Easy Apple Salad

Easy Apple Salad

I could have sworn that I had a recipe for Apple Salad on my blog.  In fact, at Thanksgiving time, I started to make it to take to a gathering and the first thing I did was look search the recipe on the site.  Nothing.

So I snapped a few photos and I’m just now getting around to posting the recipe.  This one is great for holiday dinners like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, but it’s so easy that you can also serve it up on a plain old Tuesday night.  If you’re dishing it up for weeknight dinner, use the ingredients you have on hand.  Feel free to skip the pineapple, pecans or grapes.

The recipe is really more method than exact measurements, but the two ingredients that make the dressing are key.  Those are also the two ingredients I can never remember, hence the reason I was searching my blog for the recipe.

Since my search yielded nothing, I called my mom, of course.  Now that I’ve got the recipe posted we can all find it here and talk to our moms about something else.

Here’s what you’l need:   [Read more…]

3 Things that Work in the Kitchen This Week – February 8

3 Things that work in the kitchen

We’ve been working behind the scenes over the weekend to move the site to a new server (again) in an effort to fix some issues we were having with the site going down.  In the process we lost a few posts and the February member page, but all of that has been restored now.  Whew!  The tech part of running a website can get sticky sometimes.

1.  Hooray for 15 minute meals!

Saturday night I did not feel like cooking, but we didn’t want to go out either.  Thankfully, the Whole Food Weekly Meal Plan I shopped with on Thursday had a simple 15 minute supper.  I pulled together Double Cheese Chicken Melts and sweet potato fries.  The chicken melts were supposed to be tuna, but my daughter has decided she doesn’t like tuna so I subbed chicken instead.

2.  Dinner for 9

Friday we had a volleyball tournament all day and my parents were coming in that night.  I knew I should have made a plan for dinner, but I hadn’t done it.  So Friday morning I was scrounging up ideas to feed nine people with something I could make quickly, in the crockpot with ingredients I had on hand.

Slow Cooker Spicy Chicken Soup to the rescue.

spicy chicken soup done

3.  No Super Bowl for us

We didn’t host a Super Bowl party or go to one.  We didn’t even watch it.  Instead, we rummaged for whatever we could find in the fridge and watched an old season of the Amazing Race on Amazon Prime.  Basically, it was a normal Sunday night for us and I enjoyed it!

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

 

3 Meal Planning Tips to Make Dinner Fit Your Busiest Days

3 Meal Planning Tips to make dinner fit your busiest days

It can be so hard to fit in cooking, let alone meal planning into busy days.  But it’s also worth the effort, because it will save you time, energy and money if you do it.  There are a few keys to keeping it realistic though.

1.  Do it fast!

That may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get sucked into a rabbit hole of searching for recipes on the internet.  That can be fun, but so time consuming.  Let’s keep this as simple and quick as possible.

2.  Match the meals to the busyness of your day.

 Do you have a couple of minutes to put food in a slow cooker in the morning, but no time to fix anything at night?  Plan slow cooker meals for these days.
Are you going to have a super busy day?  Look for a 15 minute meal that can be on the table in no time.
Whatever you do, don’t overwhelm yourself thinking you’ll make recipes that take more time than you’ve really got.  Be realistic when making your plan.
(If you’re using a plan from Eat at Home, we’ve got you covered here.  Each week of Traditional and Whole Food have at least one 15 minute meal and one slow cooker meal each week.  Just choose which days those quick meals work best for you.  If slow cooker meals work best, we’ve also got a plan dedicated to our favorite appliance!)

3.  Don’t forget to plan side dishes too.

It’s easy to get so focused on the main dish that you forget the sides.  You can find lots of simple sides here.  I really do like keeping things simple, so if I want a side dish that requires a bit more time or prep, I serve it with a main dish that requires almost nothing – think slow cooked bbq chicken or a ham steak heated in a skillet.

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Want to skip the planning and grocery list making?

We just uploaded February’s Traditional, Slow Cooker and Whole Food Plans into the member area.  Become a member today and let us do the planning for you.  Our members save an hour or two a week in planning time and their time in the kitchen gets shorter too.  Bonus, they’re saving money on groceries!  Find out more about membership here.

3 Things that Work in the Kitchen – February 1

3 Things that work in the kitchen

1.  Pear Tart

Pear Tart with cream cheese frosting

This Pear Tart recipe has been on my site for quite a while now.  Kim, who writes some recipes for Eat at Home posted it.  I finally got around to trying it over the weekend.

