes.
5.  Serve chicken with angel hair pasta, mashed potatoes or rice.

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Thank god it's Friday!  We've finally had a full week of school, the weather is in the 30's {balmy!} and we don't have much planned for the weekend other than meeting up with some family for lunch tomorrow.

My kind of weekend.

What are your plans?  Cooking anything I need to know about it?

Have a great weekend my dear readers!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chocolate Power Smoothies


Are you trying to eat healthier in 2015?
Here is a fun smoothie with a secret ingredient!
 
 
I made these smoothies a few days ago for the Little Miss and I.   She is a child that keeps me on my toes.  Quite honestly she never gives me a break.  It's exhausting at times.  One thing that helps to curb her enthusiasm towards life is to give her tasks in the kitchen.

 
These tasks keep her busy.  And I've found that if she helps me make something in the kitchen, that girl will eat anything.  For three years old she is a pretty darn adventurous eater.
 
The key to making this smoothie smooth and creamy {like a milkshake!} is the secret ingredient.
 
Avocado.
 
Avocados are a good, healthy fat and I've put them in everything from traditional guacamole to brownies.  {They can replace butter in many desserts}.
 

I would recommend having this smoothie as a little pick-me-up mid-mornings, especially if your mornings start early like mine.  They are also easy to take on the road in the car just slip in a few ice cubes to keep it cold and you are good to go!
 
Or you can just enjoy some down time with your little one, sit on the kitchen counter and slurp away.  Whatever floats your boat.
 
Chocolate Power Smoothies
Print this Recipe!
 
1 frozen banana
1/2 of avocado
1/4 c. peanut butter
1 c. milk
1 c. vanilla Greek yogurt
1 c. of ice
1 T. honey
2 t. cocoa
 
1.  Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until thick and creamy, adding more milk if too thick.
2.  Makes two 1 1/2 c. servings.
 
-------------------------------------
 
Here is a sneak peak at what is coming up!
 
Smoky Pan-Seared Paprika Chicken
Oatmeal Fruit & Nut Bars
Sticky Asian Meatballs
 
Some good eats folks!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Maple Glazed Pecan Scones

Break out a hot cup of coffee or tea and sit down and relax with one of these scones. 
They are the perfect treat for a cold winter day!

 
 
We are on day #5672 of being stuck in the house and not having preschool due to the extreme cold temps.  I think the high was 3 degrees today?
 
Pretty balmy.
 
The natives are getting pretty restless.  So restless that tonight at about 4:47 p.m. I texted a girlfriend and asked her to come over and save my sanity.  It must have been bad at her house too, as it didn't take much convincing.  She loaded up her 6 year old and 1.5 year old TWINS and came over.
 
You know it's bad when you'll pack up the twins and head out into the death cold.  Our kids played, fought, tattled on each other and stuffed their faces with pizza, but LET ME TELL YOU, it was much better than sitting at home alone for the 5,672nd day in a row.


 
In an exhausted effort to keep the littles busy we also baked {along with craft hour, puzzle hour, play with new toys hour and movie and popcorn hour}.
 
My three year old loves to bake with me.  If I have my back turned at the kitchen counter it only takes a few seconds for me to hear her dragging a kitchen chair over to me so she can see what I'm doing.  It usually ends up pretty messy and there might be some yelling involved.....but gosh darnit we make some pretty scones, don't we?


These were inspired by a new jug of maple syrup we got at the store the other day.  I love the taste of maple and as it was staring at me in the face the other day, along with a leftover bag of powdered sugar from the holidays....PLUS, 12 sticks of butter in the freezer....I immediately thought scones.

A scone is a single-serving pastry that is lightly sweetened and sometimes glazed.  And in case of this recipe, mostly definitely glazed!

Do not be intimidated making these.  It is just a matter of mixing together the ingredients, cutting in the butter, patting the dough into a flat shape on the counter, cutting them into pieces and baking. 

And of course dunking them into the all-important glaze.

Maple Glazed Pecan Scones
Print this Recipe!

3 1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
5 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 sticks unsalted cold butter, cubed
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
3/4 c. 2% milk

For the glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar
5 T. pure maple syrup
milk

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a large baking sheet or stone.
2.  In a bowl combine dry ingredients.  Cut in the cubed butter with a fork or pastry blender until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Toss in chopped pecans.
3.  In a bowl whisk egg, vanilla and milk.  Pour into the dry ingredients.
4.  Combine wet and dry ingredients until just mixed, do not over mix.
5.  Flour a surface and turn dough out on the counter in a long log shape, pressing down flat to 3/4 inches.
6.  Cut dough into strips, making small to medium sized triangles.
7.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.
8.  To make the glaze combine the powdered sugar and maple syrup.  Add a tablespoon of milk at a time until you have a thin glaze.
9.  Dunk warm scones into the glaze and place on a cookie sheet to cool/harden.  Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Baked Pizza Pasta


Kids love this one!  Pizza in a pot, as I like to call it. 
An easy, family supper that is great for kids and parents alike.
 
