Meal Planning Monday ~ Thanksgiving Countdown

Happy Thanksgiving Dinner countdown is on and it’s time to get those menus planned! Hello, it’s Heather from Real: The Kitchen and Beyond. Every year I anticipate Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a time to gather ’round the table with loved ones and remember how grateful we need to be for all that we have. It’s also a time I agonize over the Thanksgiving Dinner menu. I love planning and making this meal and narrowing down the array of side dishes and desserts isn’t easy.

 

I am not going to lie, I especially love Thanksgiving dinner tables loaded down with food. Every year as we make way too many dishes, I am reminded afresh of how blessed we are to be able to enjoy a table full of family, love, and food. The two biggest things I have found that help fill that table with less stress and a more frugal budget, is to keep the dishes simple and have everyone bring a favorite dish. This also helps keep the meal easy prep! Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes that make it to the table every year.

 

All About the Turkey

What is better than a beautifully roasted turkey with crispy flavorful skin? Here is my favorite roasted turkey recipe and a few prep tips for making that bird the main star.

 

 

Bountiful Sides

Amish Mashed Potatoes

Easy Healthy Sweet Potatoes

Gluten Free Sausage Cranberry Stuffing

Easy Lemony Asparagus – roasted with a little olive oil, salt, and the juice of 1/2 lemon squeezed over top

Creamed Corn (I confess, from the can)

My mama’s crescent rolls

Green Bean Casserole ( My favorite way to make it is to dump a 16 ounce bag of frozen green beans in a casserole dish and mix with a batch of homemade mushroom soup, then bake at 350 degrees until bubbly.)

Homemade Cranberry Sauce (see easy recipe below)

 

 

Delicious Desserts

Homemade Apple Pie

Cranberry Ginger Crumble Bars

Pumpkin Pie

 

 

Homemade Clementine Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce has always been that one dish that can’t be left off the table. From cans of jellied cranberries to this homemade clementine cranberry sauce, the color and flavor has to be on my plate. This clementine cranberry sauce has all the tartness of cranberries with sweetness from the sugar and clementine to mellow it out, yet still have bright flavors. Enjoy!

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

  • 1 clementine

  • 3/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  • Zest and juice clementine, keeping both the juice and zest for the sauce.

  • Put cranberries in a wide-bottomed pan ( sauté pan or wide bottomed stockpot works)

  • Mix sugar, zest, and juice into cranberries.

  • Cook over medium heat, slightly chopping up cranberries once they get soft. (Use a hand masher or immersion blender.)

  • Heat until thick and bubbling.

  • Transfer to a bowl and chill before serving.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Makes: Approximately 2 cups

 

 

Heather McCurdy writes at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond where the food is (mostly) real and the making’s easy. She believes any one can cook. Just follow the steps, starting at #1. Read, follow, taste, venture out. Don’t be afraid to fail, then try again. Her other hats are homeschooling, editing fiction, ghostwriting, and culinary marketing. Oh, and she believes life is always better with dessert.

 

 

 

 

5 Easy to Make Summer Salads

This week’s Meal Planning Monday is by Amy of Savvy Saving Couple.

Memorial Day kicked off the unofficial start to summer. That means warmer weather, sunshine, lazy beach days and cookouts. I don’t know about you but I love a good BBQ meal! For me, it is all about the delicious and easy to make summer salads.

Since the heat is up, I don’t exactly feel like spending my days stuck indoors cooking. That is why my family eats a lot of easy to make summer salads, and smaller meals. We love potato salad, green salads, pasta salads, and even simple sandwiches.

Here are some of my top 5 easy to make summer salads that are sure to please the crowds. They require minimal effort, and are jam-packed with flavor and zest.

Pesto Caprese Macaroni Salad: This pasta salad is a unique twist on pesto and caprese salad. I guess you can say it combines the best of both dishes into one make-ahead salad that could even double as a main dish. It is perfect for picnics and BBQ’s because it only gets more flavorful the longer it is chilled (up to 24 hours).

Parmesan Pesto Steak Salad: Looking for a salad that doubles as a meal? This protein packed dish is perfect for leftover steak tips, or even a cheaper cut of grilled steak. The pesto, extra Parmesan and steak are a surprisingly tasty combination that my husband loves!

Feta, Basil, Tomato and Bowtie Pasta Salad: I don’t know about you but I love pasta and feta cheese combined. This recipe is super colorful and totally tasty! It is almost like a caprese salad, but the main star is the salty feta which balances well with the fresh basil.

 

Corn and Asparagus Salad: The flavors of summer make this vegetable based salad a winning dish. Freshly shucked sweet corn, and tender asparagus pair well with honey, and balsamic dressing to make a sweet and savory medley.

Cheeseburger Salad: Who doesn’t love a good burger this time of year? Last year I was trying to watch my carbs so I decided to make a cheeseburger salad that contained all the classic of a burger with fresh Thousand Island dressing. The result was an amazingly tasty salad that I could probably eat every single day! I even made hamburger bun croutons that I added sparingly to my plate—way too good!

