Sunday, January 15, 2017

Menu Plan January 15-21

Another week has come and gone - I can't believe we're halfway through January already!  Since it hasn't gone above freezing since it snowed (and some days, it was well below freezing  - it was 4 degrees Fahrenheit on my drive to work on Friday, which is almost unheard of around here), we're still covered in the white stuff.  Fortunately, the main roads are mostly clear, but the side roads in the neighborhoods are still mostly solid ice (and seriously rutted in some places). 

Being stuck at home for a couple of days meant that we did a good job of sticking to the menu.  Until Friday, when my family rebelled against the fish sticks I had planned.  I bought them because my daughter PROMISED me she'd eat them, but whatever, the fish sticks' day will come.  We ended up getting Panda Express that night. 

Saturday, I intended to make beef stew, but my daughter begged for chow mein, so I made that instead.  I used this recipe, though I substituted cashews for the almonds (because I had a can in the house from my niece's Girl Scout sales last fall and I figured it was time we used them up!), and I didn't actually measure any of the sauce ingredients, I just dumped them in.  I  did have to add some salt because my homemade chicken broth was seriously underseasoned.  It was delicious! 

Other than that, we stuck to the menu last week.  And here's what's coming up for this week:

Sunday:  Meaty Calzones (hubby wanted pizza for dinner on Saturday, but then we went out for lunch, so this was my compromise). 

Monday:  Swedish meatballs and spaetzle (a family favorite!)

Tuesday:  BBQ chicken sandwiches (except I think we're low on barbecue sauce - anyone have a good recipe?)

Wednesday:  Chicken fajitas

Thursday:  Hamburger casserole

Friday and Saturday are BUSY so we'll be eating those out. 

Have a great week everyone!  And remember to check out Menu Plan Monday if you need more inspiration!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

It's a Winter Wonderland

Here we are, on our sixth snow day of the school year.  When we went to bed last night, it looked like this. 


When we woke up, it was a whole different story! 

We topped out at about seven inches, which is light for the Portland metro area today - I have friends who had more than 14!  After breakfast, we headed to our sledding hill, and admired the snowy trees.

My office is closed today, but my deadlines don't take snow days, so I'm spending some time working this afternoon while my daughter plays with a neighbor friend.  All in all, a beautiful, fun day!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Menu Plan January 8-14

I'm going to make a concerted effort to post our weekly dinner menu here.  I found when I was getting back into the habit that it was great to look back at our old menus on the blog for ideas and notes about what we liked and didn't like (especially if we were trying a new recipe).  Here's the schedule for this week:

Sunday:  "roast" chicken (it's actually steamed - I cooked it in the Instant Pot since it was frozen solid), rice pilaf  (I actually made this with some of the turkey broth I cooked last week and it was delicious), salad, and steamed broccoli.

Monday:  Trader Joe's orange chicken, brown rice, steamed mixed veggies, salad.  Mondays are piano night and we don't get home until 6:15, so dinner has to be quick or my daughter misses her bedtime.  This usually means something frozen that I can put in the oven while we're gone or heat up quickly when we get home!

Tuesday:  Kielbasa and Cabbage, salad

Wednesday:  Hamburgers, oven fries, salad

Thursday:  Irish Sundaes (can't wait to break into the sausage from the pig we just got!).

Friday:  Fish sticks, mashed potatoes, and steamed hot veggie.  Probably also a salad.

We're eating a lot of potatoes this week - I bought 10 pounds over Christmas for a dish I ended up not needing to make, and they're all sprouting (I buy organic when it's affordable and they sprout quickly!).  So I'm peeling them and using them up before they turn into full blown potato plants right there in my pantry.  Fortunately, potatoes are versatile!

Have you checked out Menu Plan Monday?  So many great ideas there!

Have a great week, and happy eating!

Monday, January 09, 2017

What's in the freezer?

Over the weekend, I picked up my order of half a pig.  My sister-in-law have a farm and raise meat and we buy pork, chicken, and for the first time this year, turkey from them.  We love knowing how our meat was raised, and it always tastes fantastic! 

