Category Archives: Meal Planning

The Key to Getting Dinner On The Table Most Nights Of The Week

Have your favorite restaurant delivery service on speed dial! Not really. While that would work to get dinner on the table, I’m not sure that take-out is going to be budget friendly long term. Also, it may not be the healthiest choice. So, what’s the key? Ten Ingredients or Fewer. That’s my motto. No, I’m not kidding. Just ask my husband. He emails me recipes all the time and unless they have 10 ingredients or fewer, they don’t make the cut. For the record, I don’t refuse to make a recipe if it has eleven ingredients but I try to ensure that the prep is simpler on those recipes that may contain more ingredients.
Getting Dinner on the Table
Seriously, my eyes start to glaze over after five or six…I share this because it has been one of, if not THE major factor behind my ability to get dinner (and a healthy one, at that) on the table most nights of the week.

Recipes to Eat

I had a client years ago who had an entire room lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves full of cookbooks and cooking magazines- none of which were ever used. Every time we worked in that room, the shelves were off-limits for letting go. She did cook, can and bake but all the recipes she used were in her kitchen where they could be easily accessed.
That is when I came to the realization there are recipes we want to eat, be inspired by or dream about and those we are actually going to make for dinner. This idea became the difference in the size of my recipe collection, curbed unnecessary future cookbook purchases and enabled me to not mind cooking so much. I won’t go so far as to say I love it…but I don’t dread it and I might actually look forward to my evening ritual.

Collect Recipes To Make

Almost immediately, I stopped collecting recipes that I had no desire to make. And, if I was going to be able to get dinner on the table most nights, I want:
  • The list of ingredients to be short- my goal is actually 5 but most recipes I make have between 5-10 ingredients
    the prep to be simple
  • Flavor & variety- My husband is the type who ate the same thing for breakfast everyday for 10 years. Gag me with a fork! I once bought a bulk box of granola bars when I was young and single…I couldn’t look at a granola bar for years after that.
  • Use a limited amount of processed food, if at all
  • Low-carb (not because of any specific low-carb diet, but simply for the fact that we have no problem consuming the recommended daily allowance of carbohydrates and then some. I knew that we could deliberately not include it in dinner and still consume more than we needed. So, I wanted to focus my energy on prepping the other nutrients we were not eating enough of.)
  • Toddler-friendly, when possible- I don’t go overboard catering to a picky toddler but it certainly makes dinnertime less stressful and prevents me from getting frustrated that I went through the effort for nothing.
  • Budget is definitely a consideration but since we eat out and order in less, we’re ok with spending more to enjoy quality dinners.

What’s Your Cooking Criteria?

Would you like to get dinner on the table most nights of the week? Be more prepared and less stressed? Eat healthier? Spend less on fast food?
If you’ve inherited the role of family chef, figure out the factors that will make things as simple as possible for you…and then pare it back even further. Take a moment to get out a notepad and write it down. Make sure to consider food restrictions and preferences.
Let us know what’s on your checklist in the comments!
Ciao for now!

Quick Cookery: Chicken Cordon Bleu élémentaire

Ok, I don’t speak a lick of French, so I have no idea if that title even makes sense, but this simple recipe will, I promise!

QCChickenCordonBleuBFP

I learned  this recipe from an old friend from many years ago. I think she had some sort of relation to Martha Stewart…or maybe not. Regardless, she was very talented in the kitchen and taught me how to make my own healthy version of the frozen processed Chicken Cordon Bleu you find in the freezer section. She showed me how to tenderize the chicken breast and butterfly it, roll in the ingredients and bake. I have taken her version and simplified it even more. No wielding weapons in the kitchen and no need to butterfly!

QCChixCB1

QCChixCB3

Quick Cookery: Chicken Cordon Bleu élémentaire

Ingredients

  • Frozen or Thawed Chicken Breast Tenderloins
  • Package Swiss Cheese Slices
  • Package Deli Ham Slices
  • Italian Bread Crumbs
  • Olive Oil, in sprayer
  • Mrs. Dash Original Seasoning

Instructions

  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Place the chicken breast tenderloins on the baking sheet, no need to do anything additional if you're using frozen. Feel free to run them under cold water to separate, if necessary.
  3. Place a slice of ham, folded, on each tenderloin followed by a slice of cheese.
  4. Spray to coat with olive oil.
  5. Sprinkle bread crumbs over cheese and oil, then spray with the olive oil again.
  6. Add a little Mrs. Dash and bake according to the directions on your package of frozen chicken...which usually is the following:
  7. Bake frozen tenderloins 20 to 30 minutes, or until juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced and temperature on instant read thermometer reaches 170°F. (Bake thawed tenderloins 15 to 25 minutes).
http://homeology.co/quick-cookery-chicken-cordon-bleu-elementaire/

Hope you enjoy this one. Let me know if you try it.

