Aug 30, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 08/30/10

Woohoo, we get to start eating from my last freezer session!

Here's our plan for this week:


Chicken Penne, Salad
I hadn't planned originally on this, but needed to make a casserole for a friend whose Mother passed away and this was easy to double and I had most everything needed to make it. I just cooked up two boxes of penne, mixed in 5 cups of shredded chicken (frozen), 2 cups of cheese and 2 jars of spaghetti sauce. Placed in two casserole dishes and topped each with another cup of cheese (each) and baked @ 350 degrees for 25 minutes.


Asian Pork Tenderloin, White Rice, Veggies
I used Pork Roasts this time (they were on sale) and will see how they turn out.


Meatball Sandwiches, Fruit
Frozen meatballs with marinara sauce and cheese on toasted rolls.


Dump Italian Chicken, Pesto Noodles, Salad
Chicken breasts marinated in Italian dressing.


Out to eat with the Girls – Pizza for the guys


Chicken Broccoli Casserole, Rolls


Chicken Enchiladas, Ranch Style Beans, Spanish Rice

I expect a few changes this week as Tuesday is my birthday and I know my family will want to do something. I am figuring we will all be a bit tired Tuesday as it is my son's first day of school and I have a long day at work, so we'll play it by ear.

I'm linking to I'm an Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Check out all the plans linked for some great dinner ideas.

Last week's menu - In Review

Each week I will review the previous weeks' menu. This is so I can go back and see what worked and what didn't. I can also track just how well we are doing staying on our menu plan.

Here was our original plan:

Monday – Pesto Chicken Bake, Noodles, Corn
Tuesday – Pizza Party for Johnny
Wednesday – Broccoli Chicken Casserole, Rolls
Thursday – Pork Chow Mein, Fried Rice
Friday – Southwest Chicken Pie
Saturday – Steak, Baked Potatoes, Salad
Sunday – Teriyaki Meatballs over rice, Mixed

Wow, I think we failed. Monday and Tuesday went well and I found a new love in Pesto, which I wrote about here.

Wednesday, I made the Southwest Chicken Pie and it was delicious. I had way too much filling, so I froze the extra. I think the filling will freeze well and this may make it into my next freezer plan. It is a nice, different, meal.

Friday we were invited to a barbeque, Saturday we took a friend out for her birthday, and Sunday we were invited to the house of friends. I did make a new cake for dessert and plan to post about it in the next few days.

That leaves Thursday and I can't remember what we did that night! Wow, age must be really affecting my memory. :)

So we tried two new meals which were both hits, one which will work for a freezer plan. I've put the Broccoli Chicken Casserole on next week's plan and hope to get to try it out.

Aug 28, 2010

Back to School Teacher Gift {First Attempt at Mod Podge}

Here's a Back-to-School Gift I made for my son's teacher. It started out as a bit of a joke when we bought several packs of red pens.

Two years ago, my son got a demerit in class for not having a red pen. When he told me, I thought he was joking. I didn't think any teacher would give a demerit for not having a pen. Demerits in this school are used for excessive talking, disrespect, and other behaviour issues. I couldn't imagine not having a pen would fall into this category. Of course, I am one of those moms who will always jump to the defense of my sons. Usually without thinking. And he's not the perfect angel I sometimes think he is. *cough*

Demerits are not unknown to my son...he has collected more than his fair share over the years. And I'm not kidding when I say more than his fair share. But two years ago he fnally figured out he could behave and he was actually tryng not to get any demerits for the year. I knew he was (finally) making a true effort to not get any demerits. So the red pen demerit grated a bit.

To be fair, the teacher had a right. She had been forever reminding the kids to bring their red or green pens for grading each day and finally told the kids that if they didn't remember, she would be handing out demerits. And she followed through on her word. And to her credit, she told me that if that was the only demerit he got for the whole year, she would take it back. Which he did. And she did. I was thrilled my boy who had received 30 demirits in three months in the 7th grade was able to get zero (ok, actually one, but she did take it back) in the 9th grade.

So after that loooooong story, when I found the $1/1 Target Bic Coupon last month, I bought four packs of red pens for her. I also had picked up a ton of pencils either super cheap or free and figured I'd give some to her also. to present them?

I remembered this container I had saved from a Vocalpoint sample:

If you haven't registered at Vocalpoint, stop what you are doing and go do it right now! Then send you the coolest samples and super great coupons.

