Sunday, November 29, 2015

Veggie Club Pizza

Did you enjoy a nice Thanksgiving holiday? About shopping, have you ventured out yet? Our family spent the day between both of our families, ending the night at the hockey game. It was a good day surrounded by our loved ones and good food. As for the shopping; the hubby and oldest went to one store and that was it. They picked up the two items they went for and came back home. I haven't really had the desire to shop so I'm staying put in the house.

Before Thanksgiving, we ended the work week with our usual potluck day. All staff members bring in a dish and we take over the conference room as we stuff our faces. We always end up with way too much food and spend our lunch hour chatting among each other and enjoying that relaxing time.

I chose an easy appetizer that I haven't made in years. It's quick to assemble the night before and can set in the fridge for awhile before serving. Did I mention that it's just really good too?

Now you can certainly keep this a traditional veggie pizza, but I love the addition of shredded chicken and crumbled bacon. It adds a bit of heartiness without being too heavy. In fact, I even kept a small section strictly only veggie for my vegetarian friend to enjoy.

Since I love experimenting and creating new recipes on a regular basis, I don't always rely on the same dishes when it comes to party planning. But this used to be one of my go-to appetizers for potluck gatherings or any time I had many mouths to feed. And even though I typically prefer to cook from scratch, even I can use some shortcuts. The crust starts with a couple tubes of crescent rolls and that's okay, they make for a tasty crust and everyone loves it.

We're officially into the holiday season, a time where every weekend seems to be a new party of some sort. It's the time of year where we're constantly whipping up desserts and appetizers to bring to parties. Tuck this easy one in a safe spot, you'll want it create it soon!

Veggie Club Pizza

2 tubes crescent rolls
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dill weed
salt and pepper
1 cucumber, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/2 cup shredded or gated cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken breast
6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press crescent rolls out onto a large baking sheet (10x15-inch) and bake in oven for 12 minutes, just until crust is set and lightly browned. Remove from oven to cool while you mix up spread.

In a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Add in garlic, dill weed and a pinch of both salt and pepper. When crust has cooled, using a knife or spreader, spread over crust.

Top with cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, chicken and bacon. Serve immediately or cover and store in fridge.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Weekly Menu 11/22

We returned home around eleven this morning from a weekend away. Our 8-year-old had a dance convention, her very first one since she's begun competitive dance this year and of course, taking place during our very first snowfall of the year and a winter warning at that. I got off work about noon on Friday and grabbed the kiddos from school. We were on the road by 1 and boy, it got a little scary during our drive. We were driving right into the storm and the roads were not good at all. It didn't take much convincing that we might want to stay another night at the hotel and wait to come home until today.

It ended up being a fun weekend. Our girl had fun at all of her classes and it was a great learning experience for what is yet to come. We got done at a good time yesterday and were able to do some shopping. But by 6:00 the kids were just done. Instead of going out to eat as planned, we ended up grabbing something quick and took it back to our hotel room to relax. Luckily, we did find a good restaurant across the street from our hotel Friday night and were able to enjoy some delicious pizza there.

It's going to be a short work week with Thanksgiving on Thursday and I'm looking forward to a few days off with the family. I made our meal plan pretty laid back for the week, here's what I've got on tap for the coming days:

Oatmeal {quick oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, milk, cooked in microwave}
Yogurt, granola, pomegranate seeds
French toast

Mini muffins w/yogurt

Spaghetti squash w/marinara and Pizza pockets
Chicken enchilada soup from freezer swap
Grilled cheese
Baked chicken drumsticks
Thanksgiving {I'll be bringing dessert and/or a side dish}
Dinner out
Leftover turkey noodle casserole

Fresh fruit/veggies
String cheese
Energy bites
Air popped popcorn

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ultimate Holiday Baking Checklist

While summer will always be my favorite season, I love the holidays and all the preparation that goes into this busy time of year. Thanksgiving is already less than one week away and then from there on out, Christmas will be here before we know it.

One way I love to celebrate the holidays is through my baking for family and friends. It's time to start sifting through all of my cookbooks, magazines and pinned recipes to start planning my holiday baking list. Our family has their favorites we make each year, but it's also fun to try new recipes.

Once I've got my list all made up, it's time to sit down and write down every single ingredient I will need. Even if I know I have that item on hand, it's good to double check and see if the ingredient is fresh and will last through my baking sessions.

I've put together a little guide for you to consider when it's time to start your own holiday baking. These are items that I try to keep on hand not only during this time, but also year round. I also want to note, on many things I'm not particularly partial to brands. You'll find I do use some name brand items but also some generic. Some things might be organic but not always. It might depend on sales and our budget at the time as to whether we buy organic or not.

