Friday, July 30, 2010

Beet Salad them or hate them! It seems like everyone has strong feelings about beets. I guess it's just a vegetable without much middle ground.

We love them at our house. My daughter started her love with beets when she was little and tried to eat so many to see if she could turn her tinkle pink! Although she is long past the princess and pink stage, her love of beets has remained. We were all happy to see that beets arrived in the CSA box this week.

The favorite way to eat beets at our house is to grill them; however, that wasn't possible this week so I baked them in aluminum foil with a small amount of olive oil and salt and pepper. I had some greens in the fridge, so we had a salad with the beets and feta cheese. A drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar completed this very simple but very delicious meal.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sautéed Patty Pan Squash

This is not exactly gourmet or very difficult to figure out, but sometimes you just need someone else to give you some inspiration! This week I received quite a bit of yellow and green patty pan squash and some yellow crookneck squash in my CSA box. I also received some candy apple red onions which are really sweet and tasty.

I sliced the onions and squash and sautéed them in about a tablespoon of olive oil. That's it! I then sprinkled fresh dill and basil over the top and served. While very uncomplicated, this dish is full of flavor and a great side dish to any meal. I  served this as a side to pulled pork sandwiches. I had the pork in the freezer, so this dinner took about 10 minutes to prepare, perfect for a busy summer evening.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Beef Shoulder Medallions

Medallions in Marinade
Medallions after grilling

Grilled Steak...what's the secret? Well, I decided to write a post about this meal because it was a new cut of meat for me and it was really inexpensive!

Every couple of months Sendik's, my local upscale grocery store, has a meat and seafood sale. During the last sale I came across a package of "beef shoulder medallions", priced at $3.49 a pound...for $10 I would get enough red meat for at least two good sized meals for my family.  The question was, what are they and what can I do with them? A butcher was restocking nearby so I decided to ask him the best approach.  He very politely explained that I would have to marinate the meat for a very long time.  I think he really wanted to say "you will need to marinate the he(ck) out of the them", but he restrained himself.  I asked the follow up question, "so marinate them similarly to flank steak?" His response was, "yes, or longer".
I usually prepare flank steak in a fajita marinade, so I decided to stick with my usual.  I like penzey's fajita spices.  I mix 2 T spice with 2 T water and then add 1/4 cup vegetable oil(recipe is on the back of the jar).  I marinated the medallions for 8 hours and then grilled them.

The finished product was a tasty, tender steak, very similar to flank steak.  There were "veins" of gristle in some of the steaks, but they were small and easy to remove. I served the steak with fresh green and yellow beans and baby red potatoes from my CSA.  A simple, inexpensive, summer supper.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Welcome Karen

Yea, my blogging partner has posted! Please welcome my friend and fellow swim mom to Fresh Family Food. Karen and I do bounce ideas off of each other and I am so thrilled that she decided to join me in this blogging adventure. Karen introduced me to Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and filled me in on the cost savings of buying flour and yeast from the warehouse club.

While the fall will bring some changes to the swim schedule (my daughter moves to the high school group and Karen's will remain in the middle school group) I'm sure Karen and I will still swap ideas...perhaps more often on the blog than in the stands!

About me.

You can learn a lot about a person/family with the question, "What's for dinner at your house tonight?" It's one of my favorite questions as the mother of a swimmer waiting for practice to end. I love the question because I can get some good recipes or good ideas, and I do find out a bit about the person. Some of us are planners and know what our meals are for the week (well, most weeks anyway), some people have no idea what they'll be eating after practice, and others are stopping somewhere to grab a dinner. Oh...and I often ask the question because it's evening and I'm getting hungry and just want to talk about food.

I love to eat...that's why I work out and why I plan meals ahead of time. I try to plan about 4-5 meals every week. The other meals we eat leftovers or I create something with freezer ingredients and pantry staples, or we may decide to eat out. For our small family of three (and a traveling husband, so often for only 2) that seems to work for us. I have tried planning more meals each week but that hasn't worked for our family.

