Meal Planning: Friendly Old-to-me Recipes

Sometimes I have less time or inclination to pick amazing new recipes.  Because you know, I’m human.  On weeks like that, I think through recipes I’ve made before and cobble something together.  Not every week requires formal dining.  Every week requires dinner that makes the day better.

Monday: Taco Soup (Paula Deen)

I love this soup.  I don’t usually pick recipes that include taco seasoning or ranch dip seasoning (because sodium), but this one is so tasty.  It’s easy to make, it makes great leftovers for the rest of the week, and what more could I ask for in a recipe?  It’s even pretty healthy.

Tuesday: Mason Jar Pasta Salad (Pioneer Woman)


This was a new recipe to me, but the source is an old standby.  The Pioneer Woman has been so good to me.  I’ve made dozens of her recipes, and only one was a flop.  That’s such a wonderful success rate!  Thank you, Pioneer Woman!!!  This one was super tasty, but next time I would A) use 2 bunches of kale (it cooked down to too small a quantity in relation to the other ingredients, in my opinion), and B) use slightly less dressing per mason jar.  I made this into 5 servings, and even at 1/5 of a cup of dressing each, it was too “dressed.”  Maybe 1/8 of a cup per serving???  The Pioneer Woman makes things practically perfect in every way, but sometimes you just have to adjust things to your own taste.

Wednesday: Rainbow Pizza (Pioneer Woman crust)

We have quite the little Daniel Tiger fan club at our house, and Daniel Tiger makes rainbow pizza in one episode.  So rainbow pizza came to our house this week.  We used fresh chopped spinach, yellow and orange bell peppers, and tomatoes to make our incomplete rainbow (couldn’t find any purple veggies I thought I could entice said toddler to eat).  Since he’s just delving into the world of eating real foods that aren’t separated out on the plate, even pizza is a hard sell at our house.  He was really excited about making the crust and assembling the pizza with me.  He was really excited that we had rainbow pizza in the house.  He ate a few bites.  Win?  I can’t decide, but it did taste good.

Thursday: Spanish Sheet Pan Salmon (Pioneer Woman)

Like I said, The Pioneer Woman has been good to me.  I’ve made this twice now.  It’s easy and tasty, so major goals are accomplished.  It is, however, slightly better the first night instead of as leftovers.  I guess that’s okay sometimes (or if you have enough folks to eat it up the first night, it would be scrumptious).

Friday: Sweet Potato Fried Rice (Inspiralized)

I’ll get the embarrassing thing out of the way.  I quadrupled this recipe.  (Yeesh, we eat a lot.)  But it was worth it–tasty, healthy, easy, and satisfying.  Oh, and I added some chicken (baked thighs in the oven like this, chopped them up later and added them to the fried rice enough to warm it up before serving).  I made the chicken without the sauce mentioned in the recipe, and I added more soy sauce than the fried rice recipe recommends.  Perfect Friday night dinner.

Saturday: Leftovers

Sunday: Leftovers + Banana Bread (Magnolia)


Joanna Gaines has also been good to me.  Her biscuits are my all-time favorite biscuit recipe (it’s in the Magnolia Journal magazine).  It took me six years of biscuit attempts to come to that conclusion, but I think it’s going to stay at the top for a long time.  I made a double batch of this banana bread, and it was delicious.  I might add in pecans or walnuts next time (they’re in the picture but not the recipe… hmm), but that’s a pretty minor adjustment for the future.


photo from

The good news about this week?  The recipes are tested, easy, and comforting.  And I got inspired yesterday, so the upcoming week’s menu is a bit more fancy schmancy.


Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, and Other Tasty Things

Okay, so we’re not great at Valentine’s Day.  Really not great.  Most years, our goal is to survive the day without it being plain old bad.  This year, I’m happy to report that we had an above average day.  Woohoo!  We basically aimed for just a nice day, and it worked.  Now I can breath a sigh of relief for 363 days.

