As you might imagine, we have a very busy life, and we are constantly on the go.  One of the challenges of modern life is making sure you provide a healthy, wholesome, and filling meal for your family regardless of schedules.  I prefer that our meals are homemade as much as possible, especially since we have two children with food issues.  Thankfully, I am a planner.  I know our schedule inside and out, and when I plan our weekly menu, I am sure to take our schedule into consideration.  On our busiest nights I rotate utilizing the crockpot, making a main dish salad, or making sandwiches for our main meal.  On this page I will post some of our simplest and favorite meals that can be made within 30 minutes and can handle being eaten shifts very well (there are several nights a week when we are missing one or more faces at the dinner table so dinner is served in shifts as needed).

Beef Carbonnade Over Noodles

2 lbs lean beef stew meat cut into bite sized pieces (I did not use lean stew meat, but some nicely marbled chuck)
2 T flour 
¼ t salt
1/8 t pepper
2 T olive oil
14 oz. can beef broth
2 large onions, halved and sliced thins (I used only one red onion and that was plenty for my family)
1 clove garlic, crushed
12 oz dark beer
12 oz. egg noodles, cook and drain
Fresh parsley leaves, chopped (I forgot the parsley)

Toss well in bowl: beef, flour, salt/pepper.   Heat 1 T oil in  skillet on medium high.  Brown ½ beef  on medium high ½.  Remove and repeat with other ½ beef.  Remove beef and add 1 can broth to skillet.  Boil 1 minute.   In crockpot, stir sliced onions, garlic, and beer.  Top with beef and broth.  Cover and cook on low 8 hours.  Serve over noodles and top with parlsey.  

I love mushrooms but some of the kids don't, so I sautéed 16 oz of fresh sliced mushrooms in butter and some of the cooking liquid from the beef, and added those to individual plates.

Chicken and Bok Choy Stir Fry

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite sized pi

1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper

6 cloves garlic; minced
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger; grated
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tbsp cornstarch

1 full head of Bok Choy, leaves separated from stems and rinsed
vegetable oil for sautéing

In a large bowl stir together cornstarch, flour, oil, and salt and pepper.  Toss chicken pieces in mixture to coat.  This step is called velveting and will yield moist bites of chicken breast that is also nicely carmelized on the outside.

Mediterranean Hummus Dip

Two 14 oz cans chickpeas; drained and rinsed
1 small jar sundried tomatoes
2 TBSP Tahini (you can sub 2 tsp sesame oil)
1/2 cup olive oil
juice from one lemon
2 tsp garlic; minced
1small cucumber; peeled and diced
15 Kalmatta olives; chopped
1/2 small red pepper; diced
4 TBSP goat cheese crumbles
20 mint leaves; minced

In a blender or food processor blend together the first six ingredients until completely smooth to make the hummus.  Spread 1 cup of the hummus in the bottom of a shallow serving dish or bowl.  Top hummus with remaining ingredients in layers.  Serve with pita wedges, pita crisps, multigrain crackers, multigrain tortilla chips, or sliced zucchini.

Greek Roasted Chicken Pitas
(Makes 8)

For the chicken:

4 bone in, skin on, split chicken breasts (you could use boneless, skinless breasts but would need to adjust cooking temp and time and the chicken would not be nearly as juicy or flavorful)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic powder
grated zest of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place breasts skin side up on a broiler pan.  In a bowl stir together remaining ingredients and then rub each chicken breast evenly with the oil mixture.  Roast in the oven for one hour.  Allow to cool enough to handle.  Remove meat from the bones and slice or shred.

For the sandwiches:
Serve in homemade or store bought pocketless pita.  We make our own using this recipe.  It is worth the little extra effort to have fresh made pita.  Top with sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, sliced red onion, Tzatziki sauce (I have tons of fresh mint growing in my herb garden and so I use it instead of dill for my Tzatziki) and crumbled feta or goat cheese
 .  For my little guys and big guy with milk allergies, instead of the Tzatziki sauce I made a second recipe of the oil mixture I rubbed on the chicken before it was baked and drizzled it over their finished pita sandwiches. 

Baked Gnocchi
serves 6-8

24 ounces packaged gnocchi (I used whole wheat gnocchi)
1 pound bacon, chopped 
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tsp paprika
28 ounce can plum tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
2 ounces semi-soft goat cheese
2 cups shredded cheese (I use peccorino toscano, but mozzarella or another soft melting cheese will work)

Preheat oven to 425.

In a large sauce pan or sauté pan with high sides, sauté bacon until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp.  Spoon bacon on to a layer of paper towels with a slotted spoon and pour off bacon fat leaving just enough in the pan to coat it.  Over low heat add garlic, paprika, and tomato paste and sauté until tomato paste begins to caramelize.  In a bowl, crush tomatoes with your hands until fairly uniform, but still a bit chunky. Add to garlic, paprika, tomato paste in pan along with sugar and bring to a simmer.  Stir in goat cheese until fully melted and the sauce is creamy, set aside.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions.  When done, use a slotted spoon to move gnocchi to sauce.  Stir to combine.  Pour into a large casserole dish and add all but 1/2 cup of reserved bacon.  Stir to combine.  Top with shredded cheese and last 1/2 cup of bacon.  Put into oven and bake until cheese is melted and beginning to brown--about 10 minutes.  Allow to rest for several minutes before serving.  Garnish with basil chiffonade.  If you can get pancetta, sub for the bacon.  It raises this dish just a touch more :)

Chicken Caesar Salad for a crowd (family of 8)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced into thin strips along the bias
Salt and pepper to taste
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP flour
1 TBSP cornstarch
6 tsp vegetable oil
1 head of romaine lettuce torn or chopped into bite size pieces
1 cup freshly shredded parmesan (we actually use Romano, as it is made from sheep's milk)
2 cups croutons ( you can buy these or make your own)
Caesar dressing or you can use this creamy parmesan dressing from a previous post

After slicing chicken salt and pepper to taste and toss to distribute evenly. In large bowl stir together oil, flour, and cornstarch. Add sliced chicken and toss to coat. This is a technique for keeping chicken breast moist and tender called "velveting". I've found velveting the chicken is absolutely crucial to the flavor of this salad. In a large non-stick skillet heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add 1/3 of the chicken and spread out in pan so that one side is in complete contact with the pan and the pieces of chicken are not touching each other (this ensures a good sear and crust on the chicken and keeps the chicken from just steaming in the pan). Cook without stirring for one and a half to two minutes. Check one piece of chicken for a golden brown crust on cooked side. If this is accomplished, flip all the chicken pieces to the other side and cook on second side for another one and a half to two minutes, checking this side for doneness before transferring to a clean large bowl. Repeat process with a second third of the chicken and again with the remaining chicken adding more oil to the pan as needed between batches.

Layer lettuce, chicken, croutons, parmesan and dressing on each plate to serve.

Roast Turkey Breast Sandwiches

One of my absolute favorite things about Thanksgiving turkey are the sandwiches I make from the left-overs. Sadly, the only time I ever get those sandwiches are right after Thanksgiving. Recently I was watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and I was thrilled to see a piece on a little deli that served Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches year round. It was one of those, "I could have had a V8!" moments. Why not have fresh roasted turkey sandwiches whenever I want? You can do this without roasting a whole turkey! This simple idea has become a family favorite and it is the perfect summertime-on-the-go supper, and it is so incredibly simple! During the summer I roast the turkey in the morning before it gets too hot. Once roasted cool for about 1/2 an hour before refrigerating.

1 whole turkey breast (yes, they have them year round!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Good sandwich bread
Mayo, mustard, whatever condiment you love
Pea sprouts or torn lettuce
Any other toppings you desire

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle turkey breast with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on weight. Turkey breast should reach 175 degrees. Cool and either slice or tear into rough pieces. Build a perfect turkey sandwich.

Roast Beef Au Jus

2 to 3 pounds beef roast (I used and arm roast, but chuck or rump will work very well)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cups beef broth
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried thyme
crusty sandwich rolls, heated in the oven

In a skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Saute onions until they softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add spices and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Scrape onion mixture into slow cooker, add broth, and roast. Cook on high 6 to 9 hours, or until completely fork tender. Remove roast and shred using two forks and return to liquid in cooker. Serve on split sandwich rolls, serving extra cooking liquid on the side for dipping.

Creamy Tomato Bacon Salad Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 medium sized ripe red tomato, cut into chunks
1 TBSP bacon drippings
2 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy.

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