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My Meal Planning Follow Up

11 Dec

Well, I must admit that while planning my meals in advance was a great tool in helping me to stay organized, I didn’t quite stick to the plan the entire week.

However, I will say this was quite a learning experience and I think the more I attempt planning my meals, the more successful I will be.

A few of the things that thwarted my efforts were:

•Not having all of the ingredients in stock. While I was writing out my menu, I should have also been writing a grocery list. In the future I’ll try to have my plan written before Sunday so I can buy all of the ingredients for my menu when I go grocery shopping.

•Not making enough food for leftovers. Well, technically I did make extra food. However, my husband ate it for his lunch the next day. So going forward I will keep this is mind so that I’m not thinking dinner is in the fridge, when it isn’t.

•Not taking into consideration that we had plans for Friday and Saturday. I think my menu will always have a takeout or rotisserie chicken day. This will be for those days when there is a Parent Teacher Night, practices, Holiday parties or whatever is going on at the time. My goal is to write down a list of places that has quality takeout that I can buy when I truly have no time
to cook. I am not a fast food fan so I’m thinking that my favorite grocer’s (Wegmans) salad bar, the rotisserie chicken dinner special sold at Whole Foods and the Thai restaurant that we enjoy, will all be on that list.

So, hopefully my next Menu Planning attempt will be even better. Of course, this experience was not a failure by any meals. I did manage to adhere to the following menu on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday I switched it up and opted to serve a grilled chicken salad instead. I did this because I realized that Meatloaf takes too long to prepare the day of. However, later that night after the kids were in bed, I made the turkey meatloaf and it was served on Wednesday. On Thursday we did have the Quesadillas with various leftovers. On Friday & Saturday we had social events so I did not cook.

So all in all I think it went fairly well and I look forward to planning more often. Below are a few of the pictures I manage to snap of the dinners. Hope my experience helps you and I would love your feedback or ideas on how you plan out your weekly meals.

•Beef & Broccoli Stirfry
~~I used beef short ribs (which I cut into 1/2 inch cubes) for this dish because it cooks quickly and is quite tender.

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•Grilled Chicken Salad
~~As you all know, I love making salads. They are quick, healthy and easy to make. Plus it’s a great way to add in lots of vegetables.

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•Turkey Meatloaf
~~Making your meatloaf the night before allows all of the flavors to combine so that it’s perfect when you serve it the next day. It also makes it easier to cut.

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A Failure To Plan Is A Plan To Fail…Time For Me To Plan My Meals.

5 Dec

Believe it or not, I’m really bad at planning my meals for the week. Which, usually leads to me trying to figure out what’s for dinner as I’m driving home from work. Even worse, that leads to me having to stop at the grocery store on the way home because I’m usually missing one or two ingredients. Having to go to the grocery store at the last minute usually ends up costing me more money and time. I try to work out 5-6 days per week. So if I have to stop at the grocery store then I am usually unable to workout and still have time to cook dinner.

So this week I’m going to try and plan for the week. Do you plan for the week? What’s on your dinner menu this week?

My Menu For The Week:

Sunday~ Shrimp Al forno with mashed sweet potatoes and spinach. Monday~ Beef & Brocolli with bean sprouts.
Tuesday~ Turkey meatloaf with mushrooms and yellow rice.
Wednesday~Hopefully leftovers with a garden salad.
Thursday~ Quesadillas with cheese and whatever is left in my refrigerator.
Friday~Naan Pizza and Salad.
Saturday~Turkey Meatballs & angel hair pasta.

I have high hopes for following through. I will update everyone and let you know how the week goes. I must say that by just writing down my plan I feel like I’m already ahead of the game. Sunday’s dinner plan was done earlier than usual because I had planned for it. I also took out the beef and the ground turkey for Tuesday and Wednesday’s dinner. This way both of those items will be defrosted when I choose to use them. So, cheers to starting off the week with a plan.

BTW, if you are one of my cherished subscribers please also consider liking my Facebook page www.facebook.com/pennylovesblog I also appreciate all of your shares and retweets. As always, Bon Appetit!

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Adding Extra Nutrition To Your Favorite Foods: Ground Turkey With Spinach, Onion & Peppers

15 Nov

This post is not necessarily a recipe post. My purpose today is just to give you an idea about how you can make a few tiny changes and instantly make
your food more healthy and nutritious.