I like to keep a variety of flours on hand at all times. Unbleached all-purpose is always a must, you can use it in just about any recipe. I also like bread, cake and whole wheat pastry flours; these are ones I use the most.

Cane, brown and powdered sugar are what you'll find most of the time in my pantry.

Natural Sweeteners:
I do try to use natural sweeteners such as local honey and pure maple syrup as much as I can. I'm becoming more comfortable substituting these in place of sugar, but I also know that some recipes you do just need plain old sugar.

Various Chocolate and Chips:
Chocolate chips should be going on sale soon, if not already. Now is the time to stock up on a variety of these. Anywhere from dark and semi-sweet to cinnamon chips. I also love to keep almond bark on hand, especially for recipes like this one.

Nuts can be expensive, but they certainly can help baked goods to taste so much better. I typically have almonds, pecans, walnuts and even peanuts on hand. Oh, and coconut is a must. If I know I won't be using them all at once, I store the extras in the freezer, coconut stays in the fridge though. This will help to retain the quality and freshness of the nuts.

Dried Fruit:
Raisins and cranberries are almost always in my pantry. They are great additions to granola and cookies. You might have some other favorites that you like to keep stocked.

Both quick-cooking oats and old fashioned oats are in the pantry at all times as well. Along with peanut butter. Seems like there is always something yummy we can make involving those two ingredients.

And butter, you cannot forget the butter! While it's not something stored away in the cupboard, I always aim to have an ample supply of butter. If you find it on sale, grab as many as you can and store the extras in the freezer. It will keep for a long time, if it even lasts that long!

Oils are another item to keep on hand. Whether you use vegetable, canola, olive or coconut; many recipes call for some sort of oil to be used.

Spices, etc:
I always replenish my supply of baking soda and powder at this time of year, that way I know it's fresh and will keep my baked goods at top quality.

If you're comfortable baking with yeast, you'll want to have a small jar in the fridge or at least a couple packets nearby. Cinnamon rolls are a treat on Christmas morning!

Spices should also be checked, make sure you're not baking with two year old cinnamon and nutmeg!

While I'm sure there's an item or two I missed or maybe something you always bake with and I don't; I hope you've got a good idea on how to stock the pantry this holiday season. Take the weekend and leisurely thumb through your family's favorite recipes and make your list. Then go ahead and devise a game plan. Maybe it's preparing a recipe or two each weekend leading up to the holidays. The freezer can be your best friend during this time! I always love freezing cookie dough, cinnamon rolls and unbaked pies. It makes entertaining a breeze or when I need to bring a dessert to a gathering. This allows you more time to focus on your family and friends and that after all, is what is most important!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Weekly Menu 11/15

It's been quite a busy weekend; our oldest daughter celebrated her sixteenth birthday with friends last night. It's always a bit of work putting together a party, but they sure did have a lot of fun and that always makes it worthwhile. We had a good amount of pizza and snacks leftover, so we'll be eating those up in these next few days.

I'm also calling a pantry challenge this week. We'll be traveling to a dance convention for the upcoming weekend and my fridge is bursting with food that I don't want to waste. So I grabbed a couple items the girls needed for their packed lunches for the week and that's it. We're going to make due with what we've got in the house and save some money at the same time.

I quickly thew together our meal plan tonight, so it's nothing too extravagant but here's what we've got planned:

Eggs w/toast
Oatmeal {quick-cooking oats, cinnamon, brown sugar, milk in microwave}

Layered taco dip {beans, seasoned sour cream, veggies}
Mini muffins/cheese/veggies/fruit

Leftover pizza
Italian basil sausage soup from freezer
Slow cooker pulled pork, apple slaw
Crunchy lemon garlic chicken, potatoes, acorn squash
Spaghetti, salad

Fresh fruit/veggies
Energy bites
Leftover snack mix from weekend

Friday, November 13, 2015

Burrito Bowls

We finally tried making our own version of burrito bowls at home. While we don't have any Chipotle restaurants in our area, nor have I ever ate at one, I've heard plenty about this dish. We're big fans of Mexican meals in our family so I knew everyone wouldn't mind my experimenting with supper.

So can I just say that I love these! There's a lot of amazing flavors going on in this little bowl. I love that I can take advantage of pantry and refrigerator staples in this dish, yet fill my family's tummies with a meal that's filling and healthy all at the same time.

And let's face it, I've got a guy in my house, that also loves hearty meals. So he can certainly throw this mixture all wrapped into a tortilla if he feels the need to. For the record though, he ate a bowl just like we did. It's a painless way for us to sneak more veggies into our lives.