I have a medium-size upright freezer, and it gets FULL.  It's far easier to keep track of things in an upright than a chest freezer, but still things tend to get pushed to the back and forgotten.  For example, I thought we were out of bacon long ago, but when I was cleaning things out in anticipation of the new pork I found a lonely little pack buried in the far back corner.  So this time, when I was loading things in, I kept track of what I was putting in so I would know when I ran out of things.  Then I made it into a spreadsheet (pardon the terrible picture - I could never get the lighting right so I just held it in my hand!). 

I put a checkbox in for every package of that particular type of meat, and this list is now hanging on my fridge.  As I pull a package out of the freezer, I will cross out one box so I'll always know what I have left, and can go digging if something seems to have disappeared.  I left a few empty spots in case I buy other things (though that won't happen for a while because there's absolutely no room out there!).  I can also add extra boxes if necessary. 

I've tried a few other pantry inventory systems but I think this one will work out well.  I saved it on my computer so I can edit and reprint whenever I need to.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Goals for January

It's the new year, a time when many people make lofty resolutions, then abandon them a few weeks later (new habits are hard!).  I am no exception - I've given up on more than I care to think about.

This year, I've decided to take it one month at a time, and I'm breaking them out into categories.

  • Set up a new journal (I'm looking at the bullet journal method).  
  • Read my Bible every day (after working my way through the New Testament twice last year, I'm starting over at Genesis).
  • Exercise 30 minutes at least three days per week.
  • Blog something at least twice per week.

  • Mend my daughter's favorite hat (it's been on the pile for months).
  • Track every expenditure (I reworked our budget over the Christmas break so we are ready to go).
  • Menu plan weekly (you'll find those here on the blog!).
  • Plan our summer vacation (we're finally taking one this year).
  • Order my garden seeds.

  •  Write at least six grant proposals.
  •  Make my to do list more reasonable so I can actually feel like I'm accomplishing something.

I think that's enough to get started!  I'll check back at the end of the month and see how I've done.

Happy January, everybody - remember to let your light shine through the winter darkness!

Ham and White Bean Soup

Happy New Year, everybody! I hope your holidays were happy and healthy ones. I'm looking ahead to 2017 and making some changes.  First and foremost, We're making over our eating.  I've been working with a health coach all fall and she's given me some great advice on incorporating healthy grains, and reminded me of the importance of fruits and vegetables at every meal.  My daughter has had a conversation with her doctor about the importance of healthy eating, and we are fired up!

In other food news, we're getting half a pig any day now (I buy half a pig, several chickens, and, for the first time this year, a heritage turkey from my sister-in-law's every year - her family raises them on their farm), so in preparation for that I cleaned out the freezer during my Christmas break.  I discovered that we managed to eat most of last year's pig - I only found one slice of ham, a pack of cottage bacon (yay - love that stuff!), and a couple of packages of ham hocks.  The only thing I know to do with ham hocks is make white beans, so that was our New Year's Day dinner (always refreshing after a week of eating holiday leftovers and not-so-healthy New Year's Eve food!).  As always, I started with a basic recipe and made it my's what I came up with.

Ham Hock and White Bean Soup
Serves 6

1 pound ham hocks
2 c. dry small white beans, sorted, rinsed, soaked and drained (I used a quick soak method)
2 T. olive oil
3 carrots, chopped
3 ribs and all the leaves from one head of celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tsp. dried summer savory
2 tsp. dried thyme
3 dried bay leaves
2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cups low-salt or salt-free chicken stock (I use homemade)
salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a 4 quart stock pot or dutch oven.  Add carrots, celery, and onion, and saute until just beginning to brown.  Add ham hocks, beans, garlic, spices, and chicken stock.  Add enough water to cover the beans by 1 1/2 inches.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are nearly tender, around 90 minutes.  Return to a boil, uncover, and cook until beans are cooked to desired tenderness (we like them a little thick, not too soupy).  Remove ham hocks from the soup, remove meat from bones, and return meat to the soup, stirring to combine.  Serve hot with crusty rolls.

It was delicious and I can't wait to eat the leftovers in my lunch today!

Happy 2017, all - hope it's a great one for you. 

