Meal Planning Monday ~ The Fruits of Summer

 

Today’s post is written by Kim Bergeron of Extreme Coupon Professors.

Summer certainly brings different meals to our table than at winter time. I love using fresh fruits and veggies whenever I can. They’re easily at our disposal and if we are buying them at the stores, they’re at a much more reasonable price.

I’m going to start with a simple blueberry muffin recipe. This recipe is different than any other kind I’ve made. The key ingredient is sour cream. You’ve got to try them, they’ll be a hit in your home as they are in ours.  My sister-in- law raves over these muffins, so I just had to try them! Yep, she’s right! So moist and delicious. It’s a keeper!

Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins

Ingredients: 

2 1/2 Cups of flour + 1 Tbsp for dusting the blueberries
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of butter, melted
1 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of plain sour cream
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon or orange zest
2 cups of blueberries (If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw)

Directions:

Place blueberries in a bowl, sprinkle 1 Tbsp of flour and gently coat.
Preheat over to 400

In a large mixing bowl, place sour cream sugar, eggs, milk, melted butter, zest and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time. Mix until blended. Mixture will be thick. 
Gently fold in blueberries.

Place liners in muffin pans or grease generously.
Fill muffin cups to the top, it will not spill over. ( I like to sprinkle my muffins with coarse sugar before baking)

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-22 minutes.

Let cool and enjoy!!!

Recipe made 18 muffins.

 

Another breakfast recipe that I made over the weekend was Peach Stuffed French Toast. I’m telling you now, you’ll want to make this quite often and it probably won’t be for just breakfast.  I found this recipe in our local grocery store magazine, called Fresh Magazine, and I made a few changes to it to suit my taste.

The filling had just the right cream cheese and sweetness consistency. Though the recipe says it serves 4, we served 6. Certainly, you could add more filling to each serving, but I think it would have been too sweet and gooey for me. The recipe called for white peaches, but the Georgia peaches were on sale, so you know we went with those. I used 3 peaches for the recipe and I also used French Toast Bread. I love my french toast really thick.

I’ll be using this recipe over and over again, and switch it up a bit by using the fruits that are in season. Blueberries will be delicious as well as strawberries and apples.

Have fun, be creative and enjoy.  And get ready to become an addict of Peach Stuffed French Toast.

I recently made an easy chicken dinner with peaches and plums.  Again, with the great prices on fruit and low prices of chicken around here, we’re making delicious meals on a low budget. Who doesn’t appreciate that. I served this with a shrimp and veggie pasta salad and had a sweet ending of strawberry stuffed whoopie pies. I know what you’re thinking. You want to join us at our house for dinner every night. I’d love to have you anytime!

You can get  our Chicken, Pasta and Whoopie Pie recipes HERE. 

Always remember, make the recipe yours. If you prefer chicken breasts over thighs, use them. If you like peaches more than plums, use them. You know your tastes and your family’s taste. I love finding new recipes, but I want to make sure my family will love them too when I bring the plates to the table.

I’m a wife, mommy and a lover of life enjoying everything from playing board games to cooking to traveling. Finding deals for our family has allowed us to do the fun things in life with enjoyment and less stress. When I find a deal I’ll always share it on my blog, Extreme Coupon Professors. Hop on over to see all the ways to save! 

 

 

