Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bacon Ranch Pea Salad

I saw this on Pinterest HERE - and just looking at the picture I was hooked!! My girls gobbled this up. Like - no salad left on their plates - gobbled up. Goo-oo-ood. Peas have never been popular in our house (although veg in general is) peas are not up there on the list - this recipe changes that for my kids.

Bacon Ranch Pea Salad
4 slices bacon*
1 quart water
1 (16 ounce) package frozen green peas
1/3 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup Ranch dressing
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Place bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat, and cook until evenly brown. Drain, crumble, and set aside.
Bring the water to a boil in a pot. Boil the peas 1 minute, until just tender, and drain. Cool peas under cold running water.
In a bowl, toss together bacon, peas, onion, Ranch dressing, and Cheddar cheese. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until chilled before serving.

*I used Kirkland's crumbled bacon bits in a pinch. And I used cheese cubes instead of shredded b/c that's what I had on hand. 

Updated Chicken Roll-Ups

My backdoor neighbor is so sweet. We had her over for a BBQ a few months ago and she's been trying to bring our family dinner ever since. Although I told her several times that wasn't necessary, I gave in today - what a treat for me!!

She brought over Chicken Roll Ups - there are several versions of this recipe that I've had, notably this recipe. Or another similar one my sister makes with a lemon sauce. Anyway, my apparently my kids haven't had chicken rolls ups and I just have to say: My. Kids. Were. In. Love.

My 9 year old (pickiest eater on the planet) always rates dinner on a scale of worst, medium and best - the list is kept safely in his head. He said - "Mom, I thought this would rate as medium - but I'm rating these BEST!" My 7 year old foodie and I dressed ours up with a little Fischer & Wieser Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce (Costco). Mmm Mmm delicious.

Chicken Roll Ups
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (in the tube)
Cream Cheese
Shredded Chicken (your own, or from the can)
Garlic Powder
Salt & Pepper

Mix cream cheese and shredded chicken together - think about the ratio you'd want when making chicken salad. As creamy (or not) as you want. Then, salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.

Lay out the crescent rolls as the package directs and put a scoop of the chicken mixture on the fat end of the crescent. Roll up as you would normally roll a crescent and bake according to the package directions. Serve!! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Meal Planning 7

Things are going great!! I've learned a few things from my first 2 weeks of meal planning. #1 - I am saving money. #2 - I am making fewer trips to the store(s). #3 - I don't need to plan 6 meals for the week - Planning 4 or 5 will suffice. I ended up with some leftovers, nights that I didn't want to cook, and as I've previously mentioned and plans changing.

I'm going to take this week to only plan for 4 dinners and see how that works.

This weeks menu is:
Pork burritos (w the left over pork from our Saturday Cafe Rio Pork Salad)
Hamburgers, Fries and Baked beans
Pasta Primavera & baguette

Yum Yum!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cafe Rio House Dressing

I am making Cafe Rio Pork Salad for dinner tonight and went to double check the ingredients for the dressing that goes with it and WHAT?? I've never posted my absolute favorite dressing of all time. Shocking. Abomination.

So sorry for keeping this gem to myself all this time!!

Cafe Rio House Dressing
1 pkg dry Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (original or buttermilk)
1 c mayo
1 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
3 tomatillos (I use salsa verde instead)
1/3 c buttermilk or sour milk*
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 T sugar

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before eating.

*Since I very rarely have buttermilk on hand - I make sour milk. Combine 1/3 c milk with 1 T lemon or lime juice.

Gourmet Green Salad with Homemade Red Wine Vinaigrette

Gourmet Green Salad with Homemade Red Wine Vinaigrette

10-12 cups mixed greens
1 pound white button mushrooms, sliced
2 ripe, fresh pears, sliced thinly
1/4 cup thinly sliced Parmesan cheese
1 large carrot thinly sliced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 to 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
5-7 slices of bacon, cooked and coarsely chopped
3 cups of homemade croutons

Put mixed greens in a large salad bowl. Top with other ingredients and toss. Serve with red wine vinaigrette dressing below.

Red Wine Vinaigrette:
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup red onions, finely grated
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons salt
ground pepper to taste
2 cups canola oil

Add all ingredients except oil in a blender. Blend well. While processing, slowly add the canola oil and blend well.

