Thursday, January 30, 2014

Monthly Meal How-To

A few months ago, Jeff and I started making a monthly meal plan rather than a weekly meal plan. By doing so, we cut the amount we spend on food almost in half. Before the beginning of each month, we sit down with our calendar and plan our menu for the entire month. While this may seem daunting, it's really not. There are a few of our favorite meals that are repeated every month. Tuesdays are taco night, so one night each week is already planned. Jeff helps coach our church's youth basketball on Wednesday nights, so we have something that can be easily reheated those nights. I have school until 6pm on Mondays, so those are quick meals that are put together in little time. We also try at least 3 new recipes a month. I have a ridiculous number of cookbooks, so finding 3 or more new recipes is no problem, but you can find tons of recipes online.

Here is our February meal plan:

Saturday, 1st - Pizza
Sunday, 2nd - Superbowl/Jeff's birthday
Monday, 3rd - You're on your own
Tuesday, 4th - Tacos
Wednesday, 5th - Pancakes with buttermilk syrup
Thursday, 6th - Hawaiian haystacks
Friday, 7th - Chopped Challenge
Saturday, 8th - Chicken Salad
Sunday, 9th - Spaghetti with meat sauce
Monday, 10th - Chicken Satay
Tuesday, 11th - Fish tacos
Wednesday, 12th - Crock pot pot roast and rice
Thursday, 13th - Pork and broccoli stir fry
Friday, 14th - Valentine's Day date
Saturday, 15th - Spicy 50/50 burger
Sunday, 16th - Pulled pork
Monday, 17th - Pappardelle with creamy mushroom sauce
Tuesday, 18th - Tacos
Wednesday, 19th - Stuffed baked potatoes
Thursday, 20th - Turkey and avocado melt
Friday, 21st - Chopped challenege
Saturday, 22nd - Hamburgers
Sunday, 23rd - Breakfast
Monday, 24th - Sausage and potatoes
Tuesday, 25th - Fish tacos
Wednesday, 26th - Chicken and rice
Thursday, 27th - Tomato soup and grilled cheese
Friday, 28th - Penne with broccoli, cheddar and bacon

After the menu is planned, I go through each recipe and inventory my pantry to see what we need to buy. Then I make a list and we go on one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month. We buy everything that we can store for up to a month; meat, canned goods, dry goods, etc. Then we go every week or two weeks for things like milk and produce depending on need.

We save time and money by going to this monthly plan. I'll post some of the recipes as I make them, too. Happy eating!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

La Bou Dill Sauce

If you live in the Sacramento area, you know about La Bou's dill sauce. In high school it was a staple to get a sliced baguette with dill sauce for dipping. Unfortunately, if you don't live in the Sacramento area, this delicious dip is unavailable. However, it turns out that if you just call and ask for the recipe, they'll give it to you. So without further ado...

La Bou Dill Sauce

1 package of Hidden Valley Ranch buttermilk ranch mix
6 Tbs fresh dill, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup water

Mix all ingredients together. Add more water if too thick.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Buttercream Frosting

Homemade frosting makes all the difference in a cake. I rarely use canned frosting now that I've made this.

Vanilla Buttercream
2 sticks butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
4-6 Tbs cream<br>
1 tsp vanilla

Beat sugar into butter one cup at a time. Add 4 tablespoons cream and the vanilla. If too stiff. Add more cream one tablespoon at a time until spreadable.

Chocolate Buttercream
For chocolate buttercream, substitute 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup cocoa powder and omit the vanilla.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Three Salad Components - Glazed Pecans, Homemade Croutons, and Vinaigrette

Ok, I have no picture of the salad I made for Christmas dinner because I didn't think about it until dinner was over, and by then, there wasn't much left to photograph. It was a simple salad of baby spring greens, glazed pecans, feta, dried cranberries, cucumbers and croutons with a vinaigrette. I made the glazed pecans, croutons and vinaigrette. So without further ado, here are the recipes.

The pecans are an adaptation from the Pillsbury recipe.

Glazed Pecans
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 cups pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar, syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook until bubbling. Add pecans and cook 2-3 minutes until pecans are well coated.

Spread on cookie sheet and bake 6-8 minutes until caramelized, but not burned. Let cool at least 30 minutes. Store in refrigerator or freezer.

This recipe was tweaked from a Neely recipe on There were no measurements, so these are an estimation.

Homemade Croutons
1 loaf French Bread
3-4 Tbs Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread into a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until browned.


A great friend, Judy, gave me the recipe for this vinaigrette. When I first made it, I didn't have some of the ingredients, so I improvised and came up with this. I still have yet to find a dressing I like better.

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Dash of hot sauce

Whisk all ingredients together until sugar is dissolved.

My olive oil is a little fruity, so I add an extra splash of apple cider vinegar. Add a little more hot sauce to give it a bit of kick.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Creme Brulee

Creme brulee is one of those intimidating desserts. But once you actually make it, it's really easy. All you need are 4 small ramekins and square baking dish to make perfect creme brulee. This recipe is adapted from a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Ina Garten makes some amazing food. This is no exception.

Creme Brulee
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar, plus more for the top
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
Boiling water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Beat together the egg, egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar until combined. Split the vanilla bean, and scrape out the vanilla. Add vanilla and the pod to a sauce pan with the cream. If you do not have a vanilla bean, you can use 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Scald the cream and vanilla until hot, but not boiling. Slowly and gradually mix hot cream into egg and sugar mixture. You want to do this slowly so as not to cook the egg yet.

Place the ramekins in a baking dish and divide the custard mixture between the ramekins. Pour boiling water in the baking dish until it is half way up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until the custard is set. Let come to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to use.

before serving. Sprinkle with a very thin layer of sugar and use a torch to carmelize. Or place under broiler until carmelized.


Saturday, December 1, 2012


Crepes. The thin little pancake was something I grew up on. My mom would make them and we'd fill them with ice cream and top them with chocolate sauce. Now I prefer fruit in the middle and a sprinkling of sugar on top. Or plain. I'm perfectly fine just rolling one up and eating it completely unadorned.

Crepes may seem a little daunting, but there really isn't much to them. You don't need any fancy crepe pan or one of those stick things they use to evenly spread the batter on the hot surface. Just a regular old nonstick saute pan will do the trick. And there's no need to use a spreading tool. Swirl the pan and gravity will take care of the rest.

1 1/2 + 1/3 cups flour
2 eggs
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups milk

Blend all ingredients in a blender until combined. Let stand in refrigerator for one hour.

Heat 8" nonstick saute pan on low heat. Add 1/4 batter to pan and swirl to distribute batter evenly. once edges are dry and the batter is set, lift edge with a toothpick and remove from pan. the bottom should still be yellow with slight tanning. If too brown, lower heat and repeat.

This recipe makes a million crepes. I usually feel like the batter is multiplying while I'm cooking the other crepes. to make bigger and fewer crepes, you can use a 10" pan and increase batter amount to 1/3 cup.