Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What We're Eating: Hits, Misses and a Few Tips Thrown in for Good Measure

After our vacation in mid-February, I fell off the meal planning wagon.

Before Vacation (BV): gung ho homemaker; crafting up a storm; mad cleaning spree

After Vacation (AV): general lazy feeling; lack of interest in doing anything but eating and drinking*

*it's a tad difficult transitioning from being waited on hand and foot to doing the waiting on others myself ...

In the last three weeks, I've continued to write a weekly meal plan with major gaps on the weekends and a heavy lean toward quick meals for Tory (ie: Easy Mac, Spaghettios). I just didn't feeeeeel like cooking ... wah, wah, wah. I also gained about five pounds on vacation, thanks to the buckets of fresh guacamole and chips I consumed and way too many Corona's. It's hard to jump back into healthy, well portioned eating when you've indulged for days on end.

I'm slowly getting back track. I'm forcing myself to stick to meal plans, portion better and skip the mid-day snacks. I don't like the 4 o'clock feeling of panic when I have no idea what to cook for dinner and nothing's thawing in the fridge. Meal planning makes my days easier, so I've got to get in the groove again. And with that awesome lead in, here's some of our hits and misses from the last few weeks:

Week of February 11-17: 
I pre-made freezer meals for Andi's family to pop in the oven while we were on vacation. I wanted meal time to be easy for them while they were doing us the favor of babysitting Tory. Andi's mom reported the Crock-Pot Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli was very good and she and Andi's grandma also enjoyed the Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake.

Whenever I make pasta bakes like the one mentioned above, I always split the recipe into two disposable aluminum square pans because we never need 6-8 servings of one dish at a time and freeze one or both of the meals. So, I re-heated the Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake (which I previously froze) for dinner the other night and I have to agree with Janie, I also liked the dish. Generally, pasta bakes aren't my favorite but Tory likes them so I do make them from time to time. The Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake had good flavor with the roasted tomatoes and spinach. I'd definitely make this one again. If I remember correctly, it was a snap to throw together, too.

Week of February 18-24:
Cornflake Chicken
Andi really likes "crunchy foods" so believe me when I say, I search "crunchy" on food sites and see what comes up. This particular cornflake chicken recipe was very good. I used chicken tenders instead of chicken thighs and cooked the recipe at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. The secret gem in this recipe is to cook the chicken on a wire rack to ensure crunchiness on all sides. Don't forget to spray the wire rack first!

Crock Pot Chicken Gnocchi Soup
This recipe is supposedly a knock-off of the Olive Garden version, which I've never eaten so I can't compare the similarity of the two recipes. This meal was just okay for Andi and I. From this soup, I think we identified neither of us like the flavor of thyme and it seemed prominent in this soup. Maybe it was just me and I added too much? Or maybe that's how it's suppose to taste and we just didn't like it. I threw out the leftovers instead of freezing them in small portions for later lunches, so that should say something.  

Week of February 25 - March 3: 
Beef Enchiladas
This recipe for beef enchiladas is my favorite and honestly it's the one I've adapted from the back of the Old El Paso enchilada sauce can. All you need is 1lb. of hamburger, browned. The recipe on the back of the can directs adding 1/2 of one can of enchilada sauce (reserving the remaining 1/2 and second can to top the enchiladas in the last step). Here's where I alter from the directions: I add 1 1/2 cans of enchilada sauce to the ground beef (as in, almost all the sauce). It makes for a much saucier inside of each enchilada. Add 1 cup of shredded cheese to the ground beef/enchilada sauce mixture in the skillet. Spoon a tbsp. of meat mixture into each tortilla and roll. Once all the tortillas are filled, dump remaining enchilada sauce and shredded cheese on top of the enchiladas. There usually isn't much sauce left, but that's okay because most of it is already in the tortillas. Sprinkle more shredded cheese on the top of the rolled enchiladas. I also use the disposable square aluminum pans for my enchiladas (you can fit 6 enchiladas per pan) and this recipe makes two pans. These enchiladas freeze wonderfully and I love that there's only a few ingredients required which I almost always have on hand. 

This soup was warm, filling and delicious. I was about a cup short on chicken stock so ours was a little on the thick side, but I'd definitely make this one again. I bought the "healthy" bacon from Trader Joe's of which Andi was not a fan, but he did said the bacon was perfect for this recipe because it basically crumbled upon cooking ... so win?

Week of March 4-10:
I've had some real cooking misses this week and I'm not exactly sure why. I'd like to place blame on a small toddler and 7 pound dog always scurrying around my legs, but that can't be completely true.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
For some reason, I've been craving butternut squash lasagna, which is crazy since I'm not sure I've ever tasted it. I think I saw it on a blog somewhere and it sounded interesting, so when I came across this recipe it seemed tasty and easy enough to make. I had cubed butternut squash already in the freezer since I puree it from time to time and mix it in with other pasta dishes for Tory. I used canned marinara sauce instead of making fresh and had all the other ingredients on hand, so this recipe came together fairly simply. I though it was pretty delicious, albeit the butternut squash makes it a little different, but I was a little let down when I looked over at Andi's plate to see he'd barely touched it. Apparently, it wasn't his favorite meal. Bummer.

Cheesy Chicken Pot Pie
I made this Cheesy Chicken Pot Pie recipe because Andi looooves pot pie and given my hit or miss record with him as of late, I thought this recipe would be a dead ringer. I prepared it earlier in the day and took it with us to the cabin on Friday so we'd have something to heat up for dinner once we arrived. This recipe was simple enough to put together, but didn't come together right in the end. I'm not sure if it's because the pot pie traveling uncooked in a cooler to the cabin or because our oven there isn't very powerful. The pot pie took far longer than the directions indicated to bake and in the end was just okay tasting. I didn't care for the cheesiness of the sauce and the biscuit topping looked a bit goofy as it never made a full crust on the top of the casserole.

Cheesy Potato Breakfast Casserole
I made this for breakfast Saturday morning at the cabin. I used crumbled bacon instead of sausage which was a mistake, I think. The egg bake tasted fine, but it was a little bland. I'd use this recipe again and either add the sausage as directed, or add bell peppers for a vegetarian version to give the flavor more kick. The cheesy hashbrown part was good, though.


  1. Ever thought about let's dish? I go once a month or so and make 8 meals but as a family of 3 ( and a hubby that travels) I split so I end up getting 16 meals!!!! Something to look into and the food is so so good!

  2. T's Mommy - I have! I worked there part-time a few years ago actually, and we ate their meals quite often. Maybe I'll have to think about going again sometime.