Meal Planning Monday ~ I Love Cheeses!


Fill in the blank: “The one food I could NEVER live without is ________.”  For me, the answer is easy – Cheese!  Yes, I would give up eating desserts, fried food, chocolate… and even red wine before cheese.  I’m so glad that I have a Diet Free Life mentality, so I never have to give up any of the foods that I love, including cheese!

I love most any kind of cheese, with very few exceptions (Swiss being one of them).   At our house, we always have feta, Parmesan, sharp white cheddar, string cheese, and a variety of shredded cheeses on hand.  Sharp white cheddar is far and above my favorite.  My co-op sells Amish cheeses and their sharp white cheddar is to die for!  I use it on grilled cheese and egg sandwiches, with crackers, or just plain with a good glass of wine.

Since I’ve been Carb Stepping, I’ve been snacking on string cheese on a regular basis.  It’s a great snack because two of them have only 160 calories, no carbs, and 12 grams of hunger-curbing protein.  The only problem with string cheese is that we can never have enough in house!  My husband loves it, and so does my cat, Peanut.  When she hears the plastic peel back on one of those, she comes running to beg for a piece!

I love Parmesan cheese because it adds so much great flavor with a small amount of fat and calories.  Just this week, I tried a great roasted salmon recipe with a Parmesan-mayo topping that Leah posted in our recipe group on Facebook.  Oh my word, it was hands-down the best salmon recipe I’ve ever made at home!  (See below for recipe.)  If you don’t like fish, the Mmm… Chicken recipe I shared a few posts back is similar and equally delicious.  I also make Parmesan-crusted grilled cheese sandwiches.  All you do is sprinkle a bit of parm on top of the buttered bread before you cook it.  I’ll also shake some on top of roasted veggies for extra flavor.

Some people – like Leah – are crazy about goat cheese, but I’m definitely a feta girl.  It’s my cheese of choice for salads.  I love making a huge Greek chicken salad for lunch – salad greens, chicken, garbanzo beans, olives, cukes, pine nuts and feta.  Sometimes I’ll mix it up and do salad greens with turkey, walnuts, Crainsins, and feta.  When it’s warm enough to fire up the grill, my hubby and I love to make Chicken Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, feta, and basil.

What are you favorite cheeses?


Oven Roasted Salmon with Parmesan-Mayo Crust



  • 16-20 ounces salmon fillet(s), skin on
  • Kosher salt/ freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • additional Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • a few dashes of sweet paprika

Preheat oven to 425F.  Line a shallow roasting pan with foil.  Rinse the salmon with cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels, and place in roasting pan.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Mix the mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl.  Spread completely over the salmon.  Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese on top, and add a few dashes of sweet paprika.

Roast for 12-14 minutes (depending on thickness of salmon).  Remove from oven; carefully slide a wide spatula between the skin and meat to separate from the skin, and serve!

Meal Planning Monday ~ More Soup for You!


          One of my favorite things about autumn is having a nice bowl of hot soup on a cool day.  Lately I have been the anti-“Soup Nazi,” declaring, “More soup for you!”  Once every week or so in September, I made large batches of soup and froze the leftovers in individual servings.  One of the reason I did this, besides the fact that I love soup, is to have easy meal options on hand for busy days.  I have eight classes this month that I am scheduled to teach, so it will be great to heat up some soup with a sandwich or grilled cheese on these nights.

            This has also saved me money over buying canned soup.  I am very picky about my canned soup, because so many varieties have too much sodium and other additives that I’m trying to avoid.  Plus, many of the canned soups really don’t taste very good.  My brand of choice is Wolfgang Puck’s organic soup line, which is delicious but expensive.  It’s also a rare thing to find a coupon for that brand.

            This week, I am going to give you several great soup ideas and recipes that you can make and freeze.  If you’ve got a big family, you’ll want to double or triple the recipes so you have plenty of leftovers to stock your freezer.  You may need to add plastic freezer containers to your grocery list this week if you don’t have enough on hand.  Pretty soon, you’ll be able to say to your family (with an accent, of course), “More soup for you!”


