Saturday, October 25, 2014

Meal Planning {Link-Up}

Mama Nell over at Whole Parenting Family has come up with a brilliant plan for all moms (and dads if you're the ones cooking) to help each other out. She's hosting a weekly link-up on Saturdays for each of us to post our meal plans for the week, complete with recipes if available. (Don't know that I'll make every week, but here's to good beginnings!)


Hopefully, this will help motivate everyone to make the effort, but it also serves as an opportunity to share recipes so that we are not all stuck in the same twenty-recipe-shuffle every week.

I love meal planning as it keeps me from overspending when I go grocery shopping (SO easy to do!) and it also appeals to my organizational heart. :)


I don't really plan breakfasts and lunches to a T like I do with dinners. We just have a few options available for each, and many lunches are simply leftovers from previous dinners. Breakfasts are usually cereal or granola with milk or yogurt. On the weekend, we typically have at least one elaborate breakfast with eggs, meat, and a baked good which I do from scratch. (Many recipes for those up here on the blog as breakfast goodies are my speciality.) If it's not leftovers, lunch will be a sandwich of some sort -- pb&j, lunch meat, or grilled cheese.

As you will see, we are currently making more of an effort to eat seasonally and incorporate more whole grains into our meals. Also, if a meal doesn't have a recipe attached, it is probably because I'm developing a recipe for it. Watch for it later on the blog!


Without further ado, here is what's up this week:

Wednesday - Pizza (with pre-made dough from Trader Joe's) with mozzarella, fresh basil, tomatoes, and chicken sausage

Thursday - Quinoa Salad with Pears, Baby Spinach, and Chick Peas in a Maple Vinaigrette served alongside grilled pork sausages

Friday - Zuppa Contadina with pork sausage and a loaf of crusty Italian bread for dipping

Saturday - bbq with friends -- pork shoulder, sides and dessert {better get on this!}

Sunday - dinner at my parents' house for my brother's birthday

Monday - tacos: typically, ground beef using this recipe for homemade taco seasoning (will never go back to the high sodium pre-packaged stuff) in hard shell corn tortillas served with refried black beans, grated cheddar cheese, guac, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, salsa and hot sauce

Tuesday - Roasted Stuffed Acorn Squash {recipe in progress...}

Wednesday - Nutty Barley Salad served with chicken apple chardonnay sausages

Monday, October 20, 2014

Crockpot Beef Stew


We finally had a day last week that didn't top 80 degrees. I marked it on the calendar when I was meal planning earlier in the week. I've been ready for cold weather food for so long, and here was our chance. 

We purchased 40 lbs of delicious, grass-fed beef through Alpine Ranch in Reno, Nevada. The freezer is chock full of a variety of cuts of beef that should last us at least through mid-November with the rate at which we consume red meat. 

I dug out the stew meat a couple days in advance of our cooler weather. When we reached it, first thing in the morning, I filled the crockpot with this hearty stew which I'm sure will have repeats throughout the winter. 



Crockpot Beef Stew

2 lbs. beef stew meat
1 large onion, diced
4-5 carrots, sliced into 1-in. pieces
2 large russet potatoes, cubed
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. fresh parsley, minced
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 c. beef broth
1 c. frozen peas
1/4 c. flour

Place meat, onion, carrots, potatoes, and garlic into your crock pot. Sprinkle with parsley, salt, pepper, oregano and top with a bay leaf. Stir Worcestershire sauce into 2 1/2 c. beef broth. Pour across the top. Cook on HIGH for 6-7 hours or LOW for 10. 

About a half hour before serving, stir in frozen peas and flour, and re-cover the pot.

Serve alongside warm, crusty bread for dipping.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Top 10 Apple Treat Recipes


We're headed to Apple Hill for a visit this Sunday. It's a little late in the game. Usually, we've visited before the end of September, but between the horrible King Fire that had Camino under a blanket of smoke for weeks and a crazy, busy schedule in the Muff household, we just haven't made it yet.