Resolve to Have More Family Time

This week’s post is by Kim Bergeron of Extreme Coupon Professors.
We’re just past the middle of the first month in the new year. Some have made their resolutions and stuck with them and many have failed. Oh, and some, eh hum, the procrastinators, haven’t put theirs on paper yet. No matter what category you may fall into, there’s always a new morning to do the possible!
This year I’m on a mission and it’s to find more time in my day and more time with my family. And that doesn’t mean to stay up until 1 AM to find it either. What a relief, huh! In just a couple weeks, I’m glad to say that I’m making progress. I have been able to tweak some daily routines and have found some extra time. There are nights that I actually feel a little lost and I’ve been doing circles in the kitchen because I’m not used to having free time at the end of the day. What’s the million dollar answer you ask? Well here are some of our changes.
Meal planning.
Please trust me, it’s not as hard as you think it is. I begin by looking at my calender. We have five kids so that’s a lot of juggling at dinner time a lot of nights. I start by focusing on our busy nights and plan quick meals for those nights. Don’t be afraid to plan on pancakes one night or even a couple nights if you need to. Then. I look at the nights we’re home but we may be coming home right about dinner time. I’ll plan some crock pot meals for those nights. Finally, I look to see what nights I can plan on making bigger meals and I’ll put those meals on the calendar. I have found knowing ahead of time what we’re having has allowed me to start preparing some things in the morning when I have 10 minutes to spare before getting the kids off to school.  If you truly find it overwhelming to plan the whole week, then plan a few nights. You’ll appreciate how smoothly your evening goes that you’ll be penciling in meals on the calendar for the rest of the week.
Results:
Dinner time is not frazzled. I’m more relaxed and enjoying chatting with the kids at the same time. Because there are 7 of us getting ready in the mornings, I’ve also put on the calendar what breakfast is. For awhile some kids were making eggs, some were making yogurt fruit smoothies and others were having cereal. Our kitchen looked ransacked and if it was a day I was working, this is what I had to come home to. YUCK!  I tweaked mornings by only allowing simpler breakfasts during the week. I also won’t leave until everyone has cleaned up and put away all breakfast items, including their dishes.
Results:
I have found more time now when I get home.
The Clean Up Game. 

When my children were younger we used to be able to turn clean up time into a game. Turn the timer on and race to get all the toys put away before the timer goes off. Oh, the sweet. good ole’ days! Now it’s, “Kids, no one leaves until our chore list is done.”  I’ll be honest, at first I was getting a lot of, “Are we done yet?” Now, only two weeks into it, we have a great flow of getting things done as a team. We’re all doing this together. It’s been nice having dinner conversation carry over before everyone disappears into their rooms.
Getting It Done After Dinner List:
 
  • Dining room cleared.
  • Kitchen cleaned up and all dishes put away.
  • Sweep dining room and kitchen floors (Don’t say vacuum because that stops conversation flow. I’ll vacuum on my cleaning days.)
  • Make tomorrow’s school lunches.
  • Hang up any coats or backpacks that are laying around, put shoes in hall closet.
  • Start a load of towels or sheets .
  • If we’re having dessert, we’ll have dessert when our list is done and everyone washes their dishes and puts them away when they are done.
Results:
Mom doesn’t have to do it all herself, family worked together, there was together time and mom has found more free time at the end of the day. Just these few tweaks have made an enormous difference in our house. We have found time. Many nights there are a couple of kids sitting with me at the table with some game time. When we are, I’m not sitting there thinking of the mess around me or all I have to get done. Our chores are done and I’m enjoying my family time!   
On The Weekend

I’m always happy when a weekend arrives and I still do a little meal planning too. Some of the kids are in and out, some have friends coming over. Whoever is here, they enjoy eating at leisure so I typically make a hearty soup, stew or chowder that sits in my Ninja Cooking System for the afternoon. Everyone appreciates it, it goes a long way and I’m not forever cooking something for the “gang”. Last week was the first time I made a corn chowder. So easy, made a pot full and everyone loved it!
Here’s my recipe, but the fun thing about it is you can easily make it to your liking-add more bacon, use ham instead or even turkey bacon. Add a a couple diced carrots too. Whatever you may fancy.
Hearty Corn Chowder:
  • 1 lb of cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 2 cans of cream corn
  • 2 cans of corn, undrained
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp of pepper
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 6-8 potatoes, chopped to bit sizes-NOT peeled
  • 6 cups of water or chicken broth
  • Combine all these ingredients in your crock pot or Ninja Cooking System. Cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 6-8 hours.
When ready to serve: 
  • Add 2 cans of evaporated milk
  • 3 Tbls of butter
Mix, allow to heat through and serve. If chowder is too think, just add more broth. I started mine in the morning. Cooked it on High and everyone had some throughout the day.  There were recipes that called for half and half or heavy cream, but I like being able to have the cans of evaporated milk on hand whenever I want to make this.  Some recipes also called for a bag of frozen corn. As you can see, it’s to your liking and to your convenience.
Enjoy your family time!
I’m a wife, mommy and a lover of life enjoying everything from playing board games to cooking to traveling. Finding deals for our family has allowed us to do the fun things in life with enjoyment and less stress. When I find a deal I’ll always share it on my blog, Extreme Coupon Professors. Hop on over to see all the ways to save!

