Dinner Time: Chinese & Healthy Cookies

Honey Chicken and Lo Mein

Honey Chicken and Lo Mein

While the picture (actually of our leftovers!) doesn’t do it justice, I made Crispy Honey Chicken, Lo Mein and Fried Rice. We LOVE PF Chang’s and the kids love the honey chicken, so I thought I’d save money by doing it at home.

While it was a great idea and it was tasty, the time spent was not worth it. The process was quite labor intensive and multiple pots were used creating a heavy clean up process. However, the lesson is that you don’t always have to go out. Some of my favorite restaurant recipes I’ve recreated for a fraction of the cost simply by Googling the title of the dish, the place it came from and ‘recipe’. So often we sit somewhere thinking “I could make that” and it’s true! However in this case, I think will head to Pei Wei next time!

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

These yummy cookies were created from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious cookbook and they include, drum roll, chickpeas! They were very easy to make (though a bit messy when you add the chickpeas to the mixer) and you really can’t tast them once they’re in there. Just don’t let the kids watch you as you’re making them (or your husband for that matter!)


Friday Dinner: Pasta Pillows in Brown Butter

Earlier in the week I made a Roasted parsnip and cauliflower soup that I thought was delicious, but was not as well received by the kids. I wanted to repurpose that into a healthy pasta, so I bought some wonton wrappers this week in the produce section. I took a cup of the soup (it was thick) and mixed it with one cup of ricotta cheese, some freshly grated parmesan, two cloves of garlic, kosher salt, pepper and some fresh (chopped) thyme and rosemary from our herb garden we just planted this week. I put a teaspoon of the ricotta mixture in the center of a wrapper, folded it in half to make a triangle and then folded the tips together to make a hat.

I placed the “pasta pillows” (as my kids like to call ravioli) in boiling water for three minutes in batches. Meanwhile, I made a brown butter sauce by placing a stick of butter and two more cloves of garlic in the pan with the butter. After it browned, I put the cooked ravioli in the pan with the sauce. I served it with some sauteed asparagus and crescent rolls. Though it took me awhile to fill the ravioli, it was light and fresh and allowed me to get some veggies into the kids they might otherwise not have eaten!

Tuesday’s Dinner – Chopped Salad with Chicken

I don’t like lettuce.

Well, that may be a strong statement. It’s not that I don’t like lettuce persay, but it really irks me when I go somewhere for a salad and it ends up being a bowl full of lettuce with a cucumber and tomato flippantly tossed in for effect. UGH!
However, last year I discovered a new favorite – the Vegetable Chopped Salad at The Cheesecake Factory. I vowed that when I went back, I’d write everything down so I could recreate it at home, and in December I did just that. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to add it into my family’s menu, but tonight it happened! Essentially, it’s chopped (in cubes) cucumber, asparagus, edamame (not chopped), bell pepper, sharp white cheddar cheese, and tomato. Actually, I think the original omits the cucumber but adds apple, so really, I just made up what I wanted to! I added the Tyson’s Crunchy Chicken Tenders on the top for protein and to give the kids a little more sustenance. I also found a copycat recipe for the Cilantro Lime Viniagrette and it was wonderful.

The quick dinner also allowed me to get out in time to attend a grocery class last night. Yes, you heard me right. Kelly (www.faithfulprovisions.com) goes to our church and has turned this thing into a science. She went from spending over $1,000 a month on food to now spending $40 a week for a family of four! I’m definitely not there yet, but my past two trips I’ve spent $100 (mostly stockpiling deals on sale) and I’ve saved over $50 each time, so I’m well on my way. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how it’s working out.

Thursday’s Meal – Mexican Lasagna

I’m still trying to only visit the grocery store once a week, thereby forcing me to meal plan and save money. Most of you can testify I’m not the best at coming up with recipes on the fly, but tonight when I searched my kitchen, I came up with the idea of using some frozen ground beef and making tacos. But we’d already finished our tortillas earlier in the week and didn’t have any taco seasoning, so I made use of the remainder of homemade salsa, the end of a bag of tortilla chips, a can of kidney beans and some leftover Taco Bell sauce and VOILA! Mexican Lasagna! Actually, it was more like layered nachos but it was delicious!

I browned the ground beef, added about 2T of chopped onions and let that combine and cook down. To that mixture I added 2T of chili powder and a shake of cumin, with some salt and pepper. Then I poured in the salsa (about a 1/2 cup) and the four Mild Taco Bell sauce packets I found in the fridge. To that I added one can (15oz) of drained, Dark Red Kidney Beans and let it all combine.

