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Weekend guest menu

We were blessed yesterday and today with a visit from some friends who live in the Detroit area. My friend Emily brought her 4 little ones with her and let me just say that having 7 children 5-and-under all here at once was... interesting. ;) The four oldest were all boys -- very rowdy boys. ;) Things quieted down after bedtime and Emily and I actually got to talk and grind wheat (for fun!) and eat chips and salsa. :)

For breakfast we had Easy Whole Grain Pancakes, and Joshua made his Apple Spice Syrup for on top. Yummy! :)

The lunch menu was Grilled Chicken Pizza, fresh pineapple, and a salad.

And last night, we had Easy Cheeseburger Casserole.

Emily took this picture of us before she left:

It was such a blessing to get to spend time with Emily in person again! She's visited us twice before -- you can see pictures and read about one of Emily's earlier visits here -- back when we each had just 2 boys. :)

Just another strange menu combo

After receiving numerous comments saying that I come up with strange menu combinations, I decided to scrutinize our plates more closely as I was snapping my pictures.

And guess what? We do eat some pretty weird combinations of food. But it's not me! Seriously. I just heat up whatever's in the fridge.

Like today. Joshua volunteered to grill some chicken, smother it in BBQ sauce, and slow cook it. I love BBQ sauce, so I wasn't going to argue about that idea!

And then there was the cantaloupe -- the leftover half from a couple days ago. Corn on the cob that was a gift from our neighbor, and green beans from my mom's garden. I can't just let this food go bad!

It seems that people's eating styles vary as much as people themselves do -- which isn't surprising. ;) A long time ago I thought that everyone ate the way we did. Ha! We're pretty boring folks compared to some of you!

Those of you who eat much differently from us -- I'd love it if you described what your menus/food is like!

And is there anything I've posted that was a perfectly normal food to me but when you saw it you said "Yuck!!"?! I'm guessing this has happened and everyone was too kind to tell me that I was the only person who thought it looked yummy! ;)

The Strange Menu

You know how some foods really go together? Like lasagna and garlic bread. Or hot soup and homemade bread...

Well, this meal did not go together at all. I guess sometimes when you're just eating what's in the fridge, you come up with strange menus.

I had some cabbage from my mom, so I made fried cabbage. I sliced up some fresh tomatoes, and made a veggie omelet.

Oh, and we had leftover soup on the side. (Soup recipe coming this week... I hope!)

Joshua looked the food over and said, "I hope you don't put pictures of this on your blog. People will think you're pregnant or something."

Nope, not pregnant. And this was definitely not a menu I plan to repeat in the future! :)

What's your strangest food combination -- that you love? :)

I like ketchup on my fried potatoes, but that's not weird -- that's how I grew up eating them. As a child I also liked jam on my scrambled eggs. It's not too bad... :)

Summer menu ideas

BBQ Beef sandwich

Lyn wrote to me asking if I'd write about our favorite summer meal standbys. :) Honestly, it's nothing fancy! But here's what we've been doing this summer for meal plans:

We've been eating fresh veggies. The vegetables are almost all from gardens, thanks to my mom giving us goodies from her garden, along with occasional gifts from other gardeners here. :)

I often make two different cooked vegetables with a meal, or plan meals that are made of mostly vegetables. We love eating huge servings of veggies with our meals... so that is how we manage to get the recommended amounts. :)

We've also had lots of fresh fruit. We call the fruit "dessert" for the boys. ;) The fruits are usually on sale at grocery stores. We love fruit! The children can easily eat two bananas each for their afternoon snack... and when we have nectarines or peaches, they eat those like apples -- often two at a time, as well!

Texas Broil steak

And we've been grilling. I mean Joshua has been grilling meats for us. ;) We've had burgers (I love these garlic turkey burgers!) and lots of grilled chicken and even an occasional Texas Broil. It is so convenient to thaw a little meat and ask Joshua to grill it for our main meal of the day!

I also like to make BBQ Beef Sandwiches in the summertime. I use leftover roast meat and just cut/shred it and stir in some BBQ sauce as you warm it up. The very top photo on this post is of a BBQ Beef sandwich. :)

I haven't been doing much baking lately, aside from our bread. Although it's hot outside, the real reason behind my "break" from baking has to do with our attempts to shrink our waistlines a little. ;) Freshly baked muffins, cookies, cakes, or sweet breads are tooooo tempting to me!! I'm sure this winter I'll get back to regularly baking.

I'd love some reader input on this topic! What are your summer meals like? Do you cook easier/quicker meals in the summertime? What are your family's favorites? :)

Eating from the garden

When there's fresh food from the garden, it's easy to plan the menu!

