Monday, November 21, 2011

Weekly Menu, Week of 11/21

Wow, another week already!  I am feeling my freedom slip away, as this week is my last week of maternity leave.  This time next week, I'll be teaching language to my second class of beloved sixth graders. 
Last week's menu was such a blessing; I loved having a game plan for each day.  I will say that, on a couple of days, I changed my mind and made something else.  That's acceptable, right?  I mean, this is a menu PLAN, not a menu "commandment", after all.
Here's this week's plan:

Monday: Sausage Tortellini soup and breadsticks
Tuesday: baked chicken and garlic noodles
Wednesday: chili and garlic bread
Thursday: Thanksgiving feast!
Friday: Not-sagna pasta toss and garlic bread
Sunday: Chicken and Dumplings (Sunday dinner)
             Summer sausage fried rice (after evening church service)

I'm purposely leaving Saturday undone.  I want to see where we stand with Thanksgiving leftovers before I plan anything for that day!

If you didn't check out the recipe for Tuesday's baked chicken, you totally need to.  I just saw it this morning on Rachael Ray.  I don't have the ingredients for the poblano gravy, but I will totally try that sometime.  The chicken (she used turkey on the show), looked AMAZING.  I hope I can make it as mind-blowing as it looked!

I'm all set for a great week of home-cooked meals!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: Week of November 14

Wow, is November half over already? How did that happen?  The FlyLady habit of the month is menu planning, and I'm getting in on it.  I'm very proud to proclaim that I have been a menu planner for ages.  Finally, a habit that I already have down! 
Here's what my family will be eating this week:

Monday: fried rice with summer sausage, served with teriyaki vegetables

Tuesday: Orange-sesame chicken with rice and broccoli (I have made this once before, and we found the flavor from the marinade to be very mild.  I'm planning to increase the amount of orange marmalade and red pepper flakes to give the flavor a bigger punch.  I'll also marinate the chicken a good bit longer than called for.)

Wednesday: General Tso's chicken with rice and raw carrots (first-time try, but I've loved everything I've tried from this website)

Thursday: Japanese fried chicken with rice and orange slices (another first-time try, but my SIL has made it, and her family loved it.  I really trust her when it comes to cooking, so I think this will be a winner.)

Friday: pepperoni and cheese pizza using this crust recipe

Okay, so I didn't realize that this week was so Asian-inspired.  Next week looks pretty similar, to be honest.  Must be cheap to make Asian food!  Either that, or I have lots of Asian ingredients in the pantry already; I am looking to make as many meals as I can without buying additional ingredients.
Well, that planning session was fun.  I have a menu planned for most of the rest of the month, with just 2 open slots.  Since it's all subject to change, I'll keep it a secret for now.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Today's Frugal Meal: Three from One

Not gonna lie: The past few weeks have been extremely tough financially.  And it's not going to be easier this month.  So, I am trying to be really, REALLY careful with menu planning.  I have been browsing my favorite cooking blogs and exploring new ones to find recipes I can complete with the items I already have on hand or that I can make with only minimum additional ingredients to purchase.  I am learning to repurpose (I don't know if that's the right word for it.) ingredients I have on hand in order to make a meal.  One recent example was the package of ground pork I've had in the freezer for a month or more now.  I bought it with the intent of making the best meatloaf I've ever had.  (Seriously, those ourbestbites girls have it TOGETHER!)  Some of the ingredients, though, can be pretty expensive: bacon (I don't mind the high cost of bacon, since I just LOVE it so much.  I think I probably bought it and then used it for something else.) and chili sauce.  I need to figure out how to make my own chili sauce.  Or just find it on sale.  I NEVER see coupons for chili sauce, and I don't remember it ever being on sale.  It pains me to pay full price!  Anyway, I never made the meatloaf, and now I'm trying not to buy those expensive ingredients.  So, how to use the ground pork?  I was able to stretch that one package of ground pork into three separate meals.  I wish I had taken pictures of the dishes, but alas . . . I didn't.  You can check out the links to the recipes below, though, to get an idea of how they looked. 

Meal 1 - Sausage Tortellini Soup
This is another ourbestbites masterpiece.  I really tweeked it this time, though.  I used ground pork instead of sausage; I seasoned it up as close as I could come to match the flavors of that italian sausage.  I also used a plain pasta instead of cheese tortellini because I only had a tiny bit of tortellini left.  I had to leave the carrots and onions out, since I didn't have any.  (I did use onion powder to give the flavor of the onion.) Truth be told, this soup was delicious as served.  We didn't miss the missing ingredients or find it lacking at all.  We ate almost the entire giant pot, just the four of us.  After I cooked up the pork, I set half of it aside, so that I could make . . .

Meal 2 - Notsagna Pasta Toss
I could eat this meal every week.  Rachael Ray has taught me to love ricotta.  I could seriously eat the pasta with the ricotta, parmesan, and starchy water without the meaty sauce.  Yum.  I love it when I get bites that have extra of that creamy cheese.  I didn't have to tweek this recipe that much, except to replace the onion with onion powder.  I don't cook with wine, so I always leave that out.  I usually use a bit extra stock to make up for the missing liquid.  Oh, and I used beef broth instead of chicken . . . I think the recipe calls for chicken broth.  My biggest tweek was to use the rest of the ground pork instead of ground beef.  I love this meal.  If I ever have opportunity to make you a dinner, don't be surprised if it's this lasagna-like feast.  When I made the tomato sauce, I added a bit of extra stock to stretch the sauce and went a little bit shy on adding it to the creamy cheesy pasta.  I knew I wanted a good bit of meaty sauce left so I could make . . .

Meal 3 - (Semi-) Homemade Pizza
I enjoy making pizza crust from scratch using this ourbestbites recipe, but this particular night I needed to be fast so I ended up using a refrigerated pizza dough from the Publix bakery. ($2.59 -- ouch! I think I could make 3 batches for that price.)  I used a bit of plain tomato sauce plus the meaty tomato sauce from the previous meal along with shredded mozzarella for the toppings.  The pizza was delicious, and I only missed my homemade pizza crust because the store bought one ended up being MUCH thinner than the crust I make. 

All that from one 2-pound package of ground pork.  I think I spent around $5 for that meat, so that averages out to $1.67 per meal.  These three meals average out at about $4 each.  We feasted! We didn't feel like we were being cheapskates, that's for sure.  I'll just keep that little bit of information to myself.