Menu Planning Monday April 25th: Planning with leftovers, Easter edition

Everyone always seems to associate having tons of holiday leftovers with Thanksgiving but it seems that in our house almost every holiday comes with a large assortment of extra food. Of course we could just put it in the fridge and let everyone pick it over but that would be a total waste of resources in my opinion. I think the key to any menu planning that requires the use of already prepared food is to really plan on making enough for leftovers. We went to a friend’s house for the afternoon and ate a light meal there before coming home and having an actual Easter dinner. Emily was working all day so it was important to make dinner but I kept it easy by just making two of the dishes I brought to pass, heated up a ham, made some deviled eggs and homemade dinner rolls and of course some roasted asparagus. Everything was pretty much ready to go when we got back so it was a breeze to put together.

We ended up with tons of left over ham, What I do is make one breakfast for dinner meal with the large pieces, use some of the small chunks in a family favorite pasta dish and throw the rest in the freezer already diced. I put the bone and any odd ends in a gallon bag and freeze it until I am ready to make soup. I save the dinner rolls to be served with another meal, when you go to the trouble of making them from scratch it’s kind of a waste to not at least serve them with another dinner. If we had several rolls left over then I would use them as slider buns but in this case it’s only three.

The left over potatoes and Jello salad are in the fridge for people to have with lunch along with the rest of the hard boiled eggs, they can be made into egg salad or chopped up on a chef salad. I always make sure to separate the food that everyone can pick over from the food I plan to cook with, that way there is no confusion and we are not missing ingredients. Any time there is only a single serving then it goes in this pile, I guess the rule would be if there is enough to cook with then I do. How do you use up your Easter left overs?

This week we are eating ham and…

For more tips and menu plans check out organizing junkie

Much Love, Aislinn and Emily

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Moussaka Lasagna

Most of the time when I create a recipe it’s because I can’t find what I am looking for anywhere else. Sometimes the reason for this is because some random thought found its way into my thoughts and it’s not exactly a combination of ingredients that are put together. I like to think of it as a fusion between two flavors or a flavor profile and another dish all together. This is one of those recipes, I found myself not wanting to make your typical Italian lasagna but having the noodles and large cans of crushed tomatoes in my pantry. There is nothing wrong with the traditional lasagna, I mean I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like at least some version of it, but it just seems like we eat so many Italian flavored pasta dishes every month that I wanted to try something new.

I planned to make this creation well over a month ago but for the life of me I could not find any eggplant in any of the stores I frequent. After a couple weeks of not finding any I asked one of the produce guys and they informed me that it would be at least another month. I finally broke down and bought one for just under $3 because I wanted to make this recipe that badly. If you knew me then you would know that it must have been a desperate situation because I am normally way to cheap to spend that kind of money on a single ingredient. Hopefully you will be able to find more affordable eggplant in your area because this recipe was very flavorful and unique, I plan to make it again soon… or whenever eggplant season begins.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice your eggplant into thin rounds and place on prepared baking sheets; we used two trays to fit them all. Generously salt your eggplant to help remove some of the moisture during the baking process. If you have different methods of salting your eggplant that you prefer then go ahead and do it that way. Bake for 10 – 20 minutes depending on the thickness until your eggplant is just roasted.

Meanwhile prepare your lasagna noodles as directed on the package.

While your noodles are cooking and your eggplant is roasting go ahead and make the meat sauce. Start by browning the lamb in a large skillet. When the meat is almost cooked through add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and other seasonings, stir to incorporate and let the spices cook until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and allow everything to cook together and the flavors to meld, then add the remaining canned tomatoes. Allow the sauce to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

While the meat sauce is simmering it’s time to make the béchamel sauce. In a medium skillet melt the butter, then whisk in the flour and allow to cook until the raw flavor is gone, or about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk, 1 cup at a time while whisking to make sure there are no lumps. Once all the milk is added and blended allow the sauce to thicken over medium heat. Take off the heat and let cool slightly before adding the egg yolk and the nutmeg making sure to add slowly and stir constantly so that you are not left with scrambled eggs.

Gather the remaining ingredients, thinly slice your zucchini and set everything out in an assembly line starting with your prepared baking dish.

Add 1 cup of meat sauce to the bottom of the dish followed by 3 noodles.

