Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Short Week

Christmas is over. New Year's Eve is just a few days away. We have food coming out of our ears. Okay not literally. We have had food boxed and stacked in both refrigerators. (In Canada, the day after Christmas--or is it Thanksgiving?--is Boxing Day, where they box the leftovers and leave them out for collection for the needy. I've always thought this was a brilliant use of leftover food, but impossible in the US with all its rules and regulations regarding food safety. Way up nord there it's reliably cold, frozen even, so food stays at a safe temperature even outside.) So, we're working on leftovers. I think after 3 days of lunches and dinners we're pretty well through it all.

So, with the leftovers gone, or at least with their welcome worn clear out, it's time for a fresh meal plan:

Thursday: Tortilla Soup (from a mix), homemade tortillas (which I'm attempting for the very first time)

Friday: French Dip Sandwiches, sautee'd zucchini

Saturday: Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, canned soup, raw veggies

Sunday (happy new year!) Ribs with Sauerkraut, roasted brussels sprouts

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Eve Menu for 13

Since we moved to Oklahoma not quite four years ago, a new tradition has developed. My brother and his family live in the same town. This is not small news. He is a Navy pilot. My husband is an Air Force pilot. They are stationed at different bases, yet we live 5 miles apart, and have for almost 4 years. Military people do not get to choose where we live. We rarely get to live near family, so this is a big deal. And to have Christmas at home is a really big deal, for us.

So every year on Christmas Eve, I host a family dinner. And my brother and sister in law host Christmas Day. It's wonderful. I think food is one of my love languages, and to cook for the people in the world who mean the most to me is so fun, I start planning the menu, or at least thinking about it, weeks in advance. It's also quite nice to get a break from the work of it the next day. Sharing: what a great concept!

This year I'm relying on the ever wonderful Pioneer Woman. I'm going to make her Short Ribs With Wine and Cream. Because it looks wonderful. And I'm sure it will taste amazing. Pioneer Woman never lets me down! I'm also making Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale from Food Network. Along with that, I'll serve shrimp cocktail (a long time tradition in our family), Olive Cheese Bread (also from the afore mentioned Pioneer Woman), and fresh salad in homemade parmesan bowls, which I made last year and were a hit.

Christmas Cookies for dessert, of course, and oh how the wine will flow. I can't wait.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What do you mean I still have to cook dinner?

While I admit that I had nothing whatsoever to do with preparing Thanksgiving dinner (and everything to do with devouring it), I do have on my current horizon several baking and cooking projects that aren't going to get my family fed NOW. And while I love to cook, doing it all this time of year does get overwhelming. Honestly, mostly it's the cleaning that overwhelms me.


Monday: Meatloaf, Roasted Butternut Squash, Roasted Kale

Tuesday: Spaghetti with slow cooker meatballs, salad, bread

Wednesday: grilled flank steak with carmelized onions, baked sweet potatoes, steamed green beans

Thursday: Slow Cooker Jambalaya, Rice

Friday: Saucy Ground Beef and Noodles, Salad, Bread

Saturday: Pizza

Monday, November 14, 2011

$136 for 1 week's worth of groceries

I spent less than $150 for this week's groceries. I'm very proud, especially since the meals are going to be so yummy and, of course, healthy! It's worth noting that this doesn't include milk, as I buy that elsewhere, and a few of the veggies came from my produce coop. But still! Family of 4, 7 days, $150. Not bad.

Sunday: Very Veggie Chicken Noodle Soup, Bread

Very Veggie Chicken Noodle Soup (recipe modified from P90X nutrition guide)

10 C. chicken broth
4 red potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 C. onions, quartered
1 C. carrots, 1 inch thick
3 C. celery, sliced 1 inch thick
2 C. shredded cooked chicken
2 C. zucchini, sliced 1 inch thick
8 oz tomato sauce, canned
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/4 bunch parsley, chopped
dash black pepper

1/2 package wide egg noodles, cooked according to package directions, and drained

In a large stockpot, combine chicken broth, potatoes, onions, carrots, and celery. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-high, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 30 min.

Add chicken, zucchini, tomato sauce, garlic, parsley, and cilantro. Reduce heat to med-low and cook for 10-15 minutes more, or until zucchini is tender. Add noodles. Season to taste with pepper and serve.

Monday: Bowties with Bacon and Tomatoes, Salad

Tuesday: Crock Pot Pot Roast, Baking Powder Biscuits

(I'm omitting the Creamy Dill Sauce, because I think the pot roast speaks for itself without the added expense and calories.)

Wednesday: Asian Salmon, Steamed Peapods, Steamed Brown Rice

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: BBQ Beef-stuffed Baked Potatoes, Salad

Shred the leftover pot roast beef, toss with commercial bbq sauce, heat, and serve on top of baked potatoes.

Saturday: Pizza Night

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sunday: meal swap meal

Monday: Creamy Fettuccine with Shrimp and Bacon, French Bread, salad

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Beef with Red Wine Sauce, Egg Noodles, Spinach Salad

Wednesday: Oven-Fried Chicken, steamed sugar snap peapods, baked sweet potatoes

Thursday: Meal Swap: Jill's Turn to Cook (Serve leftovers if you're not swapping with a friend.)

Friday (vegetarian): Squash Soup in Pumpkin Bowls, fresh bread

Saturday: Pizza

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Let It Rain

Oh, precipitation, how I love thee! You dampen the dust and green the grass. You reduce the temperature to tolerable. You break the burn ban.

In honor of the rain, I'm hoping for at least one night to make S'mores.

Sunday: Orange Roughy, Steamed Broccoli, Baked Sweet Potatoes

Monday: Italian Burgers, green beans, parmesan crisps

Tuesday: Omelettes, fresh fruit

Wednesday: Grilled Whole Chicken, Roasted Vegetables, Fresh Baguettes

Thursday: leftovers (like, a chicken salad, chicken fried rice, or the like with the leftover roasted chicken)

Friday: Tacos

Saturday: OUT

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Happy October!

As October brings its coolish weather, and its promise of Halloween, it also forecasts the ever-growing holiday shopping/cooking/chore tasks of November and December. Like a cloud on the horizon, I can see it coming and can't do anything to stop it or even slow it down. This year, for extra fun, I'm adding a marathon to my December list, which means October and November will be spent training. Bring on the carbs!

Sunday: Ground Beef Stroganoff, spinach salad, french bread
This is one of those recipe finds I love: the whole family loves it, it's cheap, and it goes together easily and quickly. And best of all, it freezes great. I'm making this one for my neighborhood meal swap this month, so as I make ours, I'll be making 6 others and freezing them. You might try doubling it and putting half in the freezer for yourself.

Monday: meal swap meal, my turn to cook: Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi, salad, garlic bread

Tuesday: hamburgers, grilled veggies with balsamic vinaigrette, fries

Wednesday: Seared Pork Tortas, baked tortilla chips with fruit salsa

Thursday: Tortellini with marinara, salad

Friday: meal swap meal, Jill's turn to cook (or, leftovers)

Saturday: pizza

Friday, September 23, 2011

Trying New Things

As opposed to dogs, human beings are able to learn new tricks, even as they age. (by the way, so can dogs, but, like humans, it's harder) Having just come from a week in Mexico, where all I did was try new things, I'm inspired to have more new recipes on the menu this week than I usually do. Not mexican dishes, mind you--I need a break--but new nonetheless.

Here's to a week of trying new things! Leave a comment and let me know what new things YOU'RE trying this week!

Sunday: Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Black Pepper Sauce, steamed broccoli, brown rice pilaf (boxed, such as Near East)

Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Black Pepper Sauce

oven to 425.

