Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Orange Rosemary Chicken {Freezer Friendly}

I spent much of my Saturday afternoon in the kitchen cutting and chopping away, preparing meals for my brother's family. I couldn't think of much else I'd rather be doing, it's very relaxing after a busy week. I doubled most everything I made so I could add a few items to our freezer

This particular one only ended up being in the freezer for about 48 hours before I decided to prepare it for our dinner last night. After being gone all day and most of the evening, it was perfect to come home to. With only about twenty minutes on the stove top, supper was ready.

I used a very simple sauce mixture that gave a wonderful fresh, citrus flavor to the chicken. Also paired with fresh veggies that I picked up from the market over the weekend and a wild rice mixture; it was a great one skillet meal!

It also works great as a freezer meal. I did package the veggies and chicken separately just because I didn't want to mix the raw meat. As the chicken thaws, the marinade works to keep the meat flavorful. Start to finish within twenty minutes, you can't beat this quick and nutritious weeknight meal!

Orange Rosemary Chicken {Freezer-Friendly}

1.5 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
grated peel from one orange
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried rosemary
pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2-3 cups assorted fresh, chopped veggies

In a small bowl, whisk together orange peel, orange juice, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Cube chicken and toss into a gallon sized freezer bag. Pour marinade into bag. Squeeze excess air out and seal shut.

Add chopped veggies into another small freezer bag. Seal shut.

Place both bags into one gallon sized bag. Label with date and contents. Place into freezer until ready to prepare.

When ready to cook: Thaw chicken overnight in fridge. Veggies can stay frozen, remove from freezer when you start cooking. Heat a large skillet on stove. Remove chicken from bag and cook in pan until almost cooked through, about 8 minutes. Then add veggies in and let finish cooking until chicken is completely cooked through, about 7 minutes. Veggies should still be slightly crisp.

Remove from stove and serve over rice if desired.

Friday, September 25, 2015

DIY S'more Bar {Pasta Night Recap}

I told you a little about this pasta night we were planning to host this week for our daughter's high school cross country team. I don't remember having such nights when we were in sports growing up but it must be something newer. It's a time for the kids to all get together the evening before their meet to relax, connect with their team mates and enjoy a carb heavy meal.

Last year it didn't work with our schedule to host, but I jumped at the opportunity this time around. I love entertaining and will throw parties any time I get the chance to. Boys and girls have their pasta nights separately, mainly so it's less mouths for the families to feed. Even still, I had planned for close to thirty girls to show. We ended up with about twenty in attendance.

Traditional spaghetti is typically served so that was a given, but I also wanted to make a different dish. My mom volunteered to make her homemade chicken and noodles. It's still pasta but in a way that no one probably had made yet.

We also served up a nice garden salad with various toppings. I kept the other veggies separate and let the girls add in their favorites.

Fresh baked rolls and garlic bread were also served along side. My secret to the rolls? I bought a bag of those frozen Rhode's rolls, let them rise during the day and then baked the rolls in the afternoon. They taste homemade and can't possibly be any easier!

Since it was the first day of fall, of course I had to go with pear crisp and a personal favorite, caramel apple crisp. Both were a big hit as I was left with nearly empty pans.

My actual set up was outdoors, I don't know about you but my house does not seat that many. The weather was perfect so we set up four tables outside with chairs. I purchased some fall colored table clothes from the Dollar Tree and called it good. I even put a small mixture of candy corn and peanuts on each table for munching.

The real winner of the night though, was the s'mores bar I set up around the fire pit. The girls tend to hang out for awhile after they've eaten so I knew they would enjoy sitting around the fire and roasting marshmallows. My own girls have really liked experimenting with different chocolate candies in their s'mores so we made sure to offer some variety. Peanut butter cups are popular and our youngest loves the Kit Kats, which actually aren't too bad.

Now that it's officially fall season and everyone loves having bon fires, consider adding a small DIY s'more bar. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. I just happened to have this tiered platter on hand, but small plates would also be just fine. Kids and even adults will have a great time preparing their own marshmallow treat!

DIY S'more Bar

Graham crackers
Assorted chocolates
Small plates or platters

On a table set out chosen plates or platters. Divide graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate candies between the plates. Set out large roasting forks for your guests to cook their marshmallows over the fire. Afterwards they may assemble their s'mores with desired chocolates at the table.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sausage-Potato-Broccoli Skillet

It's been years since I've had or made this dish, but it's another one I remember my mom making for us growing up.  I've been trying to think of super easy meals for us to make on Monday nights when we get home at 7:00 from dance. Even after bringing snacks with us after school, I know everyone's tummies are growling by that time. This skillet meal came to mind and I knew the girls would love it.

