Our Menu for a Weekend Family Gathering (including our “Fakes-giving” menu)

Tomorrow my sister and her kids and my parents are all coming to our house!  We’ll be celebrating Peter’s 20th birthday (how am I old enough to have two kids in their 20s??).

We’ll also be having and early Thanksgiving dinner (dubbed “Fakes-giving” by the kids), because my nephew is headed to Marine bootcamp in mid-November.  This is the last time we’ll all be together for a long while.

Enchilada Dinner

Peter requested enchiladas for his birthday. That seems easy enough for 13 people, because some of it can be made ahead of time.

white enchiladas

I’ll be making a double batch of these White Chicken Enchiladas.

grilled chicken and cream cheese enchiladas done

I’m also making Enchiladas with Chili-Tomato Sauce. The photo above is actually Grilled Chicken and Cream Cheese Enchiladas, but it’s so, so much better than the photos of the Chili-Tomato Enchiladas, I thought I’d spare you a little bit.

Of course we’ll have chips, guacamole and salsa. And a big salad to combat the cake and candy.

Speaking of cake, Peter requested Pudding Cake. It’s not the most beautiful (and the photo is pretty bad), but it tastes great!  It’s chocolate cake that makes it’s own pudding-like sauce.

Not that anyone needs cake with all the candy that will be around, since it’s Halloween, but that’s what happens when you’re born on October 31.

Early Thanksgiving Meal

My mom is making most of this meal. She’s baking a chicken or a turkey breast. Here’s a recipe for an easy Turkey Breast in the Slow cooker.

turkey breast in slow cooker

And of course we have to have Chicken and Dumplings (or turkey and dumplings).  Mom has already made the dumplings and frozen them. We’ll cook them up on Saturday.

chicken and dumplings done

Cornbread Dressing is a must have for us.

apple cornbread dressing done

We make homemade Cornbread Dressing, but the photo above is Apple Cornbread Dressing that starts with a box mix.

We’ll also be having some vegetables and cranberry sauce.

gingerbread with lemon sauce

And for dessert instead of pie, we’re having Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce.

Another good option would be these Gingerbread Bars with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting.

gingerbread bars with orange cream cheese frosting done

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  I know we will.  We’re definitely going to be eating good!

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Freezing Single Servings for Teenage Boys and Other Hungry People

Freezing Single servings

 

A reader asked the other day about what types of foods are good for freezing in single servings.  She’s got a hungry teenage boy to fill up. (I can relate to that!)

Short of keeping the kitchen open all the time, with a cook waiting on hand, filling the freezer with single serving foods is the best way to keep those boys filled up.  And it works for others in the family too, who need to eat at off hours.

If you’re trying to feed boys, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1.  Include protein.  They like foods that will stick with them.

2.  Make it easy.  Hand-held is good.

3.  Keep a list on the freezer so they know what’s in there and where to find it. Or is it just my boys who forget what I’ve told them?

Here’s a list of recipes that will keep all kinds of  hungry people happy:   [Read more...]

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6 Ways to Use Leftover BBQ Chicken

How to Use Leftover BBQ Chicken

 

No matter if your BBQ chicken was grilled, baked, slow cooked or even a BBQ rotisserie chicken, it is wonderful to have leftovers.  It might not be quite as versatile as plain cooked chicken, but there are still a lot of possibilities.

1.  Fajitas

bbqchickenfajitas_thumb.jpg

We love this version, but you can add any type of veggies you like.  You might even try adding pineapple!

2.  Quesadillas

Instead of wrapping in a soft tortilla, use the BBQ chicken to make quesadillas.  Try adding your choice of cheese, along with bacon and green onions.  Toast until crispy on the outside and melty on the inside.

3.  Nachos

15 Minute BBQ Chicken Nachos

 

I made these 15 Minute BBQ Chicken Nachos with rotisserie chicken, but they’d be even better with BBQ Chicken.  Keep the ingredients handy for game day, because these are great for a party!