 

Resolve to Start Meal Planning

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

 There are plenty of great reasons why regular meal planning should make it on to your New Year’s Resolution List.  Meal planning helps you save money, eat healthier, stress less, spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family.  These are all things that we want, so why do we resist doing it?

I think what holds many people back from meal planning is thinking that, in order to do it “right,” they have to plan a month in advance, spend every weekend batch cooking and freezing, AND be super organized.  Sure, you can start that way if you want to, but for most folks it’s easier to begin gradually rather than cannonballing into the deep end.  So, here are some baby steps, tips, and tools to get you started on your meal planning adventures.

  • Plan a week of dinners.  Look at your calendar for the next week and plan your dinners based on what you’ve already got on hand in the fridge, pantry, and freezer.  Save more complicated, labor intensive meals for weekends or other non-busy days.  Plan on slow cooker meals or meals that can be on the table in 30 minutes or less for busy nights.  Next week, try planning out ten days to two weeks in advance.  Before long, you’ll be on a monthly meal planning schedule. (Which is great, because you only have to do it 12 times a year vs. 52 times a year!)

  • Make a double batch of a family favorite meal and freeze half of it.  It doesn’t take twice as long to make a double batch of a recipe!  In fact, it usually only takes a few extra minutes. You’ll be grateful two or three weeks from now when you’re short on time.  You’ll have a great meal you can dump frozen into the crockpot before heading to work and come home to a wonderful smelling house and dinner ready to serve!  I highly recommend a dish like beef stew, spaghetti sauce with meatballs, chili, or vegetable soup for your first freezer meal.
  • Stock up on freezer cooking supplies next time you’re at the store.  If you don’t have plenty of zipper freezer bags (quart and gallon size) and plastic containers in various sizes for freezer cooking, be sure and stock up so you have no excuses.
  • Search Pinterest or Google for good freezer cooking and batch cooking recipes.  It’s more fun to meal plan if you have recipes you’re excited to try!

  • Check out these great Meal Planning tools!  If you’d like a FREE blank meal planning calendar or freezer inventory sheet, just click here to download.  If you’re ready to really get serious about meal planning, invest a few dollars in my e-book, Discover the Magic of Meal Planning. (Kindle Unlimited members get it FREE!)

Whether you’re trying to save money at the grocery store, eat healthier, or spend more time with your family, meal planning can help you with those resolutions.  Here’s to a Happy New Year and Happy Meal Planning in 2015!

 

 

 

 

Save Money on Meat

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

I know from personal experience that eating a diet rich in protein helps to keep me strong and slim.  However, you don’t have to be a “meat-atarian” to get the slimming results of protein.  According to Robert Ferguson, creator of Diet Free Life (the healthy eating plan that I’ve followed for over three years), if you’re getting 15 to 30 grams of protein with each meal, you’re on track.

With that being said, I’m going to give you some strategies to save money on your protein purchases.  The price of meat is definitely NOT getting any cheaper and eating grass-fed and organic is downright expensive!  Three things to keep in mind: buy on sale, eat less meat, and occasionally go meatless.

Buy on Sale

I have a tendency to create my monthly meal plans around what I’ve recently scored on sale at the grocery store.  I also check out what’s marked down in the meat department.  If it’s something that looks fine but has an imminent expiration date, I’ll either cook it up right away or freeze it.  The crock pot is definitely a good friend of mine because it makes cheaper cuts of meat taste delicious and fall right off the bone.  I purchase the vast majority of my chicken with the bone in because I get more for my money.  I frequently cook a whole chicken in the crock pot and make several meals out of it.  For example, tonight Nick and I are going to have rosemary chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy with broccoli.  I’ll shred the leftover dark meat and mix it with BBQ sauce and send Nick to work with BBQ sandwiches and sweet potato fries for lunch.  As for the remaining white meat, I’ll use it later in the week for my Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup.  Also, ask if there’s a discount if you buy in bulk.  I recently bought chicken thighs from a local farm and they gave me a discount since I purchased 10 pounds (and froze most of it).