I know I've made it for our oldest before, but I don't believe our younger two have had the chance to try it. There really is no recipe here, just a matter of throwing some ingredients together. But it's really good and I know how much you all appreciate simple.

The girls ate well after class and even asked for seconds, which always makes mom happy. We'll definitely be keeping this one tucked away for busy weeknights!

Sausage-Potato-Broccoli Skillet

Olive oil
12 oz. Beef smoked sausage ring
28 oz. bag O'Brien frozen potatoes
1-1/2 cups fresh, chopped broccoli
salt and pepper, to taste

Slice sausage and set aside. Preheat a large pan on the stove with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Toss potatoes into the skillet and let cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Add in sliced sausage and broccoli and cook until meat is warmed through and potatoes are cooked through and browned, about 12 minutes longer. Remove from heat and dish onto plates. Serves 4-6

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Weekly Menu 9/20

I'm really looking forward to this week, we're hosting a pasta night at our house for our daughter's cross country team, well for the girls anyways. The boys meet at another house. But for one night, I get to prepare a delicious meal for 30 carb-hungry teenagers! Thank goodness I've recruited my mother to help out as this is definitely her area of expertise. I plan to share all the details with you later in the week, including a full recap of our menu and the fun s'mores bar I'm planning.

Other than that, it's just the same old routine. Last Monday was a lesson learned, I need to plan super simple meals so we're not eating after 8:00 on dance nights. I think I did much better this week so time will tell.

Anyone else looking forward to the official start of fall? While I do love summer, I truly enjoy the fall weather as well. I'm ready to start baking with apples and enjoying all the squashes we're seeing at the markets. Pumpkin will probably wait just a bit longer, more into October and November...there's plenty of time for that!

Anyhow, here's what I have planned for our menu this week:

Overnight baked apple oatmeal
Eggs w/toast
French toast sticks

Roasted chicken salad wraps
DIY lunchables- meat, cheese, triscuits, fruit
Air-popped popcorn w/cheese, veggies and fruit

Chicken BLTs
Sausage/Potato/Broccoli mixture
Ham steak
Pasta night- traditional spaghetti and chicken and noodles
One pot chili mac and cheese
Pork and apple slaw wrap

Energy bites
String cheese
Fresh fruit/veggies
Beef jerky

Friday, September 18, 2015

Pizza Rolls

We're big pizza lovers in our house. It might not make it on the menu every single week, but pretty darn close. And being a foodie, I love to experiment with new ideas. That's where these pizza rolls came in to the picture.

They're just like a cinnamon roll but using pizza dough and pizza toppings. How fun is that?! Great for the lunch box, weekend football parties or just switching up the ol' pizza night. I always rely on the same pizza crust recipe, and usually try using half whole wheat flour for extra nutrients and the family never makes a fuss. It really tastes just as good.

As far as fillings, I would suggest sticking with either a plain cheese or meats such as ham, pepperoni or salami. Feel free to try sausage but I have a feeling it might be a little too bulky for these. These would also freeze well too. Perfect for thawing quickly for packed lunches or just to have on hand for a quick appetizer or light meal.

Pizza Rolls

1 batch pizza dough
pizza sauce
pepperoni, diced
salami, diced
shredded mozzarella cheese

Divide dough into three separate balls. Taking the first ball, roll out onto a well floured surface to a rectangular shape. Spread a thin layer of pizza sauce onto dough. Sprinkle with cheese and meat toppings. Roll up starting with the long side. Using a sharp knife, cut into slices.

Place slices onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and serve immediately with remaining pizza sauce.

Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Makes around 36 pizza rolls.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lemon Zucchini Bundt Cake

I haven't been giving you too many desserts lately, not really on purpose, I just haven't been baking as much. Mostly because those treats pack on the pounds way too quickly and well, I certainly don't need any extra. But over the weekend, I felt we deserved a treat. And I incorporated zucchini, so that makes it better, right?

For you zucchini haters, it simply added a bit of green specks into the cake and maybe a tiny bit of extra nutrients. As far as taste, the lemon shines through for sure! I want to enjoy any last bit of summer we might have and this cake sure feels like summer.

As a baker, I don't mind spending a significant amount of time on a recipe when I'm able to. It's relaxing to me and a good way to relieve stress. But I have to admit, I love the simplicity of bundt cakes. While easy to mix up, they're still elegant enough for parties and celebrations. I topped mine with a simple lemon glaze. Whipped cream and berries are another great option or a simple powdered sugar dusting will do the trick.

