Recipe Review: Barbecued Pork & Apple Kebabs

Grill Basket

The perfect autumnal meal using seasonal honey crisp apples and I also served baked acorn squash.  I knew I made this recipe once before so I looked up past blog posts to see if I had already posted a review.  It turns out I made it September 18 of last year.  Almost exactly one year ago.  Very funny!

When I made it last year I noted that combining all the items on a skewer wasn’t ideal because pork, onion and apple cook at different rates.  So rather than separating each item onto different skewers I had the what turned out to be a great idea of using a grill basket rather than skewers. Brilliant! I tossed the pork and onions in the majority of the sauce leaving a small amount behind to toss with the apples later.  I grilled the pork and onions in the basket until the pork was mostly done and then added the apples for the last 5 minutes so they didn’t get all mushy.  Not only did this approach result in the three items cooking evenly, it also saved A LOT of time by removing the need to prepare the skewers.

I know it’s late in the grill season, but if you don’t have a grill basket you should definitely get one.  They are also great for grilling vegetables.

Recipe Review: Grilled Lemon Chicken & Tomato Salad

Lemon Chix

This was a great dinner for a beautiful, sunny, fall-like Sunday evening.  What made it even better was that the husband cooked it!  He often cooks when we are home on Sundays.  I love it!

You can find the full recipe here: Grilled Lemon Chicken & Tomato Salad.

Here is what we changed:

1) After marinating the chicken we grilled it outside rather than using a grill pan on the stove.

2) We doubled the dressing in step #2 and kept it separate so we could dress our own individual salads.

3) We put the tomato, feta and chicken on top of a big bowl of baby spinach salad.

We also had grilled corn.  Perfect way to end the weekend. ;)

Weekly Meal Plan: 9/12 – 18

bbq pork kbobs

No cooking happening at our house Friday or Saturday, but I am making Homemade Sorbet to bring to a party Saturday night.  In order to stick to my 30 Day Challenge, I’ll bring that along so that I can have something to enjoy while everyone else enjoys the ice cream truck that is visiting the party and all the other tasty treats.  It wouldn’t be called a “challenge” if it was easy, right?!

I’m cooking dinners 3 nights next week: 2 new recipes and one I made last fall.  Wednesday I’m meeting friends for dinner (leaving the husband and the girls to fend for themselves) and Thursday we have a really short window so I’m falling back on one of my “Go-To” dinners: eggs!  Who says you can’t have them for dinner???

Sunday: Grilled Lemon Chicken with Tomato Salad I’m planning to double the dressing and toss it with spinach to make a big spinach salad.

Monday: Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Chicken & Cashews

Tuesday: Barbecued Pork & Apple Kebabs I made this recipe once before last fall.  Here are my comments and suggested modifications if I were to make it again: This was a great autumnal meal! I would recommend putting the pork and onions on one skewer, sweet potatoes on another and the apples on a third. They all cook at different rates. The sweet potatoes take the longest.

UPDATE:
In last week’s meal plan I mentioned I was going to try “The Best Steak Marinade in Existence” according to Walden Local Meat.  It turns out the recipe originated from All Recipes.  We gave it a try and it was very easy to prepare and had a great flavor.  I omitted the dried parsley flakes (I didn’t have any) and the hot pepper sauce (I was concerned it would be too spicy for my girls).  Homemade is always better than mass produced and bottled with preservatives.  :)

SCHOOL DAY BREAKFAST & LUNCH:
*The Cashew Cookie Larabars were such a big hit last week we are making them again.  The recipe doesn’t yield a large quantity.  So, after we all tried some Sunday after I made them, we only got two lunches (one for each girl) and a couple of small snacks from it.

*I’m also making gluten free waffles using Pamela’s brand pancake mix.  My 12yo can make peanut butter sandwiches with them. :)

*I’ll also make the Apple, Banana & Oatmeal Pancakes again one morning because they were super easy and I have a little applesauce left.

Quick & Homemade School Day Breakfast

apple banana

Do you think you don’t have the time to make your children (or yourself) a homemade breakfast in the morning?  Guess again!  I made this recipe in 10-15 minutes this morning.  The recipe only yields about 6 small pancakes.  You can double the recipe if you need more than 2 servings or want to refrigerate some for breakfast another day or you can also pack some for school lunches.

Apple, Banana & Oatmeal Pancakes

Ingredients:
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 banana
1 egg
Pinch of cinnamon

Directions:
Blend all ingredients in a blender
Heat a small amount of butter in a skillet over medium heat
Pour small amounts of batter in pan to form pancakes
Cook 1-2 minutes per side until lightly browned and cooked through center

Top with maple syrup, fresh berries or nut butter.

*These can be packed for lunch too!

Weekly Meal Plan: 9/5 – 9/11

chicken-beans-tomatoe

Well, this week was a slow transition back into the school year.  Next week, however, activities resume and my schedule 2-8PM is once again ridiculously busy.  Ugh… I won’t let my busy schedule hinder me from striving to have healthy meals for my family each night though.  I’m up for the challenge!

Friday: The husband is out and the girls are having friends over for a sleepover – which means pizza night for the girls and something from Whole Foods for me.

Saturday: We have been driving by this Oktoberfest for 10 years now since moving to this area.  Last year the husband proclaimed, “We’re going next year!”  So, I guess we’re going.  :)  Should be interesting!

Sunday: On Labor Day I had planned a meal that didn’t end up happening because our plans changed.  So, I’m slotting that plan for today instead.

We have some steak from our monthly meat delivery from Walden Local Meat.  Meat from a grass-fed animal is very lean and can quickly become tough when cooked without marinade.  Walden provides some recipes each month with my delivery.  One of the recipes was for “The Best Steak Marinade in Existence”.  Hmm… I guess we’ll give it a try!  I’ll let you know if they’re right.

