Archive for the ‘Main Dishes’ Category

Chicken Gyros

Monday, May 27th, 2013

Homemade Chicken Gyros

I think there are few things in the world as yummy as a gyro. I have been making homemade gyros for years now, but was so excited to try a healthier spin with a chicken gyro this time. And what could be yummier than a chicken gyro? I say, nothing.

This chicken meat is so tender thanks to the acidic blend of lemon and red wine vinegar that helps to tenderize the meat in just one hour. With the addition of a little Greek yogurt to the marinade and a shake of dried oregano, the meat is moist and flavorful with just a few sweetly simple ingredients.

If you are looking to save money and control the quality of ingredients in this dish, you can make everything from the pitas to the tzatziki (recipe below).

If you are looking to save time, you can buy everything from the pitas to the tzatziki.

I will not judge you either way!

Serve these delicious chicken gyros with some fresh veggies and hummus for an easy summer side dish that everyone will love. I also recommend double or triple batching this meat because these gyros magically disappear pretty quickly. At least they did in our house!

If you are looking for another fun spin on gyros, be sure to check out these Grilled Ground Beef Gyros for the summer, or visit my Get Grilling Pinterest board for many more great ideas for outdoor grilling. I also highly recommend this easy tutorial for getting your grill clean while you sleep!

Happy grilling, friends!

Homemade Chicken Gyros

Chicken Gyros
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Give these easy chicken gyros a spin for a fun weeknight meal that your whole family will love.
Ingredients
  • 16 oz. Greek yogurt
  • 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press (or finely minced)
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • For the chicken: 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 heaping tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1¼ lbs. chicken tenderloins
  • Toppings: Pita bread
  • Fresh tomato slices
  • Red onion slices (optional)
Instructions
  1. To make the tzatziki sauce,shred the cucumber. Wrap in a towel a squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Mix together your Greek yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
  2. To prepare the chicken, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Whisk together until mixed well. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour. You want to avoid marinating longer than this due to the acidic nature of this marinade.
  3. Grill your chicken strips on medium heat for 4-5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked completely through. Set aside for five minutes.
  4. Heat pitas for 15-20 seconds in the microwave to warm.
  5. Top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes and sliced onions. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Annie’s Eats

 

 

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10 Minute Fish Tacos

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner which means it is time to break out those favorite Mexican dishes to celebrate the holiday. This recipe for 10 minute fish tacos is a new favorite in our house and fits right into my time and budget constraints. Walmart asked me to share one way we celebrate the season and these easy 10 minute fish tacos are the perfect way for a busy family to celebrate this fun holiday with minimal effort.

These tacos can be created from any white fish, depending on your family’s preference. We are a big fan of tilapia that can be found over in the frozen foods aisle because of the mild fish flavor and the inexpensive price tag. You can select any variety of fish though that is in your family’s list of favorites or budget.

To prepare the fish quickly and easily, dice up the fish and put it in a mixing bowl. Toss the fish with your favorite spice blend with olive oil. Spread the fish on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and then cook it at the suggested temperature for 4-6 minutes. While the filling is cooking, you can prepare a variety of fun toppings.

Fun Taco Toppings To Try

Traditional toppings for tacos are fun, but sometimes the taco night needs a little switch up. Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook offers some fun ideas to try in your house to make taco nights more fun!

Salsa- Add a combination of black beans, tomato, corn, chopped jalapeno chile peppers, and cilantro.

Asian-  Add broccoli slaw, toasted sliced almonds, and bottled Asian vinaigrette.

Fruity- Add fresh fruit salsa made with kiwi, red onion, strawberries, and mango.

BLT- Add shredded lettuce, bacon, tomato, and mayo.

Caprese- Add basil, cubed tomato, cubed mozzarella cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette.

If you are looking for other fun dishes to try, can I recommend my roasted corn salsa, our chicken enchiladas with homemade enchilada sauce, or the world’s most perfect margarita? These would all make fun additions to any Cinco de Mayo celebration!