Friday, December 09, 2016

Ranch Beans in the Instant Pot

My daughter loves Ranch Beans - the ones in the can with the black label.  Also chili beans.  Seriously, she'd eat a whole can in one sitting if I'd let her.  I'm slowly trying to wean us off of food in metal cans, and I now have an Instant Pot which makes cooking dried beans a snap (have I mentioned I have more gadgets than kitchen space?), so I thought I'd hit the internet in search of an acceptable recipe.  I found several, and modified the most likely one to fit my daughter's taste and the ingredients I had in the house.

Instant Pot Ranch Beans
Adapted from

2 pounds dried pinto beans
2 cups tomato sauce
1 small onion, chopped
1 small head garlic (about six cloves), chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground oregano
2 dried bay leaves

Put all ingredients in the liner of the Instant Pot.  Add water to cover by two inches, and stir until combined.  Put on lid, making sure it's set to "sealing".  Set for 45 minutes on the manual setting.  When finished, let pressure release naturally.  Remove bay leaves before serving.

I made a batch of this today and it has gotten my daughter's seal of approval! 

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Menu Plan October 2 - 8

We've been better and better about not eating out so much, and for the most part I've been keeping a menu plan on the white board on the fridge, but lately I can't think of a thing to put on it and I know I need to start writing it down in a more permanent location again!  So here I blogging...

Here's the plan for this week.

Sunday:  C and I will be out of town for the day for a birthday party, so likely we'll just grab something quick on the way home/

Monday:  Grilled sausages and frozen fries (piano lesson night = quick dinners on Mondays!)

Tuesday:  Chicken and quinoa soup (oh my this sounds delicious!)

Wednesday:  Out (I'm doing paint nite with some friends which means that hubby and C are on their own, which probably means Taco Bell!).

Thursday:  Jambalaya and green beans

Friday:  Pork chops and spinach balls 

Saturday:  There is something happening on Saturday.  I have no idea what - it hasn't found its way onto my calendar. But I know there is something happening!  I just have to figure out what it is and what it means for dinner plans...

Have a wonderful week everyone!!!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sausage and Potato Soup

I made this up on the fly tonight.  I don't know why I decided to put breakfast sausage in soup, but it really worked.  It was inhaled at my house!

Sausage and Potato Soup
Serves 3 gluttons, apparently.

1 pound pork breakfast sausage
1 medium onion, diced
3 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen corn 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. caraway seeds
1 pinch celery seeds
1/2 t. black pepper

salt to taste (depending on your sausage you may not need any)
3 T. cornstarch mixed with 1/4 c. cold water
1/2 cup heavy cream
hot sauce to taste

In a soup pot, fry sausage and onion over medium heat until browned.  Once the meat is cooked through, add potatoes and continue to cook five more minutes.  Add chicken broth, corn,garlic, caraway seeds, celery seeds, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Return to a boil and add cornstarch mixture. Cook and stir until slightly thickened.  Reduce heat to medium low; add cream and hot sauce and cook a few minutes more or until the cream is warmed through.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Menu Plan Sept 27 - October 3

How was everyone's week?  This week really started to feel like fall.  Yay!  I just looked at the forecast and it's still going to be a warm week, but I think most of the 80+ degree days are behind us.  I am looking forward to blustery, cold, rainy weather!

We deviated from the menu quite a bit last week.  I'll admit it, I forgot to get a few things at the grocery store!  I made breaded pork chops one night, and a delicious ham and potato soup another night. 

We also ate out on Friday - the local Panda Express had their grand opening, and it was a fundraiser for our new library building, so we went out to support the cause.  They had a prize wheel and Caitlyn won a free kids meal and I won a free entree!  We saved those for next time since it was a fundraiser.  

Tonight we're having pizza at a family gathering.  Here's the plan for the rest of the week: 

Spaghetti and meatballs, roasted broccoli, garlic bread (Caitlyn's cooking)
Corned beef hash
Chorizo chili
Baked ziti (didn't actually have the stuff to make this last week)
Pork and cabbage stir fry (didn't get to this last week)
Hamburger casserole (also didn't get to this!)
Garlic noodles with chicken

Have a great week everyone, and good eating to you!