Mushroom Stroganoff

We’ve been trying something new in the kitchen lately – adding some vegetarian dishes to the dinner rotation. And the craziest part of this menu modification is that it was my husband’s idea [gasp!]. The meat eater of all meat eaters actually suggested that we add some vegetarian meals to the line up (thank you Netflix and the documentary Cowspiracy).  While I love meat, I like to mix it up and so I saw this as an opportunity to try out some new recipes. Yay!

So let me introduce you to Mushroom Stroganoff. This dish is ahh-mazing. I’ve always been a stroganoff fan, but mine had always had beef. I thought it was the beef that contributed most of the flavor, but I was wrong. This dish is full of flavor and hearty as well. My kiddos loved it too – Brogan actually said it was one of his favorite dinners ever! I’ll take it! Hope you enjoy!

Mushroom Stroganoff

Mushroom Stroganoff

1 tbsp butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 ozs white mushrooms, sliced
8 ozs baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp flour (I used gluten free)
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (if you want to be 100% vegetarian, use soy sauce)
2 tbsp whole grain mustard (I used Grey Poupon Country Dijon)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 lb pasta (would prob be best with egg noodles, but I used gluten free penne), boiled according to package

1.) In large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and sauté onion and garlic until translucent (about 5 mins).
2.) Add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Sauté until mushrooms are soft and browned (about 8 mins). Stir in tomato paste and cook a few minutes longer, continually stirring.
3.) Add flour and stir, scrapping the bottom of the pan as you do. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add white wine to deglaze. Continue stirring and scrapping the bottom. Once wine is mostly evaporated, add vegetable broth, Worcestershire (or soy) sauce, mustard and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.
4.) Remove sauce from heat and stir in sour cream. Stir in cooked pasta and serve!

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Adapted from the Cookie Writer’s Mushroom Stroganoff (Vegetarian)

My Thanksgiving All-Stars

I typically spend my Thanksgivings alternating between my grandma’s house and Blake’s family. And so while I haven’t hosted turkey day at my home but once or twice,  I’m usually making half a dozen sides to contribute to the meal and so I’ve acquired my favs over the years. My office also has an annual Thanksgiving lunch, and so I get another opportunity to try new recipes and perfect the tried and true.

Ever since I began eating cleaner and cutting out all the “cream of whatever” soups, I’ve been on a quest to find recipes that are just as flavorful, but truly made from scratch. So far so good. I’m still lacking a good green bean casserole, but I’ve got a couple of Pinterest ideas that I may just try next week – stay tuned.

So here’s the list… sorry don’t have pictures for all of them, but trust me, they look as good as they sound!

My Thanksgiving All-Stars:Butter and Bay Leaves Roasted Turkey (see below)

Sweet Potato Casserole

Squash casserole5

Creamed Spinach

Broccoli and blue cheese casserole2

  • Cauliflower Gratin with Gouda and Asiago (see below)

Cauliflower gratin

Mac n cheese

Green Beans

Pumpkin pie slice

  • Chocolate Pie (see below)

Recipes for some of the my unblogged dishes above:

Butter and Bay Leaves Roasted Turkey
Courtesy of my good friend, Glynis

1 turkey (any size)
2 sticks of softened butter
2 tsp salt
10 or more bay leaves

1.) Rinse turkey and pat dry with paper towel and set aside.
2.) In a small bowl, mix softened butter and salt.
3.) Rub the exterior and underneath the skin with butter and salt mixture. (I suggest you wear gloves for this, and you will have to do some work to separate the skin from the bird – but do not give up!)
4.) Arrange bay leaves in a decorative pattern underneath the skin.
5.) Bake according to the size of the turkey, basting often.

Cornbread Dressing
Courtesy of my grandma

2 10-inch skillets of homemade buttermilk cornbread
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 cups diced celery
2 or 3 hard boiled eggs, diced (optional)
2 tsp ground sage (or more to taste)
1 tsp ground pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
6 to 8 cups turkey or chicken stock (enough to thoroughly moisten cornbread)
2 eggs

1.) In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium-high heat and add onion and celery. Sauté until onion is translucent. Set aside.
2.) In a large mixing bowl, crumble cornbread and add onion/celery mix, hard boiled eggs, sage, pepper, salt and stock until it is very moist (but not soupy). If you add too much liquid, you can always cook longer to dry out, but if you don’t add enough liquid your dressing will be dry! Do not add raw egg yet. Taste to make sure seasoning is good and adjust as needed. Once the taste is right, add raw egg.
3.) Pour into a greased 10″x13″ casserole dish and bake at 375 degrees until golden brown (about 45 to 60 minutes).

