Simple Pantry Cooking

Easy Menu Planning | cooking uncomplicated

What do we eat in the summer, again?

~ Capturing the context of contentment – in my kitchen. ~

round button chicken

We’re having a straight week of over-100-degree weather, and although this makes me not want to cook, it doesn’t make anyone around here not want to eat.

Silly people.

I always go through a dinner-fixing crisis when the first heat wave strikes. I know I have meals I’ve done for times like this, because they do happen every year, but what are they again?!

Unfortunately, my daughter and I are the only ones who think a salad makes a great main dish. Fortunately, my husband never minds grilling.

What do you fix for dinner when the temps are high?


how to menu plan 

I’ve been trying to eat more veggies at breakfast and thought this particular plate was worth photographing. Isn’t it pretty?

I love berry season.

And while raw veggies seem like a bit much at breakfast most of the time, when it’s so hot they are welcome, even at 7am. And they’re just pretty.


simple family mealshow to menu plan 

I’ve heard from so many people that you love the German pancakes as much as we do! It’s funny. I thought this was one of those meals everyone knew about but me, but apparently there are still others waiting to discover this perfect breakfast food.

When I make it for a morning, I bake up 15-eggs worth. 2 9×13 pans and 1 8×8 square or a pie plate. And usually this quantity is demolished in short order.

Eggs are brain food, and the flour and milk helps stretch them and make them feel complete. They are a great way to start the day!

Easy German Pancakes in the Oven


how to menu plan 

I posted a picture of my lunch one day and someone commented that it looked fancy. Considering it’s just zucchini planks (I’m so thankful for neighbors with overabundant gardens!) with some Parmesan cheese and salami (well, ok, and a bit of leftover diced ham and bacon bits).

I do get tired of salad for lunch and this was a nice change of pace.

And I doubt zucchini is going to be in short supply anytime in the next 3 months.


how to menu plan 

When the weather report says highs of 111-degrees, that’s just too much. Time for popcorn and chocolate milkshakes!

I used my quick & easy salted chocolate milk recipe and dumped 5-cups-worth into the ice cream maker, let it go for 15 minutes, and voila! delicious, not-too-sweet, very-chocolatey chocolate milkshakes.

It almost makes me hope for another 111 excuse to make them.

know what's for every meal, all week, with this free menu plan printable

Life in Photos

feeding people, educating people, managing people, loving people – see snapshots of it all on Instagram:

Creamy White Balsamic Dressing Recipe

My favorite salad kit is Costco’s kale mix that comes with pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and a creamy white balsamic dressing.

So, of course, I had to try to replicate the dressing at home, with my basic pantry staples. I did have to buy white balsamic vinegar and poppy seeds, but now I’ve added those to my master pantry list because I absolutely love this dressing!

Creamy white balsamic salad dressing recipe

I searched online and only found white balsamic vinaigrettes; however, I wanted the creamy version. So, I bought a salad kit and examined the ingredient list on the dressing packet. Orange juice and onion powder appeared to be the secrets to the tang I loved.

Here is my own version, then. It is quick and easy, doesn’t require many ingredients or tools, and it keeps for up to a week in the fridge.

Creamy White Balsamic Salad Dressing Recipe

In a small mixing bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients:

  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup poppy seeds
  • dash of salt

It’s best if you let it sit, covered and refrigerated, for an hour or more to let the flavors meld, but it’s still good immediately, too.

You can also substitute sour cream or mayonnaise for the yogurt, but I enjoy the tang and texture of yogurt. You can also substitute brown sugar or even honey for the white sugar. If you must, you could make it without the poppy seeds, too, but they add not only some flavor but also contrast to the creamy dressing.

Uses for creamy white balsamic dressing

  • Spinach
  • Baby kale
  • Power greens blend
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Broccoli slaw

You could also make it with sour cream, less vinegar, and some parsley for a ranch-alternative to dip raw veggies in.