Elizabeth and I met at swim practice and soon started exchanging recipe ideas. Sometimes I get in a cooking rut or have a problem thinking up weekly plans. It's inspiring to hear what others are having...especially because she likes quick, healthy, and inexpensive ideas as well! She asked me to provide some blog posts...and I'm excited about sharing recipe ideas, so let's see some comments and ideas from others. I'm always looking for more recipes.

A CSA box provides us with fresh ingredients every other week during the growing season. We split the share with another family of three and alternate the weeks. We've done this for a number of years and it works well. Initially we tried splitting the items in each box but have found that created too much work. For example, the cabbage had to be cut..sometimes there is one tomato, and it's just as easy to parboil and freeze two turnips as it is to do that with one.

During the growing season meals are planned after receiving the box on Thursday. However, during the school year the meals are planned around my work schedule and when I can get to the store.

I try to plan my meals so the ingredient usage is maximized. For example, this week I'm using cilantro in an Asian inspired dish as well as in tacos. It's not so much of an issue when I can pluck it from the planter in my yard...but when I purchase it I hate to see part of that big bunch of an herb go to waste! Planning ahead gives us a variety of meals...chicken, fish, meatless. minimizes trips to the grocery store!

Our family recently joined a warehouse store. It took me awhile to jump on this bandwagon thinking that a family of three didn't need to have huge stockpiles of ingredients; however, now that we have been part of this for over a year (yep, just renewed), I am finding that there are items I do like to purchase in bulk. I make the artisan bread (see Elizabeth's post) and purchase the flour and yeast in bulk. The yogurt for smoothies is great to get in large containers. And the fruit....I love the large containers of berries.

So, I have the recipes and meals I just have to remember to take some food pictures before posting.....

Friday, July 23, 2010

Zucchini-Potato Pancakes

It is mid July and I am getting zucchini every week from my CSA.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I have one child who really dislikes this vegetable, so it has to be well disguised for her to eat it.  She doesn't mind knowing it is in the dish, she just can't be able to taste it.

While searching for yet another zucchini recipe, I came across Potato-Zucchini Skillet Pancakes with Cherry Tomato Salad on I had some baby red potatoes from last week's CSA box so I had planned on using those, but this week we got yukon gold potatoes in the CSA box!  So tonight, I made the pancakes using onions, potatoes and zucchini fresh from Farmer Steve's garden.

This recipe is quick to throw together if you have a food processor...simply insert the shredding blade and shred the potato, zucchini and onion together.  I didn't bother peeling the potatoes, and the recipe calls for matzo meal, which I don't stock in my pantry, so I used Italian breadcrumbs.  I also thought the seasoning seemed a bit bland, so I chopped up 2 large basil leaves and 2 sage leaves(also from my CSA box) and added those.  Rather than add all the fat and calories from the oil, I sprayed a non-stick skillet with cooking spray which worked great to brown the pancakes...I did cook the pancakes a bit longer since the skillet was fairly dry, I wanted to be sure all the egg got cooked as well as the vegetables.

My husband is out of town, so he didn't get to taste these, but the kids and I thought they were a great, light summer meal. The only change I would make it to add more salt and a lot of potato dishes, this one needs salt  I skipped the tomato relish and served a tomato-avocado salad with vinaigrette on the side.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rice and Beans - stocking the freezer

It is a rainy day here, so I will be cleaning, shopping and cooking. In one of my recent posts, Santa Fe Rice and Beans, I mentioned that I make rice in large batches and freeze it and I make my own beans.

The idea of freezing cooked rice came from my sister-in-law. She informed me that any kind of rice freezes well!  If you like sticky rice, prepare it and freeze it and it will be sticky when you thaw it. If you prefer fluffy rice, the same holds true. I was raised eating long grain rice, Uncle Ben's to be precise.  My mother would cook it for 10-15 minutes, rinse it under cold water and then place it in a double boiler to "steam"  the rice.  This method produces light, non-starchy rice that isn't a bit mushy.  In today's world of the microwave, I find I can produce the same rice by cooking 10-15 minutes and rinsing but then placing in the microwave on 50% power for 5-10 minutes to steam out the excess moisture. When using whole grain rice, the length of cooking is 20-30 minutes, depending on the rice.