Sprinkle pork with 3/4 t. salt and 1/2 t. black pepper. Melt 1 t. butter in large skillet over med-high heat. Add 2lb pork tenderloin; cook 2 min. on each side or until browned. Transfer pork to jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425 for 25 min or until done. Remove pork from oven; let stand 10 min.
Return skillet to med. heat. Add 1/4 c. sliced shallots; cook 3 min or until shallots are translucent, stirring occasionally. Add 1 t. black pepper, 1/4 t. salt, 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 cup cherry preserves. Bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to low and simmer 6 min or until sauce slightly thickens. Stir in 2 T. butter.
Serve sauce with pork.

Monday: breakfast for dinner: Garlicky Spinach-Sausage Gratin, fresh fruit

Tuesday: meal swap meal (pull something from the freezer)

Wednesday: meal swap meal (Jill cooks)...serve leftovers if you're not swapping

Thursday: meal swap meal (I cook): grilled fish, Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale, steamed red potatoes

Friday: Oven Fried Chicken, Smashed Potatoes, steamed sugar snap peapods

Saturday: pizza

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Use It Up and Clean It Out

It's time to take inventory and clean out fridge and freezer. Not fun, but necessary.

Sunday: Grilled Salmon, Steamed Green Beans, Sautee'd Summer Squash

Monday: Tangy Bacon-Chicken Grill, Steamed Brown Rice

Tuesday: Omelettes, Fresh Fruit

Wednesday: Meal Swap Meal: Beef Tips over Egg Noodles, Salad

Thursday: Virginia's Easy Lasagna, Salad

I made this last week for meal swap, so it's already ready to be thawed and reheated!

Friday: Chicken Pot Pie

Saturday: Pizza

Sunday: Out To Eat

Monday: Meal Swap Meal: Chicken and Stuffing, steamed broccoli

Tuesday: Grilled Ham and Cheese, Edamame, potato chips

Wednesday: Out to Eat

Thursday: Tortellini, Salad

Friday: TBD

Saturday: Pizza

Sunday: TBD

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cool Weather Cooking

I can't believe I'm saying this. It's time to include fall-ish recipes! After, what, 57 days of triple digit temperatures, I was about to throw away everything in my kitchen that produced heat: good bye, stove! Good bye, oven! Good bye, microwave! Just to make room for like 6 more refrigerators, or maybe just have my whole kitchen be one of those walk-in coolers you see on TV. (You know the kind that someone always gets accidentally locked in?)

But this morning I actually had to wear a jacket to ride my bike. And my nose is cold. And my coffee is fabulously steamy. And that, my friends, means this dinner diva is thinking about meatloaves and pork chops and, yes, even chili.

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: Oven fish-n-chips, coleslaw

Wednesday: meatloaf, smashed potatoes, roasted asparagus

1 lb each ground beef and ground turkey
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 t. dried mustard
1 t. dried sage
1/4 t. ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients (I use a mixer, but one could use his or her hands) and shape into a loaf. Place in greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 45 min-1 hr. Serve with ketchup, if desired.

Thursday: Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, salad, baked potato chips

Friday: Flank Steak Stir Fry, steamed brown rice

Saturday: Deep Dish Pizza, salad

Sunday: Garlic Chicken Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, Steamed Broccoli

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Simple week!

Monday: Chicken Caesar Wraps, chips, fruit

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
4 chicken breasts, grilled and diced
commercially bottled light caesar dressing, such as Ken's Steakhouse
Pre-Shredded parmesan cheese
4 flour tortillas

toss salad and chicken with dressing, to taste. Divide onto tortillas, sprinkle with cheese. Roll up and serve.

Tuesday: Baked Tilapia, salad, corn on the cob

Wednesday: Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers, French Bread

(For the vegetarian version, substitute Morning Star Meal Starters for the beef.)

Thursday: (Kids' Choice): Cavatappi with Spinach, Beans, and Asiago, Fresh Kiwi, Garlic Bread

Friday: Steaks, tricolor baby potatoes, sautee'd zucchini

Saturday: Pizza Night

Sunday: BLTs, baked potato chips, raw veggies

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dinner Diva is Back!

Sad, but true, the vacation has ended. Sometimes, the vacation is so much work one has to go home in order to get some rest. Sometimes, the vacation goes on so long one can't wait for it to end. Neither was the case for this vacation. We were utterly spoiled, by my parents, the weather, and the location; it was very hard for all of us to leave. Even the dogs seemed to have the time of their lives.

Now it's time to reintroduce the routine of the school year: before-school chores, school itself, on-time bedtimes, and, of course, the meal plan.

It's also a good time to try new things. We're going to start letting the kids choose and help make one meal per week. This week Zaden will help, and next week it will be Colsen.

Monday: Freezer Meal: Chicken Parmesan, spinach, garlic bread

Tuesday: Sweet Orange Salmon, steamed pea pods, orange wedges, brown rice

Wednesday: Asparagus Frittata, fresh fruit, english muffins

(To increase the "wow" factor, bake and serve these in individual au gratin dishes.)

Thursday: (Kid's Choice) : Faux Es Cargot, chips, baked beans

Friday: Grilled Chicken Breasts, Olive Cheese Bread, Salad, Fruit

Saturday: Pizza night

Sunday: Orange Roughy, Edamame, Baby Red Potatoes

Monday, August 8, 2011

On Vacation

Dinner Diva is on vacation, in the truest sense of the word. Warm days (and I mean warm, not HOT, which is nice), cool nights, clear water lake, skiing, swimming, sittin' 'round the fire, fishing, 4 wheeling, golfing....I've been too busy relaxing to plan a meal, or make one for that matter. Jealous? Yep, you should be. ;)

I'll be back in a week or two. Check the archives until then.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Between Trips: Easy Week

Since this week will be whirlwind as I unpack from my southern trip, wash clothes, and repack for my northern trip (what am I thinking???), I'm taking it easy in the kitchen with lots of fast, tasty meals. Fast means less effort for me, tasty means not a lot of hassle at dinner trying, cajoling, my kids to try it. Though they are good eaters, they do need some convincing sometimes!

Wednesday: Shrimp Boil
I picked up a heap of fresh gulf shrimp while in Houston. I can't wait to have my very first shrimp boil! Corn on the cob, new potatoes, and fresh gulf shrimp, all boiled in seasonings and literally dumped on a butcher paper-covered table for authenticity.

Thursday: Ham and Swiss Egg Sandwiches, fresh peaches

Friday: Cold Sesame Noodles, fresh pineapple

Saturday: BBQ Chicken Pizza

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Quick Week

Since it's such a quick week, I'll share with you my favorite quickie recipes.

Wednesday: Crab Salad, baguettes

Thursday: bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, onion-potatoes, steamed broccoli

for the potatoes, I just follow the directions on the lipton onion soup mix. Easy, yummy!

Friday: Taco bar

Saturday: pizza

Sunday: Classic Grilled Steak Dinner

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Let Freedom Ring

I can't say enough words of gratitude to our servicemen and women, past and present. It turns out gleaning freedom was the easy part; defending it proves challenging. Fortunately, part of what makes this country great (and I realize we've got our problems, but let's face it: we're still great) is that it is made up of people who voluntarily serve it, with everything they've got, and sometimes everything means everything. And for them, and their sacrifices, I am grateful. Let it ring, and ring loudly, for all the world to hear.

Monday: Grilled Pizza, salad

Tuesday: Grilled Salmon with Salsa, baked tortilla chips

Wednesday: Grilled Shrimp with Asian BBQ sauce, edamame, steamed rice

Thursday: Out

Friday (camping): hot dogs/brats over the fire, fruit salad, coleslaw, baked potato chips

Saturday (camping): Picnic-Perfect Lobster Rolls, Baked Potato Chips, raw veggies

Sunday (camping): Campfire Fajitas

1 lb boneless sirloin steak
1 package fajita seasoning mix
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow, red, or orange pepper, sliced
1 med. onion, vertically sliced
1-2 T. olive oil
4 tortillas, warmed
optional toppings: pico de gallo, sour cream, cilantro

Slice steak into thin strips. In med. bowl or zip loc bag, prepare fajita seasoning mix with water according to package directions. Add steak strips, cover (or seal bag) and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Stir or turn bag several times.

