RSS

Tag Archives: meal plan

Time for Breakfast (for Dinner)!

It’s in the sixties in January here in Harriman, which is unheard of for this time of year, but I’ll take it! Today there were two great articles that are food-related in the New York Times. The first, written by Leslie Kaufman, closely relates to what I am trying to do at home and here on the blog. She has her sons cook one meal a week, which includes the planning of the meal, detailing ingredients and doing the cooking. Her sons are 14 and  10 and do the actual cooking with a parent within earshot, but this is something I have been working on doing with Sean for a while. It’s a great way to get kids involved in the meals, gives them some responsibility, let’s them know what you have to go through every day to cook for them, and makes them more interested in doing things in the kitchen. I think it’s a great article, so take a look at it if you get the chance.

The second article is written by Mark Bittman, the author of ‘How to Cook Everything.” It’s a good article on how the Department of Agriculture is making schools change up their lunch menus to make things better for our kids. It gives you a good look as to what the changes are going to be, and while there may still be work to do on this, it’s a step in the right direction.

Now on to our meal for the day. Today is Michelle’s choice, but it also one of Sean’s favorites. We all love breakfast for dinner nights, actually. It gives us a chance to eat the breakfast food we love but don’t always have time to make during weekday mornings when things can be a bit hectic. We are making this meal our meat-free meal for the week as well, which disappoints Sean since that means no bacon or sausage tonight, but we’ll still have a great meal with Pancakes, Hash Browns and maybe an egg or two. Since a vegetable doesn’t really go too well this meal, we are going to opt for a fruit salad instead.

Pancakes are pretty easy to make, whether it is from scratch or from a box. We often use Bisquick ourselves when you need something done in a pinch. It tastes good and it’s quick, but today I am going to post a recipe for some homemade pancakes. The recipe I am using calls for buttermilk, but if you don’t have any on hand, whisk 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice with two cups of milk and set it aside for a few minutes to thicken, and voila, you have buttermilk. This type of buttermilk is fine for cooked applications, but I wouldn’t use it for raw recipes like the ranch dressing we made yesterday.

Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cups buttermilk

1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, melted butter, and then the buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the buttermilk mixture into the well, and whisk very gently until the buttermilk mixture is just incorporated (a few lumps should remain). Be careful not to overmix the batter.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Brush the bottom of the pan with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Using 1/4 cup of batter per pancake, add the batter to the skillet (only 2 or 3 pancakes will fit at a time) and cook until large bubbles begin to appear, about 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown on the second side, about 1 1/2 minutes longer. Spread the pancakes out over the wire rack on the baking sheet (they shouldn’t overlap) and hold in the warm oven. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the skillet with oil as needed between batches.

If you have any leftover pancakes (which we usually do) let them cool to room temperature, then wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze. They will keep for up to a week while still maintaining most of their original flavor and texture. Defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then heat in a 350 degree oven until warm, about 5 minutes. I usually leave a couple on the fridge for the next day and my buddy Liam and I have them for breakfast.

Of course, there are a lot of things you can add to pancakes or top them with. I love adding bananas or blueberries; once you add the batter to the skillet, just sprinkle a few slices of banana or a few blueberries over each pancake, or just top the pancakes with the fruit after they are cooked.

We decided to make some hash browns tonight to go with our pancakes. Hash browns go great with bacon or sausage, and we’ll do that another time I am sure, but they are fun to have any time. They don’t take long to make, and I use the food processor to grate the potatoes, sparing my knuckles the use of the box grater.

Hash Browns

1 pound russet potatoes (2 medium) peeled

2 tablespoons grated onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon butter

Grate the potatoes using either the large holes of a box grater (watch your fingers!) or the shredder attachment of a food processor (you should have about 1 1/2 cups when your done grating). Wrap the grated potatoes in a kitchen towel and squeeze thoroughly of excess moisture, then toss with the onion, parsley (if using) salt and pepper.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to brown, swirling to coat the pan. Scatter the potatoes evenly in the skillet and press firmly into a cake. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until dark golden brown and crisp on the first side, about 8 minutes. When the first side has browned, slide the potatoes onto a large plate. Carefully cover the plate with another large plate, and flip so that the potatoes are on the plate, browned-side up. Melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter, then slide the potatoes back into the skillet, browned-side up, and continue to cook over medium heat until the second side is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes longer. Slide the hash brown cake onto a plate or cutting board and cut into wedges.

