Wednesday, March 25, 2015

MONDAY IS FOR MEATLOAF...THEMING YOUR MENU PLANNING TO MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER



I posted on this topic a while back as I valiantly tried to fit this in to my family's schedule.  After going off the wagon on meal planning I am climbing back on as I have way too much going on in my life to not meal plan!  Meal planning will eliminate calls to my office at 4pm asking "Mom, what's for dinner?" and generally make my life easier as I will remember there actually is such a thing as dinner to be made and hopefully defrost accordingly!  I themed my days according to the foods that my family likes.  I have two teenage boys and a 20 year old daughter as well as a significant other who is a picky eater so it gets interesting trying to find something that everyone will actually eat.  My partner will not eat nuts, mayo, beans or any green vegetable that he deems "looks like grass".  I still make foods with these items in it but I make sure they are side dishes and not the main meal so that he will enjoy dinner as well.  My daughter and younger son are very open on the things they will eat, my daughter only has one item she won't eat which are spaghetti noodles so I just boil a bit of a different shaped pasta for her when I make spaghetti (which is my favorite meal!).  My middle son seems to survive on protein.  He won't eat potatoes, most vegetables, not much fruit, nothing containing mayo, mustard, or any condiment except ketchup- it gets pretty interesting trying to feed him as well.  sigh....   So hence the necessity of menu planning!  I tried to pick fun themes that my teens would identify with and enjoy.  Read on and tell me what you think and what days your family might enjoy..


Mondays are any sort of food you might find at a diner - hamburgers, blue plate special type items, even breakfast for dinner.  These items are easy to cook comfort food that seem especially suited to those horrible back to work Mondays.  

This upcoming Monday we are going to have a favorite diner menu item of Sloppy Joes.  In the city I live in we have an upscale grocery store that sells Sloppy Joe meat at a high markup price in their deli.  This is their recipe that is the best Sloppy Joe I have ever tried!  I normally serve something easy such as potato chips and cut up veggies as a side, possibly coleslaw if I am feeling ambitious that evening.

SENDIK’S SLOPPY JOES

3¾ pounds all-natural ground chuck
1 cup diced celery (cut into ¼-inch pieces)
1 cup diced yellow onion (cut into ¼-inch pieces)
1 whole green bell pepper, cored and diced into ¼-inch pieces
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup barbecue sauce
2 cups ketchup
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon granulated garlic
Place meat in a large, heavy pot. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until meat is cooked through. When done, transfer meat to a colander and drain off excess fat.  Return meat to pan and add celery, onion and pepper and saut√© over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes.  Add brown sugar, barbecue sauce, ketchup, salt, pepper and granulated garlic and simmer over low heat 20 minutes or until desired thickness is reached, stirring regularly. Serve over hamburger buns.



Taco Tuesday can be interpreted with basically any Mexican food.  Fajitas, enchiladas, even Mexican pizza would all be welcomed in our house.  Tacos are my partners favorite dinner food although after he eats about a half dozen I get to hear about how his stomach hurts all evening!

This upcoming Tuesday I am going to go a bit healthier and make chicken fajitas.  These fajitas are chicken breast marinated in a fajita marinade and served on grilled corn tortillas with fresh pico de gallo, cilantro and queso fresco along with a squeeze of lime.  I am sharing both my recipe for fresh pico de gallo and the recipe for the fajita marinade here.  You can either fry the chicken in a skillet, grill it or bake it at 350 - your choice...each method works well.  This recipe is relatively low calorie, but it makes a nice salad as well if you want to not deal with those pesky carbs from the tortillas.  The fajitas alone tend to be filling, but a good side with this are some spicy black beans.  So pop open a Corona, slice your limes and enjoy Taco Tuesday!  

CHICKEN (OR STEAK) FAJITAS

3/4 lb top sirloin steak or chicken breast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 flour tortillas (8 inch/20 cm)
1 -2 onion, we usually use approx. 1-2 depending on size (however much you like,enough to make a good mix with the peppers)
2 small sweet peppers, of your choice (green, red, or yellow)

Slice steak or chicken into thin strips.  In bowl, mix together 1 tablespoons olive oil, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, cumin, hot pepper flakes, black pepper & salt.  Add meat strips and stir to coat, set aside.  Wrap tortillas in foil and place in 350° oven for 5-10 minutes or until heated through.  Cut onions in half lengthwise and slice into strips, cut your peppers into strips.  In large non stick skillet over medium high heat, heat remaining tablespoons of olive oil.  Add onions & peppers stirring for 3-4 minutes, until softened; transfer to a bowl and set aside.  Add beef to skillet, cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes or until they lose their red color.  Return onions and peppers to skillet; stir for about one minute.  Remove fajitas from pan and place on serving dish.  Next lightly brown corn tortillas for just under one minute each.  Serve with diced cilantro, pico de gallo, lime wedges and queso fresco cheese for toppings.

