It’s that time of year again when the weather turns cool and thoughts turn back to the slow cooker to make soups, stews and chili. Here are some great recipe ideas from Food Republic about things that you can do in your slow cooker and make great lunches for these cool fall days for you at home, to being to the office or for the kids to bring to school in a thermos. Check it out!
Category Archives: Lunch
As we get closer to back to school time here (two more weeks for Sean), some kids have already started with their back to school rituals, and that means packing lunches for us parents. This is not always an easy task, coming up with things that the kids like and won’t be bored with enough to trade it away or throw it away. Here are some good ideas from Epicurious with recipes and tips to try and make the school lunch process a little better for all of us. Check it out!
Holy Moley it’s been pretty humid here. Today especially seems too humid and sticky out to bother with the oven. Luckily, we have lots of chicken available of all different types, so it makes it ideal to make some chicken salad sandwiches for dinner tonight. Personally, I love a good sandwich. I don’t eat cold cuts or deli meat, except for the occasional pastrami sandwich. I would much rather have a sandwich using fresh meat, like turkey, chicken or tuna, or even shrimp or lobster. There are a lot of things you can do to make any of these things into a great sandwich. Even just making a nice vegetable sandwich can be awesome, using fresh tomatoes, lettuce, maybe some grilled eggplant, mushrooms, the combinations can be endless. For tonight, we’ll keep it simple with basic chicken salad.
Chicken Salad Sandwiches
1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ribs of celery, chopped fine
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 scallions, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
6 hard rolls (or any bread you might like, enough for 6 sandwiches)
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Carefully add the chicken and cook until lightly golden brown on the first side, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over, cover and continue to cook until it is no longer pink the center, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a plate and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Cut the chilled chicken into 3/4-inch pieces and toss with the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread on the rolls and serve.
If you’re like me, we almost always have leftover chicken that can be used instead of making chicken just to make the salad. Use what you have or make it this way. You could also just bake the chicken in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until it is cooked through. Once it is time to make the sandwiches, you can build it anyway you like. Add some fresh sliced tomato, leaves of lettuce or spinach, some sliced red onion, a slice or two of bacon, some sliced avocado, or whatever else you might like to have on the sandwich. That’s the great thing about sandwiches – you can do whatever you want with them.
For sides, you can make potato salad, serve it with some chips or some pickle. You could also make some coleslaw to go along side of it. I like this coleslaw recipe since it doesn’t use mayonnaise. I do like the creamy slaw, but using this simple recipe can save you some fat and calories and it tastes great.
Spicy No-Mayo Coleslaw
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, or freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh chile, like jalapeno (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cups core shredded green and/or red cabbage
1 large red or yellow pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1/3 cup chopped scallion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
To make the dressing, whisk together the mustard and vinegar in a small bowl, along with the garlic and chile, if using. Add the oil, a little at a time, whisking all the while.
Combine the cabbage, bell pepper and scallion and toss with the dressing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, toss with the parsley.
I normally let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two so the flavors can meld together nicely, but you could let it go even longer if you wanted to. Also, sometimes I add a little shredded carrot to the mix. You could also just buy one of those bags of coleslaw mix and use what is in the bag and just make this dressing.
That’s all for tonight. We do have a few things we are hoping to make for dinner in the next few days, so I hope to post some other recipes this weekend as well. Until then, enjoy your evening and enjoy your meal!
Another great blog entry I came across today from the New York Times. It is the season of picnics, and even if you decide at the last minute to go, you can still whip up most of these ingredients in no time at all. Give it a try!
It’s a nasty, rainy, cold day here in Harriman today. Today would have been better suited for the potato soup we made on Tuesday, but that’s the way the menu kind of fell out this week. Michelle and I used to eat Warm Chicken Salad at least once a week when we first got married, before Sean was born. It’s such a quick, easy meal that could be thrown together at the last-minute. it’s also great to make for a buffet-style party to put out with other foods, giving a healthier choice for people to eat. Another nice thing about this recipe is that you can really put in as many or as few ingredients as you like. We all like different things in a salad, and this gives a great opportunity to “customize” your meal however you would like it.