Our most successful Valentine’s Day ever?  That would be our first Valentine’s Day when we had been dating a few months.  I cooked steak (this recipe is SOOOOO GOOD), and we watched Taken.  Just a sweet little chick flick, right?

With all of that in mind, I planned the week around Mardi Gras instead of Valentine’s Day.  I lived in New Orleans for a few years as a kid, and my mom picked up a great red beans and rice recipe along the way.  So that happened, and I experimented with King Cake for the first time.  Virginia isn’t all about Mardi Gras, so the store didn’t have any purple finishing sugar.  Thus our King Cake is more of a springy yellow and green cake.  That is almost shaped like a King Cake.  And almost looks like a King Cake.  Things I’m not great at–sealing seams in baked goods.  I’m working on my baking skills slowly but surely.

Honestly, the cake came out 2% drier than I’d like, but when we microwaved pieces for 30 seconds with a few drops of water on them, it was pretty great.

So there’s King Cake.  And then I had to do something for Valentine’s Day.  You can’t plan your menus every week without a slight nod to holidays.

But instead of going all out with steak and fanciness, I decided to go a bit more subtle with the fancy.  This year we had smoked salmon potato pancakes, and I am such a big fan!  They were crispy on the outside, perfectly smooth and simple but flavorful on the inside.  Mmm.  Work-intensive?  Well, not really.  I boiled potatoes in the morning, mashed them for a minute, moved on with the day.  In the early afternoon, I added a few ingredients to the mashed potatoes and formed the cakes.  Then right before we cooked them, Scott dredged the cakes in egg and bread crumbs.  If I did all of those steps at one time, it might be too much for an average night, but broken down into small parts, it was a cinch.  Throw some green beans on the plate with the potato cakes and the creme fraiche (or in my case, sour cream and homemade yogurt with the recommended additions), and there you go.  Simple and delicious.

Here is the actual meal plan for the week:


Skillet Cod with Lemon and Capers + a simple salad


photo by Lauren Volo via The Kitchn

I doubled this recipe, and it still only made enough for 3 servings.  I mean, we’re hungry people, but still.  It was really tasty and worked just the way it should, but I may or may not be repeating this one.  Lemon and capers do always work for me though, and this really hit the spot in terms of expense (as in not expensive at all), flavor and trying out different fish than my standbys (salmon, shrimp, tuna).


Paul Prudhomme’s Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage + Cinnamon Pecan King Cake


evidence of my seam-sealing weakness

The recipe I used for the red beans isn’t online, and kid naps only allow me to type so much.  But… this recipe is pretty darn close to what I used.  Take out the ham hock (although adding that would be delicious, I’m sure), and that’s just about it.  Thank you, New Orleans circa 1987.  This has been a good addition to our family’s repertoire of favorites.  Doubled and froze half of the red beans.

King Cake critique is in the top of this post.  Yummy, but I might experiment with a different recipe next year.


Smoked Salmon Potato Cakes with Herbed Crème Fraîche +green beans + J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Chocolate Chip Cookies


photo by Anjali Prasertong via The Kitchn

Well, the potato pancakes from The Kitchn were awesome.  The cookies are also really good.  But saying something like, “The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies,” is a tough way to start.  I’ll just be eating the entire batch to let you know if they’re really the best chocolate chip cookies or not.  (I like them enough to look forward to devouring them, but I’m not entirely sure if they’re the best ever.  I suppose that’s a pretty subjective thing.  If you like the science of tasty food, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is your man, and he does say that you should tweak the recipe to make them YOUR best chocolate chip cookies.  He gets it.)

Doubled the potato cakes recipe, because if you’re going to make something tasty, it should make more than 2 servings, in my opinion.


Cooking Recovery Day (A.K.A. Pizza? Peanut Butter and Jelly?  Not cooking.)


Pioneer Woman’s Veggie Scramble

I’ve made this several times, and it’s a good template for a super quick and healthy use of eggs.  Our chickens have been super productive lately, so we might just make it a big ol’ veggie scramble.


