Wednesday, December 30, 2009

January Menu Plan

Since committing to the Eat From The Pantry challenge, I have actually gotten excited about seeing how low we can go with our grocery budget this month. We have several things already prepared in our freezer and I have ingredients on hand to feed us healthy and flavorful meals all month. I will admit, yes, there's not as much variety as some months, but it's a challenge folks! We're out of town 4 days this month and will continue our weekly dinners at my parent's house also.

  • Chili and cornbread (2 times) - freezer
  • Beef stew with homemade bread - freezer
  • Chicken and corn chili with homemade tortilla strips (2 times) - freezer
  • Pork Chops with Raspberry Sauce, rice, broccoli
  • Creamy Ham Casserole, corn
  • Chicken & gravy over rice, corn
  • Chicken a la king over puff pastry, broccoli
  • BBQ pork (Boston butt), homemade mac and cheese, green beans
  • Pulled pork sandwiches, fries, coleslaw
  • Pork burritos with black bean salsa
  • Bean soup, homemade bread
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches and Quick Homemade Tomato Soup
  • Breakfast for dinner (2 times)
  • Baked pasta, green salad (2 times)
Baking, Freezer, Snacks:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eat From the Pantry

I am constantly amazed at the way God works in my life. I have been fretting a bit over cutting our expenses further as I may be facing some changes at work this year. Then, while trolling around my favorite blogs tonight, I saw this post at Amy's Finer Things. I followed the links and ended back at one my all time favorites, Money Saving Mom. I have followed Crystal of and on for several years and am always inspired. So, I could not pass up this challenge. If you want to join us, go visit Crystal at Money Saving Mom!

My Goals:
  • A complete inventory of 2 freezers, 2 refrigerators, and one big pantry
  • Cap our grocery budget for January at $50 per week. We are in need of some paper products from our local warehouse club, but I will work to source those items at the grocery and use coupons to our advantage.
  • Get rid of all the complete junk in our pantry - how does this accumulate so quickly over the holidays?
  • I have been doing monthly menu plans for a little over a year now. My continued goal is to refine them, reduce trips to the store, and overall increase nutrition while reducing cost.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Menu Plan - week of December 27

We shared a wonderful long weekend with our family celebrating Christmas. We have 3 days of laughter, fun, stories, food, and love to reflect on. Little man is home from school for one more week and I am looking forward to spending some time with him. We'll be visiting our favorite children's museum, driving a few hours to visit a friend with a new baby, having a fun filled all day playdate, and much more this week! Meals will be simple and easy to prepare this week. I would much rather spend time playing with our sweet little man than over the stovetop. What's cooking at your house this week? Go visit Laura for hundreds more menu ideas weekly!

Weeknight dinners:
  • Spaghetti and green salad
  • Chicken enchiladas with rice
  • Ham and bean soup, green chili cornbread
  • Beef barley soup (using leftover prime rib bones to make the stock), rolls
  • Chicken egg rolls and Asian slaw
Baking, Freezer, Snacks:
I did not get everything done from last week's list, so I will try to accomplish the following this week -

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tackling the Pantry

I have posted time and time again about keeping our pantry neat and organized. Yet, time and time again, I end up with this ...Yep, total CHAOS - half empty boxes, unlabeled bags of random things, food purchased because it was "such a deal" that has lingered far too long. Please tell me I'm not the only one! So ... I set about organizing and cleaning out. Snacks went into individual containers and then into the snack basket, baking supplies were transferred to the right bulk containers, 3 bags were filled to take to a needy family at church, and order was restored! See ...I'm off to make a cup of cocoa, now that I know where the cocoa mix is - 2nd shelf, left side, behind the gourmet popcorn!

This post is linked to:

Beer Cheese Soup with Sausage

My sweet hubby made this for dinner over the weekend and the house smelled amazing. We both kept sneaking into the kitchen and tasting it :) That's the sign of a great recipe- one you can't stay away from! He made a few changes from the original recipe his co-worker gave him. DH's variations are below.