So I've got apples on the mind.

I was browsing through some old recipes on the blog and gathering some ideas for sweet treats to make with the boxes(!) of apples I'm planning on hauling back from Apple Hill. I thought I would compile a list of good ones here just in case anyone else is searching about for something to create in the kitchen with those crispy fruits.












I will probably do some canning too. Apple butter makes a wonderful Christmas gift!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Placer Grown's Crop-to-Tabletop


Every person of goodwill is called to responsible stewardship. An important part of that stewardship, we find, is supporting our local community. By keeping things close to home, we both use the resources close at hand and support those whose livelihood depends on those products being sold here.

A blurry photo of my dining companions.

Our family is striving to implement this more and more into our lifestyle. One of the ways in which we do this, is by patronizing local farmers at our weekly Farmers' Market.

Recently, the non-profit in charge of the local markets here, Foothill Farmers' Market, teamed up with Placer Grown, a non-profit that encourages the public to buy local. For the first time this year, Placer Grown hosted a Crop-to-Tabletop dinner that was held this past weekend at the Twin Peaks Orchard in Newcastle, California. Dishes were made from fresh produce and livestock brought straight from the local farms to our tables.

A local winery and brewery were also present for some delightful sipping. (Although, sadly, we didn't bring cash so were unable to partake of the drinks, but our table mates certainly attested to its great taste!)


Each place was set with a tiny mason jar filled with pistachios. An epi baguette resembling fall leaves was provided alongside a bowl of olive oil for dipping.


After taking a moment to thank the local farmers and volunteers who had made the food, we indulged in a vast array of seasonal dishes which hit the spot on that warm, autumnal evening.


The dishes included baby arugula and kale with angelino plums, mandarin mustard vinagrette and goat feta; tomato salad with red onion, jimmy nardello peppers, basil and balsamic; curry roasted winter squash with fuyu persimmons, pistachio, caper and dried fruit chutney; roasted potatoes with garlic and herbs; grilled beef tri tip shoulder clod with cow camp rub; grilled chicken with mandarin orange grill sauce; and grilled pork Italian sausage with pickled mustard seeds.


My husband and I were huge fans of the winter squash. What a unique flavor combination! The curry was a wonderful complement to the nutty flavor of the squash. The tri tip was seared to perfection. The salad, another unique flavor combo, almost made me ditch the rest of the food for another plateful. Almost.


The evening was topped off with a sour cream apple cake adorned with a dollop of creme chantilly. It was perfectly light, essential for our already-full stomachs.


It was hard to leave such a pleasant evening. Al fresco dining under candlelit tables, accompanied by the wonderful sounds of a three-piece band, our bellies filled with every good thing.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Applesauce Pork Chops


Enjoying the bounty of the season, we've begun to cook with apples here like we may never see the likes of them again. It always feels like that when something comes into season. I feel as if I must celebrate it in the kitchen in as many ways and as often as possible.

I love savory dishes using sweet additions. Apples are an especially good pairing with meat. Pork and apples certainly make a good marriage. And don't forget about chicken too.



This dish comes together in about 20 minutes.


Applesauce Pork Chops

3-4 pork chops, about 2 lbs.
salt and pepper, to season
4 apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
about 1/2 c. water or apple cider to cover bottom of pan

Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides. Cook about 6-7 minutes on one side. Flip and cover pan with a lid, cooking another 5-6 minutes. Remove pork chops and place on a plate covered with tinfoil. (Or place in a warm oven.)

After chopping apples, place them in a saucepan with enough water or cider to cover the bottom of the pan. (This prevents them from burning.) Heat on high. Cook for about 15 minutes, until apples are soft enough to smash. Remove from heat. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg on top and mash with a fork or potato masher until chunky. (Or run through a blender if you prefer smoother applesauce.) 

Plate pork chops and place applesauce on top or to the side, as preferred.


Good with a side of squash. Recipe to come....