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Prep Easter Menu

Hello. Heather here from Real: The Kitchen and Beyond to share my favorite Easter menu. Easter is one of my favorite holidays. Christmas edges it out just a bit but I love Easter – the time when life is celebrated and all things are made new, when our family celebrates the resurrection of our Savior.

 

I also love memories of waking up and finding a new cereal bowl with Easter candy in it at each place setting. We were often up bright and early for Easter Sunrise services and always hopeful that we would get to eat a piece of candy before we left. However, church clothes and candy don’t go well together so the candy was tucked away for Easter dinner dessert.

 

Easter dinner is another favorite part of my Easter Sunday. I still love gathering around a big table with my family and that exhilarating feeling of newness of life. Cooking a big Easter Dinner can be a lot of work for the cook but I believe it should be kept delicious and simple.

 

With many people coming home from Easter services or morning festivities for a big family meal, I want men and women everywhere to enjoy quality time with their families, rather than hours working in the kitchen.

 

This doesn’t mean no cooking. No, it just means making simple but amazing dishes. It means prepping ahead.

 

Here is my favorite Easter dinner menu and tips to help you get Easter dinner on the table with less hassle.

 

Ham – I love a good baked ham served with horseradish on the side – loads of fresh zesty horseradish. Buy your ham precooked at one of those many grocery sales or cook it ahead of time so it just needs to be reheated.

 

Mashed potatoes – In my humble opinion, mashed potatoes belong on every holiday table. I have a recipe to take that everyday mashed potato to new levels of flavor with my much sought after Amish Mashed Potatoes recipe. Peel and cut your potatoes ahead of time. Stick them in a pot of water and refrigerate overnight, or, if prepping them Sunday morning, set on the back of the stove with the lid on. There you go. One less step of time consuming prep work.

 

Sautéed Lemony Dill Asparagus – Spring and fresh asparagus go hand in hand here on the East Coast. This simple side can be whipped up in no time and is light and refreshing next to salty ham and rich mashed potatoes. Make sure you check out the recipe at the end of this post.

 

Of course we can’t skip dessert. We’re raiding the candy bowl and serving up the homemade peanut butter eggs for dessert. Peanut Butter Eggs are my favorite Easter Candy. Bet you can’t eat just one.

 

Does your family have an Easter Dinner tradition? Share it with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Lemony Dill Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus

  • ¼ cup water

  • ½ teaspoon dried dill

  • ½ lemon

  • Salt (I use ½ teaspoon) and pepper (I use 1/8 teaspoon) to taste

Directions

  • Snap tough ends off asparagus.

  • Put into a sauté pan with water.

  • Top with dill, salt, and pepper.

  • Cover and cook over medium heat, 5-10 minutes, until desired tenderness.

  • Squeeze half of lemon over cooked asparagus and toss.

Serve.

 

 Heather writes at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond where the food is (mostly) real and the making’s easy. She believes any one can cook. Just follow the steps, starting at #1. Read, follow, taste, venture out. Don’t be afraid to fail, then try again. Her other hats are homeschooling, editing fiction, ghostwriting, and culinary marketing. Oh, and she believes life is always better with dessert.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Awesome Asparagus

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Asparagus is pretty awesome, in case you didn’t know.  Asparagus is loaded with nutrients and vitamins, plus research indicates that eating asparagus can help control diabetes, act as a diuretic, prevent kidney stones, and reduce the risk of neural tube defects in babies because of its high folic acid content.  And, as long as you don’t drown it in butter, it’s low in calories and high in fiber, which makes it a perfect vegetable for anyone concerned about their waistline.

I buy asparagus almost every week at my produce co-op – a good-sized bundle is usually only $1.00!  Score!  This week, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite ways to eat this awesome asparagus!

Veggie Omelet with Asparagus, Tomatoes, & Mushrooms

Asparagus for breakfast?  Why not?  I sauté mushrooms, asparagus, and tomatoes in a pan, then use them to fill my omelet with the addition of some shredded cheddar cheese and parsley.  You can be creative with the other veggies you add.  Sometimes I like a little spinach and feta in mine!

 

Chicken and Asparagus Rolls

These Chicken and Asparagus Rolls with mozzarella cheese were very tasty and super easy to make.  Great for those of us keeping an eye on the carb intake!  I would recommend using chicken breast tenders or cutlets for these.  I used the chicken tenders and wrapped them around the asparagus.  Even with the smaller pieces of chicken, I had to add 10 – 15 minutes to the recipe’s cook time.

 

Asparagus Chicken with Black Bean Sauce

I was so excited to find this recipe on Food.com for my favorite Chinese take-out dish – Asparagus Chicken with Black Bean Sauce!  I haven’t tried it yet, but the recipe has great reviews so I’ll be adding to my meal plan for next week.

