Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Week 39 Meal Plan

This morning I dreamed I was eating penne rustica.

You know, the rich, delicious baked pasta dish from Macaroni Grill?

In my dream, I could taste the delicious creamy sauce-- I mean I could literally taste it! So when I woke up this morning, I decided I had no choice but to find a copycat recipe and try it. The penne rustica recipe in this week's meal plan has nothing to do with what's on sale and everything to do with my pregnancy cravings.

Enjoy Halloween this week! But don't eat too much candy, or you will have absolutely no room in your calorie counting for the penne rustica. Just saying...


Thursday- New Recipe!
Copycat Macaroni Grill's Penne Rustica, Green Salad, Peas

Go Out

We've got a church Halloween party before the trick-or-treaters come.

Monster Mash- easy themed dinner that's not too spooky for the little ones.


Lime Chicken Soft Tacos, Corn, Green Salad

Tuesday- New Recipe!
Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder, Cornbread

Monster Mash

I am not the biggest fan of Halloween.

I love seeing little kids dressed up. Opportunities for being creative and using a little imagination are a great part of celebrating Halloween. And I think pumpkin carving makes a great family tradition. But that's about it. Beyond a couple things, I can't really drum up a lot of love for Halloween.

I guess I don't really understand why we need to have a holiday to celebrate all things gruesome and horrifying.

So when I want to do a little Halloween-themed dinner that my son will enjoy, I don't want to include any dark or gory stuff. I'm just not into food that looks like brains or guts. I thought we could do a simple Monster Mash that wouldn't take too much preparation.

I'm using ideas from for inspiration!

Witch's Brew (apple cider served out of a cauldron)
Cyclops Appetizers
Eight-Legged Monster Hotdogs (served with chili for the adults)
Mashed Potatoes (just because it's a Monster Mash)
Fruit and Candy Monsters for dessert (It would be fun to make these together.)

Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder

I am super excited to try this recipe! Click here to see the original recipe post and photo on The Seven Bum Kitchen.

It's probably no surprise that I will use milk in place of the half-and-half, and I may decrease the cheese depending on how much we have left in the fridge by Tuesday. Here is the copy of the recipe:

1 1/2 lb. chicken breasts

1 1/2 c. chopped onion

1-2 garlic cloves (or 1 tsp. minced)

3 T. butter

2 chicken bullion cubes

1 c. hot water

1 tsp. cumin

2 c. half-and-half

2 c. shredded Monterey-jack cheese

1 can creamed corn

1 can (4 oz.) green chiles, drained

1 med. tomato, chopped

Cut and cube chicken. Brown with onion, garlic, and butter.

In a separate pan, dissolve bullion cubes in hot water. Add cumin, bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer 5 minutes.

In a 3 qt. pan, add bullion mixture, chicken, and rest of ingredients (except tomatoes). Add shredded cheese after all mixed together. Cook and stir until cheese if melted. Add tomatoes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Week 38 Meal Plan

We've had the flu going around at our house this week, so we're focusing on survival. I'll run to the store for some milk if we run out, but otherwise I'm planning on eating out of our freezer and pantry for the whole week.

Here are some of the meals we'll be eating:

Crunchy Baked Chicken - new recipe
Roast Chicken
Homemade Pizza
Spaghetti with the Leftover Marinara Sauce
Cold Cereal or Pancakes

Crunchy Baked Chicken

We loved this chicken. It's quick, simple, flavorful, and kid-friendly. Five stars from me!

This recipe comes from a neighbor. It's so simple to prepare; it would probably be great to make for a crowd.

Crunchy Baked Chicken
3-4 chicken breasts, cut into three pieces each
1 c sour cream
1/2 pkg Lipton onion soup mix
salt, pepper, paprika to taste
Pepperidge Farms stuffing (blue bag)

Line casserole dish with foil. Place breasts in dish. Combine sour cream and soup mix. Sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika on breasts. Spoon sour cream mixture to coat the top side of chicken. Sprinkle each breast liberally with stuffing mix and put a dot of butter on each breast. Bake uncovered at 375 for one hour.

