Apr 212015

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013


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This past Saturday morning our family started the day with breakfast at a farm.  George remembered going last year and was SUPER excited to see the animals, hoping there was a baby among the herd.  When he got to see a kid goat being born right in front of him, there was no taking the smile off his face.  He was not even grossed out by the blood, but found it all very cool.

goats on farm

Jack did not remember the farm from previous visits till we pulled into their driveway.  It was at that point his memory was sparked and he knew exactly what he wanted to go see, the chickens.  Unfortunately, their chickens were moved to a different part of the farm or had found a new home (supper, maybe?).  Instead, he and I walked around.  Turns out, this jogged his memory enough for him to tell me exactly where the bobcat had been parked the year before.  It mystifies me as to how he found that fact important enough to remember, but not the other stuff.  He also remembered climbing up the compost piles and running through the trees.

farm breakfast

After eating a delicious breakfast that showed me how non-traditional breakfast foods (to the American menu) really could work for breakfast, we headed off to Big Town.  My husband had a few hours of studying to do, so I took the boys and did a few activity that was being offered nearby.  When my husband was finished, we grabbed lunch, proceeded on to craft time at a small museum, and ended with an activity at the library, where the boys ended up earning coupons for a free book or CD from the library’s used book store.

By the time we got home for supper, I was exhausted.  I had been winging meals all week and had very little brain power to think of something complicated.  Beans and rice sounded easy enough, which reminded me that I had a spice packet left over from when I recently opened a new bag of lentils.  Attached to the bag was a small pamphlet containing recipes, one of which was for chick peas.  There were 2 or 3 cans of chick peas in the pantry which needed to be used.

chick pea curry heer ranjha channay

30 minutes later a delicious smelling meal of Heer Ranjha Channay (recipe from Shan foods) with rice and a side of tomato, cucumber, feta cheese salad was awaiting the hungry bellies.  I served milk for drinks, which was good as the spice packet ended up being a bit too hot for the kids.  I tried telling them to alternate eating the beans and the salad, or taking a drink, but they were so into exclaiming “It’s hot!  I can’t eat this!” that they did not hear my tips and so fulfilled their own proclamations.  I may try this again, though will add in potatoes or something else to help cool down the heat.

The recipe I have called for more ingredients and the use of dried beans.  Since I was trying to be quick, I simplified the recipe and used canned peas instead.  The meal was very flavorful, even without the added ingredients.  Here is the version I used:

Heer Ranjha Channay

1 onion

2 cans chick peas

1 sachet Shan Heer Ranjha Chana Masala

Heat oil in pan and add chopped onion, cook till tender.  Add two cans of undrained chick peas.  Stir in sachet of spice mix.  Cook for 30-45 minutes until peas are soft and liquid has thickened up a bit.

ice cream birthday grocery shopping

While my husband and kids were at the library, I took the opportunity to go grocery shopping.  My list was fairly short, but lengthened a bit over breakfast.  It was at that time that I was thinking through the week.  I realized that there really was not a good time during the week to invite people over to celebrate Jack’s birthday.  As I worked through the details, a plan formed – a relaxed Sunday afternoon get together with ice cream and all the various toppings that we often do not eat.  As I made the list of what would be needed, I found myself shy of only 4 things – whipped cream, cherries, soda for floats and bananas.  These were all things I could pick up at the store for minimal out-of-pocket.

After a few phone calls and texts sent to friends, a party was planned for Sunday afternoon.  Over the years I have come to the conclusion that everything does not have to be perfect in order to have fun or get together with friends.  So what if there is still dust under the television consul or if we do not have coordinated decorations hanging on the door, across every wall and as a center piece on the tables?  A pack of balloons, a simple game of “Pin the Tale on The Donkey” (bought on discount months ago and re-found in the closet when I got out the birthday decorations) and a made up story game was all that was needed to entertain the kids.

