December 31, 2011

WHAT'S COOKIN' THIS WEEK? - Week of January 9

Onto week two of January’s menu. I’ve tried to create a mix of meats and veggies throughout the week for variety and to continue to expose the little one to different types of foods. I’m very lucky to have a good eater in my house who is willing to try pretty much anything at least once!

Since it’s January, it seems appropriate to include a recipe from The Biggest Loser. I love watching how this show transforms lives! I don’t have quite the same challenge in front of me, but we all need to work to live healthier


Baked Ziti (Biggest Loser), garlic bread and Caesar salad

Baked Ziti


  • Olive oil spray
  • 1 (14 oz.) box of fiber-enriched ziti or penne
  • 1 (15 oz.) container fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 cups shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Low fat, low sodium marinara sauce
  • 2 tbsp. reduced fat grated parmesan cheese


Preheat the over to 450 degrees and spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray.

Cook pasta according to directions. In a separate mixing bowl, mix ricotta cheese, egg whites, and 3 of the 4 cups of mozzarella. Add in the garlic powder and salt and pepper. Once the pasta is cooked mix it in with the ricotta mixture.

In the baking dish spread 1 cup of pasta on the bottom. Then spread 1/2 of the pasta/ricotta mixture on top of that. Next spread a layer of 1/2 cup of sauce, then layer the remaining pasta/ricotta mixture over that. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of sauce and sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese on top.

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and continue baking for 10 more minutes. Pull out of oven and let sit for 5 minutes.


Taco night

Tuesdays are hectic in our house so we need something super easy. For taco night, we just cook up some ground turkey and use whatever toppings we have on hand to make tacos or taco salads – whatever each person likes.

Typical Ingredients:

  • Ground turkey
  • Black beans
  • Taco seasoning
  • Taco shells
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Shredded cheese
  • Black olives
  • Tomatoes
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream

Turkey brats, baked beans and fruit cup

You won’t need any recipes for this menu. We get spinach and cheese turkey brats from Sam’s Club and cook up some baked beans with a side of fruit for an easy, quick, healthy dinner for the fam.



Italian white beans and chicken (Betty Crocker Quick Fixes), biscuits

Italian White Beans and Chicken


  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. fresh or 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cut-up cooked chicken (about 1 lb.)
  • ½ cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup sliced ripe olives
  • 2 cans (15 oz. cans) greater northern beans, drained and rinsed


In a 10-inch skillet, heat olive over medium heat. Cook basil and garlic in oil 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently until hot.

Shopping List: (don’t forget to check what you already have first to save money!)

  • Tomatoes
  • Caesar salad kit
  • Garlic
  • Garlic bread
  • Biscuits
  • Buns
  • Black olives
  • Black beans
  • Baked beans
  • 2 cans northern beans
  • Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • Fruit (canned)
  • Marinara sauce
  • Wheat ziti or penne
  • Taco seasoning
  • Taco shells
  • Salsa
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried basil
  • Ground turkey
  • Turkey brats
  • Cubed chicken
  • Sour cream
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Eggs
  • Mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • Mexican blend cheese (shredded)

WHAT'S COOKIN' THIS WEEK? - Week of January 1

Happy New Year's everyone! As the new year starts, so do new or renewed commitments to making this the best year ever. One way for us to do that is to take back our dinners and own what our family eats. My little one is old enough now that she loves helping mom in the kitchen, so I'll have a little helper by my side this year to make some tasty, healthy meals.

You've already seen the menu for the month, but here are the recipes for this week's menu.

Pork shoulder ribs with barbeque sauce, mashed potatoes and frozen veggie

Pork Shoulder Ribs

I’ve only made ribs once, and they were on the bone in the smoker. I thought I would try something new for New Year’s Eve, especially since they were on sale this week at Meijer. I found a great recipe online at that I’m trying out.


  • 2-4 lbs. boneless beef or pork ribs (I’m using pork)
  • ¼ c. salt (reviews said try using half the amount of salt listed)
  • ¼ c. sugar (reviews said try brown sugar
  • 3 (18 oz.) Masterpiece Barbeque Sauce (I’m using Anna Mae’s Smoky Sweet Sauce and some Montgomery Inn sauce if more is needed
  • Paprika


Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Mix equal amounts of salt and sugar (see note in ingredients about salt). Add paprika to taste. Roll each portion of meat in sugar-salt-paprika mixture. Place meat in large baking dish in about one inch of water (halfway up each rib).

Bake for one hour and turn meat. Bake for another hour and remove from oven. Drain and add barbeque sauce as needed. Increase heat to 400 degrees. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.


Stuffed shells (three cheese and spinach), garlic bread and veggies

Stuffed Shells

For these shells, I use my Aunt Mary’s manicotti recipe, fill the shells by using a piping bag (Ziploc bag) and freeze the ones I’m not going to use immediately for an easy meal next month. This is also great to make on a Sunday and put in the refrigerator overnight and throw in the oven the next night.


  • 1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach – thaw and squeeze out excess water
  • 1 (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ c. shredded parmesan (grated works too)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 (28 oz.) jars spaghetti sauce


Mix together filling in a bowl.

Stuff uncooked jumbo shells with filling using a Ziploc bag with a cut corner as a piping bag for easy filling.

Set aside shells that will be used within the next day. Take remaining shells and spread on a baking sheet. Place in freezer. Once they are frozen, you can store them in freezer bags for future easy meals.

Combine spaghetti sauce and 1 ¼ cup water. Spread 1 cup sauce in a 13x9x2 pan. Arrange stuffed shells over sauce. Pour remaining sauce over shells. Sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese for topping. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, or until heated through.