 
So the kids and I {and the hubs for part of it} were gone for a week over Christmas break.  It was fun and exhausting at the same time.  We hopped across the state over 7 days and visited three different sets of families.  The kids love this type of adventure and I do too.....until we get home.
 
Everyone has been on overload for days on end and getting back into a routine is down right awful.  Not to mention the 4,398 gifts that were bestowed upon us and somehow have to fit in our very small house.  I love Christmas, but I'm learning to not love gifts {unless they are small!}.  I don't mean to act like Scrooge, but there is more to Christmas than gifts.  I'd prefer just spending time together.
 
My extended family changed the rules this year.  We played the $20 gift exchange game.  {I only had to buy one present!}.  Our "theme" was Food & Drink and I came home with an awesome bottle of extra virgin olive oil, a dispenser and four neat serving dishes.  Right up my alley!
 
It took me several days to get the house back in order {Did I mention our dryer died during all of this too?  My house looks like a laundromat with all the clothes hanging around}.  And now that we are finally a bit settled the cold and snow decided to come back like the devil and the kids haven't had school the past two days.  Ugh!
 
 
The first night we got back I made this pasta.  We were in desperate of a decent meal.  For the past week we had been snacking and eating on the go.  I was craving a hearty warm meal and a nice crisp salad.  I'm pretty sure this one hit the spot!
 
In case you are wondering I used this homemade dressing on our salad.  It has become a favorite!
 
I filled this dish with our favorite pizza toppings - mushrooms, pepperoni, black olives and sausage.  You can fill it with whatever you want, I am not a recipe Nazi, do what you want!  Peppers, onions, ground beef, whatever works for you.
 

This dish is also a great one to make ahead and freeze or take to a friend needing a nice home cooked meal.  Maybe they have a new baby or have been sick.  It will be sure to please!

Baked Pizza Pasta
Print this Recipe!

8 oz. penne pasta
8 oz. mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 lb. cooked ground sausage
1 c. sliced black olives
4 oz. sliced pepperoni
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 jar of marinara sauce

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.  In a small pot cook pasta for HALF of the required cooking time.  The pasta will not be done, but will finish cooking in the oven.  Set drained pasta aside in a large bowl.
3.  Add other ingredients to the bowl, minus the mozzarella cheese and half of the pepperoni.
4.  Pour mixture into a greased baking dish and top with cheese and remaining pepperoni.
5.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

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Are you still struggling with homemade meals?  Did you see my last post?

I partnered with the Quad City Mom's Blog and came up with a 2-Week Meal Plan.  You guys...everything is done for you!  It even includes FREE printables - a specific grocery list and menu planner, plus blank ones for the future.

You HAVE to take advantage of this.

You can thank me later.

Have a great hump day!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2-Week Meal Plan {+ FREE printables!}




If I’ve been asked once I’ve been asked a million times.  Do you meal plan?  How do you grocery shop?  Is there a plan I can follow on your blog?

Well, yes.  I do meal plan, but I’m not strict about it.  Too many rules makes me just want to break them, you know?  So I keep it simple and flexible.  That is the key folks.  Flexible.  If you have tacos planned for Tuesday and then you suddenly have a sick child and those tacos get pushed back to Wednesday, please do not fret about it.  It’s only dinner, not a mid-term exam.  Your family will live.  And trust me they will not go hungry.

In our family we do two big grocery runs a month, usually with a quick run weekly for any fresh items we may need or had forgot {milk, fruit, eggs, etc.}.  I know this may not work for your family.  Maybe you get paid weekly and want to do smaller trips.  That is fine!  Do whatever works for you.  Since we shop every two weeks I have put together a two week meal plan for you.

Yes, I said for YOU!

I’ve done ALL the work.  The recipes are compiled, the shopping list is detailed and it looks beautiful.  {Okay, it may not be beautiful in your eyes but it does in mine.  Organization to me = beauty.}

Below you will find 14 days of meals laid out for you, along with some breakfast and snacks ideas as well {because we eat more than just dinner!}.  As for lunch?  Well, lunch in our house is typically leftovers from the night before.  If not leftovers, then something extremely simple {think PB and J sandwich or a snack plate of cheese/crackers/fruit}.  And if you don’t like leftovers, well…start liking them.  Don’t waste food!

Use this meal plan people.  Don’t just print it out in the “hopes” of getting organized.  Use it!  I swear, if you take the time to print it off, sit down, make your grocery list and eventually go shopping, at the end of the two weeks you will thank me.