There’s nothing like hash browns with some eggs. I prefer a fried egg or an egg over easy, but for tonight we’ll just whip up some scrambled eggs and save the fried egg for another time, maybe for a nice egg sandwich with some sausage or bacon.

Scrambled Eggs

8 large eggs

1/4 cup half and half (you can use milk instead, but the eggs are creamier with half and half)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon butter

Whisk together the eggs, half and half, salt, and pepper. Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the pan. Add the eggs and cook while gently pushing, lifting and folding them from one side of the pan to the other, using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, until they are nicely clumped, shiny and wet, about 2 minutes. Remove the cooked eggs from the pan quickly and serve.

We’ll get more into eggs another time when we’re using some meat with breakfast, but you can always add cheese, chives, onions, thyme or countless other herbs to add some flavor.

We’re finishing off with a simple fruit salad of what we have on hand – bananas, blueberries, blackberries, grapes and mandarin oranges, sprinkled with a little sugar and lemon juice. Of course, you can always use whatever fruits you like, are in season and taste the best to you.

Boy, for such a simple meal, I did a lot of writing today! There are lots of different variations you can do when doing breakfast for dinner. I’d love to hear what other people do when they make this for a meal. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them and I’ll try to comment as quickly as I can. Tomorrow is a leftovers night for dinner, but I have decided to write about some good ideas for Super Bowl snacking, since the game is Sunday and you want to be prepared. Let me know if you have any snacks or recipes you’d like to see to use for the big game. Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Planning Your Meals This Week (and Some School Lunches Too)

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)

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Lunch, School Lunches

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Enter The Meal Plan…

It’s Monday and it’s time to start off the week with a meal plan. My family meal plan started a while ago, and it worked well while we stuck to it, but then we kind of drifted away from it and things got a little out of hand again. By out of hand I mean we didn’t plan ahead on any meals. which led to a lot of meals thrown together at the last-minute or just getting take-out or eating out. In the long run, it wasn’t benefiting us as far as our health and being together as a family, so I decided we needed to get back to the meal plan.

Here is how our meal plan works. We, as a family, decide on the meals each week. While it sounds like a challenge right away by letting kids choose meals (who wants chicken nuggets or pizza every day?) I have tried to make it so that, since there are 3 of us, we each pick 2 meals for the week and the extra day we eat leftovers. Once a month we take the extra day and either go out or get take out. The stipulations on the meals are this: the week’s meals have to be one night of red meat, two nights of poultry, one night of seafood, one night of pasta/grain/vegetarian, and two nights using whatever we have as leftovers to make a meal. I also had to add in that we couldn’t pick the same meal on consecutive weeks, otherwise Sean would have us eating burgers and pizza every week. Each meal has to have some type of vegetable and some type of protein. The protein doesn’t have to be meat, but there has to be one there somewhere. Once the meals have been picked out, we go through and which one fits best on which day of the week for that week. Like any family, some weeks for us can get a little hectic and some nights are better suited to leftovers than others, so we try to work with that. Once that is done, I do the shopping list of the supplies we need for the week to make the meals, we outline the everyone’s duties for the week as far as the meals go and then we move ahead with the week. Here is the print out I use for our meal planning. I have found it a big help for planning and for shopping because I tend to stick closely to it and shop only for the things that we really need for the meals that week so we can stay on budget a little better:  family_meal_planner.

Now that the basics are laid out, we can talk about today’s dinner plan. Today is pretty simple. Sean picked today’s meal and since he is off from school today, he gets to help cook it too. It’s straightforward, spaghetti and meatballs. He chose broccoli as his vegetable for the day and we’re going to make some garlic bread as well. I don’t make my own bread, so we’ll cheat a little there and buy a loaf and make it garlic bread, but if you make your own, it will probably be very tasty.

The spaghetti itself is pretty easy and painless. I don’t eat pasta, I never have. I just don’t like the texture of the store-bought pasta. I think if I had the counter space to make my own pasta, I would probably eat it because I think the taste of fresh pasta would be much better. But hey, just because I don’t eat doesn’t mean I won’t cook it (and if you cook it and I am invited over, you can be sure I’ll eat it, no questions asked. My momma raised me right :)).Tonight, it’s just plain spaghetti (I am eating white rice) and I think most people can handle cooking it, so I am not going to spend time on it. Instead, I’ll focus on the sauce, meatballs and garlic bread.