Warm Chicken Salad
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs ( I am using my own, but you could use panko or other store-bought if you like)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
1 package mixed salad greens, such as romaine, spinach, arugula, mesclun or Bibb lettuce
Salad additions (recommendations to follow recipe)
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and set aside to cool. Wipe the skillet clean. In a separate shallow dish, add the flour and 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In a third shallow dish, add the egg and water and lightly combine. Dredge the chicken in the flour, lightly shaking off any excess. Then dip in the egg mixture and then dip in the breadcrumbs. Press on the breadcrumbs to make sure they adhere. Over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet. Add in the chicken and saute until golden brown on the first side, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and continue to cook until it is no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes longer.Transfer the chicken to a plate and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch thick pieces. Arrange the chicken with the salad and any accompaniments. Toss lightly and serve.
The nice thing about salad is you can add whatever you want to it. Here is a list of a few suggestions:
Cucumbers (I prefer the English ones myself)
Olives (any kind you like really)
Tomatoes – I find the cherry tomatoes work best in a salad
Peppers – if you want a bit of color
Hard-boiled eggs – you could just add the whites if you don’t like the yolks
Cheese – whatever kind you like really – feta, cheddar, Asiago, blue cheese
Nuts – sliced almonds or walnuts work well
Beans – chickpeas and black beans are both great in salad
The combinations are virtually endless. They are so many different ways to serve this dish that alone it could probably make 20 different recipes. This also makes a great lunch if you just refrigerate the chicken after sauteing and want to have some the next day. Three more things about salad I want to say. One, fresh, clean greens are essential to a good salad. If you don’t have a salad spinner, I think you should invest in one. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on it and you will notice the difference in the way the greens of your salad turn out. Two, dressings, as I have said before, seem to be a personal choice. You don’t even need a dressing for this dish if you don’t want one (Many times we don’t use one). For this salad, I think just about any dressing is a great addition, although something creamy like a ranch, a blue cheese or a creamy garlic might be the best. There are lots of good brands available that you might like, or feel free to send me a message and I would be glad to supply a recipe for one to you. Third, I love a salad with croutons. Homemade croutons taste far better than anything you will buy at the store, and the store-bought ones are usually loaded with preservatives anyway. Besides saving money by making them yourself, you can add whatever spices you like to them for extra flavor. Here is a recipe for some simple garlic croutons.
3 tablespoons olive oil (it really does taste better if you can use olive oil for this one)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups (1/2-inch) bread cubes (I don’t think it matters what kind of bread you use for this, as long as you cube it to a uniform size)
Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the oil, garlic and salt together in a large bowl. Add the bread cubes and toss until thoroughly coated. Spread the bread onto a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the croutons to cool at room temperature before serving.
Like the salad, you can add lots of things to the taste of the croutons, like chili powder, rosemary, thyme, oregano, Parmesan cheese, paprika, whatever you might like to taste.
That’s all that’s to dinner tonight. Light, healthy and quick, just the way we wanted it to be. Tomorrow I really am going to the fish market to see what I can get, so it’s kind of a mystery as to what I’ll be cooking (just don’t think of it as the Manager’s Choice that used to appear on the lunch menu in school). We’ll also be laying out the meal plan for next week tonight, so I will post that as well if you’re interested. If you’re interested in using the meal plan, here it is if you want to print it out:family_meal_planner. As always, if you have any questions, comments (good or bad, I’m not sensitive, I can take it) or just want to say hello, please feel free to leave a comment or a message. hopefully you’re enjoying the recipes and can use some of the ideas for your own cooking. Until tomorrow, enjoy your evening and try to stay warm if you’re here in the Northeast. Might be a good night for hot cocoa, or an Irish coffee!
I didn’t cook today, but we did do our shopping for this week’s meal plan I really do find that the plan helps me in staying on budget as far as shopping. Sure, there are still impulse buys now and then (who can resist a treat now and then) and I do have to buy household items once in a while (garbage bags, storage bags, toothpaste, etc.), but for the most part we really do only buy what we need to make the meals for the week. We do a lot of our shopping at BJ’s Warehouse Club, so we do get essentials that last us for a while, but I have found we can also get good deals on things we use a lot of, like diced tomatoes, pasta and rice, but we also get good deals on meat and poultry and produce. I can buy ground beef or london broil and get enough to freeze for several more meals. The same can be said of poultry. I buy the larger packs of boneless chicken breasts and whole chickens there and we get many meals out of it and also use the chicken carcass to make stock later on for soups. I then supplement that with a short trip to the supermarket for things I can’t get at BJ’s (which isn’t too much) and a trip to Adam’s Farms in Newburgh, where I get our fish for the week and some local produce.
