August 8, 2013

back to school :: what’s for supper?

It’s that time of year again!  I must say I am more excited and feel better organized than I ever have for school to start back.  It may just have something to do with the fact that we have made the leap from preschool to school school.  All 3 of my girls will be going to the same school, wearing the same cute (well depends on who you are asking) uniforms and being dropped off at the same time.   I will fill most of the time working but I have set aside some time to just bask in the fact that I survived the baby years.  Don’t get me wrong – I LOVED (parts of) the baby years but I am fully embracing carpooling, activities, homework, and did I mention a full day at school for them all?!  We have enjoyed the summer though and here’s a little recap from my cell phone pictures (my camera has been in the shop and I do believe (although I am not 100% sure they are the reason)) the kids are no longer allowed to touch the camer)  I think I could have bought a new one for as much as I ended up spending.  But until it’s returned to me, cell phone pics will have to do.
blog library
Molly at the library, this girl likes to take her time picking a book out.  She meticulously flips through each one to see if she wants to bring it home while her sisters tornado through there grabbing the first thing they see.  I love the pace at which she lives, sometimes I wish I could slow down like her.
cousins at the beach (missing 1!)
If you’re in Albany, let me know if you would like a source for local eggs.  These came from a family down the road from me – I gave her some Sweet Em earrings for eggs – sweet trade!

But what I have focused a lot of my energy on this summer is trying new recipes that are quick and easy weeknight dinners.  While we had more failed attempts than successes, we did add a few new meals to our weeknight rotation (which was in need of an update!)  I focused on slow cooker recipes since we will be much busier this year with after school activities.   While the world wide web offers endless suggestions on this subject… i thought it may be helpful to y’all to see what works for us – a family of 5 with a wide range of eaters (from one that eats like an adult to the pickiest of the picky).  These feed my family of five, some with leftovers, some with just enough.  I am just giving you our top ten main dishes, sides will have to be for another post :)
I try to keep mealtime happy and carefree so I offer the food, they take or leave it.  No one starves but Molly (pickiest) usually ends up with a bowl of cheerios regardless of what we’re eating.
1.  Baked Spaghetti – I have posted this before but it’s worth repeating.  This is my mother-in-law’s recipe, although I changed it a bit to fit our lifestyle and taste (no homemade sauce here). This is the one thing I make that gets rave reviews from everyone, can’t go wrong!  You can easily make it on a Sunday afternoon (just skip the oven until the day of) and stick in the fridge for later in the week.
    • 8 oz Spaghetti Noodles
    • jar Spaghetti Sauce
    • 3 oz Cream Cheese
    • 3 Green Onions (Chopped)
    • 8 oz Sour Cream
    • 1 lb Ground Beef
    • 2 c Cheddar Cheese-shredded
    • Cook ground beef, drain. Let the ground beef simmer with spaghetti sauce. Cook noodles as directed, drain. Mix sour cream, cream cheese, green onions.  Layer in a 9x13 casserole dish starting with noodles on the bottom, then sourr cream mix, then meat mix. Top with cheese. Cook 350 for 20 minutes.