And yes, when you look at the shopping list it may seem daunting.  It may look like a lot.  But remember THIS – the meals I have planned are homemade.  Not that boxed crap.  You will be proud to serve this to your family and they will thank you in return.  And more than likely you may already have some of this in your fridge and freezer.  Take the “pantry” list for example.  This list is what “most” will already have stashed away in their cupboards {think…flour, cinnamon, mustard, sugar, etc.}  And if you don’t have these staple items {i.e. starting from scratch} then, I’m sorry, you’ll just have more shopping to do.  But remember, once you buy some of these items, they will last you a long while.  It takes a LONG time to get through a bottle of soy sauce!

Another tidbit:  If there is a meal below that you know will ABSOLUTELY not go over well in your family {say due to an allergy, or an extreme dislike}, then nix it.  You won’t hurt my feelings at all.  Simply replace it with one of your family favorites.

Here we go.  Each meal has a direct link to the recipe.  Read carefully and certainly email me with any questions.  I’m here to help!

Click HERE to Print

Two-Week Meal Plan

Week 1:
Monday:
Crock Pot Maid-Rites, Broccoli Almond Chopped Salad
Tuesday: Mushroom, Bacon & Swiss Macaroni and Cheese, leftover Broccoli Salad
Wednesday:
One Pot Beef Lo Mein
Thursday: Baked Chicken Ranch Tacos, with Refried Beans and Chips
Friday:
Sassy Tailgate Sandwiches, with veggies and dip
Saturday:
Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken, with rice and steamed broccoli
Sunday:
Cheesy Ham & Cauliflower Soup, with bread

Week 2:
Monday: Leftover Cheesy Ham & Cauliflower Soup, with bread
Tuesday:
Chopped B.L.T. Caesar Salad
Wednesday: Whole Wheat Taco Rotini Skillet, with salad
Thursday:
Grilled Greek Chicken, Oven Crispy Sweet Potato Fries, with fruit (marinate chicken in this marinade overnight, before grilling)
Friday:
Beef & Potato Burritos, with leftover refried beans and chips
Saturday: Leftover Beef & Potato Burritos, with fruit
Sunday:
Hash Brown Crusted Spinach & Egg Quiche, with spinach salad

Breakfasts:Homemade Granola (eat as cereal, on yogurt or by the handful)
Steel Cut Oatmeal (top with fresh fruit, peanut butter, maple syrup, nuts or dried fruit)Blueberry Muffin Loaf

Snacks:No Bake Cow Pies

Click HERE to Print
Click HERE to Print

Grocery List

Meat:
Ground Beef, 4.5 lbs. {in 1 lb. packages}
Bacon, 1 lb.
Steak, any cut, 12 oz.
2 Bags of Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
Sliced Ham – 1 lb.


Produce:
2 white onions
1 carton button mushrooms
1 head of broccoli
1 bag of carrots
1 head of garlic
1-2 green onion stalks
2 heads of lettuce
1 head of cauliflower
1 stalk of celery
1 tomato
Fruits of choice: bananas, blueberries, grapes, etc. (enough for two side dishes of mixed fruit)
3 white potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes
1 bag of spinach
1 lemon


Dairy:
8 oz. blocks of Swiss, Cheddar and Monterey Jack
Quart of buttermilk
8 oz. garlic and chive cream cheese
8 oz. plain cream cheese
8 oz. Parmesan cheese
1 carton of eggs
32 oz. plain Greek yogurt
16 oz. container of veggie dip


Shelf Items:
Hamburger buns
Loaf of French bread
1 carton beef stock
1 carton chicken stock
1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
small bag of sliced almonds
1 lb. dried spaghetti
1 pkg. dry ranch seasoning mix
1 pkg. dry taco seasoning mix
box of taco shells – 12 count
jar of salsa
1 lb. dry pinto beans
1-2 bags tortilla chips
bag/box of King’s Hawaiian buns
1/2 lb. whole wheat rotini noodles
bottle of taco sauce
bag of flour tortillas – 15 count
bag of frozen hash browns
small container of old-fashioned oatmeal
small container of steel cut oats
box of powdered cocoa


Pantry Staples: {should have most of this already in your home, if not, purchase}
sugar
white vinegar
garlic salt
onion powder
milk
instant yeast
Dijon mustard
garlic powder
dried oregano
dried basil
paprika
tin foil
maple syrup
cinnamon
peanut butter
vanilla extract
baking powder
shortening
soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
flour
dry mustard
hot sauce
unsalted butter
seasoned breadcrumbs
mayo
red wine vinegar
sesame oil
olive oil
brown sugar
red pepper flakes
cumin
cayenne
onion flakes
cornstarch


I've given you blank copies as well!  Feel free to print off as many as you'd like.
Click HERE to Print

Click HERE to Print
So...who is ready to do this?  Leave a comment and let me know if you'll be starting this meal plan, if you're on the fence or if you have questions!