I made Butter Chicken for the first time sometime after we moved into this house in 2013. Since then, it’s become a family favorite and been our alternative to take-out many times. It freezes beautifully and makes a great packed lunch for work. All you have to do is cook some rice, which we always have in the house. Done.
Ingredients (Serves 8)
- 2 onions, diced
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed, shredded (or 2 pounds of boneless chicken, cut into bite-size chunks)
- 29 ounces canned tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups basmati rice, cooked according to package directions
- Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and soft.
- Add chicken. If using raw chicken, cook until seared on all sides. You may want to do this in two batches.
- Add tomato sauce and spices. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
- Add cream and stir. Serve over rice, topping with more cayenne for extra spice if desired.
To freeze, spoon into ziploc bags and lay flat in the freezer. To reheat, cut open bag (do not thaw) and place butter chicken in a skillet with 1/4 cup water. Cover and reheat over medium-low until heated through. Serve over rice.
Breakfast burritos are one of our favorite breakfasts these days. I like them because they use up little bits of things we have left in the fridge and truly stick to your ribs. I often schedule them for the morning before a good day of hiking.
You can change up the ingredients based on what you have or what you like, even to the individual burrito. I didn’t use tomato in my guacamole because it’s not the right season, but you better believe that when we’re drowning in CSA vegetables this summer we’ll use them again. I don’t like sausage in my burrito but Gavin does, so I just add it to his. Like I said, they’re super-flexible!
Ingredients for 2 Burritos
- 1 small potato
- 1/4 red bell pepper
- 1/4 red onion
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- taco or fajita seasoning
- 2 breakfast sausage patties, optional
- 1/2 avocado
- 1/2 lime
- 1/2 roma tomato
- 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced
- 2 eggs
- 2 8″ flour tortillas
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese
- 1 green onion, diced
- sour cream, optional
- Peel and dice the potato into 1/4″ pieces. Put it in a bowl and cover with a plate. Microwave until the potato is soft, about 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, dice the other vegetables into 1/4″ pieces. Set aside a small amount of the red onion to use for the guacamole.
- Heat the oil in a 12″ nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potato, red bell pepper, and onion. Sprinkle with salt and fajita or taco seasoning, if desired. Cook the sausage in the same skillet. (We like the frozen patties from Costco that are pre-cooked and just need reheating but you could use any type of sausage.)
- Meanwhile, prepare the guacamole. Scoop out the avocado flesh into a bowl. Add the reserved red onion, diced jalapeño, and tomato. Top with the lime juice and season with salt. Mash with a fork.
- When the sausage is cooked through and the vegetables are soft and have brown edges, beat the eggs in a bowl. Pour over the vegetable mix and cook, stirring occasionally, like you are making scrambled eggs. When cooked, remove to a plate. Cut up the sausage if necessary.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low. Put one of the tortillas in the pan and let sit for 30 seconds. Flip over and top with half the cheese in the center of the tortilla. Let sit for about 60 seconds, or until the cheese starts melting and tortilla is pliable.
- Remove to a plate, top with half the egg and vegetable mixture. Top with toppings as desired and fold into a burrito. Repeat with the other tortilla and remaining ingredients.
We’ve been on a big winter squash kick this year. It makes a great side dish with almost anything, but especially pasta. It’s quick and Gavin likes it, so that’s a win in my book. This year I finally figured out a way to make soft and delicious acorn squash, thanks to The New Best Recipe. It takes about three minutes to get oven-ready, which is the best.
- 1 acorn squash
- olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400˚. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Pro tip: use an ice cream or cookie scoop, not a spoon. The sharper edge makes ALL the difference.
Then put a little oil in the squash and brush it over the exposed surfaces.
Then turn the squash over on a foil-covered baking sheet. Seriously, use the foil. Don’t skimp.
Bake it for 40 minutes. This is great because you can cut and throw it in the oven and then…make the rest of your dinner. Or sit down.
When it’s done, flip it over, put a half tablespoon of butter in each half, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can scoop the flesh of the squash out with a fork, mixing it with the butter as you do. So tasty!
