Thursday, March 31, 2011

Week 4 and 5 Lenten Menus

So here is the rest of our Lenten soup plan up to Holy Week.

Chicken Corn Chowder
Thanks again to Kimberly from Catholic Family Vignetttes for the recipe.

Friday - FISH DAY
Some kind of salmon baked

Great Northern Ham and Bean Soup

1 pound new potatoes, quartered
4 carrots , peeled and sliced
1 white onion , chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
3 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked ham, diced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil

[1] In a slow cooker, mix together the potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, beans, broth, ham, seasoning and salt. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
[2] Just before serving, mix in the parsley and olive oil.

Sunday - FEAST DAY
Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Cheesy Vegetable Chili
(one of our absolute favorites)

olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 t garlic, minced
1 zucchini, chopped
2 cans of diced tomatoes with juice
2 cans of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 qt of sliced mushrooms
1 bag of frozen corn
1 T of chili powder, to taste
shredded cheddar cheese for garnish

Saute onion, pepper and garlic in olive oil til onion is translucent.  Add chopped zucchini, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms, corn, and chili powder.  Simmer til all is hot.  (about 20 minutes or so).  Serve with shredded cheddar as a garnish. :)


Gourmet Chicken Chili

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 white onion , chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 dash hot sauce
2 15-ounce cans great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 bag of frozen shoepeg corn
3 tablespoons lime juice

[1] In a slow cooker, mix together the onion, garlic, broth, cumin, oregano, chili powder, salt and hot sauce. Add the chicken.
[2] Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
[3] Remove the chicken from the slow cooker and, using two forks, shred into pieces. Return the chicken to the slow cooker and stir in beans, corn and lime juice. Cover and cook on high for 15-20 minutes or until the beans and corn are hot. Serve immediately.




Robust Vegetable Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
1 white onion , chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 15.5-ounce can cannellini beans, UNDRAINED
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
1 bunch Swiss chard, cleaned and torn
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

[1] In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, onion, garlic and celery and sauté until limp, about 5 minutes.
[2] Place ½ cup of the beans in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add the bean mixture to a large soup pot.  Add the vegetable broth, the rest of the beans, tomatoes, chiles and the mushroom mixture from the skillet.
[3] Add the chard and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the chard is tender. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with fresh Parmesan.

Lemon Roasted Chicken


2 Bean Butternut Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 white onion , coarsley chopped
3 garlic clove(s), minced
1 butternut squash , peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch
1 red bell pepper , ribs and seeds removed, cut into 1-inch
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup water
1 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

[1] In a Dutch oven or large saucepan with a lid, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add squash, bell pepper, and chile powder; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring 1 minute. Add water. Cover and simmer until vegetables are crisp-tender,
about 7 minutes.
[2] Stir in tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon; add pinto beans, black beans, cilantro, and 1/2 cup water, adding more water if needed. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, partially cover, and cook until lightly thickened, about 20 minutes.
[3] Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into serving bowls and sprinkle with more cilantro.
Note: add more chipotle chile powder, to taste.

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 red onion , chopped
1 packet taco seasoning
1 1-ounce envelope ranch dressing mix
2 11-ounce cans corn, undrained
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, undrained
1 15-ounce can black beans, undrained
2 10-ounce cans Rotel tomatoes with chilies, undrained
1 12-ounce can light beer
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1 2.25-ounce can sliced black olives
4 green onions , chopped

[1] Cook the beef and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain.
[2] Combine the meat mixture and taco seasoning with the ranch dressing mix, corn, pinto beans, black beans, tomatoes, beer and water in a slow cooker.
[3] Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Serve warm with the toppings.

Hearty Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion , chopped
2 carrots , peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 cups dried lentils
4 cups water
4 cups vegetable broth
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes, undrained
2 cups fresh spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

[1] In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in garlic, bay leaf, oregano, cumin and basil; cook for 2 minutes.
[2] Stir in lentils, and add water, broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, stir in spinach, and cook until it wilts.
[3] Stir in vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper, and more vinegar if desired.



WHEW!  Holy Week, here we come!

Week 3: Lenten Menus

So week 3 is already over.  I can't believe we are this far in.  So far, pretty good.  We do not eat as much as I originally thought, so we have had quite a few leftover nights.  But that's ok because we are using up our food, throwing less away, eating healthier and NOT EATING OUT!

Last week, our menu consisted of the following:

Black Bean Soup with Avocado (pretty yummy)
Curried Pumpkin Soup (also quite good)

(Recipes here.)