You can be certain I'll be enjoying another bowl for lunch today, the leftovers should be just as good!

Burrito Bowls

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
2 cups prepared rice
chopped tomato
diced bell peppers
chopped cilantro
grated cheese
black beans
corn kernels {thawed, if frozen}
salsa, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine a pinch of both salt and pepper, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Rub spice mixture over chicken breasts. Place onto a baking sheet and bake in oven for 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, prepare rice and chop all veggies. When chicken is done, cut into thin strips or cubes.

To prepare bowls, layer a plate or bowl with rice, lettuce, chicken and any other toppings you desire. Serve salsa on top and enjoy immediately. Makes enough for 6 burrito bowls.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Yogurt Breakfast Parfait

I know mornings are rushed for all of us; I get up early and start in on the packing of lunches and all that good stuff. But it's also important to grab a bite to eat for breakfast. I need to make sure I fuel my body for a busy day with preschoolers.

Depending on how quickly I get going, I have more time some days than others. There's also days where I'm not so hungry, yet I know if I leave the house without anything, my stomach will be growling by 10:00.

Not so much even a recipe, but I love having these parfaits for my morning meal. I'm not generally a big eater so these will keep me feeling full until lunch time. I love making a batch of granola on the weekends to last us through the week or so, even the kiddos enjoy these for breakfast or snacks.

While I've tried making my own yogurt before, it's just not feasible right now for me to do so. We love purchasing this particular brand, it's locally made and we've even had a chance to visit their dairy where they produce their products.

During the summer months we love fresh berries or peaches in our parfaits, but now that it's winter, we love adding pomegranate seeds. They offer a nice tartness and crunch plus they're so good for you!

What is your go-to breakfast in the mornings?

Yogurt Breakfast Parfaits

1 cup yogurt
1/3 cup granola
pomegranate seeds, or other desired fruit

Layer ingredients into a cup or bowl as follows: yogurt, granola and lastly, fruit. Enjoy right away. Serves 1

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Weekly Menu 11/8

We're gearing up for another busy week around our house. Our oldest turns sixteen in just nine days and we're letting her celebrate with friends this Saturday. I'm hoping the weather will cooperate and they can hang out outside around the fire and play some yard games. We'll order in pizza, because after doing the math, it's just going to be much easier for mom to go about it this way and less stressful! That way I have more time to work on her cookie cake she's requested and other treats.

Today though, besides getting chores done around the house; we're really aiming to just relax. I hope you're enjoying a peaceful day as well. Here's what we're planning to eat this week in our house:

Yogurt parfaits {yogurt, granola, pomegranate seeds}
Pumpkin baked oatmeal
Toast w/eggs

Baked potato w/chili
Mini muffins w/yogurt
Leftover lasagna

Veggie lasagna {from freezer}, salad, garlic bread
Pork chops, sauteed veggies, baked potatoes
Panini sandwiches, sweet potato wedges
Burrito bowls
Birthday party- pizza

String cheese
Energy bites

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Veggie Pinwheels

The other day our oldest daughter tells me she needs to find a gift to take to her cross country banquet the next evening. It also happened to be the day where we don't get home for the evening until after 7 pm, still needing to make supper and all. And we were even at the store the night before. Don't you just love children? Ha!

I also needed to make something quick for her to take to the banquet. All families bring a dish and it's one big, happy potluck. Appetizers happened to be our theme for the evening. I love these types of meals because there's always variety and who doesn't love finger foods?

Not having much time to make anything, I quickly threw these pinwheels together.  I used veggies we had on hand, including a red pepper that was probably on it's last leg. And that's the beauty in an appetizer like this, you can always use whatever's in your fridge.

I've been meaning to take the time to create my own ranch seasoning mix, for dips and dressings but I admit, I just have better things to worry about sometimes and grabbing a packet at the store was convenient.

With the holiday season officially kicking off and lots of other events going on; I like the idea of having an appetizer handy that is quick, easy and of course on the healthier side. No matter how hard we try, it's impossible to avoid all of the baked goods this time of year. Keep these ingredients handy and you'll always have a delicious dish ready to go!

Veggie Pinwheels

6 large, tortilla shells
2-8 oz. blocks cream cheese, softened
1 packet ranch seasoning mix
2 cups chopped, fresh spinach
1 large bell pepper, chopped
3 large carrots, grated

In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese and ranch seasoning until smooth.

Lay tortillas out on work surface and spread a thin layer of cream cheese on top. Layer with spinach,  carrots and pepper, and any other veggies you might want to use.

Roll tortillas up and cut into small sections. Place onto desired serving tray or container. Serve right away or refrigerate. Makes about 4 dozen pinwheels.
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