During college I worked at Potbelly for three years. For every shift I worked, I got a free meal, which was awesome as a college student. I ate a lot of sandwiches and learned some sandwich-making tricks that are actually useful now that I don’t eat free sandwiches four days a week.
These Italian subs are based on an idea from Good Cheap Eats, one of my favorite cookbooks. Their mayonnaise mixed with herbs and spices has sold Gavin on the idea of condiments on sandwiches. I needed no selling — condiments are my favorite part.
- 4 sub rolls
- 6 slices provolone cheese
- 8 slices salami
- 6 ounces deli-sliced ham
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 small clove garlic, grated on a microplane
- 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon dried basil
- salt and pepper
- sandwich vegetables, optional
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Split the sub rolls and put them on a broiler pan or cookie sheet.
Top with the ham and salami, then the cheese. I always cut and arrange my cheese like this as a holdover from my sandwich-making days.
Cook the sandwiches until the bread is toasty, meat is hot, and cheese is melty, about five minutes. If you’d like, broil the sandwiches for a few minutes to get the cheese bubbly.
While the sandwiches cook, make the Italian mayonnaise. Mix the mayonnaise, grated garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl.
Top the sandwiches with the mayonnaise and any other desired toppings, like lettuce, tomato, or onion. I think some giardiniera would be tasty on these!
I got two new cookbooks for Christmas, both from Cook’s Country. They’re a part of the same organization as my beloved America’s Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated. We’ve been trying some new recipes and these pancakes have earned a permanent spot in our weekend breakfast rotation despite their fussiness.
For Valentine’s day I tried to make our half batch heart-shaped, but they are equally good any day.
- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 eggs, separated
- 2 egg whites
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- vegetable oil, for cooking
- maple syrup, for serving
- Mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
- Mix together buttermilk, sour cream, egg yolks, and butter.
- Use a mixer to beat the egg whites to soft peaks.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until just combined. There should still be flour lumps and streaks.
- Use a spatula to fold the egg whites in until just combined.
- Heat the oil in a skillet or on a griddle over medium-low heat. Spoon the batter into the pan, about 2 tablespoons per pancake.
- Cook pancakes until browned, 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook 2-3 minutes more.
What do you like to do with leftover taco meat? We sometimes have tacos again, or quesadillas, seven-layer dip, or nachos. But tostadas are a nice (and I think underrated) change of pace. They lend themselves perfectly to leftover meat, taco or otherwise.
You could also make your own tostada shells out of corn tortillas or use these same steps on tortilla chips to make composed nachos.
Use whatever you have on hand, no need to get fancy.
- Tostada shells
- Cooked meat (leftovers are ideal!)
- Shredded cheese (cheddar or pepper jack are my favorites)
- Refried beans
- Sour cream, guacamole, or salsa
- Any other taco toppings you like: green onions, black olives, onions, tomatoes, cooked fajita vegetables, etc. This is a great time to use up odds and ends!
Warm your beans and meat to be at least lukewarm, not cold. Spread the tostadas with refried beans, then top with the meat and veggies. Use the cheese as a top glue layer to hold everything down. Bake them on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 400˚ or until the filling is hot and the cheese is melted. Top with sour cream, guacamole, or salsa.
I was thrilled to see sweet potatoes in Wednesday’s CSA box because Gavin and I both love sweet potatoes. Yesterday we tried our best to eat the big one (two ways, at two meals) and still had leftovers. Here’s what we had as part of our lunch.
- 1 pound sweet potato, peeled and grated
- 3 green onions, sliced thin
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup flour
- salt and pepper, to taste
- vegetable oil, for frying
- sour cream, optional, for topping
Combine sweet potato, green onion, eggs, flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop in large spoonfuls of batter and shape into pancakes. Fry until golden-brown, then flip them and cook until golden-brown on both sides.
If you are preparing more than can fit in a pan at one time, keep the first batch on a rack set on a cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven. This will keep them warm and crispy while you cook the second batch. (Or wait for the rest of dinner to finish cooking.)
Serve topped with sour cream, if desired.
The desserts are one of my favorite parts of fall. Everything apple, maple, cinnamon, and pumpkin. I think part of it is the excitement for a change of flavors and part of it is that they don’t tend to be overly sweet like so many desserts. Whatever it is, these pumpkin bars fit the bill.