Eat Less Meat

Most Americans eat larger servings of meat than their bodies actually need.  You can painlessly cut the amount of meat in a dish without sacrificing taste or feeling hungry.  For example, when I make spaghetti and meat sauce, I can easily cut back on the amount of ground turkey (or beef) and add a package of fresh mushrooms (washed and sliced) to the meat while it’s cooking.  Mushrooms have a meaty taste and are rich in protein, so it’s not really noticeable that the amount of turkey has been decreased. If you don’t like mushrooms, you can sub in your choice of zucchini, onions, bell peppers, or eggplant.  You can also do this with black beans or leftover brown rice when making tacos or burritos.  This will allow you to stretch a pound of ground meat over two meals instead of just one.  Be creative!  You also add corn, pinto and other beans, quinoa, barley, and other grains or vegetables to stretch your meat.

Occasionally Go Meatless

Yes, you can get enough protein from non-meat sources!  It seems there’s been a surge in the popularity of “Meatless Mondays.”  Don’t believe me?  Just search “Meatless Monday” on Pinterest and see the thousands upon thousands of recipes that pop up!  With delicious sounding recipes like Lentil Chili, Butternut Squash & Black Bean Enchiladas, Mushroom Fajitas, and Spinach & Ricotta Pasta, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything at all!  Some of my personal vegetarian favorites are Black Bean Chili and Easy Cheesy Casserole.  I also can’t wait to try this Sweet Potato Salad recipe!

If you have any other tips for saving money on your meat purchases, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

October ~ A Month of Meals

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Do you meal plan weekly or monthly?  I’ve tried it both ways and have come to the conclusion that it’s less stressful for me to meal plan monthly, since I only have to do it 12 times a year, instead of 52!  On numerous occasions, I’ve had people ask me to share my monthly meal plan so they can get some fresh ideas for their own meal plans.

October is going to be frightfully busy for me!  I start teaching Financial Peace University tomorrow, which is a nine-week class.  I’ve also been doing more financial coaching appointments in the evening lately.  That means plenty of FFY (Fend For Yourself) days on the calendar!  I’ll be batch cooking to stock the freezer with soups, chili, BBQ, and pasta for those busy evenings.  I also plan on baking during the weekends – homemade granola bars, pumpkin bread, zucchini muffins, and plum cake!  Here’s what I’m cooking in October.

Week One

 

Monday ~ Homemade vegetable soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.  There will be plenty of leftover soup to be frozen.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Hubby will probably reheat white chicken chili for his dinner.

Wednesday ~ Breakfast for dinner: Omelets, hash browns, turkey sausage and fruit

Thursday ~ FFY – Financial Coaching.  Hubby will have to reheat a freezer meal.

Friday  ~ Spaghetti & Meat Sauce with salad.  I’ll make a double batch of the sauce and freeze the leftovers.

Saturday ~ Oven Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans.  I’ll also bake pumpkin bread sometime over the weekend.

Sunday ~ Using the leftover chicken meat from Saturday, and the chicken stock in the freezer, I’ll be making chicken soup.  Recently, I’ve been omitting the noodles and adding extra veggies, like peas, green beans, and corn.  We’ll round out the meal with crusty rolls and butter.

Week Two

 

Monday ~ Broiled or grilled chicken breasts with artichokes & tomatoes.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  I’ll put beef stew in the crock pot in the morning, so it will be ready when Nick gets home from work.

Wednesday ~ Loaded Nachos.

Thursday ~ Turkey Chili with salads.  Plenty of leftovers for the freezer!

Friday  ~ White Bean, Kale & Carrot Soup with beer bread.  This is a cheap, filling, meatless meal.  Thanks to my sister, Leah, for this recipe!