10 Minute Fish Tacos
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
An oh-so-easy fish taco ready in under ten minutes!
Ingredients
  • 1- 16 ounce bag of frozen tilapia (or your favorite white fish), thawed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (found over by the seafood counter)
  • 1½ cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
  • Salsa (optional)
  • Taco shells or tortillas, warmed
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rinse fish, pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Cut fish crosswise into ¾ inch slices and place them in a mixing bowl.
  4. Combine the fish with the olive oil and seasonings, giving it a gentle toss until all of the fish has been thoroughly coated in the spice mixture.
  5. Dump the prepared fish on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, adjusting the pieces of fish so that none are overlapping.
  6. Bake for 4-6 minutes or until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork.
  7. To serve, spoon lettuce and tomato into each taco shell, add fish slices, and top with salsa.

 

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Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Pasta salad is one of my favorite dishes to make when the weather turns warmer,  thanks to it’s simplicity and ease in preparation. My favorite pasta salad is my Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad because it incorporates all of my favorite salad flavors into one dish. This Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad is a crowd-pleaser, a fun picnic dish to share, and an easy weeknight meal.

I have been making this salad for years and recently made some new additions to it to incorporate more flavors. I roasted my chicken, but coated it in Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic seasoning (along with the olive oil, salt, and pepper that I traditionally do) that I found at our grocery store to add spice to it, added more of this fun seasoning to the dressing mixture itself, and thinned the dressing with red wine vinegar so it coated the noodles better.

The fresh additions of romaine and tomatoes add brightness and freshness to this dish. You can, of course layer on the Caesar salad flavorings by adding parmesan cheese and croutons, but it is delicious with or without these additions.

I have yet to meet a person that didn’t love this pasta salad as much as I did. If you intend to eat this one all week long, I recommend storing the romaine separately and adding it when dishing it up so you don’t have soggy lettuce in your dish.

I hope you can give this dish a try!

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
To make this dish quicker, use a rotisserie chicken instead of roasting your own!
Ingredients
  • 1 pound dry penne pasta
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, roasted & seasoned with Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic seasoning (see link above for preparation technique)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic seasoning
  • 1 (8 ounce) bottle Caesar salad dressing
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 head romaine lettuce - rinsed, dried and
  • shredded
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Prepare chicken as directed above. Allow the meat to rest ten minutes and then dice or shred for your pasta salad.
  2. Prepare your lettuce and tomatoes and toss them into a large bowl with the cooled chicken.
  3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add penne pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  4. In a bowl, mix together salad dressing, vinegar, and seasonings. Toss together pasta, chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, and dressing mixture.
  5. Garnish with croutons and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

 

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Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders With Yogurt Dill Dip

Monday, April 8th, 2013


I love crunchy breaded chicken and these Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders fit the bill perfectly with a healthy and wholesome breading that you will love. These pecan-crusted chicken tenders have a pecan coating made from pecans, a little whole wheat flour, and panko.

I made a triple batch of these for our family. If you have the food processor out, you might as well make a large batch of coating so that you can enjoy these all week long.These can be wrapped in tortillas with a smear of the yogurt dill sauce or they can be placed on top of a delicious salad with homemade dressing.

Lining the pan with parchment paper makes for easy clean-up and still browns the bottom of the tenders beautifully!

There are two things that really make these tenders a standout. One is the incorporation of spices in the coating. Dry mustard, the smokiness of the paprika, the rich flavor of garlic and onion powder all add to the flavorful coating and make the coating as delicious as the tender chicken inside. The second thing that really makes these is the yogurt-dill sauce for dipping your tenders in. I used Chobani Greek Yogurt which, thanks to the thickness and flavor, it makes this sauce feel as indulgent as Ranch dressing.

My kids were happy little dippers and this was a great way for them to get a little dairy in their diet without them knowing.