I was really unsure what Jack thought of his party, as I had not asked him ahead of time what he wanted or who he wanted to invite.  Well, my insecurity was put to rest when he told me multiple times, that night and the next day, how much he had enjoyed the party.  “Thank you, Mom.”  I think I have found my format for future birthdays.  I has only taken me 8 or 9 such events to do so.  🙂  Of course, I do not have pictures of the actual event, as I was too busy doing the event.  That is something I do need to work on.

And now for this week’s menu:


  1. Shakes
  2. Eggs, toast, fruit
  3. Cereal
  4. Green Tomato Bread
  5. Shakes
  6. Cream of Wheat
  7. Traveling


  1. Eat out
  2. Spaghetti with meat sauce
  3. OYO (on your own), we are going different ways this day
  4. Dad’s meatloaf with tomato relish
  5. Leftovers
  6. Sandwiches
  7. Traveling


  1. Waffles
  2. Ham salad sandwich, chips
  3. Salad
  4. Breakfast – leftover waffles, fruit
  5. Minute Steak
  6. Traveling
  7. Traveling

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

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Mar 292015

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Most people view the end of Winter as the end of Soup Season, but it does not have to be the case.  Though it is technically Spring, it is still cool outside and a warm meal is appreciated.  What is not always welcome is a heavy meal.  Soups come in a variety of textures and consistencies, from a heavier Beef Bourgiugnon to a lighter Red Lentil Dal.  Both can be eaten alone or with a side of bread.  When temperatures warm up, cold or cool soup can be eaten.

I recently was given the opportunity to review a new cookbook – The Soup Club: Feed Your Friends, Feed Your Family, Feed Yourself.  To call it a cookbook would not be completely honest, as it is more than that.  In The Soup Club a group of 4 friends (Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, Caroline Laskow, and Julie Peacock) share how they share meal making responsibility with each other once a week.  Not only do they share the practical steps of making a large meal and transporting it, but also they gathered several of their favorite meals.

“… four busy moms share not only their formula for starting a soup club–which gives you at least three meals every month when you don’t have to worry about dinner–but also 150 fantastic recipes for soups and sides and storing tips for stretching those meals across the week.”

Meal sharing is something a few of my friends have mentioned but none of us had ever done.  One of the things I was concerned about was how to deliver the meals, as well as what to do if there were differences in dietary preferences or restrictions.  I appreciated the part where they talked about how one of their friends is a vegetarian (page 20) and how the group handles it.  Actually, the whole of Part 1 is How To Be A Soup Club.  The topics covered vary from the amount of soup to make to how to actually deliver the soup and when.  I appreciated this layout, as this is a major part of making the club run smoothly.

Flexibility and a willingness to try something new seems to be a key ingredient for something like this to work.  I am assuming that anyone who is interested in meal sharing with their friend, though, already contains these traits. With 150 soup ideas to choose from, I am pretty sure you can find something that will work for everyone.

“The Soup Club began when four friends (who, between them, have four husbands and ten hungry kids and several jobs) realized that they didn’t actually have to cook at home every night to take pleasure in a home-cooked meal. They simply had to join forces and share meals, even if they weren’t actually eating them together. Caroline, Courtney, Julie, and Tina happen to be neighbors, but a soup club is for anyone: colleagues, a group of workout buddies, a book club. All you need are a few people who simply want to have more home-cooked food in their lives.”

Parts 2 & 3 cover All The Soups and Food For Fingers & Forks.  Every recipe in these two parts begins with a short paragraph from the lady sharing the recipe.  Some tell the history behind the recipe, while others give tips and ways it can be adjusted.  Each page contains a tip or comment about the recipe, the ingredients, or a story behind the food being made.

Not all the recipes contained are soups, as there are toppings and sides that accompany soups or need to be added after delivery.  These are the kind of recipes you will find in Part 3 of The Soup Club.

