Happy Fall everyone! It’s been just over a year since my last blog post. Anyone remember my last post about us suddenly buying a new home and putting our current one on the market? I’m happy to report all went well, we settled in fairly quickly, and we cruised right into the holiday season. Excited to share our new space with friends and family, we filled our calendar hosting gatherings that varied from 10 yr old birthday laser tag around the yard (crazy!), to Thanksgiving with family, Father Daughter Dance middle school pre-party, Christmas Eve dinner with friends, Memorial Day backyard fiesta, and many random taco bars to watch the “big game” and dinner parties in between. What I love about all of these events, both big and small, is that I can remember at least one memorable dish from each menu that stood out. The entire meal might have been good, but without fail, I can remember the one dish that everyone loved and was enjoyed by all. Funny enough, those are always the ones that I get an email or text about requesting the recipe for. I guess the takeaway is– don’t be afraid to have friends and family over! You can serve them a whole meal from your kitchen or someone else’s, and they will likely only remember one of those dishes.
A year later, which for me translates into my 11th year of meal calendars, I can look back on all the main events that occurred over the past year. So much of what’s on our monthly calendars show what life was like that particular month. As I have mentioned before, it’s my scrapbook of sorts.
January- predictably shows lots of salmon and veggies after the holiday sugar high. February- plenty of cold-weather dishes like chicken curry and soups as well as delicious, naughty super bowl treats. March/April- lots of standard go-to recipes like southwest chicken salad, chicken meatballs, and burrito bowls; showing little time with an epic ski season, flag football and baseball in full swing. May- with warmer weather and several family birthdays and holidays, the calendar shows special dishes like grilled scallops and asparagus, grilled tri tip with lots of yummy sides, and favorite restaurant reservations. June- early summer produce at the farmer’s market provided easy dinners like BLT sandwiches, shrimp tacos with corn, and quesadillas with grilled veggies. July- July was nothing short of crazytown. We lived at the ballpark the entire month and when our dinner wasn’t from the snack shack, it was in a container sitting in the stands. Thankfully, kale and couscous salad travels really well. Let’s be honest though, mostly it was snack shack dinner followed by a bowl of cereal at home or hotel. When it got really crazy, dinner came from a Chick Fil A drive through window- Ben’s first drive through! Maybe 3rd or 4th for Syd and Ry. I had never had a chicken sandwich from Chick Fil A, but now I know what all the fuss is about. Those things are delicious! August- summer’s bounty at the farmer’s market turned into delicious, healthy, easy dinners such as fresh tomato soup and homemade rosemary focaccia, ratatouille, summer veggie quinoa, and fresh basil pesto pasta. September- settling back into the school routine allowed for more predictable schedules and dinners at the table. On the calendar that month was roasted salmon and broccoli with a side of white beans and pancetta, a sheet pan dinner of braised chicken with tomatoes and bacon and an easy make-ahead stuffed shells dish. October- with good intentions to make cozy warm food and all things pumpkin, the weather suggested otherwise. We had a nice chilly fall week where beef chili, pork tenderloin, roasted brussels sprouts and acorn squash were on the menu, but then our heat wave came and we were back to grilled chicken pitas, veggie burgers and deli roasted chicken over mixed greens.
Here we are in November! After coming home from a much needed Mexican vacation with Eric, we had a few busy weeks and I was thankful for those go-to recipes that I practically have memorized. I can grab any scrap of paper in my purse, sit in my car in the local grocery store parking lot and meal plan for the next several days. Thank goodness for our little handheld computers where we can look up that recipe to ensure we have all the right ingredients and check our calendar to check for any late meetings, practices or games. There’s nothing worse than cooking a meal only to realize it’s only you and the cat home to eat it. Wait a minute… that doesn’t sound so bad afterall!
Some of those go to meals that we’ve had in the past two weeks include: Beef and Cheddar Hand Pies, Greek Chicken Pitas, and Baked Chicken Meatballs. All of the recipe links and notes are in previous posts, so just scroll down for those if you’re interested.
A new recipe I tried recently was from New York Times Cooking (usually a homerun!) that I sadly cannot recommend- Turkey Pork Sausage Meatloaf with Tomato Relish. It was very flavorful but the texture was so strange and heating it up the next day made it nearly inedible. I’ll stick to my other meatloaf recipes that are a big hit with my family. Bobby Flay’s Vegetable Meatloaf with Balsamic Glaze that uses beef and pork and Ina Garten’s Meatloaf that uses ground turkey.
As I have done in the past, and life allows going forward, I will try to post my meal plan for the week on Sunday or Monday morning at the latest. My hope is that it will inspire you to meal plan for the week and perhaps at least one of the recipes makes your mouth water enough to give it a try. I will let you know if any of the recipes are new to me, but 90% of the time, the recipes I recommend are those that are already a hit with my own family. Nobody needs another recipe in their “to try” file that may or may not be a hit- let me waste my time and money for you. 🙂
This week is full of commitments in the evening for most of our family so I am planning accordingly. All will either be made in advance or can be left on the stove to accommodate all the different schedules we have going on here. No need for frantic pizza orders or drive throughs when you have a plan. But, as always, use pencil because life happens and plans change!