Joshua: What's for dinner, Hon?

Me: I thought we'd have salad... and asparagus... and strawberry shortcake. Hey, will you grill some chicken for the salad?

Joshua (thinking): I guess that's the only way I'm getting any meat with this meal... ;)

Yes, I read his mind. Well, not really... but I could see him visibly wilt when I said "asparagus" since we'd already had asparagus once a day for the past 2 weeks.

The word "salad" elicits the same sort of reaction (I'm not creative enough when it comes to salads... that or else I'm just lazy!) but suggesting some grilled chicken did the trick.

(Read more for a photo tour of our meal "from the garden"!)

Menu for Passover and Unleavened Bread

I finally got my Passover/Unleavened Bread menu planned! We'll be celebrating Passover from sunset on Saturday to sunset on Sunday. Passover is a day of rest (sabbath), as well.

After Passover, we'll have a whole week of Unleavened Bread -- and won't eat anything with leaven (yeast, baking soda, baking powder).

Passover is my favorite holiday and it's always such a blessed time of reflection and remembrance of our deliverance from sin through the blood of our Passover Lamb, Yeshua (Jesus).

Menu for Passover (I'm keeping it very simple)

Matza ball Soup
Oven-roasted chicken
Unleavened bread
Salad
Cooked peas and carrots
Unleavened chocolate cake (Yehoshua turns 4!)

My dinners for the week of unleavened bread

Saucy chicken broccoli bake (using leftover chicken)
AGK's organic chicken fettuccine
Taco salad
Chicken squash bake
Broccoli and cheese mina
Italian beef and beans over pasta
Easy chuck roast

I'll be sharing another unleavened bread recipe after I make it and take pictures. I am also excited about the cake for Yehoshua! It has been a couple of years since I made the cake, so hopefully it will turn out well and I can share the recipe! :)

I am, however, stumped when it comes to packing Joshua's lunch all week. I remember how poorly I did last year! I think Joshua practically starved at work. He doesn't like "sandwiches" made with unleavened bread... any ideas for an unleavened packed lunch food?? Joshua doesn't have access to a microwave at work, and only gets 15 minutes to eat lunch.

Long-term menu planning: My new menus

 

Rosemary Thyme Game Hen

I just finished editing our new menus for after the new baby's born. The last time I had done any serious menu planning was 2 years ago, before Eliyahu was born. Since that time, we've added quite a few recipes to our repertoire, and it was definitely time for something a little more updated!

Before I share the actual menus, let me tell you how I went about making the menus. I doubt that my particular menus would be perfect for any other family besides us, but sharing the general idea and tips for writing out a long-term menu might be helpful if you're not sure where to start. :)

First, I made a two-week "Easy Meals" menu, which contains my easiest meals -- either meals that are just plain easy (like grilled cheese!) or else meals that are easy for me because I have ingredients in the freezer or pantry, already prepared (like spaghetti and meatballs!). I'll use this easy menu for the first month or so after having the baby, which should allow me to relax on meals and not need to spend too much extra time in the kitchen. :)

For the rest of the menus, I decided to plan a 12-week menu. I planned dinner for each night, and one different soup for each week. To begin, I made a list of our favorite main dishes. I made a list of all 12 weeks, and started filling in the days' meals. If it was a recipe we like, but don't want to eat too often, I just put it down once. For meals we really like (like pizza!) I planned them every 2 weeks or so.

I also made a list of some breakfast ideas, and we'll decide on breakfast each day or week. Lunches will be leftovers or else something from my list of lunch ideas. I also have a list of sides/breads. And, I always make a cooked vegetable or salad with the meal. :)

I won't follow these menus exactly... I'm sure I'll be adding in things that we get on sale/in season (especially in the summer, with all of our garden food!) or making special meals for guests. For this reason, the menus will probably last longer than 12 weeks. :)

Read more for the 2-week Easy Meals menu and my new 12-week menu! :)

Input requested: Bringing food to work

Miriam wrote to me with a really tough question!

Do you have any suggestions for easy to share, economical meatless dishes? My hubby just started a new job at a huge County Emergency Room, and he often works from 3 PM - 3 AM, with virtually no time to eat. Once a month, I'd like to provide a meatless (since it would be non-refrigerated), yummy, healthy dish with wide appeal to place in the staff breakroom so that my husband and his coworkers have something besides vending machines to eat from. Any suggestions?

Honestly, I am having difficulty coming up with any sort of substantial dish that wouldn't require refrigeration after 2 hours. Meats aside, dairy, eggs, and cooked vegetables (basically low-acid foods, unlike tomatoes or fruits) should be left at room temperature for a maximum of 2 hours.

