Monday, November 28, 2011

Meal Planning

Not long ago I decided to buckle down and commit to meal planning. Each Thursday I would come up with a list of items to make and Jesse would take Riley to the grocery store each Friday to pick up the ingredients. It was a little challenging at first to figure out when to make all these items with my schedule, and sometimes it was difficult getting Jesse to figure out where some of these ingredients could be found in the grocery store. Week after week I stayed on track until one week I got a little lazy. I put a few go to items on the list and hoped they would feed us for the week. Over the next few weeks the grocery list started to dwindle until the week that I simply wrote "food" on the list. I felt a little defeated, but knew I had to get my act together. Again, I committed to planning our meals each week. Not every week has been a winner and I certainly could be more organized about it, but I feel I am sort of back on track with meal planning. As long as I use my time wisely, and freeze items when I can we will generally always have good (and hopefully healthy) meals to eat each week.

I usually have a number of tried and true recipes, but I also like to try new things hoping they will be added to the tried and true list. Being that it was recently Thanksgiving week and I needed to bring a pie to our family gathering I thought I would try a new recipe. Jesse's mom usually makes pumpkin pie, but I happened to have her pie tin so we were asked to bring a pie. I thought about going the standard route, but once I came across a pumpkin cheese cake recipe (and got Jesse's thumbs up) I knew I had to try it out.  I found the recipe on which is a site that I had utilized before. Earlier in the fall, after hitting up an apple orchard, I was looking for new apple recipes. I have my grandma's apple crisp recipe (which is fantastic), but I had many, many apples so I thought I would try a variety of items. I found a recipe for Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars that were to die for and figured they would have something fabulous for pumpkin as well. Which leads me back to the Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake. (I would also recommend the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins which I made a few weeks back).

This recipe was super simple, but I might add more pumpkin and delete the whipped topping. This may not exactly fall into the healthy category, but it's the holidays, right?

I know I mentioned that I try to make healthy items, but pretty much everything in this post will include cream cheese (or cream of mushroom or sour cream...). We hardly ever eat cream cheese so it was a little overwhelming to eat so much of it in a short amount of time. In the future I would probably break these recipes up to eat on different weeks. On the up side I used low fat cream cheese. However, we have unofficially banned cream cheese from our house for awhile because I am pretty sure I have consumed my year's quota in one week.

After Thanksgiving I decided to utilize the extra days off of work to do a little more cooking than usual. The next item on my list was another recipe from the site referred to above: Easy Crockpot Fiesta Chicken.

Basically dump chicken, black beans, corn and salsa into a crockpot and cook on high for 4 - 5 hours (see hyperlinks for full recipes). During the last half hour add the cream cheese and serve over rice. This was a hit with our daughter so I will likely make this one again. This recipe goes a long way so I was able to package some of it up and stick it in the freezer for a meal later on.

I also made a staple from my regular recipes. I need to credit a former co-worker, Liz, who brought this in for a work potluck and ended up having to give each of us her recipe since we all begged for it. The pictures are super crappy, but trust me that this one is a winner. Most of this one also went into the freezer since I was making so many dishes at one time. I love having meals already made that I can simply defrost and warm up when I need it. And this might not have had cream cheese in it, but it had cream of mushroom soup and cheese. Creamy.

Liz's Chicken Strata

1 1/2 cups seasoned croutons
2 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1/2 cup shredded American or cheddar cheese
2 slightly beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 can cream of mushroom

  • Place 1/2 of the seasoned croutons in the bottom of a 8x8x2 baking dish.
  • Combine chicken, vegetables, mayo, and seasonings and spoon over croutons.
  • Sprinkle remaining 1/2 of croutons over chicken.
  • Combine eggs and milk and pour over all.
  • Chill one hour or overnight.
  • Spoon mushroom soup over top, and sprinkle with a few croutons.
  • Bake in a slow oven (325 degrees) for 50 minutes until set.
  • Sprinkle cheese on top for the last few minutes of cooking.

I made a few alterations to the above recipe as onions are not my friend. In place of them I added more celery and also added a bunch of fresh mushrooms. Really, you can alter the veggies to your liking and it will come out delish.

Next was a new stuffed mushroom recipe... that included, you guessed it... cream cheese. My husband cringed when he saw me make these as he had already had enough of the cream cheese, but he gobbled these right up. In fact, he made a comment that went something like "if I hadn't already married you these would have convinced me to do so".

And finally Corn Pudding. My husband LOVES cornbread so I thought he might enjoy this recipe. Kinda wish I made chili to go with this, but it was certainly tasty on it's own.

Overall, all the recipes were a hit and will likely be made again... but on different weeks, for sure.

Next week? Fish and veggies sound perfect.

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