*This is the perfect time of year to buy Mason jars to keep your dressings in. I pour my dressings into the Mason jar and use a dry erase marker to write the date I made it on the top of the jar. I usually keep dressing for 2 weeks before I throw it out. The genius part of the dry erase marker is that when you wash the jar - the date easily washes off! Ta-da!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Meal Planning 6

Just wanted to let all of you know that I'm still totally loving this!!

I have deviated from my meal plan twice - which, I think is totally fine - you have to have SOME flexibility don't you? The first time I changed our dinner plans was because my sweet, generous, spur of the moment husband invited some friends over for dinner. They just so happen to be CRAZY fans of the way we make our hamburgers, so - that's what we did. Important to note though that we didn't have to run to the store for that dinner - b/c I had chosen my "stock up" item last week as ground beef - we were in the clear.

Also - tonight. I planned to make my Enchilada Bake - but since it's been raining off and on since last night - added to the fact that I've been dying all summer long to have a cold day with a warm bowl of soup, I am going to make Tortilla soup. Both recipes have the same basic ingredients - so I felt good about that change up as well. Again - no running to the store for that 'one' thing.

Questions? Comments? Have you started? Anyone? Beuller?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Meal Planning 5

Things are going REALLY WELL! So much better and easier than I imagined they would. I was a little worried that planning ahead would somehow stifle me - b/c I wouldn't have the option of making what I'm in the mood for. BUT - instead, I look at the refrigerator and see the list of this weeks dinners and start dinner about 5pm every night. I used to mill about the kitchen trying to decide what to eat - and now I DON'T DO THAT!!
Since I went through and did an inventory of all the food items I had, I knew exactly what I needed to buy at the grocery store for the week. Which made my life even easier - b/c once again, instead of milling around the grocery store thinking about what looked good, sounded good, etc. then getting distracted by shiny things that beg me to buy them... I knew exactly what to get and was in and out of there faster than ever. AND - this is MAJOR - I went grocery shopping on Saturday and haven't been back - it's Wednesday people. An honest to goodness miracle. I am going to try to go shopping once a week (for that weeks dinners) and then allowing one more trip to the store per week - to get fresh produce or milk. 2 times a week is the goal and I can honestly say that I'm feeling very confident about that little plan.

Have you started meal planning??

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Alice Springs Chicken

There was a phase in my life where every single time we went to Outback Steakhouse, I would order the Alice Springs Chicken. I was obsessed with it. Damn Skippy...

Alice Springs Chicken
3 chicken breasts
1/2 lb bacon
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
cheddar cheese*
salt and pepper to taste
Schultz gourmet premium seasoning and rub** (or your fav seasoning)
Honey Mustard Sauce

Prep chicken with EVOO, seasoning, salt & pepper on both sides. Grill - medium heat about 8 minutes a side depending on your grill and the size of your chicken breast. The internal temperature for a properly cooked chicken breast is 165 degrees.

While the chicken is on the grill, cook the bacon and sauté the mushrooms and onion in a pat of butter. Last night, we planned ahead and actually cooked the bacon on the stovetop and THEN sautéed the mushrooms and onion in the leftover bacon fat instead of butter - woah baby.

In the last minute of cooking your chicken on the grill, top the chicken with 2 slices of bacon and cover with cheese slices on top. Cook until the cheese is melted.

At Outback Steakhouse, they serve the chicken breast smothered w mushroom & onions, bacon and topped with cheese. At my house, we serve it just as I stated above with the sautéed mushrooms and onions on the side - because my kids freakin' love it that much. Yes, mushrooms. MUSHROOMS. An item that I would've rather gone to be without dinner when I was growing up - but prepared this way - my kids will eat them all day long.

*Pictured, we used both cheddar and muenster cheese (b/c that is what we had on hand). You can really use any cheese you like.
** Schultz gourmet premium seasoning and rub can be found at Costco - or online

Monday, September 3, 2012

Honey Mustard Sauce

I made this Honey Mustard Sauce to go with the Alice Springs Chicken copycat recipe. Deeeelish.
Honey Mustard Sauce
1/2 c mayonnaise
2 T dijon mustard
1 t garlic powder (less if your not a fan)
1 T white vinegar
5 T honey
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate about 30 min before serving.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Recipe Portions

Recipe Portions
The other thing I wanted to address in my house is Recipe Portions. Many recipes don't give you a 'serving size' or let you know how many people a recipe will serve. I'm the number one most guilty of that. As I mentioned - left overs don't get eaten here, so I need to really focus on using 'double duty' ingredients as well as making enough food for all of us to get the nutrition we need, without wasting.

