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Archive for the ‘In the kitchen..’ Category

If you’ve followed my blog for a long time, you will know that after I got married, I struggled with finding effective ways of meal planning and grocery shopping.

Search grocery shopping and you’ll come across several blog posts about my struggles.

#thestruggleISreal

Here’s the new system I’ve implemented and it almost seems like something that should have been easy enough to implement from the beginning.

While planning the week out in my planner, I take a moment to write out five dishes that I think I can make for the week.  Why five?  Because I usually end up making more than we need and end up with leftovers that we can carry over into another night’s dinner.

I don’t assign a specific night.

Easy peasy.

Then, I take that list and shop accordingly.

It’s like a light bulb moment.  It’s a low pressure system.  I still get the freedom of cooking whatever I want, when I want, just based on the list of foods I set for the week.  Why did I make it so hard on myself before?

The only difficulty I have is picking the five meals.

To fix that, I am going to list ALL the meals that I have cooked, I can cook, or would like to try and cook.  As recipes get tried and approved, I will add them to this list.  Then, I will have a master list of foods to choose from so I don’t have to wreck my brain trying to think of five different dinners.

We’re on week three of this system and it’s been working.  Grocery shopping has been fast and easy.  Food wasting has been the lowest it has been in a long time.  This system also pushes me to really try those recipes that I have been dreaming of testing.

Looks like it’s time for me to resurrect the Joe, Party of 4 food blog!

What’s your meal planning/grocery shopping system?

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Stuck on a dinner idea?  We’ve been looking to Pinterest for some inspiration.

Sometimes, before we go grocery shopping, I will scour Pinterest for some meal ideas.  We take inventory on the types of meats we have in the freezer, and I just do a search for those types of meals.

We seem to have tons of chicken in our fridge.  I don’t know how we accumulated so much chicken, but we have it.  So we decided we needed to use it.

I went on Pinterest and pinned these two recipes.

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These two recipes were perfect for our family.  They were quick and flavors were good enough for M to enjoy.

Now, when I find a recipe, I have a difficult time following them precisely, unless I’m baking.

So when I find a recipe, I tend to just take the “idea” of the meal and make it my own.

For the Chicken Asparagus Lemon Stir Fry, we didn’t have any lemon juice, so I didn’t use it.  I also added mushrooms with the asparagus.  The recipe called for a certain amount of ginger, but I decided to lessen it because I didn’t want it to be too harsh for M.  However, I did make sure that we got the hint of a ginger flavor in the dish.  I would like to try it with lemon juice eventually.  I just have to remember to buy some next time I want to make this dish.  My version of the dish was M and Hubby approved, but I would love to kick up the ginger flavor eventually.

For the Honey Soy Baked Chicken Thighs, we found this recipe last minute.  The recipe states to marinate the chicken thighs overnight in the marinade, but since this was a last minute find, we only let the chicken sit in the marinade for about 10-20 minutes before we cooked them.  In this case, we saw the ingredients and just added them all to taste.  We didn’t even look at the measurements.  We wanted a good balance of the sweet from the honey and the salt from the soy sauce, and I think we found it.  The chicken smelled so good and it was most definitely M approved.  Next time we do this, we would like to let the chicken marinate overnight.

So basically, we use the Pinterest pins as more of an inspiration than a definitive recipe.  It helps give me a better idea of what to buy during our weekly grocery trips.  Sometimes, I pin a recipe that inspires me to create something completely different from the pin.  It’s all about inspiration.

How do you handle Pinterest meals?

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Since we got married in 2010, I have had so many issues trying to figure out the best way to grocery shop and meal plan.

I’ve tried everything.

I’ve tried to meal plan for the week ahead and then buy accordingly. 

I’ve tried to figure out what I’m going to cook for dinner than night and hit the grocery store after work to buy accordingly.

I’ve tried just forgetting all the grocery shopping all together and rely on eating out.  Ok, maybe not this so much, but I’ve been tempted to..

I think that I’ve finally figured out a system that works for me.  It may not be the most efficient way, but it’s been working for me for the past month, and I’m really enjoying my success.

About once a week, I go to the grocery store.  I start in the produce section and just start looking around.  It is while I’m looking around that I start to think of foods I can make with the produce in front of me.  While I’m planning these meals in my head, I start to buy accordingly.

Once I’m finished with the produce, I proceed to go down the store aisle by aisle brainstorming ideas just by looking at all the foods available.  Sometimes, I have to go back to the produce section to buy more vegetables that go well with a food I thought of making during my stroll.

I can walk out of the store with at least 3-5 meal ideas that can last us about a week, depending on how many leftovers we accumulate.

It’s a great system for me.  I’ve also found that walking aisle by aisle down a grocery store to be a little relaxing.

I joked with Hubby that I used to do these strolls at the mall, now I do them in a grocery store!

I’m glad I found a system that works. 

What’s your grocery style?!

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Have I told you how much I love my Kitchen Aid mixer?

I absolutely LOVE it!

I made snickerdoodle cookies last week and they came out perfect!

I followed the recipe on this page.  It was super easy to follow.

I made the cookie dough the night before.  When I got home from work, I cranked out a bunch of cookies.

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They look store bought!  I love it.  They were super soft on the inside and not too sweet at all!  I think I ate about three while I was baking them. 

