Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dinner Plan

I thought I'd try posting my dinner plan, recipes included, as an incentive for me to actually get it planned so I'm not wondering at the last second what we're having for dinner. And this is is for Adrienne too :) I thought I'd try a few new recipes each week too, so this will be an adventure.
This will be a pretty long post, but only b/c I'm including recipes. Don't be intimidated!! Here are some cooking tips that help me to not be intimidated by cooking:

*Always read through the whole recipe first. It's horrible when you just start something only to realize that you needed to have something else cooked first, then all the timing is thrown off, blah blah blah.

*Prep everything that needs to be prepped. Small little bowls are a great investment. I'll measure out all my spices and combine them if the recipe calls for it. If I need flour to thicken a sauce, I'll have some already out in a bowl. Make sure cans of beans or tomatoes are drained (if needed), or chicken and veggies are already cut up.

*Invest in a GREAT digital meat thermometer. I got one where I work, and without my discount I think it was only $18. SO WORTH IT. It is so nice to be able to cook my meat without worrying if it's safe. Meat and chicken tastes SO much better when it's not overcooked and dry for fear of it not being "done" all the way.

If there's any other "cooking" thing that makes it hard for you to get things done in the kitchen, let me know and I'll try to help!

Sunday (today): Tostadas
fat free refried beans, warmed
lean ground beef, cooked, extra fat drained off
tomatoes, lettuce, avocadoes, olives, chopped
cheese, shredded
taco seasoning, optional

Monday: Chicken Tortilla Soup (cut recipe in half for small families or make the whole thing-leftovers taste great)
3 chicken breasts
1 c. chopped onion
1 chopped green bell pepper
2 cloved garlic, minced
2 TBSP oil
2-14 oz. cans stewed tomatoes
2-15 oz. cans beans (pinto, kidney, black)
2/3 - 3/4 c. Pace Picante sauce (or other salsa, if preferred)
1-14 oz. can chicken broth (low sodium is healthier)
1 tsp. chili pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
tortilla chips and cheese, for serving
Cut chicken into 1" cubes. In large pot cook chicken in oil along with onion, pepper and garlic till done. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer 20 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips and cheese (optional).

Tuesday: Flank Steak with melon relish (new recipe-serves 8)
1 large cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and diced
1 medium red onion, diced
1 c. parsley, chopped
1/2 c. fresh mint, chopped
2 TBSP white balsamic (or cider) vinegar --I'll probably use regular balsamic
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
3 lb flank steaks AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
2 tsp. sea salt (or kosher salt)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Toss cantaloupe, onion, parsley, mint, vinegar, and oil in a bowl. Set aside. Season flank steaks on both sides with salt and pepper. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. Heat a grill, grill pan, or large skillet over high heat. Cook 5-8 minutes on each side for medium rare, 8-10 minutes per side for medium, 10-12 for welldone. Remove from heat and allow to rest on a clean cutting board for 5-7 minutes. Cut diagonally into 1/8 inch thick slices and transfer to a platter. Spoon half the relish on top, serve remaining relish on the side.
*I thought this would taste good on a salad or with a salad as a side. Maybe even some grilled or roasted veggies.

Wednesday: Chicken Tacos
this is what I posted about previously-grilled chicken on corn tortillas with a fresh salsa and avocado.

Thursday: Homemade Mac & Cheese (new recipe-serves 8)
I usually have one night a week with a "comfort" type food, and this is it!

6 TBSP unsalted butter
salt and pepper
1 lb. medium pasta shells (I'll be using whole wheat)
3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. dry mustard powder
4 c. whole milk (I'll be trying lower fat...hopefully it works!)
4 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated (1 cup)
4 ounces Harvati cheese, grated (1 cup)--I'll use Fontina cheese
4 ounces Muenster cheese, grated (1 cup)
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
6 slices white sandwich bread (I'll use whole wheat) or 3 cups coarse bread crumbs
*not in the recipe, but I'm going to add a little bit of cooked chicken, and also a little bit of grated Parmesan with the bread crumbs for the topping. I wanted to try this b/c I tried some white cheddar the other day and LOVED it, so here's a way to use it!
Preheat to 400. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Butter a 9x13 baking dish.
Salt boiling water and add pasta, cook until 2 minutes short of al dente, drain and return to pot.
While pasta is cooking, melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Transfer 2 TBSP melted butter to a small bowl (for topping). Add flour and mustard powder to remaining butter and cook, whisking, 1 minute-do not let flour darken. Whisk in milk, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce is thickened, 2-3 minutes.
Remove sauce from heat and gradually whisk in cheeses; add worcestershire sauce and season generously with salt and pepper. Add sauce to pasta and toss to combine. Transfer to the baking dish.
Place bread in food processor and pulse to create coarse crumbs. Add reserved melted butter and pulse to moisten. Scatter crumbs over pasta in baking dish. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate up to 1 day)
Place dish on rimmed baking sheet and bake until topping is golden and sauce is bubbling, 15-20 minutes (30-35 if it was refrigerated). Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Friday: Frozen meal-I'm babysitting for a friend at 5, so Dave's on his own for that one. Maybe it'll end up being pancakes or cereal :) But I usually try to have a small frozen lasagna or some other frozen meal on hand for days like this.