I sat down with my husband (who is the grill master at our house) and we talked about portions. We have 4 small children - but our 9 year old eats like a bird. Eating for him is a chore, not a pleasure as it is for the rest of us. My other kids are 7, 4 and 7 months - so baby isn't eating with us yet. My husband travels a lot so I wanted to figure out just exactly how much protein I need to prepare for dinners with my husband and for dinners without him when he travels. I was actually shocked to learn (over the last month+) that we eat SO MUCH LESS than I thought - and that we nearly always have leftovers - no matter how much we enjoy our dinner - you get full!

We figured out that when I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts (which other than the occasional canned chicken) is the only kind of chicken I use, that 3 breasts feeds all 5 of us perfectly. Which has almost helped me realize that when hubs is out of town, that I only need to prepare meals with 2 chicken breasts! Generally, I eat 3/4 of a chicken breast. Mr. 9 eats 1/4 (I told you he eats like a bird and protein is his least fav) Ms. 4 eats 1/4 and Ms. 7 eats 1/2 of a chicken breast. Mr. Hubs eats a whole one for himself. Seriously life changing people.

Those portions would also be consistent for pork chops, sausage, fish (well, not fish - I'll eat an entire salmon steak to my own head).

Other protein can be a little tricky to figure out. We know just because we have it often enough that one pork tenderloin is enough for us. Also mind blowing? ONE pound of ground beef, ground sausage, ground turkey, etc. is enough for us - 1.5 lbs when Hubs is in town. That also really shocked me. When I look at one tiny pound of ground meat - I think that there is just no way that will stretch - but it does.

So, I am going to try to size recipes down based on the protein portion listed. It'll be tricky, but I think it will be worth it for us.

The great thing about figuring out your "magic" number when it comes to protein portions, you know that you are eating and feeding your family enough protein. If they are still hungry, you've got a side prepared that can help fill those holes. If you didn't prepare a side (as I've addressed previously with a 'complete meal') I am always sure to have healthy snacks in the fridge that are easily accessible that can supplement when needed - which is this house is NEVER. Think veg, string cheese, fruit (leftover toppings from taco night tomato, shredded cheese, corn) - things that don't take you away from the dinner table - they can go grab themselves.

Meal Planning 4 continued

Just a few more notes on HOW I figured out WHAT we were going to eat. I already mentioned that I worked around protein and items I already have.

I also tried to use "double duty" foods. I know that I can buy a HUGE bag of cut broccoli florettes at Costco for $3 - but I want to make sure they don't go bad. So, I made sure to use broccoli in at least 2 recipes - and then use the rest of them (if there is any left) to snack on with carrots, cucumbers and ranch.

The recipe for Cafe Rio Pork makes just an enormous amount of food. I usually make that when we are feeding a crowd - OR I make sure to use it in another meal during the week. That CR Pork never gets thrown out - but I built it's 'sister supper' into my calendar by planning to have "Pork Burritos" with all the same components we'll have left over from the salad just a few days before.

I already have bagels in the fridge - so I plan to use them this week for breakfast - but because I want to make sure we are eating everything we have and nothing will go to waste (I refuse to eat leftovers - almost exclusively - so that's a big problem in our house - food getting thrown out). I planned to make Tuna Puff Sandwiches and to use the bagels instead of hamburger buns for that meal.

One thing I've done for a while is to try to keep different components to a meal separate from each other in the beginning stages. Example: Last week, we had beef tacos for dinner. I serve a lot of my meals and (especially salads) like a salad bar. Then, all the components are kept separately and everyone can customize their dinner to their tastes. This makes clean up a snap - AND this is BIG TIME for you Mama - you already have ground beef for another meal. You also have diced tomatoes, diced onions, shredded cheese, etc. that can easily be pulled out for a fast lunch, snack or even dinner if you've got enough left or have enough of something else (beans, rice) to compensate to make a complete meal.

So, try to think of things that can make your life simpler - like those little tricks. Do you have any tricks you use??


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