Giada’s Classic Turkey Meatballs + Zucchini Noodles

I said in 2014 that these are the best meatballs, and I’ll stand by that claim.  I mean, yes, I said that it was dangerous to call those chocolate chip cookies the best, and here I am making the same claim for these meatballs.  Oh well.  No one is perfect.



Because honestly, tasty leftovers are the best part of cooking good food.  No dirty pots or pans, please.


Monday Meal Planning: a Week and a Day Late, Twice as Nice

No meal plan last week?

Well, there was a plan, and I cooked the food, and we ate the food, and it was good.  But it didn’t make it quite to the internet.  The good news is that I have now tested those recipes, I can still share links, and there will be a second meal plan at the same time.  Oooh, aaah.

So many choices!

I also feel like there are so many tiny things that go on each day, yet I can’t remember a single one of them later.  Is this why people say that time flies when you have little kids?  There’s just a fog of, “Oh my goodness, please don’t draw on the walls!” and “Please take the shoe out of your mouth,” and “Eat your green beans before bedtime!”  Note the lack of “please” on the last one.  That’s a combo of dinner-is-past-my-most-patient-hours and veggies-aren’t-optional.

Anyway, I’ll try to remember fun anecdotes to accompany the food next time.

Week 1:


photo by Joe Lingeman via The Kitchn

  1. Chicken Divan Casserole (The Kitchn), absolutely my favorite thing I made last week.  It was fantastic and healthier than it looks (lots of broccoli, no chopping of said broccoli), delicious on top of a wild rice mix that I bought to go with the next recipe.
  2. Wild Rice Bowls with Red Lentil Curry and Spinach (The Kitchn), sadly got delayed from last week’s menu (Hey there, Super Bowl food on Sunday!)… will be cooked tonight instead.
  3. 10-Minute Tortellini (if you can fold tortellini like a magician… 30 minutes if you’re normal like me… Dinner a Love Story, one of my favorite sources), has made appearances in our menus about once a year, and it’s lovely.  It always takes me a while to figure out the exact recipe in the blog post.  For me, it goes like this: brown 1 lb. Italian sausage (the kind that isn’t in a casing, spicy for us, but mild would work, too) in a skillet, add favorite jarred marinara/tomato sauce option over cooked sausage, keep warm until you’re done with the tortellini.  Mix 1 container of ricotta cheese with zest of one lemon and chopped spinach (as much as you want) in a bowl.  Put ricotta mix into wonton wrappers and shape into your preferred shape (squares using two wrappers and more filling or more traditional tortellini shapes with less ricotta inside and only one wrapper), seal with a little bit of water on your fingers, and place into boiling water until cooked (a.k.a floating in water).  When the pasta is cooked, top with sauce and eat.  Add some parmesan on top if you’re feeling motivated.
  4. Chicken Posole (a.k.a. my favorite chicken soup, from, delicious.  I love this recipe.  It has some spunk thanks to the tomatillo flavor, and it has great texture because of the hominy.  If you double the recipe, it uses the meat from one small rotisserie chicken.
  5. Country Ham and Asparagus Frittata (Alton Brown), I tried frozen asparagus for this because the fresh asparagus didn’t look great at the store this week.  Don’t do it!  The flavors were great, but the texture of the asparagus was definitely lacking.  Sad.  Alton Brown is a keeper, but I need to work on making this recipe live up to his standard in my own kitchen.

Week 2:

  1. Wild Rice Bowls with Red Lentil Curry and Spinach, because it didn’t quite get cooked last week, and the ingredients lasted well in the fridge/pantry.
  2. Winter-Warming, Freezer-Friendly, Pantry-Cleaning Soup (Food 52), hearty non-meat option to keep us healthy and on budget.
  3. Lighter Spinach and Parmesan Egg Drop Soup with Cheesy Toast (Food 52), new recipe to us, combines somewhat healthy soup with warm, comforting cheesy toast for a 1-2 punch of winter warmth.


    photo by Mark Weinberg via

  4. Greek Avocado Chicken Salad, healthier, zestier version of the classic, adds some solid leftovers to the plan.
  5. Pork Shoulder Ragu (Dinner: a love story), old favorite, adds some hearty meat to our menu (in addition to another strong leftovers meal).

