Sunday, October 28, 2012

Toddler in the Kitchen!!  (and this week's dinner plan)

My daughter has been spending A LOT of time in the kitchen wanting to "help" mommy.  As soon as I start rummaging around in the kitchen she flashes a big grin, grabs her little blue chair and excitedly rushes into the kitchen.  It is very hard to say no... even if there really isn't anything for her to do. So I have started to get creative about coming up with tasks for her.  They may add a few minutes to the prep time for a meal but these are precious moments we get to spend together and I hope the beginning of a life-time joy of cooking for my daughter.

She loves to watch me chop things.  She takes the rules with kitchen tools very seriously.  Knives are grown up tools and she is very good at keeping her distance from the board.  When I've finished she loves to put the pieces in the pot or if I'm putting them in a hot pan I have her put them in a small bowl and then I transfer them. "Here you go Mommy... I helped!"

She also loves to pour water.  Even though it is easier to put water directly from the tap into the pot I will use a measuring cup and have her pour the water in. The best part is if a little spills. "Whoopsie Daisy Mommy! We need to clean up!"

I've also been trying to do more recipes that she can help with.  Lately one of our favorite things to make are the cookie dough balls from our friend Laura a mommy run fast.  We really like the chocolate coconut ones. This week we will be making halloween treats for her friends at school. I will be sure to post pictures of that!

This is the last week of the October menu planning challenge.  While I have had a hard time finding the motivation on Sunday's to plan (maybe I should plan on another day!) I have appreciated seeing all the other plans and enjoyed pushing myself to try new recipes each week.   This week I am giving myself an additional challenge. I am going to try to make two new recipes for lunches. I have a hard time taking time to eat a good lunch so this week I will try to make this delicious spaghetti squash and jalepeno casserole (with non-dairy substitutes) and with my new food processor I will try this ginger carrot soup! I will try to post updates about these recipes.

Here is this week's dinner plan. 

Tuesday: Left overs
Wednesday: Dinner at a Halloween Party!
Thursday: Pork chops with rolls and green beans
Saturday: Left overs
Sunday: Pork roast

Thank you to Laura and Jill for this great month long challenge! It has introduced me to many new blogs and helped me discover some new delicious recipes!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Menu Planning Week 4 - Searching for Inspiration

Before I get to this week's meal plan I have to say that last week's birthday celebration was epic! My daughter and I had a blast baking a green cake for daddy's birthday. I promised photos so here they are. You can't really tell but the inside of the cake was green too!

Then my husband and I got to go away for a night. We went to the movies, slept in, went shopping... it was a blast and much needed! We came home to a very happy girl who had a great time with her Nanny (my mother-in-law) and then we were off to a cousin's first birthday party! I ended up not cooking all weekend and actually loved the break.

When I sat down to menu plan yesterday I felt like I had "menu-planning" block. Even after looking at all the amazing link ups I still couldn't think of a single thing I wanted to make! Does this ever happen to you??

After spending too much time searching the Internet and looking through recipe books I came up with a plan and did the grocery shopping for the week.  Of course today I woke up full of inspiration so next week's plan will be easier!!

link up here

Mondaycreamy penne pasta bake with zucchini

Tuesday - leftovers (or pork chops)

Wednesday - Pasta Bolognese (double batch so I can take a meal to a friend)

Thursday - pork chops

Friday - Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala (with non-dairy substitutes)

Saturday - leftovers

Sunday - Pork Roast

That is the plan.  Several new recipes I am excited to try out.

Also, I received a food processor for my birthday. I am so excited but can't decide what to make first!! 

What is your favorite thing to make with a food processor??

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Meal Planning Challenge Week 3 - Birthday Week!
Link Up!!
My husband's birthday is two days before mine which always makes for a fun week of celebrations. We usually celebrate on the 19th which we call the "inter-birthday". This year we get to have a special night away thanks to my Mother-in-law.  I am looking forward to dinner, a movie (haven't seen one in the theatre in three years) and SLEEPING IN!!

This year we will also do a little celebrating on Thursday because my daughter has to make daddy a cake. We can no longer have a birthday in this household without having cake and candles.  I will be sure to post pictures of her cake making adventures but be forewarned... it will not be healthy :) 

Here is this week's dinner plan:

Tonight: Dinner with family

Monday: Chicken, garlic, basil pasta with broccolini (We are in a rut of doing this every Monday, but my daughter loves it and she takes it to school for lunch the next day)

Tuesday: Leftovers (either from Monday night or I have extra Santa Fe Chicken that I froze)

Wednesday: Pork chops, rolls and green beans

Thursday (Daddy's Birthday): Carne Asada (I splurged and picked up a delicious marinated flank steak from the grocery store), rice, beans and tortillas

Friday: DATE NIGHT!!!!

Saturday: Dinner at a birthday party 

Sunday: Spaghetti bolognese and salad

While I still have to motivate myself to meal plan (thanks to Laura and Jill for this challenge!) I do find that it makes shopping much easier and the week goes smoothly when I don't have to worry if I have everything I need to make dinner.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Carne Asada... That is what's for dinner!