Tomato Basil Soup ~ In my opinion, there is nothing better than tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich when it’s cold and rainy outside.  One of my friends recently turned me on to parmesan-crusted grilled cheese, and it is SO good!  Just sprinkle a little parmesan on top of the buttered bread and make as usual.  I’ve been making mine with turkey, pesto, and sharp cheddar cheese – pure heaven!

Taco Soup ~ This soup is a crowd pleaser, and can be made with either ground beef or turkey.  It’s a nice alternative to chili and perfect for tailgating!

Vegetable Soup ~ I consider myself a vegetable soup connoisseur.  Frisch’s vegetable soup has always been my favorite.  I was completely delighted when one of my Facebook friends, Lori Wagner, shared her homemade version which is even better!  I have a feeling that this soup will be the first one that needs to be replenished.

Chicken Soup ~ There’s something so comforting about a bowl of chicken soup when you’re feeling under the weather!  I was so glad that I had some in the freezer when I got sick with a sinus infection recently.  The recipe, which I got from my Mom, is below.

Black Bean Soup ~ Lately I’ve been adding some shredded chicken to this recipe, which is really good when served with crushed tortilla chips and a sprinkling of cheese.

Chili ~ It freezes very well and it’s so easy to double a chili recipe.  That makes it a no-brainer to make extras for freezing.


Mom’s Chicken Soup

  • 2 Large Bone-in Chicken Breasts, or 1 whole chicken
  • 1 cup of sliced carrots
  • ½ cup of sliced celery
  • ¼ cup of diced onions
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 – 2 TBS of dried parsley
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 cans of low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • ½ package of egg noodles (I use whole wheat egg noodles)

Place all ingredients, except for the egg noodles, in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer (covered) for 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot.  Cut into the breast and ensure there’s no pink in the middle.  Peel the skin back from chicken and allow to cool slightly.

While the chicken is cooling, return the broth to a boil and add the egg noodles.  When the egg noodles are tender, turn off the heat.  Remove chicken from the bone, chop and add to the soup.  Remove the bay leaf and garlic cloves from the pot, and serve.

Meal Planning Monday ~ I Love Farmers’ Markets!

            This weekend, my husband and I went up to Buffalo, NY for a family wedding.  We made time on Saturday morning to head over to the farmer’s market in North Tonawanda.  My family’s had a booth at this market for over 50 years!  My grandparents had it for many years, and then passed it down to my uncle who sells the best sweet corn in Western New York.  Nick and I had a blast helping my uncle sell corn, peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  The best part – we got paid in fresh produce!

            Of course, we also walked around to check out the whole market, almost a hundred vendors with all kinds of gorgeous produce, fresh baked rye bread, polish sausages, and SO much more!  I was in heaven!  Now I am on a quest to find a farmer’s market that is even half as good here in the Greater Cincinnati area.  So, this week I am going to use all of my produce treasures (pictured above) in my meal plan!

            Also, today is my Dad’s birthday, so I just want to give him a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY wish!  Love you, Dad!

 Here’s my Meal Plan for this week:

Monday ~ Hot Ham (or Turkey) and Cheese on Rye with Tomato Soup.  It’s so hard to find good rye bread in the Midwest!  I bought three loaves of rye at the market and brought them home and froze them.

Tuesday ~ Eggplant Parmesan.  See recipe below.

Wednesday ~ FFY – Fend for Yourself!  I am very excited to be attending a blogger dinner with my friend and mentor, Heather Tenney.  You should check out her blog.  It’s pretty awesome!

Thursday ~ Stuffed Green Peppers with fresh melon for dessert.

Friday ~ Oven Fried Chicken with corn on the cob and fried green tomatoes.  I have never made fried green tomatoes, so this will be an adventure!

Saturday ~ Fish Tacos.  I have one lone head of cabbage growing in my garden, so hopefully it will be ready for this recipe!

Sunday ~ Family Dinner at my Dad’s to celebrate his birthday.


EatingWell’s Eggplant Parmesan

We reduced fat by coating the eggplant with egg whites instead of whole eggs and baking, rather than frying, the slices for a lighter version of this classic.

