Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chicken Divan

My family makes a super simple, super yummy version of chicken divan. Its pretty much a staple in all of our menus. I make it quite often, though I realize I've never posted the recipe. This is one of the first chicken dishes that my then-vegetarian roommate in college tried and liked... and eventually led to her becoming a meat eater. :) I often put it all together and freeze it to bake later. It also freezes and thaws very well if you want to freeze after cooking, too. You can make this to suit your tastes, its very versatile. I generally use broccoli and cauliflower as my veggies, but I've made it with green beans, corn, and carrots, at different times, too. Broccoli and cauliflower are my favorites, but I also like it with green beans and then I use a cream of mushroom soup and it tastes like a green bean casserole on the bottom.

Chicken Divan

frozen veggies (broccoli and cauliflower are my favorites to use, but you can use anything you like)
cream of whatever soup (use your favorite... cream of celery is my favorite to use with this)
shredded cheese
boneless skinless chicken breasts
bread or cracker crumbs (optional)

Adjust the quantities depending on the size of your pan. If I don't want many leftovers, I generally use a 9x9 square glass baking dish. For that, I use the equivalent to one of the 16 oz bags of frozen veggies, 1 can of soup, maybe 1/2-1 cup of cheese, and three or four chicken breasts, depending on their size.

Pour your frozen veggies into the bottom of your pan. Open up your soup and spread it over top of the veggies. Sprinkle cheese on top of the soup. Place chicken breasts on top of the cheese. You can sprinkle with bread or cracker crumbs if you want... I don't generally do that, though. Cover with aluminum foil. Then just bake it in a 350 degree oven. You can bake it all frozen (even the chicken), but that takes about an hour and a half, probably. If the chicken is thawed, then I think I probably bake it for about 40-45 minutes, maybe. I just keep an eye on it till it looks done. You'll want to remove the foil during the last 15-20 minutes or so.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

Last week went much better than the week before, thankfully. It was my first week of doing Plan A, and even though I ended up working 38 hours (instead of the 32 I had planned), which included a 3.5 hour conference call from home on my Plan A day... I really felt so much more relaxed and at ease. So that was a good thing. On Wednesday, I started coming down with that bad cold that is going around. I made a quick trip to the store to pick up some Emergen-C and Echinacea to try to kick up my immune system and beat the cold. It worked!! Emergen-C is the best thing ever. I thought I'd be sick all weekend, especially after how I was feeling on Thursday. But by Friday afternoon, I was feeling back to normal. For once, I kicked the cold's butt instead of the other way around!! Woohoo!!!

This week will be a busy one with Halloween activities. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, even though I haven't gotten into it like I used to these last couple of years. Its just such a fun time, dressing up in costumes, awesome decorations, fun food, and everyone just enjoys themselves. I'm really looking forward to Halloweens to come as Carson gets a little older and really gets into it, too. We're hoping our property will be ready next year to begin a new tradition - an annual fall/Halloween party!

Today, we'll be going to church and then just hanging out at home and working in the yard sweeping up leaves (Kevin & Carson), burning some stuff (Kevin), doing oil changes on the cars (Kevin), cutting back the perennials (me), digging more carrots from the garden (me & Carson), freezing more brussels sprouts (me), making and canning applesauce (me & Carson - he likes to turn the handle on the peeler/corer), and cleaning (all 3 of us). Monday and Tuesday will be pretty normal days and Carson and I will be working on some more fun Halloween crafts in the evening. Wednesday we have swim class. Thursday I might take Carson up to one of the malls for trick-or-treating, but we'll just see how the night goes. Friday we have our first tumbling class in the morning, then some friends may be coming over in the early afternoon, and in the late afternoon we'll be heading to Impression 5 in Lansing for a Halloween party. And Saturday is Halloween! We'll be going over to my SIL's for dinner, trick-or-treating in their subdivision, and then over to my in-laws' house to hang out. Should be a fun week!

Here's a look at the meals...

Sunday - arabic baked chicken with potatoes and carrots; homemade applesauce

Meatless Monday - peas and cheese tortellini with peas, broccoli, and carrots; home-canned pearsauce

Tuesday - spinach and mushroom lasagna from the freezer; steamed green beans; home-canned peaches

Wednesday - swim class tonight, so its a portable meal... PB&J sandwiches; yogurt; apple slices

Thursday - we'll be eating at my parents' house since my mom is watching Carson

Friday - tumbling, playdate, and Impression 5 Halloween Caper. We'll be having pizza at the Halloween party.