There are lots of sauces available right out of the jar or can, and some of them taste good. They are quick and easy to use and make our lives simple, but personally, if I have the time to make sauce, I am going to make it. It doesn’t have to be labor intensive and take all day. As a matter of fact, I find that sauce cooked too long tends to lose some of its flavor (this is for a sauce with no meat in it). In a perfect world, I would use fresh tomatoes, but, as I discussed previously, the tomatoes available here in the stores are generally pretty flavorless and not ripe. I have found that using diced and crushed tomatoes for sauce works just fine for me. This is a simple sauce recipe. It’s quick, it’s easy, has few ingredients, and tastes good:

Simple Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons minced fresh basil (if you’re using dried basil, cut this in at least half)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Salt

Cook the oil and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes (don’t scorch the garlic, it tastes pretty bad when you do. As soon as you can smell it, you’re ready for the next step). Stir in the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and sugar. Season with salt to taste.

You can easily double this recipe to make more sauce, just add about another 10 minutes of cooking time. Freeze extra so you have it on hand at a moment’s notice for a quick meal.

On to the meatballs. There are several brands of frozen meatballs that are good, and we usually have some in the freezer to use for quick meals or as appetizers when people are over. Like the sauce, if I have the time, i want to make my own. Sean likes the frozen ones better, and since it’s his choice tonight, we’ll probably use them, but I am going to give my recipe for meatballs anyway. You don’t have to use the beef, pork, veal mix that I do (I use the same mix for meatloaf and you can find it in most supermarkets). Chicken or turkey works just as well if that’s what you prefer. You also don’t have to use your own bread, but I find it tastes and binds better with fresh bread instead of dried breadcrumbs. Just my personal choice.

Meatballs

2 slices of white sandwich bread (I prefer Pepperidge Farm, it works well for me)

1/3 cup milk (whatever type you have will work here)

1 pound beef, pork, veal mixture

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 egg yolk

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper

Vegetable oil

Remove and discard the crusts from the bread then tear the bread into small pieces. Use a fork to mash the bread pieces and milk to a smooth paste in a large bowl. Add the beef, pork and veal mixture, Parmesan, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, a dash of pepper (or more if you like) to the mashed bread. Stir the mixture gently until combined and uniform (I always use my hands – it gets messy but it mixes better. Take your rings off before you do this). Form the mixture into 1 1/2 inch round meatballs (about 12 meatballs if make them this big, if you want smaller, go for it and you’ll get more).

Pour the oil into a 12 inch skillet and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and discard any oil left in the skillet.

Place the skillet back over medium heat and add the tomato sauce, Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and add the meatballs. Continue to simmer, turning the meatballs occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Okay, now you have your pasta, your sauce, and your meatballs. Our vegetable of choice today is broccoli, although we’ll be having salad along with it too (which Sean won’t eat, hence the broccoli). There are lots of ways to cook broccoli (steaming, roasting, braising, sauteing) and Sean prefers simple steaming, so that’s how we’re going with it today. Later on in the week I’ll be roasting some and I have the recipe for that for you. I do use a steaming basket in my dutch oven to do this, Placing the basket in with water just to the bottom of it, bringing the water to a boil and then adding the vegetables. Steam the broccoli for about 4 to 6 minutes until bright green and tender. Add some more water if you find that the water is boiling away before the broccoli is done.

Garlic bread itself is a pretty simple endeavor:

1 loaf Italian bread

4 tablespoons butter, softened (use less if you like, I often do)

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or other cheese of your liking, or no cheese at all, it’s optional)

Preheat the broiler. Cut the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. In a small bowl, mix the butter, oil, garlic and oregano. Spread the mixture evenly on the bread. On a baking sheet, place the bread under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until slightly browned. Check frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from the broiler and serve, or, if using the cheese, sprinkle cheese over the bread and place under the broiler for another 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly brown.

That’s it, you have our first meal plan. We usually only do dessert about once a week, and usually on the weekends so you’ve done it! Clean up for this one should be relatively easy, and I try to clean up as I go along to make things easier. If you have any suggestions or variations for this meal, please feel free to add them. I am always looking to try something new. Have fun cooking tonight and I’ll see you tomorrow. Tomorrow night Sean and Michelle are out for the night at a fundraiser, so I’ll be cooking for one (which makes tomorrow a leftovers night this week), so I’ll have to come up for a topic for tomorrow. Any suggestions?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Produce, Sauce, Vegetables

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

 
Jennifer Probst

a little bit naughty a little bit nice

Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

simple cooking recipes

a blog to share with you the best

%d bloggers like this: