Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a great weekend.  I spent most of mine volunteering (with lots of friends) at the Parent Talk Sale. Super fun event and so wonderful to see clothes and toys go to a second (or third!) home.  Sunday we hosted post-church donuts and coffee with four generations of family members. Then I processed another batch of tomato sauce and bagged chopped chives to freeze for the winter.

This week’s meal plan is a little light as we want to clear out the fridge and our evening schedules are a bit up in the air.  One thing I’ve learned is that even if my husband is away for the night, I can’t do too many leftover or breakfast dinners. One night is fine, but we need to get back to a well-balanced dinner so everyone feels good and stays healthy.

Here is the plan for this week…
Sunday~ Steak Tips, Sautéed Snow Peas (from the garden!) and Whole Wheat Couscous. (Corn was processed and frozen instead. See, lots of improvisation this week!)
Monday~ Out to dinner with friends after dance class
Tuesday~ Whole Chicken in the Ninja. This was so well received we are doing it again. Peas and eggs noodles on the side.
Wednesday~ Using the leftover chicken for quesadillas. Mexican rice on the side.
Thursday~ Chick pea chili in the slow cooker.
Friday~ Pizza
Saturday~ Pumpkin Carving Party at friend’s house…will need to make dessert!

What are you making this week?  Do you make a weekly meal plan?

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Happy Monday!  Hope everyone had a great weekend.  We spent some time with friends processing apples.  We made my homemade no-sugar applesauce recipe to start with about 15 apples. It made six pints that we then canned.  Then we started some apple butter in the slow cooker.  We processed it in the morning and it was delicious. The house smelled awesome. Today I made a second batch of applesauce, plus some dehydrated apple rings.  The kids love these for snacks and now we have a full stock of apple (and pineapple!) rings for the lunch box this week.

Cinnamon apple rings

On the menu this week:
Sunday~ Lemon Orange Rosemary Chicken in the Ninja Cooking System.  I didn’t have lemon so I swapped it out for orange. The chicken came out awesome. Madison asked for fourths!  I also roasted the last of our cherry tomatoes, along with some honey roasted carrots.
Monday~ L/O Chicken used in a pasta bake.  Steamed green beans on the side.
Tuesday~ Apricot Pork chops from the Everyday Food Cookbook. Note~ I use boneless pork chops so the time increases to about 20 minutes.  The recipe is also a great way to use up the heels of bread.  Maybe some squash on the side, plus polenta in the slow cooker.
Wednesday~ Orange Hoisin Chicken (slow cooker). Recipe from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker CookbookBrown rice and sautéed snow peas on the side.
Thursday~ Last night my sister and family are here from Hawaii. Cozy fall dinner of homemade chili and corn bread planned. Maybe a yummy apple dessert.
Friday~ Pizza!

Are you trying any new recipes this week?  Feel free to leave your menu plan in the comments below.

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We spent the weekend celebrating birthdays, a baptism and enjoyed some beautiful fall weather.  Even when you are a stay at home mom, those long weekends are lovely.

Picked up a bushel of apples at the farmers market this weekend

I’m a little tired from all of our party planning this weekend and needed some menu planning reminders.  Last year my playgroup did an awesome recipe exchange.  I went back to my Recipe email folder to dig out some favorites for our week ahead.

Monday~ C.O.R.N
Tuesday~ Chicken Pierre (thanks Susan!) Green Beans and whole wheat couscous
Wednesday~ Slow Cooker Ribs, Local Corn on the Cob, Cornbread
Thursday~ Hamburgers and Homemade Mac n Cheese with butternut squash hiding inside. (Thanks Cathy!)  See recipe below.
Friday~ American Flatbread Pizza (freebie from Springboard Conference)
Saturday~ potluck dinner with friends, menu still tbd.  We are going to process a bushel of apples though…I see lots of applesauce in our future.

Easy Veggie Mac n Cheese (from Cathy M.)
1 cup uncooked macaroni (I do 1/2 cup whole wheat, 1/2 cup regular)
1 cup (or more) shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup milk (you could use skim but whole tastes much better)
pepper and paprika
1/2 cup cauliflower puree or butternut squash puree (optional, make in advance, I prefer cauliflower)
Preheat oven to 350
Drop macaroni in boiling water, boil 3 minutes
Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes then drain
Toss macaroni in a bowl with vegetable puree to evenly distribute puree
Layer in a large casserole dish coated with cooking spray:
1/3 macaroni mixture
1/3 cheese
sprinkle pepper and paprika
1/3, 1/3 again until done
Pour milk over layers and bake for 40 minutes until golden brown on top and milk absorbed so not too runny. Let cool a few minutes before serving.

What’s on deck for you this week?

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photo credit: roswellsgirl via photopin cc

After last week’s pantry project, I had some time to think about how to maintain a healthy, real food pantry.  I want to be able to open the pantry door and find things that I will use regularly and will work easily into each week’s meal plan.  There will always be some boxes in there of crackers, cereal and possibly Trader Joe’s Cornbread mix.  That is our reality as I have yet to see a super easy cracker recipe that I can make with two kids hanging off my leg.

In the meantime, here are my suggestions of how to work on creating a real food pantry.  Divide it up into categories and take it one step at a time.  This is a list of the items nearly always in the (new) pantry,or main kitchen shelves.

-Rolled Oats, old-fashioned not the quick variety
-Steel Cut Oats
-Unsweetened Coconut
-Sunflower Seeds
-Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
-Maple Syrup
-Whole Wheat Flour
-Coconut Oil
-Baking essentials like Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Brown Sugar

Main Dinners & Sides
-Variety of Beans (I have started cooking beans in my pressure cooker)
-Whole Wheat Pastas (& Gluten free pasta for visitors)
-Variety of Rice (I use short grain brown rice and arborio most often)
-Coconut Milk
-Good Tuna packed in oil
-Olive Oil
-Sesame Oil
-Variety of vinegars (Red Wine, Rice and Champagne)

Nuts are also a big part of our “pantry” storage.  However I store them all in the refrigerator to keep them as fresh as possible.  Although we go through them fast, I want to keep them as fresh as possible.  The oils in the nuts can go rancid if left in the cabinet too long.  (Same for Wheat Germ, that is also stored in the fridge.)  The nuts we always have on hand are Walnuts, Pecans and Almonds.  Peanuts are generally only purchased if I’m making pad thai.

This year I want to try out some recipes using some alternative flours like brown rice flour or coconut flour.  We have so many friends, or their children, who have gluten issues and I would like to be able to offer a fun, healthy treat for them at an event or playdate.

Whole Foods self-serve bulk buying section

Maintaining a real food pantry doesn’t need to be expensive.  I find buying from the Whole Foods self serve bulk section the most affordable option for me.  Costco is also where I buy a lot of basics like old fashioned oatmeal, brown sugar, agave and many of the nuts we use.  Coconut oil is always purchased online as I tend to find better deals on bulk sizes.  Eventually I would love to get really large quantities and organize a co-op, but this project will just have to wait.

Reuse your tomato sauce jars for your pantry and it’s another way to reduce costs.  You don’t need to buy more plastic containers for bulk/pantry items.  Use what you are already using.  I even use some of our old Tupperware for storage, then I won’t risk putting it in the microwave.

Don’t forget some fun labels…see more in my Creating a Pantry post!

What are your must-have’s for a healthy pantry?