Saturday ~ I’m going to try my hand at making Chicken & Asparagus with Black Bean Sauce and serve it with brown rice.  It’s a more involved recipe than most of the ones I make on a regular basis, so I’m saving it for the weekend.

Sunday ~ Turkey and gravy with mashed potatoes and a veggie.  I’ll also bake a double batch of granola bars.

 

White Bean, Kale & Carrot Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cups chopped raw kale
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans white beans, undrained
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a stock/soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; sauté until soft. Stir in broth, carrots, beans, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until carrots are almost tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale; cover and simmer for another 15 minutes or until kale is done, stirring occasionally.

Week Three

 

Monday ~ Spinach Stuffed Chicken. My freezer is packed with frozen spinach, so I’m trying to work it into my meals this month.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Freezer meals for everyone!

Wednesday ~ Chicken & Potatoes in the crock pot – easy and delicious!  I’ll strain the juices left in the crock pot and freeze it because it makes awesome stock for chicken soup!

Thursday ~ Out to Eat for Dinner!  A well-deserved night off for me!

Friday  ~ Meatloaf with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and broccoli.

Saturday ~ Rosemary Lemon Chicken in the crock pot with Parmesan potatoes and a veggie.  Make 5 balls of foil from 1’ x 1’ sheets and set the chicken on top of the foil balls inside the crock pot.  This keeps the skin from getting soggy.  I rub the chicken with olive oil, sprinkle it with rosemary and stuff it with lemon wedges, and cook it breast side down.

Sunday ~ Easy Cheesy Casserole and side salads.  The leftovers from this casserole freeze really well.  I also plan on making zucchini chocolate chip muffins.

Week Four

 

Monday ~ Spicy Shrimp & Tomatoes.  This can be served over rice or pasta, or with crusty rolls to dip into the tasty juices!

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Freezer meals for everyone!

Wednesday ~ Black bean soup with tortilla chips.  Fast, vegetarian, and leftovers freeze well.

Thursday ~ BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with sweet potato fries and a veggie.

Friday  ~ Chicken and mushrooms with white wine sauce over wild rice with garlic roasted cauliflower.

Saturday ~ Salmon and Steak with twice-baked potatoes and salad.

Sunday ~ Grilled Chicken Tenderloins with Hash Brown Casserole and green beans.  I’m also going to bake my favorite cake – Cardamom Plum Cake – just because!

 

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Busy, Busy, Busy!

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Busy, busy, busy!  I have SO much going lately, it seems like I’ve been buzzing along at a hundred miles an hour.  I would venture to say that many of you are in the same boat, with a hectic schedule and a long To-Do list.  I recently finished an excellent book on Audible by Crystal Paine (Money Saving Mom) called,  “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life.”  Let me tell you, it could not have come at a better time for me!

I’m working very hard to grow my financial coaching business, so I have been networking like a crazy woman!  I’ve joined a weekly networking group (BNI) and still have another five months of my Referral Institute class left to go.  And somewhere in between all of this networking and relationship building, I actually have to accomplish some work.  Not to mention taking care of housework, grocery shopping, and errands.

As a result, I’ve really slacked off on my couponing and keeping up with my binder.  Several weeks’ worth of coupons would stack up on the kitchen table before I’d finally get around to clipping and filing them in my binder.  One thing that Crystal talks about in her book is deciding what’s really important in your life right now, and focus on those things.  This means that you may need to stop doing certain things or cut back on other activities to make that happen.  At this moment, it is vitally important for me to capitalize on the momentum I’ve generated for my business.  I know that in the long run, these activities are going to bring me thousands of dollars.  Something’s got to give!  So, I’ve decided to scale back on my paper coupons for now.

What do I mean by that?  It means that I’ve temporarily retired my coupon binder and traded it in for a small accordion coupon file, which is the size of a large wallet.  (Look how much smaller it is!!)

Before I go to grocery store, I go online, load up my shopper card with electronic coupons, and search for printable coupons for the items on my list.  Then I pull out the coupons from my file that I KNOW I am going to use and clip it to my list.  I bring the accordion file with me as well.