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Don’t they look so yummy?!  Since the first time I’ve made them, I had to make another batch while my parents and brother were visiting for Easter.  I reall y think this is going to be something I will be making all the time!

Click here for the recipe and give it a try!

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That’s an M-sized bite!  She absolutely loved them!

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In the quest to find more foods that my daughter will eat, I found this great recipe for Baked Chicken Fingers.  Clicking on the link will take you to the website where I found the actual recipe.

I used it as a guide for my own chicken fingers and modified based on what we had on hand.

Here is the recipe, based on the link above:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Based on this recipe above, this is what I did:

  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of dry Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

My measurements were only rough estimates.  I actually did things more “to taste.”   Always take a taste of the breadcrumb mix BEFORE adding the raw chicken. 

To start, I set the oven to 400 degrees to pre-heat.  I took the chicken breasts and sliced them into about 4-5 pieces, depending on the size.  I put them into a bowl and tossed them in the vegetable oil.  I made sure that the chicken pieces were fully coated.  Then, I transfered the chicken pieces into the larger bowl where I made the breadcrumb mix.  I tossed that around until all the pieces were coated.  I placed the coated chicken pieces onto a foil-lined, cooking sprayed cookie sheet.  I baked the chicken for 10 minutes, then turned them and baked them for another 10 minutes.

The wasn’t too crispy, but it did have a nice light coating full of flavor.  M, who doesn’t usually eat meat, ate one and a half pieces.  I served the chicken fingers with some pasta shells and M LOVED it. 

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Don’t they look so yummy???

Share some toddler friendly recipes in the comments!  I’d love to try them!

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M loves pizza.  I knew I had to figure out how to make our own pizza.

Thank God for the internet (and the Kitchen Aid).

I followed this recipe: Pizza Dough

It was very easy and it came out just like it said it would.  I have no qualms about it..

M enjoyed watching me the pizza dough that she just HAD to get in on it.

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She spent a good 45 minutes playing with the tiny left over piece of dough AND the loose flour.  She played around while the rest of the dough was set aside to rise.

Because I didn’t have a round pan, I just spread the pizza dough out on to a cookie sheet.  We baked the pizza for about 13 minutes at 450degrees on the cookie sheet.  Then we took the pizza out of the oven, let it sit for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet.  We transferred the pizza from the cookie sheet onto a crisper mat into the oven for another three minutes at 450degrees. 

The pizza came out nice a doughy (the way M likes it) but with a good slightly crisp crust at the bottom. 

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This was our pizza for the night.  It had steak and spinach on it.  I had forgotten to brush olive oil on the crust when we initially put it in the oven, so the crust was very pale.  When we put the pizza back into the oven on the crisper, we brushed to crust with olive oil and within those three minutes of baking, there was a little more color to the crust. 

The pizza dough recipe makes two pizzas.  We had pizza for dinner the next night, so we just wrapped the left over dough in plastic and placed it in the refrigerator to be used the next night. 

I’m so glad this came out so yummy. 

Does anyone want to share any other pizza dough recipes?  Leave them in the comments below!

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One of the main reasons I wanted to purchase a Kitchen Aid was to learn how to make French Macarons.

I looked to the internet for some recipe suggestions and came across this recipe:

Basic French Macaron

This was my very first time using the Kitchen Aid, my first time working with egg whites to make a meringue, my first time using a piping bag.. you see my point..

So I followed the directions and made the first batch..

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These were small.  They were bigger than a quarter, but not as big as some that I have seen in bakeries.   They took the shape of a macaron.  That’s an accomplishment.  I was so happy that they LOOK like a macaron.

I tasted a cookie without the filling and knew I failed.  The texture was all wrong.  It stuck to my teeth.  It felt like it was overcooked.  It almost had the feeling of sticky caramel, not the milky creamy caramel, the over sticky, almost-hard caramel.  Also, this recipe is just way too sweet. 

I tried to salvage it by smearing some Biscoff cookie spread in between two pieces.

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Doesn’t it totally look like the real thing?  Too bad it didn’t taste like it.

I had some left over batter, so I tried to make them bigger and bake them for a shorter amount of time.

They came out like this:

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They came out so much better.  They weren’t as brown, and the texture was more similar to the macarons I’ve had from the professionals.  Because it was from the same batter, the taste was still way too sweet.

A few things thoughts:

1.  When adding the granulated sugar, I really need to add it slowly.  While I followed the directions stating to add the sugar to the whites “one tablespoon at a time,” I didn’t wait for the sugar to dissolve between tablespoons.

2.  I may have possibly over beat the egg whites.  Internet research told me that over beaten egg whites become lumpy.  I had lumpy egg whites. 

3.  I wonder if cut the confectioners sugar and add more almond meal if it will cut down on the sweetness.  I wonder what more almond meal will do to the texture. 

4.  I need to find the perfect baking time.  I haven’t baked much since I’ve moved into the apartment about 3 1/2 years ago, so I’m still trying figure out my ovens quirks and preferences. 

5.  I don’t have a sifter, but the package of almond meal said “extra fine.”  I figured I didn’t need to sift it.  Maybe I need to.

That’s all I can think of at the moment.

Do you have any tips and tricks to perfecting French macarons?  Leave a comment below!

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