I make and freeze rice in 2-3 cup packages.  This seems to be the right amount for most recipes.  Sometimes I make 100% whole grain or brown rice, other times I make 50% white, 50% brown.  When I make a batch of rice for the freezer, I cook, drain and rinse the rice before I freeze it.  I complete the "steaming" when I take the rice out of the freezer, if it still too wet. Sometimes the steaming isn't necessary, especially if using in a casserole or salad.

Now for beans.  I usually cook my own pinto and black beans.  While many of you probably think this isn't worth the time, since it doesn't save a lot of money, I find the beans more flavorful than their canned counterpart. I do keep canned beans on hand, but I do try to have beans in my freezer.

I rinse and soak my beans overnight.  I drain the beans and then cook them for about an hour, until they are tender.  When they are finished cooking, I stir in 2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar.  To be honest, I don't remember where I learned to do this, but it helps to create a mild brine for the beans to live in in the freezer.  I freeze the beans in 2 cup portions, the same amount as a 16 ounce can. Money wise, I probably get an extra can of beans for the price(the equivalent of 4 cans for the price of 3).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Easy Meatless Manicotti

I was not raised on Lasagne. There, I said it...the farthest we ventured into the land of Italian food was spaghetti with meat sauce.  I never really understood this, it didn't seem like a difficult meal, but, as I've said, my mother wasn't much of a cook and my father had his "set" meals that he made.  I always enjoyed lasagne at friends' houses or pot luck dinners, so once I was married, I made my first lasagne.  Well, I've been married 18 years and I don't think I have made more than 5 lasagnes in my life.  The reasons are many but the MAIN reason is that, making a good lasagne takes a lot of pots and pans, a lot of time and it is a mess. You have to make the sauce, make the filling and cook the pasta before you can even begin to assemble the dish! You also have to bake it for quite a while.

Well, over the years I have been searching for a "lasagne alternative". While my husband likes lasagne, neither of my kids has ever been thrilled with it so I basically stopped making it.  I have two "lasagne alternatives" I like, this is the most recent find and it is a huge success with everyone in my house, including the cook! This recipe uses one bowl and the baking pan(not a lot of clean up), jar sauce (or homemade), you DON'T precook the pasta and it is ready in just over an hour! This recipe comes from

Easy Meatless Manicotti

Please use link to access the recipe...

A few notes about the recipe

1. Each time I have made this, I have filled 18 manicotti, buy two boxes so you have enough.
2. I use my homemade sauce (see Stocking the Freezer blog) which is on the watery side so I cut the added water to 1/2 c.
3. Do allow the pan to rest at least 10 minutes, otherwise the dish is watery.
4. Barilla manicotti shells have larger end openings than DaVinci so they are easier to fill.
5. Use a pastry bag or plastic bag with the corner cut off to squeeze the cheese mixture into the shells, it makes this process quick and easy.

This recipe makes a large pan of manicotti.  While I haven't frozen it yet, I wouldn't hesitate to make the full recipe, cook it and then freeze the leftovers for a later time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Leftover Grilled Summer Vegetables become Pasta Salad with Feta Cheese

(Note: the white chunks that look like they could be tofu are actually the "popped" in the photo.)

As I mentioned in my earlier post "Grilled Summer Vegetables", I always grill more vegetables than we need so I have leftovers to create into a second, quick meal. We are experiencing a heat wave and the thought of cooking a big meal, let alone eating it, isn't very appealing.  I started by cooking about of pound of penne, 1/2 regular and 1/2 whole grain. A note about whole grain pasta, if your family is not thrilled with it, try mixing it into regular pasta a little at a family has decided a 50/50 balance is perfect, but they will go higher!  I also find that with very flavorful sauces or marinades, the whole grain pasta is less noticable. Anyway, back to cooking the pasta.  Cook the penne for about 7 minutes, until al dente.  You don't want to overcook the pasta because it will absorb the dressing and soften further.  Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water.