Sunday Meal Planning: Healthier Comfort Food Edition

Okay, I’ll be honest.  When I was picking recipes this week, this is what I wanted to cook:

  • Nachos
  • Cheesy Broccoli and Shells
  • Calzones
  • Carbs, cheese, and more carbs
  • Cake for dinner, anyone?

Yup, that’s about it.  But Grown-up Hannah has a tiny bit of self-control (not a ton), and I’m pretty proud of how those desires turned into slightly healthier comfort food recipes.  I should be proud of the people who made the recipes, but I’ll pat myself on the back, too.

So here it is:

  • Monday: Creamy Pumpkin Marinara with Chicken
    • New recipe to us, but I feel very optimistic about it.  So many veggies compared to most “creamy” pasta dishes!
    • When I say something like “with chicken” and you don’t see that in the recipe, it means it is really a vegetarian recipe that I’m planning to alter with a little bit of protein.  Just cook up some chicken in your favorite way or plunder some from a rotisserie chicken, and you’ve transformed a recipe from vegetarian to veggie-centric but meat-ful for your favorite omnivores.
  • Tuesday: Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchilada
    • Sticking with the vegetarian theme on this one.  Oooh, aaah.  It’s hard to go wrong with any kind of enchiladas.
  • Wednesday: Steak Salad with Crispy Shallots, Dried Cherries, Candied Pecans and Goat Cheese

    photo from

    There are a whole lot of greens in this.  Does that make the crispy shallots and cheese and candied pecans any healthier?

    • This is a salad I’ve made before, and I remember thinking it was one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten.  Swoon-worthy, if not entirely healthy.  (Did you know you could get goat cheese really really inexpensively at ALDI?  I hope you have an ALDI near you.)
  • Thursday: Spinach Bacon Quiche
    • Because we have chickens, and thus we will be eating eggs as a main course component at least once every other week.  Eggs are also a relatively cheap protein at the store, so everyone wins.
    • I’m going to combine a few recipes this week.  I found a new crust plan in the link above, and I’ll steal the mustard and sour cream ideas from that recipe as well.  But I’m going to stick with spinach and bacon as my fillings.  The normal recipe I use is pretty darn good as it is.
  • Friday: Nachos (MyRecipes)
    • Because some things are worth going for.
    • I will not be making the suggested cheese sauce, because as tasty as processed cheese might be, I can’t bring myself to buy cheese from the non-refrigerated section of the grocery store.  (I’ll eat it at your house very happily, however.)  Anyway, I’ll throw some pepper jack in instead, add some browned ground venison with appropriate seasoning (cumin, chili powder, a pinch of cayenne pepper), switch jarred jalapenos out for fresh and call this delicious.  Mmm.
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Australian Open Finals (What we’ll be watching, not eating.)
    • Nope, haven’t picked food for Sunday yet.  We might have friends over to watch the tennis championship, and my brain can only prepare so much.  Hopefully the food will be tasty and make-ahead-able.
  • Miscellanious: Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake
    • Because baking sounds nice, and potential weekend guests are GF.
    • New recipe to me.  It’s tough to ruin lemons and blueberries and sugar… possible, but tough.

P.S.  Last week’s favorites ended up being the quinoa breakfast bars (stress-baked with love and eaten with even more love) and the sheet pan chicken.  Yum!




Sunday Meal Planning

I may or may not receive way too many emails about food each week.  Maybe 5 emails a day?  Maybe 25.  They pile up quickly, and I delete all but the ones that make me the most happy.