Then the week consisted of the following:

Sirloin Chili  
(delicious!, but too spicy for picky littles)

2 pounds sirloin, cut into ½-inch strips
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 cups beef broth
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 15 ounce cans of Ranch beans
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Flour tortillas
1 red onion, chopped
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup cilantro, chopped

[1] Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add sirloin strips and season with salt and pepper. Brown the meat on all sides, remove the meat from the pan, and drain any accumulated fat.
[2] Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the pot and add the onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne, paprika, and brown sugar, stirring until the onions begin to soften and the spices become aromatic, about 7 minutes.
[3] Stir in the beef broth, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Stir in the meat
and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for at least 1⁄2 hour, longer if you have time. Fold in the beans and add salt and pepper to taste.
[4] Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm in the oven or wrap in a damp paper towel in the microwave to heat.
[5] To serve, top chili with red onion, cheese, and cilantro.
If your kids won’t eat chili, make them cheese quesadillas.
For extra protein, add a little sirloin from the chili.

Rotisserie Barbecue Ribs from Costco
Fridays are always a busy night. :)

Father Daughter Cherry Blossom Ball
so the big girls had dinner out with Daddy

Sunday - FEAST DAY
Birthday Celebration for Jack with the Blue Oven Bakery Crew.

Southwestern Chicken Soup 
(also very yummy, but not spicy enough AND we REALLY like avocado!)

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
⅔ cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 jalapeño, seed and minced
1 15-ounce can chicken broth
1 15-ounce can hominy, drained
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons chili powder (SURPRISE I was out of chili powder, so I tried to improvise)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 avocado, diced
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
cooking spray

[1] Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper garlic and jalapeño, cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add chicken and cook, stirring for about 3 minutes.
[2] Add broth, hominy, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
[3] Serve in warm bowls garnished with avocado and cilantro.


MORE Leftovers (we really needed to eat up) :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Menu Planning Week 2

Since this week it is warm and sunny, we will be adding salad to our soups instead of sandwhiches and trying to lighten up a little!

Last week went GREAT!  Having the soup plan made life so much easier!  Winners: The Tomato Tortellini was a big hit.  The Pork Tenderloin with Blackberries was so tender and juicy.  The Beef Stew was yummy and will be seen again as our St. Patricks' Day soup tonight :),  but the biggest winner was the Mexican Pork with Sweet Potato Stew.  YUMMY..Everyone enjoyed and it only took about 45 minutes to make!  We skipped the Tortilla Soup on Saturday due to youth group and a time crunch, but one week down and NO RESTAURANT MEALS sounds like success to me!

For this week, we initally planned on Winter Vegetable Soup, but the 70 degree temps outside have not enticed me to make it, so Beef Stew Leftovers with Guinness tonight!

Friday - FISH DAY
Broiled Tilapia with Avocado Salsa
Steamed Broccoli

  • 1 1/4 lbs of tilapia
  • 1 yellow bell pepper diced
  • 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T ground coriander
  • 1 whole lemon, wedged for garnish

1] In a medium bowl, stir together the bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lemon juice (save the rest of the lemon for the garnish), jalapeño and a little salt. Add the avocados and toss gently to combine, refrigerate until ready to use.

[2] Preheat the broiler. Rub the fish with olive oil, sprinkle with coriander and salt and pepper. Broil for 5-6 minutes until just flakes when tested with a fork. Serve fish topped with salsa and garnished with lemon wedges.


Waiting to see what is on sale.

Black Bean Soup with Avocado

  • 3 15 ounce cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 ups canned low-sodium vegetable (or chicken) broth
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • ½ cup dry sherry
  • 2 ripe avocados, cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
[1] Combine 3 cups of the beans and 1 cup of the broth in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

[2] In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a dash of salt and pepper, stirring frequently until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sherry and boil until reduced, about 3 minutes.

[3] Add the bean puree and the remaining broth and the rest of the beans. Simmer until hot, about 5 minutes.

[4] Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the avocados, cilantro, lime juice and another dash of salt and pepper. Mix gently and set aside.

[5] Spoon the soup into bowls and top with the avocado salsa. Place a dollop of sour cream next to the avocado.

Curried Pumpkin Soup
  • 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup very white onion, minced
  • ½ teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 15-ounce can vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup toasted coconut
[1] Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cover and cook until softened but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add pumpkin, broth, 2 CUPS WATER, bay leaf, curry powder, sugar, nutmeg and salt. Stir until well combined.

[2] Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cream and heat gently.

