Sunday, August 30, 2015

Weekly Menu 8/30

The kids head back to school this week, I think they're slowly getting excited to be going back and to see their friends. I've been busy this weekend trying to make sure we've got items for lunches and everything else in place.

I quickly thew this menu plan together, I feel much better having a game plan. We'll be taking advantage of easy meals this week to help us ease back into the routine. It's also supposed to be hot and humid again, after enjoying a couple weeks with cooler temps, so we'll try to eliminate turning on the oven much.

Without further ado, here's our menu for the week:

Toast w/egg
Oatmeal (we usually just mix quick oats with a tiny bit of brown sugar and cinnamon, add some milk and microwave for one minute.)

*Since the girls are heading back to school, I always send them with a cold lunch rather than them eating a school lunch. I generally try to choose a couple fun dishes for them to take each week and then they can either have leftovers or a sandwich/wrap the other days. This helps keep my grocery bill down a little bit too, and makes planning easy so I'm not trying to come up with a new idea for every single day.

Pizza Lunchables (we'll most likely use pita bread triangles this week instead of homemade)
Ranch veggie pasta salad

Dinner w/my parents
Birthday dinner for our daughter- steak, baked potatoes, grilled veggies
Italian shredded beef sandwiches
Buffalo chicken salads

*all dinners are rounded out with a salad and/or veggies plus a fruit for the girls

Fresh fruit/veggies
String cheese
Animal crackers
Summer sausage/crackers

Friday, August 28, 2015

Grandma's Goulash

I think we all can agree grandmas and even moms were always good at creating delicious,  comforting meals out of very few ingredients growing up. I definitely recall mom preparing goulash but it was grandma who made it the most.

Grandma was always an awesome cook. My brothers and I were lucky enough to have her as our babysitter while mom and dad worked.  We had the best summers hanging out at her house. And she made the best homemade pizza and apple bars!

She's still with us, but then again it's still not the same. Alzheimer's has taken this awful place in her body and slowly taking her away from us. I cherish every moment we have, but I definitely miss our conversations...and her cooking, of course.

At the same time, it's easy to put a pot of goulash on the stove and easily be taken back to some of my favorite childhood memories.  Now my own family enjoys this simple Italian pasta dish. They don't care for the thick stewed tomatoes in the original version, so I make sure to use petite diced to hide them a bit, if you will. It's still just as good!

Grandma's Goulash

16 oz. elbow macaroni
1 lb ground beef
15 oz diced or stewed tomatoes
28 oz tomato sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder

In a stockpot cook pasta over stove according to package directions.

Meanwhile, brown ground beef over medium heat on stove until no longer pink. Drain and return back to skillet.

Once pasta is cooked through, drain water and return back to pan.  Add in all others ingredients,  including cook hamburger.  Adjust seasonings if needed. Let simmer on stove for about 10 minutes until warmed through. Serve immediately in bowls.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Freezer-friendly Fruit Crisp Crumble

I'm starting to see signs of fall quickly approaching. From the cooler temps here in Iowa to the apples, pears and squashes at the farmers' markets. But I'm still holding onto what little bit of summer we have. I'm not ready to give that up so easily, especially the berries and garden fresh veggies.

But I am busy starting to prepare what I can for the colder months, especially when it comes to our food. I spent a small portion of today grating away at some zucchini, stashing away small bags in the freezer for winter baking. Later in the week I'll be processing the first of the pears from my in-law's tree.

After I got supper in the oven tonight, I got busy mixing up this crumble. It will be perfect to have on hand for assembling quick desserts. While I love having apple and pear crisps all made up in the freezer, ready to be baked at a moments notice; these will be great for mixing and matching with any fruit I have on hand.

Add a batch of this crumble to your freezer, you'll be ready to dive right into apple season....or continue enjoying the wonderful fruits of summer while we still have them!

Fruit Crisp Crumble

2-3/4 cups flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
3 sticks butter, cold and cubed

In a large bowl combine flour, oats and both sugars. Cut in cubed butter using a pastry blender, until mixture is crumbly.

Using a spoon, divide mixture between five pint sized jars or even use quart sized freezer bags. Cover and and store in freezer. Use in your favorite fruit crisp recipes, perfect for an 8x8-inch pan.