Anyhow, when I received this container from Vocalpoint, it had some Crystal Lite samples and coupons in it. I love how they find such cute ways to deliver their samples. And when I saw how cute this way, I couldn't throw it away. I knew it would come in handy sometime. Here's a pic showing the top and bottom separately.

I had some scrapbooking paper laying around and found this cute Fallish (yes that is now a word!) paper with apples. How appropriate! I grabbed a solid coordinating paper for the inside and cut them to size.

I had bought some Mod Podge last time I was at Michaels after seeing all the cute projects people have made with it. I decided this was the time to try it out. Holding my breath, I jumped right in. Remember, I had no idea what I was doing. But it really wasn't all that hard.

I slathered a layer of Mod Podge on first, smoothed the paper in, and ‘painted’ on another layer of Mod Podge. My brush was way too big and made it harder than it should have been, but it was all I had.

And here is the final result.

Yes, it’s not perfect. But I am working hard to reign my obsessive need for perfection. Usually I try to make things better and end up making them worse. I thought it came out kinda’ cute and now the kids won’t have to fret about remembering their red pens!

Aug 27, 2010

New Friend Friday

I started this blog mainly as a way to keep track of my menu plans, my freezer cooking, the occasional craft, etc. I have discovered so many great ideas by following blogs and am becoming slightly addicted. I love finding new blogs because that means finding new ideas.

Today I am trying something new by joining in on New Friend Friday hosted by Trendy Treehouse.
New Friend Fridays

If you would like to check it out for yourself, click on the button above and you can join in on the fun also!

Aug 26, 2010

Recipe Binder

I'm curious. How do you keep track of your recipes?

I've kept my recipes in a document folder on my computer for a long time, but I found that I was printing them out each time I wanted to use a particular recipe so I wouldn't have to take my laptop into the kitchen. See, I'm a messy cook. And I don't want to ruin my laptop. But printing out the recipes each time I used one got to be a pain and a waste of paper.

So, last year I started a recipe binder. I purchased a small binder (5 1/2 x 8 1/2) and a small 3-hole punch and began filling it up. I did good for a while, but like most things, it began to get messy as I got lazy.

Here's the mess I have created:

This morning I was reading some of the blogs I like to follow and I came across this post at Clean Mama. It was the inspiration I needed to tackle my recipe binder and get it organized before school begins. Wow, I can’t believe how dirty this binder was. This picture looks better than it really was:

First things first, I want my binder to be pretty. After making the binder front for my son (that he surely won’t use), I decided my recipe binder needed a pretty look. So I fooled around a bit and came up with this:

Much better, don’t you think? So now I need to get it organized. I know I have dividers somewhere around here. I just need to figure out what categories I want to divide the recipes into. Should I go with Chicken, Beef, Etc. Or by cooking methods like Freezer, Crockpot, Grilling? Or perhaps a mix of both along with a Favorites tab?

Aug 25, 2010

Binder Front Subway Art

I've noticed that the web is full of DIY Subway Art lately. You can read how to make a friend board here. And Tatertots & Jello actually hosted a Subway Art Party! Check it out to see all of the amazing projects that have been made.

Yesterday, I finished up the last of our back-to-school son needed a new binder and he had a specific one in mind. So off to Staples we went so he could buy a one-touch know the kind...that you can open the prongs with one hand. They are a bit more expensive, but since we have everything else he needs already in our stockpile of school/office supplies, I figured it was okay.

The binder he got this year was made by Avery and has the plastic pocket on front and back where you can slip in photos, pictures, etc.

So, when we got home, I was thinking about his binder and started playing around with Paintshop Pro. This is what I made:

I printed it out and slipped it inside his new binder and said, "Look what I made for you!"

Lol...he was a bit stunned. Let's recall that he is 16. And he said one word:



So now I know....16 + Subway Art = No thanks.

But I still think it is cute and a younger boy or girl might really think it is cool. Or maybe I am just a bit wacko.

I have linked this post to the following:
Spotlight Yourself Party at It's So Very Cheri
'Look at Me' Party at It's FUN to Craft

Aug 24, 2010


I couldn't wait for my weekly review to post about last night's dinner. We had Pesto Chicken Bake. I can't figure out where I found this recipe, so it anyone knows, let me know so I can give proper credit.

Pesto Chicken Bake

4 Chicken Breasts
1 jar Classico Pesto Sauce
Noodles or Rice

1. Place chicken in baking dish. Put a spoonful of pesto sauce on top. Bake @ 350 until done. (35-40 min.)

2. While chicken is baking, cook and drain pasta or cook rice.

3. Stir some pesto sauce into noodles (or rice) and serve.

When I went to the store to buy the Classico Pesto Sauce, I couldn't find it. I stared at the shelf of pasta sauces, specifically the area with the Classico sauces, as if my piercing stare would make it magically appear. Am I the only one who thinks that if I look hard enough, I will find what I'm looking for?

Well, my store doesn't carry Classico Pesto Sauce, but I did find a small jar of Pesto. For $4.59!!! Yikes. It was about half the size of the other pasta sauce jars and, in my opinion, expensive.

I bought it anyway and boy am I happy I did.

You see, I have never cooked with pesto before. In fact, I don't think I have ever eaten pesto before. Like my son said, "It's greeeeen."

But I wanted to lick my plate clean. It was gooooooooood! And son asked for seconds, too.

So now I'm on the hunt to find the perfect recipe for pesto. I have seen that you can make it up and freeze in ice cube trays. This is something I NEED to do a) because it is yummy and b) because it has got to be less expensive to make it yourself.

So if anyone has a tried and true recipe for pesto, I need it!

Aug 23, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 8/23/10

Every week I make up a menu plan, including the weekends, to follow. I find this saves me time, money, and most importantly, unnecessary frustration. I was initially inspried to plan our weekly meals by reading about it at I'm An Organizing Junkie. She hosts a menu planning party each week where you can link up your own menu plan and find inspiration from hundreds of other people who also link up their plans. This week's plans are here.

Here's what we will be eating this week:


Pesto Chicken Bake, Pasta, Corn


Pizza Party for Youngest and Friends


Broccoli Chicken Casserole, Rolls


Pork Chow Mein, Fried Rice


Southwest Chicken Pie


Steak, Baked Potatoes, Salad


Teriyaki Meatballs over rice, Mixed Veggies
Using meatballs from our freezer

I will bake extra chicken Monday to use in Wednesday and Friday's meals. Several of these recipes are new to us and I will post how they work out. I'm always on the lookout for new recipes that will freeze well - hopefully some of these will make the cut. ;)

What's on your plan this week?

Last week's menu - In Review and Mexican Penne Recipe

I plan to start reviewing our weekly menus so I can refer back later and recall what worked and what didn't.

To refresh our memories, here's what we ate last week:

Monday – Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
Tuesday – Spaghetti, Salad, Garlic Bread
Wednesday – Rotisserie Chicken, Corn on the Cob, Ranch Beans
Thursday - Chicken w/Salsa, Broccoli, Pasta Roni
Friday – Mexican Penne, Salad, Rolls
Saturday – Big Salad w/chicken, cucumbers, tomato, etc.
Sunday – Eat Out or Leftovers

The first half of the week went as planned. But I returned to work this week. And I was tired this week. :) Really tired. Having meals ready to go was a lifesaver!

Thursday was our youngest's birthday, so we took him out to Olive Garden to eat instead of eating at home. So that chicken stayed in the freezer for another day.

And Friday, I forgot to take the Penne from the freezer. Without knowing this, hubby went to the store and bought a roast and cooked it in the crockpot. So that worked out perfectly!

And Saturday, some friends invited us out to dinner. We couldn't refuse, could we?

I need to admit something here...when I plan a day like Sunday - eating leftovers - I should know better. With two grown sons in the house, there are rarely leftovers around by Sunday. Unless I make something they don't like.

I'm happy with the week and since I've already featured the Rotisserie Chicken Recipe here I will leave you with the recipe for Mexican Penne which I originally found at My boys love this for dinner! I love it because it is easy and freezes well!

Mexican Penne

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. box Penne pasta, cooked as directed
2 16oz. jars salsa (I prefer a chunky salsa)
1 15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups Mexican cheese (or whatever you have on hand)

1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.

2. Cook the ground beef, drain.

3. In large bowl, combine the beef, salsa, and black beans. Mix well.

4. Add the pasta and half the cheese and mix.

5. Place in baking dish and top with remaining cheese.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Freezer directions:

Slightly undercook the pasta so it is still a little bit firm. Follow the above directions thru #4, without adding the cheese. Place in freezable dish or ziplock bag and freeze.

When ready to eat, thaw. Place half of the mixture in a baking dish, top with 1/2 cheese and repeat.

Bake as directed.

Aug 22, 2010

Scripture Memorization

I have a hard time memorizing bible verses. I want to know the Bible. It is God's commandment that we know the Bible. But keeping it real, it's not possible to memorize all of the's just too big. And memorization is hard.