We will also grill sliced potatoes and corn on the cob.  Have you grilled corn before?  That’s one of this summer’s cooking highlights for me.

Instructions for grilling corn:
Pull the outer husks down the ear to the base. Strip away the silk from each ear of corn by hand. Fold husks back into place, and place the ears of corn in a large bowl of cold water for at least 10 minutes.

Remove corn from water and shake off excess. Place the corn on the grill set to medium heat, close the cover and grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, or until kernels are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Remove the husks and eat on the cob or remove the kernels.

Monday: Chicken & Basil Calzones – I made this recipe years ago and everyone really enjoyed it.  Now that we are a bit more health conscious around here, I’m going to stuff whole wheat pitas rather than using pizza dough.  I’m sure it will still be great!

Tuesday: Chicken with White Beans & Tomatoes – I tried this recipe once before in the spring and we all really enjoyed it.  Here are the adaptations and time saver tips I noted: This was surprisingly flavorful for the simplicity.  I included the 1/2 cup of dry white wine suggested in a tip at the bottom of the recipe.  I also used two pints of tomatoes rather than one and 1.5 lbs of chicken breasts rather than thighs.  As a time saver, I prepared the dish in the morning, covered and refrigerated it for the day.  At 4:30PM, I popped it in the oven, pre-set the oven to go on at 5:30PM and left to shuttle my children around to their activities.  The dish was ready to go when we got back at 6:15PM.  Nice!

Wednesday: Chorizo Meatloaf – This is a new recipe I haven’t tried.  I have some chorizo sausage in my freezer from last month’s meat delivery from Walden Local Meat that I would like to use. I found this recipe on the PaleOmg site which I enjoy and have found successful recipes from in the past.  I’m planning to modify the recipe a bit by omitting the bacon and chipotle mayo.

Thursday: On Thursdays the girls and I are on our own.  That calls for eggs, leftovers or fish from the Farmer’s Market.  We’ll leave it up in the air until Thursday.

And on the school lunch front…

This week we are trying Homemade Larabars!

Last week we enjoyed Coconut-Oat Cranberry Breakfast Cookies (GF) without the coconut flakes.  We’ve been enjoying them reheated in the toaster oven almost every morning over the last week.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Here are some things we enjoyed during the last school year: School Lunch Project Update

Do you have any recipes to share for easy, healthy dinners or school lunches?  I would love some fresh ideas!

Back in the saddle!

30 day challenge

Wow!  It feels like I was on vacation for the entire month of August!  While I feel extremely fortunate to have had so much quality time with my family, I am happy to return to the comfort of a schedule and routine.  I know some don’t care for schedule and routine, but I thrive on it!

Over the summer I’ve continued to follow my normal exercise regime, but my healthy eating habits have been a little more relaxed.  Time to pull back the reigns and get focused!  To that end, following the tip I write about in the September edition of my monthly healthletter, my family and I all embarked on a 30-day challenge yesterday.  We have each chosen to challenge ourselves in different ways to accomplish a goal that is important to each of us at this time.

Me: I have decided to eat only whole foods and give up sugar for the month of September.  By “sugar” I am referring to sweets, treats, desserts, ice cream, etc.  This is my biggest area of weakness and where I struggle the most.  Eating whole, unprocessed foods isn’t really much of a challenge or a change, but it’s more of a reminder or renewed commitment.

The Husband: My husband doesn’t run with the frequency that I do by any means.  He does play soccer multiple times per week all year long, strength training and is generally active, but he doesn’t run 4-5x a week like myself and other runner types.  However, he is one of those genetically gifted individuals that can just jump into a 5K and smoke the majority of people around him who actually trained.  If you are an avid runner, you can appreciate how frustrating it is to be around (let alone live with) these types of runners.  Arghh…  Anyway!  There is a company sponsored 5K where he works in October and he said he would like to “train” for it this year and beat his time from last year in a specific time range (I’ll let him keep the specifics to himself).  I’ve put together a little plan for him to follow over the next month to get ready.

The 12yo: Much to my dismay, apparently my eldest daughter is somewhat of a garbage disposal of sorts at school lunch.  She admitted that many of her friends toss her all their extra or unwanted sweets and snacks knowing she will gladly eat them.  NOW… before you leap to the thought of “Well, that must be because she is so deprived of those kinds of things at home”, let me assure you that is just not the case.  I could go deeper into that topic, but that is a blog post for another day! :)  For now, I will just say that she has decided to eat her own lunch and forego the offerings of others this month.

The 9yo:  She can’t bring herself to commit to the same level of sugar abstinence as I’ve committed to.  Instead she is going to only enjoy one treat per day on Friday and Saturday only over the month.  Great place to start and I appreciate her willingness at her age!

The 30-day Challenge is a great way to create a change in your life.  If the concept sounds appealing to you and you would like to learn more about it while considering if it’s right for you, I encourage you to read my monthly healthletter to learn more!

Recipe Review: Roasted Chicken w/ Balsamic, Honey & Tomatoes

cherry tomatoes

I was supposed to try this new recipe tomorrow night, but due to some scheduling conflicts I changed the weekly meal plan around.  This recipe is definitely a keeper to pull out on those upcoming busy mid-week evenings as the girls’ schedules get underway and I become a glorified chauffeur again.  I also made Lemon Caper Spinach and had my serving of chicken over the spinach which was a fab combination with the capers.  The rest of the family had some fresh wax beans from the Farmer’s Market on the side.

Definitely give this a try with the fresh tomatoes in abundance this time of year!