Fills 5 pint sized jars.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Weekly Menu 8/23

We've enjoyed a pretty relaxing weekend so far. The hubby golfed yesterday with some co-workers while I took the younger two to tour a Victorian house museum in our town. I remember going with my elementary class a long time ago so it was neat to go back with my own children.

This morning after church we're heading to my in-laws to pick pears from their tree. Last year their tree did not produce a single pear, so I am excited to harvest a boat load this year. I will love adding pear sauce to my freezer along with other items and of course enjoying them just as is!

Here is our meal plan for the upcoming week:

Toast, hard boiled eggs
Cereal bars

Ham ball dinner (from the freezer)
Zucchini pizza bites
Chicken salad

Shrimp and tomato kabobs
Tator tot casserole
Iowa chops, baked sweet potatoes, garlic-parmesan green beans
Barbecue pulled chicken w/slaw (from freezer)
Grilled chicken kabobs

*dinners will be rounded out with veggies and/or salads

Fresh fruit/veggies
Air popped popcorn
Granola bars
Yogurt bites

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Zucchini Cornbread

Today has been a perfect fall day, except it's the middle of August. I did love turning off the air and opening up the windows though. And baking all morning long. I haven't done too much lately so it was nice and relaxing to get the mixer going.

I've been meaning to mix up some of this cornbread for a little while now, it's a nice way to use up some of that garden fresh zucchini. It's just enough to give a little green color to your bread and add some extra nutrients.

I served this tender loaf with our meal tonight; oven roasted beer can chicken. It was the ultimate comfort rainy day meal. We drizzled a little raw honey over our slices.  Just enough to sweeten our bread a bit. If you like a good cornbread I know you'll love this version. Tuck a few loaves away in the freezer for the upcoming fall soup season. You'll want to soak up all those flavorful juices with this yummy bread!

Zucchini Cornbread

1-1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup finely grated zucchini
4 tbsp butter, melted

In a bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients and set aside.

In another bowl, combine eggs and milk. Gradually add in dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Stir in zucchini. Make sure to squeeze excess water from zucchini before measuring. Then stir in melted butter.

Pour batter into a buttered 8x8 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool for a bit before cutting. Serve warm with honey or jam, if desired.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Weekly Menu 8/16

I'm down to the last full week before I have to head back to work. It will be nice to be back into a regular routine, but I'm still not ready for summer to be over. This week will be devoted to spending our last few days at the pool while we can as well as finishing up any last minute tasks for school.

As far as our menu goes, I'm looking forward to trying out a couple new dishes this week. I've also been wanting to add some baked oatmeal to the freezer but my plan is to try tweaking my recipe a bit. I want to cut back on the sugar and make it a little healthier. I'll keep you updated on how that turns out!

In the mean time, here's what is on our menu for the upcoming week:

Smoothies- I've been having these almost every morning. Generally mine consist of almond milk, a large amount of spinach or kale, chia seeds, and frozen fruit.
Yogurt w/Granola
Baked oatmeal

Caprese garlic bread w/salad
Almond butter on cinnamon raisin bread
Grilled cheese

Family dinner
Taco salads
Beer can chicken w/potato wedges, grilled veggies
Grilled summer veggie sandwiches, baked beans, fresh fruit
Slow cooker meatballs served over spaghetti squash
Breakfast for dinner- french toast, eggs, bacon
Homemade pizza

Fresh fruit/veggies
String cheese

Friday, August 14, 2015

Summer Corn Chowder

We are most definitely known for our sweet corn here in Iowa. I always like to take advantage of the short lived season by finding a good source and stashing some bags away in our freezer. It's a comforting treat to enjoy in the dead of winter, a little taste of summer.

I created this soup a couple weeks ago for dinner one night. Even though it's summer and generally hot, soup is still a great way for us to incorporate those garden fresh veggies. Everyone in the family ate this right up, which I declare a major success.

My non-squash loving children didn't even notice the zucchini in there because it was pureed. So of course they'll gladly eat up the corn and potatoes.  I did tell them about the zucchini being in there, while I think it's fine to sneak extra veggies into meals, I always want them to be aware of what they're eating. I don't think they minded though, especially since the small bit of leftovers were quickly gone the next day!

