Simple Pantry Cooking

Easy Menu Planning | cooking uncomplicated

Contentment in My Kitchen

round button chicken

I love the Pretty Happy Funny Real link-up. I think that taking pictures throughout the week and recording them with a good-natured spin, remembering the good instead of musing upon shortcomings and unfulfilled expectations is a good exercise in gratitude to foster contentment. And, the kitchen is a place where we can be vulnerable to discontent and discouragement. So, I’d like to make participation in this link up regular on this blog.

Plus, it turns out, I’m not really a food blogger. So I need something for this blog that doesn’t require too much food photography. :)

Pretty

simple family meals

Last year I participated in an online book club for Edith Schaeffer’s Hidden Art of Homemaking. One of the chapters was on centerpieces, and I thought it would be a nice thing to make a part of our life at home. In my post, “Hidden Art of Homemaking: Flower Arranging, plus a practical solution,” I even came up with a few strategies to make it practical and manageable for a homeschooling, lots-of-littles life. But, after the flowers in the centerpiece I made for that post died, I only managed one other centerpiece all year. Then Christmas came, and so the advent wreath lived on the table as a centerpiece. Then, a new year began. And, of course, new years are made for new resolutions.

The centerpiece I put together for the new year is still there, and it’s still serviceable. It does add a nice touch to the table. It is a civilizing effect, I think.

Happy

simple family meals

Happy birthday to Knox! He’s now four!

His birthday food menu was as follows:

  • Breakfast: Marshmallow Mateys
  • Lunch: cheese muffins, salami, grapes, bananas, potato chips, root beer
  • Dinner: baked macaroni and cheese, oven omelette (for those who avoid carbs), bacon, grapes, red pepper slices

And he had chocolate cake, which he helped make from scratch, with blue frosting and orange sprinkles. He also had chocolate ice cream “with a cone on the bottom” and sprinkles on top.

The cheese muffin recipe was in the last Simple Pantry Cooking Newsletter, and I’ll include the macaroni and cheese recipe I used in the next one next week (sign up at the top of your screen or on the sidebar so you don’t miss it!).

Funny

simple family meals

simple family meals

My dinner helper helped that night by taking pictures.

So, even though I have an ebook about keeping a basic pantry stocked so you can make dinner even without a plan, sometimes I still get caught without a stocked pantry. One night a couple weeks ago I got caught at 5pm without thawed meat and without a lot of other staples on hand, and neither my husband or I really wanted to leave the house if possible. Popcorn and cheese makes an emergency meal in my mind, but not my husband’s. We had no tortillas and no pasta, so my quick to-the-rescue dinners were not possible.

I started pulling out random components and putting them together. Cabbage, canned chicken, dried cranberries, yogurt dressing. At least it was an opportunity to use the mandoline my husband gave me for Christmas.

It got us through the night, but no one asked me if I’d make it again. In fact, my husband might volunteer to leave the house and get a Costco chicken if we find ourselves in a similar situation. But, the interesting dinner prompted me to actually clean out and take stock and refill the pantry shelves, since muddling through was no longer possible.

Real

simple family meals

This week we had a birthday, which means extra cooking. Monday afternoon in addition to making dinner, Knox and I together made his birthday cake, homemade chocolate ice cream, cheese muffins for his birthday lunch, and homemade baked macaroni and cheese for his dinner. This whirlwind of activity, also conducted with a mobile wrecker underfoot (aka 15-month Geneva), was not without incident. In fact, I think I tallied three kitchen injuries – to myself!

  1. Butter spat out of the pan and landed on the back of my hand, and I have a significant-looking burn.
  2. While grating cheese, I also grated a bit of knuckle.
  3. While putting some things back into the fridge and whisking more ingredients out of the fridge, I tried taking a large step over the baby, who was emptying the plastics drawer. She whipped out a plastic plate and spun it right under where my foot landed, and my bag of cheese went flying, my ankle twisted, and I went splat, flat on the floor. It was quite dramatic.

However, all the food turned out delicious, so it was all in a good cause.

simple family meals

Menu Plan Monday

simple easy homemade family menu plan

All meals only involve ingredients on my basic master pantry list.

In our year-round homeschool schedule, this is a break week. So I’ll be cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming floors, and also getting some extra baked goods and dinners into the freezer.

Monday

  • Breakfast: weekend leftovers (cinnamon rolls or frozen pancakes, toasted) with eggs
  • Lunch: pbj on rolls
  • Dinner: oven frittata, whole-wheat scones, roasted cauliflower

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: German pancakes
  • Lunch: tortilla chips w/ melted cheese, salsa
  • Dinner: turkey & white bean soup, cheese muffins, salad

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Breakfast: German pancakes
  • Lunch: leftovers
  • Dinner: homemade pizza (no-carb pizza for me)

Friday

  • Breakfast: whole-wheat cinnamon muffins, fried eggs
  • Lunch: leftover homemade pizza (pizza on zucchini planks for me)
  • Dinner: crockpot beef roast, roasted carrots, potatoes & yams

Saturday

  • Breakfast: pancakes from scratch, made by Daddy, with homemade syrup
  • Lunch: bits and pieces (clean out the fridge)
  • Dinner: pot pie with leftover beef & vegetables, salad

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Whole-wheat cinnamon rolls
  • Lunch: rolls from Saturday’s baking

Unless linked to other recipes, these dinners are found in my eBook, Simplified Dinners:

Simplified Dinners eBook

Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!

Favorite Tool: Cast Iron Griddle

When we purchased our current home nearly five years ago, the kitchen had already been remodeled into a cook’s dream. In addition to the copper sink and double wall ovens, it has a large gas cooktop. Gas has taken awhile to get used to, but I do love cooking with a gas range.

