June 27, 2019

July 2019 Monthly Menu Plan


I always meal plan for the entire month using the bulk of ingredients we already have on-hand.  I grocery shop every couple weeks to buy any fresh ingredients we need, along with restocking our produce.  Shopping my pantry, freezers, and basement storage helps to keep our grocery budget low because I typically buy our staples when I see them at their lowest price point.

As recipes are published, they will be linked to in future menu plans. You can also find published recipes under Labels on the right side of this blog or by simply doing a Search.

Here is the menu plan for July 2019:

  1.  John Wayne Casserole, Salad
  2.  Spaghetti Squash Pizza Casserole, Garlic Bread
  3.  Parmesan Chicken Patties, Salad
  4.  Brats, Waffle Fries, Dr Pepper Baked Beans, BLT Pasta Salad
  5.  Cheesy Chicken Ranch Southwest Wraps
  6.  Creamy Tuna & Peas Pasta
  7.  Cobb Salads
  8.  Slow Cooker Tuscan Garlic Chicken, Cauli Rice, Roasted Veg
  9.  Cattle Drive Casserole, Salad
10.  Slow Cooker Stuffed Buffalo Chicken, Roasted Veggies
11.  Slow Cooker Chili Sauce Meatloaf, Bacon Cheddar Mashed Cauli, Veggies
12.  Pioneer Woman's Sloppy Joe's (open face), Roasted Veggies
13.  Fiesta Salads
14.  Tuna Melt Sandwiches
15.  Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Chicken, Veggies
16.  Sheet Pan Spicy Chicken Fajitas, Mexican Cauli Rice
17.  Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken with Celery Slaw, Veggies
18.  Slow Cooker Thai Chicken, Cauli Rice, Veggies
19.  Chile Relleno Casserole, Salad
20.  Bacon-Lettuce-Avocado-Tomato Sandwiches
21.  Biscuits and Sausage Gravy, Scrambled Eggs
22.  Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole, Veggies
23.  Slow Cooker Texas No-Bean Chili, Cornbread
24.  Southwest Spaghetti Squash Casserole, Crescent Rolls
25.  Cali-Alfredo Chicken Bake, Veggies
26.  Onion Smacked BBQ Chicken, Cauli Rice, Veggies
27.  Crispy Chicken Strip Salads
28.  Salami Cream Cheese Bagels
29.  Egg Roll in a Bowl
30.  Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole, Scrambled Eggs
31.  Eat Out

May 29, 2019

Slow Cooker Penne Rustica

Today's recipe is a copycat of Macaroni Grill's Penne Rustica.  It is loosely based on that deliciously creamy baked pasta dish that Macaroni Grill is famous for.  

                       

When we lived in California, we used to eat at Macaroni Grill often and their Penne Rustica dish was always our go-to. Once we moved to the Midwest, we no longer had a Macaroni Grill easily within driving distance. So to fix our cravings for this tasty dish, I came up with a version I could make at home that we love.  


And even better, it all starts in the slow cooker. Starting this meal in the slow cooker and allowing it to cook away for just a few short hours, makes it an easy meal to get on the table during even a busy weeknight.  

We're going to start by adding most of the main ingredients to the slow cooker, reserving the pasta, shrimp and mozzarella for later.  In the picture above, I have Half and Half. You can use either Half and Half or Heavy Whipping Cream, although I really like to use the heavy cream if I have it because it gives the sauce a thicker consistency. But, you can use whatever you have on-hand, I am all about using up what you already have.


I usually add all of the main components, minus the heavy cream, to the slow cooker. Then I pour in the heavy cream and give it a good stir.  


After the sauce has had time to cook and thicken in the slow cooker, it will resemble a very hearty alfredo.  


About an hour before serving time, you will cook the pasta.  After the pasta is cooked and drained, then you can stir both the pasta and the shrimp into the sauce in the slow cooker.   Ladle the mixture into oven proof baking dishes, top with the reserved mozzarella and bake away.