Cauliflower Gratin with Gouda and Asiago

2 lbs (or 1 large head) cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk, warmed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup shredded gouda
1/2 cup shredded asiago
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup seasoned panko

1.) Steam cauliflower for 5 minutes, then allow to drain in a colander for at least another 5 minutes.
2.) In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter and add flour. Whisk continuously for 1 to 2 minutes and then gradually add warmed milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Continue whisking until sauce thickens.
3.) Remove pan for heat and add gouda and asiago. Stir until cheese melts.
4.) In a large bowl, combine cauliflower with cheese sauce. Pour into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with parmesan and then with panko.
5.) Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until top is brown and sides are bubbly.

Chocolate Pie
Courtesy of Cooking Chef’s Grandma’s Chocolate Pie

½ c. cocoa
¼ cup cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1 ½ c. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix cocoa, cornstarch, beaten egg yolks; sugar and salt and vanilla, then add milk gradually, while stirring in a pot over med-high heat. Cook until thick, beating it smooth. Pour into a pre-baked pie shell (use this homemade version and bake it for 12-15 mins on 375). Put in the fridge to chill.

Crispy Belgium Waffles

I love waffles, but admittedly it’s more often than not the frozen variety. It’s something about the crispiness of a waffle right out of the toaster where you can spread your butter and get a little bit in every square. I just love it. And since I like to cook from scratch, I decided that I needed a waffle iron in my kitchen arsenal and I sought out to make homemade waffles. However, instead of my homemade version far surpassing the instant option, my waffles were a little lackluster – they were too sweet and worst of all, they were soggy. Such a bummer.

So the other day I was home from work with the boys in the morning, and Brogan’s breakfast request was waffles with my waffle iron. Determined to not succumb to soggy waffles, I searched Pinterest for crispy waffles. The trick, I learned (and had never before tried), is to incorporate a lot of corn starch in the batter and to make them with stiff egg whites (an extra bowl and some extra work, but worth it in the end). The recipe called for buttermilk (which I always prefer) and amaretto liqueur (which I omitted due to Brogan’s nut allergy). I didn’t supplement with vanilla instead because frankly I think it makes the waffles too sweet, and I prefer getting my sweetness from the maple syrup I top them with. The recipe yielded 4 large Belgium waffles, which coincidentally were gone pretty fast. I have definitely found my new go-to waffle recipe. Hope you enjoy!

Crispy Belgium Waffles

2 eggs, separated
3 tbsp sugar
2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1.) Using a stand mixer, combine egg whites and sugar. Use the whisk attachment and start off whipping the eggs on low. Increase speed every 2 minutes or so until you are at medium-high speed. Beat them until they form stiff peaks (took mine about 8 minutes) while you are preparing the other components. (You can use a hand-held mixer, but you won’t get the benefit of prepping the rest while the eggs finish.)
2.) In a medium bowl, mix egg yolks, buttermilk and vegetable oil. Set aside.
3.) In a large bowl, stir together flour, corn starch, baking powder and salt. Add buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Don’t over-stir and make sure there are still lumps. Gently fold in egg whites, making sure you don’t deflate them.
4.) Using a preheated waffle iron, lightly spray with cooking oil. Add 1 cup (heaping cup) of batter to the center of the waffle iron. Close the iron, and immediately flip it over. Cook for 3 minutes and then carefully remove. Top with butter and maple syrup.

Recipe adapted from Fifteen Spatulas’ 5 Secrets to Crisp, Flavorful Golden Waffles. 






Crispy Belgium Waffles

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Chocolate Mint Cake with Fresh Mint Buttercream Frosting

I spent the better part of my day in the kitchen today – but some really yummy things came out of it, and so it was work well worth it! I tried two new recipes – this chocolate mint cake and chicken parmesan casserole (I’ll post that next). They both turned out so, so good!