Adapted from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 4 eggs
- 15 ounces canned pumpkin puree
- 1 cup butter, melted
- 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Add to the large bowl with the pumpkin and butter. Stir to combine.
Spread batter in an ungreased (really!) half sheet pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool. Meanwhile, prepare frosting.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until they are light and fluffy. Add vanilla and sugar and mix to combine.
Once bars are cool, top with cream cheese frosting. You can pipe (for fanciness) or spread with a spatula (for easiness). Your choice, as they are equally tasty either way.
The Meal Planner’s Creed is from The Modern Family Cookbook by Meta Given, published in 1942.
The health of my family is in my care; therefore —
I will spare no effort in planning the right kinds of food in the right amounts.
Spending the food dollar for maximum value is my job; therefore —
I will choose from the variously priced foods to save money without sacrificing health.
My family’s enjoyment of food is my responsibility; therefore —
I will increase their pleasure by planning for variety, for flavorful dishes, for attractive color, for appetizing combinations.
My family’s health, security, and pleasure depend on my skill in planning meals; therefore —
I will treat my job with the respect that is due it.
I actually love meal planning — it’s probably my favorite chore. I have loved every way I’ve ever done it, from Plan to Eat back through a spreadsheet all the way to a notepad with my dad.
While I usually enjoy cooking, there are definitely nights where I just don’t want to prepare another meal. I do it anyway though, fun or not, because it brings a huge value to my family.
My family generally eats healthfully. We eat a lot of vegetables, especially considering that my husband hated all vegetables when we got married. When I had to fill out a nutrition diary for my midwives last year, it was a piece of cake and the only change I had to make was adding a daily glass of milk.
We are able to eat very luxuriously, including a CSA and grass-fed beef, on less than the cost of the USDA’s thrifty plan. I know part of our ability to do so is that we have chosen to live in the midwest, where food is readily available and generally inexpensive, but a lot of it is work and planning.
And my family enjoys food. I can make several styles of pizza (Gavin’s favorite food) and can mix up my standby crust recipe by heart. I bake cookies almost every week. I think most of the food we eat is even pretty.
What it comes down to is this: I know I take my work planning and preparing our meals for granted, but it has value. And when you do it, it has value too.
These are five of my favorite kitchen items under $20 that I would replace immediately if they died.
1. Analog timer. Using a my phone or the oven timer just doesn’t cut it for me – I love my timer. In fact, my old timer (pictured) died recently, after living with me in FOUR states, and it was incredibly distressing. I reached for it many times while waiting for its replacement to arrive from Amazon Prime and am really happy with the new one. It’s magnetic so it can stick to my pot rack and stay off the counter!
2. OXO 12″ nylon head tongs. If you know me in person, chances are good that you have received these from me as a gift (I even gave them to my bridesmaids as part of their gifts) because I seriously don’t know how to cook in a kitchen without good tongs and don’t know how anyone else does either. I reach for these daily and we have talked frequently about getting a second pair because it’s just the worst when they are in the dishwasher.
3. Pyrex storage containers. We have a dedicated shelf for the many we own and I love them all. Being able to see your leftovers means being more likely to eat them, plus they are glass so you can feel good about storing and even microwaving your food in them. We have one of this set, two of this set, and a set similar to these. Gavin prefers the tiny rectangles but the meal-sized circles will always be my favorite. (Even though they are technically less efficient for storage).
4. OXO heat-resistant spatulas. I own four of these, in various sizes. And I love them all. The most recent addition is the mini jar spatula, which makes using the gigantic Costco jars of peanut butter we buy totally painless. Along with a thousand other things. The others get used to cook scrambled eggs, stir anything, scrape bowls…there’s a reason we have three.
5. Nordic Ware half sheet pans. I could NOT find a cookie sheet I liked after moving out of my parents’ house. They have heavy stainless steel cookie sheets, which I liked but couldn’t find ones of a similar quality for a reasonable price for myself. After the finish scraping off one too many (read: two) I did a ton of internet research and bought two of these. I like how big they are and they are the perfect size for my silicone baking mats.