Cut 1 18" square of heavy duty aluminum foil. Place sliced peppers and onions in center of foil. Drizzle with oil. Remove steak strips from bag and discard marinade. Arrange steak on top of veggies. Wrap foil around food in a tent pack.

Double wrap the fajita foil pack, making a 2-handled pack with the second layer of foil.

Bury the foil pack in medium embers and cook for 10-20 min. or until steak is fully cooked and veggies are tender.

Serve wrapped in warm tortillas and any additional toppings desired.

Monday (on the road): OUT

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dinner Diva is Back!

I took a week off. No menu plan. No grocery list. We foraged. We cleaned up the leftovers. We cleaned out the fridge. We saved some money. And, it stunk! I hated not knowing what was going to be for dinner, hated not having ingredients on hand. But, the savings were nice! There's a whole lot more room in the fridge/pantry/freezer now! But, alas, I'm back. I'm ready for a plan. And since I'm doing it, there's no reason for you to do it too, so here it is!

Monday: Grilled Chicken over spaghetti, salad, garlic breadsticks

I like to grill the chicken (sprinkled with salt and pepper), and slice it on the diagonal, and fan it over spaghetti marinara. (Which I make with whole wheat noodles and commercial sauce.) Tasty! Simple! Cheap!

Use a commercially available salad mix and commercial breadsticks to round out the meal.

Tuesday: Grilled Sirloin Steak, baked potatoes, fresh spinach salad

All a good steak needs, if it is to be grilled, is a little salt and pepper. But, if you must marinade, try a low-fat, low-cal balsamic vinaigrette, such as Newman's Own.

Wednesday: Orange Roughy, steamed brown rice, sautee'd zucchini

Sautee' the sliced zucchini in a little olive oil with a little salt and pepper. The trick is to NOT overcook it. It should be tender and crisp, not mushy.

Thursday: Hamburgers, home fries, coleslaw

Friday: Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi, french bread, salad

Saturday: Pizza

Sunday: taco salad

Monday, June 6, 2011


If I took the time to write down all I did in the last 3 days, no one would believe me. It would read like a National Lampoon movie, though perhaps not as funny? I had a good time, though, and accomplished a major "bucket list" dream: I ran my first marathon. Today, I feel like my legs were run over by a train, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to lose at least one toenail, but I did it, and my pain will pass, but that sense of accomplishment will never fade.

I had an immense cushion of support, between family and friends, live and virtual, training partners...I'm so blessed, and I couldn't have done it without their support.

All of this just to explain why my menu is late this week!

Monday: Meal Swap Meal, or grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts, steamed peas, brown rice

Tuesday: Grilled Steaks, Grilled Asparagus, Baked Potatoes

To grill the asparagus, break off tough ends, then slice into two inch pieces on the diagonal. Toss pieces with 2 T. olive oil, 2 t. minced garlic, and 2 t. kosher salt. Place in a grill basket coated with cooking spray over med-low heat on the grill. Grill about 5 minutes or just tender-crisp.

Wednesday: Farfalle with Tomatoes, Onions, and Spinach; Garlic Breadsticks
Wednesday is farmers' market day here, and this recipe looks like a good use of fresh tomatoes!

Thursday: Tacos

Friday: Out to eat, or leftovers

Saturday: Pizza night

Sunday: Cavatappi with Spinach, White Beans, and Asiago; Garlic Toast

I like to make garlic toast out of thick pieces of fresh french bread. Lightly butter it, then dust with garlic powder. Broil in the oven just a couple of minutes until toasty, or grill butter side down until golden and toasty. Slice only what you need for dinner, and save the rest of the loaf for morning french toast (which we like to eat with apples sauteed in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon).

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Aftermath

The Aftermath: what a word. Weighty, somber, and real. And that is the mood of central Oklahoma today. Stories of loss litter the TV news and Facebook and my inbox like the debris of torn-up homes litter the ground. It's unfathomable.

As prevalent, though, as tales of woe, are the missives of miracles. What was lost has now been found: pictures, wedding rings, pets...People are literally picking up the pieces, and do you know why? Because the ones who survived, can pick up the pieces. They don't have a family table at which to convene, but they can -and do- still dine together.

A menu plan seems ill-placed, here in the aftermath. What difference does it make? None. But while I mourn, I must also smile--my family needs that from me. They need normalcy, if it can be mustered. We will mourn those who are lost, and pray for their families. And we will embrace our own families even harder.

Sunday: Grilled Steak, Baked Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli

Monday: Holiday Cookout:
7 layer Dip with chips
grilled balsamic vegetables
grilled burgers and brats
baked beans
potato chips
pasta salad
watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries
homemade ice cream

7 Layer Dip

On a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with 1 inch sides, spread:

1 quart sour cream
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups salsa, any variety
1 bag pre-shredded lettuce
2 cups pre-shredded mexican-blend cheese
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 cans sliced ripe olives, drained

in that order. Serve with tortilla chips.

Tuesday: Spanish Spaghetti With Olives, garlic bread, salad

Wednesday: Gazpacho with Shrimp and Avocado Relish, leftover bread

Thursday: Kalua Pork Sandwiches, Pineapple Coleslaw, fresh pineapple (cold or grilled)

For a reduced-fat version of the slaw, try substituting 3 T. plain nonfat yogurt + 2 T. mayo instead of 1/3 cup mayo.

I've posted these sandwiches before, and am including them again because they are so good, and because this is the recipe I've chosen for this month's meal swap.

Friday: Meal Swap Meal

Saturday: Pizza

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Family Meal

Martha Stewart doesn't live here. June Cleaver would faint if she walked in. I haven't worn an apron since it was required attire for my job at Kinko's. Our family meal does not even remotely resemble any iconic tradition of the past, in anyway except one: we are together. The plates don't match, the dishes from cooking aren't yet washed. There's chaos as we all gather our drinks, wash hands, step over the dogs and yell questions from one side of the house to the other as we gather.

"Did you pick up your toys outside?", calls Dad. "NO!" yells one of the kids, as the other conveniently ignores the question. "Did you set the table?", asks Mom, seeing the sparsely set table and already knowing the answer. "Yes, we did!", say the kids. "What about forks? Napkins? Come on, guys, you know what we need. Don't make me say it again."

And so the story goes. Night after night, a similar reel plays again and again. And, eventually, we manage to all sit down, praise God for our blessings, and eat. Together. It ain't always pretty, and we ain't the Cleavers, but we do try to make meal time family time. One night a week, we have a living room picnic and we watch a movie. There might be another night where the kids eat something quickly at the bar before being rushed to gymnastics. Some nights we don't eat until 8, just so we can eat with Daddy. Like I said, it's not perfect, and even at its imperfection it takes effort, but it is an effort that we find worthwhile.

At the table, things settle, at least a little. Daddy asks the kids about school. We talk about our days. The content doesn't really matter. We talk. We laugh. We eat. We repeat.

Monday: Scrambled Eggs, bacon, fresh strawberries, toast

Breakfast for dinner: mmm, mmm, good!

Tuesday: Creamy Linguine with Shrimp and Veggies, quick garlic toast

Quick Garlic Toast

4 slices whole grain bread
2 T. butter, softened
1.5 t. garlic powder

Toast bread. Spread butter evenly over all 4 pieces of toast. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Serve. 4 servings.

Wednesday: Meal Swap Meal

Thursday: hamburgers, green beans, roasted potato wedges

Friday: Out to eat (we're on the road this weekend, so the family meal will be held at someone else's table)

Saturday: Grilled Steak, Grilled Balsamic Vegetables, Baked Potatoes, Corn on the Cob

I use the recipe provided for Grilled Balsamic Vegetables, but I cut the veggies smaller and grill them in a basket.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mothers' Day!