However, there are many verses that I desire to be able to pull them out of my brain when I need them. But let's face brain isn't what it used to be. I just might be getting old. **shudder**

I posted about a memorization system
here that I thought would really work. And it did. For about three weeks. Then I stopped doing it.

The hardest part for me is memorizing the reference as well as the verse. What I mean is, I can memorize the verse, but can't always remember where it is in the Bible.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Psalm 119:11

I had to look up where that verse was. Now, I knew it was in the 119th Psalm, but I couldn't recall if it was verse 10 or 11. And that's an easier one to remember.

The other thing I have a problem with is context. So many times I hear verses pulled from the Bible and used out of context. I don't want to do this.

Now, why am I writing about this? For accountability.

Earlier this summer I decided that I would try to memorize certain parts of the Bible. For instance, I knew most of the 23rd Psalm, but I couldn't recite the whole Psalm without a few stumbles. I kept at it until I could state the whole Psalm without gaps....then I pictured writing it out in my mind, seeing each word. Then I mentally defined each phrase, making sure I understood it. I love that I can fall back on this Psalm when I'm troubled, when I'm frustrated, when I'm needing comfort.

And now I'm working on Romans 12. Why Romans 12? I can't really say, except that I felt pulled to that particular chapter. I wondered myself why I felt I needed to memorize this part of the Bible. The following week, I ran across a post online about Romans 12:1. Then in church, our Pastor referenced Romans 12:1 as well. Then the next week, he mentioned Romans 12:2. It was as if God was telling me that this section of the Bible was something I needed.

There is a lot to learn in this chapter. I don't mean a lot of words to memorize (although that is also true), but a lot of lessons. Each verse is powerful and by memorizing the passage in whole, I am focusing on each point over and over again and I am not just memorizing words, but I am absorbing God's Word.

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Romans 12:15

I have always loved this verse. Maybe it isn't a typical verse that people choose for memorization. It tells me how important it is to be with fellow Christians. In times of joy and in times of sorrow. Celebrate with them in times of happiness and cry with them in times of sadness. Simply said, be there for each other.

Okay so here's my progress. I've got verses 1-3 down. Verses 4-5 come and go. I've got verses 6-9 down. Verses 10-15 are almost solid. 16-20 are still to be learned. And verse 21 I've known for awhile:

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21

Romans 12
1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

3For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

4For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:

5So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;

8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

9Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

10Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

11Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

12Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

13Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

14Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

15Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

16Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

17Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

18If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

20Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

21Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

A side note. My son goes to a Christian school. His freshman year of high school, he had a Bible Quizzing Class. He had to memorize 8-10 verses every week. As I struggle with memorizing, I am amazed at how much those kids learned. Two weeks ago he went to a summer camp and they had a week-long contest on memorizing verses. He took 1st place for reciting 88 verses. He would have done more, but couldn't find a counselor at the end to do the last 12 verses. He knew them because of the Bible Quizzing Class. But the fact I love is that he retained the verses a year and a half later...and so can I.

Aug 21, 2010

Making Strawberry Jam for the Freezer

One of the things I wanted to do this summer was making freezer jam. Have you ever tried this?

I have never canned. I would like to learn how, but just the idea of buying all the equipment sounds daunting.

So, when I heard about freezer jam, I thought it would be a nice alternative to canning.

This was so EASY!

I bought the pectin at my grocery store. My store only stocks Sure Jell, but there are other types out there. And I picked up strawberries when they were on sale 'buy one get one free'.

To make the jam, I just followed the instructions that came with the Sure Jell. I used my food processor to puree the strawberries and left them just a bit chunky so the jam would be hearty.

You will need 2 cups of strawberry puree. Add to the strawberries 4 cups of sugar. This amount of sugar seems like a lot, but I went ahead with it as all I had read online stressed to follow the instructions exactly. I didn't want to ruin it by changing the recipe.

While the strawberries and sugar are melding (like that word?), boil some water and the pectin in a small saucepan. I don't recall how much water, but the instructions tell you. Once the strawberry/sugar mix has sat for the required time (I think 4 minutes, but again, read the instructions), you just mix the pectin/water mix in and gently stir.

I used the small screw-top ziplock containers and the recipe filled three of these. Let them sit at room temperature for 24 hours to complete the jelling process and then pop into the freezer. I kept one in the fridge to use now.

