Friday, November 23, 2012

Monthly Meal Plan

Well the last six weeks have been freezer meals.  I liked the convenience of them, but I will say I was not very fond of the texture of the cooked meals.  Many of the sauces separated and did not look appealing (even though they tasted fine) and the vegetables were rather mushy.  I like my veggies crisp tender, but that is me and my picky eating behavior.

I wouldn't say the meals were a complete flop, but I am definitely going back to my monthly meal plan.  This way I can shop for the month, then chop and dice everything, and freeze separately.  It may not be the quickest or most convenient way, but for me everything seems to hold it's texture better and allow for a better depth of flavor in my meals.

Vegetables like onions and celery keep for a very long time without freezing.  But when I froze them in the sauce they were limp and mushy.  Other vegetables like green peppers came out limp and mushy to me too, but when I flash freeze them separately they are fine.  So from now on I will continue with my tried and true method.  I suppose it is still freezer cooking in a sense just in a different form which will allow a better consistency and depth of flavor in your meals.

The last week will be visiting with friends so I know we won't have much time to cook.  It's a nice to visit and explore the areas we love with the ones we love.  So we will be taking full advantage of that :)

You will also notice I have lots of soups.  They are cheap, the weather is perfect for them, and they are incredibly easy to make.  So this time of year I take full advantage of the making lots of soups, stews, and chili.  Not to mention they make great leftovers for lunch too!

I have not added side dishes yet mainly because I want to see what is on sale.  I am expecting frozen and canned veggies to go on sale so more than likely I will be stocking up on those for side dishes along with potatoes to make various side dishes.  I already have rice so if all else fails I can make rice and add seasonings for a quick and easy side dish too.

Now onto the shopping list.  Most of these items you will have in your cupboard, but I am including everything you need so you can see what items are required for the month.

I didn't include anything needed for our Christmas dinner on this list.  You will also notice I didn't include the ham on the list either.  For the two meals that require ham I will be using what is leftover from Christmas dinner.  About 1/2 lb for the scalloped potatoes and 1 lb for the ham and bean soup.  And as you can see there are lots of items that most people have on hand in their cupboard at any time.  Just to give you an idea below is my actual list of the items I need.

Considerably shorter and definitely more manageable.  It doesn't look nearly as daunting once the on hand ingredients are removed.

Once I am home I divide the meat and chop or slice as needed for each recipe.  I then label the bag with the date and the recipe it is intended for.  I then prepare and store vegetables so they remain fresh as long as possible.  Onions and potatoes are stored in a cool, dark place not near each other.  I cut the ends off the celery (reserving the ends by storing in a ziploc freezer bag in the freezer to make stock later) and wrap in tin foil so it remains crisp.  Lettuce I chop and wash then store in a ziploc bag with paper towels inside and removing as much excess air as possible.  Kale and tomatoes I purchase no more than 2 days before needed.  Green onions I either place in a cup of water on the counter or wrap it in a damp paper towel and place in a baggie in the fridge.  For carrots I cut the green tops (place in the same freezer bag as the celery tops), wrap the carrots in dry paper towel, and change as needed (don't wash until ready to prepare!).

That is the only preparation I do.  The rest is done the day of.  To me this is the easiest method with the best results.  I still save money, but my meals taste fresh with wonderful depth of flavor and crispness of fresh veggies.

Now for the fun stuff...the recipes!!!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
16 oz elbow macaroni
1 stick unsalted butter, 1/2 cup
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 pinch nutmeg
4 cups milk
4 cups shredded cheese (any combination you cheddar, gouda, swiss, parmesan, the possibilities are endless!)
1 sleeve of ritz crackers, crushed
1 TBS melted butter