This spring, I decided to grow some “easy” herbs – basil, rosemary and mint. So far, so good – it’s all still alive! Until today, I hadn’t used any of the mint and so I’ve been searching for something to do with it. My love for Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies made me naturally think of chocolate. I used a chocolate cake recipe that called for boiling water and infused it with fresh mint. I did the same thing with the frosting – instead of milk, I added mint water to help thin it out a bit, plus I added some finely chopped fresh mint.  It turned out awesome! The mint added such a fresh taste to the cake. The chocolate cake itself only had a hint of mint flavor, but the flavor was really present in the frosting.

Chocolate Mint Cake

1 1/4 cup water
25 mint leaves
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Fresh Mint Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup water
25 mint leaves
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 box powdered sugar (1 lb)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped unsweetened chocolate (baking squares)
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
Garnish with chopped chocolate and fresh mint leaves

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three cake pans with parchment paper and then butter and flour them. Set aside.
2.) In a small saucepan, add water and mint leaves. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
3.) In a large mixing bowl, add sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine well.
4.) Add eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil and mint-infused water. Stir until well combined, but do not over-stir. Some lumps are okay. Batter will be very runny.
5.) Pour batter evenly into the three cake pans. Place in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Insert toothpick to make sure cake is done. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks. Allow to fully cool before icing the cakes.
6.) In the same small saucepan used before, add 1/2 cup water and 25 mint leaves. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 8 minutes. Set aside.
7.) Using a stand mixer on slowest setting, cream butter and vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar, then add salt. Add 1 or 2 tbsp of the mint-infused water to reach desired consistency. Add the chopped chocolate and fresh mint and mix until well combined.
8.) Once the cakes have cooled, add first layer to a cake plate and add slightly less than a third of the icing. Using an icing spatula, turn cake plate and spread frosting toward the edges until frosting completely covers the layer. Repeat for second layer. On the third and final layer, you should have slightly more than a third of the frosting. Spread as was done on the first and second layers. Garnish with chopped chocolate and mint leaves.

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This is the “stop taking pictures and give me a bite!” look

Adapted from FoodGaZm’s Chocolate Layer Cake

Tuna Casserole

I feel like folks either love or hate tuna casserole… I love it. Turns out my little guys love it too. This is a pretty easy weeknight recipe… it took me a little over 45 minutes, but 30 minutes of that was “casserole in oven” time. It’s pretty classic comfort food, from scratch. Hope you enjoy!

Tuna Casserole

Tuna Casserole

12 ozs egg noodles (I used medium width)
4 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
8 ozs mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup frozen peas
2 cans chunk light tuna
1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs (for topping)

1.) Heat a large pot of salted water to boil, add egg noodles and cook according to package (probably about 7 minutes). Drain and set aside.
2.) Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions, mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle flour over onions and mushrooms, stir and cook for about 1 more minute. Stir in chicken stock and half and half. Cook for a few minutes longer until sauce has thickened and then remove from heat. Add parmesan, peas, tuna and cooked egg noodles and stir until well combined.
3.) Transfer to a 9″x13″ casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

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Shepherd’s Pie

I am a meat and potatoes kind of girl, so Shepherd’s Pie is right up my alley. I grew up eating it and have made it dozens of times, but never before like this. This is the kind of Shepherd’s Pie I’ve enjoyed at authentic Irish pubs. And while I’m not knocking what I grew up on (which was ground beef, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes and cheese all served with ketchup), the Shepherd’s Pie I’ve been craving as of late is of the meat with gravy, peas and potatoes variety…. this Shepherd’s Pie.

It took me about an hour to prepare (cooking time included). I served it with drop biscuits and sliced tomatoes and it was really a great meal. The kids (and hubs) enjoyed it, and I’m thrilled to have come up with a solid go-to Shepherd’s Pie recipe. Hope you enjoy!

