Go to meals

I normally spend some time over the weekend thinking about the meals for the week.  I have folders of recipes I have clipped from newspapers and magazines in addition to more than 200 cookbooks.  I look for inspiration and try to create a mix of meals (seafood, poultry, meat, etc.) and a balance of light and heavy.  My schedule is heavier on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I also plan based on evening meetings or activities.  Last weekend we were away on our ski trip so I didn’t have the luxury of my normal structure.  That is why I picked things that didn’t require a lot of thought (sorry for the lack of creativity.)

I didn’t get home from my meeting last night in time to blog the Amatriciana topping but I’ve made it before.  I made it Monday night so Keith and Samantha could assemble their pizza and eat when they were ready.  Keith heated mine up for me while I was on the way home.

Pizza Amatriciana

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic (I was out of garlic so substituted shallots) chopped
  • 3 TB red wine
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pizza crust

Cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels.  Discard bacon grease reserving about 1 TB.  Cook chopped onion (and garlic or shallot) in bacon grease until golden, about 10 minutes.  Add wine and stir in.  Add red pepper and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Cook until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Top pizza crust with topping and crumble reserved bacon on top.  Top with mozzarella cheese and bake.

Tonight is Caesar Salad with leftover flank steak.  This is a recipe I could make in my sleep.

Caesar Salad

  • Romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic pressed
  • 1 egg (I use raw egg and have never had a problem)
  • Juice of 1 lemon or about 1 TB Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • anchovies, optional
  • croutons, optional

Combine olive oil and garlic and let sit for up to 4 hours.  Strain garlic, reserving olive oil.  Wash and dry lettuce and place in a bowl.  Grind pepper over lettuce and toss with oil.  Add egg and toss well.  Add lemon juice and toss.  Add parmesan cheese and toss.  Serve with anchovies and or croutons if desired.  Top with leftover chicken or other protein of your choice.

A few others that I can turn to when I have little time and/or imagination.  (All are on the blog so search if you are interested):

  • Salmon dijon
  • Chicken with pesto and sundried tomatoes
  • Saucy sirloin
  • Tilapia with butter caper sauce
  • Tomato soup
  • Pizza with sliced sausages
  • Eastern shore grilled chicken
  • Hoisin pork
  • Shrimp and black bean quesadillas

What is your favorite go to meal when you are pressed for time?  Add a comment and share.


Grocery list week of 2/17

Here is the grocery list (excluding the lasagna)


  • salad
  • onions
  • romaine lettuce
  • lemons


  • shredded Mozzarella
  • grated Parmesan

Meat and Seafood

  • flank steak
  • bacon


  • marinade for the steak (I miss McCormick’s Meat Marinade – I tried a zesty herb and it was fine, but not the same.)
  • prepared mashed potatoes
  • 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • pizza crust
  • croutons

Check your pantry and buy if you don’t have:

  • red wine
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • egg
  • anchovies

Menu plan week of 2/17

Our weekend away was fun but everyone is tired.  I have a church meeting after work tomorrow and after cooking for a houseful over the weekend, I’m ready for a simple week (and an abbreviated one.)


Grilled flank steak with store-bought mashed potatoes and salad


Pizza Amatriciana (I’m making the topping tonight so Keith and Samantha can assemble while I’m at my meeting tomorrow and hold some back for me.)


Caesar salad with leftover flank steak


Eggplant lasagna from the freezer

Vacation cooking

We were away for the long weekend and returned today.  We rented a townhouse in Seven Springs and had 4 adults and two teenagers.  I find that when we are driving on a vacation, it helps to have the meals planned in advance and to bring as much as you can since availability of ingredients can be iffy.  (On one of our early ski trips to Snowshoe, WV, one of our party thought it would be nice to have mushrooms in our omelets.  I went to the store on the mountain and they didn’t have any.  I asked where I might go and they said it would be about a 90 minute drive.  Lesson learned!)

I knew the kids would want to ski on Friday after we arrived and wasn’t sure when everyone would be arriving.  Frozen chili served the purpose and as an added bonus, having 4 frozen containers in the cooler helped to keep everything cold.  I brought the fixings and we were all set.

I let Samantha pick the menu for Saturday and she opted for Boursin Chicken and oven baked sweet potato fries.  That meant bringing bone-in chicken breasts, Boursin cheese and olive oil and sweet potatoes, the seasoning mix and olive oil.  I also brought aluminum foil to line the sheet pans.  I had to adapt a little bit because technically the sweet potato fries should cook at a higher temperature.  I compromised on 375 degrees and cooked the fries longer than usual.  It worked out great.

Chicken Boursin

  • 1 bone-in chicken breast per person
  • 1 – 1 1/2 oz Boursin (or light Boursin) cheese per chicken breast
  • 1 tsp olive oil per chicken breast

Preheat oven to 375.  Place chicken breasts in a ceramic baking dish.  Gently loosen skin from chicken breasts.  Using your fingers, push the cheese under the chicken skin and spread evenly.  Brush chicken with olive oil and season with pepper.  Bake for 45 minutes and serve.

