What Are Scapes?

This summer we’re trying a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and we’ve already enjoyed eating a new food after just one week!

A little background information…  I had looked into a CSA last year, but with us moving at the end of June and Natalie being really young still, it just didn’t happen.  This year my sister brought up the idea, since they had teamed up at work with a farm that would deliver shares directly to her office.  So convenient!  Needless to say, she was interested and passed the word along to the rest of the family.  We decided to split a share this year and see how it goes.

It’s fun to see what shows up in the basket and I like the idea of supporting local farms.  Plus, it’s a personal challenge of sorts to cook and serve different foods that I might not usually have in my kitchen.  Or, in the case of an item last week, that I had never even heard of!

When my sister dropped off these curly green things I thought, “whoa, those are cool looking, but what in the world are they?”

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She told me they were garlic scapes.  More culinary savvy people probably already know, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I had never heard of garlic scapes before.  So I went to my trusty friend Google and found out that they are the buds/”flower stalks” of the garlic plant.

Next step, search recipes.  I found a lot of recommendations for garlic scape pesto, which did sound delicious, but then I read about simply grilling them and I decided that was the way to go.  Something about trying a food for the first time, I just wanted to keep it more on it’s own so I could get a better sense of what it tastes like, if that makes sense.

Anyway, here’s what I did.  I lightly coated them with olive oil, then sprinkled them with coarse salt and pepper.  Steve grilled them on low/medium heat for about 10 minutes, until there were some nice brown spots.  I served them as a “bed” for grilled chicken and the verdict was… delicious!

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Some of the things I read talked about scapes having a very strong garlic flavor, but I didn’t find it to be overwhelming at all.  I thought grilling them resulted in a good combination of flavor and texture, not to mention it looked fun on the plate!

If you ever get a chance to try scapes for yourself, I say go for it!  I’m going to keep my eye open for them in the future and maybe I’ll try that pesto next…

 

4 Week Dinner Plan – Recipes

To follow up on the 4 week dinner plan, here are the recipes and/or links to where you can find them.  The self explanatory ones, such as BLTs, tacos, and spaghetti, are not included.  I kept them by week so hopefully that makes it easier to scroll through since this is very lengthy… my apologies!  I posted the grocery lists yesterday – you can click this link for easy access.

Happy dining!

Week 1:

Meatloaf (BBQ style)

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oatmeal
  • 2 Tbsp dried onion
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 tsp sage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • BBQ sauce to top

Mix together and form into several individual loaves.  Top with BBQ sauce and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Tamale Pie – see this post

Honey Sesame Chicken – see this link

Salmon – see the end of this post

Chicken and Rice Bake

  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 3/4 cup mayo
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Combine all in a baking dish and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Week 2:

Lentil Soup

  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Ham, diced
  • Lentils
  • Salt and pepper to taste, other spices (ie cumin) to taste as well

Soften celery and onion in olive oil.  Add ham, lentils and water (follow the amounts given on the package of lentils depending on how much you want to make).  Simmer until lentils are soft and season to taste.

Chop Suey

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 – 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1.5 lbs ground chicken or pork
  • 1 can bean sprouts
  • 8 Tbsp corn startch
  • 8 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Rice
  • Crunchy Chinese noodles

Soften celery and onion for several minutes.  Add meat and brown.  Add bean sprouts.  For sauce: in separate bowl mix 1 1/3 cups cold water with corn starch, soy sauce, and sugar.  Add to meat mixture and stir over low heat until thickened.  Add Worcestershire sauce.  Serve over rice and top with crunchy noodles.

Pasta bake

  • Ground beef
  • Onion, diced
  • Garlic, minced
  • Rotini pasta
  • Pasta sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese

Brown beef.  Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are softened.  Cook pasta according to directions on box.  Stir pasta, beef, and sauce together in a large baking dish.  Top with mozzarella cheese and cook at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and dish is heated through.

Chicken and Biscuits – see this post

Week 3:

Chicken Quesadillas

  • Chicken breast
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 or more peppers (any color), sliced
  • Fajitas
  • Shredded cheddar

I like these best if the chicken is grilled first then sliced up, but if the weather isn’t right for grilling, then slice the chicken and saute it in veggie oil until cooked through and set aside.  Saute onion and peppers in veggie oil until soft.  Put together each quesadilla using 1 fajita filled with your chosen quantity of chicken, peppers and onions, and cheese.  I make these using a panini maker to get them nice and toasted brown.

Shepherds Pie – see this link

Cream of Broccoli Soup

  • Broccoli, chopped
  • 2 cans condensed cream of broccoli soup
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • Milk
  • Shredded cheddar

Saute onion and celery in butter or veggie oil.  When soft, add broccoli, corn, cream of broccoli soup, and milk (according to amount specified on cans).  Cook on low heat until broccoli is tender.  Use an immersion blender (or a similar method) to puree most of the broccoli.  I like to leave some pieces whole still.  Serve topped with shredded cheddar.