So unless the food is definitely going to be consumed within two hours, I wouldn't recommend any "main dish" sort of meals that contain vegetables, rice, beans, cheese (like cottage cheese; some hard cheeses can be at room temperature longer, I believe), milk, or eggs...

But I don't think you want to make everyone peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So here are some other suggestions... they may not all be healthy, or particularly "complete" as a meal, but surely they'd be more enjoyable than food from a vending machine! :) (Click here to read more...)

To boost myself out of "I don't know what to cook!!"

Joshua and I have been talking about Bethany's once-a-month-cooking, since I've been on a three-weeks-and-counting streak of making tacos, pizza, tacos, and more pizza. (Meaning, I have no clue what to make for dinner!)

Since we don't have a chest freezer, and we don't want to eat something from the oven every single night for dinner, I'm thinking "once a WEEK" cooking might be a temporary solution for me.

I'm really not sure why I've been in such a lull... it's probably not obvious online, since I usually have a pile of recipes/photos that are just waiting to be blogged. If we have tacos three times in one week, I can just, ummm, post about the banana bread I made two weeks ago, or something. :)

The silly thing is that I need to print some of my own recipes off of this website! When I'm creating a recipe (or substantially altering a recipe), I usually end up with a half-legible scrap paper of notes. Later, I type the recipe in great detail, and post it online. But I don't have a computer in my kitchen! (Or downstairs at all, for that matter.) So I should be printing my recipes so they're more usable to ME! ;)

But anyway, do you ever have those times when nothing, just NOTHING sounds good to eat? I haven't felt like cooking lately, because I haven't felt like eating anything! Well, besides bagels. I always feel like cooking (and eating!) those... ;)

So, here's the plan. I'm going to make a one-week menu (dinners, breakfasts, and lunchbox treats), and do any prep possible, all in one day. I'll freeze some things, but not all, since we're only talking about 7 days' worth of meals. And then I'll report back here to you guys. :)

I'll probably start the planning tonight, and cook tomorrow. I got groceries today, and since I rarely purchase groceries for certain recipes, but instead maintain a pantry of the ingredients that are in most of my staple recipes, this should be pretty easy. Let's hope, anyway! :)

P.S. Cooking isn't the only thing in which I've been barely scraping by. If you've emailed me in, say, the last month, thanks for your patience. ;)

Quick and Easy Meals

Spaghetti and meatballs, cooked veggies, and Italian Cheese Bread

After seeing our lunch of hamburgers, Lyn asked:

I wonder if you have any other good ideas for quick meals. Sometimes I only have enough energy for a very short time in the kitchen. Thanks. 

Lyn, thanks for asking! 

Taco Salad is one of my staple last-minute meals, especially since it's a favorite of Joshua's. :) Tammy's Chicken Rice Bake involves very little preparation (it has a long baking time though!) and I think it's yummy. :) Grilled cheese sandwiches are another fall-back on busy days. :)

I used to make a Homemade pizza with a pre-baked crust (crust can be frozen until needed), which, when using a bread machine to knead the dough, was a quick-prep meal. Now, I've gotten fast at making Tammy's Easy Pizza and it's another last-minute, less-prep-time solution for me. :)

Another thing I consider when searching for a quick meal to make, is this: What leftover ingredients do I have in my freezer or refrigerator that can be used for a fresh dinner?

If I have leftover chicken or cooked ground beef, I often make a simple gravy-based meal, like Chicken Gravy over Egg Noodles, or my Simple Beef Gravy Supper. Cheesy Chicken Vermicelli is very quick to assemble if you have leftover chicken to use. I have a page devoted to leftover ideas (which is in need of updating). :)

Here is an index of all of the recipes on this website that I've termed "quick and easy". There's quite a variety, and I think most take between 15 and 30 minutes to make. Trying a new recipe usually takes me longer than normal, though, so even a "quick" new recipe may not be extremely efficient.

Since I cook mostly from scratch, I don't have many 5-minute main dish recipes. Most of my "quick and easy" meals are actually meals that I planned and partially prepared ahead of time. Here's some more info about how I utilize "cooking ahead" to fit our needs.

For example, today we had spaghetti and meatballs for lunch. I boiled some pasta, and heated up some (homemade, frozen) meatballs and sauce. Because I do most of the work ahead of time, spaghetti and meatballs is a very quick meal for me to prepare.

So the two main ways I achieve homemade, from-scratch, low-prep meals are:

1. Cooking ahead and/or freezing leftovers
2. Using leftovers 

This is just what works for me and our family. :) Does anyone else have any other tips or recipe ideas for Lyn? Thanks!