4 potatoes
baby carrots

Stab potatoes with a fork. Bake at 425 while you thaw and prep the chicken. Then turn down the oven to 375, add the chicken to the oven, and the potatoes will be done around the same time.

Steam carrots. Season with salt and pepper or with a maple glaze.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Week 37 Meal Plan

So have you seen my post on price matching at WalMart? It may help clear things up if you've been wondering about my new shopping lists.

We've got a lot of good sale items this week. I was super, super thrilled to see boneless pork roast on sale at Fresh Market because I have been CRAVING pork for months now. I'm looking forward to using pulled pork in a couple different meals this week!


Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Veggies and Dip

Korean Beef with Broccoli, Brown Rice, Edamame

Go out

Cafe Rio Salads, Chips, Homemade Salsa

Monday- Trying something new!
Turkey Bacon Ciabatta, Garlic Fries, Broccoli

Something easy like Omelets

Week 37 Grocery List

This week I will be price matching at WalMart.

Ingredients for Week 37 Dinners

I will be purchasing:
1 bunch Italian parsley
green onions
1 kiwi
broccoli ($.50/lb at Buy Low)
4 limes
1-2 bunches cilantro
1 head Romaine lettuce ($.88 at Sunflower)
4 tomatillos
1 avocado
3 tomatoes ($.49/lb at Buy Low)
1 onion ($.50/lb at Sunflower)
1 jalapeno
2-3 lbs potatoes
12 rolls (preferably 6 of them ciabatta)
12 slices bacon
1 lb steak (London broil is $1.98/lb at Maceys)
4 lbs boneless sirloin pork roast ($1.99/lb at Fresh Market)
16 oz sour cream ($.88 at Smiths)
1 dozen eggs ($.79 at Smiths)
optional: Parmesan wedge or block (I'll just use my shredded Parmesan)
optional: baby arugula (I'll just use regular lettuce- I'm too cheap!)
optional: Provolone cheese

I will be using from my pantry:
1 head garlic
1 lb turkey deli meat
rice/brown rice
4-6 tortillas
frozen edamame
2 (14 oz) cans black beans
1 (11 oz ) can tomato juice
optional: dill pickles
barbecue sauce
Dijon mustard
lemon juice
soy sauce
sesame oil
brown sugar
sesame seeds
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
1 packet Fiesta Ranch dressing mix
minced onion
garlic pepper

I will also be purchasing these deals:
gala apples ($.50/lb at Buy Low)
2 lb block cheddar cheese ($3.98 at Buy Low)
6.5 oz Betty Crocker muffins or cornbread mix ($.29 at Maceys)

Turkey Bacon Ciabatta

Looking for a fancy sandwich to impress all your friends? Or do you just want something delicious that you can pack for a picnic in these waning days of sunshine? Well here you go! My mom passed along this recipe that she got from a friend while volunteering to make lunches for the teachers at the high school. Apparently it was a hit school-wide.

You can make the sandwiches as written, or just make do with whatever rolls, Parmesan cheese, and greens you've got on hand. The dressing is really the key, in my humble opinion.

1/2 c mayo
1/2 bunch Italian Parsley
1 t Dijon mustard
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1 clove garlic

Mix all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to mellow.

To assemble sandwiches:
6 ciabatta rolls
1 lb turkey deli meat
12 slices bacon, cooked
Parmesan cheese slices, shaved off a block with a vegetable peeler
baby arugula

Slice rolls. Spread both sides lightly with dressing. Layer turkey, bacon, Parmesan slices, and arugula in between ciabatta. Enjoy immediately or save in the fridge/cooler for up to 24 hours.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Price Matching at WalMart

I'll be honest. I do not love grocery shopping at WalMart. I find the store big, impersonal, understocked, and understaffed. I rarely can find an employee who knows the answers to my questions. If I still lived near a Maceys (or really any store that has good customer service), I would definitely keep on shopping there.

