Fast meal · Meal planning · refreshment at home

Cook Once; Eat Two (or 3) Times!

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I love to cook, however, that doesn’t mean I like to slave in the kitchen every single day!  I love to eat good meals that are fresh and delicious, too, so that means when I AM in the kitchen, I like to make good use of that time in ways that will help me for future meals!

I thought I”d show you how I have recently cooked foods that allowed me to have DIFFERENT meals using things I cooked earlier. Say no to Leftovers! These are fresh, different meals each time they’re served!

Continue reading “Cook Once; Eat Two (or 3) Times!”

Dinner · home · Home making · Lightened Up Recipe · Meal planning · refreshment at home · Tablescapes

My Kitchen Table – Settings & Sustenance

We all have to eat.  But what we fix and how we serve it can make a huge  difference in how much enjoyment we give ourselves and those with whom we share the meal. I can remember growing up that my mom always made the table and the food a special part of each day.  I don’t go overboard on a regular day, but I try to make the food and the table inviting.  Today’s post is just a little glimpse into how I set the table and what meals we’ve been enjoying recently.

Al Fresco Dining – Once the weather turns warm, we eat outside as often as possible!  One morning recently I took breakfast outside to the front porch where the sun was shining and ate sitting in a rocking chair.  That’s even better than Cracker Barrel! Continue reading “My Kitchen Table – Settings & Sustenance”

Cooking · Family life · main dish · Main entree · Meal planning · Traveling

Meal Planning for Family Vacation

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For a fantastic ending to a great summer, we enjoyed our first Family Vacation!  We were blessed to have our daughters, sons-in-law, and grandsons all join us for a two and half day get-away!  Let me just start by sharing a few of the highlights:

  • Coming up with our hashtag for the time away!  We wanted pics to remember this event by, so we needed a hashtag for Instagram!  We settled on #hamfamvacay2017.  Some of the other running options were – #picvacay2017 #hammingitup2017
  • Having time to just be together. When you have babies in the group, it’s just easier not to be running all over, and we were happy with that!  We gladly opted to just stay near the condo and only go out one time.  We truly just wanted to be able to visit and be together.
  • Having time in the Word as a family. My husband gathered everyone together on the patio and we opened God’s Word to read a chapter and share our “Ah ha” verses.  How thankful I am that we could all contribute and share from the riches of the Bible.  I do not take for granted having a family filled with believers!
  • Meal time!  What’s better than home-cooked food, enjoyed at “home” with those you love?

It can be a little tricky feeding lots of people, but we came up with a plan that made it doable. Today I’m linking up with my daughter, Whitney to share how we managed six meals for six people, adding in the complications of two who were dieting, one who had a birthday, and one (kind of) picky eater!

Because we were staying at a Wyndham resort, we had cooking capabilities and decided we would eat all our meals “at home” rather than eating out.  Aside from being a money saver, it’s also so much easier to visit in the quiet of the resort, than at a restaurant.  But how do you bring enough food and give what everyone likes when there are six adults eating six meals?   Here’s what we did:

  1. I offered to make supper for both nights, knowing that they would be the more costly meals.
  2. I suggested that the girls either:
    ~each take a day and make both breakfast and lunch on their day,
    ~one take lunches for both days and the other the breakfasts for both days.  They chose the latter.

Another component in cooking for a crowd is dietary restrictions, or even likes/dislikes.  One of the couples was on a diet that restricted grains, dairy, sugar, and several other things.  One in our group isn’t too adventurous with foods.  We decided that we would do our best to provide a main meat that everyone could have, and then let them fill the gaps with what they could/would eat.  It can be nearly impossible to please everyone – right?  This way, the options was theirs to eat what the cook provided, or add their own items to the meal.

We were glad to be able to cook, but no one wanted to be spending lots of time preparing the food.  For my supper meals, I opted to do a grilled meat one night and an oven-prepared meal the next night.  Here were my supper menus:

Night One:

Grilled Steaks
(Adding only grill seasoning and no marinade, due to the dieters)
Baked potatoes (done in the oven)
Corn on the cob
French Bread
Cupcakes

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Excuse the poor picture, but the picture taking was low on the list at the moment! =)

For that first supper, everyone ate the steaks and potatoes, but the dieters didn’t have corn, bread or cupcakes.  We were celebrating a birthday that night, so I got creative with what I had and made a slice of a diet friendly birthday “cake” which also fell on the day of  the eclipse!

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My Eclipse “Cake!”

Night Two:

Oven-Baked Chicken Fajitas –
(Everyone could add or leave off what they didn’t like)
Spanish Rice – (The dieters fixed Sweet Potato fries)
Refried Beans
Fresh Fruit

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After everyone else left, my husband and I had the blessing of finishing out the week at the resort, so we needed breakfast and lunch meals for those days as well.  To keep things easy, I tried to get double use out of items I brought.  For example:

  • Bacon – Used for breakfast or BLT’s for lunch
  • Bread – Toasted  for Steak night, Toast and jelly for breakfast
  • Leftover fajitas for lunch
  • Fresh tomatoes and fruit – salad, dessert and snacks!

Mealtimes were a huge success!  There was no flurry of wondering where we would go or what we were going to eat.  It was laid out simply and everyone had plenty of good food!

You can go here and check out Whitney’s post to see what she and her sister fixed for the other meals!

What does your  family do to make mealtime happen on vacation?

With love from my country kitchen,

 

Dinner · entertaining · Family life · home · Home making · hospitality · main dish · Main entree · Make-Ahead · refreshment at home · Side dish

(L)Oven Monday – Successful Sunday Dinner Finale

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Today is the last post for Successful Sunday dinner.  I will continue to share my recipes and what I served at my house, but as far as the 1,2,3’s, we’re going to wrap it up and get you ready to dive into that great Sunday meal for your family!

Remember that if it’s your desire to make Sunday dinner special at your house, it’s going to take some intentional effort and planning. Here were the three crucial steps before getting the meal going:

  1. Ponder the needs –

  2. Plan the menu 

  3. Prepare ahead

  • Ponder the needs -Consider any allergies or health concerns, like diabetes.
  • Plan the menu around those needs, your time and budget.  Typically if I’m making a main dish or a bread that requires lots of time, I’ll make another part of the meal easier to prepare.
  • Prepare ahead by doing everything you can on Saturday (or before).  It will lessen your stress level!
    • Set the table
    • Chop all veggies
    • Marinate meat
    • Prepare the salad
    • Prepare the dessert
    • Get the side dishes started

Let me give you a little rundown on how my week may look when I’m hosting a typical Sunday dinner…

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Early in the week – 

Wednesday – 

  • Make Rolls and freeze
  • Check to see if tablecloth or napkins need ironing

Saturday – 

  • Prep chicken dish and  go ahead and bake it.  All it needs on Sunday is to be warmed up. I wouldn’t leave this dish in the oven during church – it would dry out.
  • Peel potatoes and place in water overnight
  • Cut up apples for salad and place in lemon juice/water mixture overnight
  • Make Vinaigrette for salad
  • Wash and slice strawberries
  • Make tea
  • Set table
  • Set out serving dishes

Sunday – Before church

  • Mix salad ingredients, except dressing
  • Put potatoes in crock pot, turn on high
  • Set rolls out to rise

Sunday – After church

  • Set out a light snack for guests, if needed
  • Warm chicken either in a large pan on the stove or in the microwave on a med setting.
  • Prep asparagus for roasting
  • Mash potatoes and keep warm
  • Bake rolls – Keep warm
  • Roast asparagus
  • Put into serving dishes

Enjoy the meal!!!

Serve dessert and then pray someone volunteers to help with the dishes!

I hope this series has helped you to see that you CAN make Sunday dinner something special and memorable.  Start out small and work your way into more complicated menus.  Do what you feel comfortable with and keep trying to improve your game plan.

 

Remember that the most important ingredient of any meal is THE PEOPLE!  Don’t make it about you and your inadequacies.  Make them feel welcome and important and they will love their time around your Sunday dinner table!

Is there an unanswered question that you have?  I’d be happy to address it!  Leave me a comment here and I promise to answer you!

Let’s eat!

Denise Signature 150 px

 

 

 

Dinner · dinner in 30 minutes · Family life · main dish

Make Your Own “Dream Dinner”

Have you heard of Dream Dinners?  You can check out this video if you’re unfamiliar. The basic idea is that you go to a Dream Dinner store, where they have prepared ingredients for you to assemble meals into freezer bags to make up complete dinners for your family for the month.  I heard about it through a gal I watched on You Tube.  While I’m sure it’s really convenient, it can’t be cheap!  She also said there were some meals they had they didn’t like and wouldn’t have again.