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

Meat Layer
1 1/3 lbs ground beef
1 stalk of celery, diced small
2 carrots, diced small
1/2 a large sweet onion, diced small
8 oz mushrooms, diced
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
3 tbsp flour
1 cup beef broth
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup frozen peas

Potato Layer
2 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (to top, not mix in)

1.) Place potatoes in a large pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 to 12 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.) While potatoes are cooking, brown ground beef in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. When meat is almost browned, add celery, carrots, onion, mushrooms, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme and continue cooking until meat is fully cooked. Sprinkle flour over meat and stir well, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes. Add beef broth and stir again. Add Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste and simmer for about 3 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in frozen peas.
3.) Once potatoes are fully cooked, drain and return to pot. Add butter, heavy cream, salt, pepper and onion powder. Use an electric mixer to whip until smooth. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Add egg yolk and whip for about a minute longer.
4.) To assemble, use a deep dish pie plate and place the meat mixture in the bottom. Next add the potatoes and top with cheddar cheese. Bake for 25 minutes.

As I mentioned, I served with drop biscuits. They are from my Chicken Pot Pie recipe, but do great on their own. I mixed them up after I put the Shepherd’s Pie in the oven, and then cooked them along side it (at 400) for about 15 minutes.

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Drop Biscuits

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

I’m pretty sure that spaghetti makes it on most people’s weekly dinner plan. Why? It’s easy. Even when it’s from scratch, it’s easy. I only recently started making my spaghetti sauce from scratch. I’m not against the jar – and truthfully, I keep a couple jars in the pantry in case I’m ever in a pinch – but I’ve come to like the taste of my homemade better. I timed myself tonight from start to finish and the sauce is truly a 30-minute meal. However, I forgot to get my water boiling for the pasta when I first started the sauce, so dinner was a little delayed. This recipe makes a pretty large pot of sauce. I will use it for leftovers, but it also freezes really well in a gallon Ziploc bag if you’re not a leftover person. Hope you enjoy!

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

1 lb angel hair pasta (if you plan to freeze half your sauce, use 1/2 lb)
1 1/3 lb ground beef
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 26-oz boxes of petite cut tomatoes (or 4 14-oz cans)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine
Parmesan cheese, for topping

1.) Start heating a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. When water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to the box.
2.) In another large pot, brown ground beef over medium-high heat and drain if needed. Add diced onion and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes.
3.) Add remaining ingredients (except parm), stir well and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes.
4.) Serve topped with parmesan cheese.

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To get other dinner ideas, see my 4 weeks of (different) home-cooked meals post.

What’s for Dinner? 4 Weeks of (different) Home-cooked Meals

4 weeks of dinner

What to cook for dinner… one of the most nagging questions of the day. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing about making dinner – simply figuring out what to cook. I’m one of those weird people who loves to plan out my meals, loves to go grocery shopping and then loves cooking the food.  When I don’t take the time to plan, I find that I spend too much money at the grocery store and I end up wasting a lot of food throughout the week. But, when I make a plan and stick to it, I’m less stressed, I stay on budget and I find that I can actually cook (almost) every day of the week. So I decided to share what I make for dinner and how I plan it out – perhaps it will help someone figure out what to make for their dinner! And taking it a step further, if anyone is up for the challenge, I’ve laid out a plan for how to cook from scratch for a whole month! It can seem daunting, but it’s totally possible. 

I’ve found that when looking at meal planning week over week, it’s easier to think about food categories rather than dishes. When you think about dishes, you end up having the same things every week. Now, there are some things that I don’t mind eating every week, but for the sake of demonstration, I won’t go there. Generally speaking, I think of my meals in the following categories: Pasta, Chicken, Something Different, Mexican, Grill, and a “Sunday Meal” – something that takes longer than the weekday options. These categories aren’t exclusive – there is grilling in the chicken category and chicken in the Mexican category – so try to not get caught up on the fact that it’s not a perfect science.

Sample Week 
Monday – Pasta
Tuesday – Chicken
Wednesday – Leftovers
Thursday – Something Different
Friday – Mexican
Saturday – Grill
Sunday – “Sunday Meal”