12 oz mild Italian sausage - ground/bulk
2 stalks celery, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely diced
1 medium yellow onions, finely diced
2 russet potatoes, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch broccoli, diced into bite-sized pieces

2 sticks (1 cup) butter
2, 12 oz bottles lager style beer
4 C chicken stock

1/2 lb Velveeta cheese, cubed
2 C sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Garlic Powder
Hot sauce - we used Tabasco brand Chipotle flavor

1/3 cup butter, room temp
1/3 cup flour

1. Brown the sausage in a large stock pot
2. Remove sausage, do not drain pan. Add butter and melt. Add veggies and potatoes.
3. Saute veggies for about 8 minutes, until they begin to soften
4. Add beer, chicken stock, and add browned sausage back in
5. Bring to a rolling boil and add cheeses, slowly, stirring to melt
6. Add spices - I have no exact measurements on these. Just do it all to your taste. Start with a small amount and increase as needed, adjust heat to keep soup simmering
7. If needed to reach desired consistency, make a roux from the last portion of flour and butter. Add it in while soup is simmering, stirring constantly.


This post is linked to:
Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace

Monday, December 21, 2009

Menu Plan - Week of December 20

It's Christmas week!!! Little man is out of school for 2 weeks and I am so excited about spending time with him - watching movies, cooking and baking, visiting our favorite places in town, visiting friends and family. Somehow over the past 6 weeks, our house has been turned on it's head. So, I am certainly looking forward to some time to get things organized again. On to the food!

Weeknight Dinners:
  • Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, broccoli
  • Pork Chops with Raspberry Sauce, rice, creamed corn (company's coming for dinner)
  • Spaghetti with No-Knead Fococcia Bread
  • We'll be at DH's parent's house for Christmas Eve and then going to church. We will likely have leftovers late Christmas Eve after church.
  • We'll be at my parent's house for Christmas dinner. Dad and DH do standing rib roast / Prime Rib and mom and I will make potatoes and salad. I am also taking a Dark Chocolate Cherry Cobbler for dessert.
Baking, Breakfast, Freezer Re-stock:

I go through highs and lows when it comes to keeping a stocked freezer and pantry. The past few weeks, I have been neglecting this all important area. So, back to it this week!
What's cooking at your house this week?

This post is linked to:
Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mocha Chip Muffins

This seems to be the week for adaptations in our kitchen - trying to use what we have rather than head to the store...again! I found this recipe at Someone's In The Kitchen With Daddy. It sounded wonderful, but I wanted to make it a bit healthier - I used olive oil for part of the butter, mainly whole wheat flour, and used sour cream instead of the yogurt since I did not have the flavor required. My variation is below. Enjoy!

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

8 T butter, softened
2 T olive oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1.5 C sour cream mixed with 6 T instant coffee

1 heaping cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375, spray 16 muffin cups with non stick spray or use paper liners
2. Mix first 5 ingredients in a bowl
3. Cream butter, olive oil, and sugar until creamy
4. Add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Stop to scrape down sides a few times
5. Alternately add sour cream mix and dry ingredients, starting and ending with dry ingredients
6. Fold in chocolate chips
7. Scoop batter into muffin cups (I use an ice cream scoop), cups should be no more than 3/4 full
8. Bake in center of oven for 20-22 minutes

Creamy Ranch Pork Chops with Rice

This recipe has become one of or favorite comfort foods. It is an adaptation of this recipe found on Recipezaar. I am not a fan of condensed soups, so I try to make substitutions when they are called for.

4 boneless pork chops, cut 1 inch thick
salt and pepper
2 T olive oil
6 T butter, divided
1/4 cup + 2 T all purpose flour
8 oz mushrooms, fresh chopped or drained from a can in a pinch is fine
3 cups liquid (I use 2 cups milk, 1 cup chicken stock)
1 package dry ranch dressing mix

1. Heat oven to 350
2. Heat olive oil and 2 T butter in a large skillet
3. Season chops with salt and pepper and sear on both sides. They do not need to be cooked through, they are going into the oven also.
4. Transfer seared chops to 9x13 baking dish, set aside
5. Put remaining 4 T butter into skillet - do not drain or clean pan
6. If using fresh mushrooms, saute them in the butter
7. Add flour to skillet and cook 5 minutes until smooth and starting to brown
8. Add liquid and ranch mix, slowly, while whisking. If using canned mushrooms, add them now. Simmer until desired consistency. We like ours about the same as a gravy.
9. Pour sauce over chops and bake 15-20 minutes or until chops are cooked through.