Testimonials on the Dream Dinner’s site said their families were now able to eat together and have become closer as a result.  Family mealtimes are important, and they do strengthen families, but if you’re on a budget, there are creative ways to make family meals happen in a much less expensive way.  Here’s one suggestion…

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Recently while putting away leftovers from a meal I’d made, I had the idea to bag it together just like I’d seen on the Dream Dinners.  I had made Pork Tacos, Refried Beans and Spanish Rice -all from scratch and I had enough for another supper meal for my husband and me, but rather than eating it two nights in a row, I pulled out the freezer bags.  I put the Rice in one, the Beans in another and the Pork in another, then I put all the small bags together in a large freezer bag and labeled it, “Pork Taco Dinner.”  How great it will be on a busy day to pull this out in the morning and let it thaw, then simply warm it up that evening!  It’s better than having leftovers two nights in a row, and it’s better than paying someone twice what it would cost me to fix it!  I’ve always been a huge fan of freezing food, but having the whole meal together in one bag is a great plan!

I plan on doing this more often!  You could simply double whatever you’re making and eat one for supper tonight and put the other into freezer bags for another day.  There’s no need to have to do a month’s worth, or even a whole week’s worth at one time!  Wouldn’t it be nice just to know you have a whole meal in a bag all ready to eat for ONE day?  Start there, then perhaps you can build on that.

That’s my challenge to you – see what you can pull together to make and freeze ahead.  Have the elements for that meal in one large bag. It will eliminate calling out for pizza, or running up to a local restaurant because you’re too tired to cook.  Become your own Dream Dinner maker; it’s really doable, it’s cheaper, and you’ll be making things you know your family loves!

My mind is whirling with several ideas.
Swiss Steak
Taco Casserole
Turkey Meatball Sandwiches with Honey Chipotle Sauce

What would you make and freeze?

Dream on!

Denise Signature 150 px

baking · dessert · Dinner · dinner in 30 minutes · Fall · home · Home making · Uncategorized

Fall/Winter Pantry Essentials

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Last week I shared three of my Go-To meals when I’m in a pinch for time (and money!).  I also shared the items I keep stocked so those meals can happen.  I hope you’ll check out that post if you missed it.  But when it turns cooler my menu changes, as I bet yours does too.  We think about soups, stew, cobblers, and comfort foods to fill us when fall and winter approach.  Since I know those are the kinds of foods we’re going to want for supper, there are certain items I know I need to keep on hand.

Let me share some of the essential items I like to keep in my pantry so I can cook and bake at a moment’s notice.

  • Chicken stock or broth – I love to make my own stock after I’ve roasted a chicken.  You can find my method here.  I’ve even updated my method by putting all the ingredients in the crock pot and letting it simmer all day.  It’s so much easier than doing it on the stove!  I freeze my broth in Ziplock bags (double-bagged for fear of leakage), lay them flat and stack them so they don’t take up much room.
    Chicken stock is necessary for soups, but also many other dishes – enchilada sauce, and roasted chicken, for example.  It’s great to have it on hand. This soup is a ten minute soup, and great for flu victims!
  • Minute Rice
  • Baking Mix (Like Bisquick).  This mix can quickly be turned into pancakes, waffles, biscuits, Cheddar Biscuits, muffins, dumplings and more!  Check out these recipes!
    Here’s a homemade version  you can make and keep on hand:
    Homemade Baking Mix

    6 cups All-purpose flour
    3 tbl baking powder
    1 tbl salt
    1 cup shortening
    Sift flour, baking powder and salt three times into a large bowl.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Store mixture in airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 months.
  • Canned Goods – Right now is a good time to stock up as many stores have sales events going on for the holidays.
    • Beans
    • Tomatoes
    • Corn
    • Green Beans
    • Pie fillings
    • Pumpkin
    • Cream Soups
    • Pasta sauce
  • Pasta
  • Taco SeasoningHere’s my homemade version
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar – Balsamic, White, Apple Cider – I love making my own salad dressings and if I have a good olive oil and choices of vinegar, I can mix one up in a minute!
  • Sugars – White, Brown and Powdered
  • All-purpose Flour
  • Shortening
  • Baking chocolate – Cocoa and chocolate chips
  • Oatmeal
  • Cake Mixes – Again, I stock up three or four when they’re on sale and keep for the Quick Cakes or desserts.

Of course I keep potatoes, onions. fruits, etc., but I’m only mentioning the dry goods here on this list.

There were lots of years that I couldn’t stock up my pantry, but had to purchase only what I needed that week.  If you can only add one or two extra items a week as you shop, keep an eye out for the sales and grab them when they’re marked down.  It will truly save you in the long-run!

Did I miss an item that you try to keep in your pantry?  What is it?

With love from my country kitchen,

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