Saturday - Happy Halloween!! I'll be making goulash to take over to my SIL's; she'll have a veggie and some bread; and I think I want to make a fun dessert, though I'm not sure what yet.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Crockpot Beef Stroganoff

I tried another tasty recipe from 365 Days of Slow Cooking tonight for dinner - beef stroganoff. I've never made beef stroganoff, but Kevin and I both like it and Kevin wanted a home-cooked meal with beef (I thought I'd never hear the day when he wanted a home-cooked meal over eating out!!), so I thought, why not try it? This was super easy to throw together and it tastes soooo good!! All three of us loved it. I served it over egg noodles, instead of rice. Its very filling and this make a good amount. I'm going to try freezing some of the leftovers since this is too heavy for me to eat at lunch and Kevin's away during the week. Hopefully it freezes and thaws well.

Crockpot Beef Stroganoff

1 1/2 lb boneless beef round steak, trimmed of fat and cut into bite size strips
2 tbsp onion soup mix (I just used the whole packet)
1 jar (14.5 oz) sliced mushrooms, drained (home-canned)
1 can (10 1/2 oz) condensed cream of mushroom soup (home-canned)
1/2 cup sour cream
4 oz. cream cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives (left these off)
rice or noodles

In 2-3 quart slow cooker (I used my big one since it was out and its a 6-quart and it did fine), mix beef strips and dry soup mix until evenly coated. Top with mushrooms and soup. Cover; cook on low heat setting 7-8 hours. About 30 minutes before serving, cook rice (or noodles). Just before serving, stir sour cream and cream cheese into beef mixture. Serve over rice or noodles. Sprinkle with chives.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

A new week. Hopefully this week is better than my week last week. I hit a wall on Tuesday - and was seriously just plain mentally exhausted for the rest of the week. It sucked. The good news is that I am starting Plan A this week! Its a program that is available to all state employees here. You basically are still a full-time employee on paper - accruing 40 hours/week towards retirement, you don't pay more for benefits, etc. - but you only work 32 hours a week... and only get paid for 32 hours/week. Its kind of like taking voluntary furlough days. The 20% pay cut isn't too appealing, but my mental sanity and the extra time with my Little Man is totally worth it... ten-fold! :)

After my week last week, I haven't really given much thought to the week ahead yet. So I'm sure things will change as the week goes on. Tuesday will be a long day in Detroit for me... and I'm really hoping that things at work start to simmer down a bit after our workshop on Tuesday... keep your fingers crossed for me! Of course, we have swimming on Wednesday. On Friday, my friends Jenny and Melissa are coming over with their kids for a playdate. So that will be fun! And on Saturday, we'll go to a local orchard in the morning if the weather is nice. And in the late afternoon, we'll be going to a fall-themed party at a local gymnastics place that Carson will be starting a tumbling class at near the end of the month.

My goals this week are pretty basic. I've fallen behind on cleaning this last week and a half, so I want to do some thorough, deep cleaning, especially in the kitchen and in the bathroom. I'll be working on getting a bunch of tulip bulbs in the ground this afternoon, as well as some black eyed susans that a friend shared with me. I also want to hose down Carson's slide/climber and playhouse this afternoon. The slide/climber will be brought into the family room for the winter and the playhouse will go into the barn. Tomorrow night, I'll hook up the lawn sweeper and Carson and I will drive around on one of the tractors, sweeping up the fallen leaves in the yard. I won't really have a lot of time on Tuesday or Wednesday... and what little I have will be spent on picking up the house. Thursday night, I'm not planning anything but fun stuff with Carson. We'll be making some more fall and Halloween crafts and we'll just do what the little man wants to do. The weekend will be filled with fun stuff, as well.

So, on to the meals...

Sunday ~ baked potato soup; beer bread; organic store-bought applesauce

Meatless Monday ~ goat cheese, black bean, and corn quesadillas; home-canned pearsauce

Tuesday ~ I'll be in Detroit all day for a workshop. We'll eat at my parents' house since my mom is watching Carson.