 

Other Ways to Enjoy Awesome Asparagus: 

  • Toss with a small amount of olive oil and several cloves of minced garlic.  Roast in the over at 425 for 10 – 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese the final 2 – 3 minutes of cooking.
  • Lightly season your asparagus and grill it for a few minutes as an easy side dish for
    your steak and chicken.
  • Foil Packets on the Grill.  I love mine with asparagus, mushrooms, and peppers!
  • In pasta dishes!  This Lemon Asparagus Pasta is simple to make and ready in 30 minutes.  Only have 15 minutes?  Try this recipe for Penne with Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy asparagus?

Meal Planning Monday ~ Veggies – Fresh, Frozen, or Canned?

           We all know that we should eat our veggies.  However, there’s plenty of debate over the merits of canned, frozen, and freshly picked vegetables.  Personally, I think that each of these methods has their place in every cook’s kitchen.  Let’s explore the pros and cons of each.

            Canned ~ The big plus side of canned vegetables is their long shelf-life.  You can stock up on canned corn, beans, and peas when there’s a good sale.  Chances are, you’ll use them before they expire.  It’s hard to argue with the convenience factor of canned vegetables.  No chopping carrots, peeling tomatoes, or soaking beans, which can be your saving grace on busy week nights.  On a regular basis, I use canned black beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and artichokes.  However, because of the canning process, you’re typically not getting as many nutrients as you would if you had the same vegetable fresh or frozen.  There has definitely been an increase in popularity in home canning, especially of garden-grown veggies.  I think this is great, because there are fewer preservatives when you can your own veggies.

            Frozen ~ These vegetables are typically flash frozen at the peak of ripeness.  This may mean that they have as many nutrients (maybe even more) as fresh veggies.  If you have a decent size freezer, you can stock up on frozen veggies when you find a great deal.  Frozen veggies will typically keep six month to a year.  Just keep in mind that freezing vegetables does not stop breakdown of nutrients, it just slows it WAY down.  There are some veggies that I prefer frozen.  I use frozen spinach in quite a few of my recipes.  It’s cheaper and easier than buying fresh spinach, which I reserve for my salads.  I also buy vegetable medleys and stew veggies in the freezer section.  If a certain vegetable is out of season, buying frozen is a good alternative.

            Fresh ~ Most people would agree that fresh is best!  There is nothing like a fresh tomato in July…  but you usually can’t find a tasty one in February, which makes me sad. :(  Eating fresh vegetables (especially those in-season and locally grown) will give you the best bang for your nutritional buck.  I’m loving the fresh asparagus that is on sale all over town right now!  We’re eating it once or twice a week.  I also recently purchased a large bag of English peas in the pod from my co-op.  They were very tasty in yesterday’s beef stew, but time-consuming to remove from the shell.

        Some veggies are just a pain to prepare fresh!  Nick and I found that out with artichokes.  Let me tell you, they are high-maintenance to boil, pick apart, and eat!  Next time I make my spinach and artichoke dip, I will stick to the ones in a jar or can.  The big downside to fresh veggies is their limited shelf life.  I usually try to restrain myself at the co-op, because if I buy more than we can eat in a week, it will go bad and end up in the trash – which is not a good thing!

            No matter how you like your veggies – fresh, frozen, canned, or a combination of all three – be sure to eat up!  Vegetables are full of fiber and lots of great vitamins and minerals.  Here is my Meal Plan for the week.

Monday ~ Cilantro Lime Shrimp with black bean and corn salad.  I’ll be using canned beans and corn for this recipe.

Tuesday ~ Turkey and gravy in the crockpot served with mashed potatoes and the remainder of my fresh peas from the co-op.  Kroger had Honeysuckle marinated turkey breasts on sale last week, buy-one-get-one-free.  I froze one of them for later.  I’ll toss the turkey breasts in the crock pot with a jar of gravy for an easy meal.

Wednesday ~ Roasted Salmon with sesame garlic roasted asparagus.  I make garlic roasted asparagus quite a bit, but never with sesame seeds, so I’m going to give it a try this week.

Thursday ~ BBQ chicken with parmesan potatoes and cauliflower with cheese.

Friday ~ Breakfast for dinner!  I’m making my broccoli cheddar frittata with hash browns and some fresh fruit.

Saturday ~ Sometimes I make my Spinach & Artichoke dip with two cans of chicken in it and call it a meal!  My hubby LOVES it.

Sunday ~ Foil packets on the grill with chicken, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, onions, and asparagus.

 

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

  • One 12-ounce jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • One 10-ounce box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • ½ cup of reduced-fat cream cheese
  • ¾ cup of reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Pita chips or tortilla chips for dipping

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure that spinach is thoroughly drained of excess water.  (I do this by putting it in a colander and pressing paper towels down on it to remove as much water as possible.)  Mix all ingredients (except chips) until well blended in a bowl.  Spread into a small oven-safe baking dish.  Bake 20 – 25 minutes, or until the top begins to turn golden and bubble.  Serve warm with chips.  (If you are unable to find marinated artichoke hearts, you can use a can of artichokes drained, and add a tablespoon of Italian dressing.)