PICO DE GALLO

3 large tomatoes, chopped (I prefer to peel them and seed them first)
1⁄2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 -2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Stir together all ingredients


It's Hot Dish Hump Day.  A Hot Dish at our house is something retro and homey.  Along the lines of a pot roast in the crockpot or a casserole in the oven.  Something you remember your mom making from your childhood.

This upcoming Hump Day (Wednesday) I am going to use up some diced ham I have in the freezer and make one of my family's favorite casseroles - Scallop potatoes and ham.  I will be holding back a bit of this ham to combine with diced leftovers of Tuesday's fajita chicken for our Asian meal on Thursday.  I try to either freeze leftovers immediately or use them up quickly so we don't have food waste.  Of course leftovers are always welcomed for lunches the next day!  I normally serve a side vegetable or tossed salad with this type of meal.  Since I am calorie counting I will slip a piece of baked fish in the oven for myself to eat with the veggie side dish as this tends to get a bit heavy with potatoes and cheese but my kids and my honey just love it.


SCALLOP POTATO CASSEROLE

3 cups idaho potatoes, peeled, boiled and cut into cubes when cool,
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 lb skinless smoked sausage sliced, or sliced hot dog coins or diced ham
1/8 teaspoon paprika

Cut skinless smoked sausage in half, lengthwise, and then chop into 1/2 inch "half moon" cuts. Cook in a frying pan for about 15 minutes, turning frequently to SLIGHTLY brown.  Meanwhile, put cooked & diced potatoes in 2 quart casserole. Add cooked meat and give it a gentle toss.  Mix all remaining ingredients (except for shredded cheddar cheese & the paprika) in a saucepan over medium heat until warm, melted and smooth. (Use a whisk and stir constantly.).  Pour white/cheese sauce over potatoes and meat. Sprinkle shredded sharp cheddar cheese on top, and then sprinkle paprika evenly over the top.  Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 35-45 minutes (watch, until golden brown on top).  




Anime Thursday is a special day for my youngest son.  He is a huge Anime fan which is a Japanese animation technique.  Any Asian style food is fine for this one - Japanese, Thai, Chinese or whatever.  After dinner my son and I will spend some time together watching Anime which he introduced me to and I now enjoy.  

This upcoming Thursday I am making an easy meal of Fried Rice.  I like Fried Rice because you can easily up leftovers in this meal both of veggies and meat because basically anything goes with this type of dish.  Whenever I make this I normally do a quick stir fried vegetable usually along the lines of broccoli or cabbage to serve on the side.

FRIED RICE

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups cold, cooked white rice
2 cups chopped cooked pork or chicken or shrimp or beef
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed (any other veggies can used)
2 green onions, sliced
3 tablespoons soy sauce

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the eggs; cook and stir until scrambled and firm. Remove from wok, and set aside.  Put remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok and turn heat up to high. Stir in rice until each grain is coated with oil. Stir in chicken, celery, carrot, peas and green onions. Reduce heat to medium, cover and allow to steam for 5 minutes. Stir in scrambled eggs and soy sauce, and cook until eggs are heated through.




Friday night is Italiano night!  I know a lot of people do fish on Friday but my issue is my family doesn't like fish.  Only I love baked fish so if I want to eai it I sneak in a piece of baked fish while serving for example a casserole or heavier meal to the rest of my family.  These days I am calorie counting so plan to do this for myself instead of the more calorie dense scallop potatoes and ham on Wednesday that I am serving the rest of the family.  So anyway I thought Italian might be a good wind down type food on Friday as it is easy to cook comfort type food that everyone likes.  Not to mention pizza is an Italian food so cheating by ordering in can be done as well!

This upcoming Friday I am making a quick dish that everyone loves.  It is economical and delicious and best of all - fast and easy!  When I make spaghetti I freeze the leftover meat sauce so I usually just have to defrost the sauce to make this dish.  I top the pizza with pepperonis as well as my guys lovvvve pepperoni pizza!  The side dish with my Italian dishes is always a simple tossed salad with Italian vinagrette dressing.