Sprinkle half of the sliced zucchini over the top of the noodles.

Add half of the eggplant.

Cover with 1/3 of the remaining meat sauce and top with a parmesan cheese.

Spoon 1/3 of the béchamel sauce over the top.

Repeat the above layers. Followed by the last 3 noodles, the last of the meat sauce, the last of parmesan cheese and the last of the béchamel sauce. Garnish with parsley or a light dusting of nutmeg.

If you want to place in the fridge or freezer to be baked at a later time then do so now. Otherwise cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour then remove the foil and allow the top to brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Much Love, Aislinn and Emily

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Menu Planning Monday April 18th: What to serve with Greek food

I thought it might be an interesting topic to talk about different options to serve along with some of our favorite dinners. If I’m not thoughtful when planning I find myself putting potato wedges or green beans down next to every meal. Sure its nice to serve something that you know everyone will like but it doesn’t matter how interesting or new the main dish is if you serve it along side your old stand bys. Some side dishes go better with different types of meals so to make things easier I am only going to provide suggestions for one type of meal at a time. This week I am focusing on Greek meals because some of these dishes are our all time favorites.

  • Pita chips with hummus
  • Classic potato wedges
  • Spicy sweet potato fries
  • Greek salad
  • Sauteed spinach with roasted red peppers and feta
  • Couscous with dried fruit
  • Sliced tomatoes with oregano and feta
  • Roasted zucchini spears
  • Grilled vegetable skewers
  • Greek pasta salad

Obviously some of these go better with one main dish over another but in general they are all tasty options. What sides do you like to serve with your Greek food?

This week we are having Greek food and…

For more menu planning ideas check out organizing junkie

Much love, Aislinn and Emily

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Menu Planning Monday April 11: Grilling Friday’s

Now that it is April it is officially grilling season, it’s been spring like here for over 6 weeks already but for some reason outdoor cooking just doesn’t speak to me until April. As mentioned in a past post during the winter months we make soups on Mondays so now that spring is here we grill out once a week instead, however rather than replacing the Monday tradition we move it to Friday. I put thought into this of course and decided that doing so on Friday would be a great way to start the weekend. Also, we tend to spend time with friends and entertain on Fridays and it seems that when weather permits everyone likes to BBQ.  Another reason I choose Friday is because I don’t personally do the grilling and I find Paul is more likely to help out if he is in his weekend relaxation mode rather than busy week day stress. It is easier than it might seem to make interesting food on the grill and keep the side dishes healthy and exciting.  I will do my best to post more recipes than I have been and share with you some of our favorite summer foods and hopefully inspire you to make something besides hotdogs!

 

This week are grilling and having…

Check out organizing junkie for more menu planning ideas

 

Much love, Aislinn and Emily

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Menu Planning Monday April 4th: 10 things to make with pita bread

So I was digging through my bread freezer… yes, the freezer above my second refrigerator is dedicated to bread, and found a bag of pita bread. I remember putting them in there but I guess I forgot because when I saw them I was very excited and starting of all the possible meals we could make with them. I always make extra when I make pita bread because it is somewhat time consuming. Sometimes I make a triple batch but most of the time I just double it so that we can get a second meal from one effort. When it comes to bread or dough it rarely takes more time or effort to make multiples. I thought it might be fun to share some of the meals we make with pita bread to perhaps give inspiration to those who are looking for a reason to make them.

1.      Pizza: and obvious suggestion but a great choice as a base for a quick dinner or when everyone wants different toppings

2.      Crockpot gyros: It is very difficult to simulate a traditional shaved meat gyro at home but I like ground lamb and turkey combined with spices and slow cooked.  Topped with traditional yogurt based condiments, red onion and cucumber this meal is both easy and delicious

3.      Pita chips with hummus: If you have extra pita bread this is a great use for it. Just cut into wedges, dust with seasoning of choice and bake until crisp.

4.      Cinnamon and sugar pitas: One of our favorite desserts when we were teenagers was to microwave a pita bread topped with spray butter and cinnamon sugar… it may not sound like much but I promise you it tastes great.

5.      Falafel wraps: This is one of our families favorite vegetarian meals, we bake the patties to keep it healthier but it’s still a very satisfying sandwich

6.      Spinach, tomato and feta egg scramble in a pita: This happens to be one of the best ways to eat eggs in my opinion. I like the mix of flavors and of course putting all of it inside a pita makes it both portable and easier to eat.

