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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Menu Plan 12.0

The weekly menu plan is back….. at long last!

Week 12:

SundaySlow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings.  If you have not made this before and you have a slow cooker, you HAVE to try this.  It is a perfect cold weather easy dinner.  Notes: 1. I use chicken broth in place of water. and 2. I cut the biscuits into smaller pieces (4 to 6 pcs. per biscuit), otherwise they come out a bit doughier than we like.  

Monday–  Holiday Fiesta Quesadillas.  This recipe by Ree Drummond looks amazing.  I have not made this recipe yet, but I will be making this next Monday.  I will post feedback on the recipe afterwards on my Facebook page.

Tuesday Beef Tips.  This recipe from All Recipes is a great mid-week recipe.  We try not to each much red meat, so I only make this occasionally.  The only thing that I change is that I omit the tsp of salt.  This recipe has enough salt as is.  Serve with egg noodles.

Wednesday– Mandarin Orange Chicken.  Not every night can be a ‘made from scratch’ night.  We (the boys included) love Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken.  I steam rice in the rice cooker, heat the chicken in the oven and once in awhile we will also make the Trader Joe’s egg rolls to go with it.

Thursday– Marinated Grilled Shrimp.  This is such a fantastic easy meal.  Now that it’s colder, I use my grill pan on the stove.  The results are nearly the same as using an outdoor grill.  Serve with angel hair pasta (w/olive oil and garlic salt), garlic bread and a salad.  Easy.  Easy. Dinner.

Friday– Fun Friday!  Go out to dinner.  Eat frozen pizza.  Just take it easy.  It’s the end of the week, you deserve a break!!

Saturday–  Pretzel Crusted Chicken Breasts.  This recipe is a Rachel Ray recipe that I have adapted.  This is such a great variation of a typical bread crumb coated chicken breast.  A couple of notes:  1.  I did not use thyme in the pretzel crumb mixture (just didn’t have any on hand and I didn’t miss it). 2. I used olive oil to fry in vs. vegetable oil.  I get that oil is oil but I just prefer olive oil because it seems so much better for you. Who knows? 3. I don’t make the cheddar mustard sauce.  If you have the time, I say have at it.  I had honey mustard sauce on hand so we just used that and saved a little time.  I have made this a few times.  We love it!  For a fun variation, I used the pumpernickel pretzels from Trader Joes the second time that I made it.  Serve with mashed potatoes and corn.  Yummy comfort food with a twist! 🙂

The link below is to a printable grocery list that you can check off what you need and add what I’ve left off the list.  Hope this helps streamline your grocery store trips! The goal is for you to go to the store ONCE this week. Save time. Save $$.

Grocery List Template

and as always, here is your menu planning template to print out, write your menu and stick on your fridge.

Menu Planning Template

Happy cooking!

Holiday Cooking 4.0 (Desserts!!)

At long last, we are ONE day away from Thanksgiving!! I hope that you are all ready, the turkey is thawed and you are ready to cook! I didn’t want to end my Thanksgiving tips and tricks week without a blog about desserts.

So here goes…. here are my a few of my favorite recipes (click on the recipe name to get to the recipe):

1. Pumpkin Pie! Of course pumpkin pie has to be at the top of the list! This is, by far, my favorite pumpkin pie recipe! This recipe, from AllRecipes is for a classic pumpkin pie. The only change that I make is that I omit the ginger (not a fan) and add a little pumpkin spice seasoning. I love an intense pumpkin flavor. Top with whip cream! Delicious!

2. Pecan Pie What would a Thanksgiving be without a good pecan pie. I like the recipe (from the Pioneer Woman) because it is a traditional pumpkin pie. No bells. No whistles. Just good old-fashioned pecan pie. and really do we need an extravagant pecan pie??

3. Butter Cake.. My Mom loved to make this recipe! I do attempt to make this at least once a year. It is tough. It takes work. If the pumpkin cake cracks when rolling, I usually just use the frosting to help cover it. You want to roll very slow. If you can pull this off though, it looks very impressive. 🙂

4. Butter Cake .  Aaahh. Butter cake. Gooey yummy butter cake. This is one of Paula Deen‘s best recipes. If you have not ever had this, you simply have to make this. Wow. I do not alter this recipe in any way. Really not sure what else to say. Cook it!

5. Waldorf Salad Waldorf salad seems to be an acquired taste but I love it!! This is my basic tried and true recipe. A dessert table without a bowl of Waldorf salad just seems incomplete.

6. Apple Pie – Okay, I know I should include an apple pie recipe but I just don’t dig apple pie. I don’t want to lead you astray. I can’t recommend a recipe that I haven’t tried. So…if you have an apple pie recipe that you would like to share, please do.

Also, I found THE best step by step directions to the perfect pie crust on the Pioneer Woman’s site. Click on the link below for tips on how to make the perfect crust. There are even pictures for every step.

Perfect Pie Crust

This is just a sampling of the many, many desserts that are perfect for Thanksgiving but I need to end this short and get baking. Oh wait, we are at a water park right now. No baking for me today. Just water slides 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!!

Holiday Cooking 3.0 (Side Dishes!)