[3] Serve garnished with toasted coconut.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lenten Traditions Week 1

Daisy and Magnolia adding the final thorns before cooking the crown.
As we began Lent this week on Ash Wednesday, we are trying to truly think about living simply.  One of the most beautiful traditions we will use this year is the Family Crown of Thorns.  We created our own Crown of Thorns using a braided salt dough ring.  Each toothpick represents the sins and failings of our life that Jesus suffered and died for.  As we move through the Lenten season, we will try to remove the toothpicks by sacrificing and doing good deeds.  The children need to ask to remove a thorn, but hopefully they will all be gone by Good Friday when we will prepare to decorate it for Easter with jewels and flowers to make a real crown for the King of Kings.
Here is our finished product!

Last night in our youth group meeting at church, we made a modified version of the Crown of Thorns out of play dough and toothpicks.  Hopefully the playdough dries quickly and the children can have their own Lenten projects.  Some of the kids were really excited and added so many thorns. I hope they all made it home safely ;) and their parents enjoy the fruits of their works during the season.  Here are some examples of their colorful creations.

For more specific directions visit Catholic Moms Helper for step by step instructions.

Mardi Gras!

For our first not quite whole week of Lent, we started out on some great Lenten traditions.  For Mardi Gras, I did not get my traditional beignets made this year, :( but we did have a King Cake of sorts :).  We had a store bought version earlier in February that I found way too sweet, so I made cinnamon rolls sprinkled with green, yellow and purple sugars.  Since they did not have purple sugar at the store, I made my own, which was much easier than I thought it would be.

I had an old sprinkle container, filled it with sugar and a couple drops of food coloring, put the lid on and shook it up.  Voila!  Purple sugar!

King Cake completed, we packed up and visited a shrine to Mary for the 8th of the month and celebrated with rosary, mass and some time with Our Lady of Grace.  Rose loved the image of the jeweled monstrance on the altar, so we took a picture. 

Daisy enjoyed her time with Our Lady.  Isn't she lovely?

And Rose and Magnolia also visited with Jesus and His Sacred Heart.

For dinner, we had jambalaya with chicken, smoked sausage and shrimp.  (Next time I will skip the shrimp).  And we all ate ice cream in various forms for a special dessert.  Some of our favorite Mardi Gras music comes from Mardi Gras In New Orleans Mardi Gras In New Orleansand Le Hoogie Boogie: Louisiana French Music For Children Le Hoogie Boogie: Louisiana French Music For Children 
Mmmm, mmm, the next day we fast!

1st Week of Lenten Recipes

Our soup adventure has begun. Here are the recipes for our first week of Lent.

Peruvian Quinoa Stew serves 6

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T olive oil
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4 carrots, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, cubed
1 cup vegetable broth
2 t ground cumin
2 t chili powder, or to taste
1 t ground coriander
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 t dried oregano
1 t coarse salt, to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, fresh, chopped

[1] Rinse quinoa.

[2] Place quinoa in pot with the water, and cook on medium low heat about 15 minutes until soft, and water is absorbed.

[3] While quinoa cooks, in a covered pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

[4] Add the celery and carrots and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

[5] Add the bell pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, and broth.

[6] Stir in the cumin, chili powder, coriander, cayenne, and oregano and simmer, covered for 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

[7] Stir the cooked quinoa into the stew and add salt to taste. Top with cilantro and serve immediately.

Tomato Tortellini Soup serves 4+

4 cups of vegetable broth
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 cup marinara sauce or any jarred pasta sauce
1 yellow onion , chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 T Italian seasonings
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 9-ounce package fresh, cheese-filled tortellini
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

[1] In a slow cooker, combine broth, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, onion, garlic and salt and pepper.

[2] Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours. 20 minutes before serving, add tortellini and cook on low. If soup seems too thick, add water to thin. Garnish with cheese.

Do not leave tortellini too long or it will fall apart. :)

Chicken Tortilla Soup, serves 4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 white onion , chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic clove(s), chopped
1 3/4 cups beef broth
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 jalapeño pepper , chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 10-ounce can Rotel tomatoes with chilies, undrained
2 firm avocadoes , cored and chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, shredded

[1] Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Drop in the chicken breasts and boil for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Drain chicken in colander and let cool. Remove skin and shred or cube the meat.
[2] Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and sauté onion and garlic in oil. Pour into the medium pot you used for chicken. Add beef and chicken broth, tomato sauce, cumin, chili
powder, jalapeno(to taste), salt, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes and chicken. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
[3]  Garnish with more tortilla strips, avocado slices
and cheese.
NOTE: garnish with green onion and sour cream if you have it on

Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry Sauce serves 4

1-2 lbs pork tenderloin
2 Tablespoons olive oil
cooking spray
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup seedless blackberry jam
1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 orange
1 Tablespoon of flour
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

[1] Rinse pork and pat dry. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spray large OVEN PROOF skillet with cooking spray and place on the burner over medium high heat. When pan is hot, add pork and brown well on all sides, approximately 5 minutes.