7.      Chicken gyros: There are so many great recipes out there for chicken gyros and all of the ones we have tried have been good. I like to make this when I am trying to decide what to do with chicken because it is an obviously better choice than the boring stand by’s.

8.      Grilled pita wedges: This may seem like the same thing as pita chips but grilling changes the flavor and texture of most foods, most of the time for the better!

9.      Greek nachos: If you happen to have left overs of any of the above meals or just so many pitas that you could have trays of pita chips then perhaps making them into nachos is the way to go. Pile all your Greek flavored favorites onto toasted pita chips, top with feta cheese and bake until warmed through.

10.   Pita croutons: I like to add little chunks of toasted pita to Greek salads; I think it’s a nice touch and a great use for all of the broken pieces.

This week we are having pita bread and…

For more menu planning ideas head over to organizing junkie

Much Love, Aislinn and Emily

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Tomato and Eggplant Bisque

We thought it would be fun to post a winter soup recipe rather than something for spring even though its April in honor of all those who are still experiencing winter temperatures. Here in Texas it is already consistently too warm to make soup but for many of our readers it is plenty cold and possibly even snowing so soup might be just what you are looking for. Also, this is the last week of soup season so I wanted to honor out tradition by posting a wonderful soup recipe.

One of the great things about this soup is the combination of all these vegetables. If you wanted to reduce the calories even further you could choose not to add any milk but it would make the soup less rich. We had this soup for Valentine’s Day with heat shaped croutons and so you might be asking yourself why has it taken a month and a half to post the recipe, well we here at Grandma’s Canning Jars are a little behind on the recipe posts!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, cut eggplant in half and roast until softened. In a large Dutch oven or stock pot add the olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the onion, cooking until translucent then add the garlic stirring to prevent burning. Add the carrots and celery, stir to combine and cook until softened. Add the herbs, chopped eggplant, the crushed tomatoes and the tomato juice. Simmer the mixture for 20-30 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend the vegetables until desired texture, if you have picky eaters then you will want it to be very smooth but even if you like the chunks its important to blend it some in order to make the soup creamy. Cook gently another 15 minutes. Reduce the heat then add the baking soda, stir into soup and then add the milk or half and half. The baking soda prevents the soup from curdling so make sure to add it or the soup will be ruined! Place soup in bowls and add desired toppings such as cheese, sour cream, fresh herbs or croutons…. Enjoy!

Much Love, Aislinn and Emily

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Menu Planning Monday March 28: Grocery shopping two weeks at a time


 

A few months ago I shared with you my tips for menu planning a month at a time, one of the greatest pay offs to planning that way is that I am able to make the most of my grocery shopping excursions. I once read an article about grocery shopping and it said that the more times we set foot in the store the more we spend over all. I suppose that is rather obvious but it did help me to decide that going on my actual grocery shopping trips twice a month was plenty. The goal is to spend $100 on each of my two trips and then to use the remaining $100 at the specialty stores we frequent such as the bread outlet or the Asian market.

Since I do not purchase fresh produce each week I have to take into consideration how long ingredients will last in the refrigerator. Many vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, zucchini, eggplant and cabbage tend to last the entire two weeks, sometimes even longer. Other vegetables such as green beans, pea pods, sprouts and mushrooms need to be used within the first 5 days or they will go bad. On my menu plan I put an * in front of the days that I will grocery shop, for me this is every other Wednesday because that correlates the best with my ad fliers. The * helps me to visually see how close any meal that is planned is to the grocery trip so that I can make sure that our food is not wasted.  I will be going to the store this coming Wednesday, so that means the food we have at the beginning of the week are all ingredients that were purchased on the 16th and the meals planned on Wednesday or after are all with fresh ingredients.

I know some of you might be thinking that if I am careful with the budget then why not shop every week and have the freshest ingredients as often as possible. I find grocery shopping to be time consuming for one thing but more importantly when I used to shop every week I would over buy and food would get wasted. I encourage everyone to really consider shopping less often; I find it makes the entire menu planning, shopping and cooking aspect of life much less of a burden. How often do you grocery shop?

 

This week we will be having…

 

 

For more tips and ideas check out organizing junkie

 

Much love, Aislinn and Emily

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