Friday, July 10, 2009

Menu Planning

Every week I try to plan our family's menu and do the entire week's worth of grocery shopping on Sunday. I usually have three goals in mind #1. Limit the leftovers. #2. Mix up the proteins (in other words, avoid the temptation to cook chicken every night) and #3. Fix stuff we can eat as a family (1 year old friendly food). There are many a week, I am lucky to achieve one of these goals, let alone all three, but this week ::patting myself on the back:: I hit it out of the park. Since I'm ALWAYS on the hunt for tasty and easy recipes, I thought I'd share my menu for the week.

Monday: Slow Cooker Lentils and Sausage

Mr. C lovingly refers to this recipe as 'fancy beanie weenies', but it really is a tasty dish and MUCH healthier than frank and beans. Lentils and beans are so good for you, I'm always trying to find way to get them on the menu, they are excellent for little kiddos as well. When little C was younger, I would purposefully over cook this just a tad to make the lentils nice and mushy. Even now, this is a great recipe for a little person learning to use a spoon because it's nice and thick without too much broth. Plus this recipe is the perfect way to use the plethora of sausage we always seem to have in the freezer after hunting season...part of why I love this recipe because it changes tremendously depending on the flavor of the sausage you add. If you do make this for a child, be careful you don't use spicy sausage...they may eat it, but the result isn't pretty! :)
  • 1 (16 ounce) package dry lentils
  • 1 (16 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • (24 ounce) lg box beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 carrot, chopped (I use 2, sometimes 3 or a couple handfuls of baby carrots)
  • 2 pounds kielbasa (Polish) sausage, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I use whatever we've got)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (I hate celery and skip this)
  • I also add onion (a half or a whole depending on what we have) and usually a garlic clove or two.
Rinse and drain lentils, but do not soak. In a slow cooker, stir together the lentils, tomatoes, broth, water, carrot, sausage, and celery. Cover, and cook on High for 3 hours, or Low for 6 to 7 hours. Stir well before serving.

I serve this with crusty bread and a big salad. I love making this at the beginning of the week and then we eat it for lunch all week long. It makes a lot!!

Tuesday: Broiled Tilapia Parmesan

I had never broiled fish before I tried this recipe, but it's sooo easy, so quick and can easy be halved and/or manipulated depending on what's in the freezer - any white fish works well, and I experiment with the spice combinations constantly (FYI, this recipe is out of sight if you add a little cayenne or crushed red pepper for heat).
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 tbs mayo (can use low fat, but if you do, limit the lemon since it has more tang that reg mayo)
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice (I skip this a lot when we're out of lemon)
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp celery salt (I usually use garlic salt)
  • Cayenne or crushed red pepper to taste (opt)
  • Old Bay (opt)
  • 2 lbs tilapia fillets
Preheat your oven's broiler (low heat if you have the option between 'hi' and 'low'). Line a broiling pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. In a small bowl mix together all of the ingredients except Old Bay and fish and set aside. Season fillets with Old Bay (opt) and arrange fillets in a single layer on the pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes. Flip the fillets over and broil for a couple more minutes. Remove the fillets from the oven and cover them with the Parmesan mixture. Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork.

If I have them, I'll add breadcrumbs or crushed croutons to the cheese mixture to give the topping a little crunch. This week, I served this with steamed broccoli and brown rice (the munchkin got his broccoli-rice casserole as we first tried on the dinner impossible night).

Wednesday: Tasty Chicken Anytime

I have made this recipe so many times, it's ridiculous. I never get tired of it. I love that it uses chicken thighs because the munchkin needs dark meat at this stage and they are so much cheaper than breasts! Of course if you don't have a 1 year old, you can make it healthier by subbing chicken breast for the thighs and leaving out the butter. 2 lbs of chicken is a lot for our little family, but I always make the whole amount. Because you make the chicken separately from the sauce/topping, you can keep the extras in a tupperware container and use them on salads or with other dishes...I've been known to use rest in pot pies and casseroles. One thing I never mind having leftovers of is cooked chicken, it goes in everything!!
  • 2 lbs boned and skinned chicken thighs
  • 1 tbs Greek seasoning (or Italian season if you don't have Greek)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchini diced (I often use 1 zucchini and 1 yellow summer squash for color/variety)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic undrained (I can never find this, so I usually just go for the oregano and basil seasoned diced tomatoes)
  • 2 tbs cold butter, cut up
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar (I frequently use white wine vinegar depending on what we have)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with Greek seasoning and cook for 7-8 minutes on each side or until done (it always takes me close to 10 minuets on each side to get the funky shaped thighs completely cooked, less for breasts though). Reduce heat to medium and add zucchini and onion. Saute 2-4 minutes or until tender. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring often 7-10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve chicken over mashed potatoes, rice or pasta.