Stromboli

  • 1 package pizza crust dough
  • 1/2 lb mild Italian sausage
  • 1 package (8 oz) pepperoni
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Brown sausage over medium heat.  Mix in bell pepper, onions, sauce, and mushrooms.  Lay dough flat on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle cheese over dough, then layer with pepperoni.  Spread sauce mixture on one half of the dough, then fold dough over and pinch ends and sides together.  Poke holes on top and brush with melted butter.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Chicken Cordon Blue Paninis

  • Bakery bread (we like sourdough), sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • Sliced deli ham
  • 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • Butter

Mix dressing and cheese in a small bowl.  Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread.  Fill each sandwich with chicken, ham, and dressing mix.  Cook in a panini press until bread is toasted and cheese is melty.

Week 4:

Chicken Stir Fry

  • Chicken breast, chopped
  • Frozen stir fry veggies
  • Stir fry sauce
  • Rice
  • Crunchy Chinese noodles

Saute chicken in veggie oil over high heat to brown, then cook through over medium heat.  Add stir fry veggies and cook until heated through.  Add stir fry sauce (amount to your taste) and serve over rice, topped with crunchy noodles.

Chili – see this link.  I usually half the recipe for us.

Cranberry Chicken

  • 1/2 can cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 bottle (4 oz) Catalina dressing
  • 1/2 envelope onion soup mix
  • 3 Chicken breast

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a sauce pan and cook over low heat, stirring until combined.  Place chicken in a baking dish and top with sauce. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.  Serve over rice.  (Easy to double this one for a larger group)

Crockpot Lasagna – see this post

Loaded Baked Potatoes – we like to top them with chili and cheese.  You could use leftover chili from the recipe above!

Shrimp Linguine – see this link.  This is what we ate the night before Natalie was born!

Phew!  Congrats if you made it this far!  And with that I don’t think I’ll be posting about food for a quite a while, haha!

 

 

4 Week Dinner Plan – Grocery Lists

A couple days ago I posted about the 4 week dinner plan we’re going to try.  I wanted to follow up with the grocery lists and recipes (or links to them).

I was thinking about trying to cram all 4 weeks of information into one post, but I realized that might be a little too long of a post!  So I’m going to share the grocery lists today and then I’ll follow up with the recipes tomorrow.

A few things to note before I get to the lists though…

As I was making my lists I realized that some ingredients kept coming back over and over.  For example: ground beef, chicken breast, onions, and shredded cheddar appear every week.  Other ingredients pop up more than once as well.  It probably makes sense to buy some things in bulk/larger quantities if it means saving some money, but I kept them listed every week just so it was clear what was needed when.

I didn’t include some staple items on the lists since they are things we generally have at home and I would imagine many other people do as well.  Examples include spices, condiments, eggs, bread, and milk.  There are other things, however, that are also pretty basic ingredients that many people probably already have, but I figured wouldn’t hurt to list just in case.  I also didn’t include things for side dishes.  These lists are what you need for the recipes but if you want extra veggies or sides to go along with it that’s obviously an individual choice.

Last thing – I wasn’t super careful with listing exact amounts of what you need.  For example, I just say chicken breast as opposed to 3 chicken breasts.  I know how much I need for our family, but it might need some adjusting based on the size of the family so I figured I’d stick with the simple approach and just avoid trying to give too much detail.

Okay… here come the lists!

week 1
week 2
week 3
Week 4

 

4 Week Dinner Plan

Here’s how meal planning typically goes around here lately. Steve texts me at school to say he’s heading to Wegmans to pick up some stuff and asks if I need anything.  I pull up a mental picture of our fridge and pantry, as best I can, and realize we probably need food for dinner.  When I get home I scramble to come up with some ideas that sound good for the next few days or so, type up a list, and email it to him.

Needless to say, it’s not the most effective method!

I’ve been feeling like my dinner plans lack inspiration and I tend to fall back on a few of the same meals over and over.  So, about a month ago, I decided that I’d like to try setting up a meal plan for us.  I wanted a way to rotate through more dinner options, as well as end that last minute list making and “what should we eat?” question.

It only took about 5 minutes for me to create a decent sized list of some of our favorite dinners and, with Steve’s input added, we came up with 4 weeks worth of meals.  Woot!

Of course the list then got tucked away somewhere and partially forgotten about, so today I finally went through it again and organized it some more.  I plan to start next week and thought I’d share what I came up with here for anyone who may be interested.

Disclaimer: This plan was not created to be necessarily healthy or low cost.  That’s not to say that the meals are unhealthy or expensive, just to clarify that they aren’t focused on being especially health conscious or wallet friendly, if that makes sense.  Pretty much these are meals that we like and would typically eat, just put down in an organized way!

Here’s how it works… Each week includes 6 meals and one “flex” day, as I call it.  The flex day is for pizza, take-out, special occasions, dinner out, leftovers, etc.  There are no repeat meals the whole 4 weeks, which means, with us starting next week, we’ll have a different dinner every night for the entire month of February!

I tried to mix things up to make sure there is variety throughout the week, both of the food we’re eating and the time/complexity of making the meals.  All of them are pretty easy to make though, since I’m cooking with a one year old around here, haha!

If we really like it we’ll probably rotate through a couple times.  And if we really really like it, I’ll make another plan when the warmer weather comes, since some of the foods we enjoy for dinner change with the seasons (ie more grilling and fresh foods in summer).

Anyway, without further ado, this is our 4 week plan:

meal plan

I’m hoping to post more about this, maybe include a shopping list and/or some recipes, in the coming weeks.  I’m excited to try it out!

Chicken for Everyone

I tried another new recipe on Wednesday night – Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken.

I don’t think about using the crockpot as often during the summer, usually more in the fall and winter, but now I wonder why I haven’t!  It’s easy and keeps me from having to run the oven or stand over the stove for long periods of time when it’s hot out.  Of course it hasn’t been hot much this summer around here, but that’s a different story.

Anyway, it was yummy.  This was one I had saved on Pinterest and you can find the recipe here.  Since the recipe doesn’t include any veggies, I steamed some broccoli and served it with the chicken, all on top of rice.

While prepping the crockpot, I also set aside a bit of chicken to make for Natalie.  I’ve been making a lot of her food (I have a Baby Bullet which I like a lot) and wanted to start introducing her to meat.

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The idea of pureed chicken was a little more intimidating to me than the other stuff I’ve been making, so I made sure to read up a bit before I started.  I’ve liked this website for tips and recipes thus far and used it as a guide when making her chicken.  I used thighs, since that’s what was in our recipe, and poached them.

I didn’t end up actually making it into baby food until Thursday.  Natalie wasn’t super enthusiastic about it…

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… but once I mixed in some applesauce it was received much better.

The one who was really interested was Jackson!  He came right up next to her high chair, eagerly sniffing the air, waiting with a look of longing in his eyes.

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Lucky for him I had dropped a piece on the floor by mistake, so he got some too!  Chicken for everyone!

 

PS I tried my last new recipe tonight – Lasagna Rolls.  Steve was a bit disappointed at the lack of meat and the abundance of spinach (haha!) but I liked them.

He Calls it “Mexican Shepherds Pie”

Monday morning, before heading to the grocery store, I looked through a couple cookbooks and skimmed one of my Pinterest boards.  I came up with 3 new recipes to try in working on this weeks Summer Challenge.  I made the first one – Tamale Pie – last night.

The recipe came from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  I specifically picked it for Steve since he loves Mexican food, and he gave it his stamp of approval.  He enthusiastically dubbed it Mexican Shepherds Pie since he said it combines two of his favorite meals which, as you probably guessed, would be Mexican food (especially tacos) and shepherds pie.

I’ll agree that it was yummy, although it was a bit more complicated than most of the meals I’ve been making lately.  That’s not to say it’s a particularly difficult recipe, it just involved some more steps and used more dishes, haha!  That being said, I plan to make this one again.

See my slightly abbreviated version of the recipe below.   (PS I would highly recommend this cookbook!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (I substituted pickled for fresh because I’m wimpy and still nursing so I didn’t want to be crazy with the spiciness)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TBS chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup coarse cornmeal
  • 4 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 TBS Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375.  Cook the beef until just beginning to brown, then added onion and jalapeno and cook until softened.  Add garlic, chili powder, and oregano and stir to combine.  Add beans, tomatoes and their juice, and corn.  Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated (I probably didn’t simmer quite long enough, note to self for next time!) then set aside.

Bring water to a boil, then slowly pour in cornmeal while whisking to avoid clumps.  Turn heat to medium and cook (still whisking!) until the cornmeal thickens.  Stir in 2 TBS veggie oil.

Stir cheese into beef mixture, then pour into a large baking dish (I used a 6 x 13).  Spread cornmeal on top, then cover with foil and bake until crust has set, approximately 30 minutes.

 

 

 

Shortcut Chicken and Biscuits

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, and since it snowed last night and is snowing again right now…

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… I thought some comfort food was in order!

I call these “Shortcut” Chicken and Biscuits because I’m not making everything from scratch.  That might be yummier, but it would also definitely be harder and more time consuming so I’ll stick with this for now.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 3-4 stalks of celery
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 bag frozen mixed veggies (I like the kind that have corn, green beans, peas and carrots)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • milk
  • butter
  • 1 package biscuits

(Can you tell from the ingredient list where I take my shortcuts?  I save a lot of time and effort both by using frozen veggies instead of chopping them all myself and by using packaged biscuits instead of baking my own.)

Start by boiling the chicken – it takes about 20-30 minutes.

While that’s cooking, chop the celery and onions and soften them in some butter in a large pan in over medium heat.

When soft, add both cream soups and about 1 can worth of milk.  You can adjust the amount of milk you want to change the thickness.  Stir in frozen veggies and leave at medium-low heat to cook through.

You can also bake the biscuits (according to package instructions) during this time.

When the chicken is done, shred it up and add it to the veggie/cream mix.  Cook together over low heat until everything is warmed through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over warm biscuits.

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Sure hits the spot on a cold night!

PS My trusty Vibe hit 100,000 miles today and I pulled over in a neighborhood to take a picture to document the moment (cause I’m nerdy like that)… check out the temperature this morning!

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I’m not quite ready for it to be this cold yet, especially when my winter coats don’t zip over my belly, haha!