Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The 'famous' weekly menu

Some of you know I try to plan out a menu for our dinners every week.  I like to be organized, and if I don't have the menu planned, I don't do well cooking dinner on the fly.  Usually meat is still frozen, I'm missing ingredients, etc.  It does not make for a good afternoon if I don't know ahead of time what to make for dinner!  I plan it out according to what I already have in the house, what activities we have going on each night, and what is on sale at the grocery store (or what I have found at the farmers market) that week.  This also saves time not running to the grocery store more than once or twice-those little trips add up especially if you're working, running kids around, and all those other things that occupy our time in the afternoons.

I usually plan for 5 nights, trying to have it all planned by Sunday evening for the week ahead.  We save the leftovers to eat for lunches.  Sometimes I only make 4 and we have leftovers one night, depending on the size of the meal.  We have also eaten half, then I freeze the remainder for another weeknight a week or two later.  Soup is a good example of this.  We eat it once, freeze the rest and it makes a quick heat up dinner on a busy night, rather than freezing individual portions.

This week on the menu:
Italian Quinoa Casserole with mixed green salad
White Chicken Chili
Chickpeas in Coconut Sauce with spinach
Healthy Chicken Stroganoff with peas
Grilled Steaks with Vegetable Kabobs and Pesto Gnocchi

If anyone wants the specific recipes, let me know and I would be happy to email them to you!

Italian Quinoa Casserole

What in the world is Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah)?!  It is a little grain that packs a big punch!  It is gluten free, high in fiber and a complete protein.  For the following recipe I used Tri-Color Quinoa from Trader Joes.

This link has a wide variety of information about Quinoa:

This recipe was originally called Quick Quinoa Lasagna.  But not having noodles threw my family off, so I changed up the name a little.  The taste is basically the same though as a lasagna.  I used Hot Italian Sausage which gave it that Italian flavor and a little heat.

One note on cooking Quinoa.  Follow the package directions, including the rinsing.  If you skip the rinse step, the Quinoa will be bitter.  Make sure you are using a colander with fine mesh, otherwise it will all flow out the bottom and down your drain!

When assembling this dish, you may need to be careful when spreading the cheese mixture, as it is thicker than the Quinoa.  I used my hands (CLEAN!) to pull it apart to get a more even layer.  The Quinoa spreads well with the back of a wooden spoon.

Italian Quinoa Casserole
-makes 12 servings
1 can Diced or Petite Diced Tomatoes (about 15 oz)
2 8oz cans Tomato Sauce
2 tsp Oregano
1 large Onion, diced
4 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1lb Lean Ground Meat (Italian sausage, lean beef, turkey or chicken)
3C Cooked Quinoa
8oz Ricotta Cheese
8oz Mozzarella Cheese
8oz Parmesan Cheese

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
-In a large pan, brown the ground meat.  Drain any fat off the meat.  Remove from pan and set aside.  In the same pan, add the olive oil and heat to medium.  Add the onion and saute until soft, but do not brown.  Add in the garlic, and cook stirring often for 1 minute.  Add the meat back to the pan.  Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and oregano.  Reduce the heat and gently simmer until heated through.
-In a separate bowl, mix together all three cheeses, reserving about 1/4C of the mozzarella and 1/4C of Parmesan.
-In a 9x13 pan, place a thin layer of the sauce, followed by a layer of Quinoa and a layer of the cheeses.  Repeat this pattern ending with sauce.  Add the 1/4C of both reserved cheeses on top.
-Bake uncovered for 35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.  It will cut easier after it stands.

The finished product-

Great with a large salad on the side!

You can see the grains of Quinoa a little more in this photo: