Monday, October 24, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: October 24th, 2011

It took a lot of preseverance, including willingness to grill the Sweet Asian Chicken (pictured above) in the rain, but I stuck to my plans and fed my family nearly every night last week. (They got takeout one night.)

Here's the plan for this week:

  • Monday: Leftovers--we have lots of Baked Ziti with Mini Meatballs to still enjoy! With leftover steamed broccoli
  • Tuesday: Molasses Glazed Chicken Thighs with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans--and it better not start raining while I'm cooking the chicken on the grill!
  • Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner sliding from last week: Eggs, sausage, bacon, mini whole wheat bagels, fresh cut fruit, steamed asparagus
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: (Parents out) Hotdogs on whole wheat buns with steamed vegetables and fresh cut fruit
  • Saturday: Soup (Minestrone from the freezer) with Grilled Cheese, fresh cut fruit
  • Sunday: Beef Stew with peas served over egg noodles, salad
  • Monday: Halloween! Bean and Cheese Quesadillas (from the freezer) with steamed vegetables, fresh cut fruit
Find more meal planning inspiration at!

Sweet Asian Chicken Marinade

From the Cookbook Fix, Freeze, Feast: The Delicious, Money-Saving Way to Feed Your Family.

This is our favorite chicken marinade from this cookbook so far. Prepare it in bulk so that with this recipe you will have 3 meals of chicken prepared--one for dinner tonight, and two for your freezer! To test the recipe, or to just make a single meal, divide the ingredient measures by 3.

  • 6 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup tamari/soy sauce
  • 1/4 lime juice or juice of 1 fresh lime (I recommend fresh lime if possible)
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 3 Tablespoons minced garlic--about 25 cloves (I recommend fresh--process in a food processor to reduce prep time)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste, more if you prefer spicy)
  • 3 freezer containers or freezer bags--I find if I use smaller chicken breasts I can fit this meal in a quart-size bag.
1. Divide chicken between 3 freezer containers.
2. Combine sugar, tamari, lime juice, and curry powder in a pourable mixing bowl, whisk to combine. 3. Divide and pour marinade evenly into 3 freezer containers.
4. Add 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes to each container. Mix chicken, marinade, garlic, and flakes, then freeze until needed or marinate for a minimum of 6-8 hours.

To cook: First defrost chicken fully in refrigerator.

To grill (recommended): cook chicken over medium low heat, turning every 5 minutes and basting with extra marinade. Stop basting at least 5 minutes before removing from grill. Cook until center temp of chicken reaches 165 degrees on a meat thermometer. Cover cooked chicken with foil, let stand for 5 minutes. Slice chicken into 1/2 inch strips against the grain.

On the Stove: Slice into 1/2 strips against the grain, then stir fry in a wok or large pan over med-high heat with oil such as peanut oil, until pieces are no longer pink in the center.

Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner: Pumpkin Puree

While assembling and baking Baked Ziti with Mini Meatballs, I hacked my 4 garden pumpkins in half, scooped out the seeds, and baked them for over an hour, then pureed them, ending up with 8 cups of puree, just what I need to make lots of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins! (I ate the extra puree... delicious!)

While making dinner on Thursday I assembled a dozen extra Bean and Cheese Quesadillas, and froze them--7 are left, which is enough for 2 meals when combined with other things.

This week I want to use my pumpkin puree to bake mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, and then store them in the freezer until I have the Kindergarten classroom parents over for morning coffee. I'll bake some Whole Wheat Banana Bread as we get closer to the event, too.

As for Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner, this week is another intense one, so I'll be whittling down the freezer supply a bit more rather than making plans to add to it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: October 17th, 2011

Whole Wheat Couscous with Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

I'm continuing to lean on my freezer stash this week! My aim is to use the oldest items, as well as the items taking up the most space this week.
Find more meal planning inspiration at!

Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner: The Payoffs

Pineapple Zucchini Bread

I didn't do much freezer cooking the week before last because, well, my freezer was full. For a while you took your life in your hands every time you opened the freezer door, because some rock-solid frozen food item was liable to come flying out at you.

Last week, I went away for a weekend, and when I returned, I started working outside the home for the first time in seven years. Needless to say, it was an intensely crazy week! I didn't even make  a meal plan. We did eat take-out on a few occasions (okay, really FOUR), and I leaned heavily on my freezer stash to provide the rest of our meals and food needs.

For instance, over the past few weeks I baked a batch Chocolate Chip Cookies twice, and I went ahead a froze a pan's worth of cookie dough each time.

The Payoff: I had committed to bake dessert for a teacher luncheon at the kids' school, and when it came time to bake, I was feeling exhausted. Instead of making cupcakes like I had planned, I popped the frozen dough into the oven and had 3 dozen cookies ready to go in less than half an hour--and the only dishes to clean were the storage containers from the freezer and the cookie pans and spatula!

I also leaned on my stash to help feed the family when I took a trip with my mom and sisters, and left my non-cooking husband and kids to fend for themselves. The freezer food came in quite handy. I used the frozen topping and chicken to make a large batch of Baked Chicken Tenders before I left town, and also made a list of foods available that they should eat, including a large quantity of leftover pot roast, frozen pre-sliced mini bagels, bread and cheese for grilled cheese, fresh melon and apples, and an assortment of frozen vegetables.

The Payoff: They did eat out a few times, but the rest of the time they were able to put together simple meals at home using what was on hand. Making a clear list of what should be eaten was helpful because my husband would have otherwise not been sure what was okay to eat (all those packages in the freezer start to look the same after a while!)

When I got home, I jumped right into my new job, which included some long days teaching a training class. I was so caught up in the adjustment that I didn't have any brain power leftover to even think about a meal plan--or to make dinner on some nights. We ate some carry-out meals, and on days when I could focus I used these items from the freezer for various meals:

Lots of free space!

 Now that things are settling into The New Normal--and I have some newly cleared space in the freezer, I need to get back on track with my menu planning and continue whittling down my current freezer stock to make room for my favorite fall meals, such as Mom's Chili, and for holiday baking, which is coming up just around the corner!

I also want to continue refreshing my freezer stock. I need to keep things simple this week, so I am only going to plan two freezer cooking projects:

1. I need to restock our supply of frozen Bean and Cheese Quesadillas. These are so quick to prepare into a protien-rich, nutritious dinner on crazy evenings--I serve them with salsa, sour cream, steamed vegetables from the freezer, and some fresh fruit. I just need to assemble a bunch of them so that I can grab them when I need them, for quick meals or for snacks.

2. I want to get my 4 homegrown pumpkins baked and pureed for some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (my version of this recipe to come). My plan will be to serve some of the pumpkin as a side dish for dinner one night, then to puree and freeze the rest.

First I will have to figure out how to harvest this one.

Maybe I can saw it in half to extract it from the trellis it sneakily grew inside? Hmmm...

I hope to continue this pattern of using dinner prep time to maintain my freezer stash. It's working for me!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: October 3rd, 2011

My Favorite Pot Roast

I'll be taking it easy this week. The freezer is full from my Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner strategies, and I am heading out of town for a girls' trip this weekend! I need to think ahead a bit more than usual, because next week is one crazy week.
  • Monday: Leftovers (Lemon Chicken, Carrot Orzo, salad) with steamed broccoli and fresh cantalope
  • Tuesday: My Favorite Pot Roast, served over egg noodles with roasted carrots, and fresh fruit
  • Wednesday: Soy Glazed Salmon, Brown Rice Pilaf, Sesame Baby Spinach
  • Thursday: Soup (various, from the freezer) with Grilled Cheese, steamed vegetables, and fresh fruit
  • Friday: Dinner out
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Dinner out
  • Monday: Leftovers or something simple
  • Tuesday: Not sure but we might have company
  • Wednesday: Something from the freezer
Find more meal planning inspiration at!

Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner: The Freezer is Full!

The Freezer is officially full. SO full that we need to eat some ice cream to make some room for the coffee beans again, so it isn't all bad news!

I made 3 batches of Molasses Glazed Chicken Thighs, served one for dinner, and froze the other two. I also made a pot of Black Bean Hambone Soup, and ended up with 3 packages to freeze (2 large servings each). I made Whole Wheat Banana Bread into muffins for my daughter to take to school for her class's snack, and I managed to freeze another 16 Chocolate Chip Cookies when I was baking for a potluck last week.

I was supposed to also make up additional Bean and Cheese Quesadillas when I put them together last week, but I ran out of time (and space in the freezer).

This week the only food I plan to freeze is any meat leftovers and gravy/glaze from my Pot Roast, which I been using to flavor Minestrone Soup--a little goes a long way! I'm going to take a much-needed break from cooking... and from my family for a long weekend away. :)