I had between 3-4 cups of leftover grilled vegies that had been fairly crunchy off the grill.  I decided I would try to soften them a bit more, so I cooked them down in an pan on the stove.  I also added 8-10 grape tomatoes, halved.  The result(after about 20 minutes) was awesome, with carmelization and softening of the vegetables and the formation of a bit(very little) sauce.  I tossed the vegetables with the pasta and drizzled the mixture with vinaigrette.  I used my homemade, which is approximately 2 parts vinegar to 1 part olive oil with 2-3 t of dijon mustard, salt and pepper, but any favorite vinaigrette would work well. I refrigerated the salad for 4-6 hours.  Before serving I added chopped, fresh basil, dill and chives and feta cheese. The result was outstanding, if I do say so myself! The pasta absorbed the flavors of the vegetables and the herbs and cheese added dimension to the salad.  I served this with fresh fruit and my favorite bread from Artisan Bread in five minutes a day...the perfect summer supper.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Quick Bread from the Garden?! either love it or hate it and I have one child who hates matter how I prepare zucchini, it won't be eaten EXCEPT when I make Zucchini Bread.  When I made this recipe for the first time, I told the kids it was cinnamon bread.  Once they were hooked, I revealed that it was actually zucchini bread, but by then they really didn't care! I received 3 large zucchinis from my CSA this week, so it was time to grate some and create this wonderful bread.

As I think back to where I got this recipe, I realize that it came from one of my mother's co-workers from back in the early '80s.  My mom went back to work when I was in middle school in a small, 3 person office and Ruth was her office mate. As my siblings will agree, my mother was not much of a cook and Ruth was a GREAT cook. My mother's culinary skills never became gourmet, but she did expand her repertoire with the help of her friend Ruth.  Ruth also had a huge garden and, yes, we got lots of zucchini from her.  I still make a lot of her recipes, everything from this great bread to main dish stews and desserts.

This recipe is decidedly NOT low calorie.  I had a lot of zucchini so I actually quintupled the recipe(5x).  As I was making it and started figuring the oil and the sugar, I decided I just couldn't put 5 cups of oil AND 5 cups of sugar in anything! I cut the oil and sugar to 4 cups each.  The finished product is a bit drier than the original, but the sugar isn't missed and overall it is still a moist, tender loaf.  If you do decide to make as large a quantity, I would add a little more cinnamon and nutmeg, the spices did seem a bit weak. Another note, cooking this much bread takes time...I ended up with 8 mini-loaves and 24 muffins.  I only have a small, single oven and each batch of 4 mini-loaves took 50 minutes and each batch of 12 mufins took 20-25.  I had planned on cooking all day, so it wasn't an issue, but the baking time was significant. I have frozen 7 mini-loaves and 12 muffins...stocking the freezer for the months to come.


  • 3 c flour
  • 2 c grated zucchini
  • 1 c oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3 t vanilla
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 3/4 t nutmeg


Mix dry ingredients. Beat Zucchini with eggs, add oil and vanilla. Mix together wet and dry ingredients. Grease pans. Bake at 350° F for 1 hour for regular loaf pans, 50 minutes for mini-loaf pans and 20-25 minutes for muffins. Test with a toothpick, if the toothpick comes out clean, the bread is cooked. This bread freezes well.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Dinner Salad #2 - Chicken, Cranberry, Feta Salad with Candied Pecans

As promised, we did have a second main course salad this week in an attempt to use up my over abundance of lettuce.  This recipe was created by mixing a few different salads I have made in the past to create a full meal.  I did use a specific recipe for Spicy Candied Pecans from, but the rest of the meal I created. The salad is both sweet and spicy, but the spice is mild, not hot.  My daughter enjoyed it and she usually shies away from "spicy" food. Once again, I would recommend serving this with a loaf of bread from the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day collection. We had cool watermelon as well which was a great contrast to the sweet and spicy salad.


1 recipe Spicy Candied Pecans
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 t Cajun Seasoning (I use Penzey's brand)
Mixed Greens, I used Bibb, Red Leaf and Romaine Lettuce and Spinach
1 Bunch Green Onions or 1/2 Red Onion, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2-1 cup crumbled feta cheese


4-6 T Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar
1-2 T Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper
6-8 T Olive Oil.