Review: I was a bit surprised when my son commented on how sweet the jam was. I didn't think anything would seem too sweet to a kid, but there you have it. I am curious to see if the ones in the freezer taste as sweet. If so, next time I will buy the pectin that is for sugar free or less sugar recipes. In fact, I think I will try this either way as less sugar is a good thing.

Cost Analysis: It wasn't too expensive to make this. You would definitely want to make jam when the desired fruit is in season to get the best price on it. I've never paid attention to the pectin, but I'm sure it goes on sale from time to time and I will be watching for a sale/coupon match-up in the future to stock up for next year.

Overall, I consider this a success. I like knowing what ingredients go into the food I serve my family and I had fun making this. It was super fast and I just feel good knowing that I made it.

I will definitely do this again!

Aug 17, 2010

My Freezer Cooking Menu Plan - September thru December

I have been posting about my freezer cooking the last few weeks here and here. And I promised to post links to the recipes. So here you have it! I am linking to the original recipes and have changed some a bit, so each week I will try to update the recipes with my changes as well as posting any recipes that don't have links.

Let me ask you...does this look like a great, awesome, wonderful idea? It was hard while doing it, but my friend, these meals are done! I won't have to think, shop, chop, prep, or cook for five days each week! Well, yes, I will have to cook, but it will be easy cooking. Like popping something in the crockpot or oven.

So here's the plan...and yes, it will change, as life always throws unexpected curves our way. But that's okay too, as these meals will keep as long as I want them too.

08/30 – Asian Pork Roast
08/31 – Enchilada Casserole
09/01 – Meatball Sandwiches
09/02 – Dump Italian Chicken
09/03 –
09/04 –
09/05 – Chicken Enchiladas

09/06 – Garlic Dijon Chicken
09/07 – Meatloaf
09/08 – Black Bean Salsa Chicken
09/09 – Stuffed Shells
09/10 –
09/11 –
09/12 – Stuffed Buffalo Chicken

09/13 – Korean Tri Tip
09/14 – Pork Chops w/French Fried Onions
09/15 – Chicken w/Salsa
09/16 – CP Roast
09/17 –
09/18 –
09/19 – Rotisserie Chicken

09/20 – Mexican Penne
09/21 – Chicken Spaghetti
09/22 – Sue Sue’s Casserole
09/23 – Lasagna Roll-ups
09/24 –
09/25 –
09/26 – BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

09/27 – Oriental Pork Chops
09/28 – Parmesan Chicken
09/29 – Swedish Meatballs
09/30 – Chicken Tortilla Casserole
10/01 –
10/02 –
10/03 – Ranch Chicken

10/04 – Chicken & Beef Fajitas
10/05 – Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti
10/06 – Mini Meatloaves
10/07 – Chicken ‘n Rice Casserole
10/08 –
10/09 –
10/10 – Poppyseed Chicken

10/11 – CP Chicken ‘n Stuffing
10/12 – Buffalo Shrimp
10/13 – Chicken Ziti
10/14 – Turkey Burgers
10/15 –
10/16 –
10/17 – Steak

10/18 – Spaghetti
10/19 – Honey & Soy Chicken
10/20 – CP Chili
10/21 – Hamburgers
10/22 –
10/23 –
10/24 – CP Greek Ribs

10/25 – Asian Pork Roast
10/26 – Enchilada Casserole
10/27 – Teriyaki Meatballs
10/28 – Lemon Garlic Chicken
10/29 –
10/30 –
10/31 – Chicken Enchiladas

11/01 – Rotisserie Chicken
11/02 – Meatloaf
11/03 – Black Bean Salsa Chicken
11/04 – Stuffed Shells
11/05 –
11/06 –
11/07 – Stuffed Buffalo Chicken

11/08 – Korean Tri Tip
11/09 – Pork Chops w/French Fried Onions
11/10 – Chicken w/Salsa
11/11 – CP Roast
11/12 –
11/13 –
11/14 – BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

11/15 – Mexican Penne
11/16 – Chicken Spaghetti
11/17 – Sue Sue’s Casserole
11/18 – Lasagna Roll-ups
11/19 –
11/20 –
11/21 – Chicken Tortilla Casserole

11/22 – Oriental Pork Chops
11/23 – Parmesan Chicken
11/24 – Meatball Sandwiches
11/25 – Thanksgiving
11/26 – Leftovers
11/27 –
11/28 – Ranch Chicken

11/29 – Chicken & Beef Fajitas
11/30 – Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti
12/01 – Mini Meatloaves
12/02 – Chicken ‘n Rice Casserole
12/03 –
12/04 –
12/05 – CP Greek Ribs