Summer Corn Chowder

1 tbsp olive oil
1 zucchini, diced
1 bell pepper, any color, diced
1 pound baby potatoes, quartered
2 ears corn, kernels removed from cob
salt and black pepper, to taste
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream

In a stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in zucchini and pepper. Let cook for about 10 minutes, until veggies are tender.

Remove from heat and combine cooked veggies with broth in a blender and puree. Return back to pot. Add in potatoes, bring to a boil and let potatoes cook for about 15 minutes, until tender. Then add in corn kernels and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook just until corn is heated, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat. Serve with fresh bread or sandwiches.  Serves 4-5

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Frozen Strawberry Dream Pie

It's been forever since I've made a dessert, which is probably a good thing. But I just had to make something this past weekend. So I made a pie for the family. A really easy yet delicious pie. And I even took some shortcuts with this dessert, which is not always the way I go. I love to get in the kitchen and work with more complex recipes, but hey, I'm human too and sometimes I love an easy peasy dish.

Josh took the girls to the pool in the afternoon and it gave me plenty of time to relax, make this pie and even do a little reading. It was great! I don't get a chance to enjoy some quiet time often enough.

Later in the evening we dove into the pie. It was a refreshing dessert. The filling was frozen, yet almost creamy like ice cream. The fresh berries tossed with a little bit of my homemade jam made for a perfect topping. And I always love a graham cracker crust, it's probably one of my favorite parts.

Feel free to take advantage of all the other berries in season right now, add those into your topping. Maybe even experiment with peaches? They'll all taste wonderful in this pie!

Frozen Strawberry Dream Pie

1 prepared graham cracker crust
1 lb. fresh strawberries, cut and divided
4 tbsp strawberry jam
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
8 oz. whipped topping, thawed

In a bowl, combine whipped topping and condensed milk. Fold in 1 cup of cut strawberries and 1 tbsp jam. Spoon into crust and smooth out. Cover and freeze for 5 hours or longer.

When ready to serve, combine remaining cut strawberries and jam. Spoon over frozen pie. Cut into slices and serve immediately.  Best enjoyed same day as made.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Weekly Menu 8/9

We've got a fun and busy week ahead of us so I'm trying to keep our meals quick and easy for the most part. Tuesday we'll be spending the day at Adventureland; an amusement and water park just a couple hours away from us. I plan to pack lunch in the cooler for us to take with. Not only does this help save money, but I can ensure my family isn't loading up on junk the whole day.

Saturday the hubby and I will be enjoying a night away from the kids. I'm pretty sure our last date night was back in January for my work holiday party. Way too long ago! I'm planning a nice picnic dinner for us to enjoy. Going out to eat is always nice but a picnic sounds even more fun!

Anyways, here's what we have planned for our menu this week:

Cinnamon rolls
Yogurt w/fruit
2-minute ham and egg bowl
Green smoothies
Toast w/eggs

Chicken and broccoli slaw
Packed lunch- Adventureland
Homemade lunchables

Tomato-basil chicken
Dinner out-Adventureland
Spicy chicken wraps
Grilled pork burgers
Grilled brats
Date night picnic

*All meals will be rounded out with veggies and/or a salad

No-bake chocolate peanut butter coconut bars
Fresh fruit and veggies
Air-popped popcorn

Friday, August 7, 2015

Roasted Ratatouille

I was just commenting the other day how I wish we could eat like this every day. Fresh from the garden or straight from the farmers market. The grocery store just can't compete during these summer months. But that's what makes us appreciate these seasonal fruits and veggies all the more!

I made this for lunch yesterday, the girls help chop veggies, munching on them as we went. They asked questions about eggplant and zucchini, declaring that they loved zucchini raw but not so much cooked. It was great to have their help, and conversation.

In the end it was only the oldest and I eating most of the dish for lunch. Which I fully expected. At least they tried, it's all I ever ask. They don't like the soft texture, and I was honest with them. It wasn't so very long ago that I preferred all of my veggies raw and with crunch. I've since grown to love so many more veggies than I ever thought possible. Keep trying, it's all we can do.

As for the ratatouille,  I love it! It's a simple goodness to be enjoyed during these months. I plan to continue taking advantage of the plentiful produce right now and even packing this in my lunch when I head back to work soon.  You can easily roast the veggies on Sunday and divide into containers for the coming week. Roasting the veggies brings out their natural sweetness and it's delicious!

