Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blog-spiration: Pantry Meals

I just read this great post on Simple Mom about pantry meals. Thought I'd share it with you all.


Basically the gist is, pick a few meals that you will ALWAYS have the stuff for in your pantry, and then you will never have to face that, "Oh no! I have nothing planned for dinner tonight!" moment.

The post gives three delish-sounding, easy-to-make pantry meals, but I thought I'd share a few of my favorite pantry meals also.

The first is my Mom-in-Law's recipe for Cranberry Chicken. I LOOOOOVE it. It is so delicious and easy! Only 4 ingredients!

Cranberry Chicken:
  1. Take 4-6 frozen chicken breasts and defrost them. Place in a 13x9 baking dish.
  2. Mix together 1 can whole berry (or regular) cranberry sauce, 1 envelope of onion soup mix and 1/2 bottle of Catalina salad dressing. (*note: I normally do NOT like this kind of dressing, but it is delish in this recipe, so don't be scared off!)
  3. Pour mixture over chicken in pan and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes,or until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Serve over rice with lotsa sauce!
My second pantry recipe is a quick meatloaf recipe (my sis in law told me about this one). I have a great from-scratch meatloaf recipe that I love, but I don't always have all those items on hand. This one only requires a few ingredients and is super tasty! And this recipe also uses a packet of onion soup mix... aka "envelope of miraculous wonders."

Lipton Onion Soup Meatloaf:
from the back of the Onion Soup Box... only gourmet around here...
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 2 pounds ground beef (I always keep this in the freezer)
  • 1 1/2 C bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 C ketchup
  • 3/4 C water (if needed)

Combine all ingredients in large bowl.

Form into a loaf and bake 350°F for about one hour in 9x13 pan, or about 40 minutes in muffin tins for individual servings.

I hope you enjoy these simple, easy meals! Now share the love... Please comment and leave some of your favorite pantry meals.

And remember, Moms don't let Moms order take out!

Just kidding... I love take-out.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Trader Joe's Product O' the Whenever: Multi-grain Baking Mix

Okay, first off... How much am I LOVING my new TJ's cookbook, you ask.

Very, very much, I say. Very much indeed. (Thanks, Mom!)

After ferociously flipping through the pages and marking many, many new recipes to try, I picked out a few to try this week. One of them required that I buy a new product I've never tried before.

Enter our Product O' the Whenever:

Trader Joe's Multi-grain Baking and Pancake Mix

The wonders of this product are not to be believed...

...as in, I cant believe I've never used it before.

The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook uses this mix to make many delicious baked goods, like cherry-berry crisp, and the blondies I purchased it for.

Blondies are like a chocolate chip cookie bar, and they did not disappoint.

Here's the recipe:

Hairdresser Blondies (named after the author's hairdresser, naturally)

  • 2 cups Multi-grain Baking Mix
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Grease an 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine baking mix, brown sugar, melted butter, egg and vanilla. Stir to combine.
  3. Add the cherries, nuts and chocolate chips, and stir to incorporate.
  4. Spread the batter in prepared pan and bake until cooked through, about 30 minutes ***I baked it for about 20 minutes, and it was done. Know thy oven.

What I love about this baking mix is that it adds so much more texture and flavor than using flour in your baked goods. It has big pieces of oats in it, and you know how much I love oats! Or maybe you don't know, but just trust me... Oats and I got a thang going on. I love them!

Anyway, I also love how convenient this baking mix is for us hard-working Mamas. For some reason, baking cookies, muffins and coffee cakes just seems SO much easier when you don't have to measure as many items. Even it it only cuts out a step or two, that can make a difference

And finally this mix is much more healthy than just using flour or regular Bisquick. It has several different healthy grains in there. BUT it actually tastes good. Most of the time when I bake with whole wheat four, I'm not thrilled with the fla-va... but this mix tastes excellent! Nutty, grainy goodness, ya'll!

I also came up with this healthy, delish banana bread recipe using the mix AND coconut oil instead of butter.

  • 2-3 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1.5 cups)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 + 2/3 cup TJ's Multi-grain baking mix
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional... it's good either way)
  1. Mix all ingredients except the last three.
  2. Add in baking mix and stir well to combine
  3. Add in nuts and coconut (if using), and stir again.
  4. Spread batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour.*

*NOTE: Okay, so here's the problem I ALWAYS have with banana bread. It never gets done in the middle, but it gets super brown/burned on top, so that I am stuck with a charred top and soggy innards. So what I do is, after about 45 minutes, I check it... and if the top is brown enough but the inside isn't done yet, I cover it loosely with foil and keep baking. I check it every 5 minutes until just done in the center! This trick really seems to get perfect results!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April: Farm Month

After considering many a topic for this month's school time, I have decided on Farm Month.

I wanted our theme to incorporate gardening/planting somehow, since April/spring is the time when things grow. I also loved Nik's idea of incorporating healthy eating habits into this month's theme. Hence... farm month. We can talk about farms and farmers, the animals, the barn, and the fruits and veggies that grow there. And at the end of the month, we plan on taking the kids to Tanaka Farms. They have a u-pick strawberry tour which we did a few years ago (Bennett was too young to remember), and that will be the perfect experience to finish off this month o' agricultural learning.

Some of the items on this month's adgenda are:
  • A few crafts from this site. I especially like the paper bag farm animal puppets and the printable farm animal book at the bottom of the page.

  • Here's another site that has a lot of free coloring pages. It would be fun to color a page of each animal and then make them into a little book about farms.

  • Make a healthy eating chart (great idea, Nik!), where Bennett gets to put a sticker each day when he eats a fruit or veggie!

  • I was thinking we could do a "Things That Grow on the Farm" collage, where we rip pages out of old magazines and paste them all month long on the collage. I've noticed that Bennett respionds better to things that are hands-on... and of course, destructive. If it involves trashing one of Mama's magazines, he's all in.

  • Of course we will be eating a lot of fresh fruits and veggies this month. I think it would be fun to try to visit a few farmers markets/farm stands in the area. Any good suggestions?

  • Love this craft, this craft and this craft too!

  • Okay, sorry... two more crafts and I'm done, I promise. This craft and this craft are just so cute.