Slow Cooker Penne Rustica

1 box penne pasta
1 lb cooked shrimp, tails removed
1/4 cup cooked, crumbled bacon
1 red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced small
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp paprika
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Sauce:
2 cups heavy cream  (or half and half)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp chicken base
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp cayenne

Add all ingredients, except pasta, shrimp and mozzarella, to slow cooker.  Cook on High for 2-3 hours. Cook pasta until al dente, drain.  Stir shrimp and pasta into sauce in slow cooker.  Spoon mixture into oven-safe serving dishes.  Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is turning golden brown and sauce is bubbly.


This dish is so incredibly delicious.  If you are trying to watch your carb intake, you can swap out the penne pasta for cooked spaghetti squash.  Either way, the combination of creamy sauce and shrimp is amazing!

May 28, 2019

June 2019 Monthly Menu Plan


I always meal plan for the entire month using the bulk of ingredients we already have on-hand.  I grocery shop every couple weeks to buy any fresh ingredients we need, along with restocking our produce.  Shopping my pantry, freezers, and basement storage helps to keep our grocery budget low because I typically buy our staples when I see them at their lowest price point.

As recipes are published, they will be linked to in future menu plans. You can also find published recipes under Labels on the right side of this blog or by simply doing a Search.

Here is the menu plan for June 2019:

  1.  Eat Out - Haley's Birthday
  2.  Creamy Tuna & Peas Pasta
  3.  Baked Salmon, Zoodles Stir Fry
  4.  Spaghetti Squash Pizza Casserole, Salad
  5.  Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore, Mashed Cauli, Veggie
  6.  Slow Cooker Garlic Parm Drumsticks, Baked "Radish" Potatoes, Veggie
  7.  Chicken, Broccoli, Cauli Rice Casserole, Salad
  8.  Crispy Ranch Chicken Strip Wraps
  9.  Olive Garden Alfredo Pasta
10.  Slow Cooker Meatballs & Marinara over Spaghetti Squash
11.  Slow Cooker Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Green Chile Cauli Cass
12.  Portobello Mushroom Cap Pizzas, Salad
13.  Bunless Cheeseburgers, Baked Zucchini Fries
14.  Eat Out - Dad's Birthday
15.  Salami & Cream Cheese Bagels
16.  Eat Out - Father's Day
17.  Eggplant Lasagna, Salad
18.  Slow Cooker Olive Garden Chicken, Butter Cauli Rice, Veggie
19.  Slow Cooker Mexican Breakfast Casserole, Baked "Radish" Potatoes
20.  Fathead Pizzas, Salad
21.  Slow Cooker Bacon Cheddar Chicken, Zoodles Stir Fry
22.  Country Fried Steak & Gravy, Mashed Cauli, Veggie
23.  Snack Plates  (sharp cheese, salami, veggies, fruit, crackers)
24.  Slow Cooker Chili Dog Casserole, Veggie
25.  Cauli Fried Rice
26.  Naked Chicken Parm, Cheesy Spaghetti Squash
27.  Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp, Cauli Rice
28.  Cheesy Fajitas Chicken, Baked Sweet Potato Cubes
29.  Doritos Taco Salad
30.  Corn Dogs, Onion Rings, Coleslaw

May 1, 2019

May 2019 Monthly Menu Plan


I always meal plan for the entire month using the bulk of ingredients we already have on-hand.  I grocery shop every couple weeks to buy any fresh ingredients we need, along with restocking our produce.  Shopping my pantry, freezers, and basement storage helps to keep our grocery budget low because I typically buy our staples when I see them at their lowest price point.

As recipes are published, they will be linked to in future menu plans. You can also find published recipes under Labels on the right side of this blog or by simply doing a Search.

Here is the menu plan for May 2019:

  1.  Mexican Fiesta, Cantaloupe
  2.  Country Fried Steak & White Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Veggie
  3.  Shredded Beef Oven Tacos
  4.  BLT Sandwiches, Chips, Cantaloupe
  5.  Steak Quesadillas
  6.  Slow Cooker Olive Garden Broccoli Alfredo
  7.  Biscuit Breakfast Casserole, Oven Home Fries
  8.  Cheesy Pierogies and Sausage Casserole, Veggie
  9.  Baked Salmon, Scalloped Potatoes, Veggie
10.  Anniversary - Eat Out
11.  Salami Cream Cheese Bagels
12.  Mother's Day - Eat Out
13.  Slow Cooker Clam Chowder in Bread Bowls
14.  Chicken Shawarma, Basmati Rice, Veggie
15.  Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce, Garlic Bread
16.  Slow Cooker BBQ Applesauce Ckn, Roasted Potatoes, Veggie
17.  My Birthday - Eat Out
18.  Pita Bread Pizza's 
19.  Grilled PB&J's
20.  Cheesy Brat Stew Casserole, Veggie
21.  Doritos Taco Salad
22.  Slow Cooker Chicken Lo Mein
23.  Chicken Patty Sandwiches, Chips, Fruit
24.  Last Day of School - Eat Out
25.  Bacon Egg Salad Sandwiches, Chips, Fruit
26.  Italian Pasta Salad
27.  Hot Dog Roller Hot Dogs, Coleslaw, Onion Rings
28.  Cheesy Ranch Southwest Chicken Wraps
29.  Slow Cooker Penne Rustica
30.  Slow Cooker Sticky Chicken, Buttered Rice, Veggie
31.  Slow Cooker Jesse James' Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Veggie

April 1, 2019

April 2019 Monthly Menu Plan


I always meal plan for the entire month using the bulk of ingredients we already have on-hand.  I grocery shop every couple weeks to buy any fresh ingredients we need, along with restocking our produce.  Shopping my pantry, freezers, and basement storage helps to keep our grocery budget low because I typically buy our staples when I see them at their lowest price point.

As recipes are published, they will be linked to in future menu plans. You can also find published recipes under Labels on the right side of this blog or by simply doing a Search.

Here is the menu plan for April 2019:

  1.  Slow Cooker Chili Cheese Baked Potatoes
  2.  Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp, White Rice, Veggie
  3.  BBQ Applesauce Chicken, Bourbon Rice, Veggie
  4.  Slow Cooker Mississippi Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Veggie
  5.  Eat Out  (Movies)
  6.  Texas Toast Pizzas
  7.  Loaded Potato Soup, Crescent Rolls
  8.  BBQ Meatballs, White Rice, Veggie
  9.  Slow Cooker Soft Chicken Tacos
10.  Slow Cooker Honey Baked Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, Veggie
11.  Slow Cooker Chili Mac
12.  Slow Cooker Tuscan Chicken, Noodles
13.  Bacon Egg Salad Sandwiches
14.  Chicken Corn Chowder, Honey Butter Biscuits
15.  Slow Cooker Chicken Shawarma
16.  Slow Cooker Olive Garden Alfredo, Pasta, Garlic Bread
17.  Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Helper
18.  Biscuit Breakfast Casserole 
19.  Steak Quesadillas
20.  Italian Pasta Salad
21.  Tortellini Soup, Toast
22.  Slow Cooker Swiss Chicken, Veggie
23.  Slow Cooker Pineapple Meatballs, White Rice, Veggie
24.  Nachos Doritos Casserole  (using chili cheese Fritos), Salad
25.  Ricotta Stuffed Manicotti, Garlic Bread
26.  Eat Out  (Movies)
27.  Eat Out  (Movies)
28.  Spaghetti & Meatsauce
29.  German Puff Pancakes, Oven Turkey Bacon
30.  Slow Cooker Teriyaki Pork Roast, Buttered Rice, Veggie

March 27, 2019

Homemade Uncrustable Sandwiches

Today's "recipe" is a very kid friendly, school lunch approved favorite.

I use the term "recipe" lightly because it is more of a method than a true recipe. I think almost everyone knows how to make a PB&J sandwich.

In the freezer section of any grocery store, you will find boxes of various flavors of Uncrustable sandwiches. But, they are expensive. They are essentially slices of sandwich bread with peanut butter and jelly nestled inside. The ends around the sandwich are pinched off so that the filling stays within the pocket, making for a much less messy PB&J alternative for toddlers and kids to enjoy.


In order to make these Uncrustable knock-off's, I have used a Pampered Chef sandwich maker.  Here is a link to the version I used  Pampered Chef Cut n Seal.  But, there are tons of other options on the market that can do the same thing. You can even just use a circle cookie cutter, or any shape for that matter. Think hearts for Valentine's, 4-leaf clover for St. Paddy's, or even a Christmas tree for Christmas. The possibilities are endless.