Happy ‘almost’  Thanksgiving!  The count down to Thanksgiving continues.  Today’s blog is focused on the often pushed to the side but NEVER overlooked side dish.  Raise your hand if you could eat a whole plate of sides and ditch the Turkey… I’m typing with one hand now. 🙂   Here are a few of my favorite side dishes.  I love these recipes because they comfort, they aren’t complex and remind me of a traditional Thanksgiving filled with familiarity.  I just don’t like to venture to outside the norm on this day of all days.

  1. Scalloped Corn – I love a simple recipe sometimes.  I am a proponent of mixing complex recipes with the more simple recipes so that I’m not losing my mind doing twelve things at once.  This recipe from allrecipes has very few ingredients, very little prep time and is always a crowd pleaser.   ***Note-I do leave out the sugar.  This recipe just doesn’t need it.  Especially if you are using a boxed corn bread such as Jiffy.  In my opinion, there is enough sugar already in boxed corn bread.
  2. Mashed Potatoes – Ok, so we all know how to make mashed potatoes, right??  Well, there are mashed potatoes and there are MASHED POTATOES.  This recipe from the Pioneer Woman is crazy good.  Sooooo unhealthy .. I mean filled with the yummiest of ingredients.  Wow.  Really.  All I can say is wow.
  3. Stuffing –  This recipe from is one of my favorites because I love a stuffing recipe that includes sausage and yummy fall spices like sage and thyme.    This takes a bit of prep work but is worth every second!
  4. Creamed Spinach – This recipe makes me feel like maybe I’m getting something green and healthy on Thanksgiving.  Although it is doused in so much creaminess that I’m sure it’s being canceled out but let’s not talk about that. 🙂
  5. Sweet Potato Casserole – This allrecipe recipe is so decadent that every time I eat it, I question if it should be a side dish or a dessert.  It is truly like eating a yummy dessert.  I ALWAYS go back for second helpings of this and there is never any left after everyone has gone home.  I don’t make any changes to this recipe.
  6. Cheesy Potatoes – This is the ultimate in comfort food.   This recipe was given to me by my bestie. Crazy easy.  I do heat the potatoes in the microwave for about 10 minutes before mixing with the other ingredients and if you really want to get crazy, top the casserole with corn flakes to add a little crunch.

Good grief.  I need to get the gym quick.  I need to bank about 3,000 calories for Thursday.  Is that possible?  🙂

Stay tuned!  Tomorrow’s blog… Desserts!!

Holiday Cooking 2.0 (Turkey Talk)

Holiday Cooking 2.0 (Turkey Talk)

Happy ‘almost’  Thanksgiving!  Some important blogs coming your way as we get countdown to Thanksgiving.  Today’s blog is about all things Turkey.

Turkey Tips:

  • De-Ice Ice Baby (I’m such a dork)  – Hopefully you are thawing your turkey right now.  If not, stop reading immediately and start thawing that thing.  It takes about three days to fully thaw a turkey.
  • To brine or not to brine–  I personally think that if you have the time to brine, you should.  If you have about 24 hours before Thanksgiving and your turkey is thawed, I recommend this step for a tender, flavorful turkey.

How to Brine a Turkey (Martha Stewart)

  • A Cheesecloth?  What’s that?  My former assistant buyer, who is an amazing cook, enlightened me a few years ago to the wonder of a cheesecloth. (Thanks Ashley!)   If you want that golden brown, perfectly cooked turkey sitting on your table on Thanksgiving, then I highly recommend you try a cheesecloth this year.  Click the link below for how to use a cheesecloth.

How to use Cheesecloth (Martha Stewart).

  • Basting/Brushing – Whether or not you decide to you use a turkey baster or a basting brush seems to be personal preference.  The goal is the same.  To keep the juices on the turkey as opposed to at the bottom of the pan.  You need to commit to this though.  You need to commit to getting up and basting/brushing the pan juices every 30-45 minutes and you need to do it QUICKLY.  Every time you open the oven you are releasing the heat and altering the temperature of the turkey. If you can’t move at the speed of light, remove the turkey from the oven, shut the door, baste and then return to oven.  Remember, the goal is to prevent the oven temperature from dropping.  The link below is to a video on how to baste.

How to Baste a Turkey (Epicurious)

  • Watch the temperature, will ya?? – For safety reasons, it is very important to monitor the temperature of the turkey to ensure that you don’t UNDERcook. For yumminess reasons, you need to monitor the temperature so that you don’t OVERcook it. I don’t recommend relying on the little temperature gauge that sometimes comes with the turkey.  By the time that pops, you usually have overcooked your turkey.  Thermometers have come a long way in the past few years.  While I do like the standard read thermometers, it still requires you open the oven to check the temperature guage.  Again, releasing the heat.  If you can spend a little, I recommend getting a wireless thermometer.  You can get a pretty decent one for @$20-$25 at most major retailers (Target, Walmart, Meijer, Macy’s).  You want to make sure that you place the probe in the thickest part of the thigh because it takes longer to cook than anything else. You want to reach the ideal safe temp of 165 degrees.