There is one thing that WalMart's got going for them. They price match. You can bring in prices from any local ad, and WalMart will match the price. If they don't carry the same brand, you can use WalMart's generic brand to price match.

It takes extra work to troll all your local ads and compile the best prices on the items you want to buy. And sometimes you'll end up with a checker at WalMart who really struggles with the price-matching function, making your whole transaction take FOREVER.

And yet I find myself doing it every week.

When I'm going to price match at WalMart, this is how I prepare and use my shopping list:
  • I make a list of all the best sale items in my local grocery stores, what the price is, and which store has advertised them. Oftentimes the same items are on sale at all the stores, so I double check which store has the very lowest price.
  • I come up with a meal plan using the sale items. I make a note of what other ingredients I'll need.
  • I list everything I need to buy on a piece of paper folded in half. (That way the list can hang on the side of my grocery cart where I can see it but my toddler can't grab it.) I make sure to note exactly what size to get for the price match items (i.e. 11 oz, 1 lb, etc.).
  • I make small sticky notes for every item I want to price match with the price and the store that advertised the price. I stick these on my shopping list.
  • When I go through the store, I carefully place the sticky notes on the individual groceries. I keep in mind to check WalMart's prices to see if they are better that week. (Sometimes I skip price matching, or skip the item all together, if I determine the deal isn't as good as I'd thought.)
  • When I go through the checkout, I try to group all my price matches at the end of the transaction. I tell the checker about my price matches, and usually they really like using the sticky note system, but I'm always there to help if they can't read my writing.

Have you ever had any experience price matching at WalMart? Do you have your own system that works? Please share!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Week 36 Meal Plan

I wanted to say thank you to everyone who came out to my Maceys class Wednesday night! We had a lot of fun (and only a few mishaps); I'd say the night was a success!

After teaching, I sped through Maceys' case lot sale to replace some of my pantry items. I got a couple cans of mandarin oranges, French onion soup, beef consomme, tomato soup, and half cases of petite diced tomatoes, diced tomatoes with green chiles, Great Northern beans, and reduced sodium black beans. It was a great trip, and came in around $25!

Parmesan Tilapia, Broccoli, Cauliflower

Friday- Trying something new!
Roasted Red Pepper Soup, Green Salad, Homemade Bread or Rolls

Go out

Chicken Cacciatore, Rice, Green Salad, Peas

Monday- Trying something new!
Spinach and Ricotta-Stuffed Shells, Broccoli, Steamed Carrots


Week 36 Grocery List - with Some Prices!

I will be price matching at WalMart this week.

Ingredients for Week 36 Dinners
I will be purchasing:
3 red bell peppers ($.69 each- Fresh Market)
1 head green leaf lettuce ($.88 - Sunflower Farmers Market)
broccoli crowns ($.79/lb - Fresh Market)
1 lb baby carrots ($.79 - Fresh Market)
2 onions
1 head garlic
part skim ricotta- enough for 2 1/2 cups
Parmesan cheese
jumbo pasta shells
1 lb tilapia fillets (2 lb bags are on sale this week at Walmart for $6.48)
4 chicken breasts ($1.78/lb - Walmart)
optional: 1 green pepper
optional: 1 more onion
optional: 1 can mushrooms

I will be using from my pantry:
1 egg
frozen peas
1 (10 oz) pkg frozen spinach
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (14 oz) cans white beans
2-3 (14 oz) cans chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can beef consomme
1 (10 oz) can tomato soup
mayo/Miracle Whip
balsamic vinegar
lemon juice
onion powder
minced onion
garlic powder
garlic salt
celery salt
bay leaf
fennel seed

I will also be purchasing these deals:
fuji apples ($.50/lb - Buy Low)
32 oz block cheese ($4.99 - Smiths)
11 oz bags Hersheys baking chips ($1.79- Smiths)

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

This soup is thick and rich, perfect for a fall day! I believe the recipe is adapted from AllRecipes. You'll be happy if you have an immersion blender, but if not, you'll have to make do with a regular blender like I do!

