Archive for the ‘Food & Recipes’ Category

M is for Menu Planning

I started planning weekly menus just over a year ago, about when I started this blog.  It has been SUCH a good decision for our family.  I have managed to gather together a collection of recipes that we love and a few easy recipes for those tough days.  I rarely spend the afternoons wondering what is for dinner that night.  I save money by stocking up on items that we often use when they are on sale, and we (generally) eat more nutritiously.

You can find menu plans for most of last year on this blog… and menu plans from January on at my other blog — Melody’s Menus.  It hasn’t been updated in the past few weeks either… but it still has some recipes that we love on it.  I’ve been a little burned out on menu planning lately… but I am excited that May 1 marks the opening of the Farmer’s Market here.  I can’t wait for summer produce and meals where supper is just whatever meat we found at a good price and lots of fresh vegetables!  (And I am even happier that I can look back and see what recipes I used last summer and make them again!)

Top Recipe Finds of 2010

I was going for 10 but had to expand it!  No particular order… because I am not *that* organized!

My Canadian Friend’s Bean Soup — Super easy & yummy.  I’ve made with canned beans and dried beans (FYI: 2 pounds of great northern beans makes just over 5 cups… you need 5 cups to make up 3 cans of beans), hot italian sausage or sweet italian sausage… it’s all good!  If you’re watching sodium, then cook up some dried beans in the crockpot instead of canned… and buy no salt added diced tomatoes and add your own basil.

Sloppy Joes II — Two of my goals in doing menu planning were to find recipes for those nights I needed something quick and to cut back on more processed foods.  This recipe does both.  We use ground turkey or ground beef… both are good.  Use Hunt’s ketchup with no HFCS… or if you are really going the no processed food route, I suppose you could make your own.

Southwest Turkey Burgers — These are even easier than the Sloppy Joes…

Shrimp Alfredo — no, real alfredo sauce doesn’t have cream cheese.  I don’t care if it tastes this good (and not *too* bad for you either!)

Bev’s Better for You Chocolate Chip Cookies — slightly better for you… and we prefer these to regular Toll House now.  In fact, we are leaving some out for Santa!

Honey Roasted Carrots — okay, maybe for some this is just common sense… but they are really good!

Eggplant Parmesan — peeled, diced and made into a casserole instead of stuffed.  Yum!

Honey Wheat Sandwich Rolls — Part 1 of rediscovering my bread maker.  I have to confess I usually still buy buns from the store because this makes so much more than we can use at once… but these are still really good!

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix — because sometimes you just need a chocolate fix

Peppermint Meltaways — Our of the finds from holiday baking…

Bacon Jack Chicken — which I haven’t posted a recipe for, but it basically chicken seasoned with seasoning salt and cooked up with mushrooms, onions and bacon — covered with pepperjack cheese.  It is healthier than it sounds, really.  (And good even without the bacon).

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus — as easy as it sounds.  Yum!

Parmesan Chicken Nuggets — these are amazing, that is really all there is to say!

Tomato Green Bean Soup — good with fresh or frozen veggies, we’ve tried both ways.


Menu Planning 12/27-1/2

Linking up with again for menu planning!

Monday: leftovers from Christmas dinner
Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday: a ham & cheese quiche slightly resembling this one, white beans & ham, dinner out with a friend
Friday: taking snacks to a New Year’s Eve party… haven’t figured out what yet!
Saturday: my little boy’s birthday, so his choice
Sunday: leftovers

I have to share some baking successes from the past week too.  I made up some homemade peppermint marshmallows to pair with hot cocoa mix for Christmas presents, and some peppermint meltaways to share at Christmas dinners.  Both turned out amazingly well and I was very impressed that my first foray into candy-making was a success!  The peppermint mocha truffles were also a huge success and will definitely be returning next year.

Stay tuned for a round-up of my favorite recipe finds of 2010…sometime this week!

French Onion Soup

This is a recipe modified from this one on  It is SO quick and easy… the hardest part is cutting up the onions!


1/4 cup butter (or olive oil, if you must)

3-4 medium onions, sliced thinly (Vidalia if you can find them)

1 tsp sugar

Large dash Worcestershire sauce (a couple of shakes)

1 TBSP flour

3 cans beef broth (14 oz cans)

1/2 cup red wine (we used a merlot)

Swiss cheese (2% works great)

French bread


Melt butter in saucepan.  Add sugar and onions.  Saute onions on medium until they are softened; continue cooking until they are caramelized (golden brown).  Add in Worcestershire sauce.  Add in flour to onions.  Stir in red wine and beef broth.  Heat to boiling and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until ready to serve.

While soup is simmering, toast slices of bread in a 325 degree oven 10 minutes or until browned.

Ladle soup into ovenproof bowls, top with toasted bread and cheese and place under broiler until cheese is melted.   If you don’t have ovenproof bowls, you can also just top the soup with bread and put cheese on top to melt.

Makes 8 cups.

Monday Menu Plan 12/13-12/19

Linking up with again for menu planning! Scroll down for some holiday baking ideas too!

Monday: Sloppy Joes & mac and cheese (It’s guys night, I’m heading out to a book club, spaghetti and homemade brownies!) 🙂
Tuesday: Parmesan Chicken, mashed potatoes, green peas
Wednesday: French Onion Soup with French Bread

Thursday: Leftover Buffet (and since I am not cooking, I’m making the rice for fried rice on Saturday, does that count as cooking?) 🙂
Friday: Bacon Tomato Cappellini — new recipe for us!
Saturday: Chinese Chicken Fried Rice II, broccoli, fortune cookies — new recipe for us!
Sunday: Leftover Buffet

It is definitely time for holiday baking as well. We’ve already made Double-Decker fudge. I need to make one more thing for a party this week and am thinking of trying out these peppermint mocha truffles that I came across a month or so ago. We’ll definitely be making my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe for Santa (and enough for us to eat as well, as my little boy pointed out when I was talking of making them for Santa) 🙂 . I’m sure we’ll make some sugar cookies or some other easy and fun to decorate cookie too. (I’m open to suggestions on that one! Any cookies your kids have loved to make over the years?).