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders With Yogurt Dill Dip
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Don't be afraid to make a double or triple batch for your week- these pecan crusted chicken tenders with yogurt dill sauce go fast!
Ingredients
  • ½ cup pecans
  • ⅓ cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound chicken tenders, larger pieces cut in half lengthwise
  • For dip:
  • ¼ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon dried dill
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Whir pecans, flour, paprika, dry mustard, garlic and onion powder, salt, and pepper in a food processor until pecans are ground to a powder, about 30 seconds.
  3. Drizzle in the oil with the motor running, blending completely. Transfer mixture to a shallow dish and stir in the panko bread crumbs.
  4. Beat egg in a second shallow dish and add chicken tenders, coating them completely. Transfer each tender to the breading, turning to coat evenly. Arrange chicken on the prepared pan.
  5. Bake until golden brown and nearly firm, 8-10 minutes.
  6. Stir all dip ingredients together in a small bowl.
  7. Serve and eat immediately.

Slightly Adapted From: Clean Eating for Busy Families: Get Meals on the Table in Minutes with Simple and Satisfying Whole-Foods Recipes You and Your Kids Will Love 

 

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Weeknight Chicken Noodle Soup

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup on a cold day. My homemade chicken noodle soup recipe is the chicken soup recipe to rival all chicken soup recipes. It is the chicken soup recipe my kids beg for when they are sick and it rivals any bowl of soup you could buy anywhere. Keep on reading to find my secret ingredient that will save you time in the kitchen and help you make this batch of soup even on the busies of weeknights.

If you are looking for a soup with that tastes deliciously homemade, but can be prepared in about 30 minutes and happily feed your family for a week, then this is the soup for you. The trick with this soup is starting with a good well-seasoned base and then working from there with quicker cooking techniques and ingredients.

My secret ingredient is a rotisserie chicken, which rivals the price of a fresh chicken with a fraction of the work, and to give the stock that I-cooked-all-day flavor, I sweat the veggies out in olive oil and seasoning before incorporating my chicken broth, and pour the broth directly over that rotisserie chicken to incorporate all of the seasonings from the chicken right into my soup base.

While you can make your own bread utilizing that handy bread machine in your kitchen, when we are under the weather or looking for a quick dinner fix, I love to visit the day old bakery cart at my local grocery to snag deeply discounted bread for our evening meals. This soup begs for a good baguette or french loaf to dip in it to soak up the flavorful broth.

What does the soup taste like? Soulful, satisfying, rich, delicious, comforting, and restaurant-worthy! This is definitely a lot cheaper than going out for soup and you can enjoy these leftovers all week long!

While I can’t guarantee that this soup heals all, it heals an awful lot in our house- sore throats are soothed, bellies are warmed, and whatever ails us in our life deserves a bowl of this chicken noodle soup for a little homemade comfort on a chilly night.

Weeknight Chicken Noodle Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
The world's best chicken noodle soup. We call this soup, "Better than Panera," soup. I have a feeling after you try it, you will agree!
Ingredients
  • 2-3 cups egg noodles (I like the Ream’s brand in the frozen foods section)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • 3 chopped carrots
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • fresh parsley
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  2. Add egg noodles and cook until tender.
  3. Drain, and rinse under cool running water.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the carrots and celery in two tablespoons of olive oil for five minutes to start your soup base. Add garlic at the end (to prevent burning)
  5. Add your rotisserie chicken and any drippings form the chicken to the pot, directly on top of your vegetables. Pour your chicken broth directly over the chicken to incorporate all of the good flavors.
  6. Heat up broth and bring it to a simmer.
  7. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes.
  8. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water together until cornstarch is completely dissolved.
  9. Pull out your chicken and set aside to dice.
  10. Gradually add the cornstarch to soup, stirring constantly.
  11. Stir in noodles and diced rotisserie chicken, and heat through.
  12. Toss in a handful of fresh chopped parsley and ladle into bowls.

Looking for more great soups to try? We’ve got the soup pot on with Black Bean & Roasted Red Pepper SoupPesto Chicken Tortellini SoupLentil SoupItalian Veggie Soup, California Italian Wedding Soup, Greek Lemon Chicken Soup with Homemade Pitas, & Tomato Soup with Homemade Croutons to fill your soups bowl frugally and deliciously!