Anyway, for this coming week, this is the meal plan:
Monday – Turkey Meatball with sauce, baked potatoes, broccoli (this was Sean’s choice this week)
Tuesday – Baked Potato Soup (this was Michelle’s pick, and is our meatless meal of the week)
Wednesday – Fish. I didn’t get to the fish market today, but I will go Wednesday morning and pick something out after I see what looks good.
Thursday – Meat Loaf, Mashed Potatoes and corn (this one was my pick)
Friday – Warm Chicken Salad (Michelle picked this one)
Saturday – Peppered Steak, White Rice, Cauliflower and carrots (Michelle picked this one too)
None of the meals are difficult this week and all can be made in a short amount of time. As a matter of fact, we are making the potato soup tonight and refrigerating it for Tuesday. I didn’t have to buy anything out of the ordinary this week other than leeks that we are using in the soup and the peppers for the peppered steak. I bought meat loaf mix of beef, pork and veal that I buy either for meatloaf or meatballs. The London broil was 2 large steaks that I quartered and froze so I’ll only need one piece when I make the peppered steak on Saturday. The ground turkey I bought will be used for meatballs and a portion frozen to be used later on either for chili or turkey sausage (I do make my own for breakfast sausage; it tastes really good and I will be posting that recipe at some point when we make a “breakfast for dinner” one night). Other than that, the rest of the ingredients we will use this week are things we already have in the house, refrigerator or freezer.
Now that dinners are planned for the week, I thought I would spend a little bit of time writing about school lunches. School lunches can be a problem sometimes. Sean buys lunch from school about once a week or less often, mainly because the choices that they have for lunch are, well, less than desirable. It’s pretty rare that when I ask Sean if he wants to buy that he says yes, but I am sure he gets tired of eating either a cheese sandwich or peanut butter and jelly every day. We have thought about doing warm lunches for him in a thermos, but he eats lunch so late in the day that even the thermos wouldn’t keep it warm for him. For others of you, however, warm lunches may be a good option. There is a good blog out there right now called “The Mom With Moxie” by Bree Glenn and she has a good posting on some ideas for school lunch planning. Here is the blog if you want to check it out:http://www.themomwithmoxie.com/2011/11/04/8-resources-for-healthy-fun-school-lunch-box-planning/. She offers up a great list of sites here for some good school lunch ideas. I was able to pull a few ideas off of Good Housekeeping’s website from here also, but if you want to go to Good Housekeeping directly, here is their link:http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipes/healthy/ideas-kids-school-lunches. I thought the ideas of Turkey Meatball Pitas, Ham and Cheese Pitas, Chicken Noodle Soup and the Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich were all good ideas for lunches. There are several other great links on Bree Glenn’s blog about the school lunches that I think will be very helpful in getting some ideas for things to pack for the kids. If anyone has any other great ideas for school lunches, please pass them along and comment here. I am always looking for something new to offer Sean and I am sure plenty of other Moms and Dads could use some ideas as well.
I think that covers everything for today. I hope to go into greater detail on school lunches and some good recipes of my own in a later blog. I want to do a little more research and try out some recipes with Sean first before I put anything up here for you to try. Tomorrow will be the recipes for Turkey Meatballs with sauce, Baked Potatoes and broccoli. I know, we seem to eat a lot of broccoli, but Sean really likes it so he seems to pick that one all the time. I need to find a few more recipes to find some more interesting ways to cook it. If you have any thoughts on that, feel free to share! Enjoy what’s left of your weekend, and if you’re watching the Giants-49ers game, enjoy the game! (what will you be snacking on during the game? I already plan to post some things as we get closer to Super Bowl Sunday)
No, he’s not a jazz musician, but I hope it got your attention. You probably don’t need to have garam masala in your pantry (unless of course you make a lot of Indian or Asian food, in which case you might), but there are lots of other things that I think would go very well in your pantry. I am going to name a few things that I use on a regular basis that help me tremendously in the kitchen. Most of them you probably have around all the time, and if you do, it can help you create a meal on the fly for a quick weeknight dinner when you don’t want to put a lot of effort in, or for when you have unexpected guests drop by and need something quick to throw together. When it comes to items in your pantry, brand is a personal choice. Use what you and your family like best and has the best flavor for you. There are a few brands I will recommend that I really like using, but do what fits your taste and budget the best.