In celebration of a day of relaxation and utter spoilage, I hereby dedicate this post to all the moms and moms-to-be, grandmoms, great grandmoms, step moms, mom wannabes, and even to the dads and kids that make us moms who we are.

Motherhood is the hardest job anyone could ever love. It's exhausting, frustrating, worrisome, and challenging. It's also rewarding, fulfilling, enriching, educational, hilarious and ego-boosting. My kids think I am the best and worst thing that ever happened to them, depending on the moment.

My mom is a great mom: strong, independent, wise, funny, and beautiful, encouraging and supportive, and everything I try to be every day. And though she didn't (doesn't) like to cook, she put tasty, healthy meals on the table most every night. (And, admittedly, I wasn't the best of eaters at that time! Uh, sorry Mom.)

To that end, here's a week of meals designed to make the cook's (whomever it may be) week easier. The planning is done. The rest is easy. Eat up and save your strength; you're likely to need it, for all the aforementioned reasons.

Monday: One of our favorites: Blender Pancakes, Fresh Fruit Salad, Scrambled Eggs

My all time favorite fruit salad:

2 cups fresh cut pineapple chunks
3 kiwis, peeled and cut into chunks
2 lbs strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 pint blueberries, washed
2-3 cups green or red seedless grapes, washed
1 T. raw sugar
1 T. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve. Feel free to add watermelon if you can afford it! (It's not watermelon season here yet!)

Here it is again: breakfast for dinner on a sports night. It's so easy and tasty, and it goes over so well with the kids, that it feels like cheating. Well, hey. So be it! And, pass the syrup.

Tuesday: Fajitas

Someday I will make my own tortillas from my own home-milled flour. My friend does this, and swears they are better than, well, better than something very very good. But for now, I buy the cardboard-tasting ones at the grocery store.

Wednesday: Meal Swap Meal. It's another busy sports night, and I have a wonderful freezer full of homemade meals, thanks to my swappers. If you're not swapping, try: Slow-Cooker Macaroni and Beef. The time invested in the morning will pay off in the evening. No time in the morning? Assemble it Tuesday night, store it in a tupperware container, and dump it in the slow cooker Wed. morning. Use precooked beef or even Morning Star Meal Starters for an even quicker prep.

Thursday: Stuffed Peppers

Confession time: I totally cheat on Stuffed Peppers. I use Morning Star Meal Starters, commercially bottled spaghetti sauce, and whole wheat orzo. Cheat cheat cheat! I won't tell if you won't.

(pay no attention to the picture on the link. It appears Betty had a senior moment. She is getting up there ya know.)

Friday: Asparagus and Chicken Carbonara, Grilled Garlic Bread, Spinach Salad

Saturday: Pizza

Monday, May 2, 2011

Meal Swap Resumed!

After a brief (?) hiatus, our neighborhood meal swap has resumed. YAY! I'm looking forward to it, I mean, it's one whole night a week I don't have to cook, and more importantly, one whole night a week I don't have to CLEAN.

I am making Chicken Pot Pie because it looks relatively easy to make in a big batch, and also from the reviews looks like a crowd pleaser.

I missed posting this yesterday because I was too tired from running the OKC Memorial Marathon, in which I only ran a half marathon. (I've always said it's dumb to call it half of anything, since we're running a FULL 13.1 miles, and to say something is half is to imply it only takes half the effort and should only require half credit. It's hard to run that far and I want FULL credit, dang it!) So when I say only, I mean I didn't run 26.2 miles... because I'm only half insane. So far.

Monday: Grilled Shrimp, Steamed Brown Rice, Steamed Veggies

Tuesday: Black Bean Taco Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

Wednesday: Easy French Toast Casserole, Fresh Cut Pineapple

I'm always looking for easy sports night meals, and breakfast for dinner is certainly one of our favorites! This one is high carb, but it still beats the drive thru!

Thursday: Indonesian Pork Tenderloin, Hot Sesame Spaghetti, Fresh Orange Wedges

Hot Sesame Spaghetti

Cooking Spray
2 t. hot chile oil, divided
2 1/2 c. coarsely chopped broccoli florets
1 c. diced red pepper
1/2 c. chopped green onions
1 1/2 t. minced garlic
8 oz spaghetti, uncooked
1 T. sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 t. salt

Coat a large skillet with cooking spray; add 1 t. oil. Place over med-high heat until hot. Add broccoli and next 3 ingredients; saute' until veggies are tender crisp.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Toss with remaining 1 t. oil. Add broccoli mixture, sesame seeds, and salt; toss well.

Friday: Salmon Burgers, home fries, raw carrots

Saturday: Fontina, Caramelized-Onion, and Pancetta Pizza

I don't know why but I've been craving caramelized onions. Maybe this will help.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Lately I've been making discoveries. Ok, no. So I'm not out with my pick axe and my brush uncovering dinosaur bones. I'm not curing any diseases or accidentally discovering a billion dollar toy idea. (Did you know that Silly Putty and Slinkies were both invented by accident?) I'm not proclaiming myself to be a paleontologist, not even on TV.

But I have been making discoveries. First, I've discovered that I have a very bad habit of not eating breakfast. Though this is not a new discovery, it is an important one. Coffee alone does not count, Heidi, even if you do put real milk instead of creamer in it. A recent facebook post read, "The fastest way to slow your metabolism is to skip breakfast." While I don't doubt the factual science behind this statement, the actual practice of eating breakfast is not in my daily routines, and, let's face it, routines are hard to change.

Second, I've discovered that I can make a new flavor of protein shake almost every day without much effort or without clogging up the fridge with all that produce--you know the wheat grass and the kale and the cabbage and barley grass and the oat grass.....(My fridge is happily stocked with pounds and pounds of fresh colorful produce!) I've discovered, with the help of a friend, some wonderful commercially bottled smoothies that do not have added sugar or other unwanted ingredients, but are chock-a-block full of the foods I know I should be eating. And the best part? They taste good. I even add spinach before blending. And it's not gross. And it fills me up for at least 4 hours. And it's good for me. And it makes me happy.

Lastly, I've discovered that when I wake up early for a run, I'm tired by 8. And, when I go to bed at 8, I wake up at 3, which makes me want to go to bed by 8....

Monday: Banana-Oat Pancakes with Yogurt Peanut Butter Sauce, Fresh Fruit

Yogurt Peanut Butter Sauce

1/2 cup vanilla low fat yogurt
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, softened in microwave

Combine ingredients until smooth, pour over pancakes. (If too thick, add yogurt; if too thin, add peanut butter)

Tuesday: Grilled Shrimp, Steamed Edamame, Steamed Brown Rice

(make double of all tonight, and shrimp fried rice tomorrow night will be a cinch!)

Wednesday: Shrimp Fried Rice

Thursday: Chicken On Rice, fresh salad, garlic bread, Deep Dish Ice Cream Pie

Chicken On Rice
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 can cream of mushroom soup (we use reduced fat)

1 soup can (2/3 cup) milk

1 envelope Onion Soup Mix
1 package skinless, boneless chicken thighs

1 envelope Onion Soup Mix

Preheat oven to 375. Combine first four ingredients and pour into greased 13X9 inch pan.

Arrange chicken on top of rice mixture. Sprinkle with second onion soup mix. Cover tightly with foil and bake 1 hour. Check rice and chicken for doneness. Bake longer if needed.

Deep Dish Ice Cream Pie

2 tubes refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
1/4 gallon any flavor ice cream or frozen yogurt
Chocolate sauce, Hot Fudge Sauce, or Magic Shell, for drizzling

Press cookie dough into bottom and up sides of greased foil cake pan or or 10 inch cast iron skillet. Bake at 375 for 15-20 min, or until beginning to brown at edges and cooked through. Cool completely. Fill crust with ice cream. Drizzle with chocolate sauce. Freeze until firm. To slice, run knife under hot water.

