Thursday, September 20, 2012

September Meals

As always, when September rolls around, we suddenly find ourselves busy, like many of you, juggling school schedules, sports, activities, and more. Then throw in a few back-to-school-nights, and the question becomes not only, "what am I going to feed them?" but "WHEN am I going to feed them?" We really enjoy sitting down to a family meal, but it is just not always possible. So I try to look at about 2 weeks worth of our schedule and plan for meals when we can sit and eat together, and plans for eating in shifts. I also plan for days when I'll be able to do some work on the meal before I put it on the table, and for days when I need it to be good to go whenever we walk in the door. So for the first few weeks of school, here are some of the meals we have gone with - it is a mix of some old favorites and some new ones that I pulled from websites and/or magazines. Overall, I'd have to say my family has been pleased.

Old favorites:
Baked Stuffed Potatoes - This is always a favorite in my house and the best part is that it can be easily tailored to individual tastes (and what I happen to have on hand). I bake my potatoes, then slice them in half and scoop out the insides. I mix this with a little butter, milk and salt... AND some steamed, chopped broccoli and cauliflower. It ups the veggie factor of the meal, plus I get to mound the inside on the potato when I refill which just makes it looks so pretty (see photo). Also, if I offer the veggies as a topping, the kids have the option of NOT putting it on, but when it is already inside it, it is a done deal. I usually also add in some shredded cheddar cheese because when I pop it back in the oven, it gets nice and melty. YUM. Then I serve with toppings. Some great ideas: bacon, sour cream, chives, chili, more veggies, more cheese, salsa, and anything else you can think of that your family might enjoy. Serve with a salad and we are good to go!
Chicken Divan - I know we have the recipe on here somewhere. An old family favorite. I have switched from using cream of chicken soup in the sauce to using cream of broccoli soup. AND I always double this - one recipe for dinner, one for the freezer.
Black Bean Soup - This could not be easier and is another recipe that changes based on mood and/or what I have in, but is always a hit at my house. I usually drain and rinse about 3 cans of black beans, add in salsa or diced veggies and a can or two of diced tomatoes, some seasonings, some broth. I like it a little chunky, I usually use my immersion blender to make it soup-like, but still leave some chunks and add cilantro in at the end. I usually serve this with quesadillas and toppings for the quesadillas or soup, such as corn, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, diced onion, salsa, sour cream. 
Tomato Soup & Cheesy Breadsticks - Much like the black bean soup, I throw in a mix of canned tomatoes, broth and veggies and blend. Then I wrap 1/2 mozzarella cheese stick in a crescent roll and bake for time on can. So easy, so yummy. Family favorite! (One of the new recipes I came across adds bacon and white beans to a tomato soup. May have to try this)
Korean BBQ Flank Steak - This recipe is also on the site. It is from Aunt Sarah on a visit a few years ago and has been a go-to grilled steak recipe here since. We love this one and the leftovers are great for a steak salad the next day for lunch.
Fajitas/Tacos/Burritos - Some version of wrapped Mexican-style food, choose meat, fish, bean or veggie and put it together as you wish. Easy to please everyone.

Some New Quick & Easy Favorites:
Thai Pork Wraps - I posted about this recipe that we found in the September issue of Rachael Ray's magazine and it is now a must-have in the rotation. I made our second batch last week and froze in single-size servings to be pulled out when needed before or after practices, etc. to accommodate different schedules. As I was packaging it, Holland came in and asked if she could have a bowl before soccer practice that day. 
Pan-fried Chicken - Marinade: 3 TBSP canola mayo, 2 TBSP low-sodium soy sauce, 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice, 1 TBSP chile pase. Marinate chicken breast in this for at least 15 minutes. Then dredge in 1 1/2 c panko bread crumbs. Heat large nonstick skillet over med high and cook chicken in two batches, 4 minutes each side. The flavor was great. Next time I'll try baking, though. 
Skinny Scampi - Spaghetti squash, cut in half, cut side down in large microwavable dish, add 1/3 c water and microwave on high until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove seeds. Meanwhile, heat 1 TBSP olive oil over med heat, add 1 chopped red bell pepper and 1 chopped clove of garlic and cook about 3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined; 1/4 c vegetable broth and 1 TBSP fresh lemon juice and cook, tossing occasionally, until the shrimp are firm and pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 tsp. lemon zest and 2 tsp. chopped flat leaf parsley and remove from heat. Using a fork, rake the spaghetti squash lengthwise to remove the flesh. Toss the squash with 2 tsp olive oil, season with salt & pepper. Serve shrimp on top of squash (serves 4).
Lamb & Turkey Burger - From Cooking LIght, this recipe had mixed reviews, but some are never going to like lamb, and some are never going to like burgers. Those of us that enjoyed it, really enjoyed it. I did not use the sauce with the recipe and instead did a chop of cilantro, mint & parsley, mixed with a little lemon juice and mayonnaise. We served it with a tomato-cucumber salad - thinly sliced cucs and tomatoes, tossed with chopped parsley, olives, lemon juice and olive oil. A bigger hit than the burgers with some!

Hope this gives you some ideas of new recipes to try. Would love to hear some of your favorites.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


What do you make with your ready-to-be-tossed bananas, besides banana bread (muffins) and smoothies? I’m ready for something new.

Also, any ideas for what I can make with leftover corn muffins? We had neighbors over for the Patriots game on Sunday, and I overbaked (surprise, surprise).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thai Pork Wrap-Ups

Trying to get into Back to School and fall activity mode, I did some pre-planning for easy meals. I just found this in the new Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine in an article on 16 FAST IDEAS and had it tonight. It is great for a quick meal. It comes together very fast. In this case, I made it ahead of time and popped it in the freezer - took it out and had it for a quick-on-the-go-dinner. These are ingredients that are easy to have on hand and ones I intend to make sure I have in. Whether I cook it a-up ahead of time or make it on the go, we will be having this one again. We really liked it.:)

**Two notes: 1. It says it serves 4. I have some large nephews that I could see eating all, or at least half, of this meal in one sitting. 2. If you like it spicy, feel free to add some extra sriracha sauce on top at the end. It is delicious!

1 lb. ground pork
1 clove garlic, grated
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 c chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sriracha
1 tsp brown sugar
1 head butter lettuce
veggies of choice -- bok choy, peppers, onions, grated carrots or zucchini, whatever you have on hand! It is a great way to add in a lot of veggies. Chop them and sauté them with the meat.

Cook pork and garlic in oil over high, 7 minutes. Off heat, stir in next 5 ingredients. Serve with lettuce. Serves 4.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back to school breakfast

Today I made Pumpkin waffles a great fall treat and nice for the first day of school.  But as every year I struggle with breakfast especially Erin, she loves big breakfast pancakes, waffles and such.  But does not like them frozen she is out the door by 6:45 so it is hard to do fresh of those and get her out on time. This summer she got better about eating Smoothies for breakfast but even that is time consuming I made a double batch of the waffle mix and plan to freeze in cups so she can pull out one cup of mix at night and make a waffle in the AM.  What works in your house?  Here are some of the suggestions form other years as well.