Today’s example is Ground Turkey. I often use ground turkey in lieu of ground beef. I find the 93 percent fat free (93/7) ground turkey to be as juicy and flavorful as the 80 percent fat free (80/20) ground beef. However, the turkey has less fat, cholesterol and calories. While, in my opinion, having all of the taste. I know there is also 93/7 ground beef but I find the 93/7 ground beef to rather dry for most of the recipes I use. I also just prefer the sweetness of the turkey.

I often use 93/7 ground turkey for tacos, pasta sauce and even pizza toppings. Another thing I do is sneak in extra vegetables into my ground turkey. Sure you probably wouldn’t expect spinach in your burrito, taco or pasta sauce but…why not? Spinach takes on whatever flavor it’s paired with and it’s a superfood. Yes, spinach is a superfood! It’s high in protein, low calories, high in Vitamin A & J and a great source of folic acid. That’s just a few of spinach’s benefits and it taste good. When I make ground turkey I usually add in about 1/2 a bag of spinach.

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Yes, half a bag of spinach sounds like a lot but it quickly cooks down. I also always add onions and peppers to my ground turkey mixture. I always try to make my food as colorful as possible. Colorful foods are usually high in nutrition. Of course, that’s excludes skittles. Lol.

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I also like to sometimes put this mixture on top of beans and then add cheese on top. This is great as a dip with tortilla chips or just as a yummy entree.

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This can be made early in the week and used later for whatever dish you prefer. So try it and let me know what you think. Bon Appetit!

Shrimp And Veggies: Quick, Healthy And Delicious

19 Jul
 
 

So tonight I decided that “Darn gone it! I am going to somehow find time to workout, spend time with my girls and make a healthy dinner.” Now, all of this would need to be done after I got home from work (around 5pm) and before my girls went to bed (around 7:45pm).

Well, I worked out…. for a mere 30 minutes. I spent quality time with my girls….I count the time spent in the car. I also made a yummy healthy dinner and it only took about 20 minutes. Which leaves me 10 minutes to write this recipe post. Which, will then leave me just enough time for….uuummm my other half (wink). Whew, a woman’s work is never done.

So anyway, this is a recipe without many rules. Just veggies, shrimp, a little flavored oil and a dash of seasonings. Now, you will notice that I used the oven to make this dish. I know you are saying “What! It’s 90 degrees outside, I’m not turning only oven”.

Well, being able to throw food in the oven is a great way to cook dinner without standing over the stove. Thereby, giving you more time to do something else. Like, practicing sight word flash cards with a 5 year old who’s looking forward to starting Kindergarten in the fall. Or, playing dollies with an almost 2 year who likes to simply rip the clothes off of the dolls, put them back on and then start all over again.

I digress, let’s get back to the food. I love this recipe because it’s healthy, tasty and filling. In case you are wondering about the pine nuts, I used them because I like the crunch it gives to the recipe. You can also top this with a little shaved or grated Parmesan cheese for extra flavor. If you live near a Wegmans I would definitely recommend purchasing their Basting Oil. This oil is a great substitute for fresh herbs. I would prefer fresh herbs and the basting oil but if you don’t have the herbs this oil still gives you a great infusion of flavor in your recipe.

ROASTED SHRIMP AND VEGGIES

1 pound Shrimp (cleaned, deveined and shell off)
1 pound Vegetables (I used asparagus and zucchini)
2 tablespoons Wegmans Basting Oil (or you can use EVOO and just add an extra clove of fresh crushed garlic, and 1 teaspoon of fresh or dry herbs)
2 cloves of fresh crushed Garlic
1 teaspoon Italian Seasonings (a blend of salt, pepper & italian herbs)
1/4 cup Pine Nuts (completely optional)

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

Place shrimp and cut vegetables in a bowl.
Mix in oil and seasonings.
Spread mixture in a aluminum foil lined pan.
Top with pine nuts.
Bake for 7- 10 minutes (depending on size) or until the shrimp turns pink and the flesh is opaque.
Stir the shrimp and vegetables so that all the flavors blend together and serve.

This dish is great by itself or for a heartier meal add in a side of pasta.

Sorry this is the only picture I have of this dish. It was consumed so fast I didn't have time to take pictures of it on the plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like a carpenter needs their tools, every cook should have their arsenal of kitchen favorites. This is one of mine. Look for a future post about all of my favorites.

 

 
 

Fighting Childhood Obesity With Turkey Breast, Jambalaya and Quesadillas..i.e…HOMEMADE MEALS!