12/06 – CP Chicken ‘n Stuffing
12/07 – Buffalo Shrimp
12/08 – Chicken Ziti
12/09 – Turkey Burgers
12/10 –
12/11 –
12/12 – Poppyseed Chicken

12/13 – Lemon Garlic Chicken
12/14 – CP Chili
12/15 – Rotisserie Chicken
12/16 – Hamburgers
12/17 –
12/18 –
12/19 – Honey & Soy Chicken

12/20 – Meatloaf
12/21 – Garlic Dijon Chicken
12/22 –
12/23 –
12/24 – Traditional Prime Rib Dinner
12/25 – Christmas
12/26 –

Rotisserie Chicken

I know I've mentioned this recipe several times in the past, but I wanted to write a post about how I like to prepare this chicken. I originally found this recipe here at (what used to be

Lots of people think it is silly to make a rotisserie style chicken when you can easily buy a precooked chicken at most grocery stores for about $5. This is true, but when whole chickens are on sale, you can get a much larger chicken than the precooked ones for the same $5. That means lots more meat and we usually can get two meals from one chicken.

Another plus of this recipe is that it freezes well. I like to pick up several chickens (when on sale, of course) and prep them all at once. It just makes it easier to make several when you've got all the spices out. I've even made up little bags of the seasoning using snack bags to have on hand.

And another reason I like to make these myself is that my husband is on a healthy food kick and he prefers chicken without the skin. So I skin the chickens before seasoning and freezing and they still come out great. (And I've been known to plop a frozen chicken in the crockpot and have never had any problems....just don't tell the food police that 'cus cooking from frozen is a no-no.)

Here's the recipe:

Rotisserie Chicken

3+ lbs roasting chicken
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Skin the chicken (I use my kitchen shears and this makes it pretty easy to do). Remove the guts and any visible fat.

Mix up the seasoning in a small bowl.

Place chicken in a ziplock bag. (If not eating right away - otherwise skip this part.)

Then sprinkle spice mix on the chicken, making sure to cover all sides. It's less messy this way than seasoning it before putting it into the bag. Seal bag.


Thaw out overnight in fridge and cook in crockpot on low. I've cooked these as long as 12 hours and they still taste great. The longer you cook it, the more the chicken will fall apart.

I like to have a few of these on hand for those times you want to take a meal to a friend. I have an extra crockpot that I put it in and don't have to worry about how long it takes to get it back.

So there you have it: an easy rotisserie chicken recipe that really is better than buying store bought.

Aug 15, 2010

My Menu Plan for the week of 8/16/10

I have discovered that menu planning makes my week flow so much smoother. I've been a bit lax this summer and haven't made up weekly menu plans regularly and I have seen the ugly results ... we've resorted to eating out way too often, which messes with our (hubby's) budget. And our meals made at home have been haphazard and thrown together at the last minute.

So when I realized that I have to work next week, I figured a menu plan was in order. I've spent the last few weeks cooking ahead for when I officially go back to work in September and I ended up with a few extra meals so I am going to use them this coming up week to make my transition back to work a bit easier.

Here's what we will be eating:

Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Spaghetti, Salad, Garlic Bread
(Using pre-cooked ground beef in the freezer)

Rotisserie Chicken, Corn on the Cob, Ranch Beans

Chicken w/Salsa and Cheese, Pasta w/Garlic Sauce, Broccoli
(Such an easy way to make chicken, top chicken breasts with 2 tablespoons of salsa and a sprinkling of cheese and bake - Yum!)

Mexican Penne, Salad, Rolls

I'm thinking a big salad w/tomatoes, cucumbers, and leftover chicken from Wednesday

We will either eat out or have leftovers

All of the main dishes are already prepped and in my freezer as I write this, which is a real relief knowing how easy my meals will be to prepare. And my grocery bill for this week will be really small as I only have to buy the veggies and a few other things like milk and fruit.

I will be linking this to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Check out her post to find tons of great menu ideas from all the different people who link to her blog.

Aug 11, 2010

Freezer Cooking Continued

Okay, I will start this post by saying that I should be cooking. Right. Now.

Instead I'm laying in bed messing on my laptop.

And it is 1:30 pm. Ugh.

Anyway, I've been continuing working on my new 4-month freezer cooking plan. I wrote about the chicken part here. I did pick up the rest of the chicken breasts I needed and finished that part.