While looking through the recipes, I noticed some contained ingredients I had never heard of before.  The comments accompanying each recipe gave me some ideas of where to start looking.  This is where is it a good thing that Big Town is within driving distance.  If Small Town’s grocery store was the only option, I am not sure if many of these recipes would be feasible. You would likely have to look at some online grocery  sites to see if they were available to be shipped to you.

Sun Dried Tomato Soup


Upon receiving The Soup Club in the mail, I marked a few recipes to try. To help narrow down the search, I tried to choose ones from various parts of the book.  My husband nixed a few of the choices, but that left me with a lot of choices from which to plan.

If I had read the introduction before making the first recipe I would have found out that these friend already accounted for the fact that sometimes a recipe does not produce as much as it should. They did not want to put you in the potision of running short on a recipe.  However, I did not do that.  So, after reducing the meal to what I thought would make enough for our supper and an extra meal for the freezer, I actually had 2.5 – 3 meals for us.  🙂  I do appreciate the fact that they make the servings more appropriately sized than many recipes I come across.

“Recipes include quick and easies, classics, twist on favorites, and dozens of flavor-rich new crowd pleasers:  

   * Carrot Coconut and Chicken Chili, 
   * Senegalese Peanut Soup 
   * Faux Ramen 
   * Red Lentil Curry Soup 
   * Potato Cheddar Soup 
   * Sun Dried Tomato Soup 
   * Jeweled Rice Salad 
   * Cheddar Cornbread, 
   * Summer Corn Hash 
   * Soy Simmered Chicken Wings”

In the end I thought this was a great book to help others along on their journey to food and meal sharing.  Whether it be for a group exchanging meals among their families, for someone who is sick, or a group gathering, I loved the tips and larger recipes for those times that involve more people than your average family. I would recommend it as a good starting spot for those looking to begin a meal sharing group.

carrot coconut soup

Looking through the recipes, one thing struck me – most of these meals are ones that my extended family would give a wide girth rather than trying.  See, I grew up in an area where trying new things means adding something beyond salt and pepper to your food. My husband can guess within a dish as to what will be served at our family holiday gatherings. 🙂  Do not misunderstand, I love some of the dishes and the history that goes with them.  There are others I love because they are “old fashioned”, like Burgoo.  My husband still talks of his first taste of that dish and never not with kind words.  Of course, he is the one who eats Marmite on toast, so I only take his opinions on food so far.  🙂  I did share with him that one of the recipes in this book contains Marmite.  His ears pricked up at that comment.

My point in mentioning this is that this is not a recipe book for everyone, especially my Grandmother and most aunts. I am not sure exactly how I came out of this group with a willingness to try and experiment with new foods.For those who may not be looking to start a meal sharing group but are wanting it mainly as a recipe book, this is a great collection of recipes that may give you a new take on a recipe. (We loved the addition of dried tomatoes to the tomato soup recipe in Sun Dried Tomato Soup.)

If you want to check out more about The Soup Club: Feed Your Friends, Feed Your Family, Feed Yourself online, here is their website.  For now, I am going to do some more browsing to add meals to next week’s menu.

*quotes taken from the summary found in The Soup Club Cookbook.


  1. Danish (brought by guests) and eggs
  2. Cereal
  3. Chocolate Chip Monkey Muffins (made into a loaf)
  4. Green Tomato Bread
  5. Shakes
  6. Eggs, salami and cheese sandwiches
  7. Pancakes, bacon


  1. Shakes
  2. Meatballs, gravy, rice, peas
  3. Tangy Black Bean Soup
  4. Salad
  5. Red Lentil Dal
  6. Leftovers
  7. Beef Bourguingnon, bread


  1. Pitch-in/Potluck at church
  2. Chicken Enchiladas, rice
  3. Minute Steak, rice, beets
  4. Falafel, rice, side salad
  5. Salad
  6. Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup
  7. Veggie and Cilantro Hummus Sandwiches, chips

With family in visiting, my husband still gone and the potential for attachment behaviors showing up (after a week of my husband being gone for a week) I decided to not go to church in Big Town.  This also meant we did not go out to eat at our normal location.  After my family left, the kids were all set for an t.v. marathon.  I agreed and so we all proceeded to decompress with very low energy activities.  That included not cooking lunch.  Shake anyone?