Oven baked sweet potato fries

  • 2 – 3 sweet potatoes cut into strips
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried chipotle pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Toss potato strips with all other ingredients and spread out on a sheet pan lined with foil.  Bake 25 – 30 minutes stirring halfway through.  Alternatively, if fixing with Boursin chicken, cook at 50 minutes at 375.  NOTE: You can tweak the seasonings to suit your tastes.  I like the chipotle pepper on the sweet potatoes.

I also brought a decent cutting board, a good knife, my apron and my small non-stick pan for cooking pancetta scrambled eggs for Saturday’s breakfast (I also brought the eggs and the pancetta) and for cooking omelets to order on Sunday (I brought tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach and two kinds of cheese and Keith fixed bacon.)  This house was surprising – it had some decent pans but absolutely nothing in the way of seasonings or condiments.  (Okay to be fair, there was a salt shaker but that was it – no pepper.)  I wish I had thrown in a pepper grinder, some chip clips and a good spatula.  Next time.

My spice girl

One of my challenges is suiting everyone in the family with regard to spice levels.  Samantha seems to have a mouth lined with asbestos while I’m admittedly, a spice wimp.  I thought this was plenty spicy but Keith added hot sauce to his and Samantha told me it wasn’t nearly hot enough.  Try as is and adjust to suit your family.

Chicken Enchiladas

  • 9 corn tortillas
  • 1 15 oz can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo (plus some sauce from the jar – I open the can and then keep the rest in a jar in the fridge)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 TB vegetable oil
  • 1 whole skin on, bone in chicken breast roasted (brush with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 375 for 45 minutes – let cool and then shred the meat.)  Alternatively, shred the meat from a rotisserie chicken
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded pepperjack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 avocado, chopped

Tear 1 tortilla in strips and put in a blender with the tomatoes, chicken stock, chipotle and cumin.  Puree until smooth.

Heat 1 TB vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sauce and simmer until slightly thickened.

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.  In a bowl, mix chicken, sour cream and half of the two cheeses.  Warm corn tortillas in microwave.  Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture and line up in baking dish.  Brush tops with remaining vegetable oil.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Then broil for 3 minutes until tops are crisp.  Add sauce and remaining cheese and broil another 1-2 minutes until bubbling.  Top with chopped avocado.

Here it is straight out of the broiler.


This would be a good dinner when family members have different schedules.  Everyone could microwave their portion when they were ready.

Birthday dinner

Today is my husband’s birthday so I asked him to select the dinner.  He opted for oyster stew.  That worked out well as I got home from work late so I made the soup last night.  (Leftovers from a previous batch proved that it might even be better the next day.)

Oyster Stew

  • 3 slices bacon, diced
  • 4 TB butter
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup celery, minced
  • 1 1/2 TB flour
  • 1 1/2 TB Old Bay
  • 1 qt half and half
  • 1 pt oysters  (with the oyster liquor) – I actually had more than a pint because of my leftovers which isn’t a bad thing
  • dash Worcestershire sauce

Cook bacon in a heavy pan (love my Le Creuset!).  Remove bacon to a paper towel when done and reserve.  Add butter to the bacon fat and melt.  Add onion and celery and sauce until soft.  Add flour and Old Bay and stir well to combine.  Cook for about 1 minute.  Add half and half and whisk until smooth.  Add oyster liquor and Worcestershire.  (We stopped at this point and let the mixture sit for about an hour until we were almost ready to serve.) Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add oysters right before you are ready to serve and heat through – 2 – 3 minutes.  Serve with reserved bacon.

oyster stew


We actually made the chili over the weekend.  It’s better if you make it ahead as it gives time for the flavors to combine.  This recipe makes about 7 quarts of chili so a great way to fill up your freezer.

Beef and Sausage Chili (courtesy of Keith – adapted from The Silver Palate)

This is the chili that converted me (I was not a fan of chili prior to tasting this one.)  It makes enough to serve 15 – 20 people so you’ll need a good sized stockpot (we use a 12 qt pot).

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 lb of chopped yellow onions
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs sirloin, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tsps fresh ground pepper
  • 1 12 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 TB minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 oz cumin
  • 2 oz chili powder
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 TB salt
  • 2 TB dried basil
  • 2 TB dried oregano
  • 3 lbs canned  plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 4 TB lemon juice
  • 1 dash Tabasco
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans (5 1/2 oz) of pitted black olives, drained

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot.  Add onions and cook over low heat, until tender (about 10 minutes).

Add sausage meat, ground beef and sirloin cubes and cook over medium high heat until meat is well browned.  Drain as much fat as possible.

Reduce heat to low and add all ingredients except olives.  Stir well and simmer for about 25 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Add olives and heat through.  Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped red onions and jalapeno peppers (for those who like it spicy) and cornbread.