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30 Fish & Meat-Free Meal Ideas

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Being creative with meat-free meals does not need to be a challenge because today I want to share with you 30 meat-free meal ideas to get you inspired. These 30 meat-free meal ideas that are easy, delicious, and budget-friendly. Our family tries to eat one or two meals a week that are meat-free and these are 30 of our favorite meat-free meals.

Meat-free doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing every week, in fact, I find that the more creative I am with our meat-free meals, the more we don’t miss the meat in our dishes. Our meat-free choices originally were for economical reasons. Eating meat-free once or twice a week helped to keep our grocery budget down. As I have become more committed to eating healthy, our meat-free choices have become healthier rather than carb-laden.

The carbs are good though, in moderation, so I am sharing a few of our favorites over the years of meat-free eating. I hope it inspires you to get creative with your own meat-free choices for dinner!

30 Meat-Free Meal Ideas

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

Easy Tilapia Pitas

Baklava Salmon

Veggie Topped Quinoa

Panko Crusted Tilapia Nuggets with Dipping Sauce

Applebee’s Honey Grilled Salmon

Herb Baked Tilapia

Salmon Patties & Perfectly  Baked Potatoes

Slammin Salmon Marinade

Balsamic & Rosemary Grilled Salmon

Spaghetti Squash With Your Favorite Meat-Free Topping

Sauteed Shrimp with Spinach and Tomatoes

Baked Salmon with Lemony Rice Pilaf

Shrimp Pasta with Oven Dried Tomatoes

Grilled Shrimp with Garlic & Herbs

Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo

DIY Salad Bar Night

Spinach & Tomato Orzo Pasta Salad

Lentil Soup with Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

Marinated Grilled Shrimp with Perfect Margaritas

Butternut Squash Soup With Toasted Pecans

Basic Pizza Dough for Beginners

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Portobello Mushroom Burgers 

Black Bean & Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins 

Spinach Tomato Mushroom Flatbread Pizza

Roasted Shrimp with Rosemary & Thyme

Homemade Tomato Soup with Crouton Toppers

Dairy-Free Crustless Quiche Grain & Nut Whole Wheat Pancakes

Brown Butter Waffles With Cherries

6 Amazing Waffle Recipes

What are your favorite meat-free meal dinners for your family? Feel free to share your favorite recipes!

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Baklava Salmon

Monday, February 25th, 2013

I am always looking for new ways for my family to eat fish. Salmon recipes are one of my favorite things to experiment with because our family loves it so much. I couldn’t wait to try this Baklava Salmon recipe on my family thanks to the unique combination of honey, mustard, and nuts that add a sweet & crunchy topping to this mild fish.

If you have not sampled baklava before, it is definitely a treat to look for when eating at a Mediterranean restaurant. Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. It is sticky, rich, and light all at the same time.  The mixture of this salmon coating mimics those flavors with the chopped nuts and breadcrumbs mixed together with fresh parsley and then beneath is the rich honey layer mixed with a little Dijon mustard.

I love that all of these items are already in my pantry, making it a great dish to create from found items that you likely already have in your cupboards.

Our entire family loved this new spin on salmon and the unexpectedly sweet topping on this fish. We served it with my favorite Roasted Brussels Sprouts to add another bite of crunch to our dinner.

Baklava Salmon
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
A fun new way to dress up salmon with a topping reminiscent of a great slice of baklava. The nutty & sweet coating adds a fun new twist on salmon.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1½ tablespoons honey
  • ¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup walnuts or ¼ cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 4 (4 ounce) salmon fillets
  • fresh ground pepper
  • kosher salt
  • Lemon slices
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°; Line shallow roasting pan with non-stick aluminum foil, or spray with non-stick pan spray.
  2. In small bowl, blend butter, mustard, and honey, set aside; in another bowl, mix together bread crumbs, nuts, and parsley.
  3. Place salmon fillets on prepared pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and brush with honey-mustard mixture; sprinkle tops with crumb/nut mixture; if any remains, press into sides of salmon.
  4. Bake salmon 10-12 minutes in preheated oven, or until it flakes easily with a fork, serve with a lemon wedge.