Friday: Grilled Steak, Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes, Baked Sweet Potatoes

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Specialty Diets: EE

A good friend of mine is moving today, so she and her family are on my mind. To that end, I'm blogging in her honor today, sort of dedicating this post.

Her middle son has recently been diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis (EE). In layman's terms, he must live on a severely restricted diet. There are over 27 foods, including almost all grains, corn, soy, dairy and nuts, that he cannot have even in trace amounts.

As you can imagine, this poses problems in a family of 5. What 4 can have, 1 cannot, but why should all of them restrict their diets for the sake of 1? Mom ends up cooking at least two meals each mealtime: 1 for 4 and 1 for 1. This means much of her day is spent cooking (and cleaning), not to mention studying labels, meal planning, shopping at many different stores, and researching online.

EE is not the only specialty diet that puts mothers and other kitchen commandos into tail spins. Gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free are common among today's families, the cause of which I'll show great restraint in keeping out of this post. Regardless of cause, the fact remains: specialty diets are here, are real, and are necessary.

To see what a week walking in her shoes is like, I'm going to create this week's menu for her. Like my gluten-free post a few weeks ago, my goal is to make a week's worth of dinners that will feed her whole family: cook once, feed all*.

*there may be some side dishes served that aren't EE friendly...the idea is that these asterisk foods are optional.

Sunday: Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Breakfast Potatoes, Roasted Green Beans

Buy unmarinated pork tenderloin for EE. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Grill on med about 15-20 min until internal temperature reads 145. Slice into thin slices and serve fanned on a plate. YUM!

To roast the green beans, heat oven to 450. Choose either fresh or frozen whole green beans. (if frozen, thaw first in a colander under cold running water.) Place green beans in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1-2 T. olive oil. Sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Spread evenly in a single layer on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 450 for about 20 min. Serve. It's just that easy.

Monday: Grilled Steaks, French Fries, Glazed Carrots

Again, avoid marinating the steaks. Instead, season with kosher salt and black pepper and grill to desired doneness.

The carrots recipe calls for butter, which is not EE friendly (dairy). Substitute olive oil for the butter.

As for the french fries, Alexia Foods' crinkle fries MIGHT be EE friendly. It's a situation where the phrase "and/or" is used in the ingredients list. I've called the company for a better understanding of ingredients, and they are closed on the weekends. Obviously for a busy mom, the frozen fries would be simpler than homemade, but by home-making allows us the opportunity to control the contents.

Tuesday: (Vegetarian) Quinoa and Black Beans

This recipe calls for corn, which can easily be omitted or for which a substitute can be used. I suggest peas as an alternative.

Wednesday: Grilled Pork Chops, Potato Chips, salad

Thursday: Hobo Packets

1 bell pepper, any color, cored, membranes removed, and sliced into strips
1 t. bottled minced garlic
1 lb lean ground beef
4 med potatoes, peeled and sliced
4 med. carrots, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper
seasoned salt

Cut 4 12" pieces of heavy duty foil. Place equal amounts pepper strips on each piece of foil. In a med. bowl, combine 1/4 cup water, garlic, and ground beef; mix well. Shape 4 hamburger patties. Set 1 hamburger patty on top the peppers on each foil. Arrange potato and carrot slices on top of each patty. Season with salt, pepper, and seasoned salt to taste. Wrap foil in a tent pack around each serving.

Note: even if you don't like peppers, use them in the packets because they are needed for moisture.

The Tent Pack (as directed at

The tent pack provides a pocket of air that allows for greater steaming. Thus, it’s best for foods you want steamed more than browned like fruits, vegetables, and meat/vegetable combos.

1. Tear off a sheet of foil just as you would for the flat pack.

2. Place the food in the middle of the foil.

3. Bring the long sides together in the center and tightly fold them together towards the food. This time, stop folding a few inches before you get to the food, leaving a pocket of space and creating a “tent.”

4. Tightly roll up the shorter sides, again leaving an inch or so of space between the end of the fold and the food.

Preheat oven to 350. Place foil packets on a baking sheet. Bake 20-30 min or until vegetables are tender and meat is fully cooked.

Friday: Ham and Bean Soup

(omit the onions)

Saturday: Gingered Beef and Vegetables, Rice*

omit onions, use wheat-free soy sauce, and use tapioca starch instead of cornstarch.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Old and New

This week I'm making some old favorites, ones I haven't made in awhile, along with some new ones that we can try. I suppose that is my way of transitioning fully into Spring.

Monday: Omelettes, Fresh Fruit Medley, Yogurt and Kashi

Our fresh fruit medley contained diced kiwi and sectioned mandarin oranges.

I use Kashi GoLean Crunch as a topping for SO good! (and I can subscribe to it on Amazon cheaper than I can buy it at the commissary!)

Tuesday: Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi over Whole Wheat Orzo, fresh French Bread, Spring Greens salad

I've made this a few times and it is a superb meal. It's better than eating out, except, of course, the dishes.

Wednesday: Grilled Chicken Quesadillas, Mexi-Zesty Salad

Mexi-Zesty Salad

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen sweet corn, thawed and drained
1 cup salsa, any heat
1 head romaine lettuce, finely sliced into shreds

Mix first three ingredients until well combined. Arrange shredded romaine onto plates, and top with black bean mixture. Serve cold.

Thursday: Balsamic-Plum Glazed Pork Chops, Whole Wheat Pilaf, Steamed Green Beans

Honestly? I don't want to buy a whole jar of plum preserves, even if I could find it, just for this recipe. I plan to substitute something we already have, like raspberry or blackberry All Fruit. I'm going to make Whole Wheat Pilaf straight from the box (my family likes Near East brand). I buy frozen green beans and I steam them in a micro-cooker from Pampered Chef.

Friday: Kalua Pork Sandwiches, Colsen-Slaw, Baked Beans

This recipe was posted on Viking Range's Facebook page this week, and I couldn't resist making it!

"Colsen-Slaw" is a nickname we've given coleslaw, because our youngest son Colsen loves it so much!

Baked beans, in my house, are served hot from the can! Not something I make from scratch, even though my grandma's beans are the best beans East of the Mississippi. (She won't give me the recipe...probably because there isn't one. She's that good.)

  • 4 cups packaged cabbage-and-carrot coleslaw
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine coleslaw mix and apple and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients. Add dressing to veggies and mix well. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving.

Saturday: Quick Pizza Margherita, Salad

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Appetite Appeasers for April

Cookbooks and magazines, new and old, are scattered around me each week as I menu plan. I do use the internet too, but I start the old fashioned way. Sometimes I'll choose a recipe in the book and, rather than re-type it into my blog, will look for the recipe already online and provide the link. Sometimes I see a recipe that inspires me to look for another recipe, and I'll do a search, and sometimes I'll start with an ingredient and search online from there.,, and are my favorites, but I will also google to find other people's blogs.

Sunday: Savory Sausage, Spinach, and Onion Turnovers, Fruit Salad

Monday: We're going Meatless for this Monday! Pappardelle with Baby Spinach, Herbs, and Ricotta, fresh French Bread

Tuesday: Grilled Chicken Breasts, Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes, Garlic Baked Potato Wedges

I'm a plain and simple girl, usually. I dress simply, I decorate simply, and I cook simply. Usually. There are occasions when I bust out the bling, but this is not one of them! Plain boneless, skinless chicken breasts straight on the grill suits me fine, but if you want to sauce it up, do so. Try brushing with olive oil and dusting with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, or might I suggest a light balsamic vinaigrette or italian vinaigrette for a marinade.

Wednesday: Peanut Butter-Banana Pancakes

2 T. natural peanut butter, softened
1 ripe banana, fork mashed
3 T. egg whites (such as All Whites) or 1 whole egg
1/3 C. milk
1 C. bisquick

Optional toppings: maple syrup, strawberries, strawberry preserves, sliced bananas....

Heat griddle to 450, or nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray on high. Mix peanut butter, mashed banana, egg whites and milk until combined. Add Bisquick and mix until moistened.