I think Safeway got the 'memo' that I was gonna be cooking 'cause they are nicely accomodating me by putting the meats I need on sale for me. :)

This weekend, they had ground beef on sale for $1.69/lb. It was the 80/20, which is higher in fat content than I like to buy, but hey, $1.69/lb. Need I say more?

So I picked up 25 lbs. of ground beef. I used 12 lbs. and made up a big huge - really big - bowl of meatloaf mix. I then packaged up three bags of mini meatloaves and four larger meatloaves. I wasn't really meaning to make up so much just kinda' expanded on me.

I've also made two meals of Enchilada Casserole and two meals of hamburgers. I found this cute tupperware patty maker that I bought way back when people used to actually have tupperware parties. Do they have those anymore? I haven't been invited to one in years. Come to think of it, I haven't been invited to any home parties in a long, long time. Hmmm....maybe it is something personal?

So...what I should be doing right now is the following:

Two of each:

Mexican Penne
Lasagna Roll-ups
Sue Sue's Casserole
Crockpot Chili

Then I'll have to head back to the store for more meat. Hubby is beginning to grumble. Yes, it does add up cooking like this.

But it saves us way more than it costs. Last time I was able to cut our grocery bill down to $60 a week. That was with four freezer meals a week. Now I'm cooking for five meals a week and expect our bill to drop even more. Not too shabby.

I am going to post my menu plan calendar next with links to all of these great recipes in case any one else wants to jump on the crazy cooking train!

Edited to add:

Okay, I pried myself out of my bed and did do some cooking. I made up the Chili and ended up with four freezer bags worth. I usually double the recipe for one meal as my family tends to eat a lot of this, but a double recipe wouldn't fit in one freezer bag. I'll have to make a note to myself to pull out two at a time if everyone is gonna be home.

I also made up the Sue Sue's Casserole (this is the only dish my kids will eat that has peas and mushrooms in it). This too makes a lot, so I reserved some for tonight's dinner.

And, I cooked up the beef for the lasagna roll-ups.

Then, I found another five pounds of hamburger in the fridge. I guess I bought more than I thought. I'll have to figure out what to do with it tomorrow.

Aug 6, 2010

Freezer Cooking - A new plan

In January, I took on a somewhat crazy project of planning/cooking/prepping our weekday meals for the four month period of February – May.

I wasn’t sure if I was going slightly crazy as I purchased all of the food needed. Yikes. But over several days, I surged forward and filled my brand new freezer with approximately 70 meals. I planned out a calendar with meals for every Monday – Thursday (my work days) and each weekend I pulled out that week’s dinners.

I have to say it was a huge success! There were days when I was so tired and had no desire to cook dinner. How wonderful it was to know that dinner was either ready to pop into the oven or already in my crockpot.

That being said, I have decided to do it again! I work for a small community college, so my busy work times are during the Fall and Spring semesters. September will begin the Fall 2010 semester and I want to be prepared for it so I have been planning and cooking.

I am about half way through and I believe that the hardest part is done. Here’s my progress so far:

Safeway had whole chickens on sale last week for .79/lb. This is about the lowest they go, so I picked up five of those babies. One was for Sunday’s dinner, so I threw it into the crockpot with some random seasonings. The other four were to be cooked up for shredded chicken for various meals. Sunday night I threw all four into my nesco roaster (I don’t use my roaster very often, but I sure am glad I have it for projects like this one). I slow cooked them all night and Monday morning I separated the cooked chicken from the broth and threw it all in the fridge. And I proceeded to ignore it all day. :)

Instead I went to Safeway Monday and bought four more chickens. My husband began to wonder if the eggs were hatching in the fridge.

Tuesday, I pulled out the cooked chicken and spent a few hours separating meat from bone, skin, and all the other gross stuff one gets from a whole cooked chicken. This was/is my least favorite part of freezer cooking, but once it was done, I had about 24 cups of cooked chicken! All ready to assemble for the freezer.

Then I took the other four whole chickens, skinned them and rubbed them down with the spice mix I use for Easy Crockpot Rotisserie Chicken. They went straight to the freezer. I’ve found this chicken is great for those times you want to take a meal to a family…I plop one in my crockpot and deliver it, crockpot and all, to the family and they have a nice cooked chicken ready to eat in a few hours. I’ve been known to throw the chicken into the crockpot frozen and it still comes out wonderful.