Oh my!  This is a delicious recipe!  And it’s really easy too.  The pears I used were perfectly ripe, so I know that made it even better.  I mixed up a quick cream cheese frosting instead of buying it from the store.  I stirred together a couple tablespoons of softened butter, same amount of softened cream cheese, a cup or two of powdered sugar and a bit of milk.

I was also able to find Pillsbury crescent rolls in a sheet instead of the regular kind.  That meant I didn’t even have to press the seams together.  That can be so hard, you know 😉

2.  Homemade Pretzel Surprise

pretzels

When I got back from running a few errands and picking up my daughter from class the other day, the house smelled amazing.  My 17 year old son had decided to make homemade pretzels.  He’d just pulled them from the in oven as I walked in the door.  He even cleaned up the kitchen when he was done baking.  Also a nice surprise!

3.  The Slow Cooker

I talk about using slow cooker/crockpots a lot, but it’s just so easy.  I shopped with the slow cooker grocery list last week.  It’s such a good feeling to know you’ve got dinner done, no matter what else happens during the day.

We had Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwiches, Smokey Chipotle Chicken Tacos, soups and more – all from the slow cooker.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

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Maple Balsamic Roast Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner

 

Maple Balsamic Roast Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner

I’ve been loving sheet pan dinners.  They’re easy to make, healthy and there’s an endless variety of flavors you can bring.  It’s also a great way to eat lots of veggies.

For this Maple Balsamic Chicken dinner, I used bone-in chicken thighs that I got on sale.  I’d love to try this again with boneless, skinless chicken.  Chicken thighs aren’t my favorite cut, but it was such a great sale, I couldn’t pass them up.  This recipe will work equally well with any cut of chicken or even pork.

Maple Balsamic Chicken assembled

I added brussels sprouts and butternut squash to the pan.  I seasoned the squash similar to my favorite Butternut Squash Skillet recipe.  The squash is added to the pan along with the chicken.  The brussels sprouts, don’t need to cook as long, so they get added later.  I seasoned them with a generous shake of salt and pepper.

Maple Balsamic Chicken ingr

Maple syrup is one of my favorite Costco purchases.  I use it for a lot more than pancakes and waffles.  If you don’t have real maple syrup, you can use honey in this recipe.

Maple Balsamic Roast Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner

Serves: 6-8 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil, plus extra
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 lbs. chicken, any cut is fine
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. thyme leaves
  • 1 bag brussels sprouts, cut in half
Instructions
  1. Mix 1 Tbs. olive oil with vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, salt and pepper.
  2. Pour over chicken and toss to coat.
  3. Place chicken on large sheet pan that's been brushed with olive oil.
  4. Toss butternut squash cubes with drizzle of olive oil, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, salt and pepper.
  5. Pour onto sheet pan next to chicken. (You may need to use more than one sheet pan if you don't have one big enough.)
  6. Place in oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, toss brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  8. Pull pan from the oven and add brussels sprouts. Continue roasting for 10-15 minutes more or until chicken is done.

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We include lots of easy meals like Maple Balsamic Roast Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner in our Weekly Meal Plans.  Find out more about how we do the planning so you’re cooking is simple.

 

Have you ever really tasted canned tomatoes?

Red Gold product cutting supplies

Canned tomatoes are a staple ingredient for me, and for most of you too.  I have a whole drawer in my pantry dedicated to various tomato products.

But somehow, I’d never given much thought to the differences in quality of those products.  Until now.

Red Gold sent me a product cutting kit to test their whole, peeled tomatoes against Hunt’s brand.  I took a bunch of photos so you can see the difference.

Red Gold can open

The first thing I did was open the Red Gold can.  The photo above is exactly as it was when I opened it.  Four nice looking, whole tomatoes were near the top.  The media (juice) looked red and I noticed a good tomato scent.

Red Gold tomatoes in pan

I poured the Red Gold tomatoes into the provided pan.  All the tomatoes were whole and looked very good.  There was one tomato that was much smaller than the others, but overall they were uniform in size.

Red Gold product cutting Hunt's can open

Next I opened the Hunt’s can.  This is exactly what it looked like when I opened it.  I couldn’t see any whole tomatoes at the top of the can.  The media (juice) looked thick and red though.