This is a quick and easy soup that you can adapt to suit your preferences. I use full fat, unsweetened coconut milk. Thai Kitchen (now organic and at Costco!) is my favorite. My kids despise mushrooms so I may cut back on the quantity or they can pick them out. While I love the flavor of lemongrass, I don’t love the woodsy texture. I will use the lemongrass for the amazing flavor, but will make sure to finely dice or cut even cut in large chunks and simmer in the soup and skimming them out before the last step. Our side dish will be frozen potstickers from Trader Joe’s or Costco. Yum!
This became a hit a few years ago when we went on a ski weekend with another family and I was in charge of one of the dinners. Cold + mountains = chili! The problem (beyond the lack of snow during the drought and not all that cold temps) was I only had chili recipes that either had beans in it (one of our friends wasn’t a fan) or was a thick Texas-style chili with lots of spice (not exactly kid-friendly). So, I found this recipe with great reviews and decided to try it. As with all chili, it’s best made the day before and reheated. It was a hit! Only change I made was to use ground beef instead of ground bison (but now you can find bison at Costco if you’re interested in trying). And because most of us weren’t actually following a Paleo diet, we loaded it up with sour cream, shredded cheese and green onions. Don’t forget a side of cornbread and butter, too. Trader Joe’s is a good one to have on hand.
I’m planning on having this salad twice this week. Once with salmon and the other with grilled lemon-herb chicken. It may seem like a lot of components, but if you plan correctly, you can have most of this done ahead of time or cut back on some of the steps. For instance, if you don’t want to buy a bunch of fresh herbs, you can shake on a little Italian Seasoning on the salmon and potatoes before roasting and you will get plenty of flavor for your salad. If your people, especially the little ones don’t like salad because it’s all touchy on the plate, then separate any of the components that they will eat or you want them to try and you essentially have the same family dinner. I skip the vinaigrette in the linked recipe and use this Balsamic Vinaigrette with Basil. Btw, this recipe link doesn’t include thyme, but I have Danielle Walker’s cookbook Against All Grain and the original recipe uses chopped up thyme. Be sure to use fresh basil and thyme! It’s so delicious I could drink it. I try to have a mason jar of it in my refrigerator at all times. One recipe makes plenty for at least two, maybe three large salads for our family of five.
Ground Turkey Enchiladas
No link here because the “recipe” is written on a scrap of paper that is barely legible. We had this a few years back at a family get together and my sister-in-law who brought the dish gave me the recipe on the spot. Our family has enjoyed it many many times and I’m happy to pass it along to you. Easy, healthyish, and most importantly, my kids cheer when they see it on the calendar. Warning- it can be on the spicy side, which two out of my kids enjoy, but make sure to get the mild Hatch sauce and have sour cream on hand to help with the heat. A side of black or refried beans and chips is not a bad idea.
1 lb ground turkey thigh (dark meat)
1 small can of diced Ortega/Hatch mild green chilies
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 14oz. can of refried black beans
~2 c shredded cheddar, jack or colby jack cheese
1 large can of Hatch Enchilada sauce, mild
~12 corn or flour tortillas
In a glass pyrex baking dish, spray non-stick oil and cover bottom with a thin layer of sauce. Brown ground turkey, drain oil, and mix in taco seasoning according to packet directions. Add refried beans and mix until combined. Divide meat and bean mixture among tortillas, top with cheese and roll up. Place rolled tortillas in the baking dish nice and tight and top with remaining sauce. Be sure to cover enchiladas completely and top with any remaining cheese. Bake at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes and top with sliced green onion before serving.
*When I make this dish later this week, I will pay attention to exactly how many enchiladas it makes. The reality is, depending on how many mouths I need to feed I can adapt the recipe accordingly. Need to stretch the recipe because the playdate went long and you’ve got more mouths to feed? Perfect- add another can of beans, add more cheese or use smaller fajita sized tortillas and serve with a fruit smoothie. Or if you use Kirkland Organic ground beef from Costco, those prepackaged squares are more than a pound (1.13lbs, I think) and you have more filling than you need. Or mix If you’ve got extra sauce, go ahead and dip your tortillas in sauce before adding the meat/bean mixture to make them extra delicious. Point is, this is a very adaptable dish that I make differently all the time. Bonus- it’s very freezer friendly, so make up a double batch!
These are tasty healthy banana muffins and are going in school lunches this week. I use almond milk and trade off between using coconut oil or melted butter, both are good. I often use toasted and chopped walnuts and mix in with the batter rather than sprinkle on top. Very adaptable with Cup for Cup flour to make gluten free or any dairy-free milk for allergies. All ingredients, including the ground flaxseed, are found at Trader Joe’s. (Swear I don’t have an impending job at TJ’s in their marketing department, it’s just a great store!)
Happy meal planning this week and please let me know if you have any questions or if you end up trying any of these recipes! Have a great week ~Christina