Preheat grill. Grill chicken after lightly seasoning with Cajun Seasoning. Make the Spicy Candied Pecans.  Allow the chicken and pecans to cool. In a large, shallow bowl, layer mixed greens, dried cranberries, green onions, chicken, feta cheese and pecans.  Prepare the dressing by whisking the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper together. Then continue whisking while slowly adding the olive oil.  The dressing should become emulsified, almost creamy. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss and serve with additional pecans and feta cheese on the side.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Grilled Summer Vegetables

Top picture shows the vegetables before going on the grill, the bottom photo shows the vegetables on the grill, almost ready to serve...

There is nothing more flavorful than grilled vegetables in the summer. This week I had patty pan squash , yellow squash, zucchini, red onion, carrots, cabbage,  chinese cabbage and baby red potatoes from my CSA.

I decided I would make a large batch of grilled vegetables to round out my burger dinner. I made enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day and was able to use everything while still having some zucchini left for another meal.  I have outlined the general approach below, but I don't think any batch of my grilled vegetables has ever been duplicated, every batch is unique! I always include onions, but other than that, the vegetable choice is very flexible.

1 yellow, summer squash
3 patty pan squash
1 red onion
1 yellow onion
1 each, red, yellow and orange pepper (not from the CSA)
1/4 regular cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 small chinese cabbage, leafy part removed, chopped
4-5 whole carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
4-6 small red potatoes


2-3 T wine or balsamic vinegar
4-6 T olive oil
Fresh, chopped herbs (I used basil, chive and oregano)

Parboil potatoes(whole and then quarter) and carrots(already cut) until softened, but not fully cooked.  Chop remaining vegetables into large chunks.  Mix all the vegetables in a large bowl and drizzle with oil, vinegar and herbs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir and allow to marinate about 1 hour, shorter or longer is fine.

Preheat grill.  Place vegetables in a large grilling basket and grill for 30-45 minutes, stirring frequently.  Depending on the vegetables, they could take longer.  I usually allow an hour and if the vegetables are ready before the rest of the meal, I move the basket to a cool area of the grill to keep them warm but stop the grilling process.

Everyone in my family enjoys these vegies. Sometimes a little feta cheese is tossed on top, sometimes parmesan or romano cheese.  Leftovers are often tossed together with pasta and some vinagrette to make a vegie-pasta salad. No matter how they are eaten, they are enjoyed!  We also find that we are eating far more vegetables when I prepare them this way than when I just prepare a side of steamed's all good!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dinner Salad #1 - Salad Niçoise

(photo from

As promised, below is the first of two dinner salads we are eating this week...

Salad Niçoise is a traditional French Salad from the southern part of France, namely the area around Nice.  The main ingredients are Tuna, hard boiled egg, green beans, tomatoes,  red or white baby or fingerling potatoes and Olives Niçoise.  My family spent 4 years living outside of Nice in France and this became a staple in our summer diet.  In the traditional salad, the tuna is rare, cooked tuna steak cooked with peppery spices.  For my quick summer meal stateside, I am using canned tuna, much to my husband's and son's dismay. The traditional salad also calls for Bibb or Butter lettuce.  I will be trying to use up some of my overabundance of lettuce, so we are going to have a mixture of Butter, Romaine and Red Leaf lettuce.

Salad Nicoise for 4

Mixture of lettuce or all bibb lettuce, enough for a dinner salad for 4
6 baby red or white potatoes, cooked but not mushy, sliced or quartered
2 cans Albacore or regular tuna packed in water, drained
4 hardboiled eggs, sliced or quartered
4-6 Campari Tomatoes, quartered or 12  grape tomatoes, halved
1/4-1/2 lb green beans, cooked (this week I didn't have green beans, so I omitted these)
Pitted Niçoise Olives, or Kalamata if you can't find Niçoise


2-3 T Red Wine Vinegar
Heaping T Dijon Mustard (more or less to taste)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 cup Olive oil

Whisk vinegar with mustard, salt and pepper.  Continue whisking while adding olive oil in a continuous stream.  Dressing should take on a creamy  constistency.  Adjust flavors to suit your preferences. This is a very traditional French Dressing.

Layer lettuce, then rest of ingredients in a larg shallow bowl and drizzle with dressing. Serve with good french bread or the bread I blogged about in June!