This week’s menu has more than sandwiches, shakes and spaghetti on it, which is what last week ended up consisting of for the most part.  Last week also involved a very messy project that I do not plan on repeating anytime soon.  Let’s just say that all sanding will be taking place outside from now on, not in the kitchen.  Besides milk and eggs, any grocery shopping I did last week was to take advantage of meat and clearance section sales.  I will need to pick up a few things like lettuce and milk this week, otherwise I have everything.  I enjoy weeks like this.

For the month, I will be under my goal for my monthly spending in this area! It may be only under by $5 or so, but it is under rather than $100 over.  🙂

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Linked up with OrgJunkieTheModestMomThis Week For Dinner MommyRunFas.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Mar 222015

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013


(This post contains affiliate links.)

We have come to learn that an oven is not a necessity in life.  How did we come to this conclusion?  By having lived without one for the past 1.5 months.  Some lessons you do not necessarily choose to learn, but when they happen you make the best of the situation.

In December our oven started going out.  At first I thought I had set the temperature to the wrong level.  Then I thought perhaps I had just forgotten to turn the oven on all together.  Finally, I stood and literally watched the oven and the display.  Yup, it was going out.  Finally one day, it stopped.

I called the repair guy who came and replaced the ignitor.  I had my doubts that this was the problem, as the glitches were not the same as when the ignitor went out a few years ago.  I suggested that it was the control board (after looking up the problem online).  The technician said he did not think so and that a control board would cost $$, where an ignitor would cost $.  He replaced the part and the oven worked.  Our wallet was $100 lighter and all was right with the world.

Till a month later.

canners on stove tomatoes

After the first flash of the display, I called my husband into the kitchen and told him the oven was going out again.  I repeated that it had to be the control board.  This time he did the online research and came to the same conclusion.  🙂

We were then faced with a decision.  Do we repair the oven, yet again?  Do we replace the control board?  Or do we replace the whole oven?  There was no clear answer, so we slept on it.

Then we slept some more.  And some more.  Soon over a week had passed and we still had not made a decision.

Details with the house needed answering.  Property Tax Appeal was due.  The car got a flat tire. Another handle on the car door broke. (It has been quite a year so far.)  Soon it had been over three weeks and I had not even begun looking for a new stove or coming to a decision as to repair it.

In reality, neither my husband or I had the feeling that repairing the stove was the right decision.  If we had, then the call would have been made that day to the local appliance technician.

It has happened several times in our marriage, when a decision just does not feel right.  Either the timing feels off or the choices do not seem right.  In those times we choose to wait.  This was one of them.  I assured my husband that making meals without an oven would not be a hardship.  Yes, it would limit our choices, but that it was very possible to make meals without one.

In the weeks that followed, most of our meals were made on the stove top.  When the urge to have muffins for breakfast arose, I remembered our bread maker.  A loaf of Cranberry Pecan Green Tomato Bread was made instead of muffins.  Sweet Potatoes were cooked in the microwave.  Ribs were cooked on the grill, as were cookies.  (Did you know you could bake cookies on a grill?)  I even sliced up a meatloaf from the freezer and cooked it in a skillet on the stove top.


Ribs with spiced apple cider mop

Instead of complaining about the lack of an oven, I have viewed this as a new challenge to my planning skills.  So far, we have only missed 2 things: fresh baked crouissants and pizza.