Everyone has their own list of things they like to keep around in the pantry based on what their family likes best. There are basics like flour, salt, sugar, pepper, butter and milk that most people have around in one variation or another, depending on what you like and what your dietary restrictions may be.These are a few things I always have in the house:
Rice – I always have whole grain rice, sometimes brown rice, but always whole grain. It doesn’t take long to cook and to me tastes better than any quick rice or minute rice.
Eggs – We always have a dozen eggs on head and use them for baking, breakfast, hard boiling to have for lunches or appetizers, or when we have “breakfast for dinner.”
Pasta – While I personally don’t eat it, we always have it in the house, usually in a couple of varieties. If I had the counter space, I would like to make my own, but since our kitchen is the size of a closet, we make do. If you have pasta around, you always have a meal. There are dozens of quick sauces to throw together, or just saute or roast some vegetables to go with it, and you’re done.
Oil – I always have vegetable oil on hand as well as olive oil. I probably use the vegetable oil more, but the olive oil is good for making dressings and sauces. I also keep some cooking spray on hand to use to keep things from sticking.
Vinegar – again, it’s good to have on hand for dressings for salad, and I usually keep white, red wine, balsamic and apple cider vinegar to use with various recipes.
Herbs & Spices – There are hundreds of different herbs and spices you could get (like garam masala), but I have found that I really only use about ten or so regularly. I try to use fresh parsley, thyme and basil, as there is a real taste difference over the dried versions. For dried spices, I use oregano, bay leaves, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, chili powder and cumin. I have others, but rarely use them. Check you dried spices after about 6 months because they tend to lose their potency by then.
Tomatoes – Sadly, fresh tomatoes available in stores here in New York have been bad, to say the least. Unless you grow your own around here, I have found that the canned tomatoes are better. I buy diced tomatoes often to use for things like chili, and keep a couple of jars of crushed tomatoes around for sauce. I do love fresh tomatoes, and ripe ones give great flavor, we just haven’t had good ones in a while.
Broth – I make my own broths now.It may sound like a lot of work, but it really isn’t and it is so worth it. Homemade chicken stock tastes 100 times better than anything in a box or can and is very easy to make. The same goes for beef, fish or vegetable broth and you can freeze them to use whenever you need them (I plan to use a day of blogging to talk about stocks). If you don’t have the time to make your own, I have found that Swanson’s seems to taste the best among the chicken and beef broths available.
Beans – We always have some kind of beans on hand, either dried or canned. They are a great source of protein and can be used in a lot of side dishes, soups, stews and chili. I almost always have red kidney beans, white beans or black beans around to use.
Produce- If you are going to have produce around, you should always have carrots, celery and onions. Use those three and you can pretty much make anything. They are a great base for most sauces, soups, and stews or great for roasting with meat or poultry.I also regularly have white potatoes and garlic on hand to use as well. I try to use fresh produce for our vegetables every day, and when I can’t I do buy some frozen items to have on hand. I am not a fan of canned vegetables – they have a metallic taste to me, usually have too much salt in them to preserve them, and don’t seem to taste as good once cooked. I also always have some kind of fresh fruit on hand, depending on the season. Fresh fruit can be a simple and quick dessert anytime, a nice addition to breakfast, or a great afterschool snack.
Beyond that, there are things I buy from week to week, varying on what our meal plan for that week is going to be. I’ll get more into the meal plan itself tomorrow when I start writing about what’s cooking for the week, but the plan itself basically maps out my shopping list for the week so I know what I am going to buy. I try not to stray beyond that list, with the exceptions of items that may be household necessities that week (i.e. toilet paper, garbage bags, paper towels, Sean’s lunch snacks, etc.). It helps me budget our food shopping for the week and keeps me from buying empty calorie foods we don’t need or shouldn’t have.
So tomorrow we get started on the meal plan. I can tell you, tomorrow’s dinner is nothing fancy, it’s pretty straightforward and easy, but I think that works for a lot of weeknight meals. We don’t often have time for an elaborate meal during the week, so I do try to keep things simple. Get your equipment ready and your pantry set, and we’ll hit the kitchen tomorrow!