I have attached an Amazon Link for Olives Niçoise from an olive mill in Opio, France.  This mill was about 2 miles from our house in France and we actually had olives from our yard turned into olive oil at this mill.  When we lived in France, all of our olives and olive oil came from this mill and when we do go back to France to visit, we are sure to bring oil and olives home with us!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stocking the Freezer

While sipping my coffee this morning after two long days at a swim meet, I started working on the menu for the week. I will be blogging about salads this week as I have a ton of lettuce from my CSA, but I also realize that my freezer supplies are dwindling. One recipe this week will be an easy manicotti recipe that relies on jarred pasta sauce.  I make my own sauce and I am completely out of it, so I need to make a batch.

Stocking the freezer is an important element to healthy, economical cooking. I buy my canned tomatoes at my warehouse club in the large, 102-106 ounce can.  One of these cans of name brand tomatoes costs about the same as 2-3 16-ounce cans of the generic tomatoes in my grocery store and the recipe below uses a whole can, quite a cost savings.  I can make pasta sauce and freeze it for future meals and to prepare the sauce takes about an hour.  As a bonus, I received fresh basil from my CSA this week and I have fresh oregano and thyme in my garden, so I will replace the dried herbs with fresh herbs. Additionally, there are no preservatives in  homemade sauce. I have a can of diced tomatoes, so before I add them, I will quickly pulse them in a food processor before adding them since the recipe calls for crushed tomatoes.

Basic Pasta Sauce

  • 3  tablespoons  olive oil
  • 3  cups  chopped yellow onion (about 3 medium)
  • 6-8 cloves minced garlic
  • 2  teaspoons  salt
  • 2  teaspoons  dried basil (2 T fresh, chopped)
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  dried oregano (1 1/2 T fresh, chopped)
  • 1  teaspoon  dried thyme (1 T fresh, chopped)
  • 1  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
  • 2  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth(I use homemade, another freezer staple)
  • 1 can (102-106-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven, add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and herbs; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar; cook 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 55 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
To store in the freezer: Ladle room-temperature or chilled sauce into plastic containers or zip-top plastic bags. Seal and freeze for up to four months. I freeze my sauce in 3 cup increments which is approximately the same size as a jar of sauce. Freezing in 1 cup increments allows for the most flexibility, but I find that most recipes that use jar sauce call for one jar.

My batch of sauce made 15 cups, so the equivalent of about 5 jars of sauce. Jarred sauce costs about $2 a jar on sale and I made this entire batch for between $3-$4, a savings of more than 50%. Not bad for an hour of work.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Santa Fe Rice and Beans

This weekend is a big Swim Meet weekend for my daughter. The challenge is to create a nutritious meal that she can eat before the Finals Session in the evening(around 4 PM) while allowing the rest of the family to eat at the regular time. The recipe below is one that I have created by merging several different recipes.  It is full of good protein from beans and is carbohydrate and fiber rich with whole grain rice. To make this even easier and cheaper, I usually have cooked rice in the freezer(I'll blog about this another day) and I prepare my own black beans and freeze them as well.  The recipe is then simply a matter of thawing, mixing and heating...nutritious, easy and cheap!

Santa Fe Rice and Beans

1-11/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 can rotel
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked brown rice(I sometimes do half and half brown/white)
3/4 cup light sour cream
1/4-1/2 t chili powder
2 T scallions, chopped(use mild onion if you don't have scallions)

Mix all the ingredients in a 2 quart baking dish. Heat for 30-45 minutes.  Serve!

We never have any leftovers of this dish, but I probably wouldn't freeze this particular dish because of the sour cream...


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pancakes on a Summer Day

Summertime occasionally allows for the luxury of making a hot breakfast while still being able to sleep in.  This morning was one of those days where no one had to leave the house until 8 AM, so I set to work making our favorite whole grain pancakes.  Once again, the recipe comes from  Their recipe for Multigrain Pancakes is a family favorite.  I always AT LEAST double the recipe, this morning I decided to quadruple the recipe and add some banana that was too ripe to eat.  I mashed two whole bananas and added them to the liquid ingredients and I cut the sugar by 1/4(I used 6 T vs the 8 T called for when quadrupling this recipe). My kids like to eat their pancakes "au natural" with no butter or syrup right off the griddle.  The recipe, however, works great if you do choose to eat pancakes in the traditional way.  The pancakes turned out great and I now have pancakes in the freezer ready to heat and eat for a quick breakfast.
Search for pancakes