I coated a 9×13 oven safe dish with about 1T of olive oil, then placed a layer of tortilla chips. On top of that I put a layer of the beef/bean mixture (about 1/2 of it) and then a layer of freshly grated sharp white cheddar cheese (all I had on hand, but it was great!). Then repeat the chip, beef, cheese layers and put in a 425 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes just to melt the cheese. It was much tastier than those taco seasoning packets you buy and very filling.

Menu Time Sunday

I’d like to say I could share my entire meal plan for the week, but I haven’t gotten that organized yet. However, I did want to share my on the fly easy dinner from tonight. For lunch we actually ate at Moe’s after church because we had free money to use – we always stock up on gift cards at restaurants at Christmastime because they usually offer a free bonus (case in point – Moe’s offered a free $5 gift card when you spent $20).

Ok, back to dinner. I was going to make homemade pizza, but was missing a key ingredient, so I rummaged through the pantry and fridge and decided instead on Pizza Pasta (since I’d already promised the kids pizza) and Roasted Cauliflower. Typically I probably would have added a green salad and some garlic bread, but I hadn’t done my shopping today, so this was it!

Pizza Pasta & Roasted Cauliflower

Pizza Pasta & Roasted Cauliflower

Here are the basic recipes (since I made it up and didn’t measure!):
In a pan with a little olive oil, I browned 1 lb. ground turkey (but you could easily use ground beef), then added about 5 cloves of chopped garlic (I love garlic!) and about 2T of chopped onion. I seasoned it with a little sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, Steak Grill Seasoning, Garlic salt, Italian Seasoning and Basil. After about 5 minutes, I added @ 3/4 cup of beef stock to deglaze the pan before adding a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes with garlic and onions I had pureed in the Magic Bullet and then another can of tomato sauce (with a little bit of zucchini puree to beef up the veggie content!). I let it all simmer while I boiled my whole wheat penne pasta. Once the penne was done, I added it to the sauce pan (which is also oven safe) with about 1T each of feta cheese and freshly grated parmesan/reggiano. I mixed that all together, sprinkled a light layer of Shredded Italian six cheese blend and then topped with the pepperoni. Then I popped it in the oven at 35o for about 30 minutes. It’s healthier and tastes better than anything you just pull out of a bag or a jar!

I LOVE roasting vegetables. It enhances the flavor and protects the vitamin content. It’s really simple. Take about 1T of butter and 1T of olive oil in an oven safe pan and melt it while the oven’s preheating (typically around 400 degrees, but I just popped it in the 350 oven tonight with the pasta). Once melted, add some chopped garlic, your vegetables and a little salt and coat.
Then just put in the oven about a 1/2 hour, pulling it out about 1/2 way through to shake and turn the veggies over. You can tell they’re done once they start crisping on top. (If you don’t have a lot of time, you quickly steam them just to get the cooking process started, but if you do it more than a couple minutes, they’ll just get soggy).

What are your favorite last minute pantry meals? Let me know!

Our Wednesday Meal Plan

Today was Ricky’s day off, so I wanted to have an original dinner for him and the family since he’s been working the past few nights and eating sandwiches and leftovers.

Our morning was simply cereal on the way out the door and for lunch we packed a “picnic” since the kids and I were going to the Miss PattyCake show at church. Lunch consisted of:
Turkey and Muenster cheese roll up with lettuce, tomato and mustard
Grapes, Cheese crackers and Fruit snacks

Dinner became, what I would consider, a southern meal. As you already know, I pulled out the George Foreman grill for the first time to do BBQ chicken, but alas, had not yet stocked the fridge with BBQ sauce, so I made my own in a small saucepan by starting out with about a cup of ketchup and adding about a Tablspoon each of spicy (horseradish) mustard, brown sugar and worsterchire sauce, and then a few shakes of Texas Pete (hot sauce), garlic salt, ground red pepper and cumin. I let those all combine on medium low heat for about 15 minutes and then cool down before adding it with the chicken into a ZipLock bag to marinate for about a half hour before putting it on the grill. Delicious!

I rounded out the meal with a can of baked beans, salad with homemade Cole Slaw dressing, Paula Deen’s  easy rolls and a can of Glory Collard Greens (even the Cone boys agree these are pretty close to as good as homemade, and I am nowhere near confident enough to learn how to make true greens yet!). For dessert I whipped up a Peach and Blueberry cobbler I modified from off the back of the Publix Self-Rising Flour bag! So good! I’m learning that if you do a few things from scratch and then take help from the store on some basics, you can really make a memorable meal.