Sunday, November 24, 2013

Menu Plan Nov. 24 - 30

Last week was a menu-following disaster.  I started out with the best intentions, but ended up making exactly one thing that was on our list.  First, I went to make beef stew and discovered that we didn't actually have any stew beef, though I could have sworn I saw some in the freezer.  Then, I went to get the corned beef for the hash and discovered that the corned beef has been in a ziploc bag in the freezer for almost two years (more freezer burn than meat there!).

So that night I ended up cooking cheese ravioli, pierogi style, which actually turned out REALLY well.  I just boiled some frozen ravioli according to the directions.  While that was cooking, I sauteed a sliced onion in butter in my big cast iron pan(I may have thrown in a couple of garlic cloves, too - it would be bizarre if I hadn't).  Then, once the ravioli was drained, I put it in the pan with the onions and sauteed it for a couple of minutes.  Add a side salad and presto!  20 minute meatless meal.  Delicious! 

Other than that, I really don't remember what we ate.  There was a lot of fast food involved (like the afternoon that all hell broke loose at work and as soon as I walked in the door hubby took one look at me and asked what we were picking up for dinner). Friday night I made taco salad.  Last night I made a full-on wonderful dinner, salisbury steak with garlic mashed potatoes and honey dill carrots. 

So last week's menu looks a lot like this week's.  Except it actually IS Thanksgiving week!  Yay!  Three day work week! 

So here's what we're going for this week:

Beef Stew (I will be buying stew beef!)
Chicken crescents
Baked ziti
Spaetzle Gratin

I took chicken and stuffing off the menu because, well, Thanksgiving.

Thursday and Saturday are both family dinner days, so I don't have to plan meals for those days.  Thursday we're bringing spinach dip and orange jello ambrosia-style salad.  Saturday we're bringing an appetizer (haven't decided what yet) and a birthday cake. 

So that's the plan.  Have a wonderful week and, for those of you in the USA, happy Thanksgiving!

Need menu ideas?  Visit Menu Plan Monday at!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Menu Plan November 17 - 23

For some reason, my brain thinks that this is Thanksgiving week.  Maybe it has something to do with the free turkeys at the grocery store (which I'm likely not taking advantage of this year, due to a severe lack of freezer space).  Maybe it's my strong need for that four-day-weekend, even though it will be jam-packed with activities.  Maybe it's just because I'm craving poultry.  At any rate, it's NOT Thanksgiving week, and therefore I must plan a normal menu...

Tonight I was going to try making spaetzle gratin, but we ended up stopping for take-and-bake pizza while we were out earlier, so that will wait for another day.  Other items on the menu this week (in no particular order) include:

Beef stew
Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage
Salisbury Steak
Corned Beef Hash
Chicken and Stuffing
Jambalaya (Zatarains)

So that's it from my little corner of the world.  Have a great week everyone!  And remember to visit Menu Plan Monday at for tons of great menu planning ideas.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bacon, onion and cheddar muffins

I knew we would be having soup for dinner tonight (not from scratch - my daughter LOVES broccoli soup but not if I make it, LOL).  Usually I pick up one of those artisan breads from the grocery store, but I didn't have any on hand, so I thought I'd find a savory muffin recipe to serve with it instead.  I found this recipe, but you know I can't leave well enough alone and have to tweak!  And so I made these.  My daughter took one bite and said, in the most serious tone an almost-five-year-old can have, declared "MOM.  These are DELICIOUS."  Win.

Bacon, Onion and Cheddar Muffins
Makes 1 dozen
Adapted from Allrecipes

1 3/4 c. all purpose flour (could also use whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 c. minced onion
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 egg
3/4 c. milk
1/3 c. canola oil
6 - 8 strips cooked and crumbled bacon (I think I used about 1/3 of a pound)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, onion, cheese, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Make a well in the center of the flour and add egg, milk and oil.  Stir just until combined (it's ok if the batter's lumpy).  Fold in bacon.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Chicken and Dumplings - the Easy Way

Sorry about the picture - the lighting was all off!

The other day I found a chicken in the freezer that was obviously about to be past its prime, so I decided to make chicken and dumplings.  Usually this is a meal I make with a leftover carcass, but I decided I'd try the "whole chicken" method this time and see how it worked.  Here's what I did:

Chicken and Dumplings
Serves 6

1 whole chicken, giblet packet removed and discarded (or do whatever you do with those)
3 medium carrots, scrubbed and cut in 1/2 inch slices
3 celery ribs, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
7 cloves garlic, chopped
8 cups water
1 T. kosher salt
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. cold water
1 1/3 c. Bisquick or other baking mix
2/3 c. milk

Put the chicken in a 5 - 6 quart dutch oven or stockpot.  Add vegetables, water and seasonings.  Cover and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken and let sit for 20 minutes or until cool enough to handle.  Remove bay leaves and discard.

While chicken cools, mix flour and cold water until there are no lumps.  Add to soup mixture and cook until slightly thickened.