So thinking of dishes in terms of these categories, below are 31 dinner ideas (with recipes for most – check back, I plan to make, photograph and post the missing recipes in the next few weeks). Aside from the Sunday Meals, they can all be done in less than an hour (and some in 30 minutes) – although depending on how many times you are interrupted by kids (if applicable), I can’t guarantee those times precisely. I can also only speak to how long they take me to make.  All of these meals are from scratch. Aside from beans and tomatoes, there are very few cans. Aside from plain pasta, there are no boxes. I try to “eat clean” so these recipes reflect real ingredients. To cook like this, some things take a little longer, but some things don’t. I think people just assume that cooking from a box is quicker and cheaper, but in a lot of cases it’s not. And it is certainly not healthier. These are not “low-fat” or “low-calorie” – but they are “low-chemical,” something to me that is much more important. I’m a little old fashioned when it comes to what constitutes a “meal”.  For me, it’s a meat, a starch and a vegetable.  In some of these the veggies are cooked into the main course, and some they’re on the side. I also don’t discriminate against any food type – we eat red meat, pork, seafood and chicken (and try to mix it up between them all). We eat wheat and a little cheese on just about everything – so unfortunately, this plan does not cater to gluten or lactose free folks. Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, here you go…

Pasta Dishes

Simple Sausage Marinara with Garden Salad (30 min)
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (30 min)
Pasta with Meatballs and Marinara (45 min)
Sausage and Peppers Spaghetti with Garlic Bread (45 min)
Shrimp Scampi over Parmesan Orzo with Broccoli with Lemon (35-40 min)

Lemon pepper chicken
Chicken Dishes

Lemon Pepper Chicken with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts (30 min)
Chicken and Yellow Rice (45 – 60 min)
Garlic Dill Chicken with Dill Oven Potatoes and Roasted Cauliflower (30 min)
Dijon Maple Chicken with Roasted Butternut Squash and Broccoli with Lemon (40 min)

Something Different

Baked Salmon (30 min)
Sloppy Joe’s with Roasted Sweet Potatoes (30 min)
Cube Steak with Rice and Gravy and Maple Carrots (45 min)
Shepherd’s Pie with Drop Biscuits (60 min)
Buttermilk Pancakes with Oven Baked Bacon (30 min)
Buttermilk French Toast with Sausage Patties(30 min)
Biscuits and Gravy (if you don’t make your sausage, 30 min)

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Tacos with Spanish Rice and Refried Beans (30 min)
Mexican Lasagna (45 min if your shredded chicken is already prepared)
Chicken, Corn and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas with Guacamole Rice (30 min if your shredded chicken is already prepared)
Mexican Shrimp with Cilantro Lime Rice (30 min)


Rosemary Pork Chops with Mushroom and Herb Orzo and Roasted Cauliflower (30 min)
Cheeseburgers and Oven Potatoes (30 min)
Steak, Baked Potatoes, Sautéed Mushrooms and Garden Salad (30 min active time, 90 mins to bake potatoes)
Maple Dijon Pork Tenderloin with Baked Sweet Potatoes and Grilled Zucchini (30 min active time, 90 mins to bake sweet potatoes)
Lemon and Herb Grilled Salmon (45 min)

Pot roast with mashed potatoes and carrots
Sunday Meals

Pot Roast with Carrots, Mashed Potatoes & Cornbread
Chicken Pot Pie with Salad
Chicken Tetrazinni
Pork Tenderloin Marsala with Dijon Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Asparagus (I would half this recipe for a “normal” meal)
Meatloaf with Dijon Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli
Shrimp and Grits

Below is a 4 week meal plan (based on the categories and dishes above), complete with main courses and sides, as well as the accompanying weekly grocery list.  In general, these dishes will feed a family of 4 to 5 easily (maybe more if they are small kids). You’ll notice that I’ve reserved Wednesday as a “leftover” day. Between the big Sunday meal and the Monday and Tuesday options, I find there is usually always leftovers. I take leftovers to work most days for lunch, and there is still typically enough for one night for my family as a meal. On the nights that I’m not cooking, sometimes I’ll do (easy) prep for a following night to help myself out later. I added breakfast for dinner a couple of nights too, because 1) it’s easy 2) it’s cheap and 3) it’s fun. Did I mention it’s easy?

I calculated an estimate of the prices for each item (based on purchasing items not on sale from Publix) which gets this to an average weekly cost of $118. However, if you stock up at places like Costco, or when things go BOGO at Publix, you can get the cost down. One of the major savings with Costco over a regular grocery store is chicken. At my Publix , chicken breast is typically $4.49-$4.99/lb, but at Costco it is $2.99/lb. There is a lot of chicken in this meal plan so if you try this, I suggest you try to find it cheaper. Other items I would get at Costco for this “month” would be: cherry tomatoes, flour tortillas, black beans, canned tomatoes, onions, frozen shrimp, ground beef, baby carrots, mushrooms, lemons, and parmesan cheese.