The first time I did this, it felt really weird not having the coupon binder with me!  I felt strangely naked – and light! –  not having the bulky binder slung over my shoulder walking into the store.  But, I must say, that the system is working well and I don’t feel so stressed out over neglecting my coupon binder maintenance.  I’m only clipping coupons I know that I will use, so I’m spending less time with the scissors.

Am I leaving some dollars on the table by not cutting every single coupon that I might possibly use and religiously scouring the sale ads?  Probably.  But I think having a saner schedule is worth it to me.  So, I hope that you understand and don’t demand that I turn in my Coupon Queen crown!  ;)  Of course, I don’t think that I will ever slack on my Meal Planning activities because they save me so much time and stress.

On that note, here’s my Meal Plan for this busy upcoming week!

Monday ~ Strangely enough, this will be my only weekday that I have extra time to make a more involved meal.  We’re having rosemary lemon roasted Cornish hens with wild rice and asparagus.

Tuesday ~ Turkey slices and gravy with Bob Evan’s mashed potatoes and green beans.

Wednesday ~ Easy Cheesy Casserole with spinach salads.

Thursday ~ FFY – Fend for Yourself!  I have a financial coaching appointment in the evening.

Friday ~ Turkey Polish sausage and pierogies fried in a little butter with onions and broccoli.

Saturday ~ Firecracker Casserole

Sunday ~ Trying something new!   Spinach Artichoke Dip Stuffed Chicken, which sounds really, really good!

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Dreaming of Spring

This week’s post is by Bee Mandelberg of Style Island.

Mother Nature seems to be toying with all of us this week, taking us for a roller coaster of a ride as we revel in the spring season for one day, only to be freezing again the next. But just because the outdoors isn’t quite spring ready, doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared indoors.

In spite of the chill still in the air, but inspired by the sunshine, I decided to try my hand at some homemade chicken salad sandwiches. Although they can obviously be eaten anytime, something about the meal made me think of an airy, carefree spring day. Although the warmer season hasn’t hit quite yet, at least we can will it with this lunch.

This is so simple to make, and should last for a few lunches; just keep the leftovers stored in your fridge.

 

Chicken Salad Sandwiches for a simple spring Lunch

  •  1 lb. skinless chicken breast – already prepared and refrigerated*
  • Mustard
  • Light mayonnaise
  • Walnuts
  • 1 Celery stalk
  • Dried cranberries
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 pinches of salt

Cut up prepared chicken into small pieces and put into a bowl. (* I used the Foreman grill to make mine, but you can prepare it however you prefer).  Add 1 tbsp. mustard, 3 tbsp. light mayonnaise, walnuts, cut up celery, and cranberries. Mix everything together. Chill.  Serve alone or as sandwiches. Enjoy!

 

Here are some other great recipes for lunch or dinner to ease you through the transition from winter to spring.  I have a feeling we haven’t had the last snowfall of the season yet, even though the first day of Spring is later this week!

 

Mexican Siesta Soup

Easy Chicken Quesadillas

Chicken Veggie Rice Soup

Cream of Chicken Soup with Ciabatta Bread

Bee Mandelberg is a lifestyle blogger and writer at Style Island.
A New York City native, she adores rifling through her mom’s closet for vintage
clothes, pretending to be Parisian and obsessively watching horror movies. You
can find her carrying a Vogue in one hand, and a cappuccino in the other.

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Easy Gourmet

 Today’s post is by Heather McCurdy.

Our family loves to try different foods. As a home school, work at home AND work outside the home mom and wife, I often don’t have the time to get fancy and gourmet with dinner. One of my favorite things to do is get an amazing dinner on the table that gives the illusion of gourmet but is really quite simple to pull off.  With all the craziness that is our life, it is also important that I have a plan and execute it. The weeks I don’t plan, life tends to fall apart about half way through the day, leaving us with cobbled together dinners full of stress and discontent. I try to look at everything going on in my week and plan easy meals for the days that will be the craziest.

