Monday, September 27, 2010

Shuffle the Plan!

I was pretty impressed with myself for showing restraint this afternoon.  My daughter called after school and said she needed a ride home, as her field hockey game was canceled.  Then she wanted to know if she could visit a friend.  This meant that she wouldn't be home for dinner--a dinner that she had requested this morning and that I had rearranged the menu plan to accommodate.  (GRRRR!)

Fortunately I hadn't yet done any cooking, just defrosting.  I figured I'd refrigerate those ingredients for later this week, and shuffle around my menu plan.

Also fortunately, the ham steak that was on sale at Shop Rite today and that I had a great coupon for turned out to be a very small slice of ham steak.  It'll feed 1 1/2 people (or my husband and younger son).  They can have that tonight.  I have some leftovers I'll be happy to eat.

The moral of this story is:  always write your menu plan in pencil!  You never know when someone's going to make you shuffle it!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

The Taste of Home crew on Facebook was talking about Pumpkin Spice Lattes today. One member shared a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Syrup that she had found.

I love Pumpkin Spice Lattes but I don't love paying over $4 for a beverage. I'd tried a few recipes in recent weeks but it wasn't quite "it." So I thought I'd make some of this syrup.

I had more pumpkin in the fridge (from those recent experiments) than this recipe required so I figured I'd double it and use up that pumpkin. I adjusted the spice a little as well. So here's how it worked out:


2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup pumpkin puree

Stir water and sugar in a saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Add spices and pumpkin and simmer 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. (A whisk is a good tool for this job!) Allow to cool. Pour into jars and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Makes about 4 cups syrup--enough to share!

To make my "latte" I make 2 cups (coffeemaker measure, which is not actual cups) of coffee using 2 1/2 measures of ground coffee. I warm up 1/2 cup milk in the microwave for 45 seconds and then use my frother to foam it up. Then I add some pumpkin syrup (about 2 TBL), pour in some of the milk, then the coffee, then the frothy part of the milk. That makes enough to fill my favorite travel mug--and there's even room for whipped cream, if I happened to have any, which unfortunately I did not today.

Delicious!  And WAY cheaper than that expensive coffeehouse chain's (or even Dunkin' Donuts, who makes a mean pumpkin latte for about $3.)

NOTE:  This tasted good, but I found that it wound up separating over time, especially in the fridge.  So, on to a new recipe!

Menu Plan for September 16-22, 2010

Thurs 16: Spaghetti and meatballs

Fri 17: Salmon burgers

Sat 18: "Fend for yourself" night. I had Polish Gnocchi.

Sun 19: Chicken on the grill

Mon 20: Nachos, salad

Tues 21: Pasta party for the Freshman Field Hockey team. I served spaghetti and meatballs, ziti, baked ziti with cheese and beef, Italian bread, salad, brownies and banana bread.

Wed 22: Beef paysanne (made with leftover pot roast--whoa, this was the best paysanne yet--even better than when we make it with leftover filet mignon!) over noodles

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Honey Garlic Chicken

The original recipe, from Family Circle magazine, calls for chicken thighs. This would work well with any bone-in, skin-on chicken; just adjust the cooking time accordingly.

6 chicken thighs
1/3 cup honey
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and place on baking sheet. Mix honey, garlic, thyme and rosemary. Brush some of the honey mixture on chicken. Bake 40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes with more of the honey mixture.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Comfort food: Polish Gnocchi

I miss one of the Polish dishes that used to be served at our parish carnival: kluski. This was not proper kluski, but instead a way to use up lots of leftovers from other dishes. It included any pierogi that didn't make the cut (that is, the ones that broke in the pot). Those would be scooped out and dumped into a pan where someone would chop them into bite-sized pieces. I had that job a few times, and all that chopping really is an upper-arm workout. It was worth it, though.
The chopped pierogi were then fried with plenty of butter, chopped onions, and the pieces of cabbage that were too small to be made into golabki (stuffed cabbage).

Not having easy access to broken pierogi, I figured that gnocchi might do the trick. It worked great.

1 package gnocchi (fresh or frozen)
1 TBL butter per serving, based on serving size on package
1/2 small to medium onion, chopped fine
dried parsley, salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheese (Romano, Parmesan, or Cheddar, depending on the flavor you're after)

Cook gnocchi as directed on package and drain.
Saute onion in butter. When onion is soft, add gnocchi to the pan and cook a few minutes until everything is well mixed.  Season with parsley, salt and pepper to taste.  It's even better if you cook it long enough for it to start to brown. Serve to plates or bowls and top with shredded cheese.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Menu Plan for September 9-15, 2010

Thurs 9: Spaghetti and meatballs. I made a big batch, enough for 9 more dinners! I love having spaghetti sauce in the freezer, ready when I need it.

Fri 10: takeout pizza

Sat 11: Honey Garlic Chicken thighs (recipe soon! This was a keeper!)

Sun 12: dinner out in honor of TheDad's birthday

Mon 13: Roast chicken, garlic roasted potatoes, skillet brussels sprouts

Tues 14: Cheesy garlic chicken, rice, green beans

Wed 15: Pot roast in the slow cooker

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Extra-Frugal Couponing

Here's my tip for extra-frugal couponing:

Save those single-sided notices & newsletters that your kids bring home from school (provided they're not too crumpled to work in your printer.) Load them into your printer so the printing will be on the back side of the paper. Use this paper to print those Internet Printable coupons!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Menu Plan for September 1 - 8, 2010

Wed 1:  Chicken Marsala, rice, broccoli

Thurs 2:  Spaghetti with meatballs

Fri 3:  Pizza rolls (new recipe--we weren't too crazy for these; my kids all said my regular recipe is better)

Sat 4:  Barbecued chicken, orzo, mixed vegetables

Sun 5:  picnic at a friend's house

Mon 6:  went to Oktoberfest in Philly.  Potato pancakes!!

Tues 7:  Taco Skillet Dinner Kit style, salad

Wed 8:  Slow-Cooker Pork Chops, rice, broccoli

Survival Dinner: Slow-Cooker Pork Chops

This meal is great for days like today.  I have to pick up my daughter from her sports practice sometime after 6, then get dinner on the table, eat, and return to her school for a 7:00 parents' meeting.

I am thankful for my rice cooker (it's filled and ready.  When I leave to pick her up, I'll turn it on) and for microwave "steam-in-the-bag" broccoli.  Those things, and my slow cooker, will allow me to get dinner on the table quickly tonight!

Slow-Cooker Pork Chops

4 boneless pork chops
2 cups barbecue sauce
2 tbl olive oil

Oil a skillet or griddle and brown the pork chops on the outside.  Do not cook them all the way through--they'll finish in the slow cooker.
Spread a little of the barbecue sauce over the bottom of the slow-cooker crock.  Place pork chops on top.  If they overlap, make sure there's some sauce in between the pork chops.  Pour the rest of the barbecue sauce over the pork chops.
Cover and cook 1 hour on high, then switch to low for 3 hours.


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