Steak stir fry, brown rice

Stir Fry


  • Strip steak cut into small strips
  • Red pepper
  • Green pepper
  • Bean sprouts
  • Zucchini
  • Snow peas
  • Stir fry sauce


Cook strip steak with olive oil. Mix in stir fry sauce and simmer briefly. Mix in vegetables cut into bite-size pieces and cook in stir fry sauce for a few minutes. Serve over rice.

NOTE: Marinade chicken for tomorrow


Chicken with marinade, sweet potato fries, peas


  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 bottle marinade (we are using a mesquite marinade)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Minced garlic
  • Rosemary (dried or fresh)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

This one is pretty easy. I marinade the chicken overnight so it is ready to just put in the oven. I usually pound my chicken pretty thin first to make it easier to eat. Put chicken in baking dish and bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

For sweet potato fries, cut sweet potatoes into fry-like strips. Toss with a mixture of minced garlic (1 tbsp.), dried rosemary (1 tbsp.) or fresh rosemary finely chopped, olive oil (2 tsp.) and a pinch of salt. Cook for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Turn fries and cook for an additional 15 minutes.


Lemon and herb salmon packets (Betty Crocker Quick Fixes)

Lemon and herb salmon packets (a meal in itself)


  • 2 cups uncooked instant rice
  • 1 can (14 oz.) chicken broth (fat free or low sodium)
  • 1 cup carrots (matchstick-cut)
  • 4 salmon fillets (4-6 oz. each)
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped chives
  • 1 medium lemon, cut into slices


Heat grill. Spray four 18x12-inch sheets of aluminum foil with cooking spray.

Mix rice and broth in medium bowl. Let stand for five minutes until most of the broth is absorbed. Stir in carrots.

Place salmon fillets on center of each foil sheet. Sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning and top with chives. Arrange lemon slices over salmon. Spoon rice mixture around each fillet. Fold foil over salmon and rice so edges meet. Seal edges fold over a few times to make a tight seal, but leave space inside pocket for expansion.

Cover and grill packets 4-6 inches from low heat 11-14 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with a fork. Place packets on plates. Cut large X across top of each packet and carefully fold back foil to allow steam to escape.

Shopping list:

  • Bean sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Fresh chives
  • Fresh parsley
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Green pepper
  • Russet potatoes
  • Red pepper
  • Lemon
  • Snow peas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Frozen spinach (10 oz.)
  • Frozen veggies (2)
  • Peas
  • Garlic bread
  • Brown rice
  • Instant white rice
  • Stir fry sauce
  • Barbeque sauce
  • Pre-mixed marinade
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Jumbo shells
  • Chicken broth
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Lemon pepper seasoning
  • Chicken breasts
  • Salmon filets
  • Pork shoulder boneless ribs
  • Strip steak (or any kind you can find inexpensively)
  • Eggs
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Ricotta cheese (15 oz.)
  • Shredded mozzarella (low-fat/fat free)

Owning January - one meal at a time

I sat down last week and scheduled out meals for the entire month of January. Here is the menu. I'll post the recipes before each week so you can prepare your menu for your family.

I'm trying to get back in the saddle of owning what my family eats one meal at a time. Won't you join me? What you are cooking this month?

Here's what we're eating this month.

January Monthly Menu

Week of January 1

Typically, I only plan Monday through Thursday, but with the sale on pork ribs, I’m cooking those up this Sunday for a special Sunday dinner. Also, please note that my shopping lists might not be all inclusive. I don’t list stuff that I know I will always have on hand.

Sunday – Pork shoulder ribs with barbeque sauce (, mashed potatoes and frozen veggie

Monday – Stuffed shells (three cheese and spinach), garlic bread and veggies

Tuesday – Steak stir fry, brown rice

Wednesday – Chicken with marinade, sweet potato fries, peas

Thursday – Lemon and herb salmon packets (Betty Crocker Quick Fixes)

Week of January 9

Monday – Baked Ziti (Biggest Loser), garlic bread and Caesar salad

Tuesday – Taco night

Wednesday – Turkey brats, baked beans and fruit cup

Thursday – Italian white beans and chicken (Betty Crocker Quick Fixes), biscuits

Week of January 16

Monday – Chicken nachos (Accent Health), fruit cocktail

Tuesday – Spaghetti and meatballs, green beans, garlic bread

Wednesday – Tequila Lime Chicken (Better Homes and Gardens Fast and Fresh), brown rice, frozen veggies

Thursday – Herb Pork Loin Roast (Biggest Loser), sweet potato fries

Week of January 23

Monday – Pasta with Trees (Rachael Ray), applesauce

Tuesday – Taco Tuesday

Wednesday – Tilapia with tomatoes and olives (Biggest Loser)

Thursday - Chicken stuffing casserole

Back in the saddle for 2012

As the new year rolls around, I am trying yet again to create weekly healthy, easy menus for my family. We did pretty well most of last year (obviously posting on here was a challenge), but we slipped into old habits of eating out a lot more than I wanted.

Last year, my biggest downfall was time for planning. So, I’m trying a new approach this year. Last week, I was home with my little one and while she was napping, I planned out menus for the full month of January. After I was finished, I realized there are several advantages to this: ability to leverage grocery store sales, more variety in the menus throughout the month and less stress for mom…the last advantage being the best of course. I created an easy template to keep track of the menu, the ingredients and jot down some lunch ideas. I created a master grocery list and can keep my eyes out for sales and coupons between now and the end of the month. If something is on sale before it is planned, I can always swap it out to take advantage of the sale. Saving money, saving time and cooking healthy meals for the fam…perfect!

My plan is to post the menus each week with recipes, but at the beginning of the month (if all goes according to plan) I will post the menu for the month.

Stay tuned for another post with January's menu.