Roasted Ratatouille

1 small summer squash
1 small zucchini
1 onion
1 eggplant
1 bell pepper
handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
Olive oil
salt and pepper
7-8 basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a cutting board, chop all veggies into large chunks.  For the garlic, smash using the flat side of a knife and then peel. Place all veggies into a large bowl. Drizzle about 2 tbsp of olive oil over top and season with salt and pepper. Toss all together.

Spread veggies out onto a large baking sheet. Roast in oven for 40-45 minutes, turning every ten minutes, just until veggies are tender.

Remove from oven. Chop basil and mix into veggies. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Serve warm as a side dish or a light meal with crusty bread.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

July Freezer Swap

I love sharing recaps of my freezer swaps with you. It's been quite awhile since I've last hosted one. I know life is extremely busy for so many of us and its hard to find a day that can work for everyone.  I also forget that we don't always have to go on these six hour cooking sprees either. My latest swap was very small but still fun and beneficial nonetheless.

A couple weeks ago I gathered three other ladies and we decided to prepare one main dish each times 4. But all on our own time and then met at my house to exchange. It works really well to do it this way, then others don't feel pressured to commit to a whole afternoon of cooking.

At the last minute one gal had to back out, so we ended up with four meals each still. Just only three varieties, but that's okay since everything looked fantastic...even uncooked and frozen! I have yet to try anything, I'm trying to save them for when we start getting back into our school routine in a few weeks. These meals will help on nights when we have dance lessons, etc. So let's take a peek at what we brought home:

Crock pot creamy ranch chicken

Thai chicken w/sesame noodles

1 bottle lite toasted Asian sesame dressing
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
4 chicken breasts, cut into cubes
2 tbsp peanut butter, crunchy
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
2 carrots, chopped
4 green onions,chopped
8 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions for freezing:
Mix dressing and soy sauce in a bowl. Pour half of dressing over chicken and place into a large gallon freezer bag.

Add peanut butter, honey and crushed red pepper to remaining half of dressing mixture. Put into a sandwich sized baggie.

Place remaining ingredients in a sandwich sized bag. Put all bags together in one gallon freezer bag.

On cooking day:
Thaw and cook chicken in a skillet over medium high heat for eight minutes or until cooked through. Cook pasta according to package directions. Place pasta, chicken mixture and remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss lightly. Serve immediately.

Southern BBQ Pulled Chicken w/Coleslaw

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts {1.5 lbs}
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp chili powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup barbecue sauce
buns, for serving

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl, except chicken and buns. If freezing, place chicken breasts into a gallon freezer bag. Pour sauce over chicken. Remove as much air as possible and seal shut. Lay flat in freezer.

When ready to prepare, remove from freezer and thaw. Cook in a crock pot on low for 8 hours. It's okay if meat is still frozen when you start cooking. Shred meat when cooked through with forks and serve on buns with additional barbecue sauce and coleslaw, if desired.


1 med head cabbage
2 carrots
1 green pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp mustard seed

Thinly slice cabbage, or process in small increments in food processor. This takes only a few minutes! Peel carrots and dice green pepper. Place all veggies in a large bowl with salt and let set for one hour. After one hour, drain and return back to bowl.

Meanwhile, combine vinegar, sugar, celery and mustard seed in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and let boil for one minute. Then remove from heat and let cool. Once cooled, combine with cabbage mixture. Divide into freezer containers and store in freezer until ready to serve. Recommend using within six weeks.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Weekly Menu 8/2

I can't believe August is already here. In a way it seems as if summer has flown by. I'm looking forward to enjoying the last three weeks before I have to head back to work. In preparation for that busy time, I am trying hard to make sure we have a menu plan in place. I've been a little relaxed in this area lately and even with my grocery shopping, making way too many quick stops to the store. I plan to get back on track and posting our weekly plan will help keep me accountable.

Here's what we'll be eating in our house this week:

Eggs w/veggies
Pancake bites

Roasted ratatouille w/crusty bread

BLTs w/sweet corn
Stuffed zucchini boats
Mexican pasta
Summer corn chowder
Scalloped potatoes w/ham

Fresh fruit
Air-popped popcorn
String cheese

Note: All dinners will be rounded out with veggies and/or a salad.
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