[2] Set pan in the oven and bake until meat is no longer pink in center, about 15-20 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 145 degrees. Using an oven mitt, remove from the oven. Transfer meat to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm.

[3] Place skillet with drippings over medium high heat. Add beef broth, blackberry jam, vinegar, and 1 teaspoon zest from the orange and simmer for a few minutes. If sauce is too thin, add a littleflour to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

[4] Slice tenderloin into medallions and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with orange slices.

Beef Stew
, serves 4+

1½ pounds sirloin, cut into 2 inch cubes
½ pound new potatoes
12 pearl onions, peeled
½ pounds baby carrots
1 15 ounce can beef broth
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
½ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped

[1] Place potatoes, onions and carrots in the bottom of the slow cooker and place the beef on top of vegetables. In a medium bowl, combine beef broth, oregano, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Pour over beef and vegetables. Cover and cook on low for 6-9 hours.

[2] 15 minutes before serving, combine cornstarch and cold water. Gently stir cornstarch mixture into stew. Add parsley just before serving.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lenten Menu 2011

After reading Kimberly's post over at Catholic Family Vignettes, I am totally inspired to revamp our eating habits this Lenten season.  Kimberly has lots of great recipes and ideas posted, so be sure to check out her blog including her fasting bread which sounds delicious and I plan to make as soon as we finish up this banana bread made yesterday.

We seem to be running a lot around dinner time and despite efforts to plan, I either can't get dinner made or get the food bought to make the dinner, so by 6 o'clock we are discussing where we are going to eat way too often.  This is not only costly, but also unhealthy to our bodies and our spirits!  Therefore the idea of soup for supper during Lent inspired me as a way I can manage dinner, we can eat whenever we need to, and it should be a simpler, more cost effective way to meal plan!

So the plan goes like this:  soup for supper Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  Since my Sweetheart likes a hearty meal, we will alternate meat based soups and vegetable/bean based soups.  Also since he and my girls are big fish fans, we will still do fish on Fridays, maybe visiting the parish Fish Fry a couple times, but this too gets very pricey.  Since my family is not too large and my girls are still small, we will plan a leftover night every 5 nights or so in order to use up the inevitable leftover food from the previous nights before spoiling.  And finally Sundays will be our family FEAST night to celebrate as a family with a hearty meat meal.  As soon as I figure out how, I will post our Lenten meal calendar but here is the first week's plan for now:  (Recipes to follow this afternoon).

Ash Wednesday
Toasted Herb Bread
Herbed Pita Chips
Sliced Pears
Green Salad with Mexican Dressing
Sunday:  FEAST!!!
Glazed Carrots
Homemade Applesauce
Fresh Whole Wheat Rolls and Green Salad
(thanks to Kimberly at Catholic Family Vignettes for the recipe)
Tortilla strips and salsa

The Recipes:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Meet Season Ends!

For physical fitness, our girls all participate in gymnastics at the local kids gym.  Rose does a recreational program for girls who love tumbling, Daisy is in a competitive USGA gymnastics club level 3 developmental team program and Magnolia is busy as a little bee in her preschool programs for tumbling and dance (at least until she turns 4 and then who knows?)

So this was our first year competing and we participated in gymnastic meets in Wilmington, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville.  It was a growth and learning experience for all of us (mom and dad included :).    She may not have won a place in every meet, but she learned many new skills, a confidence to stand and perform in front of a crowd on her own and a perserverence to keep working even after experiencing disappointment.  She also was fortunate to have coaches who support these little gymnasts as whole persons and growing girls, teaching them with love, respect, compassion, empathy and dare I say genuine enthusiasm.  So cheers to Daisy for completing her first competitive season and many more happy returns!

Here are some of our favorite photos from the season!

3rd Place in Beam!
Think Pink Team

end of a great performance with a hug from Coach Jess
Daisy's top scores of the season:  Vault: 8.900, Bars: 8.775, Beam: 9.100, Floor: 8.875!