Happy New Year!

2 Jan

One of the things that helps my household run smoothly is having a plan for our meals. Having a plan, not only for dinner, but also for breakfast, lunch, and snacks helps us spend less money at the grocery store and have less wasted food.  Another good tip is to have a planned leftover meal, where you get all the odds and ends leftover from the week’s meals and have a buffet.  Then, you have a clean fridge and the cook gets a break.

I like to use the menu planners on Money Saving Mom.  They are downloadable and FREE.  You can get yours here.  I hang the plan on my refrigerator door and everyone knows what we’re planning on eating and what they can choose for a snack if they need one.

I’ll be posting my menu each week and then if I make something that has a recipe I think you would enjoy or find useful, I will post it after I make it.  So, to begin, here is our menu for this week:

Breakfast:  Our breakfasts all week rotate between eggs and toast and oatmeal and yogurt.

Snacks:  The kids can choose between our “snack basket” (more on that tomorrow) or they may have yogurt or fruit from the fruit bowl.

Desserts:  Desserts for this week will be pumpkin pie and mock pecan pie

The rest of our plans are as follows:


Lunch–quesadills, chips and salsa

Dinner–Chili, hot dogs, crackers, cheese


Lunch–sandwiches, pretzels, clementines

Dinner–pork tenderloin, roasted potatoes, salad, lime fruit salad


Lunch— pizza grilled cheese, veggie tray

Dinner–chicken wings, veggie tray, crescent rolls


Lunch–leftover chili, cheese, crackers

Dinner–chicken alfredo, garlic toast, broccoli


Lunch–beef stew, biscuits, fruit

Dinner–Hunsaker skillet, crescent rolls, mandarins


Lunch--sandwiches, pretzels, oranges

Dinner–turkey breast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, fruit salad


Lunch–leftover buffet

Dinner–pizza, veggie tray


Homemade Granola Bars

22 Aug

We are doing quite a bit of traveling this month and I was needing some “road food”.   I really do not like eating out on the road when you can eat healthier and cheaper with a little pre-planning.  My friend Jen found a great homemade granola bar recipe on food.com.  I tweaked it slightly and doubled it, though I would not recommend doubling it unless you have a bowl the size of your washing machine as it is really hard to mix that much.

First take your dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well:

4 cups oatmeal

2 cups flour (I used regular unbleached, but I think it would be delicious with whole wheat pastry flour)

1 cup coconut

1/4 sugar (I used packed brown sugar)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Then add your wet ingredients and mix well with your hands.  Trust me, you must use your hands so that you can get the right consistency.  If you do not, you will have dry ingredients that do not get wet and your granola bars will crumble and you will cry.  USE YOUR HANDS.   After it’s mixed add chocolate chips in and mix again.

3/4 cup coconut oil (you can use vegetable oil)

3/4 cup honey (you can use 1/2 cup honey and 1/4 cup molasses or corn syrup)

1 cup chocolate chips (you can also add dried fruit or nuts if that’s what you like in your granola bars)

Then it is time to press them into the pan.  They must be firmly and evenly pressed in if you want a good, not crumbly bar.  The fact that I could lose an arm wresting match with a three year old did not help me.  What I ended up doing worked beautifully.  Take a sheet of foil and lay it over your mixture.  Then use a rolling pin on the foil to get your bars adequately pressed down.  It looked like this:

Bake them at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.  Don’t let them brown too much or they will be hard.  They will look slightly puffy and soft when you take them out and cool to a perfectly crunchy/chewy texture.  As soon as you take them out of the oven, cut them into bars with a pizza cutter.

Then let them cool in the pan for a while before removing them.  Store them in an airtight container.  They are perfect to pack in lunches, take on hikes, or take on the road.  My husband said they were the first granola bar he has EVER liked!  Hope you like them as well!


Taco Salad

19 Aug

It has been a crazy month as my father has gotten a kidney transplant after waiting for three years.  While we rejoice in that, mama has not been in the kitchen.  Daddy has done a fabulous job, but he doesn’t care to take pictures before he eats. 🙂

A great, quick, go to pantry meal is taco salad.  I used to mix all of my ingredients together and serve.  However, in doing that, no one wanted to eat the leftovers because the lettuce and chips were soggy.  In a great kitchen epiphany, I decided the best way to be sure no leftovers were wasted was to keep the “guts” of my taco salad separate from both the lettuce and the chips.