What’s cooking at your house this week?

Southwest Turkey Burgers

I got this from a random comment thread on another site I frequent… and love it because it is SO quick and easy!

1 pound ground turkey (I use the 19.2 oz package from Kroger or Aldi)
1 small (4 oz) can diced green chilies
1/2 pack taco seasoning (or use homemade — 1 use 2 TBSP of this one for the 19.2 oz package of turkey)

Mix all together, form into 4 patties and cook. I grill on the George Foreman.

Serve with toppings of your choice… my favorite way is adding pepperjack cheese, tomatoes and avocado and serving on a whole wheat bun.

Menu Plan Monday 12/6-12/12

Monday: Cheesy Chicken & Rice with broccoli

Tuesday: Southwest Turkey Burgers with homemade tortilla chips (and store-bought salsa) — recipe to come

Wednesday:  Bean Soup (using homemade beans this time, so I hope it turns out okay!) with Beer Bread

Thursday: Steak Fajitas with black beans

Friday: Breakfast for dinner — pancakes for now!

Saturday: White Beans and Cornbread

Sunday: Leftover Buffet or the rest of the chicken tortilla soup from the freezer

Go visit to see even more great recipes and meal plans!

Menu Plan Monday 11/22-11/28/2010

Short week with basically no cooking involved.  I’ll make banana bread at some point because I have some bananas that need it… besides that, massively easy week.

Monday: Spaghetti with leftover spaghetti sauce from the freezer and Italian Pinwheel Rolls
Tuesday: Baked Potato Bar (with leftover chili or whatever people want to throw on from the fridge)
Wednesday: dinner on the road
Thursday-Saturday: hanging out with family for Thanksgiving and I am not cooking! 🙂
Sunday: leftover Chicken Tortilla soup (from the freezer)

Be sure to visit for more weekly menu plans!

Monday Menu Planning 11/15-11/21/2010

Linking up with OrgJunkie again for menu planning! Last week was hectic and we ate out more than expected… plus that Chicken Tortilla soup made enough (good) food to last us most of this week! We’ll probably eat it for lunches and maybe freeze some. Here’s the plan for this week:

Monday: Baked Mozarella Chicken Spaghetti (using up some leftover spaghetti noodles from last week — recipe to come!)
Tuesday: Country Supper (carryover from last week)
Wednesday: leftovers
Thursday: Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas with black beans (new recipe from Food on the Table menu planning resource — Go check it out!
Friday: Date Night 🙂
Saturday: Tomato Green Bean Soup with some kind of homemade bread
Sunday: leftovers

Quick and easy week!

It is Friday night…

and I am organizing my spices. Isn’t my life exciting?

I suppose I should say I am attempting to organize my spices. Here’s the dilemma: I have 40+ spices (most of which I use on a fairly regular basis). I have a tiny kitchen cabinet to keep them in, plus a spice carousel on the counter. They take up over 2 shelves. I can reach about 1 1/2 of those shelves (one of the joys of being 5’1″!).  Did I mention that these shelves are 12″ deep and 14″ wide (yes, I just measured).  So far, the best option seems to be the Spice Stack.

Ugh. So… anyway… here’s the list of my essential spices, should you be interested in starting to cook or stocking up. If you *are* just starting out with experimenting with your own cooking, I highly recommend McCormick’s Recipe Inspirations so you don’t end up buying a jar of spices that you don’t like.

Essential Spices:

  • basil
  • chili powder
  • cinnamon, ground
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • garlic salt (though I am thinking surely there is some way to make this from garlic powder?)
  • marjoram
  • nutmeg (apparently this is essential, since I have 3 containers of it!)
  • onion powder (good for making your own spice combos and rubs)
  • oregano
  • paprika
  • parsley (unless you have a greener thumb than I and can grow fresh… yum!)
  • rosemary
  • salt, popcorn (it is finer than regular salt and works better for homemade tortilla chips!)
  • salt, sea (we use instead of table salt)
  • salt, seasoning (it is a wonder that I manage to keep sodium as low as I do!)
  • Mrs. Dash 🙂
  • thyme

Not so essential, but nice to have on hand:

  • bay leaves (I use them for soups)
  • cayenne pepper (quick and easy way to add heat)
  • onions, minced
  • poppy seeds (for poppyseed chicken — yum!)


  • Cinnamon sticks (used for potpourri… I need to post that recipe!)
  • Cloves
  • Ginger, ground
  • Cream of tartar (used for meringue here)
  • Sage

Skip it (links to make your own from other spices)

So… if nothing else, I’ve managed to inventory my spices and put my substitutions links all in one post.
I guess I should be thankful that my life is boring enough at the moment that I can devote time to researching ways to store spices?  And that I can appear to be organized?  Trust me, this post makes me seem so much more into organization than I actually am!  I do think I could save quite a bit of time if I didn’t have to drag a chair over to the cabinet to reach the second shelf of spices, and then remove 28 spices before finding the one I need.  I guess I also need to be thankful for a husband who doesn’t think I am completely loony for organizing spices on a Friday night, much less blogging about them (he is happily occupied watching TV at the moment).
Feel free to comment if I missed something you find essential or if you have any suggestions!