With the shredded chicken meat, I assembled the following meals over the next few days (two of each):

Chicken Enchiladas
Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti
Poppyseed Chicken
Chicken Ziti
Chicken Spaghetti
Chicken Tortilla Casserole

Oops, I forgot to mention that Saturday I also made up a ton of meatballs. I ended up with six meals worth of meatballs. We will use them for Meatball Sandwiches, Swedish Meatballs, and maybe pasta w/meatballs.

Back to the store I went on Wednesday, ‘cos they now have boneless/skinless chicken breasts on sale for 1.88/lb. I absolutely love that the sales are matching up with my cooking plan! I bought a ton of these and have put up the following:

Ranch Chicken
Italian Chicken
Stuffed Buffalo Chicken
Garlic Dijon Chicken
Honey & Soy Chicken
Lemon Garlic Chicken
Chicken w/Salsa
Parmesan Chicken
BBQ Chicken

I ran out of chicken so I need to run back and pick up four more packages to finish up the following:

Chicken & Beef Fajitas
Crockpot Chicken ‘n Stuffing
Rice & Chicken Bake

And that will finish up the Chicken part of my meal plans….next I’ll move on to the pork and beef. Looking at what I have left, the chicken was definitely the hardest part, so I should finish up next week and will have meals ready to get us through ‘til Christmas time! Wow, I am so excited to be getting this done!

Aug 4, 2010

Why I Menu Plan

I started making a weekly Menu Plan last summer. In fact, it was last August, so I have been making weekly menu plans for almost a year now. I find there are multiple benefits to this!

- It saves us money!

I find that making a weekly menu plan saves us money! By making a plan for each week of what we are going to eat, I find we eat out less often. Those last minute decisions to grab take-out or fastfood still occur, just not as frequently. That's a big savings.

I also find that if I do my weekly shopping with a complete list of what I need, it cuts down on those smaller grocery store runs to pick up one or two things. Lets be truthful, it's nearly impossible to run into the grocery store for one or two things and not grab about five or six more needed items. Not to mention the wasted time and money on gas.

And if I'm really on top of things, I can plan our menus around the grocery store sales for the week, saving even more.

- It saves me mental anguish!

How many times do you stare into the refrigerator before dinner and feel like you are being given a complex puzzle to put together? Just how can you combine those meager ingredients together and create something great for dinner?

Maybe it is just me, but my creative juices don't kick in when I'm pressured to figure out what to cook for dinner. Spaghetti makes its appearance way too often here!

If I've got a plan, I don't have to think. I pull out what I need (which I have 'cos I shopped from my menu plan list) and dinner is on its way!

- We get to try new recipes!

Because I'm better prepared, I usually can try out a new recipe each week. Not only have we found some new family favorites, we have more variety each week.

So how do I do it?

There are lots of menu plan helpers available on the internet. Lots of different ways to organize your weekly menus. Ideas on how to plan each week.

Some people plan on having a certain type of meal for each day of the week. Like this:

Monday - Mexican
Tuesday - Italian
Wednesday - Something new
Thursday - Breakfast for dinner
Friday - Family favorites
Saturday - Eat Out
Sunday - Leftovers

Others prefer to stick to a certain main ingredient for each day of the week:

Monday - Chicken
Tuesday - Beef
Wednesday - Vegetarian
Thursday - Breakfast
Friday - Seafood
Saturday - Pork
Sunday - Leftovers

You get the idea.

I don't do either of these, but I do keep them in mind. I try not to plan on chicken two nights in a row (yes, it does happen) or three different Mexican flavored dishes in a week (I love mexican so this is sometimes a challenge).

I do try to plan at least one new recipe to try each week. To make this easy, I keep a word document on my desktop titled 'Menu Plan Ideas'. As I'm browsing around during the week, if I come across a recipe I'd like to try, I copy and paste the URL to this document so I can find it easily when I do my weekly plan.

When I am ready to plan my week, I open a blank document and title it 'Menu Plan 080110'. I then type out my Monday - Sunday and any special plans we have for the week. Wednesdays and Sundays are always busier nights for us due to church, so I plan easy meals for those days. Usually something in the crockpot. Then I check out my new recipe ideas and put in any I want to try for that week. I next check last weeks menu plan and reschedule any meals that never made it to the table. At this point, I'm almost done, but the hard part begins 'cus I have to fill in the rest of the blanks and my mind conveniently goes blank. So I open the folder with all of my saved menu plans and start browsing thru them, picking out meals that we haven't had in a while.

I usually type up my grocery list right on the same document so I know what I need for each meal.

So there you have - the why and the how! And believe me, it gets way easier the more you do it!