This particular gas range came with a cast-iron griddle that fits on top of two of the gas elements. Our family had already blown through two or three electric griddles, so I was happy to try out this new solution that I’d inherited.

I love my cast iron griddle that fits on top of the stovetop! I will never purchase or recommend a different type again.

How do I love it? Let me count the ways.

  • I cook 6 large pancakes at a time on it.
  • I fry 8 eggs at a time on it.
  • I can sear steaks and hamburgers on it when the weather is too inclement to use the grill.
  • I make tortillas, English muffins, and flatbreads on it.
  • I make a warm spinach salad on it in one minute flat.
  • I make six grilled cheese sandwiches on it at a time.
  • I can make six to eight slices of French toast on it at a time.
  • It’s easy to store.
  • It wipes clean with a paper towel.
  • It can be used on the grill outside or on a camp stove if desired.
  • It heats evenly and holds the heat well.

We use our stovetop griddle nearly every day. And since it’s just a cast-iron pan, there’s no wiring to give out or features to break down. It’s heavy and durable and there’s no reason it shouldn’t last us our whole lives.

Don’t waste your money on electric griddles. Get a cast iron griddle you can use on your stove rather than another appliance. You won’t regret it.

Cast Iron Griddle Options

Ours came from the stovetop manufacturer with the stovetop. But any of these would be just as good.

Menu Plan Monday: A Week of Turkey

I like to buy an extra turkey or two when they are super cheap in November so I can have super cheap meat later on in the year. We have an extra full-size upright freezer, so I have the storage for it. This week, we eat one of those turkeys, and I’m looking forward to only cooking one meat this week and then rolling the leftovers into a variety of meals.

Now, I’m not doing Whole30 anymore, but I am still trying to lose 15 pounds. I have my Personal Food Rules, and so I thought I’d also note in my weekly menu plan here how I adapt the meals to be low carb-ish for myself.

simple easy homemade family menu plan

As always, all the meals I make involve only ingredients on my basic master pantry list.

Monday

  • Breakfast: weekend leftovers (cinnamon rolls or frozen pancakes, toasted) with eggs [I eat only eggs]
  • Lunch: pbj on rolls and apples [for me, spinach salad and half an apple with cheese]
  • Dinner: oven omelette with bacon, spinach salad, and cheese muffins (the recipe that was in January’s email newsletter) [I will skip the muffin]

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: German pancakes [I eat only eggs]
  • Lunch: leftover cheese muffins, cheddar cheese slices, apples [for me, spinach salad and half an apple with cheese]
  • Dinner: roast turkey, baked yams, roasted carrots

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: toast & eggs [I eat only eggs]
  • Lunch: rolls, cheese, apples [apple with cheese and tomato soup for me]
  • Dinner: turkey taquitos, roast frozen broccoli [I will have the turkey filling on zucchini & onions]

Thursday

  • Breakfast: German pancakes [I eat only eggs]
  • Lunch: rolls, turkey, cheese, apples [turkey, cheese, and apple for me]
  • Dinner: turkey vegetable soup (made with turkey-carcass broth), no-knead bread, and salad

Friday

  • Breakfast: oatmeal [I eat eggs]
  • Lunch: cheese melts on leftover bread
  • Dinner: turkey pot pie with leftover soup (drained), salad, and cheese muffins [I love pie crust too much to forego the full pot pie slice, but I won't have a cheese muffin]

Whatever turkey is left after these meals, I’ll freeze for future soup use.

Saturday

  • Breakfast: pancakes from scratch, made by Daddy, with homemade syrup
  • Lunch: bits and pieces (clean out the fridge)
  • Dinner: tuna cheese melts

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Whole-wheat cinnamon rolls
  • Lunch: rolls from Saturday’s baking

Unless linked to other recipes, these dinners are found in my eBook, Simplified Dinners:

Simplified Dinners eBook

Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!

Review: Silicone Baking Cups by The New York Baking Company

I was sent this set of dozen reusable muffin liners, also known as silicone baking cups, by The New York Baking Company for review purposes. I admit I was a little skeptical. I had purchased a different brand of silicone baking cups a few years ago and they were disappointing.

This set from The New York Baking Company arrived, and I was prepared to be disappointed again, because this set is thinner than the other set I own.

Well, it turns out, that is the key to them working so much better! My older ones are too thick to be flexible and to pop muffins out. With these silicone baking cups, however, the muffins started coming out nearly voluntarily as I was getting them onto the cooling rack!

The other set I own is also surprising difficult to clean, which is the death-toll for them. This set claims to be dishwasher safe, so I popped them in the dishwasher, expecting them to fly around in there and collect dirty water and just generally remain crumby, but lo and behold! They emerged clean! They needed a few minutes on a towel on the counter to finish drying completely, but they went straight from people’s dinner plates into the dishwasher and emerged spotless!

I am hooked.

The colors are bright; my children loved the colors. The muffins popped right out without leaving hardly a trace in the cup.

For our family of seven, I often make muffins 2-3 dozen at a time. I am going to purchase another set or two of this brand, because they really do work, they really are dishwashable, and they save the waste and continual expense of paper muffin liners.

silicone baking cups

You can use reusable baking cups for more than muffins!

  • serve snacks likes nuts or cereals or berries in them
  • make individual jello servings in them
  • use them in lunch boxes to separate foods
  • let the baby play with them in the kitchen

If you don’t have or hate washing muffin tins, you can even line up sturdy baking cups like this and bake muffins on a cookie sheet.

I do recommend The New York Baking Company’s silicone baking cups for their non-stick properties, their ease of use, and their eye-catching colors.