4.  Top baked potatoes or baked sweet potatoes

Use leftover, shredded bbq chicken to top baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.  This is a great meal if you’re dealing with a few picky eaters.  You can bake both white and sweet potatoes and let everyone have their choice.  And if they’d rather have the meat on the side, that works too.

5.  Slop Bucket/BBQ Sundae

photo-52

 

I ran across versions of this treat twice this summer.  Basically, it’s a layer of cheesy potatoes, a layer of baked beans, a layer of bbq meat topped with slaw.

Or there’s this version:

10620803_758871124154922_6880181212675736571_n

This one has baked beans on bottom, then cole slaw and topped with meat.

I’ve never done this at home, but why not?  They’re delicious and a little different.  And again, if someone wants to keep all the elements separate, they can do that.

6.  BBQ Chicken Pizza

Top your choice of pizza crust with bbq chicken, bbq sauce, red onion, pineapple and Monterey Jack cheese.  Or change it up with different toppings to go with the chicken.  Sounds like a winner to me!

How do you like to use leftover BBQ Chicken?

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Who are you cooking for?

Dinnertime rolled around the other day and I did not want to stop what I was doing to cook.  I would have been just fine that day eating a simple plate of pasta with chopped tomatoes and cheese.  In fact, that sounded pretty good.

pasta and tomatoes

But I wasn’t the only one who would be eating what I fixed for dinner that night.  I have a husband and son who would come in hungry from work.  A growing daughter, who had a long day of classes.  And a teenage boy, who would be eating dinner later, but would be ravenous after soccer practice.  Simple pasta works for some nights, but not for that one.  I knew dinner would demand some type of protein to satisfy them.

I didn’t cook for myself that night.  I cooked for them.

fifties-prime-time-meatloaf-done

We get a lot of messages about food in our culture.  And we have our own individual likes and preferences.  Sometimes these conflict with who we’re really cooking for.

When you keep things simple and familiar for your young son with sensitivities to textures, you’re nurturing him.

When you avoid certain foods for the child who is allergic, you’re caring for her.

When you serve comfort food to your new husband, because that’s what he likes when you’d rather have a spicy curry dish, you’re showing him love.

When you serve plenty of meat with more meals than you’d care to, because you’ve got growing teenage boys who are in the “age of meat”, you’re nourishing them.

Blueberry Crisp in the Slow Cooker

Theories and ideals are all well and good.  We do want to work to broaden the palates of our children (and picky husbands).  We want to introduce new foods and encourage better eating habits.  But we balance that with meals that both nourish and let our family know that we love them.  That we’re taking care of them.

Who are you cooking for?

 

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How to Use Leftover Meatloaf

6 Ways to Use Leftover Meatloaf

I have to admit – leftover meatloaf in our house doesn’t happen often.  Teenage boys are very good at making sure of that.  But if you do find yourself with a lot of leftover meatloaf here are a few ideas for turning it into a different meal.

Don’t forget that meatloaf slices can be frozen to use another time.

1.  Serve it like Salisbury Steak.

Cook onion slices in a pan and pour in a jar of gravy.  Serve this over the top of reheated meatloaf slices.

2.  Meatloaf Parmesan

Top slices of meatloaf with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella and/or parmesan cheese.  Reheat in the oven, with a quick broil at the end to brown the cheese.  If you’ve got leftover mashed potatoes, add some garlic and cream cheese when you reheat them.

3.  Classic Meatloaf Sandwich

We like it cold with ketchup.

4.  Use it like meatballs

Cube leftover meatloaf and add it to spaghetti sauce instead of meatballs.

5.  Meatball(loaf) Pizza

I’ve had pizza topped with meatballs or sliced meatballs before.  You can do the same thing with leftover meatloaf.  Add other toppings that you like and go for it!

6.  Italian Style Meatloaf Sandwich

Toast hoagie rolls and top with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and any veggies you like (onion, mushrooms, green peppers etc).