Those zucchinis still sitting on the counter....add one into this cake batter. Then serve it up to the family, just because, they deserve a special treat every once in awhile!

Lemon Zucchini Bundt Cake

2 sticks butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup grated zucchini
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sour cream

For lemon glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
juice from one lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or butter a bundt pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in zest, lemon juice, vanilla and grated zucchini. Add in eggs, one at a time. Slowly start to add in dry ingredients, alternating with the milk and sour cream. I like to mix in salt, baking powder and then one cup of flour, then add in a little bit of the milk and sour cream. Then finish with the remaining dry and wet ingredients.

Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan, use a spatula to smooth out batter. Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pan. Once cooled, you may run a knife along edges and flip over to remove from pan.

To make glaze: Mix together powdered sugar and juice from a lemon until smooth.

Pour glaze over cake. Cut into slices to serve.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekly Menu 9/13

I'm a little behind today, usually by now I have my plan for the week all together. However, my adorable little nephew was born this weekend! So between all of our usual activities and squeezing in time to snuggle up on this precious baby boy...I'm running a little behind.

All three girls begin their dance classes tomorrow, so we'll have two nights of that each week from here on out. I'll need to have my act together for dinner on those evenings plus pack snacks for after school since we'll leave right from there to the studio.

Here's what we're planning for our meals this week:

Overnight steel cut oats {will post soon if this turns out!}
Breakfast quinoa
Bagel/egg sandwiches

Portable smoothies {the girls love having these in their lunches}
Mini omelets
Southwestern salad
DIY lunchables

Grilled hamburgers and brats
Sweet and sour chicken
Italian shredded beef{these were on the menu a couple weeks ago, but didn't make them}
Garlic chicken rigatoni

String cheese, crackers
fresh fruit/veggies w/dip
air popped popcorn
nut/raisin mix

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Freezer Stir Fry Veggie Packets

We've got a good month or so left of visiting the farmers' market each week until it's done for the season. There's so many items available right now since we're sort of in that in between time of summer and fall. Plus I can get some pretty good deals when I visit the vendors. So I'm taking advantage of the time left to stock up on some things and prepare for winter.

 I spent some time on Monday prepping these veggie packets for the freezer. They'll be perfect for a quick stir fry dinner or even side dish, leaving minimal work for myself. Which I very much appreciate!

The process is really easy. I even took everything outside to chop while chatting with my husband and enjoying the beautiful weather. I then blanched all veggies in batches for one minute, then drained from the water, let cool and packaged everything all up.

Here are some ideas for incorporating these into your meal plan:

Prepare sliced chicken or beef in a skillet, add in veggies and serve over rice

Prepare shrimp in a skillet, add in veggies and serve over noodles

Enjoy as a side dish, just add in desired herbs and/or butter

Toss with pasta and a little Parmesan for a nice meatless entree

Freezer Stir Fry Veggie Packets

2 small summer squash
1 large bell pepper
1 lb green beans
3 medium carrots
1 small head broccoli
1 small head cauliflower

Clean and chop all veggies, set aside in separate piles. Bring a pot of water to boil on the stove, blanch all veggies, one variety at a time, in water for one minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove veggies to a strainer to drain and repeat with remaining kinds.

Transfer veggies to a cutting board or even paper towels to cool and dry completely. Once cooled, divide into quart sized freezer bags. Make sure to label and place into the freezer until ready to use.

Make sure to keep veggies frozen until ready to prepare with desired recipe. Makes 4 bags worth.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Weekly Menu 9/6

We all survived the first week of school. It was a busy one and I am so thankful to have Monday off for the holiday to catch up on some things around the house. I've also got quite a bit of produce on hand to process, either by canning or freezing.

The hubby and I had talked about taking the girls on a picnic before school started and that didn't quite happen. So tonight that's the plan, as a way to celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. It's been really hot and humid lately and will continue on through today but we're hoping by dinner time it won't be so bad. Either way it should be a lot of fun!

Here's what we're planning for our meals this week:

Toast w/eggs
Yogurt w/granola
Cinnamon pear pancakes

Tomato basil spaghetti squash bake
Italian pasta salad
Club lettuce wraps

Maid Rites
Grilled chicken and veggie foil packets {I think we'll do BBQ and buffalo sauce, and use a mixture of veggies on hand}
Ham and bean soup
Pizza rolls- new recipe coming up!
Pot roast
Shrimp scampi

*All dinners will be rounded out with a salad and/or veggies plus a fruit for the kids

Fresh fruit/veggies
Streusel squash muffins
Homemade trail mix {pretzels, raisins, nuts, etc}

Friday, September 4, 2015

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Are you still swimming in zucchini? Or perhaps finding bags of the green stuff dropped off at your door step? Then you might appreciate today's recipe.