 

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Getting To Know Your Bread Machine (Easy Recipes & Tips for Busy Families)

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

One of the most invaluable appliances in our home is our bread machine and today I wanted to share with you why I think a bread machine is a wise kitchen investment. This tutorial will offer advice on what to look for in a bread machine, how to use your bread machine, and the best bread machine recipes that our family enjoys on a weekly basis.

Perhaps you already have a bread machine that has been gathering dust in your kitchen or basement. Many people buy these appliances and then end up donating them to their local thrift store because they never use them. I think of the bread machine as a modern day convenience, but in a culture where we want everything NOW, waiting for a loaf of bread can seem like an eternity.

Why wait for a hot loaf of fresh bread when you can grab a loaf at your supermarket?

And what exactly is the purpose of that appliance that is taking up space on your shelves? Let’s get to know our bread machines and find a new way to use them.

What is A Bread Machine or Bread Maker?

A bread making machine or bread maker is a home appliance for baking bread.The bread machine is simple in its construction and consists of a bread pan (or “tin”), at the bottom of which are one or more built-in paddles, mounted in the center of a small special-purpose oven. This little oven is  controlled by a simple built-in computer, the settings for which are inputted on the control panel. Most bread machines have different cycles for different kinds of dough—including white bread, whole grain, European-style (sometimes labeled “French”), and dough-only (for pizza dough and shaped loaves baked in a conventional oven). Many also have a timer to allow the bread machine to activate without operator attendance, and some high-end models allow the user to program a custom cycle.

Some of the older machines have just a handful of simple settings while newer machines offer more advanced cycles including a cycle to make jam or to bake cakes. To be honest, I don’t use the fancy cycles on my bread machine and rely mostly on the Basic and the Dough cycle, which can be found on every machine. The basic cycle is just the basic setting for making a loaf of bread. The Dough cycle just completes the kneading and rising of the dough. Once the dough cycle is complete, you can take the dough out and shape it into your loaf pan or do fancy braids or rolls out of the dough.

The purpose of a bread machine is simple;  you are able to make fresh bread when you want it. The reasons vary from person to person on why they choose to make their own bread. Many people have concerns about the additives and preservatives that are found in store-bought breads. Another reason that many people choose to make their own bread is because they just enjoy the taste of homemade bread. My reasoning for making our own bread is because I like to save our family money. Making your own bread costs so much less than purchasing a loaf of bread, and the rising grocery costs have only fueled my desire more to make it at home.

How Do You Add Ingredients to a Bread Machine?

Inserting your ingredients into a bread machine is also very straightforward. If you are making the loaf right away, you can insert the ingredients in any way that you want. All of these ingredients will immediately be stirred together and so it will not matter what the order is. If you use a timer delay on your bread machine, delaying the start time of making your loaf, it is imperative that you put the ingredients in the right order or your loaf will not turn out right. The order of ingredients is liquid (liquids include water, oil, milk, eggs, or honey), flour, other dry ingredients (salt, sugar, baking powder, seasonings), and ending the ingredients with your yeast. The most important part of putting the yeast in is to make sure that you make a small indentation into the center of the flour so that the yeast does not react with the other ingredients.

Upon inserting your ingredients, your bread machine will take over the process from there. The machine will knead the ingredients together, give the bread its rising time, and then it will bake the bread. The bread machine will signal when the bread is ready and you can allow the bread to cool inside of the bread bucket.

Do I Need to Buy Bread Machine Mixes For My Bread Machine?

There is no need to spend the money on convenience bread machine mixes; in fact, you can make your own convenient mixes handy for the week. I take plastic storage bags and make an assembly line of the dry ingredients and do my bags once a month. On the outside, just write what liquids you will need to add and you will only have a dirty kitchen once instead of weekly.