22 Feb

So, I was listening to my favorite radio program, NPR’S “Tell Me More” with Michel Martin. On this particular day they were discussing a study that showed that there was a link between working moms and overweight children. You can read the interview here: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/15/133777158/Study-Finds-Link-Between-Working-Moms-Overweight-Kids

My first thought was Ouch! Another shot at the working mom who, like most moms, is just trying to do what she feels necessary for her family. However, I could not help but also think about the children. Being the closeted nerd that I am, I have read articles and listened to countless radio and tv programs discussing study after study showing that our children are having higher rates of juvenile diabetes, cholesterol, and other obesity related diseases. So while I felt the sting of the working mom guilt, I knew that the most important thing is the well-being of our children. 

While I was thinking about this study I thought to myself that this just further proves that we (mothers and fathers) need to try hard at staying away from the fast food and cooking more at home. Now, I must say that I enjoy cooking and when I can really get into it, it is a source of relaxation for me. However, at 5:30pm after a long day of work, when I have just walked into the house and I have a 4.5 year old begging for a snack and a 1.5 year old clutched to my leg like a koala bear, I am as stressed as any mother out there. My husband doesn’t usually get home until a little after 6pm and it is my goal to have dinner on the table no later than 6:45pm. I must also admit that while I do prefer cooking, there are times when I decide to stop at Chick-fil-A.  As the saying goes, it is what it is and we do what we have to do.

However, there is also another saying that I love “Failure To Plan Is A Plan To Fail”. It is with this quote in mind that I try to plan out my meals. I think by taking the time to plan meals for our families, we can help prevent some of the potentials discussed in that study.

Now, I’m not saying that I have a calendar with all 5 days planned out. However, I do try to note in my head or on paper at least 3 meals that I will make during the week. I also try to pick meals that can be made in a larger quantity so we can leftovers the next day.  Finally, one of my secret weapons in the fight against the fast food drive in window is to make dishes (like meats or stews) the night before.  Meats taste better and are more tender if they are allowed to rest and the ingredients in stews (such as my jambalaya below) can better blend together and deliver a tastier dish.

So here are a few ideas for all you busy moms, dads and caregivers, that can help you during the busy work week.

Turkey, Turkey, Turkey!  Roasted turkey breast is one of the easiest items to make.  The recipe is to simply season it and put it in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 – 170 degrees.  I like to also use broth to baste the turkey as it keeps it moist.  There, that’s it!  One of my secrets is to make this the night before.  Now you have a turkey breast that you can carve for sandwiches, cube for salads or just eat with your favorite side dish.

 

Above is a shot of the turkey breast after it has been carved.  I also made a very light gravy using 2 cups of broth, a tablespoon of the turkey drippings (don’t tell my husband I use drippings, he despises the idea of drippings used in food.  But what does he know this is my kitchen, haha) and one tablespoon of cornstarch.  In a saucepan just whisk the cornstarch into the hot liquid and viola.  You can adjust the thickness and taste of the gravy by adding more drippings and cornstarch. 

Above is the same turkey, now it is cubed.  Along with some fresh veggies and we turn that into…(see below)

A Yummy Turkey Cobb Salad in a tostada bowl.  The recipe is simply all of the items (cubed turkey, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, cheese) shown in the above picture and lettuce inside of a tostada bowl.  The dressing I used is a mixture of equal parks guacamole (or you could just mash some avocado) and parmesan ranch dressing. 

Now to the left is a shot of my famous Quesadillas.  Well, they are not really famous but they are a staple in my home.  Now the trick with good quesadillas is to find great tortilla wraps.  You want some that are pliable and not dry.  I find that Trader Joes has the best tortilla wraps.  Their handmade tortilla wraps are never dry and they fold easily.  Now for this recipe it is simply the tortillas and cheese on a hot pan.  Actually, I have stuffed the two closed quesadillas with tomatoes.  You can stuff it with veggies, meat or anything you desire.  I like to spray the pan with Pam and once it is hot put the tortilla on it.  Then I add cheese to half of it and once it starts to melt I fold it.  I then flip it so it is golden brown on both sides.

My final exhibit is below.  It is actually a version on Jambalaya.  It is simply shrimp, chicken & turkey sausage in a tomato & chicken broth sauce.  I also added onions and served it with rice and a few quesadilla wedges.  You can also add corn, peppers or any number of veggies.  Here is a link to a more detailed recipe for jambalaya  http://www.gottarubit.com/2010/12/gottarubit-jambalaya/ .  This freezes well and taste even better the next day. This is another great dish to make the night before.

So I hope these dishes will inspire people to cook more at home and fight the urge to visit the place where you hear “May I take your order please”.  LOL, Bon Appetit!