I'll be serving this soup with a green salad and some sort of bread. I can't decide if I want to make homemade rolls, bread, or mozzarella grilled cheese sandwiches.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup
3 red bell peppers
1 onion, chopped
2 T minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
1 T oil
2 (14 oz) cans white beans, rinsed and drained
2 (14 oz) cans chicken broth or vegetable broth
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to broil. Place bell peppers on a cookie sheet and broil on the top rack of the oven, using tongs to turn as each side blackens. Place blackened peppers in a paper bag. Close tightly and let cool 20-30 minutes. Then peel skin off peppers and discard stems and seeds. Chop roasted peppers and set aside. In a large pot over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in oil for 5 minutes. Add the roasted peppers and cook 2-3 minutes more. Next add the chicken broth and beans, stirring well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use a blender to puree soup in batches. Return to pot and reheat before serving.

Spinach and Ricotta-Stuffed Shells

We enjoyed this recipe, but didn't love it like crazy. I was surprised at how little my son cared for it, actually. I think it could definitely use more marinara and less ricotta mixture. Plus, the homemade marinara was a lot of work for a red sauce. I'd probably just use something I already had in the pantry to save time. I doubt I'll be making this one again anytime in the near future.

This recipe comes from Cooking Light magazine. I'm excited to try the homemade marinara sauce (using the extra for other yummy things!), but I'm sure you could substitute your own favorite red sauce to simplify the preparation.

Basic Marinara
1 T olive oil
1 c chopped yellow onion
1 t sugar
1 T minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
3/4 t salt
3/4 t dried basil
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t dried thyme
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/8 t fennel seeds, crushed
2 t balsamic vinegar
2/3 c chicken broth
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes (no-salt-added variety)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes stirring frequently. Add sugar and next 7 ingredients (through fennel seeds); cook 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar; cook 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 55 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
Yield: about 4 cups

Spinach and Ricotta-Stuffed Shells
2 c Basic Marinara
2 1/2 c part-skim ricotta
1/2 c grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 (10 0z) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 large egg yolk
1 garlic clove, minced
24 cooked jumbo pasta shells

Preheat oven to 350. Spread 1/2 cup Basic Marinara over bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine ricotta and next 8 ingredients (through garlic) in a large bowl, stirring well. Spoon about 1 1/2 Tablespoons filling into each pasta shell. Arrange stuffed shells in prepared dish; spread with remaining 1 1/2 cups Basic Marinara. Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Just for You

Since I didn't post any new recipes with this week's meal plan, I thought I'd share a few winners we've enjoyed lately.

  • You know I like my pasta, and Summer Squash Ribbons is a fantastic choice if you've still got some zucchini or yellow squash lingering in your garden.
  • My whole family enjoyed this lightened version of Falafels that was still super tasty.
  • And if you're in the mood to stay in and bake on a rainy fall day, these delicious Korean-Spiced Sandwiches are a creative way to enjoy your family dinner!

Speaking of families, I'm demonstrating some of our Easy Italian-Style Family Favorites at the Provo Maceys tomorrow evening! It will be a fun, free activity you don't want to miss! Click here for all the details.

Summer Squash Ribbons and Pasta

This is a delicious summer pasta dish! It is surprisingly flavorful, especially given the simple ingredients. I love that you don't have to cook anything but the pasta, which helps keep the kitchen from getting too hot.

Since the recipe didn't require a full box of pasta, I cooked the whole thing anyway and kept the extras plain in case my son didn't like the squash ribbons. Luckily, the whole recipe was a hit with him, as well as my husband and myself!

Summer Squash Ribbons and Pasta
adapted from Cooking Light magazine
12 oz flat pasta, such as fettuccine or pappardelle
3 small zucchini
3 small yellow squash
1 T olive oil
1/4 t grated lemon rind
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t salt
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove minced
1 t oregano
1/3 c thinly sliced fresh basil
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, plus more to pass at the table

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and keep hot.