What is the difference between Instant Yeast, Bread Machine Yeast and RapidRise Yeast?

Just their names because these are all the same yeast. Nothing like making it EXTRA confusing for a novice bread-maker.

Is There Savings in Making Bread at Home?

A quick glance at grocery store prices and you will wonder how there could be any possible savings with making your bread at home. The key to making this the least expensive on your family is to purchase all of your ingredients at your local wholesale club. With proper storage, you can buy the ingredients in bulk and save your family loads of money.

I don’t use my wholesale club membership very often except for our family’s eye care needs and for the occasional party. I won’t ever let my membership lapse though because with one trip to buy my baking supplies, my wholesale club membership has earned its space in my wallet. I make a trip twice a year to buy all of the necessary supplies for my baking and pizza-making needs.

Don’t believe me? Here is the current prices from my local Sam’s Club:

25 Pounds Bread Flour- $6.59 (needed depending upon the recipe)

25 Pounds All-Purpose Flour- $6.68 (needed depending upon the recipe)

2 Pounds of Yeast- $4.16

Cheese (5 pounds for $10.43) , pepperoni (5 pounds for $11.88), and crushed tomatoes (102 ounces for $2.68) can also be bought at a fraction of the price, but in the past I have lacked the capacity and ambition of storage for all of the ingredients.

As a side note, if you do own a membership to Sam’s Club, they have a wonderful Click ‘N Pull service that you can utilize for your shopping day and they can pull the ingredients right to the front and email you when your order is ready to pick up. This is a fantastic free service for moms with small children or who are short on time!

How Do I Store My Bread Machine Ingredients?

For storage, flour can be stored for up to a year in an airtight container. With bulk storage, a large plastic bin that has been clearly labeled is ideal to keep your flour fresh. Yeast is the easiest ingredient to store and has a very long shelf life. I store my yeast in a mason jar in our refrigerator door. With both of these ingredients, writing an expiration date on the label will also remind you of when the item is going to expire. I have also provided a handy Yeast Freshness Test that you can use to see if your yeast is still working. This will come in handy when buying yeast in bulk.

What Kind of Bread Machine Should I Buy?

If you do not have a bread machine and are looking for one, garage sales and thrift sales are a great place to hunt. I see these machines for $10 or less, and you will definitely get your money back from the savings of making your own bread. When you find one, ask if you can plug it in and make sure it is working. Just check that it actually powers up, that there is a bread bucket inside, and that there is a paddle in the bottom of the bread machine to stir the ingredients. Having a manual with it is handy, but usually can be found by searching online.

Over the past five years, I have been using my Sunbeam Bread Machine with great success. All of my past models have been found at the thrift shops and garage sales, but when our bread machine quit on us, I ran out to our local superstore so we wouldn’t have to miss our weekly pizza night. You know an appliance has become invaluable to you if you can’t imagine a day without it. Our bread machine is that invaluable to us.

What Are Some Foolproof Bread Machine Recipes I Can Try With My Family?

On any given day in our house, you will find our bread machine happily humming along and whipping up fresh dough and bread for us. Not only that, but our bread machine has a regular performance in our house on Friday night for our infamous weekly family pizza night.

Here are a few of our family favorites, but you can learn more in my first book, “The Good Life For Less,” that is available on bookstore shelves now: 

The Perfect Pizza Dough (so easy that your kids can roll this one out on their own!)