Making these sandwiches is super simple. And the flavor combinations can be whatever you have handy in your pantry or whatever your kids love best.  Any nut butter and jelly flavor combination you desire.

For each sandwich you will need 2 slices of bread.  Spread peanut butter on both slices of bread. This keeps the jelly from penetrating the bread and making the sandwich soggy.  Next, spread a small bit of jelly over one of the peanut butter sides. Place the bread slices together to form a sandwich.  


Then, you are going to take your sandwich cutter of choice and place it over the top of the sandwich.  Press down firmly to cut the shape out. It should crimp all of the edges shut at this point, making a nice PB&J sandwich pocket.


I usually make these in bulk, making 2-3 loaves of bread at one time.  Once I have all of the sandwiches made, I store each one in an individual sandwich sized Ziploc bag.  


Then I place all of the individual bags in a large gallon sized Ziploc which I store in our freezer.  When we need one for lunch, I remove it from the freezer and place it into my son's lunchbox. By lunchtime at school, it is defrosted and just perfect.  These are also quite delicious on a hot summer day straight out of the freezer too!


Over the years, this simple homemade hack has saved us so much money. I can buy a huge 40 oz jar of peanut butter and loaves of bread at my local Aldi very inexpensively.  Then we have many, many of these easy-to-grab PB&J's at the ready for cheap anytime we need them.






February 28, 2019

March 2019 Monthly Menu Plan


I always meal plan for the entire month using the bulk of ingredients we already have on-hand.  I grocery shop every couple weeks to buy any fresh ingredients we need, along with restocking our produce.  Shopping my pantry, freezers, and basement storage helps to keep our grocery budget low because I typically buy our staples when I see them at their lowest price point.

As recipes are published, they will be linked to in future menu plans. You can also find published recipes under Labels on the right side of this blog or by simply doing a Search.

Here is the menu plan for March 2019:

  1.  Southern Style Chicken Bites, Mashed Potatoes, Corn
  2.  Oven Cheeseburgers
  3.  Fish Sticks, Chicken Rice, Veggie
  4.  Baked Ritz Chicken, Restaurant Style Baked Potatoes, Veggie
  5.  Slow Cooker Beef Chili, Cornbread
  6.  Oven Tacos
  7.  Shake n Bake Chicken Parm, Spaghetti
  8.  Eat Out (Movies)
  9.  Chicken Nuggets, Mac n Cheese
10.  Quesadillas
11.  Baked Chili Cheese Dogs
12.  Erik's Concoction, Veggie
13.  Corned Beef Hash, Veggie, Toast
14.  Teriyaki Chicken, White Rice, Veggie
15.  Enchirito Casserole, Homemade Refried Beans
16.  Tuna Sandwiches
17.  Bean & Rice Bowls
18.  Tortellini Soup, Grilled Cheese 
19.  Baked Rigatoni with Meatsauce
20.  Baked BBQ Dry Rub Drumsticks, Mashed Potatoes, Veggie
21.  Olive Garden Alfredo Pasta, Veggie
22.  German Pancakes
23.  Mizithra Spaghetti
24.  Baked Meatballs Subs
25.  Slow Cooker Potato Soup
26.  Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken, White Rice, Veggie
27.  Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
28.  Ikea Swedish Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Veggie
29.  Slow Cooker Mississippi Pot Roast, Carrots & Potatoes
30.  Cajun Sausage, Peppers, Onions with Mashed Potatoes
31.  Egg Salad Sandwiches

September 7, 2018

Slow Cooker Chinese Orange Chicken

Oh boy!  Do I have a yummy, yet super easy recipe to share with you all today.  I introduce you to Slow Cooker Chinese Orange Chicken.

I have several recipes for Chinese food I have cultivated at home over the years that have made it into our regular meal rotation, this is one of them. Now, total disclaimer, this is probably nowhere near authentic.  But, I am not exactly going for authentic around here. Close to, but tasty and MOST importantly easy, is the end game.