Tools used in the making of this recipe

What we’re eating this week

simple easy homemade family menu plan

Summer is on the way with warmer weather, so it’s time to put away the crockpot and soup plans and dust off my cooler menu options. Soups are so easy that it’s always a little sad, but grilling season and the fresh garden veggies will compensate.


I use Google calendar for menu planning, and that makes it easy to adjust the menu as summer plans flex and change.

Breakfasts This Week

  • Tuesdays & Thursdays: German pancakes
  • Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays: simple homemade granola with homemade yogurt
  • Saturday: Daddy-made pancakes
  • Sunday: whole wheat cinnamon rolls (made on Saturday)

Lunches This Week

  • Monday: pbj, apples
  • Tuesday: cheesy potato steak fries
  • Wednesday: flatbread made Saturday, pb-yogurt-honey dip, apple & celery
  • Thursday: rice with carrots & peas, topped with butter or cheese
  • Friday: microwave nachos with refried beans

Dinners This Week

Simplified Dinners eBook

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Pulling together food for a family

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~

round button chicken

Another week and more food has been served to the natives, keeping them happy and healthy and strong. Mission: accomplished.

vegetable breakfast


~Pretty Veggie-Filled Breakfasts ~

Vegetables at breakfast seems to be a good idea, a way to get more nutrition into my day and start the day off strong. Here are a few of my attempts thus far.



homemade cookies

~ Happy Children Bakers ~

What better summer break afternoon activity than making chocolate chip cookies? They followed the recipe for Mystie’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies straight from the blog post and did it all completely themselves while I was up in my room folding laundry.




~ Funny Approach ~

I make skillet chicken (included in Simplified Dinners) often. I was making it this week and couldn’t decide what kind of sauce to mix together and even mixing a sauce at all seemed like too much for that evening.

So I tossed in a block of cream cheese.

It was a good choice.



~ Real Kitchen ~

It turns out that making food makes a mess. Monday I made granola and yogurt, the kids made chocolate chip cookies, and there was breakfast and lunch and dinner as well.

I’m so thankful my husband does all the dishes after dinner! I washed the counters and swept the floor and we were still able to end the day in decent order. Whew.

Homemade food, week after week

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~

round button chicken

Another week, another 21 meals prepared, served, and cleaned up. Not too shabby when you look at a week that way, now, is it?



~Pretty Pleased ~

These are my kitchen helpers, growing up fast, and now pleased to be the ones in charge of dinner some days.

With Simplified Dinners for New Cooks, they can get dinner on the table all by themselves, start to finish, and everyone is pleased, indeed!



bone broth

~ Happy Bones ~

In November I bought 3 turkeys when they were super cheap. I finally cooked the last one last week and so bone broth has been constantly simmering. I simply put the bones in the crockpot and cook it on low overnight or all day long, and have found that a turkey carcass can make excellent broth for 4 or more batches!

Homemade bone broth is like homegrown vine-ripened tomatoes, whereas canned or boxed broth is the equivalent of winter hydroponic tomatoes picked green and sent to sit on the grocery shelves too soon. The difference in flavor between the two types is so stark it makes you wonder if they should really be called by the same name.



~ Funny Beverage ~

It’s kinda crazy, but my afternoon refreshment drink is a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar “with the mother” in ice water.

Knocks out viruses and, chugged down quickly, seems to clear out my head of brain-fog rather nicely.


~ Real Self-Help ~

homemade yogurt

It’s granola season! I have my super-simple homemade granola recipe, and I also make our yogurt. We go through 24-32 ounces of yogurt each morning, and that gets pricey with the store-bought stuff! Plus, I read that homemade yogurt has more probiotics anyway. Sometime I’ll post my process.

homemade yogurt

But for now, I thought I’d share what happens when you let the young ones get their own food. It fosters independence – and more messes. But more messes means more practice cleaning up after themselves.

So, someday they’ll be able to clean up after themselves without prompting, right? Please tell me I’m right. Someday.

homemade yogurt

Follow me on Instagram to see more pictures of our normal family food life!