Bread Machine Pita Pockets

Bread Machine Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Buns

Whole Wheat Bread Machine Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Buns

Bread Machine Calzones

Bread Machine Portuguese White Bread

 

Bread Machine Monkey Bread/Bunny Bread

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls 

 


Yeast Freshness Test
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Not sure if your yeast is still fresh and active? This simple test will help determine if your yeast is still performing!
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup warm tap water (110°F-115°F)
  • 2¼ teaspoons dry yeast (make sure it is at room temperature)
Instructions
  1. Using a one-cup liquid measuring cup, dissolve 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar in ½ cup warm tap water at 110°F-115°F. Using a thermometer is the most accurate way to determine the correct liquid temperature. Any thermometer will work as long as it measures temperatures between 75°F and 130°F. If you don't have a thermometer, the tap water should be warm but NOT hot to the touch.
  2. Stir in one ¼ oz. packet (7g) or 2-1/4 tsp of dry yeast until there are no more dry yeast granules on top.
  3. In three to four minutes, the yeast will have absorbed enough liquid to activate and start to rise.
  4. After ten minutes, the foamy yeast mixture should have risen to the 1-cup mark and have a rounded top.
  5. If this is true, your yeast is very active and should be used in your recipe immediately.
  6. If the yeast did not rise to the 1-cup mark, your yeast has little or no activity. Discard this yeast.

Do you have a bread machine? What is your favorite thing to do with this appliance?

 

I love helping you cook in the kitchen! If you like this cooking tutorial,  be sure to visit my tutorial on How to Cook A Butternut Squash With the Skin On, How to Roast a Spaghetti Squash, and  How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker.

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Valentine’s Dinner Date At Home: Peanut-Ginger Chicken Noodles

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

I can’t remember the last time my husband and I went out for Valentine’s Day. My favorite thing to do for Valentine’s Day is to plan an elegant feast for us at home and wow my husband with my cooking. Valentine’s Day dinner dates at home are something that I look forward to every year and I can’t wait to showcase some ideas for you.

We stopped dining out for fancy meals after my husband lost his job and we found ourselves lacking the income to indulge in such a luxury. After the birth of our children, we knew that paying for a sitter and a dinner out were both far out of our budget reach.

As I became more acquainted with the kitchen though, we soon realized that dinners out just lacked that pizzazz that we could easily get from home. The food was a bit better, (if the house was relatively tidy) the atmosphere was better, and we could spend a whole heck of a lot less and get a whole heck of a lot more.

It is funny, now even when we have help to watch our kids, we still gravitate towards eating at home. I remember having a gift card for a fancy restaurant in town and we ended up spending $75 on dinner.

I looked across the table at my husband and he said,

“It was good, but…I like your tilapia better.”

Yeah, the tilapia that I buy for $4.99 a bag and prepare at home tasted better than the $25 of one fillet of tilapia plated in front of my hubby… sickening, isn’t it?

Dining at home doesn’t have to feel like a chore. First begin with the scenery. Can you relocate to a different location in your home? An elegant picnic on the floor? A folding table elegantly set with your finest table linens?  What about that dining table that only gets used for special occasion? How about dusting off that wedding china that seldom gets used? When you use and eat in spots in your home that are seldom visited, it can feel a lot like dining out. 

Don’t make it the same old dinner that you usually do, but make it a delicious experience that you can treasure. I think having great ingredients and new recipes to indulge in makes cooking feel like fun instead of the same old dinner routine that I have to perform.

Walmart challenged me this month to spend $35 and showcase some ideas that you could incorporate in your own feast. I wanted to show a mix of homemade and store-bought ideas that any couple could try. This is a feast prepared with your budget and time constraints in mind.

My store-bought choices included fresh strawberries, an angel food cake, a bag of frozen edamame sprinkled with kosher salt, chicken & vegetable dumplings from the P.F. Chang’s frozen food line, and bottles of fine wine priced at $10.

Even these homemade Peanut-Ginger Chicken Noodles were an easy creation thanks to those rotisserie chickens in the Deli department. The best part is that you can find those for under $5 in the coolers in the deli. I love that these are already chilled so that I can make fast work shredding my chicken for my favorite dishes.

I am sharing our delicious menu that was absolute perfection for us that I hope will inspire a deliciously wonderful date night with your significant other. I was able to purchase all of this food plus two bottles of wine priced at $10 each for a mere $35. If you skip the wine, this meal can be created with about $15 in food supplies. If you dine out, that is about the cost of two glasses of wine or one dinner (with no appetizers or drinks). Did I mention my meal offers leftovers for an entire week? You don’t even have to to tip the waitress (unless you want to give her a smooch).