Remove half the meat from the chicken and return to the pot.  Reserve remaining chicken for another use (and you can save the carcass to make stock).

Mix Bisquick and milk.  Use soup spoons to drop batter into the broth (about 1/4 cup per dumpling).  Cover pot and cook 20 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through. 

Irish Sundaes

I have been eating Irish Sundaes for as long as I can remember.  They're one of those quick, flexible meals that I almost always have the ingredients on hand for, so they're fast to put together on a weeknight (or a lazy Saturday, like today).  I'll put my basic recipe below (though it's not much of a recipe!), but you can adapt it with your favorite meats, veggies, and other toppings as you prefer.  When I was a kid, I remember having this topped with Campbell's Condensed Nacho Cheese Soup.  I have no idea if that even still exists but I bet it would still be good!

Irish Sundaes
Serves 4

4 medium baking potatoes, scrubbed and pricked
1 head broccoli, chopped (peel the stem if it's tough)
1 pound bulk sausage (chicken, pork or turkey, Italian or breakfast style, whatever you prefer).
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
sliced olives
sour cream
shredded cheese (or the aforementioned soup)
pickled sliced jalapenos

1.  Bake the potatoes in the microwave or oven, as you prefer.
2.  Steam the broccoli for 20 minutes or until al dente.
3. Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a large skillet until nearly cooked through.  Add onions and mushrooms and continue cooking until vegetables are soft. 
4. When everything is ready, put potato on the plate and slice open.  Top with remaining ingredients and serve.
5.  Enjoy!

Menu Plan November 9 - 16

It's been a while since I've done a formal menu plan.  I can tell, too, because we've been eating out far more than is healthy for our bodies or our budget.  Life has gotten a bit overwhelming as of late, so I'm taking a step back and refocusing.

We are blessed in that our pantry and freezers are full to bursting.  I just ordered 1/4 of a pig, which will be here in a month or so, so I need to start eating things down to make room for all that wonderful bacon, ham, and sausage!  Hubby needs more ketchup from Costco (ketchup is one of his main food groups), but there literally is not an inch of space available in the pantry to put it, so for the next four weeks, we're eating out of the pantry and freezer and I'm going to try to only buy fresh food (bread, produce, cheese, milk etc.)  We'll see how I do...

This week, due to swimming lessons and meetings, I need quick and easy dinners for four out of the five weeknights.  So here's the plan, in no particular order:

Chili and cornbread
broccoli cheese soup, muffins, and salad
chicken and rice
Irish Sundaes
broccoli beef
sausage and pepper penne
Sweet & sour pork

One night I'll be out with my coworkers, so hubby and my daughter will do their own thing (which usually means either frozen burritos smothered in chili or going out to Taco Bell.  

Have a great week, everybody!  And remember to visit Menu Plan Monday at for more great menu ideas!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Organizing my Kindle

I love books.  As the child of two retired school librarians, this probably isn't surprising.  I grew up in a house with wall-to-wall bookshelves in the living room, and had gathered a fair collection of my own already by the time I left home to be an English major in college.  I was the kid who stayed up till all hours with my flashlight, reading under the covers (often something terrifying that would keep me up even longer, quaking in fear while wondering what lurked under the bed in my basement bedroom). 

After finishing my Bachelor's degree and again after finishing my Master's, I took a break from reading, and watched a lot of television.  But I was always drawn back to my books.  When my daughter was born, I just couldn't find the time, because really the only opportunity I had to read was in bed at night, and I couldn't have the light on because my hubby was trying to sleep.  And then, I discovered the Kindle.

And then, I discovered the wonderful world of free Kindle books.  And Swagbucks, where I earned points to redeem for Amazon gift cards which I used to buy more Kindle books.  And book loans through the library and through

Before I knew it, I had more than 2,800 books and short stories in my e-book collection.  This was when I discovered that the "Manage Your Kindle" feature on Amazon's website doesn't actually give you any effective ways to manage your book collection.  So I needed to find a way to organize it all, so I could actually figure out what I have, what I've read, and what I want to read next. 

First, I thought I would just load everything onto the device and organize it all into collections.  I spent days setting it up.  Then I discovered that once the remaining memory gets below about 700 MB, it gets incredibly slow and starts randomly restarting itself at inopportune moments.  And when you have more than 2,500 books to load, well, that pretty much guarantees that your reading session is over. 

So, now that I have everything loaded except things I have already read, I am actually working on taking everything OFF in an organized fashion.  I set up a spreadsheet with a different tab for each collection on the Kindle.  One by one, I'm going through the collections, typing the titles into the spreadsheet, deleting the book from the collection, then deleting it from the device. 

This way, when I want to read a book, I can say "hmm, I'm in the mood for a historical romance" and then go to that tab on the spreadsheet, instead of going to the massive list of books on the website and trying to figure it out from there.

It's slow going, but I know in the long run it will be worth it and my Kindle will run much more efficiently.

Do you have an organizational system for your e-reader? I'd love to hear about it!