First, I brown some ground beef and drain it.  Add it back to the skillet,  toss in a drained can of black beans and a can of drained diced tomatoes.  (I used my beloved Red Gold petite diced) EDITED TO ADD: I also add about a tablespoon each of chili powder, garlic powder and cumin.  You can add some taco seasoning if you prefer.  Thanks for pointing that out Jen!

In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup of sour cream and 3/4 cup of Catalina salad dressing.  Add beef mixture and mix well.  On a plate, put crushed chips, chopped iceburg lettuce, beef mixture, salsa and top with cheese.  Sorry for the photo.  It looks gross, but it tastes yummy. 🙂

Pantry Chicken Pasta

3 Aug

Even though I am back to grocery shopping this month, I am still on a quest to see what needs to be used up so that our pantry stock stays rotated and fresh.  There were a couple of boxes of partially used pasta and some chopped cooked chicken that needed to be used.  There was also this can of tomatoes I had been wanting to try in some kind of dish:

I cannot begin to express to you my love for Red Gold tomatoes.  Not all canned tomatoes are created equal, my friends.  I am not a tomato lover, and Red Gold tomatoes make my mouth sing!  I do use other brands when I have to (after all, I get them free!), however, when I want something to taste amazing I go to a can of Red Gold.  I absolutely love petite diced tomatoes over regular diced.  Regular diced are way too chunky for my liking.  This can was flavored with garlic and olive oil and they were amazing.  If you have regular diced tomatoes, be sure to add a couple cloves of garlic and a splash of olive oil.

Pantry Chicken Pasta

1 lb. pasta, any shape

1 can cream of chicken soup

8 oz. processed cheese spread (just use a couple of cups of shredded cheddar if the thought of processed cheese makes your stomach do flip flops)

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained (be sure to add the garlic and olive oil if your tomatoes are unflavored, it adds so much!)

1/2 cup milk

2 cups diced chicken

Cooked your pasta al dente and drain.  Throw it back in the pot and add the rest of the ingredients and stir until all is heated through and cheese is melted.

Mini Crustless Quiche

2 Aug

Frequently the Seminary gets packages of sliced, cooked ham that it gives out for free.  One way my family has always loved to eat it, is diced in an “egg pie” as my kids like to call it.  However, pleasing everyone is hard with the egg pie made in a pie plate.  If you make it to one person’s preference, then someone else doesn’t like it.  Enter the “mini egg pie”.  This way I can make some with only diced ham and cheese and others with different veggies on hand like mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc.  Everyone can eat the one they like.  These puff up and then deflate kind of like a souffle.

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Generously spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray.  Fill the bottom of the tins with diced ham, shredded cheese, diced veggies, whatever tickles your fancy that day.

Whisk 8 eggs together with about 3/4 cup of milk until frothy.  Pour the mixture over the other ingredients and bake for about 20 minutes.

Tropical Banana Bread

29 Jul

The produce that comes into the food bank on Saturdays is a great time to snag some really ripe bananas.  Great for smoothies or banana bread.  This is a combination of several recipes that I tweaked until one worked for us.  It is only slightly sweet.  Some people might like to use a little cinnamon or some vanilla.  I prefer to leave those stronger flavors out to let more of the banana and pineapple flavor shine through.

Tropical Banana Bread

3 cups flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup applesauce

1 8oz can crushed pineapple

5 mashed bananas

1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two bread pans with non-stick spray.  Stir together flour, salt and soda in a medium bowl and set aside.  Combine remaining ingredients and mix very well.  Add the dry ingredients and mix just until moistened.  Pour into prepared pans.  Bake for 45-60 minutes.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely.

Pantry Pumpkin Muffins

21 Jul

I needed a simple lunch.  Something that did not require butter, because I’m out.  I turned to the old stand-by of breakfast for dinner (or lunch in this case) using my pantry friend—baking mix.  These were yummy and not too sweet, which is what we prefer.  Great with scrambled eggs and a tall glass of milk.

Pantry Pumpkin Muffins

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup oil

2 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

2 cups baking mix

6oz white baking chips (or chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add sugar, oil, eggs and pumpkin in a bowl and cream all together thoroughly. Add baking mix and mix just until moistened.  Gently fold in baking chips.  Bake in greased or paper lined muffin tins for 16-20 minutes.  Makes 12 muffins.


Edited to Add:  Please check out the comments for some more yummy muffin recipes!