This week I served this over mashed potatoes. I have to say, I like it over rice better. I have never tried it over pasta, but if someone does, let me know what you think.

Thursday: Spinach-Ravioli Lasagna

Love this recipe. Perfect for a toddler - ravioli is the perfect finger food. I love to make this recipe in the same week I make the tasty chicken anytime because it's a vegetarian dish and Mr. C likes meat with his meals, so he can have the leftover chicken to round out his plate :)
  • 1 (6 oz) pkg fresh baby spinach washed
  • 1/3 cup pesto sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) jar Alfredo sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (can use veggie broth if making for a vegetarian)
  • 1 (25 oz) package frozen cheese filled ravioli (do not thaw) (I love to use mushroom ravioli when I can find them frozen)
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded Italian cheese blend
  • Chopped fresh basil and paprika for garnish (I use dried basil)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop spinach and toss with pest in a medium bowl. Set aside. Combine Alfredo sauce and broth. Spoon 1/3 of alfredo sauce mixture (about 1/2 cup) into a lightly greased 11x7 baking dish. Top with half of spinach mixture. Arrange half of ravioli in a single layer over spinach mixture. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining Alfredo sauce. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish and serve.

I've never tried it, but I'm sure this would be delicious made as a more traditional lasagna by using meat-filled ravioli and subbing the spinach/pesto mixture for a mixture of cottage cheese and shredded mozzarella and using a jar of marinara thinned out with beef broth. Even though it becomes a basic lasagna, I still love that it incorporates the kid-friendly ravioli instead of slippery lasagna noodles. Will have to give it a try sometime and let you know how it comes out!

Friday: Papa Johns Pizza

Mr. C is in charge of dinner on Fridays, and sometimes he grills, but more often than not take-out or pizza make up our Friday dinners. It works out reserves if not adds to our leftover to get us through the weekends (when, with the exception of Saturday pancakes, I have a strict, sandwich only cooking policy :)

So, even though I had a good week, I of course now have a whole 'nother week to plan for. I need four delicious kid-friendly recipes, so let's hear your favorites!!!!

Happy Friday everyone!!!


Erika said...

Hey, I'll have to try some of those! I always love new recipes. Unfortunately, fish is EXPENSIVE up here. But the lentil/sausage one sounds good, as does the spinach ravioli. Have you ever tried giving Little C plain pasta with pesto on it? I have got a recipe for you that hopefully you'll like. It's Shepherd's Pie, but really Cottage Pie because I don't ever use lamb but ground beef instead. It's from Nigella Lawson, and I love it because there are secretly loads of veggies in it even though you can't taste them too much. So here goes:
1 onion
1 carrot
1 garlic clove
1/2 celery stalk
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced thinly (optional)
8 oz ground beef or lamb (or deer...)
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 cup apple juice or Marsala
1 tsp soy sauce or Worcestershire
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. grated cheddar
Mashed potatoes
- The mashed potatoes can be made while the pie is simmering. The only thing that's important about these potatoes is that they have to be stiff to top the meat. So don't overdo the milk and butter.
- I usually chop the veggies pretty finely in a food processor, but you can do it by hand too.
- Heat the oil in a med. frying pan and stir in the veggies. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes, and add the mushrooms. Cook around 2 more minutes and add the meat. Cook the meat until it loses its pinkness. Sprinkle with flour and stir well, then add the apple juice, then the tomatoes and soy or Worcestershire sauce (I prefer Worc.). Stir well, cover, and let simmer for about 20 min. Uncover and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Put into an oven-safe dish and top with potatoes. Add the cheese and put it under a hot broiler for a few minutes to get the cheese melted and crispy.
- I like this recipe because of the variety of it. You can use just about whatever veggie you have on hand (like zucchini) and Little C probably won't notice it because all the flavors mingle so well. The veggies also bulk out the meat, so you only have to use 1/2 a pound. And if I'm short on time, I can make this a lot quicker than it requires by not simmering it for so long. The flavors don't get a chance to combine quite as well, but it's still good. I've also used ground deer in this and it didn't make much difference in the taste (but then I suppose we should call it Hunter's Pie). Anyways, hope you like it - Erika

Erica said...

I am trying menu planning myself! Thanks for sharing the recipes! I can't wait to try them!! My goal is simple: edible


Leanne said...

Very impressive!! If I cook once a week I'm patting myself on the back. (Matt does a lot of the cooking.) I'll have to try some of your recipies...

Jennifer said...

Those recipes sound delicious! The only thing I can be reasonably sure both of my kids will eat is breakfast for dinner: eggs, pancakes, hash browns, etc.

megan said...

We made your Tasty Chicken Anytime yesterday, and Avery LOVED it!!