I think the savings speaks for itself! 


5.0 from 1 reviews
Peanut-Ginger Chicken Noodles
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
These Peanut-Ginger Noodles can be found in the new Picky Palate Cookbook by Jenny Flake. The best part about these is that they can be served warm or cold, making them the perfect choice for a nervous chef who might be worried about timing everything perfectly in the kitchen. Full of peanut and ginger flavor with a crunch from red bell peppers and sesame seeds, these are a treat you can enjoy all week long.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound thin spaghetti
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger (I bought the kind prepared in the tubes in the herbal section)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 cup hot pasta water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (I used a rotisserie chicken)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Instructions
  1. Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, drain, and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Be sure to reserve one cup of pasta water for your sauce before draining.
  2. Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and vinegar to a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Slowly add the hot water and blend until smooth.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes.
  5. Add the chicken, cilantro, salt, pepper, cooked spaghetti and peanut sauce and stir to combine.
  6. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
  7. Serve warm or chilled, topped with toasted sesame seeds, if desired.

Source: Picky Palate Cookbook

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Dairy-Free Crustless Quiche

Monday, January 7th, 2013

One of the hardest things I did this year was to start eating a dairy-free diet. This dairy-free crustless quiche recipe got me through many cheesy-filled get holiday togethers and was created just for myself for Christmas morning this year. You won’t believe how decadent this dairy-free crustless quiche tastes and, I highly doubt, you will even miss the milk or cheese.

Dairy-free doesn’t mean egg-free for me, but it did mean giving up the cheese and milk in my life. I made an easy transition into drinking almond milk (remember those infamous milk allergy mugs), but other transitions were a little more challenging. Our weekly pizza night now has a special alternative-cheese section for me, tacos and enchiladas also have an alternative-cheese section, creamy & decadent main dishes have been abandoned for now,  and I have had to learn some new ways of snacking. Although it has been challenging, the rewards have been so worth it for my stomach.

Although a round of allergy testing proved, I am not allergic to milk, my body’s response to it is to attack itself for three days straight if I have any dairy. As I get older, I want to deal with that less and less. Who has time to be sick for three days?  Luckily for me, there are many great dairy-free options at the supermarket and natural food stores to keep me full and happy.

What I love about this quiche is that it offers the perfect balance of layers of delicious veggies with an egg mixture mixed with a little spice and the mild flavor of rice milk.

Although many times you need to go to natural food stores to stock up on dairy-free alternatives, this dish can be created with supplies bought at your local Walmart stores. The rice milk is available with a couple of other milk alternative options over by the coffee/tea section of our store. I am becoming a fan of rice milk for cooking and I think you will too!

Don’t feel limited to the vegetable options I am sharing though, the beauty of a quiche is that it can be created from whatever you might need to use up in your vegetable drawer of your refrigerator!

Dairy-Free Crustless Quiche
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
A dairy-free crustless quiche that is healthy, packed with veggies, and loaded with flavor.
Ingredients
  • Dairy-Free Crustless Quiche
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 handfuls fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped if desired
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms
  • 1 pint cherry mushrooms, sliced in half
  • 6 eggs
  • ¾ cup plain rice milk
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. sweet paprika
  • ⅛ tsp. black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and heat for one minute.
  3. Toss in chopped bell peppers and mushrooms and cook for five minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat.
  5. In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, flour, baking powder, rice or almond milk, salt, paprika, and black pepper.
  6. Stir in the sauteed vegetables and fresh spinach, and stir until well combined.
  7. Pour mixture into a greased pie pan.
  8. Place the sliced cherry tomatoes on top, cut side down.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow the quiche to set up for at least five minutes.
  11. Cut and then serve immediately.

What healthy eating plans do you have for the New Year? Any advice for someone who is trying to go dairy-free with their diet? I would love to hear your ideas!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

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