 How do you like to serve leftover meatloaf?

 

 

 

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How to Make a $17 Stand Up Desk

standup desk2

 

I’m so happy with this stand up desk we made!  It’s cheap.  It looks nice.  It’s easy to move out of the way when I want to sit down.

In short, (or tall or average), this is the perfect solution for a stand up desk.

Last week, I shared that because of my increased drive time each week, it’s hard for me to want to sit down in the desk chair to work.  I made a make-shift stand up desk one afternoon.

IMG_4997

 

And although it worked okay, it was not an ideal solution.  But it did get me thinking about stand up desks.  A quick google search revealed several nice options in the $200 range.  Too much for me.

And there was a diy option using an Ikea table hack.  I was ready to make a trip to Ikea to buy a Lack table, when I thought of hitting up the thrift store instead.

IMG_5003

 

$15 bought us this ugly thing.

Jim cut the legs off at the right height for me (11″ above my desk surface).  I removed the batwing handle and used black paint I had in the garage.

We also added some stick-on gripper pads on the feet, so it doesn’t scratch the desk.  Those added a couple of dollars to the total, hence the $17 cost.

standup desk side vertical

 

When I want to stand to work, I scoot the chair out of the way and lift the little desk on top of my big desk.  I could add a new handle, but I probably won’t.  I don’t notice those holes at all, other than in that photo.  And it’s easy to pull out the drawer without a handle.

standup desk3

 

There’s plenty of space on the stand up desk surface for my laptop and a calendar too.  And there’s a lot of space left on my desk surface below for things, like my camera.

If you want to build your own stand up desk, I recommend looking for a wooden end table, so the legs can be cut off.  Also look for one with a flat top to it (no elevated edge).

We are not big DIYers, but we did make a charging station a few years ago that is still in use at our house.  We store (and charge) laptops, kindles, cell phones etc in this.

charging station finished

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7 Ways to Use Leftover Rice

How to Use Leftover Rice

Leftover rice is so versatile.  It’s one leftover you’ll be glad to have.  Here are 7 ideas for using it:

Turn it into Cheesy Rice

One of my favorite lunches growing up was cheesy rice.  We would could minute rice and add cheese, but it’s even better if you have long grain white rice or brown rice.

Heat the rice and add any kind of shredded cheese and a generous shake of black pepper.

Make Pizza Rice Casserole

Easy Pizza Rice Casserole

 

I used instant brown rice in this Pizza Rice Casserole, but you can also use leftover cooked rice.  This makes a quick and easy lunch or dinner.

Make Chipotle’s knock-off Cilantro Lime Rice

Reheat the rice, add a splash of lime juice and a handful of chopped cilantro.  Serve it with any Mexican dish.  Here’s the recipe I wrote on the Savings Lifestyle blog.  I used basmati rice, but you can use leftover rice.

chipotle cilantro lime rice done

Make Freezer Burritos

Vary the filling according to what you have available, but this is a great way to use up leftover rice.

freezerburritosdone_thumb.jpg

Make Haystacks

Use taco meat or this slow cooker recipe for Sweet Korean Haystacks.  Either way is great!

Slow Cooker Sweet Korean BBQ Haystacks

Fry it!

Fried rice is easy and a wonderful way to clear out your fridge.  You can use up leftover rice, meats and veggies with this one.

fried rice new pic

Make a salad

Wild Rice or Brown Rice Salad is fantastic for lunches, picnics or as a side dish.

Wild Rice Salad - redeeming leftover rice

 How do you like to use leftover rice?

 

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Naturally Quick Foods – 15 Minute Meal Series

We’ve been talking about making 15 minute meals.  I’ve shared quite a few recipes, but there are lots of possibilities for quick dinners.  When you’re looking for a speedy recipe, there are a few types of foods that work great.

Build your meals from these items and chances are you’re going to have dinner ready in a jiffy.

