Sunday, January 18, 2015

What's for dinner tonight: Sunday

Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, and Brussels Sprouts
(I'm not sure why the image is upside down, but we're just gonna roll with it.)
Roast and mashed potatoes were a Sunday dinner staple at my house growing up. While they aren't a staple at my house anymore I do love to make it once in awhile. With 1:00 church this year, crock pot dinners are a must!
Put your boneless roast in a crockpot with a splash of water to keep it from scorching. Season your roast with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder and cook on high for a loooong time. We did 6 hours on high, and that wasn't long enough to get the really tender, fall apart roast that you want. Ours was a fairly large roast though.
Peel and dice your potatoes and boil until tender. Drain. Mash with salt, pepper, butter, sour cream, and milk until desired consistency.
Pour your meat drippings along with some of the starchy potato water into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then whisk in a cornstarch and water mixture and boil until gravy is the desired consistency. If it's lumpy, simply push it through a fine mesh strainer.
Serve with your veggie of choice. I simply roasted Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper.

What's your favorite easy week night meal? Do you have a good crockpot meal to share? I hope you enjoyed this week-long peek into what's for dinner at our house.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What's for dinner tonight: Saturday

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Saturdays call for easy to no cooking. In comes the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup combo to the rescue. (Don't forget the baby carrots and ranch--a staple at our house--to balance things out.) I think everyone knows how to make grilled cheese, but let me fill you in on how we do it at our house.
First thing first: the bread. Sourdough is a must. I prefer the long loaf that comes with circular slices for making the perfect size sandwiches. Butter your bread for maximum flavor or use a non-stick cooking spray to cut back on calories.
Next comes the cheese. I always have Tillamook medium cheddar on hand because it is the best. If I have swiss, gruyere, or monterey jack in the fridge then I use some of that too. Use what you like, but a good trick is to grate it rather than slice it. You can easily cover all of the bread without making a weird sort of mosaic and it melts more evenly.
Then customize with whatever toppings you like. My kids usually want theirs plain, but Nate always wants ham. Tonight I had tuna on mine (a taste of my childhood) but I usually go for ham with dijon mustard spread on the bread. You can get creative here and really make it more like a panini. I've done leftover chicken, veggies, spinach, thinly sliced apples, pepperoni, the sky's the limit!
Finally, cook over medium heat. You don't want the pan too hot or your bread will melt before your cheese is melted. After the first side is golden brown, carefully flip the sandwich then cover the pan to trap in heat and help the cheese melt faster.
Serve with hot tomato soup for dipping. We usually stick to Campbell's, but I really love the Roasted Red Pepper and tomato soup that comes in a box. Comfort food at it's finest!

Friday, January 16, 2015

What's for dinner tonight: Friday

Carbonara Pasta with Salad
The recipe for this one is a family favorite and can be found here. 
I made a couple small adjustments to the original recipe. First I used whole grain pasta. I use whole grain pasta often enough that my family doesn't even notice the difference anymore. Then to make up for the healthier pasta I added about 1/3 cup heavy cream to the finished pasta to make it a little bit creamier. Yumm! We don't usually eat pasta twice a week, but sometimes we do. :-)

PS A funny story from that night: Nate could instantly tell that I had changed the recipe just by looking at the pasta. He accused me of making it healthy and messing with perfection. I kept telling him to just eat it. After he hesitantly tasted it I asked him how it was. His response was "creamy". I informed him that it was the heavy cream he was tasting. He then apologized for doubting me. I guess sometimes even perfection can be improved upon.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What's for dinner tonight: Thursday

Taco Salad

I love a good taco salad! This makes an especially great weeknight meal because since it is served cold it can all be prepped in advance. This is what I put in mine:
ground turkey cooked with taco seasoning
black beans
romaine lettuce
diced avocado
cheddar cheese
crushed tortilla chips
ranch dressing

If I'm feeling crazy I will use nacho cheese Doritos in place of the tortilla chips. If you want it to be more healthy, leave out the chips and just stick with the salsa and skip the ranch. I like to serve all the components in separate bowls so everyone can make their own salad to their liking.
My kids are fairly picky eaters. Our rule is simply choose something from the table to eat and eat what you put on your plate. This is what Clara's taco salad looked like:
I like to call it "taco salad, deconstructed." Delicious!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What's for dinner tonight: Wednesday

Chicken and brown rice with a mustard cream sauce

This is a variation on something my mom used to make. It's just a basic chicken served with brown rice and fresh green beans, but it is the sauce that makes it. I wanted to put that stuff on everything!
I simply started with chicken breast cutlets (they are thinner, but chicken tenders or chicken breast pounded to 1/2-3/4 inch thick would work too.)
Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and add to a hot stainless steel skillet with 1 tbs. olive oil. Cook until browned on both sides and cooked through.
Remove the chicken and tent with foil to keep warm. Add 1-1 1/2 cups chicken broth to the hot pan and scrape with a wooden spoon to get all the caramelized bits off the bottom. Bring that to a boil and boil until thickened (2-3 minutes). It won't be terribly thick, but it will be thicker than the watery consistency it started at. Whisk in a generous squirt (1-2 Tbs) of good mustard. Add a splash of heavy cream (I think I used about 1/4 cup) and season with freshly ground pepper. Serve over rice. Yumm!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What's for dinner tonight: Tuesday

Whole grain pasta with red sauce, salad, and sourdough toast

This is a common meal in my house. It takes about 15 minutes to throw together, everyone likes it, and I always have the ingredients on hand. This is one of those "I had a crazy day and didn't make it to the grocery store and don't have time to make dinner" kind of meals. It's simple, but my kids love it and it saves us from take-out. I call that a win!

My little secret touch is the freshly grated Parmesan on top. Pasta sauce from a jar is 10x better with fresh Parmesan and it almost makes me forget that the sauce isn't homemade...almost.
Happy kids on pasta night!

Monday, January 12, 2015

What's for dinner tonight?

I hope you all had a great Christmas and are enjoying the new year. I always love getting back into the swing of things after the holidays. For me the swing of things involves a good morning routine and meal planning! This week I am doing a series I call "What's for dinner". Every day for a week I will share what we are having for dinner. At our house there are no leftovers (leftovers are for lunch) and we are on a strict budget and rarely eat out. But let's face it, cooking every night with 3 littles under foot (not to mention their picky little palates) can be tricky. Some nights our dinners are super simple and others are more involved. Some meals are very healthy and others are a little more indulgent. But they are all balanced and delicious and who couldn't use a few more dinner ideas?

 What's for dinner: Monday

Taco Soup with cornbread and baby carrots with ranch
There are about a million ways to make taco soup, but this is how I like to make it. The best part is that I always have these ingredients on hand so there is little to no planning ahead necessary.
It's not really  recipe as much as a process.

In a large pot brown 1/2-1 lb. ground beef or turkey with half an onion, diced small.
Sprinkle on 1/2 a taco seasoning packet or more to taste.
Add 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can corn, 1 can beans of choice (rinsed and drained), 1 small can of tomato sauce, and 1 cup water (I just use the tomato sauce can to measure).
Simmer until hot. Serve with toppings of choice. I usually use cheese, tortilla chips, and sour cream

My favorite corn bread recipe comes from the side of the corn meal package. It's not too sweet, moist, and delicious! I always bake mine in my cast iron skillet to get it a little crispy on the bottom.