BUBBLE UP PIZZA

3 (7 1/2 ounce) packages refrigerated biscuits, quartered1 1⁄2 cups spaghetti sauce or 1 1⁄2 cups pizza sauce
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 onion, diced
1 lb ground sausage, browned & drained (optional)
pepperoni
1 can mushroom
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (Save for topping)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a 9 x 13" baking dish, line the bottom with Pepperoni, In a mixing bowl quarter biscuits, add the rest of the ingredients, mix well pour on top of the pepperoni, sprinkle some extra cheese on top.  Bake 30- 35 minutes or until sides are golden brown.


Saturday is family game night!  This means anything goes for dinner but generally something fun.  Then after dinner is cleared away it is time for a board game or card game.  Yes I have teens so they humor me with this and I get to make them actually talk to me away from the video games and constant headphones in their ears!

This Saturday I am making an okay not healthy but definitely fun type of meal!  Chili dogs with homemade french fries!  Yes I know major calorie fest here but it's the weekend and time for some fun! Along with the french fries I like serving veggies with ranch dipping sauce to at least pretend I am serving something healthy! LOL

 For my calorie counting I mainly eat what the family eats during the week but do it on a very portioned type of scale.  A bit of the main dish and a lot of veggies.  Weekends I make my free days from calorie counting but I have found one happy thing though, I am so busy on weekends I normally find myself only eating one meal a day sometimes so it all kind of works out in the end.  Here is my recipe for homemade french fries and some great hot dog chili sauce that freezes well....

FRENCH FRIES

peanut oil or other vegetable oil, for frying
2 lbs potatoes
salt, to taste

Pour oil in a deep fryer or heavy saucepan to reach halfway up the sides of the pan.
Heat to 325 degrees F, use a deep fry thermometer to determine this.  While the oil is heating, peel the potatoes and push through a French fry cutter to form uniform sticks.  As you go, place the cut potatoes in a bowl of ice water to release some of the starch and to keep them from browning.  Dry the potato strips thoroughly, this will keep the oil from splattering.
Fry the potatoes in batches so the pan isn't crowded and the oil temperature does not plummet.  Cook for 3 minutes until they are soft but not browned.  Remove the potatoes with a long-handled metal strainer and drain on brown paper bags.  Bring oil temperature up to 375 degrees F.  Return the par-fried potatoes to the oil in batches and cook a second time for 4 minutes until golden and crispy.  Drain on fresh brown paper bags then place in a serving bowl lined with paper towels.  Salt and serve immediately.

HOT DOG CHILI SAUCE

1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup water
1 teaspoon chili powder
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1⁄4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon dried onion flakes
1 dash salt

Put all ingredients in pan.  Do not cook hamburger first.  Cook all at the same time.
it makes for a smoother sauce.  Cook down for 10 to 15 minutes until thickened.


I discovered what is termed as "Soul Food" when I was dating my ex husband who took me to an African American large picnic.  There I discovered the best food I had ever tasted!  Large pans of creamy macaroni and cheese, collard greens simmered all day over an open fire pit, grilled chicken, tender bbq ribs and all kinds of wonderful salads and desserts.  I vowed to learn to cook all of these things, (back then I could barely boil water!) and I have.  Now on Sundays I enjoy fussing over my family and making these wonderful from scratch based meals.  It is nice having the family all sit down to a wonderful meal complete with a homemade dessert.  

This upcoming Sunday I am planning to make some Greek baked chicken drumsticks, dressing, fresh green beans, corn muffins and an apple pie.  Here is my recipe for the drumsticks and some home made dressing.....

GREEK BAKED CHICKEN

Juice and zest from 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp juice)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
6 chicken drumsticks
1 tablespoon oregano
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Combine the lemon juice, zest, olive oil,oregano and minced garlic together in a large ziplock bag. Add the chicken and seal the bag then mix until it's evenly coated. Place into the refrigerator to marinate for several hours.  Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake until cooked through and golden brown.



HOMEMADE BREAD STUFFING

¾ cup finely chopped onion
1 1⁄2 cups chopped celery (with leaves)
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup butter
9 cups soft bread cubes
2 teaspoons salt
1 1⁄2 teaspoons dried sage
1⁄4 teaspoon ground sage
1⁄4 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Cook and stir onion and celery in butter in 10 to 12 inch skillet until onion is tender. Stir in about 1/3 of the bread cubes. Turn into a deep bowl. Add remaining ingredients; toss. bake it in a greased dish,at 350°F until golden brown on top (about 30 minutes covered, then uncover and bake for 15 minutes more). Don't overbake!



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