Monday, July 5, 2010

4th of July Fare

4th of July in our family means hamburgers, bratwursts and lots of salads laden with mayo. This year I decided to offer one salad that could be classified as healthy! My has a great recipe for Chicken Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese which I have made frequently.  We prefer using feta cheese instead of goat cheese and I usually replace the arugula with either spinach or mixed greens, but the recipe is great. I recently started experimenting with Quinoa.  For those who haven't heard of this great grain, it can be used in salad recipes that call for a small grain such as orzo or rice.  The benefit of Quinoa is that it has a slightly nutty flavor and it is protein rich. To prepare the quinoa you cook it in a two parts water to one part grain ratio similarly to rice and then fluff with a fork, it couldn't be easier.  For the holiday, I replaced the orzo with the quinoa and I omitted the was a hit!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Banana Bread Muffins for a Crowd

With the 4th of July weekend upon us and family coming in from out of town, I decided to whip up some Banana Muffins to feed the crowd. I freeze bananas when they get too ripe to eat and then use them in smoothies or Banana Bread.  Sometimes I just throw the whole banana in and other times I peel and slice them.  the peel'n'slice method takes a bit more time but is more convenient when it is time to use them.

Today I am making a triple batch of a recipe I got about 25 years ago from a family I babysat for(yes, I am dating myself).  This recipe has a healthy touch with the use of whole wheat flour and less sugar than most other recipes, but there is a ton of butter in it, so I can't really call these "healthy" muffins.  They are delicious however, and my family loves them.  You can bake the dough as bread or muffins, your kids prefer the muffins as they can grab them quickly for breakfast or a snack.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 medium bananas
1 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 c whole wheat flour
1/3 c hot water
1/2 c chopped nuts(optional)

Melt butter.  Blend in sugar, mix in eggs and bananas(I usually throw the whole eggs in with the bananas and then use a potato masher to mash the bananas and beat the eggs). Blend until smooth. Whisk together the flours, salt and baking soda.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, alternating with the hot water. Stir in chopped nuts, if desired.

Put in loaf pan, bake at 325℉ for 1 hour 15-30 minutes.  For muffins, bake at 350℉ for 20-25 minutes.

A single batch doesn't last long in our house, but if I do double or triple the recipe, the muffins
and bread freeze well, so use up those bananas!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Meal Planning

The key to successfully preparing fresh meals on a budget is planning. For me, this includes clipping coupons, shopping store specials and being a member of a warehouse club. I only clip coupons for items I already use and I’m not one of those amazing shoppers who can take their grocery bill from $100 to $.25 by using coupons, but I do save up to about $20 a week using coupons and more by shopping store specials.  I am also aware of prices at the warehouse club and watch my local grocery store for specials that advertise better prices than the club prices. It also requires that I plan a weekly menu.  My grocery store doubles coupons on Wednesday, so most of my planning and shopping takes place Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. The whole process can take several hours, and there are weeks that my schedule doesn’t allow enough time and I either skip the warehouse club that week or I miss the double coupon day, but I always have a menu planned and try to stick to it.

Planning the menu is an ongoing process.  I keep a spiral notebook and list menu ideas as I come across them either from my own recipe collection or from recipes I come across in magazines or online. I take a lot of my recipes from and I have established a recipe file on that website. I try to have 6 planned meals each week, the 7th day usually being leftovers. I try to have a balance of meat, chicken, fish and pasta each week as well. Each week is planned around the family schedule.  For instance, in the winter, Monday is always soup night because our schedules require we eat a very late dinner at 7:30 and no one is home to prepare a meal. Some weeks are busy enough that several of the meals come from my pre-made meals in the freezer.  However it comes together, each week has a list of 6 meals, usually assigned to a particular day. At the end of the week, all the meals have been prepared, or there are a couple left over due to a change in plans.  THIS IS KEY...whatever meals are “leftover” start the menu list for the next week. This is important because I have already purchased the ingredients for these meals and if I don’t make them, the ingredients will potentially end up spoiling.

More on meal planning in future posts, but this is my basic approach...