Red Gold product cutting Hunt's in pan

I poured the Hunt’s can into the pan.  There were a few whole tomatoes, but many were squished.

Red Gold product cutting side by side

Above is a side-by-side photo so you can see the differences.

Appearance ratings:

On the Red Gold score sheet, there are five different ratings for appearance.  Each is rated on a scale of five, with 1 being poor and 5 being extraordinary.

Red Color of Tomatoes

The brighter the hue of red, the higher the score.  I gave both Red Gold and Hunt’s a score of 4 on this.

Uniformity of the Size of Tomatoes

The less variation in size, the higher the score.  I gave Red Gold 5 on this.  Hunt’s earned 3.  It was hard to tell if the Hunt’s tomatoes were uniform in size, because many of them were squished or in pieces.

Tomato Integrity

The more firm the tomatoes look, the higher the score.  Red Gold earned 5.  Hunt’s earned 2.

Amount of Peel and Seeds Present in Sample

The less peel and seeds, the higher the score. Red Gold earned 5, because I saw no peel or seeds.  Hunt’s earned 1. On of the Hunt’s tomatoes still had most of the peel on it. Another had a significant amount of peel.  I also saw many seeds in the Hunt’s.

Media

The red and thick juice is the media. The better the color and consistency, the higher the score.  This is the only indicator that Hunt’s may have edged out Red Gold.  Hunt’s media was very thick and red, almost like tomato sauce.  I gave it a rating of 4.  Red Gold’s media looked good, but it is a bit thinner and lighter than Hunt’s.  I gave it a score of 3.

Flavor ratings:

The final two ratings on the score sheet are for flavor.  For this rating, a tomato from each can is cut in half.  Notice the appearance, then taste for flavor.

Red Gold cut in half

The flavor of Red Gold tomatoes is very good.  It’s bright and not far off from a fresh picked tomato.

Red Gold product cutting Hunt's cut in half

Hunt’s tomatoes did not taste good.  I was pretty surprised by how badly they tasted.  There was a distinct metallic taste.  They tasted like an old can.  Not good.

Intensity of Tomato Flavor

The more tomato flavor, the higher the score.  Red Gold earned a score of 5.  Hunt’s earned a score of 2.

Attributes

Tomatoes should taste garden fresh without any off notes.  Red Gold earned 5 here.  I could easily eat a plate of these by themselves.  I gave Hunt’s a score of 1.  They just really weren’t good.

Score totals:

Red Gold – 32

Hunt’s 17

I was very surprised at the difference between the brands.

Red Gold is Non GMO certified and uses a Non-BPA Liner for their cans.  Both of these add to the quality of the tomatoes.

Have you ever tried Red Gold tomatoes?  The next time you open a can, take a bite before adding them to your recipe.  I’d love to know what you think.

Disclosure:  Red Gold sent me the product cutting kit.  I have been compensated by Red Gold for this post, however all opinions are my own.

3 Things That Work in the Kitchen – January 25

3 Things that work in the kitchen

1.  Maple Balsamic Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner

Maple Balsamic Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner

I came across a great sale on chicken thighs at the grocery the other day.  Eleven thighs in the pack for just $4.44!  I put part of them in the freezer and used part to make Maple Balsamic Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner.

Along with the chicken, I used butternut squash and brussels sprouts.  I’ll be sharing the recipe soon!

2.  Snow storm, grocery shopping and quick planning

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 10.51.09 AM

I shared this on Instagram on Thursday.  The weather reports were predicting a big snow storm for us on Friday (and they were right!).  Thursday is my regular shopping day, but I hit the store earlier than usual, armed with our Slow Cooker list.  I love, love, love being able to spend 2 minutes printing a list and knowing we’ll be covered for meals through the week.

I was also really glad I went to the grocery early, before it got busy.  By the time I finished my shopping around noon, things were starting to pick up and it was getting crazy in there.

3.  Sunday Snow Day Stew and Homemade Bread

I decided to make Pioneer Woman’s Sunday Stew recipe while the snow piled up outside.   It looked like perfect snow day food and it was.  Adding the ingredients for that meal to my printed grocery list only took a minute.

The stew is thick, beefy and served with mashed potatoes.  We also make a batch of Homemade Whole Wheat Bread.

One thing I noticed – Pioneer Woman’s stew beef was cut in much larger pieces than what we get in stores around here.  I wonder if the size of stew meat is a regional thing?