I personally love finding new ways to add this nutritious veggie to our meals. Grilling up slices of the yellow and green squash is probably our favorite summer side dish.. And I will try to chop it up finely and sneak a little in other dishes.

Last summer I tried these zucchini pizza slices for the first time and they've since become a favorite. Thinking along those lines, I made some stuffed zucchini for a healthier spin on pizza one evening. We got our fix but without the extra calories and still with great flavor. It was also nice not to be left with that stuffed feeling but still satisfied.

I liked using sausage in our mixture but ground beef could easily be substituted or even try dicing up little pepperonis for something extra. We even made some extras for lunch the next day, they reheat nicely!

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

3 medium sized zucchini
1/2 lb. mild sausage
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 medium tomato, diced
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
grated mozzarella cheese
pizza sauce, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice zucchini in half the long way, using a spoon scoop out the pulp to create a boat like shape. Place on a baking sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Bake in oven for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown sausage in a skillet with garlic until no longer pink. Drain and return to pan. Mix in seasoning, breadcrumbs,  egg, tomato and Parmesan cheese.

Stuff each zucchini with filling and sprinkle cheese over top. Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with pizza sauce. Makes 6 zucchini boats.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Reflecting on our Summer {in Pictures}

Even though summer isn't technically over for a few weeks, our summer vacation has come to an end and it's back to the daily routine. So long are the days spent by the pool, playing in the backyard until dark and staying up late. I thought it'd be fun to peek back at the past few months at some of our favorite memories!

We kicked off summer with the girls' annual dance performance. It's a big deal and something they work towards all year long. Our whole family attends and it's an awesome show to watch. I'm looking forward to watching all three girls in the next show.

The following weekend my brother was married. The wedding turned out great and I had the pleasure in making the cake and cupcakes.

The whole family at the wedding.

Then it was strawberry season. We take a trip, or two or three out to the strawberry farm each year and pick as many berries as we possibly can. We'll freeze plenty and of course make jam to enjoy through the winter.

We joined a few local bloggers on a tour of Kalona Supernatural. It's a business and product that we love and the highlight of the tour was bringing home our own jug of chocolate milk. The most delicious chocolate milk you will have ever tasted!

Our middle daughter also took a huge step in her faith this summer and asked to be baptized at church. It's hard to put into words what I felt up there on the stage, I am so proud of her and it's a moment I will never forget.

Perhaps my favorite picture of that morning, watching her peers lay hands on her and pray.

Our family also spent a couple weekends up at the river with my parents. The girls got to enjoy fishing with papa, tubing on the river, riding in the golf cart and so much more!

One weekend I took the little ones to visit a historic museum house in our town. It's one that I remember touring with my elementary class. Of course, my favorite room of the tour was the kitchen. The girls loved looking around the bedrooms upstairs and seeing what types of toys the children played with.

A few weekends ago, the hubby and I finally took a night to ourselves...with no kids! It had been awhile since we'd done so and was a much needed time of relaxation. I dusted off an old picnic basket I'd begged him to get me way back in high school. In fact we'd never even used it. I always make plans to go on an official picnic each summer and still had yet to do so. Our evening was nice though and we even decided to stay put and enjoy the calm of our own backyard.

Of course we ended up making it easy on ourselves and decided to order pizza. The day was extremely hot but it was wonderful sitting outside in the shade, eating pizza by the slice and sipping on our beverages and enjoying conversation with each other. Something so simple that we don't get to do often enough.

Last weekend I finally crossed something off my to-learn list, canning! I don't really know what the fear was, but I always thought it would be hard. It took me a little while to slowly get through my first batch, but man I love it now. In fact, I want to spend all my free time canning! I've got some pears to process that we picked from the in-law's tree, so I've been busy canning sliced pears and also pear sauce. I can't wait to try some other things now!

While we didn't take any extravagant vacations this year and stayed around home for much of our time, we ultimately had a great summer this year. I'm looking forward to taking some time this coming holiday weekend to relish the warm weather and maybe even plan a family picnic to end our final summer like days. It won't be long and we'll have cold days and lawns covered in snow and we'll just dream of those warm, summer temperatures!
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