Mushroom Stuffed London Broil 1

This week I am finally getting around to making the beautiful piece of grass fed London Broil that has been sitting in my freezer ever since Whole Foods had a sale the other month.  I am actually going to slice it about 3/4 the way through lengthwise and stuff it with sauteed mushrooms. We are going classic meat and potatoes here this evening, so I am also splurging and going all out with my Amish Mashed Potatoes. So rich and creamy, each bite is potato heaven.  For the veggie I sauteed brussels sprouts. This plate is beautiful and while it sounds fancy, you and I both now know just how easy it really was.

 Mushroom Stuffed London Broil and Brussels Sprouts

Mushroom Stuffed London Broil

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 pound London Broil, brought to room temperature/set out 30 minutes
  • 8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Black Pepper
  • Kosher Salt

Directions:

  • Preheat oven: 400
  • Thinly slice and saute mushrooms in butter. I use a cast iron skillet for the best sear in the next step.
  • Meanwhile, butterfly the London Broil.
  • When mushrooms are browned, remove from pan, leaving burner on medium high.
  • Place steak, opened up, into the pan and sear both sides. (Takes approximately 1 minute per side.)
  • Turn cut side up, place sauteed mushrooms on half of steak and close.
  • Place in oven and cook to desired wellness. 1 pound:  approximately 20 minutes for medium,  25 for medium well, 30 for well.
  • Let rest for 10 minutes. (Remember it will continue cooking while resting so pull meat out just before done to your desired wellness.)

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar (I used a fig balsamic – sweet and tangy)

Directions:

  • Slice brussels sprouts approximately 1/4 inch thick.
  • Melt butter in saute or frying pan.
  • Add brussels sprouts to butter.
  • Sprinkle on desired amount of salt and pepper. I use a very small pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of the pepper mill.
  • Saute until soft and slightly browned/caramelized in some spots.
  • Splash balsamic vinegar over and give a quick stir.
  • Serve

The rest of this week’s meal plan is going to be a little lackluster in comparison. We don’t eat like kings and queens everyday as much as our children might wish to.

Tuesday – Lemon Garlic Chicken with wild or brown tice – speaking of which, here is one of my favorite tricks for “quick” rice - and Honey Glazed Carrots

Wednesday – Chicken Tacos made with slow cooker taco meat

Thursday – Chicken and Couscous Soup and Pumpkin Cornbread

Friday – Southwest Chili Dip served as a main entree over rice, with grape tomatoes, celery sticks, and carrots (raw).  When you have a crazy night release yourself from cooking or steaming those vegetables. Who says they have to be cooked? Serve them up raw and packed with all their nutrients.

What are you adding to your meal plan this week?

You can find Heather’s concoctions and ramblings over at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond. She loves to cook and bake on a shoestring budget and is always sharing something new. When she’s not working, caring for her family, or in the kitchen, she is figuring out how to be, dress, and make all things frugal.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Resolutions Worth Making

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

By now, you’ve hopefully recovered from your New Year’s celebration – and now the real work begins: implementing those resolutions you’ve made.  We all want 2014 to be our best year yet, but achieving those goals won’t be a piece of cake.  Did you know that investing some time in Meal Planning this year will help you achieve some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions?  Here are three of the most popular goals that people set – and how meal planning can help you reach them.

The #1 New Year’s resolution that Americans make is to lose weight/ eat healthier/ get in shape.  In 2013, thanks to Diet Free Life’s Carb Stepping tool and some High Intensity Interval Training, I’ve achieved my strongest and leanest body ever (pretty good for someone who just turned 40!)  There is NO WAY I would have achieved this goal without meal planning.  When you’re trying to eat healthy, having a plan is your greatest weapon against temptation.  Knowing that I have my dinner ingredients thawed out and ready to go makes it so much easier to pass by the drive thru and go home to a healthy, home-cooked meal.  I even plan my snacks and keep handy options like granola bars, apples, and nuts in my purse, briefcase, and car.  Restaurant meals contain an average of 30% more calories and fat than the same meal prepared at home.  This is because you control what goes into the food and you can make smart substitutions that will save fat and calories without sacrificing flavor.