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If you’d like to skip the planning and still have organized meals that are quick and easy to make, check out our Weekly Meal Plans!

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

 

Cranberry, Pecan, Mandarin Spinach Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Cranberry, Pecan, Mandarin Spinach Salad

Adding pecans, dried cranberries, red onions and mandarin oranges to your spinach makes for a great salad.  This is more method than recipe.

Feel free to vary the ingredients for what you have on hand.  Use apple, celery, raisins, walnuts, sesame seeds…  You can also add goat cheese, feta or Parmesan.

I love a slightly sweet vinaigrette with this salad.  It’s easy to whip up homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette.  You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry now.

This is the type of salad I could eat and eat.  And that’s a great way to pump up your daily fresh fruits and vegetables!

Raspberry Vinaigrette
Ingredients
  • 3 Tbs. seedless raspberry jam
  • ⅔ cup oil
  • ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Warm the jam in the microwave for a few seconds until it become slightly melted.
  2. Place all ingredients in a container with a tight fitting lid. A mason jar works well for this. Shake to combine the ingredients.

 

National Soup Month with Bear Creek Dry Soup Mixes (and a giveaway!)

Bear Creek Soup with a cozy fire

The first part of our winter was so warm and nice.  We had to turn the heat off in the house on Christmas day so we could enjoy a fire that morning.

Now that we’re well into January, the weather has shifted.  It’s 12 degrees outside right now, with snow in the forecast for tomorrow.  Brrr!  No wonder some smart person set January as National Soup Month.

I love any kind of soup.  Paired with a salad or warm bread – or paired with a fire in the fireplace – soup warms both body and soul.

Bear Creek Soup Mix

I’ve shared Bear Creek Soup Cups with you before.  But I also really like their soup mixes that make a whole pot to share with the family.  These are wonderful for stocking the pantry, so you can have soup anytime you need a quick lunch or dinner.  My youngest son is home with a bad cold today, so I’ll be making the Chicken Noodle Soup for his lunch.

Bear Creek Soups are so easy to make and they only take minutes.

Bear Creek Soup

Last week we had Creamy Chicken Soup by the fire while it snowed outside.  The Creamy Chicken Soup has small shell pasta in it, so it’s filling as well as being warm and tasty.

Giveaway on Instagram

Bear Creek Foods has another giveaway for you this month!  Submit a photo on Instagram showcasing you all bundled up in your winter gear for the chance at a winter warm-up, a month’s worth of Bear Creek Dry Soup Mixes!  Tag Bear Creek (@bearcreekfoods) and use the hashtags #NationalSoupMonth and #WinterWarmUp

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Bear Creek Soups. The opinions and text are all mine.

3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – January 18

3 Things that work in the kitchen

1.  Wood Butter

wood butter

Also called board butter or wooden spoon butter.  Whatever you call it, this stuff is great!

My cutting boards and wooden utensils have been so dried out, bleached and rough.  I finally broke down and bought this board butter from Amazon.  It makes a huge difference in the wood and worked on my bamboo cutting board and utensils too.

It smells like honey, because it’s made with beeswax and mineral oil.  My hands felt pretty nice after rubbing it into the boards and spoons.

2.  A really nice, new saucepan

3 quart pot

My old 3 quart Revere Ware saucepan had seen better days, to say the least.  It was no longer flat on the bottom and rocked on the burner.  I finally decided to replace it with something new.

A search on Amazon yielded this one from Cook’s Standard.  The great sale (Amazon pricing changes quick, so it may not still be on sale now), combined with the 5 star reviews convinced me to buy.

I can’t believe how much better this pot is than my old one!  The best thing is how easy it is to clean.  It wipes out nearly as easily as a non-stick surface.  I’m considering replacing some of my other pots and pans with this brand.

3.  Healthy Breakfast

I tend to eat the same thing for breakfast everyday.  I’ll switch things up every six months or so, but I like eating the same meal every morning for a few reasons.  It makes things really simple.  It’s easy to get in a routine of making breakfast quickly without having to think about things, when you make the same thing every day.

For over a year, breakfast has included a green smoothie.  A few weeks ago, we decided to switch from toast and bagels to eggs and vegetables.  Zucchini, red bell pepper, tomatoes and scrambled eggs go really well with the green smoothie.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

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