Reduce heat to 375 if using griddle or to med-high if using stovetop.

Pour batter onto hot surface by 1/3 cups. Cook til edges appear dry, then flip and cook 30-45 sec longer or until done.

Top with pure maple syrup, melted strawberry preserves, sliced bananas, chopped peanuts, or any combination.

(this is your protein, starch, and fruit all in one's perfect for a quick meal, especially sports nights. It's also perfect for picky or light eaters, because it's packed with nutrition and flavor.)

Thursday: Beefless Spaghetti Bolognese, spring salad, garlic bread
This is my cheater meal. It's good, it's easy, and it's commercial.

Cook spaghetti as directed on package. While noodles are boiling, heat 1 jar marinara sauce and 1 package Morning Star Farms soy beef crumbles together in a saucepan. When noodles are al dente, drain and top with sauce. Sprinkle parmesan over the top, if desired.

Friday: Artichoke-Parmesan Stuffed Tilapia, steamed sugar snap peas, steamed brown rice

You can buy fresh sugar snap peas in the produce section of most supermarkets.

Saturday: Pizza

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dinner Diva's Delightful Dozen

It may be an odd time for a top ten list, but I felt like sharing my very best, my very favorite recipes. Most of them are easy and quick to prepare, and the ones that aren't are worth the extra effort. And, ten wasn't enough, so here's two weeks' worth, in no particular order, of Dinner Diva's (and her family's) favorites:

Sunday: Beef and Barley Soup

I found this in my Eating For Life cookbook, which is the compilation of recipes from the Body For Life diet and exercise plan. It's a fabulous cookbook, and it has a ton of good, easy recipes that are healthy, non fattening, and truly delicious. If you want to buy more cookbooks but don't know which ones are good, this one gets Dinner Diva's approval.

Monday: Sweet Orange Salmon, Steamed Edamame, Fresh Orange Slices

The first time I made this I kept looking at the recipe for something else to do. I couldn't believe I was already done. This is one of my fastest recipes, and I mean that it is fast in prep time and it is also fast to disappear at the table. If your kids think they don't like salmon, try this. It is definitely kid-friendly! My kids devour it, but since they like salmon anyway they're not good testers. My brother's kids don't generally like salmon, but they cleaned this fish off their plates without much prompting!

Tuesday: Onion-Smothered Pork Tenderloin, Oven-Roasted Red Potatoes, Spinach Salad

This is another virtually effortless recipe, and it looks fabulous and tastes even better. This is one that I recommend for family dinners OR entertaining, as it is an impressive sight on the table.

Wednesday: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Fresh cut pineapple

When I announce breakfast for dinner, it is always met with cheers. My whole family loves it. I love how easy it is, especially on a sports night. Pumpkin is one of the healthiest vegetables to eat, yet it is rarely included in meals. These pancakes are tasty and about as healthy as pancakes can get. They are moist and sweet and do not even need syrup.

I learned how to cut a pineapple while I was living in Australia. Don't be intimidated into avoiding fresh pineapples. They really are easy to cut, and pretty inexpensive. Canned are okay, but nothing compared to a fresh one. Don't cut it too soon; wait until it smells like a pineapple and is a little yellow at the bottom. You can even buy them green and they will ripen at room temperature in a few days.

Thursday: Grilled Whole Chicken, Oven Roasted Veggies

Okay, it's no secret I love my grill. Grilling is a great way to add flavor without adding calories. Bonus: it's cheaper to use a gas grill than to use an electric oven. Double bonus: if the grill is in use, your kitchen is either cool and clean or able to be used to prepare other foods. This meal does require at least an hour, but it really only takes about 10 minutes of the chef's time.

To grill a whole chicken, rinse and pat dry the chicken. Coat a foil roasting pan with cooking spray. Place chicken in foil pan, and dust with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Place in preheated grill over indirect medium heat (uncovered) for about 15 min per pound. No basting, no turning, no nothing. Your chicken will come out golden brown and crusty-skinned, with juicy tender meat inside.

For the roasted vegetables, choose several different veggies. We like fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, yellow onions, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes. Wash and prepare the veggies, then place in single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle generously with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast at 400 for about 45 min or until tender.

Friday: Simple Grilled Steak, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Oven-Roasted Green Beans

This is, hands down, my all time favorite meal. When we eat out, I order steak and my husband orders chicken, and the waitpeople almost always bring me the chicken and my husband the steak. Apparently steak is not ladylike. So be it!

The trick with steak is to buy a decent cut. It should be thick and marbled. If it's too thin, it will cook too quickly and end up being tough and overdone. If it's too lean, there won't be enough fat to flavor and tenderize the steak as it cooks. The leanest steak is sirloin, but I prefer New York Strip, or my favorite, Ribeye. To me, it's worth the extra calories in a sometimes meal.

I count sweet potatoes as a vegetable or as a starch, depending on the other side being served. They are actually so loaded with nutrients they are considered a green vegetable. However, they are also so loaded with natural sugars that they are considered a starch or a carb. Those sugars make them taste so good that I eat them plain baked, but my kids and husband like a sprinkling of brown sugar on theirs.

Saturday: Grilled Pizza!

Saturday has traditionally been our pizza night. Admittedly, we usually opt for frozen pizza. I know, not very Dinner Diva-ish! Life is full of compromises, and this is ours. We put a picnic blanket down, turn on a movie, and enjoy tv dinner of sorts. However, since frozen pizza is NOT even close to one of my favorites, I've linked to my favorite homemade pizza recipe.

This calls for homemade dough. If you don't like to make your own yeast breads and doughs, feel free to use frozen bread dough as an alternative. Don't try to use the canned pizza dough; it's too wet and sticky for use on the grill. Frozen bread dough works perfectly!

My favorite toppings for grilled pizza are roasted red bell peppers, pepperoni, and asiago cheese.

To roast a pepper:

Preheat broiler. Prepare a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan by lining it with foil and spraying the foil with cooking spray. Wash pepper. Cut it in half lengthwise and remove stem, seeds, and membranes. Place cut peppers skin side up on jelly roll pan and flatten them with your hand. They will crack, and that's okay. Place pan in oven. Broil for 7 minutes or until skins are blackened. Using tongs, place peppers into a ziptop bag and seal. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Remove from bag and peel skins off. They will peel easily. Slice to the size you want, and set aside. (Refrigerate if you're not going to use right away.)

Sunday: Herb-Rubbed Ribs with Cherry Zinfandel BBQ Sauce, Homemade Applesauce, Cornbread


I use about 2 med apples for every serving...about 8 for my family, and I mix the apples (2-3 fuji, 2-3 granny, and 1-2 gala or other..if you can find honey crisp, buy them. They are wonderful!)

peel, core and coarsely chop apples

mix in 1/3 cup honey, 1 T. olive oil, 1 t. cinnamon, a pinch each of cloves, ginger, orange peel, and nutmeg

arrange apples on a cookie sheet bake at 400 for 45 min to an hour, or until apples are soft; use a potato masher or a large tined fork (serving fork) to smash them; they will be gorgeously lumpy. Place in a serving bowl and enjoy warm. (if you don't like glorious chunks in your applesauce, use your blender instead of hand mashing...but I'll call you a wimp behind your back)

This recipe is straight off the Quaker White Corn Meal box!

Monday: Cavatappi with Spinach, White Beans, and Asiago, French Bread

It sounds a little "out there," and beyond "normal" food, but I'm telling you this is good. Take a chance, try something new.

Tuesday: Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin, Asiago Cheese Bread, Spring Greens Salad

Wednesday: French Toast with Sautee'd apples, Fresh Strawberries

Using the leftover french bread from Monday's meal, this french toast will clean out some of your leftovers AND feed your family an awesome meal!