2.  Hawaiian chicken (slow cooker)  - Make ahead of time, put all ingredients into a freezer bag, freeze and when ready: dump frozen block of food into slow easy, good, and inexepensive.
3.  fish tacos – the reason I love these is because we can easily separate all ingredients to make a meal that makes everyone happy.  Molly still hasn’t embraced the fish, but that’s ok. 4 out of 5 isn’t bad :)  The only change I have made – I started mixing the sour cream with cayenne pepper and lime juice instead of jalapenos for ease. (suggested by my sister – thanks kathryn!)
4.  turkey (slow cooker) – this calls for a 10 pound turkey breast, I used a 3 pound and halved everything, and lessened the cooking time by a couple of hours.  This is great for school lunch leftovers as well and Molly LOVED it – that’s huge!
5.  hamburgers in the oven – this one i love, mini hamburgers.  The recipe calls for 2 pounds of beef, I cut it down to 1, and made thinner patties..I cut the cooking time from 30 minutes to 17 with one pound of ground beef.  So easy and a crowd pleaser!
6.  steak fajitas (slow cooker) This is one that stuck with us during my insanity last year trying to do whole foods only.  I do recommend giving the whole foods thing a shot, we did make some healthy changes to our diets but don’t beat yourself up – this small kid thing won’t last forever and you can be back to whipping up gourmet fresh meals for you and your husband when they are out of the house.  Unless you are able to do that with kids in the house and if so – I am seriously impressed
7.  messy shrimp – this has been a favorite of ours even pre-kids. Jim and I would devour a pound each of shrimp, soaking up the juice with fresh good!  I love to think about what in the world we did with ourselves at dinner time minus 3 girls talking at the same time, I am sure it was super boring ;)   If I cut the shrimp into small pieces Molly (even with texture issues) will eat a little bit.  You can’t go wrong drenching food in butter :)
  • 4 pounds uncooked shrimp*
  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 1/4 cup creole seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon worscheshire
  • 2 1/2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups beer
Sautee shrimp in 1/2 cup of butter for a minute or so, stir in seasonings (along with the rest of the butter melted), Cook 3-4 minutes or until shrimp are curled and pink, turn down the heat and pour in beer.  Serve with grits and a yummy salad.
*I started using cooked peeled, deveined shrimp and just heating the shrimp up with all the seasonings – this was much easier on me and the kids as I was peeling every shrimp for them. 
8.  pork tenderloin in the slower cooker
9.  baked ziti – this makes a LOT ..share with a neighbor, I usually make it when they’ve had enough of the baked spaghetti
10.  homemade pizza – I have blogged about this before but have made a huge discovery since that has made it it 100 times easier – parchment paper!  I may behind on this and if I am I wish you had told me :)  I still stand by this homemade dough – so super easy, from Dinner: A Love Story
Step 1: Make the dough – do this when you have time on a Sunday afternoon so you can quickly throw together the pizza on a weekday
Jim Lahey’s Pizza Crust
3 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant or other active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/3 cup room-temperature water
stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. The dough will be stiff, not wet and sticky. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled in volume, about 2 hours. Divide the dough in two and shape each into flattened balls. Freeze individually. (i wrapped mine in plastic wrap, then put in a freezer bag – also, make sure you use room temp water and don’t let it rise under fans – thanks sarah ;))
I love this because you can pull it out anytime to use for pizza and it’s all ingredients you have on hand (mostly).

Step 2: Make the pizza (if you don’t have a pizza stone – check out Dinner: A Love Story’s post on how to make using a cookie sheet)
  • Let your pizza dough defrost on the counter (takes a few hours at least) or overnight in the fridge)
  • Put the pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 475.  you need to let the stone heat up with the oven.
  • Prepare your surface – this is where I made a change! – Spray you parchment paper with Pam – this is where you’ll make your pizza! 
  • The dough is easier to work with if it’s room temp, stretch it out as large as you can get, lay your dough on the parchment paper once it's the size you'd like.
  • add toppings (Rao’s pizza sauce is the best if you’re trying to impress, but the Publix brand pizza sauce does the job for that weekly grocery budget). 
Step 3: Take your pizza while on the parchment paper and slide it (and the parchment paper) onto the stone in the oven.  You may need to use the backside of a cookie sheet to do the transfer.  Let it cook for 3 minutes, open the oven and you will be able to easily slide the parchment paper out from under the pizza.  It may be charred a bit from being in the oven, that’s ok, just don’t leave it in for too long. Keep cooking the pizza for 5-7 more minutes.  It should only take 8-10 minutes total to cook your pizza.  Enjoy!
I hope this helps some and I would love if you could share maybe one of your go to meals – we always are looking for more ideas!  On another note – my grandmother is 90 today!  Happy birthday Grandmama – we will be celebrating her this weekend.  And a happy belated birthday to my great grandmother who turned 101 last weekend!

Have a great weekend! 


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