Another popular New Year’s resolution is to become financially healthy (start budgeting, spend less, save more, pay off credit card debt.)  It might strike you as strange that meal planning can help you with this one, but I promise you’ll spend less money on food if you plan your meals.  The money you save can help you pay off your debt and save for the future.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that the price of groceries keeps going up, so it’s smart to manage your food resources wisely.  I was shocked to learn a few years ago that Americans throw away about one-third of the food that they purchase!  If a family of four spends $600 on food each month, they are throwing $200 in the trash can every month!  That’s $2,400 per year that could be saved for a vacation or paid down on the mortgage.  Creating a monthly meal plan helps you better manage the food you have so less of it goes to waste.  People who consistently meal plan also eat out less, which means even more money saved.

Finally, many folks resolve to reduce stress and spend more time with loved ones in the New Year.  Meal planning ensures that most nights you’ll be able to put a healthy, home cooked meal on the table for dinner and be able to enjoy quality time with your family.  When you’re not stressed out over what’s for dinner, you’re a happier and more present parent and spouse.

Not sure how to get started with your meal planning?  Pick up my e-book on Amazon.com, The Coupon Sisters Get Cooking: Discover the Magic of Meal Planning for just $7.95.  I promise it will pay for itself many times over the first month you begin to meal plan!

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Cooking with Wine

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Anyone who knows me for five minutes knows that I love wine, especially a nice glass of cabernet.  There’s nothing like a great glass of wine to accompany a well-cooked meal.  Not only do I like to drink wine, but I also enjoy cooking with wine.  Both white and red wine can be used in cooking various dishes to impart great flavor with zero fat.

While I was in Michigan over the Thanksgiving holiday, I did a little shopping in Holland’s quaint downtown district.  There’s a fabulous foodie store there with an entire wall of single spices and blends, plus tiny jars of gourmet mustards, jams, sauces, and other goodies to delight my inner Julia Child.  I bought a Tuscan spice blend that I was anxious to try as soon as I got home to my own kitchen.  There was a recipe on the back for marinated chicken that included red wine, so I knew it would be good.  I ended up using some boneless chicken thighs I had in the freezer and baking them in the oven.  They were heavenly!  Even my hubby – who isn’t a wine drinker – declared them to be delicious.  I served it with my new favorite side dish: Minute Rice Multi-Grain Medley.  It has a blend of brown, red, and wild rice plus quinoa – and it cooks in 10 minutes.  There’s no seasoning, so I added some thyme and a chicken bouillon cube to the rice before cooking it.

Another one of my favorite recipes is Chicken & Mushrooms with Garlic White Wine Sauce.  It’s a quick and easy recipe to make and tastes fantastic!  I also love serving this dish over rice, which absorbs the wine sauce.  Mushrooms are a great pairing with wine, either white or red.  Sometimes I will just sauté mushrooms in a small amount of butter with some wine, which makes for a flavorful side dish.

What kind of wine do I use when I’m cooking?  Honestly, whatever I’ve got at the house for pouring in my glass is what I use in my cooking!  Here are some great recipes to try with wine.

 

  • Red Wine Beef Stew – Nick loves beef stew and I’m always up for trying a new variation on this easy crock pot supper.  This recipe is chocked full of mushrooms, tomatoes, and other veggies  – no potatoes -  which makes it a great dish for those people who are eating low-carb!

 

Tuscan Red Wine Chicken Thighs

  •  4 – 6 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • ¼ cup of red wine
  • 1 Tbs. of Tuscan seasoning blend.  If you can’t find a pre-mixed blend at your local store, make it yourself with this recipe.

 

Mix the olive oil, red wine, and Tuscan seasoning blend in a small bowl.  Rinse the chicken thighs and trim any excess fat.  Place the thighs in a resealable bag with the oil and wine mixture.  Let the thighs marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Discard the excess marinade and place the chicken thighs in a baking dish or pan that’s been sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.  Bake the thighs for 20 – 25 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.   (This recipe can also be made with chicken breasts.)

Cheers to a delicious meal!