So why do I mention that?  Well, I meal plan for us every week.  It’s the only way I’ve found to avoid going to the grocery store every single day.  Not to say that I never make repeat trips to the store in a week, but I can usually keep it to one or two trips instead of five or six.  When you live 25 minutes from the store and you have two small kids to get around with, that’s a big motivator.

And still, why do you need to know this?  Well, for a while, I’ve thought that maybe my ridiculous amount of overpreparation for the week could benefit someone else.  Which brings me to now.  I prettied up my everyday menu planning a tiny bit (no envelope scrap lists for now), and I’m going to try to share these regularly.  “Try” being the operative word there.

Here are my criteria for weekly menus:

  1. It needs to be at least somewhat healthy.  Sometimes I’ll make macaroni and cheese, but it will usually be paired with a salad and a protein.  Or just a huge salad.  Or if one day’s pick is unhealthy, the next day had better be a kale and quinoa salad.  You get the idea.
  2. There should be variety in meat and flavors.  No all-Italian food weeks (even though I love Italian food).  No chicken-only weeks.  Balance is the goal.
  3. Same goes for time spent cooking.  Balance.  I am a stay-at-home mom, so I understand if lots of people don’t have the time or inclination to cook as much as I do.  It’s a creative outlet for me–something that involves reading about things other than trains and trucks and whatever my toddler is excited about that day.  But even I don’t want to cook all the time.
  4. Nothing should be on the list unless I’m excited to eat it as leftovers.  Growing up, I hated leftovers.  (Sorry, Mom.)  But Grown-up Hannah knows that if I’m going to spend time cooking something fancy (or not fancy), it had better be good enough to eat again that week.
  5. When possible, I like to make things that don’t require side dishes.  I might like cooking, but I hate coordinating different dishes and timing of said dishes.  I only have so much free brain space.  Sometimes I make exceptions, but I aim for recipes that include some forms of starch, veggies, and protein all in one dish.

That’s it.  Healthy-ish, variety, not too time-intensive, usually with lots of leftovers.  Sometimes I know that a few recipes in the week won’t make tons of leftovers, so I’ll make a double recipe somewhere in the week.

With no further ado, I present this week’s meal plan:


Now it’s time for me to figure out which ingredients we need to get tomorrow.

Oh, and one more thing.  I do try to keep budget somewhat in mind.  We splurge for things like pork tenderloin or smoked salmon sometimes, but I also try to throw in recipes that use chicken thighs (hello, budget saver!!!) or ground beef (or in reality for us, ground venison that was free and is just hanging out in our freezer) or the occasional vegetarian option.  So if one recipe looks ridiculous on the time or expense front, there’s usually another recipe to balance those things out for the week.  Usually.  We also eat like a family of 6, when we really only have two grown eaters in the house.  If you’re a family of 6, you’re in luck.

Happy planning to you!


Pumpkins and Butternut Squash and the Healthiest Beet Bowls to Make It All Okay

With the end of Birthday Week 2018, fall weather finally arrived.  Yay!!!  I know that most people love fall, so there’s nothing revolutionary going on here.  But it means I get to cook foods that just feel wrong when it’s hot outside.  And that is cause for celebration, no matter how common the glee.

First, there was Williams Sonoma’s Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Brown Sugar-Pecan Streusel.  I think the name of the food pretty much covers the awesomeness, but just in case you’re more of a picture person…


This was so good.  If it had any more redemptive value (as in less sugar or 90% pumpkin content or something), I would make this every week October through December.  Sadly, it contains the word “cake” in the title, so I will probably make it twice a season like an almost good girl.

So pumpkins–check.  On to the butternut squash.

We had a good harvest of butternut squash in late summer (Go, veggie gardener husband!!), and with a few small squash left, I decided to make Food & Wine’s Butternut Squash Casserole with Leeks, Prosciutto, and Thyme.  We’re getting closer to healthy here.  There was lots of squash, and the sugar content definitely decreased.  The intense flavors of fall and the overall deliciousness did not decrease.