Yes, a pizza can be cooked on a grill, though Jack doubts my skills as I burned the last one I tried.  In my defense, it was the first time the oven had gone out and the pizza I cooked had already been in the oven about 10 minutes, though I was not sure at exactly what temperature.  Also, it is not like grills have windows you can watch through.  🙂

Our adventure is going to continue for almost another 2 months.  After shopping for ovens, we decided to wait on one that we really wanted.  Again, we were faced with a decision to buy an oven already in stock at the store, but it just did not feel right.  Yes, it was a good deal.  Yes, it was gas.  Yes, it was there.  No, it was not at all what we were looking for and it would have been settling.  I am pretty sure that we would have regretted that decision for the next several years.

We ended up buying a stove that added about 5 years to my age when I pushed the “Buy Now” button online.  Even though we saved several hundred dollars off the purchase price, and delivery of the new stove and removal of our current stove were free, it was still more than I had ever thought to pay for an oven.

I had to remind myself, and my husband had to repeat it, THIS is why we save.  THIS is why we are frugal in other areas of our life.  THIS is why we worked so hard to become and continue to live debt free.

We also chose not to pay another $100 to fix the ignitor on our current stove, knowing that it would just go out again.  Our thinking is that this would have just been money down the drain.  Now that I have found a few ways to circumvent the need to use the oven, the next several weeks do not look all that difficult in the menu planning area.

laptop computerThis week, not only am I working without an oven, but also without a husband.  My husband will be gone all week on a work trip.  For the menu, this means an easy week.  As I told George and Jack, I am hoping to use up the bits of this and that we have around the house.  I did do some grocery shopping yesterday, though most of it was meat I want to put into the freezer.




  1. Shakes
  2. Shake
  3. Chocolate Chip Monkey Muffins (made into a loaf)
  4. Green Tomato Bread
  5. Shakes
  6. Cream of Wheat
  7. Eggs, toast, bacon, fruit


  1. Eat out
  2. Red Lentil Dal
  3. Tangy Black Bean Soup
  4. Sandwiches, shredded carrot salad
  5. Sandwiches, carrot sticks with dip
  6. Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup
  7. Eat Out


  1. Pitch-in/Potluck at church
  2. Chicken Enchiladas, rice
  3. Basic Crepes, fruit
  4. Falafel, rice, side salad
  5. Pizza
  6. Leftovers
  7. Spaghetti and Meatballs

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Linked up with OrgJunkieTheModestMomThis Week For Dinner MommyRunFast and Real Food Recipe Roundup.


Sep 282012

Chocolate Chipotle Chili

Fall officially started several days ago, and the weather feels like it.  Trees are starting to change color, a long sleeve shirt is needed in the mornings, and the days are getting noticably shorter.  All this means that the season for soups is upon us again.

Now, I have to admit, this year I didn’t stop making soups.  Yes, even in the heat of July we had chili.  Why?  Well, it sounded good and I rationalized that we were eating it in air conditioning so that made it okay.

However, I haven’t done soup cooking for the freezer in a while.  I did just pull out a chili to have this week that was dated the end of July.  It was the last soup in the freezer, which means either that was the last time I made soup for the freezer or it had gotten lost at the bottom of the pile.  But that never happens here.

This makes such an easy supper.  There have been times I forgot to thaw the soup.  In those cases here is what I do: I take it out, remove the frozen square from the bag, place it in a large pot, cover with a lid and turn on the heat.  Depending on the soup I may add some liquid to help it steam a bit and not burn.  Then I make a batch of corn bread.  If the soup had filled the bag, then the heat gets turned up more and may cook a bit beyound the corn bread.  Otherwise, the soup is usually heated up by the time the corn bread is ready to come out of the oven.

Here are a few soups that I either made this week for the freezer, took out to use or am going to make before the weekend is over.

Black Bean Soup – I first tried this for two reasons.  1. I was looking for meatless dishes.  2. I was looking for crockpot recipes.  We find that we like it better with a bit of lemon juice added to the bowls.  I also like this with sour cream and shredded cheese.