Ciao for now!

Sig1

 

 

 

 

Quick Cookery: Southwest Lime Chicken Wraps {or Salad}

This week’s Quick Cookery features a simple and delicious recipe I was lucky enough to stumble upon last year. Not only is the recipe versatile {you can serve it as a salad, with chips, or as a wrap} but there is a method for cooking chicken that you must add to your Quick Cookery arsenal.

QCSouthwestLimeChickenBFP

Now without further ado, I present to you Southwest Lime Chicken Wraps and Salad To-Go from Amanda at Burlap & Denim. Doesn’t it look so yummy and fresh? It is especially easy to make for a large number of people and it’s been my go-to recipe when we have visitors. I even signed up to make it for our assigned dinner night during our beach vacation this summer. I feel like I’m cheating!

Southwest-Lime-Wraps-and-Salad-ToGo-525x494-custom
Please visit Burlap & Denim to pin from the original site (click on the image).

Here are a few things I wanted to add:

  • We now make the dressing by the bottle, not the cup. I’ve used Marzetti’s and Harris Teeter brand Ranch dressings and both were good. I tried Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk this time and wouldn’t use it again.
  • I usually just dump an entire bag of frozen chicken in the slow cooker and put some aside for chicken salad. And here’s a hint: if you cook the chicken well enough, you won’t need to take out the mixer/beater. It falls apart when you stir it. Nothing better than shredded chicken without having to work for it! The possibilities are endless.
  • In most recipes that call for juicing a lime, I typically just use 1 tablespoon of bottled lime juice per lime.
  • To make prep even quicker, we just use store-bought tortillas and prefer whole wheat.
  • Make the salsa in advance so you can chill- it lets the flavors meld.

Please visit Amanda at Burlap & Denim and check out her delicious recipe. Special Thanks to Amanda for letting me feature her recipe on Quick Cookery! Let me know in the comments if you are going to try it out…

Ciao for now!

Sig1

Quick Cookery: Chicken & Hummus Artisan Dinner Plate

Hey, if Starbucks can call it that, why can’t I? Actually, I think they’ve updated the name of their menu item to “Chicken & Hummus Bistro Box”. And, we’ve been eating this as a meal since well before Starbucks caught on to it’s nutritious deliciousness. Either way, it’s just a fancy name for a quick and simple dinner that your guests will gobble up!
QCChickenHummusDinnerPlateBFP

We were first introduced to this as an appetizer sans chicken at one of our favorite, now closed, restaurants in Wilmington, NC-Cafe Phoenix. We fell completely in love with their hummus and were thrilled when we found their recipe…but I digress. Their appetizer included hummus, pita, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, and Kalamata olives, which I clearly remember not liking at the time. The horror of all of those sad, neglected olives! Rest assured, we’ve since remedied that!

This recipe definitely qualifies for the quick cookery label. It’s also delicious and nutritious. The best part is that you can substitute just about any ingredients to make it your own.

Some substitution suggestions include: alfalfa or bean sprouts, carrots, tomatoes, radishes, sugar snap peas, fresh peppers, zucchini, squash…What have I missed that you think would be yummy with chicken and hummus?

Quick Cookery: Chicken & Hummus Artisan Dinner Plate

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. cooked Chicken
  • Hummus, 10 oz. container
  • Feta Cheese, crumbled
  • Roasted Red Peppers, sliced
  • Cucumbers, sliced
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Kalamata Olives, halved or sliced
  • Red Onions, chopped
  • Whole Wheat Tortillas

Instructions

  1. Cook the chicken then pull or cube (Check back soon for a quick crock pot chicken recipe!)
  2. Slice or chop the red peppers, cucumbers, olives, and onions. Place vegetables, feta cheese and sprouts on serving platter or in ramekins.
  3. Slice and lightly toast the tortillas.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
http://homeology.co/quick-cookery-chicken-hummus-artisan-dinner-plate/

 

Quick Cookery: Tomato Shrimp Salad

Quick Cookery: Tomato Shrimp SaladAs I write this I’m actually making my Barely Breaded Pork Chops from the last month’s Quick Cookery feature. Today’s post features a meal I made last week when we had guests. They loved it- or that’s what they told me anyway. Regardless, there was none left. So that’s a good sign, right?