FullSizeRender (8)

Alas, there was still lots of bread in that recipe and not a huge protein contingent.  I won’t be making that every week for the next few months either.  I would highly recommend it though.  It would be pretty darn wonderful next to a turkey in a few weeks, if you ask me.

How did we make up for all of that delicious stuff with our fall squash?  I have a cookbook called Inspiralized that is just lovely.  Every recipe uses a spiralizer to process some of the ingredients, and in this case that ingredient was beets.  I love love love that with a relatively cheap tool, you can take a vegetable that I used to find difficult to use and turn it into noodles or rice or something very very easy to use and incredibly healthy.  I know spiralizers are probably a cooking fad, but I will very likely be using mine when they aren’t cool anymore.  I’ll be like that mom wearing leg warmers and tights in the carpool lane twenty years after the fad.  But oh well.  I’ll be happy, and my veggie consumption will be good.  So there.

Check out those beet noodles (which would soon be chopped into “rice,” even if I chopped them into really long, rustic beet rice):


Eating anything that pretty is a good starting point for me.  So there were beets and spinach and edamame and avocado.  There was supposed to be quinoa, but I forgot that we had run out of quinoa.  My “super food bowls” have pearled barley instead of quinoa.  It is 5% less super, and the barley probably absorbed more of the beet color than the quinoa would have done, but who cares.  It was still ridiculously healthy.  Healthy enough to make me want to do another triple round of these goodies.


If you want to know how to make this (and need details for the dressing or the slivered almonds that I forgot to mention), the fine folks behind Inspiralized made a video to show you how to make this in 45 seconds.  You know, if you speed up your cooking time like a YouTube video.  Oh, and you don’t really need to use a food processor to make the beet rice.  A cutting board, a chef’s knife, and 2 minutes will do the trick just fine.  I’d rather spend time chopping beet noodles than cleaning a food processor.

Pumpkin and butternut squash and beets, oh my!  Happy fall, y’all.


Birthday Love

It turns out that when you don’t post on your blog in 8 months, a lot of things happen.  So the little cutie on the top right was born, then the handsome guy in the bottom right corner had a birthday (hence the lobster and the cake), and the little guy on the top left is about to turn 2.  What?!  It’s like time is moving forward or something.

So the lobster turned into tasty lobster rolls, and the cake was on the complicated side, thus I don’t think I would ever recommend that you make it.  But if you want to try, here’s the recipe (through link).  It was delicious.  Don’t try to make it late at night while your baby and toddler intermittently cry and sleep.  You’ll regret all of your life choices that brought you to this moment.  Your husband will regret his fine taste in cakes.  You won’t regret eating the cake, however.

What do I recommend?  Maybe going to Christina Tosi’s bakery and eating one of her much prettier layer cakes that you didn’t have to make yourself.  They’re probably amazing.

And why am I writing this summary for you?  I’m here to tell you about my favorite recipe out of the birthday week mix.  It turns out that we’re too cheap to buy good seafood on a regular basis, but not during birthday week.

Drumroll, please.

The birthday week winner of 2017 was…

Grilled Tuna with Grilled Ratatouille and Israeli Couscous and Deconstructed Pesto, thanks to the fantastic Bobby Flay.


photo from

Yum!  Now, I’m way too lazy (read: feeding a baby, thanking God that my toddler is napping, and making homemade yogurt) to type the whole recipe here.  Sorry about that.  But if you’re feeling fancy enough to buy pine nuts and tuna steaks, this is worth it.  So worth it.  Making it isn’t super complicated.  Can you make pasta?  And grill things?  If so, you’re all set.  This will be making more appearances at our house for any special occasion that even borders on summer.

Oh, and it’s pretty healthy.  Celebratory AND healthy?  In my book, that’s extremely rare.  Macaroni and cheese is where my heart rests, not tons of veggies and grilled tuna steaks.  Except with this recipe.  It even makes me love eggplant.  Thanks, Bobby Flay!

And happy birthday to everyone, since I probably missed your birthday in the last eight months.