  • Cook pasta according to package instructions for al dente
  • In a large saucepan melt butter over medium heat
  • Whisk in flour, onion powder, pepper, salt, and nutmeg cooking while stirring for about 1-2 minutes to cook off the four flavor
  • Gradually whisk in milk stirring constantly until mixture thickens and begins to boil
  • Add cheese and stir until melted
  • Add cooked pasta and stir to coat
  • Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish
  • In a small bowl mix together crushed ritz crackers and melted butter until crackers are moistened
  • Sprinkle over top of the macaroni and cheese mixture
  • Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly
4 Pork Chops
1/4 cup honey
2 TBS soy sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp lime juice
1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • Place all ingredients in a ziploc bag except for pork chops and shake vigorously to combine
  • Add pork chops and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but no more than 4 hours
  • Line a cookie sheet with foil and place pork chops on the pan (or place a cooling rack inside the cookie sheet and place pork chops on top of cooling rack)
  • Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes
  • While pork chops are baking bring remaining marinade to a boil in a small saucepan
  • Baste both sides of the chops with the marinade, flip, and bake for 10 more minutes
6 slices of bacon, diced
1 lb italian sausage (I use mild because the kids don't like it spicy)
1 large onion, diced
1 TBS minced garlic
4 cups chicken stock
6 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups kale, chopped into bite size pieces
1 cup half-and-half
  • Cook bacon in a large stock pot until crispy
  • Add sausage, cook until no longer pink, and sausage is crumbly
  • Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes
  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute
  • Add chicken stock, potatoes, salt, and pepper then simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through
  • Add kale and half-and-half, simmer until heated through about 10 minutes
Poor Man's Stroganoff
1 lb ground beef
8 oz sour cream
4 oz cream cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
4 oz sliced mushroom, drained
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp pepper
  • Brown ground beef and drain off fat
  • Add cream of mushroom soup, mushrooms, garlic salt, and pepper to ground beef and cook over medium heat until heated through, about 10 minutes
  • Remove ground beef mixture from heat and add sour cream and cream cheese
  •  Serve over hot buttered egg noodles and enjoy!
Chili Dog Casserole source  Cully's Kitchen
2 cans chili with beans
1 package hot dogs
10 - 8 inch flour tortillas
8 oz shredded cheese
  • Spread 1 can of chili on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish
  • Roll hot dogs inside tortilla and place in the baking dish seam side down
  • Top with remaining can of chili and sprinkle with shredded cheese
  • Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 30 minutes
Potato Soup source
1 onion, diced
1 TBS butter
36 oz chicken broth
1 (32 oz) bag of hash browns with peppers and onions
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups milk
1 lb velveeta cheese, cubed
  • Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat
  • Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5-10 minutes
  • Add broth and bring to a boil
  • Add hash browns and bring to a boil
  • Add soups and milk then bring to a boil
  • Add cheese and heat until the cheese is melted
  • Serve topped with crumbled bacon and scallions
Spinach Lasagna Noodles source Skinny Taste
9 lasagna noodles, cooked
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
15 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
26 oz spaghetti sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • In a small bowl combine spinach, ricotta, parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper
  • Place about 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish
  • Place 1/3 cheese mixture on each cooked and dried noodle and spread evenly
  • Roll up and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish
  • Spoon remaining sauce over noodles and top with mozzarella cheese
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes
Sesame Chicken
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb chicken boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 TBS olive oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 TBS sesame seeds, toasted
2 green onions, sliced
  • Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a large ziploc bag and shake to combine
  • Add chicken and shake well to coat chicken
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
  • Add chicken to skillet and cook until no longer pink, about 7 minutes and set aside
  • Reduce heat to medium
  • Combine soy sauce and sugar in the skillet
  • Cook stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved
  • Add oil, sesame seeds, chicken, and green onions
  • Toss and serve over white rice
Garlic Noodles
8 oz angel hair pasta
1 TBS minced garlic
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup butter
2 TBS soy sauce
2 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 TBS oyster sauce
  • Prepare noodles as directed on the box
  • In a large skillet melt butter over medium-high heat
  • Add onions and garlic and saute until softened
  • Meanwhile in a small bowl mix together soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and oyster sauce
  • Add the noodles and sauce mixture to the skillet with the garlic and onions and toss well to coat
Lazy Day Chicken
1 lb chicken
16 oz italian dressing
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 TBS italian seasoning
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 in chunks
  • Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray
  • Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat
  • Pour into prepared roasting pan
  • Roast in a preheated 425 degree for 30 minutes
  • Stir vegetables and flip chicken then return to the oven and roast for an additional 15-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender
Broccoli Cheese Soup
1/4 cup butter
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups chicken broth
16 oz frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained
4 carrots, grated
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
  • Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium-high heat
  • Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5-10 minutes
  • Reduce heat to medium and whisk in flour
  • Cook for 3-5 minutes stirring constantly
  • Gradually add half-and-half while continuing to whisk constantly
  • Add chicken stock, whisk to fully combine, and then simmer for 20 minutes
  • Add broccoli and carrots and cook over low heat for 25 minutes
  • Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg (at this time you can puree with by removing half and pulsing it in a blender or using an immersion blender to reach desired consistency)
  • Return to pan, add cheese, and continue to cook over low heat until cheese is melted
  • Serve with a nice crusty bread and enjoy!
3 - 6 oz cans of tuna in water, drained
1 - 15 oz can corn, drained
2 - 10.75 oz cream of mushroom soup
1 cup frozen peas
12 oz egg noddles
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups reduced fat shredded cheese

