Living life in the carpool lane..

Posts Tagged ‘dinner

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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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 is currently all about the pasta.  She loves noodles.  LOVES noodles.

Every dinner time is like an episode of Chopped on the Food Network.  Will I get put on the chopping block?  Will my food be good enough for M?

A few nights ago, I passed the test!  She LOVED my dinner, she had three servings!

I made beef with brocolli and udon noodles.   I don’t use measurements when I cook, but I will try to describe the meal as best as I could.

I started off by slicing up some beef into strips.  I browned the beef with some olive oil and garlic.  After it cooked, I poured a can of chicken broth over it.  I seasoned the broth and beef with some soy sauce and fish sauce.  I’m sure you can substitute fish sauce for oyster sauce depending on your flavor preferences.  After I seasoned, I added the broccoli to start to cook. 

While that was simmering, I started to cook the udon.  I buy dry, organic udon noodles at an Asian grocery store.  I boiled it according to the directions on the packaging.  After the noodles cook, I rinsed the noodles with some cold water. 

After the noodles are cooked, I go back to the beef and broccoli.  I added cornstarch to the broth in order to thicken it up so that it becomes a sauce instead of a broth.  Once the sauce thickens, I tossed the noodles into the mix.

The sauce coats the noodles and it’s just so yummy!

M LOVED it.  Every time she’d take a bite, she’d say “delicious!” 

It’s those moments that make me so happy to cook for her.  I just wish that she’d do that with EVERY meal that I make for her…

Are there any recipes you’d like to share that are toddler friendly?  I’d love to hear them!

I made Filipino Menudo. I rushed home from work to get the meat going, cooked as fast as the food let me so that by the time M and Hubby came home, dinner was almost done.

M didn’t like it.

I made meatloaf.  I spent a good amount of time tediously chopping some veggies to incorporate into the meatloaf.  Cooked as fast as the food let me so that the food would be done by the time M got hungry.

M didn’t like it.

It’s very frustrating.

It’s not that she’s super picky.  It’s just a major guessing game to see if she’s going to like the food being prepared.  AND even if I cook something that she’s been known to like one day, it may not be the same the next time.  She may like it today, but will she like it two weeks from now if I make it again?!

It’s a battle.

The foods that seem to never fail usually involve some sort of pasta.  But who wants to eat pasta all day, everyday?  Not me! 

Recipes.  Send me recipes.  What did your kids like? 

I’m open to trying new things… just nothing majorly preparation-heavy…

Leave a comment below.

Every night, it seems like a battle.

Every night, it’s getting harder and harder.

Every night, it’s a question of will she or won’t she?

Every night, it makes me a little anxious and stressed out.

Dinner time.  Yes, dinner time.

M used to be a great eater.  She ate anything you put in a bowl and into her mouth.  She would eat a lot too.  She had the greatest appetite.

Ok, so she still has a great appetite, and when she likes what she’s eating, she’s a great eater..

But the reign of the pickiness is totally beginning.. sixteen months and she’s telling me what she wants to eat..

When did she get a mind of her own?

The other night, Hubby brought some food from his parents house.  I haven’t been cooking lately so I can finish the Save The Dates for my friend. 

It was good food, yummy filipino food. 

M wasn’t having it.

She’d either keep her mouth completely shut and turn away from me, or I’d get it in her mouth and she’d immediately push it out with her tongue.

So frustrating, but there was no changing her mind.  I tried everything. I tried to pretend feed her little princess toy that was with her, I tried to pretend-feed Elmo, I tried to pretend-feed the Fresh Beat Band she was watching on TV.

Nothing.

Thank God for frozen bags of peas and hot dogs..

We quickly heated and chopped up a hot dog, cooked up some frozen peas.. and she LOVED it!

She ate almost all of it..

I asked my mom about whether I should be doing that, or make her eat what we initially had.  She said that at this age, I should just cater.  I guess she has a point.  She’s a little too young to realize what I’m doing, but smart enough to know what she wants and doesn’t. 

All I know is that she can’t live off hot dogs and peas.. so I need to figure out more foods to cook that I know she will like..

Any suggestions and/or recipies?!


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