<Print Recipe>

Slow Cooker Chinese Orange Chicken

2 boneless chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp ketchup
3 oz frozen Orange Juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp flour

Place cut chicken into bottom of slow cooker. In a measuring cup, mix together balsamic vinegar, ketchup, OJ concentrate, water, salt, brown sugar, flour. Pour over chicken. Cook on Low for 3-5 hours, depending on the cooking heat of your slow cooker. Stir chicken into sauce. Serve over steamed, white rice.


This dish comes out tender with a thick tangy orange sauce thanks to the flour that was mixed in at the beginning of the cook time. I usually drizzle the excess sauce that's in the bottom of the slow cooker over the top of the rice. So tasty!

Best of all, you can throw everything into the slow cooker and walk away.  When it's dinnertime, presto, homemade Chinese with almost no work involved.  And....we didn't have to wait on take-out or spend extra money.  Total win in my book!

May 8, 2018

Pepperjack Chicken

My previous post was all about bulk prepping bell peppers and mushrooms for future use, resulting in saved time in the kitchen.  Today's post will use one of the ingredients we bulk prepped, green bell peppers.

Pepperjack chicken is a very flavorful, yet easy main dish.  It all starts with the ever versatile boneless, skinless chicken breast. It can easily be thrown together at any point in the day, refrigerated, and then baked before dinner time's arrival.




<Print Recipe>

Pepperjack Chicken

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 green bell pepper, seeded and ribs removed; sliced
1 onion, diced/sliced
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning mix
2 slices Pepperjack OR Cheddar cheese

Place chicken breasts into a baking dish.  Season both sides of chicken with Cajun seasoning. Top each piece of chicken with bell pepper and onions.  Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes.  Remove dish from oven. Top each chicken breast with a slice of cheese.  Place back into the oven just until cheese is melted.


This dish is very adaptable. You can use red bell peppers instead of green.  You can also slice the onion or dice it. The cheese option is totally up to your preferences as well. I often use Pepperjack because we like the spiciness of it; but I have also used cheddar with great results.

The chicken comes out tender, juicy and so flavorful.  It is a great way to use up some of the "on-sale" green bell peppers from the freezer!

April 26, 2018

Freezer Prep: Bell Peppers & Mushrooms

One of the ways I work ahead in the kitchen is by bulk prepping foods to store in my freezer for later use.  On this day, I worked with bell peppers and mushrooms.


Bulk prepping ingredients is just as it sounds.  It is taking a large amount of meal ingredients like vegetables, meats, cheeses, etc and processing them into usable portions.

Often, I will find ingredients on sale and buy many of that item.  When it is an ingredient we use often, we can save money using these items over time in meals.  This simple principle allows me to further reduce the cost of meals for our family.  Not only did I save money by buying on sale, but chopping them myself saves quite a bit of money over buying pre-packaged bags of chopped bell peppers in the grocery store's freezer section.

It also saves me so much time in the kitchen. Instead of chopping up bell peppers every time I need one for a recipe, I can take 15 minutes and chop up many bell peppers!  This saves time both in food prep but also in time it takes to clean up. I can easily pull a bag of something I previously chopped, cooked, or mixed together from the freezer to add to meals throughout the month with no added hassle or work.


To process the bell peppers, begin by removing the internal ribs and seeds. Then slice or dice the peppers into a form you can use in future recipes. Place a single meal portion into a quart sized freezer bag, pushing as much air out as possible.  Then tightly seal bag closed.  I then place all of the quart sized bags into a gallon sized freezer bag to keep things together in the freezer for ease of finding later.


Bulk prepping mushrooms is much the same as with the bell peppers above. In this case, I used already sliced mushrooms; but you can also use whole mushrooms that you slice yourself.  Then just package up the sliced mushrooms in bags as described above.

Because these vegetables have been frozen, these will not be edible raw. They will need to be used as an ingredient in meals and cooked.  Freezing these types of vegetables makes them take on a soft texture, therefore they will not have the same "bite" or crispness as they do fresh. These pre-prepped foods make a great addition to slow cooker meals, casseroles, stir-fry's, and soups.  I have many recipes that use these ingredients that I plan to share soon!