  • Prepare noodles as directed on the package
  • Mix corn, soup, peas, tuna, and pepper in a large bowl
  • When noodles are done mix with tuna mixture and transfer to a casserole dish
  • Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes
  • Top with cheese and return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted
Cheesy Pasta source Southern Living
16 oz penne pasta
1 lb chicken, cut into bite size pieces
8 oz chopped broccoli
2 - 16 oz jars of alfredo sauce
8 oz sour cream
15 oz ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 TBS dried parsley
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese 
  • Prepare pasta as directed on the package
  • In a skillet saute chicken over medium heat until cooked through, about 7 minutes
  • In a small bowl stir together alfredo sauce and sour cream
  • Toss alfredo mixture with pasta
  • Add chicken and broccoli and toss well to coat
  • Spoon half of the mixture into a greased 9x13 baking dish
  • In a small bowl mix together ricotta cheese, eggs, parmesan cheese, and parsley
  • Spread ricotta mixture over the noodles in the baking dish
  • Top with the remaining noodle mixture
  • Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese
  • Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly
Round Steak in Mushroom Gravy
2 lbs round steak
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 package onion soup mix
1 soup can of water
1 TBS worcestershire sauce
  • In a small bowl whisk together mushroom soup, onion soup mix, water, and worcestershire sauce
  • Place round steak in the bottom of a roasting pan and top with soup mixture
  • Cover with aluminum foil
  • Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 2 hours or until meat is tender
  • Serve with mashed potatoes and steamed carrots
Cornbread Taco Casserole
8.5 oz box corn bread mix (Jiffy, store brand, homemade, or Bob's Red Mill all work) plus ingredients to make cornbread (usually 1 egg and 1/3 cup milk)
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small yellow onion
2 TBS taco seasoning (or 1 packet)
2/3 cup water
1 can drained black beans (or corn, refried beans, or you can omit)
1 cup reduced fat shredded mexican cheese
Diced Tomato
Taco Sauce
Sour Cream
Greek Yogurt
Shredded Lettuce
Black Olives
or anything else you love to top your tacos with :)

  • Prepare corn bread as instructed on box
  • Grease an 8x8 baking dish
  • Bake corn bread in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes (keep at this time and temp no matter what the box says!  You will bake longer once the beef and cheese is added)
  • Meanwhile brown ground beef and onion in a skillet, drain
  • Add taco seasoning and water and simmer until thickened
  • Combine beans with meat and spread over top of corn bread
  • Sprinkle shredded cheese over meat mixture and bake 20-25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted
  • Cut into squares and serve with favorite toppings
Italian Wedding Soup

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/4-1/2 cup bread crumbs (you don't want it too wet otherwise they won't stick together)
  • 2 TBS parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp minced garlic or 2 cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning blend
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2-3 TBS olive oil
  • 2 tsp minced garlic or 4 cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 6 cups chicken broth (I used about 7 to use up the carton in my fridge)
  • 2/3 cup tubeltini or ditalini (I used mini seashells because I couldn't find these)
  • 1 container frozen chopped spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  1. Mix all the meatball ingredients together and form into small balls, about the size of a quarter and set aside
  2. In a large stock pot heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion, celery, and carrots; season with salt and pepper and saute until tender, about 10 minutes
  3. When veggies are tender add garlic and basil.  Cook until fragrant
  4. Add chicken broth, bring to a slow boil, and then gently add meatballs one at a time
  5. Add pasta and spinach then simmer for 25 minutes
  6. Stir in parsley and parmesan cheese
French Toast Casserole source
1/2 cup butter, melted
12 sliced bread
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Put melted butter in a 9x13 baking dish
  • Put 6 slices of bread in the pan
  • In a bowl mix together sugar and cinnamon
  • Sprinkle half of the sugar mixture over the bread
  • Add the remaining bread on top of the sugar mixture
  • In a bowl whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla
  • Pour egg mixture over the bread
  • Sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight
  • Bake covered in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes
  • Uncover and continue to bake until set and browned, about 15 minutes
1 lb crumbled breakfast sausage (like the roll)
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat
  • Stir in flour until dissolved and cook for about 1 minute
  • Slowly stir in milk and cook until thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes
  • Season with pepper
  • Serve over warm baked biscuits