Meanwhile, make sure zucchini and squash are washed well. Shave zucchini and yellow squash into ribbons using a vegetable peeler, stopping at the seeds; place ribbons in a large bowl. Discard seed cores. Combine oil, rind, juice, salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Drizzle oil mixture over vegetable ribbons; sprinkle with basil. Toss gently then mix into hot pasta. Sprinkle with cheese.

Falafel Pitas (Round II)

I got this recipe for falafels from Cooking Light. I liked falafels the first time we tried them, but I didn't particularly love deep frying the patties. When I found this recipe had only 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, I knew it was much more within my comfort zone!

There are multiple options for the sauce on these pitas. I personally added Ranch dressing as option #3; it is neither authentic nor light, but it sure is easy and tasty!

Falafel Pitas
from Cooking Light

Sauce Option #1
1 cup reduced fat Greek yogurt
2/3 c chopped peeled cucumber
1 t chopped fresh dill
1 garlic clove, minced

Sauce Option #2

hummus thinned with lemon juice

Sauce Option #3
6 T Ranch dressing

1 (15 oz) can no-salt-added chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/4 c dry bread crumbs
1/4 c finely chopped fresh parsley
3 T finely chopped red onion
1 t garlic salt
1 t ground coriander
1 t ground cumin
2 T olive oil
Remaining Ingredients
2 whole wheat pitas, cut in half
2 c shredded romaine lettuce
1 c chopped tomato
2/3 c thinly sliced peeled cucumber
1/4 c thinly sliced red onion

Depending on which sauce option you choose, combine sauce ingredients; set aside. To prepare falafel, drain chickpeas, reserving 3 Tablespoons liquid. Place chickpeas, 3 T liquid, breadcrumbs, and next 5 ingredients (through cumin) in a food processor; Process until minced. Divide chickpea mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Spread sauce into each pita half. Fill with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, and two patties.

Korean-Spiced Beef and Cabbage Sandwiches

I was very intrigued by this recipe when I saw it in Cooking Light. It was printed as an appetizer, but we found these sandwiches made a very satisfying dinner with even a few leftover. It is not a quick-fix meal, however, so I'd suggest only attempting this recipe on one of those rainy fall days when you feel like staying in to bake!

My only change to the recipe would be to roll the dough thinner before wrapping it around the filling. My husband thought he'd like these served French-dip style, with some delicious broth. We didn't happen to make a dipping sauce, so please let me know if you come up with a good idea!

Korean-Spiced Beef and Cabbage Sandwiches
from Cooking Light
1/2 c chopped green onions
1/4 c low-sodium soy sauce
1 T sesame seeds
1 T sesame oil
2 t sugar
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t bottled ground fresh ginger
1/4 t bottled minced garlic
1/8 t ground red pepper
1/2 lb ground sirloin (lean ground beef)
cooking spray
2 c thinly sliced green cabbage

4 c flour
2 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 1/3 c water
1/4 c honey
1 T water
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 T sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 375.

To prepare filling, combine first 10 ingredients in a large bowl. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; coat pan with cooking spray. Add beef mixture to pan; cook 8 minutes or until done; stirring occasionally. Stir in cabbage; cook 4 minutes until cabbage is tender. Remove from heat; cool completely.

To prepare dough, combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine 1 1/3 c water, honey, and canola oil in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add water mixture to flour mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes); cover and let stand 5 minutes.

Roll dough into a 16x12-inch rectangle (although I would probably roll it out thinner next time). Cut dough into 12 squares. Working with 1 square at a time, spoon about 1/4 cup beef mixture into center of each square. Moisten edges of dough with water; bring 2 opposite corners to center, pinching points to seal. Bring up remaining 2 corners and pinch tight. Pinch edges to seal. Place rolls, seam side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Combine 1 Tablespoons water and egg white in a small bowl. Lightly brush tops of dough with egg white mixture; sprinkle each with 1/4 tsp sesame seeds. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until rolls are lightly browned. Remove from baking sheet; cool on wire racks.