I serve these with brown rice and broccoli. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Menu Plan - Week of December 13

Is it really less than 2 weeks until Christmas? WOW! Our season is staying busy as I am sure yours is too. We did not get to eat all the meals I had planned for last week, so there will be some repeats this week.

Sunday, December 13 -
B: Overnight Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
L: leftover soup - we have 2 kinds in the fridge to pick from
D: Chili with green chili cornbread

Weeknight Dinners -
For hundreds more menu plans each week, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Menu Plan - Week of Dec 7

This week will be busy for us as my dad is having surgery on Tuesday. I will be taking little man to the in-laws on Monday and staying with my mom all day Tuesday. DH has band practice Monday night, we have church on Wednesday, Christmas party at church on Friday, and are trying to stay available for mom and dad as the week goes on too. My meal plan for this week is a bit loose and has lots of flexibility built in. I have all the ingredients on hand for each of these recipes, so that's a relief.

The word of the Lord that I am holding strong to this week is from Proverbs: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." ~Proverbs 3:5-6

Weeknight Dinners:
  • Pinto beans in slow cooker with chopped peppers, onions, and rice
  • Chili with green chili cornbread
  • Toscano Soup in slow cooker with Italian Cheese Bread
  • Spaghetti with remaining bread
Head over and visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for hundreds more menu plans each week.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chocolate Coated Popcorn Mix

I don't have a name for this concoction yet, other than yummy! I was wanting to make a fancy popcorn mix for little man's preschool teachers for Christmas, but found that I did not have all the ingredients to make any of the recipes I found. So, I worked with what I had :) You can adjust all the ingredients as need - the main thing to have is the popcorn, something salty and something sweet. SO ... no peanuts, use pretzels or another type of salted nut. No chocolate chips - shame on you! - but you could use M&Ms or those mini Hershey kisses. No raisins or don't like them - leave them out or how about cranberries, or Raisinets? This is essentially a double batch, so adjust as needed. Enjoy!!

2 bags microwave popcorn without butter, popped and cooled
1 heaping cup of salted peanuts
1 bag of Heath Toffee Bits
1-1.5 C raisins
1-1.5 C semisweet chocolate chips

2 bags white chocolate chips
5 T shortening, divided 4 and 1
1 C semisweet chocolate chips

wax paper
BIG mixing bowls - I mean HUGE ones!!

1. Stir together 1st 5 ingredients in a BIG bowl - I used the inside part of a cake carrier. You need something really big. Spread wax paper or parchment on your largest table - ours is 60" and this mix almost covers it.
2. Combine 2 bags white chips and 4 T shortening in a microwave safe bowl (use plastic if you can to prevent scorching). Heat at 70% power in 1 minute intervals until smooth and all chips are melted.
3. Pour white chocolate over the mixture created in step 1 and roll up your sleeves! Get out a big spoon and start "folding" everything together until most pieces have some chocolate on them.
4. Pour out onto the wax paper. Mix a bit more by hand if you find all the toffee pieces have settled to the bottom and fall out in one big clump (ask me how I know this!).
5. Head back to the microwave and heat the semisweet chips and remaining 1 T shortening in 30 second intervals on 70% power until smooth.
6. Use a fork to scoop up, then shake and drizzle the dark chocolate over top of the mixture. Resist the urge to lick the bowl! By the way, I use the same bowl as I use for the white chocolate. Why make more dirty dishes than needed?
7. Let it sit for at least 2 hours, then break apart and either devour it yourself or package it for gifts.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Menu Plan

The plan for this month is to keep things quick, easy, and centered around things we love to eat. We'll also be preparing yummy treat boxes for a variety of people - preschool teachers, Sunday School teachers, our church staff, and our neighbors. I have several ideas in mind that can be made in advance and are simple - mocha mix, Peppermint Bark Popcorn, fudge, Frosted Pecans - I'm still looking for more!

* denotes slow cooker recipe