Back in my newlywed days, I made this Shrimp Salad-Stuffed Tomato recipe from Eating Well. Once. It was delicious! The thing was, the hollowed out tomatoes were great and all, but ain’t nobody got time for dat! {2 pts if you comment with the source of that reference.} I might have had the time then but certainly not now.

So, I made a simple modification to the recipe and it is one of the most popular meals on the Halagarda Household menu. Instead of coring large tomatoes, I buy whichever tomatoes I like or are on sale (usually grape), chop them and mix everything in a large salad bowl. We prefer fresh basil but dried works, too, if that’s what you have on hand.

Be forewarned, the Kalamata olives, tomatoes, basil and shallots make for some strong flavors. But if you like Allium vegetables (onion family) like we do here, you’ll love this shrimp salad. Oh, I use regular mayonnaise, double (sometimes quadruple) the recipe and serve it with crackers. To extend the salad, I’ve added pasta on occasion and it’s still as yummy!

Quick Cookery: Chicken & Hummus Artisan Dinner Plate

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. cooked Chicken
  • Hummus, 10 oz. container
  • Feta Cheese, crumbled
  • Roasted Red Peppers, sliced
  • Cucumbers, sliced
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Kalamata Olives, halved or sliced
  • Red Onions, chopped
  • Whole Wheat Tortillas

Instructions

  1. Cook the chicken then pull or cube (Check back soon for a quick crock pot chicken recipe!)
  2. Slice or chop the red peppers, cucumbers, olives, and onions. Place vegetables, feta cheese and sprouts on serving platter or in ramekins.
  3. Slice and lightly toast the tortillas.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
http://homeology.co/quick-cookery-tomato-shrimp-salad/

Quick Cookery: Barely Breaded Pork Chops

Hi there! I’m excited to share the first installment of Quick Cookery here on the blog. This recipe came out of my love for the yummy-ness of breaded pork chops but not of the added calories, greasy cooking or prep time. It is super simple, leaner, lower in saturated fat and provides enough flavor that you don’t realize anything is missing.

Recipe: Barely Breaded Pork Chops

  • Pork Chops
  • Bread Crumbs (I like Italian Style)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Spray/coat a medium to large frying pan with olive oil and heat on medium.

2. Spray/coat one side of the pork chops with olive oil then sprinkle with a desired amount of bread crumbs.

BarelyBreadedPorkChops (2)

BarelyBreadedPorkChops (3)

3. Place the pork chops in the pan “breaded” side down.

BarelyBreadedPorkChops (4)

4. Spray/coat the other side of the pork chops with olive oil, then sprinkle with a desired amount of bread crumbs.

5. When the pork chops are about half-way cooked, flip them in the pan and cook all the way through.

And, there you have it, Quick Cookery Barely Breaded Pork Chops! I like serving them with some roasted veggies and sweet potato and the hubby approves!

 

Quick Cookery: Chicken Cordon Bleu élémentaire

Ingredients

  • Frozen or Thawed Chicken Breast Tenderloins
  • Package Swiss Cheese Slices
  • Package Deli Ham Slices
  • Italian Bread Crumbs
  • Olive Oil, in sprayer
  • Mrs. Dash Original Seasoning

Instructions

  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Place the chicken breast tenderloins on the baking sheet, no need to do anything additional if you're using frozen. Feel free to run them under cold water to separate, if necessary.
  3. Place a slice of ham, folded, on each tenderloin followed by a slice of cheese.
  4. Spray to coat with olive oil.
  5. Sprinkle bread crumbs over cheese and oil, then spray with the olive oil again.
  6. Add a little Mrs. Dash and bake according to the directions on your package of frozen chicken...which usually is the following:
  7. Bake frozen tenderloins 20 to 30 minutes, or until juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced and temperature on instant read thermometer reaches 170°F. (Bake thawed tenderloins 15 to 25 minutes).
http://homeology.co/quick-cookery-barely-breaded-pork-chops/