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes with Ham
6-8 medium potatoes
3 TBS unsalted butter
3 TBS flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup diced ham
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
pinch of nutmeg
  • Wash the potatoes and slice them thin, I used the slicer blade on my food processor
  • In a small saucepan melt butter and combine flour, cook for about 2 minutes
  • Add the milk while whisking constantly
  • Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and nutmeg
  • Cook on low until mixture is smooth and thickened
  • Stir in 1 1/2 cups cheese and ham continue to stir until cheese is fully melted
  • Place half the potatoes in a greased 9x13 pan
  • Pour half of the cheese sauce over top of the potatoes
  • Place remaining potatoes on top of cheese sauce and poor the remaining sauce over top
  • Top with the remaining shredded cheese
  • Bake uncovered in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 60 minutes or until potatoes are tender
2 lbs ground beef
1 (6 oz) package chicken stuffing mix
8 oz tomato sauce (if I have the small V8 cans I use those and they work perfectly!)
2 eggs beaten
1 small onion, diced
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar (honey and light karo syrup work too)
  • In a large bowl combine everything except ketchup and brown sugar together (I use my just works better for me)
  • Shape into a loaf pan
  • In a small bowl stir together ketchup and brown sugar
  • Pour over the top of the meatloaf
  • Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 60 minutes or until done
Sloppy Joe Muffins
3/4 lb ground beef
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp mustard (I use yellow, but use what you like)
1 TBS worcestershire sauce
1 TBS vinegar
1 TBS minced garlic (remember I LOVE garlic so cut this down if you are not a huge fan like myself)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 can home style biscuits
Shredded cheese for topping

  • Saute the onion and peppers in a hot skillet until just tender, about 3 minutes
  • Add garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant
  • Add ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and brown
  • Drain ground beef and return to skillet
  • Add the remaining ingredients and mix well cooking over medium-low heat for 15 minutes
  • Meanwhile separate biscuits and place each biscuit in an ungreased muffin cup
  • Press dough firmly into bottom and up the sides of the cup
  • Spoon approximately 1/3 cup of the beef mixture into each cup and top with shredded cheese
  • Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and biscuits are golden brown
Ham and Bean Soup
1 lb diced ham
1 small onion, diced
1 package dry navy beans (soaked overnight)
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
2 TBS butter
1 TBS minced garlic

  • Melt butter in a large stock pot 
  • Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes
  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minutes
  • Add the rest of the ingredients plus water to cover and bring to a boil
  • Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours or until beans are tender. Add more water if it is too thick for your liking
  • Use a potato masher, immersion blender, or the back of the soup ladle to gently mash some of the beans to your desired consistency
  • Remove bay leaf and enjoy
Chicken Bundles source Comfy in the Kitchen
1 can crescent rolls
2 cups cooked chopped chicken
1 cup shredded cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can milk
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
  • In a small bowl mix together soup, milk, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder then set aside
  • Unroll crescent rolls, spoon chicken and cheese into crescent roll, roll up, and seal to enclose chicken and cheese
  • Place in a 9x13 baking dish
  • Pour soup over rolls 
  • Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes
Baked Spaghetti
8 oz spaghetti noodles, cooked
2 TBS butter, melted
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 lb ground beef
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small onion, diced
1 jar spaghetti sauce
8 oz shredded mozzarella
  • Cook ground beef and onion until no longer pink, drain
  • Stir in spaghetti sauce, salt, and pepper then set aside
  • In a large bowl whisk egg, parmesan cheese, and butter
  • Add spaghetti to egg mixture and toss to coat
  • Place the spaghetti mixture in a 9x13 baking dish
  • Spread ricotta cheese over the noodles
  • Top with ground beef mixture and the mozzarella cheese
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes
  • Remove aluminum foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned
Lots of good recipes to keep you warm this winter.  Many of them are tried and true family favorites and a few are brand new.  I will make sure to give my honest opinion as I make them so you can learn from my mistakes ;)  

What do you think?  Do yo prefer the monthly meal plan or freezer meals?  Have any tips, ideas, or favorite recipes you would like to share?  I love to hear all your ideas!

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