For the apples, peel and core 8-10 apples, of any variety. Cut into 1" pieces, and combine with 1 t. cinnamon, 1/4 t. ginger, 1/4 t. nutmeg, and a pinch of cloves and a pinch of orange zest if you have it. Melt 4 T. butter in a large nonstick pan. Add apples and stir until well combined. Cook over med. heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender and sauce is thick, about 20 minutes. Spoon hot apples over french toast.

Thursday: Tomato-Cheese Ravioli Soup, Whole Grain Crackers
This is a superfast, super good recipe that doesn't require very many ingredients. I haven't met anyone who has tried this and didn't like it.

Friday: Grilled Hamburgers with Homemade Buns, Grilled Pineapple, Roasted Potato Wedges

Try this recipe for homemade buns from the bread machine:
1 C. water
1 large egg
4 T. butter, cut into pieces
2 T. sugar
3 C. bread flour
1/4 C. nonfat milk (I use powdered buttermilk)
1 T. gluten
1 1/2 t. salt
2 1/4 t. bread machine yeast

Combine all ingredients in bread pan; set for dough and press start. When machine beeps at end of cycle, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 8 equal portions. Shape each portion into a tight round and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Flatten each round slightly with the palm of your hand. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375. Brush rolls with an egg glaze made from 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 T. water. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 15-22 minutes, until lightly browned.

Grilled Pineapple:

1 whole pineapple, stemmed and rind removed. (It is not necessary to remove the core--it is edible--but you can at your option.)
Cooking spray

Slice pineapple into 1/2 inch thick disks. Spray each side with cooking spray, and spray clean grill racks with cooking spray.

Preheat grill over med. heat. Arrange pineapple slices on rack of preheated grill. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook 3-4 min longer or until tender. Serve.

Roasted Potato Wedges

5-6 baking potatoes, cut into wedges
1/4 c. veg. oil
1-2 T. kosher salt
1/2 t. fresh ground pepper

Heat oven to 400. Toss wedges with oil, salt, and pepper until wedges are well coated. Arrange wedges in a single layer on a jelly roll pan. Place in oven. Cook 30-40 min or until cooked through and beginning to brown.

Saturday: Spinach-Ricotta Pizza

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just Marching Through March....

My clocks have sprung forward, and for the first time in as long as I can remember, I slept past 11am. WHAT? That is unheard of in this house, as I am a habitual early riser, usually up before anyone in the house. Often, I am just getting home from a run when the others are just waking. All I can say for myself is that today is my rest day, and I must have needed it!

So, as we march through March, here is another week of meals. Planning ahead saves time, energy, and money. Bonus, it also saves me from hearing, "Mommy! What's for dinner?" because all they have to do is read the menu. Good, because I hear "Mommy!" enough!

Sunday: Teriyaki-Ginger Pork Tenderloin over Rice, homemade dark chocolate pudding

For a variation on the pork, add crushed pineapple or pineapple chunks with juice instead of just pineapple juice. I also like to add a chopped red bell pepper and/or broccoli florets.

For the pudding, follow the directions for the filling only.

Monday: Spinach Calzones with Blue Cheese, Fresh Orange Slices

Tuesday: (my favorite stir fry!) Flank Steak Stir Fry with Asparagus and Red Pepper, Rice

Wednesday: Pan-Grilled Snapper with Orzo Pasta Salad, Steamed Green Beans

Variation: use whole wheat orzo

St. Patrick's Day Menu: Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner

Friday: Carolina Blond-Barbeque Sandwiches, Steak Frites

Saturday: Pizza, Leftovers, or Out to Eat

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Just another Dinner Diva week!

It's just another week here at Dinner Diva's. Gymnastics practice, husband late home, 87 loads of laundry, keeping the house ready for an on-the-spot showing, and a whole lotta miles on my running shoes. A mid-week visit to the science museum will help break up the monotony. Plus, I'm wrapping up the week with 11 fabulous ladies for an exciting game of bunco and some (hopefully) tasty food. What are your plans this week?

Monday Plan B: Meatloaf Sandwiches, fresh apple slices
(we need to use up the leftover meatloaf!)

Monday Plan A: Homemade Quick Mac-n-Cheese, fresh apple slices

Homemade Mac-n-Cheese

1 box whole wheat rotini pasta (or shape of your choice)
1 1/2 cups pre-shredded cheddar cheese (more or less to taste)
1/2 c milk
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
salt, pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain. Put drained pasta back in warm pot and put pot on off-but-still-warm burner. Add remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined and cheese is melted. Serve warm.

(this is almost as quick as that famous blue box but a thousand times healthier, and my kids prefer its taste!)

Tuesday: Beef-Broccoli Stir Fry, Steamed Brown Rice

Wednesday: Monte Cristo Sandwiches, Fresh cut vegetables, baked potato chips

This recipe calls for raspberry or strawberry jam, but it is equally good with peach preserves or orange marmalade!

Thursday: Pasta with Shrimp and Veggies, fresh garlic bread

Friday: BUNCO! Garlic Flank Steak, Spinach, White-Bean, and Red-Onion Salad, Pioneer Woman's Olive Cheese Bread, Oreo Mousse

Oreo Mousse (this is almost too simple for entertaining, but it tastes wonderful and presents nicely)

1 box instant chocolate pudding, plus ingredients to make pudding
1 package Oreos, any variety
1 large tub cool whip
Additional Oreos, Fresh Mint Sprigs, and cool whip, for garnish, optional

Prepare pudding according to package directions. Allow to set.
Coarsely chop oreos. I like to leave bigger chunks; they make me happy!

Gently fold pudding and cool whip until combined. Fold in Oreos. Distribute evenly into dessert bowls, or, for a more elegant presentation, champagne flutes, wine glasses, margarita glasses or martini glasses.

Optionally add 1 dollop of cool whip and 1 whole oreo to each glass (use a serrated bread knife to make a slit in the side of each cookie, then place the cookie on the rim of the glass, or just place the cookie half way into the center of the mousse.)
Top with mint sprigs, if desired.

Add a dusting of shaved chocolate for even more "wow" factor.

Saturday: Pizza night

Sunday: leftovers or out

Friday, March 4, 2011

Do Not Eat!

This recipe is totally unrelated to dinner, but it's what I'm making today just the same!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Healthy Spree, Cont.

Trying to stay on track with the healthy meals. Good habits can be as, well, habitual, as bad ones. I read somewhere it takes two weeks for a behavior to become a habit. Healthy eating habit, here I come (back)!

Monday: Breakfast for dinner (vegetarian, gluten-free): Omelettes, fresh pineapple, cajun style oven hash browns

Tuesday: Southwestern Steak, Corn, and Black Bean Wraps, fresh carrot sticks

Wednesday: Grilled Salmon, Creamy Parmesan Orzo, edamame

Thursday: Coconut Shrimp Stir Fry

Friday: Homestyle Turkey Meatloaf, steamed green beans, parmesan quinoa

Saturday: Pizza

Monday, February 21, 2011

Let's Get Serious

Ok. 3 weeks of vacationing. 3 weeks of vacation food. 3 weeks of vacation laziness. It's starting to take its toll on my pants, which are shrinking, and my attitude, which is complacent. So, it's time to get serious. It's time to get serious about my intake and my output, both calorie-wise and effort-wise. But does that mean this week's meals are going to be boring, expensive, and hard to make? Nope!

Monday: Grilled Tilapia, Steamed Brown Rice, Steamed Broccoli

I buy frozen tilapia fillets, thaw them, sprinkle with a lemon-pepper or citrus-herb seasoning, and grill on an indoor smokeless grill (like a george foreman).

Note: leave the broccoli tender-crisp and bright green for the best flavor. Tossing with a teaspoon of olive oil, teaspoon of soy sauce, and teaspoon of lemon juice, then sprinkling with sesame seeds is a fabulous alternative to plain broccoli (or broccoli smothered in fatty cheeses).

