Category Archives: Menu Help

Methods and ideas to make your meal planning and shopping much easier

Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage

This is a really quick and easy weeknight dinner (also part of the Week 4 Menus)

Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage

Prep time: 20min, Serves 4-6

12 oz Orecchiette
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces (Or 1/2 lb froz)
1 cup frozen peas
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
8 oz fully cooked Italian-style chicken sausage links, thinly sliced
1/3 cup prepared pesto
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2oz)

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the green beans and peas during the last 3 min of cooking.
  2. Reserve 1 cup of the coking water; drain the pasta and vegetables and return them to the pot.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 6 to 8 min.
  4. Add the sausage, pesto, Parmesan, and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water to the pasta and vegetables and toss to combine. (Add more coking water if the pasta seems dry)


Crockpot Pasta Sauce

Pasta is always a quick meal, and it’s easy to step-it-up a bit from jar pasta sauce.

Crock Pot Pasta Sauce

1 large onion
1/4 lb Italian Sausage (cases removed)
1 lb ground beef
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon marjoram

Brown sausage, ground beef, and onion in a skillet.  Drain off fat and stir in seasonings.  (At this point, the meat and onion mixture can be frozen and saved for a later use.  I usually make a double or triple batch and freeze the extra in family-size meal portions)

In a crock pot – add:

1 batch of meat/onion mixture
29oz can tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
14.5oz can stewed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons garlic

Stir together and cook on low for 8 hours. (I’ve put in on high for 4, and it’s turned out fine)

15 min before serving…add 1 Tablespoon of sugar.

Serve with your favorite pasta.

Easy Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas are easy to make…all you need is a big skillet!

My recipe has you make the Fajita Seasoning from scratch.  I keep it in a small, sealed container and know to just use about 2 Tablespoons each time I prepare this dish.

Fajita Seasoning Mix
6 Tablespoons cornstarch
4 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons paprika
2 Tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons (or 5 cubes) chicken bouillon
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cumin

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour into small glass or plastic container, seal tightly and store in a cool, dry place.  Makes the equivalent of six packets of commercial Fajita Seasoning Mix.

To make Fajitas

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips (this is easier to do while the chicken is still slightly frozen)
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 med onion, sliced
2 Tablespoons oil
3 Tablespoons Fajita Seasoning Mix
1/3 cup water

Heat oil in large skillet and add chicken.  Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  Add Fajita Mix, water, pepper, and onion.  Reduce heat to medium and cover.  Cook and stir until vegetables are cooked to desired softness.

Serve with warm tortillas, salsa, sour cream, and grated cheese.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

When the weather turns crisp, and the leaves start to show their colors, we always bake up a batch of these yummy treats.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup solid pack Pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 cup choc chips

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
  2. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Cream butter, gradually adding sugars, until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla.  Mix well.
  4. Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. For each cookie, drop about 2 tablespoons of dough onto lightly greased cookie sheets.
  6. Bake about 11-15 min, or until firm and lightly browned.
  7. Cool slightly on sheet and then remove to a wire rack until completely cooled.

Vegetarian Taco Dip (& Burrito Filling)

Vegetarian Taco Dip

Serves 6
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 very large Onion – chopped
1 large bell pepper (any color) chopped
2-3 garlic cloves – minced/crushed
1 small can mild chopped green chilis
1 14.5 oz can petite chopped tomatoes
1 15 oz can vegetarian refried beans
1 15-16 oz can black beans – rinsed well and drained
1 15-16oz can red beans – rinsed well and drained
1 envelope (or 3 Tablespoons) Taco Seasoning
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cups shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
Sliced black olives for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350

1. In a large skillet – heat olive oil over med heat.  Add onion and pepper.  Cook until soft.
2. Add garlic and green chilis.  Cook for a few more minutes
3. Stir in all remaining ingredients and heat through.
4. If skillet is ovenproof – place in center of preheated oven.  (If skillet is not ovenproof, transfer to a baking dish.) Bake 20 min or until heated through.
5. Cover top with cheese and return to oven for a few minutes to melt cheese.  Garnish with black olives.

Serve this with warm tortillas, hard shells, or chips to eat as burrito filling, taco filling, or nachos.  Serve with salsa, sour cream, chopped tomatoes and shredded lettuce.

Parmesan Breaded Fish

From Week 1 Menu Planner – This is a tasty recipe that most of my kids will even eat!

Parmesan Breaded Perch – serves 6

1.5 lb Ocean Perch or other lean fish fillets (I’ve used tilapia, cod, etc)
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
Dash of pepper
2 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  1. Move oven rack to position slightly above center.  Heat oven to 500 deg F.
  2. Spray 13×9 pan with nonstick cooking spray or lightly coat with oil.
  3. If fish fillets are large, cut into six serving pieces; pat dry.
  4. Mix remaining ingredients except butter and parsley.
  5. Brush one side of fish with butter, coat with crumb mixture.
  6. Place fish, coated sides up, in pan.
  7. Bake uncovered 10 min, or until fish flakes easily with fork.
  8. Sprinkle with parsley to garnish.

**Smart Tip – Double the breading and keep in a ziplock in the freezer for a faster meal next time.


Menu Planner – Week 1

In my experience, the hassle with meals is not the cooking…the stress is from trying to dream up what to cook!   So, I’ve created 12 weeks of menus for our family.  Each week has more ideas than what you will need (so you can skip/delete a couple).   Each set includes at least the following:

  • One Chicken dish
  • One Beef dish
  • One Pork dish
  • One fish/shellfish dish
  • One Tex/mex dish (big at my house)
  • One Pasta dish
  • One Vegetarian dish
  • One Pizza
  • One Soup
  • One Salad and/or Sandwich idea

Recipes will be in the upcoming posts.  Find the latest listing of menu ideas on my “Menu Ideas” Page.

Week 1 Menu Ideas

  • Parmesan Breaded Fish
  • Bean Burritos
  • Hot Dogs or Corn Dogs
  • Marinate Beef Kabobs or Burgundy Beef
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Chicken Fajitas
  • Take Out Pizza
  • Ravioli with Sauce or Pesto
  • Hamburger Soup
  • Seafood Salad