My husband was not sure about this recipe at first.  It isn’t exactly the most attractive dish sitting in the pot.  However, once he realized that it needed just a bit of lemon juice he became a huge fan of it.  As he doesn’t like melted chesse, he doesn’t normally add it.  However, wheat rolls also make a great side to this.

I’m not a huge fan of beans.  There is something about their texture, and some of them it is just down right their flavor, that I don’t like.  However, I have found that I like black beans.  You’ll notice that in some of the recipes below; I often substitute black beans for whatever bean the recipe calls for.


  1. chocolate chipotle chili – this has become our favorite chili recipe.  It is easy and quick to make.  The link is not actually the recipe I use, but it is close.  The one in the link uses about twice as many beans as the recipe I use.  It also calls for chipotle sauce as opposed to chipotle salsa.  Also, I substitute in black beans for all the beans called and reduce the liquid as we prefer a less soupy chili.   To freeze, make and cool.  Don’t add the chocolate square till you warm it back up.  I also like to add sour cream, but it is good without it.
  2. turkey and pinto bean chili – I also use all black beans in this.  Are you surprised yet?  This recipe is a nice change up in chili recipes.  It has a less intense flavor than the chocolate chipotle chili.  The bacon, though, adds something nice.  I never get the ‘diced small’ part of cutting bacon.   So it gets cut like it gets cut and we all live with it.  Something I have learned is that it is easier to cut bacon when it is still partically frozen.  Yes, I buy and freeze bacon too when I see a good price or a sale.
  3. “regular” chili – for those times when I don’t have time to make a complicated supper, or am just not in the mood to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  I say ‘regular’ because there is usually nothing as involved as adding bacon or chipolte salsa or chocolate or whatnot.  Usually it involves me opening the pantry and freezer, throwing in whatever and however much of what I find.  The basic principles are there, but there is no set recipe

As a side note, I grew up with noodles being placed in my chili.  I tried that one or twice but always ended up with extremely large noodles and no sauce.  Instead, I make it sans noodles and have a bread on the side instead.  Or supply crackers to crumble up in the soup.

Beef Bourguignon – this was a recipe that my husband requested I make.  At first I wasn’t sure, as it is more involved that what I prefer.  However, it tastes great.  Just don’t overcook the meat at first.  If/when you freeze this, make sure there is enough liquid to it.  I actually tend to freeze the ingredients ahead of time instead of afterwards.  One of the main reasons is that it doesn’t last long here once made.

Pre-cutting the meat and pre-measuring ingredients is a time saver for a recipe that is not exactly on the “30-minute Supper” list.  Add some heavy bread to soak up the extra juices.

Red Lentil Dal – I don’t have a link for this as I got the recipe from the grocery store where I bought the lentils.  There are many variations to this recipe that you can find if you look.

2 c long grain brown rice
2 T canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1-1/2 T curry powder
1/4 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 3/4 c (about half of a 28 oz can) diced tomatoes
1 c red lentils
Rice – place the rice in a medium saucepan with 3 cups water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cover.  Cook for 40 minutes.
Dal – Heat the canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, curry powder, cayenne pepper cumin, and coriander.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and soft.  Add garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or two, then add lentils, tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a strong simmer and cover halfway.  Cook for 15 lminutes, or until the lentils are very soft.  Taste for seasoning.
Carrots and/or zucchini: after cooking the onions, garlic and ginger, add the carrots and cook three minutes.  Add the zucchini.  Follow recipe instructions.

My variations:  I use broth instead of the 3 cups water called for.  I think it add just a bit more flavor and nutrition.

To freeze: let cool, then divide as needed into labeled freezer bags.  Lay flat in the freezer, on a cookie sheet to catch any bags that may spill or to keep the bottoms flat.  Once frozen they can be removed from the cookie sheet.


What have you made this week to place in the freezer?  Please, share your recipes or links to them.  Perhaps we’ll all find something new to try.