I chose one new recipe for this week's menu planning challenge. I used a recipe for Carne Asada from  I followed their directions for preparing the beef and marinated it over night.

It was really easy to prepare this meal. I decided to buy some pico-de-gallo from the store rather than make the salsa listed in the recipe.  We got home from the park, I heated up the broiler pan and started making rice.  Once the pan was hot I placed the meat in the oven and started to heat up the beans. 

 I am notorious for overcooking meat and did it again last night!! I followed the recipe and cooked it for 4 minutes on each side. When I checked the meat it looked almost raw in the middle, so I did another 3 minutes. Then it looked a little better but I still cooked it for 3 more minutes.  I probably did not need that last 3 minutes. I know that the meat continues to cook after you take it out of the oven and leave it sitting but I just never trust it. Next time I might try 5 minutes per side and not give into the temptation to cook it more.

Served with rice, beans, pico, avocado and fresh tortillas it made for a delicious dinner.  The meat was tender but not as flavorful as I would have liked. Maybe next time I will up the spices in the marinade.

What is you favorite quick and easy Carne Asada recipe?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Menu Planning Challenge - Week Two!
sign up here
Last week's menu plan went very well. I tried two new recipes.  The herb crusted pork chops were so-so but the Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken was a huge success!!

My daughter loved helping putting the ingredients in the crock pot (even Elmo helped) and my husband was excited to eat leftovers for lunch the next day. I followed the recipe from Gina at  I substituted two cups of water for the chicken broth and it was a little watery so this week I will cut back on the liquid.

Here is this week's plan. I was feeling a little less inspired this afternoon so I only plan on trying one new recipe this week.

Monday: Basil, garlic and chicken pasta with salad

Tuesday: Carne asada tacos with rice and beans (New recipe!)

Wednesday: Spaghetti bolognese with green beans

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Crock pot Santa Fe chicken with rice and beans

Saturday: dinner out??

I can't finish this entry with out mentioning the amazing, delicious sweet treat I made this week.  My friend Laura at has some amazing no-bake snack ball recipes. I combined her no bake peanut butter balls and coconut brownie bites recipes to make a delicious chocolate, coconut oat ball. I used almond butter instead of peanut butter and used maple syrup instead of honey.  They are SO delicious. I gave up refined sugar NINE months ago and this is the first refined sugar free treat I have made that actually satisfies my sweet tooth!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Basil and garlic pasta with chicken and a side of broccolini

Lately my two year old has been spending a lot of time with me in kitchen. She likes to pull up her little blue chair and "help" me make dinner.  Sometimes I have to get creative about tasks I give her but she really loves it.  However, this meal requires hot oil in multiple pans so I really prefer her to be out of the kitchen.  Tonight she happily watched a 30 minutes TV show while I cooked dinner!

This meal can be a little bit of a juggling act, but it really can all be prepared and cooked in thirty minutes.

Here is what you need:

Chicken breast (I buy one boneless breast at the meat counter and ask them to dice it for me)
Pasta of your choice
3-5 gloves of garlic
Bunch of basil
Olive oil
Bunch of broccolini (just discovered this in the store... and prepared it using Rachel Ray's recipe)
Garlic salt and pepper
Optional: Other seasoning for your chicken such as cumin and other add ins such as zucchini, tomatoes etc.

First put the pot on for the pasta and place 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet on med-high.

Place the chicken in the large frying pan and season with garlic salt, pepper and anything else you would like! (this week I added cumin which was delicious) Cook about 5-7 minutes.  I like to have small pieces of chicken so I often use a metal spatula to cut the pieces after they have been in the pan for a few minutes. I will do anything to avoid cutting raw chicken on a cutting board!

While the chicken cooks quickly wash the broccolini and cut just the ends off. The stalks should be between 3-5 inches long. Place in a small/medium frying pan, cover with water, bring to a boil, cover with a lid and let simmer for 6-8 minutes until it is bright green and tender.

When the chicken is cooked all the way through remove from the pan (leaving the oil in the pan) and set aside.  Turn the heat way down under the oil and let it cool while you mince the garlic. It usually works best to mince it finely with a knife, but if you are in a hurry (like I was tonight... the TV show wasn't keeping my daughter's attention!) you can use a garlic press.

When the oil has cooled down put 3/4 of the minced garlic in the large pan. (The rest of the garlic is for the broccolini.) Rinse basil and cut the leaves into small pieces.  Add to the large pan and simmer with the garlic for a few minutes.

When the broccolini is bright green and tender drain and set aside. In the same small pan add a small amount of olive oil and return to med-low heat. When the oil is warm add the rest of the garlic. Let the garlic simmer until it begins to brown and then return the broccolini to the pan. Turn the broccolini over and over to coat with the oil/garlic mix and then let cook for a few more minutes. When it is tender and covered with yummy garlic and olive oil it is finished!

Hopefully the pasta is done cooking by now. Drain and place in a large bowl.  Mix in the chicken and olive oil/garlic/basil mixture.

Its a juggling act but my family does enjoy this delicious meal.  My daughter also likes having the leftovers in her lunch.

What's your favorite quick pasta dinner?