Wireless Thermometer

  • The Conundrum– While you need to work tirelessly to keep the turkey from drying out on top, you also need to make sure that the bottom isn’t sitting in a pool of juices.   You should always use some sort of roasting rack to keep the turkey up and out of the drippings.  Another fun tool that I found this year is from a company called Prepara.  It is called a roasting laurel.   Click the link below for more info.

Prepara Roasting Laurel

Prepara Roasting Laurel

  • At long last – A few last tips, use turkey lifters to lift the turkey out of the roasting pan if you do not have a roasting rack.  You have worked so hard on this thing, don’t ruin the beauty of it by using forks or something equally inappropriate for the size of your turkey.  Lifters are meant for just this and are quite cheap. ($7.99 for a set of two and Bed Bath and Beyond).  Also, remember to use a very sharp knife or electric knife to carve.

Tomorrow’s blog?  Side Dishes!  I love Thanksgiving sides!!   Check back tomorrow for a few of my favorite tried and true recipes!

and remember if you run into a Turkey cooking emergency, the experts are always available.

Butterball Website



Holiday Cooking 1.0 (Appetizers)

Happy ‘almost’  Thanksgiving!  As with the Halloween recipes that I posted last month, I am continuing my quest for a tasty Holiday season for all of you.  Today we are going to start at the beginning…. Appetizers.

  1. Jalepeno Popper Dip– This recipe is soooo good, easy and can be made ahead of time.  Need I say more? Well, sort of…  **note I put this in my mini-crockpot to keep warm and have served with pita chips and tortilla chips.  Both were equally good.  Well, any chip/cracker will really just end up serving as a vehicle for this amazing little dip.  They don’t matter.  Just the dip. 🙂
  2. Fruit Salsa – This recipe is one of the top apps on All Recipes.  Every single time that I have made this, someone has asked me for the recipe.  It is always a hit.  It is a fresh, lighter than most other appetizers, recipe.  You could tailor this recipe to fit whatever fruits are in season but I don’t usually deviate too much from the recipe.  Also, this recipe does call for making your own cinnamon tortilla chips.  It’s simply not worth the effort for me personally.  I buy Stacy’s Cinnamon Pita Chips and they work perfectly.  (**note- more often than not, Stacy’s pita chips are somewhere in or near the produce section.  They are rarely in the chip aisle)
  3. Goat Cheese with Fresh Dill – Two steps.  Done and done.  I adore goat cheese.  I especially adore this recipe by The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.  I love this recipe because you really need to balance easy and complex appetizers so that you aren’t going crazy trying to do too much.  This for sure falls into the ‘easy’ category.
  4. Mini Florentine Cups – This is a simple, cheap recipe from Kraft.  I made this years ago and it’s always a hit.
  5. Caprese Appetizer – Love, love, love Carprese in general.  Love the portability of these.  You and your guests (note that I said ‘you’, you need to enjoy your yummy appetizers too!).  Again, another easy recipe that you don’t have to spend a ton of time on but looks like you did.  🙂
  6. Individual Seven-Layer Dips – I haven’t made these yet but saw them on Pinterest and thought they were brilliant!

Menu Plan 11.0

Week 11:

SundayFour Cheese Baked Penne – This recipe (by Ellie Krieger) takes a bit of prep work and cook time so I would recommend this recipe for those of you that enjoy cooking, being in the kitchen and have some extra time on the weekend, this recipe is worth every minute.   

Monday–  Slow Cooker Pulled Pork – This is another great recipe for pulled pork.  I was very skeptical about using root beer but this turned out wonderfully as is.  Serve with Sweet Potato fries or Tater Tots and frozen corn for an easy Monday night dinner!

Tuesday– Simply Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas – This is such a delicious mid-week recipe.  Serve with black beans and rice.  So easy!

WednesdayThe Best Parmesan Chicken Bake – This is great hearty, mid-week recipe.  I use chicken tenders instead of full chicken breasts for a slightly quicker cook time.  Serve with garlic bread and salad.  So good.  

Thursday– Creamy Tomato Soup with Baked Mozzarella Balls – Aaaaahhh.. So good.  If I am in a pinch for time though, I use pre-made roasted red pepper soup (you can buy at Trader Joes or Aldi’s).  I make grilled cheese for the boys to go with this.  Such a great cold weather dinner!  Serious Note **If you do make your soup homemade, only fill your blender @1/4 full at a time to blend.  Hot liquids expand when blended. It can overflow and you risk burning yourself **

Friday– Salmon with Lentils. This recipe by Ina Garten is fantastic!  I love lentils in general so I gravitated towards this recipe immediately upon seeing the title.   A couple of modifications that I make:  I like to use the red lentils from Trader Joes, I omit celery (not a fan), I use store-bought chicken stock (works fine), and I use green onions vs. leeks (no real difference, just personal preference).  

Saturday–  Date night!! (or so I hope) 🙂

The link below is to a printable grocery list that you can check off what you need and add what I’ve left off the list.  Hope this helps streamline your grocery store trips! The goal is for you to go to the store ONCE this week. Save time. Save $$.

Grocery List Template

and as always, here is your menu planning template to print out, write your menu and stick on your fridge.

Menu Planning Template

Happy cooking!