6 serving | Active Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes


  • 2 eggplants, (about 2 pounds total)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, (1 ounce), divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup slivered fresh basil leaves
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup grated part-skim mozzarella cheese, (3 ounces)


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat two baking sheets and an 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Cut eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Whisk egg whites and water in a shallow dish until frothy. Combine breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, salt and pepper in another shallow dish. Dip the eggplant slices into the egg-white mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. (Discard any leftover breadcrumbs and egg white.) Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.
  3. Stir basil into tomato sauce. Spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese. Add a layer of the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.


Per serving : 203 Calories; 6 g Fat; 3 g Sat; 2 g Mono; 13 mg Cholesterol; 29 g Carbohydrates; 12 g Protein; 8 g Fiber; 563 mg Sodium; 777 mg Potassium






Meal Planning Monday ~ Potato Possibilities


          The humble potato is a Coupon Queen and Meal Planner’s dream dinner ingredient!  Not only are potatoes versatile, but they are also inexpensive, even when they aren’t on sale.  You can have your potatoes mashed, baked, boiled, fried, and even grilled!  Don’t limit your family to just the basic Russet variety, but try some red skins, Yukon Golds, and sweet potatoes!  Now as much as I love potatoes, I don’t eat them every single day.  However, I do have a them on the menu a few times a week because they are cheap, delicious, and nutritious (especially if you eat the skins). 

            Sometimes we can fall into a rut with our side dishes and potatoes are no exception.  So this week I am going to give you some different ways to make spuds that your family will love.  A special thanks to my Facebook recipe group, “Try It Out” for your potato ideas!

 Parmesan Potatoes ~ These potatoes are AWESOME!!  This recipe is so easy and delicious it has become my new favorite way to make them.  See the recipe at the end of this post.  A special thanks to Chris Dudley for introducing me to this one!

Cheesy Roasted Garlic Potato Balls ~ Okay, these are NOT healthy in the least bit because they’re fried, but are a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes.  I may try oven frying them – coating them with butter cooking spray and baking them in the oven.  (Thanks to Patty Cable for this recipe!)

Boiled Red Skin Potatoes ~ I love these (or Yukon Golds) tossed with butter and fresh parsley.  Since we had such a mild winter, my parsley plants didn’t die, but have turned into parsley bushes!  We’ll be eating these on a regular basis this summer.

Freezer Smashed Potatoes ~ When the 5-pound bags of Russet potatoes go on sale at my local Kroger for $1.99, I use Heather Tenney’s (my friend and mentor) recipe for Freezer Smashed Potatoes.

Hash Brown Casserole ~ I really love Cracker Barrel’s grilled chicken tenderloins with green beans and hash brown casserole.  The recipe below is closest I’ve found to my restaurant favorite.  (Thanks again to Patty!)

Fried Potatoes ~ If I have leftover boiled potatoes from last night’s dinner, I slice and fry them up with a little butter and onion for breakfast to go with my eggs and turkey bacon.

Twice Baked Potatoes ~ These are easy to make and you can vary the add-ins based on what your family likes.  Make this recipe lighter by omitting the bacon and using reduced fat cheese.


Parmesan Potatoes

  • ½ Stick of Butter
  • 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
  •  1-2 Tbs of dried parsley
  • 4 – 6 Small Russet potatoes, washed (unpeeled) 

            Melt butter in the microwave and pour into the bottom of a glass baking dish.  Blend the parmesan, garlic powder, and parsley together then sprinkle the mixture over the butter.  Take your skin-on potatoes (washed) and cut them in half length-wise.  Put them face down in the butter.  Bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes. 


Hash Brown Casserole

10.25 condensed can cream of chicken
8 ounce Colby cheese grated
½ cup melted butter
1 small onion minced
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
2 lb. bag frozen shredded hash browns

            Spray 13 X 9 X 2 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray: set aside.  In a bowl, combine soup, cheese, butter, onion, salt, and pepper.  Gently fold potatoes into mixture and spread evenly into pan.  Heat at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until heated through or top is brown.