Tuesday: Tacos

Wednesday: Blender Pancakes, fresh pineapple

Thursday: Grilled Pork Chops, Roasted Applesauce, Steamed Green Beans

I buy thick cut, boneless, center cut chops, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill. No marinading.

Roasted Applesauce

4 red apples, any variety
4 green apples
1 T. olive oil
2 T. honey
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ginger
pinch cloves
pinch orange zest

Preheat oven to 400. Peel, core and coarsely chop apples (about 1/2 inch cubes). Toss apples in a large bowl with remaining ingredients until well-coated. Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes, or until apples are very tender. Using a large serving fork or potato-masher, mash the apples, leaving some chunks. Serve warm.

(Note, if you like smooth applesauce, blend the apples in your blender after they are roasted instead of fork-mashing.)

Friday: Spaghetti, Salad, Bread

Saturday: Pizza

Sunday: Grilled Whole Chicken, Roasted Root Vegetables

Grilled Whole Chicken:
Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Coat a foil roasting pan with cooking spray. Place chicken in foil pan, and dust with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Place in preheated grill over indirect medium heat (uncovered) but with the grill closed for about 15 min per pound. No basting, no turning, no nothing. Your chicken will come out golden brown and crusty-skinned, with juicy tender meat inside.

Roasted Vegetables:
Choose several different veggies. We like fingerling potatoes (purple if I can find them), baby carrots, yellow onions, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes. Wash and prepare the veggies, then place in single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle generously with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast at 400 for about 45 min or until tender.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Make Ahead Madness!

Last year, our family vacation took us to Colorado. We had a condo with a full kitchen, so I brought pre-made, frozen meals with us. They stayed frozen, or mostly so, for the drive. It was so convenient to have them there! It meant that I could actually BE on vacation, without having to cook, and that we didn't spend a fortune on eating out. To that end, for this year's trip, I think I'll cook double, and freeze half of everything for our trip. You should try it! It's quite fun!

Monday: Pumpkin Waffles, fresh fruit, bacon

Tuesday: Chicken Enchiladas, mexican salad

Mexican Salad:

4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 can corn
1/2 cup salsa
1 can black or pinto beans, drained
4-5 green onions, thinly sliced

Place 1 cup lettuce on each of 4 plates. Mix remaining ingredients and divide evenly on top of lettuce. Serve cold. (By the way, I love this salad for lunch too!)

Make ahead: double the chicken enchiladas, and freeze half in a disposable pan.

Wednesday: Chili Grande, cornbread

Chili Grande

1 lb ground beef or ground turkey, or a combo thereof, uncooked
2 cans chili beans
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 envelope (1/4 C.) taco seasoning

Place all ingredients in crockpot. Stir well. Cook on low 8 hours, or on low 2 hours and on high 4 hours. Serve topped with sour cream, cheddar cheese, green onions, or crumbled tortilla chips, if desired. (double the recipe and freeze half, if desired)

Thursday: Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole, spinach salad

(make ahead: make 2...freeze one in a foil cake pan)

Friday: BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches, fruit salad, baked potato chips

make ahead: double the BBQ pork; freeze in baggies

Saturday: Deep Dish Pizza

make ahead: double the pizza, bake half way, then wrap tightly and freeze.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gluten-Free: It Ain't Free

Recently, a good friend of mine discovered that one of her children suffers from a gluten intolerance. Though this is becoming more and more common, and more and more foods are being offered gluten-free, I decided to dedicate this week's menu to a "normal" week of gluten-free meals. My aim was to create a menu that not only had no gluten, but also had no specialized ingredients, those which normally would have gluten but were made special.
As we have learned, specialized foods come with higher price tags, and I wanted to see if this could be done without them. That way, not every meal or even every week has to break the bank, and those specialized foods can still be used, but just less often. Eliminating bread and pasta proved to be a greater challenge than I thought! I imagine my friend will have to work a little harder at her new meal system before it becomes old hand. But a healthy child is worth the investment and re-training required!

Monday: Omelettes, bacon and fruit

Tuesday: Enchilada Soup

Wednesday: Sloppy-joe stuffed potatoes, salad

(eliminate the buns in the recipe, and top baked potatoes with the sloppy joe mixture)

Thursday: Grilled pork tenderloin, baked sweet potatoes, steamed fresh green beans

Friday: Raspberry-Balsamic Glazed Chicken Breasts, Polenta, steamed broccoli

Saturday: Asian Turkey Cabbage Wraps, Rice with Mango-Ginger Sauce

Sunday: marinated sirloin steak, baked potatoes, steamed edamame

grill or broil the steak, then slice thinly diagonally across the grain, and serve on a platter of edamame...gorgeous!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Finding Balance

So much of life is finding a balance. A little work, a little play. A little exercise, a little r&r. A little time with friends, a little time with family, a little time just for me. A little have to, a little want to. A little healthy food, a little treat.

So, for the past few weeks my "treat" food has outbalanced my healthy food, and it's time to tip the scales back. At the same time, my "have to" list is long and time-consuming, so I'm going to try to select quick and healthy meals for the week.

Monday: Taco Soup
I received this from my meal swap last month. It's the perfect meal for a busy day, as I can take it out of the freezer, throw it in the crock pot, and it will be ready to eat when we're ready to eat. Grab something you've frozen for tonight, or make this taco soup from Food Network.

Tuesday: Mexican Manicotti
This is a make-ahead, freezable recipe that I am making for our family and for meal swap. Making several of the same recipe at once saves time, money, and dirty dishes!

1 8oz package manicotti shells
1 t. salt
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cups cottage cheese
2 cups cheddar or cheddar/jack cheese, shredded and divided
1 t. chili powder
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. cumin, or to taste
2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1 4oz can green chiles
1/2 c. water
1/4 t. cayenne pepper

Cook manicotti as directed, if serving today. If freezing, cook half the time. drain, cool, and set aside.

Brown ground beef and onion. Drain and slightly cool.

In large mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, 1 cup of the shredded cheese, chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin. Add meat mixture and mix well. In another bowl, mix tomato sauce, green chiles, water, cayenne, and salt and pepper.

Place half tomato mixture in the bottom of a 13X9 pan.

Stuff manicotti shells with beef/cheese mixture, and place stuffed shells over the layer of tomato sauce in pan. (To make stuffing easier, place cheese mixture into a large ziploc bag, squeeze out excess air and seal. Cut the corner off the bag and pipe stuffing into shells.)

Pour remaining sauce over shells, top with remaining cheese. Wrap tightly and freeze, or bake at 350 for 45-50 min or until hot.

Wednesday: Omelettes, fresh pineapple, whole wheat toast

Thursday: Shrimp Stir Fry, Rice

Friday: Pizza

Saturday: Salmon Sliders, roasted potato wedges, coleslaw

1 lb salmon
1 egg, beaten
3 T. chopped onion
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. sugar
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. garlic powder
1 1/2 t. sesame seeds
6 T. breadcrumbs

Cut fresh salmon into very small pieces and place in mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients to bowl. Mix well. Form salmon mixture into patties. (for sliders, make the patties small!)

Heat 1 T. oil in pan. Fry burgers until browned on both sides.

For slider buns, you can make your own dough, or buy frozen dough. Shape into small balls, and flatten slightly. Allow to rise, bake and slice. Or, look for small rolls in the bakery section of your grocery store.

Sunday: Grilled Steak, Sesame Green Beans, baked sweet potatoes

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dinner Diva Menus: Happy New Year!

Happy new year! I hope your goals this year include healthier food, homemade goodness, and reading this blog!

Tuesday: Grilled Tilapia, steamed broccoli, steamed brown rice

Wednesday: Spaghetti and Meatballs, salad, bread (make extra meatballs for Friday)

Thursday: Tomato-Cheese Ravioli Soup, crackers

I like using the mini raviolis if I can find them. This soup goes together in a flash and is too good to be true!

Friday: Meatball Subs, Salad, potato chips

Saturday: pizza

Sunday: Pot Roast