Wednesday ~ Swimming tonight... so portable... sliced beef sausage; sliced co-jack cheese; crackers; peanuts; apple slices

Thursday ~ greek chicken pasta from the freezer; steamed green beans from the freezer; home-canned peaches

Friday ~ Friends are coming over in the morning; Carson and I will have breakfast for dinner... whole grain pancakes; home-canned blueberry syrup; home-canned pearsauce

Saturday ~ Orchard in the morning; Gymnastics in the late afternoon; dinner is TBD... but probably eating out in Grand Blanc some place since we'll be at the gym till 6pm. crockpot beef stroganoff; steamed green beans; home-canned peaches

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

Another week ahead of being a single working mom... and you know, its actually not as bad as it used to be... I think I'm getting used to it. We're just trying to make the best of it. Kevin flies back to Virginia early Monday morning and returns late Friday night again this week.

I've been trying to channel Carson's creative side more and more lately. We've been trying to do something creative every night after we eat dinner and before bath time and our bedtime routine. Whether its just coloring, play-doh, or a special project, Carson loves it! We went out one night last week and looked for pretty, brightly colored leaves on the property. We brought them in and pressed them between wax paper and the pages of the phone book. We'll use them for some fun crafts this week. We'll make a crown for Carson to wear, a placemat and coasters with clear contact paper, and we'll do some coloring over top of them. We might attempt a spider hat this week, too... but I think we might save that one for next week.

This Friday is my Flex Friday. I really hope the weather is nice! I'd like to take Carson to a local orchard in the morning. And in the late afternoon, we're planning to meet up with my cousin, Michelle, and head to East Lansing to eat a quick dinner downtown and then watch the MSU Homecoming parade. So hopefully the weather is ok... as long as its not raining or snowing, we'll go. If the weather is bad, maybe we'll take a trip to Safari Playground - its this really cool indoor playground near where we live. Then on Saturday, we're planning to take Carson to his first Spartan tailgate(s) for Homecoming. Hopefully the weather is good for that, too.

I won't do much in terms of extras this week. I plan to pick up a bushel of apples at the orchard on Friday, so I would like to do a couple batches of applesauce on Saturday after the tailgates. I also want to bake some apple muffins on Saturday. And that's probably it for the week.

I'm still taking the easy route on our dinners. Easy and fast is essential right now. Having Carson's favorites is also a bonus since he'll eat them best and we get through dinner more quickly. So here's the plan...

Sunday - baked ziti; roasted brussels sprouts and carrots from the garden; organic store-bought applesauce

Meatless Monday - We'll be eating at my parents' house since my mom is watching Carson.

Tuesday - chicken divan from the freezer; home-canned peaches

Wednesday - Swim class tonight, so a portable meal... PB&J sandwiches with organic PB and homemade raspberry jam; sliced co-jack cheese; zucchini bread muffins from the freezer

Thursday - hot dogs; organic mac & cheese from a box; apple slices

Friday - Its my flex day! Orchard in the morning, MSU Homecoming parade in the afternoon. Dinner in East Lansing.

Saturday - Go Green! Going to the Spartan tailgates in the morning. We'll eat lunch in East Lansing. I'll probably throw something in the crockpot for dinner... likely to be chicken tortilla soup. I'll pull some zucchini yeast rolls out of the freezer to have with the soup.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Muffins

Carson and I made some pumpkin pie muffins this morning. The recipe comes from my Ellie Krieger: The Food You Crave cookbook. I've made these before and had frozen most of them for breakfasts on the run and snacks, but realized I never posted the recipe. These are very tasty muffins - they do taste a lot like pumpkin pie, so if you like pumpkin pie, you'll love these! We made mini-muffins this morning and got 48 of them from this recipe. Plenty for us to share and still have lots to freeze! We're taking some over to my SIL's house tonight when we take them dinner. I made regular sized muffins last time and I think I got 20 from this recipe. My muffin tins must be smaller than Ellie's regular muffin tins since the recipe says you only get 12 muffins.

Pumpkin Pie Muffins

Cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds (I left these off)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Beer Bread

This recipe comes from our cousin, Melissa, on Kevin's side of the family. This has to seriously be the easiest bread to make... ever. Only three ingredients, just mix, throw it into a loaf pan, and bake. And not only is it easy - it is absolutely delicious! I love recipes like this! I made this on Sunday to go with our broccoli cheese soup while our friends were over for lunch. Everyone loved it. I used a Sam Adams Octoberfest beer for this loaf. You can switch up the beers for slightly different flavors. Just use whatever type of beer you have in the fridge. I've made it with Oberon before and it was very tasty then, too. Melissa mentions on her blog that its great with a hard cider, so I think I might try that next time.