4 Week Meal Plan (here is the full calendar and grocery list with notes)

4 Week Meal Plan

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Keeping a stocked kitchen helps make cooking from scratch easy. Below are the things that I always have on hand. I buy some of these things in bulk to reduce the cost.  When you’re not using boxed sides, you have to have many of these spices and condiments to create the flavor.

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When people ask how I have time to cook every night, this is how. I make a plan, I only go grocery shopping one time a week, I keep my pantry stocked and I try to give myself a break now and then with leftovers and breakfast for dinner. Sure, we eat frozen pizza every now and then, but mostly, this is what’s cooking in the Stembridge house. If anyone does try to do this (or any part of this), I’d love to hear how it went! And as always, hope you enjoy!

Super Easy Pie Crust (and Pumpkin Pie)

When I found this recipe for pie crust on Pinterest, it seemed too good to be true. You mean to tell me that I can make a pie crust with four ingredients, without rolling it out, in the pie plate?? Why yes. Yes you can. When I first read that this crust was made with oil instead of butter, I was slightly put off. I put butter in everything! But I figured I’d give it a shot. To my pleasant surprise, this crust was good and flakey.

To say I’m thrilled about this pie crust would be the understatement of the year. I stopped buying store-bought pie crusts a while back (except Immaculate Baking Company brand, when I can find it) because they are full of hydrogenated oils and preservatives. But most times I’m too lazy to go through the trouble of rolling out a crust. So what happens? I don’t make as much pie as I’d like. Well my friends, not any more! I’m going to be a pie making machine! This weekend I made two pumpkin pies and a buttermilk pie (just because I could).

Super Easy Pie Crust

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt

1.) Add all ingredients into a 9″ deep pie plate.
2.) Using your hands, mix ingredients together and form a dough ball. Place dough in center of the pie plate and use your fingers to press it out, starting from the center and moving out toward the edges.
3.) Use with any pie that calls for unbaked dough (pumpkin, apple, pecan, buttermilk, etc.)

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Easy pie crust

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I switched pie plates on you (I made a couple pies and forgot to get this shot in my stone pie plate)

Recipe from Redhead Can Decorate

I use Libby’s famous pumpkin pie recipe (plus nutmeg) – simple but delish!

Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 eggs
1 15-oz can pumpkin
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
Unbaked pie crust

1.) Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in sugar/spice mix and pumpkin. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
2.) Pour into pie shell.
3.) Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for 40 to 50 minutes longer, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 2 hours.

Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie slice

Creamed Spinach

The official kick-off to my holiday season is the Thanksgiving lunch at my office. It’s always the Monday of the week before Thanksgiving, and so it’s sort of a warm up (for cooking and eating) before the big day. My contributions to the lunch are: Pumpkin Pie, Buttermilk Pie, Broccoli and Blue Cheese Casserole, Squash Casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach. I’ll eventually post all of these recipes, but I will start with the spinach.

A couple of years ago I sought after a Boston Market copycat recipe for their creamed spinach… and this one is really close (and maybe better). As is true with my other Thanksgiving casseroles, no cream of anything – these are all from scratch (or darn close). I hope you enjoy!

Creamed Spinach

3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
2 to 3 tbsp finely minced onion
20 ozs frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste

1.) In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 3 tbsp butter and add flour and salt to make a roux. Cook for about 1 minutes stirring constantly. Add milk while stirring. Once it starts to bubble, remove from heat.
2.) In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt 2 tbsp butter and saute onion. Add spinach and water. Cover and cook until spinach is heated through.
3.) Add white sauce, sour cream and parmesan cheese to spinach and stir until ingredients are mixed well.

I doubled this recipe in the pictures below.

Creamed Spinach2
I place the thawed spinach in a colander and use a large spoon to press it against the sides to remove all the excess liquid.

Creamed Spinach White Sauce
This shows how thick the white sauce will be right after it starts to boil.

Creamed Spinach3

Creamed Spinach
The finished product!