Beans

I like to use canned beans – black, kidney, pinto, red beans, refried…  They’re all good.  Beans add protein to your meal and pair up with all kinds of other foods.

If you’d rather cook your own from dry beans, here’s a great recipe to use:

slow cooker beans for the freezer done

 

Slow Cooker Beans for the Freezer

Pasta and Couscous

pasta

Almost all pastas will cook in under 15 minutes.  I really like angel hair and fresh or frozen tortellini and ravioli because they cook in about 5 minutes.

Add a sauce, meat, cheese and veggies and you’ve got the makings of a quick meal.

Rice

rice

My favorite rice to use when I need a quick dinner is jasmine.  It cooks in just 15 minutes.  And it turns out great every time.  For some reason, I have trouble cooking other types of rice.  It either takes forever or stays crunchy or the water won’t absorb…  But jasmine rice never lets me down.

Eggs

brown eggs

Is it even possible to cook eggs for a long time?  There may be a few dishes (quiche comes to mind), but most egg recipes are very quick to make.

Add veggies, garlic, cheese and maybe some meat and you’ve got a great dinner.

Tortillas

Using tortillas is a bit of a twist on the old sandwich routine.  Wrap nearly anything in a tortilla, then grill it or bake it or fry it or…  The possibilities are endless.  Quesadillas, quick enchiladas, tacos.  Bonus – these dishes are crowd pleasers!

Migas is a quick meal that combines eggs and tortillas.

Migas my favorite egg dish

What are your favorite ingredients to use for quick meals?

 

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Easy Side Dishes – Beyond Steamed Veggies – Rounding out 15 Minute Meals

I have a tendency to focus on the main dish and forget the sides.  Until we’re nearly ready to sit down.  And then it’s time to quick thrown some veggies in a pan to steam or pull together a salad.

32 Simple Side Dish Ideas

 

This is a post I wrote last year with side dish ideas that go beyond steamed veggies.

These are all easy ideas though.  Some have a simple recipe. Others don’t require a recipe at all.

All of them will help round out your weeknight meals, but still keep it fast.

Click here to see 32 Easy Side Dish Ideas.

Think simple for sides.  Here are a few other ideas that work well:

  • Raw veggies – carrots, celery, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers etc.
  • Fruit (especially good with breakfast for dinner meals)
  • Cheese slices (with soup)
  • Crackers
  • Popcorn – healthier than chips, but great with sandwiches

What are your go-to quick side dishes?

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The One Tool that Makes Cooking Fast

sharp knife and cutting board

 

We’re going back to basics today.

If you have any hope of actually getting a meal ready in 15 minutes, you need to have a sharp knife.  If you’re fighting with a dull knife, the prep work will take too much time.  And you’ll probably hate every minute of it.

But listen close – I’m not sure that many food bloggers would say what I’m about to say …

You do not have to have the best knife or the best cutting board.

You only need to have a sharp knife and a decent cutting board or two.

The items you see in the photo above are what I use every day.

For years I used dull knives, mostly because I didn’t have a lot of expendable income.  But when I finally invested in one, I couldn’t believe the difference it made in my prep time.

And when I say invested, I’m only talking about $50.  I bought that knife (which looks oddly small in the photo, even though it’s full size) at Target.  I also bought a $15 knife sharpener to go with it.  So it’s not a cheap purchase, but we’re not talking hundreds of dollars.

The cutting boards are fine, but nothing special.  The large one is bamboo, bought from Walmart about 10 years ago.  The small one I think is from Pampered Chef.  It’s probably older than the bamboo one.

If you’re in need of a sharp knife, get yourself out to the store and buy one.  Don’t forget the sharpener.  And don’t think you have to spend a lot.  If you have the money and want to get higher quality, fine!  Enjoy!  But you can find decent knives for a reasonable price.

 15 Minute Meals for Back to School

This post is part of our new series on 15 Minute Meals.  You can find the other posts in the series linked here.

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