Beer Bread

3 cups self-rising flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 bottle/can any flavor beer

Mix all ingredients until dough forms. Add dough to a medium loaf pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown and baked through.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

I had thought this week would be a somewhat normal week, with Kevin home from Germany. He got home Thursday evening. When he went in to work on Friday, though, he was given the option to go to Rogersville, Tennessee (near the TN-Virginia border) for at least the next four weeks. In the automotive world, when you are given choices like this, you basically have to take them if you want to ensure job security. They're basically testing your loyalty to the company. If Kevin says no, he'll either never get a promotion, or he'll risk being cut during one of the next rounds of lay-offs. And in the automotive world, you're not given all of these opportunities to travel unless you're thought of highly... they won't waste their money sending someone around the nation/globe if they don't see potential in that person. So being asked to do all this traveling is a good thing... but it sure makes life at home different. My job just got insanely busy with our budget boilerplate language for a project I work on, so from now till May 1st, we're going to be absolutely slammed at work. So its definitely not ideal timing, but that is out of our control. We'll manage through it, we always do. :)

So anyway, Kevin leaves Wednesday for Tennessee for at least the next four weeks... and it could be longer. After the Tennessee thing, it sounds like he'll be in Mexico again for a week or two, and then in Lafayette, Indiana for a week or two. So it doesn't sound like Carson and I will be seeing much of Kevin through the end of the calendar year.

With Kevin gone so much, you won't see as many new recipes here and the menus will probably all be super easy and maybe even somewhat boring. I'll have to refer back to lots of prep-ahead techniques that I haven't been using much of lately. Otherwise, Carson and I will never have a good dinner on the table in a decent amount of time.

Last week, my friend, Lina, and I signed up for a scrapbooking class that starts this week... and runs four weeks... so basically this is the only week it looks like I'll be going. Its on Monday night. Tuesday, I had planned to go hang out with some moms in our town, but I've canceled that since it'll be our last night of normalcy during the week for a while. Wednesday, Kevin leaves in the morning and I'll be taking Carson to his swim class in the evening. Saturday is my cousin Megan's baby shower, so that will take up a good part of my day. Hopefully Kevin can fly home Friday night and not Saturday morning so he has some time with Carson.

I was able to make and can a few batches of pearsauce last week. This was my first time canning with bosc pears and it was much easier than using bartletts. I think bosc pears should be labeled the perfect canning pear. They're crisp enough when ripe to use an apple peeler/corer with ease and they don't turn to mush when you cook them down. Even though there are still lots of bosc pears on the trees in our orchard still, I'm going to have to call it quits on the pears this year, I think. I can't take Carson out to pick them with me since he follows me up the ladder, and with Kevin gone and with it getting dark earlier now, I won't be able to get out to pick anymore this year. So I guess I'll have a short canning break before I make a trip to a local orchard for seconds on apples to make lots of applesauce. I think I'll take Carson to an orchard on my next flex Friday so I can get that started.

This week, I won't have a lot of time for extras. But I do hope to squeeze in just a couple easy ones. I want to prep a bag of whole grain pancake mix and I'd also like to bake pumpkin pie muffins so I can re-stock my muffin stash in the freezer. I also want to swap out some pictures in our frames in the hallway since I haven't updated them in awhile.

So, anyway, here's the plan for meals this week...

Sunday - Lina, Sean, and Vayla are coming over today since the weather looks good (instead of yesterday with the rain). We'll be having lunch together. We're having crockpot broccoli cheese soup (with broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots all from our garden); beer bread; fresh cut up apples and pears; apple pie. For dinner, I'll make lamb chops; mashed red potatoes with spinach and onions in them; and organic store-bought applesauce.

Meatless Monday - I am going to my scrapbook class tonight, so Kevin and Carson will be on their own. I'm going to bake a crustless quiche (with broccoli, spinach, carrots, onions, cheddar, and swiss) on Sunday so they can just warm it up tonight. They can open up a jar of home-canned peaches to go with it.

Tuesday - mexican lasagna; watermelon

Wednesday - I will be in Detroit for meetings during the day and we have swim class tonight, so we need something portable to eat in the car. Sliced co-jack cheese; sliced summer sausage; crackers; raw carrot matchsticks from the garden; peanuts; apple slices.

Thursday - I'll be in Windsor, Ontario all day for meetings. We'll have leftover mexican lasagna; organic store-bought applesauce

Friday - We'll probably eat at my parents' house since my mom is watching Carson.

Saturday - I'll throw something in the crockpot before I leave for the shower in the morning so dinner will be ready. TBD at this point. I'm debating between chilupe, or just a pork roast with potatoes and carrots from the garden.