Saturday: Grilled chicken w/strawberry peach salsa (new recipe-serves 4)
1 large lemon
3 tsp. honey
2 tsp. minced garlic
3 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4-4oz. chicken breasts
2 c. diced strawberries
2 ripe medium peaches, peeled and diced
1/4 c. minced red onion
1/2 c. diced red bell pepper
2 tsp. minced jalapeno
Preheat grill or broiler. Zest lemon to make about 1 tsp; set aside. Juice lemon to make 4 TBSP. In a shallow bowl combine 2 TBSP lemon juice, 1 tsp. honey, garlic, 1 1/2 tsp oil, salt, and pepper. Add chicken, coat both sides, and let sit.
In a medium bowl combine strawberreis, peaches, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, lemon zest, and remaining lemon juice, honey, and let sit.
Remove chicken from marinade (discard marinade). If using grill, place chicken on lightly oiled grill rack. If using broiler, set chicken on nonstick broiler pan and place rack 4 inches from heat. Cook 2-3 minutes per side or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 170. Divide chicken and salsa among 4 plates and serve.
*I thought this is another one that would be good with salad.

Sunday: Roast and potatoes! I usually only do this one about once every 2-3 months. Roast was on sale the other day, so I picked one up.
Everyone does their roasts differently. Here's what I do:
3 lb. Chuck roast (NOT rump roast)
Place the roast in a metal 9x13 pan, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, place 2-3 bay leaves on top of the roast, add 1 cup water. Cover with foil and bake in 325 degrees for about 3 hours.
Serve with mashed potatoes, veggies, salad, and gravy, if you like it :) I don't like gravy. I know, I'm weird. This size roast should feed about 6-8 people, depending on serving sizes.

Monday: Steak fajitas
This is another recipe I just make up as I go along.
1 lb. steak cut into small strips-for convenience sake, I usually buy the kind that's already cut up in little strips-but I'll only buy it if I have something planned for it.
soy sauce
lime juice
lemon juice
green, red, yellow bell peppers, cut into thin strips
onion, cut into rings
In a ziploc bag, combine about 1/4 cup of soy sauce, a couple tablespoons each of lemon and lime juice, and mince a couple garlic cloves-and when I say mince here, I mean use a garlic press so the juices are crushed out into the marinade. Add the steak and let marinade for about 30 minutes on the counter.
Cut up all the veggies. When cooking garlic, cut it up with a knife instead of mincing it with a garlic won't burn as quickly.
Heat a skillet to high heat. Add about a teaspoon of olive oil. When the pan is hot add the steak (you can pull it out of the marinade or throw everything in the pan) and cook quickly. Put the cooked steak in a bowl and pour all the extra juice/marinade into the sink and clean the pan out with a paper towel. Add a little water to the pan and put it back on the heat. Add the onions first, let them cook for a bit, then add the peppers, then the garlic last. I like my veggies somewhat crispy, so I don't let them cook for long. If you like yours mushier, turn the heat down so the garlic doesn't burn and let them cook a little while longer.
When your veggies are about done, add the steak back into the pan and heat through.
Warm up your tortillas, add the steak/veggie combo, and top with avocado and cheese. Some also like sour cream and all that other stuff, so add it if you like!

So, then, to make my shopping list I just write down all the ingredients, cross off what I already have, then sort them according to my store layout. My grocery store trips are pretty fast when I do this!

If you try any of the new recipes, let me know what you think of them!

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I saw this idea from this site and got to work last night! I made one for Emma's teachers at school and one for Emma's dance teacher (if you notice, her's has a little metal word "dance" on it), then one for our girls, and then one for Christmas! I think that'll be another elf's way of talking to the girls. We'll still use the elf shoe, but we'll use the mailbox too. I KNEW there had to be something great to do with those mailboxes from the dollar spot at Target! I LOVE TARGET!

I started my training this week at the gym. For those who I haven't bragged about it to yet, I got 14 half hour training sessions for $150!!! WAHOO! I looked into it before and they were sooooo pricey. I love our gym. Apparently when we joined we should have gotten 4 half hour sessions, but we never did them, then we should have been offered an introductory rate for training, which we weren't...or at least, we weren't aware of anything. So, almost a year later, they gave me everything. I was all ready to purchase 5 half hour sessions for $120...then SURPRISE! I'm okay with cardio stuff, but when it comes to strength training I'm clueless. So she's been writing down all the things we do, and if we use a machine she's writing down my seat levels and the amount of weight, just so I can remember everything when I do it on my own! That's one of the biggest problems for me-someone shows me something, then the next time I try it, I can't remember the correct form or anything. She's showing me which muscle groups to work out together, and it's also nice to have a little voice reminding me while working out that I need to tighten my abs :) She's been commenting on how nice my form is for someone who hasn't ever done this stuff before, so that makes me feel better about myself! So I'm a little sore, but at least my knees, back, and wrists aren't hurting, which was always another problem I had before when I was trying things on my own. WAHOO!

I haven't been doing too well on recipes stuff. I was talking to a friend and realized that I'm trying so hard to try new recipes that I've just forgotten all the old ones that I liked and could rely on in a pinch. So my next goal is to go through ALL my stash and type up all the tried and true healthy recipes. IF YOU HAVE ANY TO INCLUDE, SEND THEM MY WAY! Once I pull everything together in a document, I can email it to you, if you want. But how about have to include a recipe in order to get the document! :) It might take a little while to get this done (there's quite a bit on my plate at the moment), but I WILL get it done. Adrienne also suggested that I put together my weekly menu and post it. When I get organized this weekend I just might do that. Incentive to actually get it planned :)