Plan To Eat Meal Planning Tool

If you have made a New Year’s resolution that has anything to do with cooking healthy, loosing weight, regaining control over meal planning, saving money by cooking at home etc.etc.  I think the Plan to Eat meal planning tool would help you!

I’ve been using Plan to Eat for a while now and love it.

The monthly meal planner is at the heart of Plan to Eat. Easily drag recipes from your recipe book to create your meal plan, and then add additional ingredients, events and notes. You can also change the number of servings, easily view and print recipes and export your meal plan to other calendar programs to sync your meal plan with your schedule.  You can keep up with calorie intake and serving sizes as well.

It is super easy to plan a month of meals in very little time.  The dragging and dropping and instant ability to rearrange on a calendar is awesome.  My other favorite feature is the ability to instantly import a recipe I find on the Internet by using the handy dandy quick import to recipe book button that I installed on my tool bar.  It is sorta like a Pinterest “Pin It” button only it “pins” the new recipe I found to my recipe book quickly and easily for later use.

 

Here’s how it works:

  • Extensive, Custom Recipe Book: You create an online recipe book that has recipes that you import from websites, blogs or  you can input them from your cookbooks or recipe box.  You can see nutritional values, change serving sizes automatically (which is a huge plus for our big family), and all the recipes are searchable and can be tagged (like Mexican dishes, Easy lunches, vegetarian, soups etc.).  It also keeps track of how often you have planned that specific food or recipe.  Tired of having lasagna 3 times a week… you can easily space out your meals and try new things because you can quickly drag and drop.
  • Drag and Drop Meal Planner: Quickly drag and drop recipes over to your calendar in the breakfast, lunch, supper and snack.  You can also add individual ingredients, notes and events to your calendar.   I love the ability to visually see our week and quickly drag recipes, notes, events to different days on the calendar.  I can also quickly delete and rearrange items.
  • Automated Shopping List Maker: Immediately creates your shopping list!  The shopping list based is created from your meal plan.  I go through my shopping list and put anything that I already have back in to my pantry by clicking ” To Pantry”.
  • Lots of cool features like “cook from the pantry” options.  I can also import items into my pantry and then click the cook from my pantry option and have it pull recipes from my recipe book that I can make based on what ingredients I have.  It will also tell me what recipes I could almost make…like missing 1 ingredient to make Chicken Pasta or missing 2 ingredients to make Banana Bread.
  • Mobile Ready: I love, LOVE this feature!!!  Have a iPhone or Android other smart phone?  Plan To Eat is mobile ready!  Easy shopping list right off your phone from your meal plan.  I check off my grocery shopping list right on my phone.  If I run across an ingredient that I am unsure of what recipe it is for and why I need it, it cross references the ingredients with the recipes those ingredients are used in.  So you can click on the ingredient you need to buy and it will tell you which meals you are using that ingredient in.
  • Share your recipe book with friends…. socially interactive.  I can share my recipe book or a portion of my recipes with other friends.  Neat tool to try out other recipes and interact with other meal planners.
  • They have a free month trial so you can try it out!  After that it is $39 for the year or $4.95 a month.  You can also earn credit for referring people who end up using Plan To Eat.
  • They have a useful blog.  They post interesting recipes on their blog and great cooking tips.

I’ve found it very helpful in saving me time and allowing me to almost effortlessly plan a large menu for a large family with minimal time.  The biggest time investment is in the beginning when you make your recipe book.  Once you get a basic recipe book put together…you’re good to go!   Great tool for getting your daughters involved in meal planning and grocery shopping.  My daughter uses Plan To Eat often to plan meals, look up recipes and add new recipes she finds.

The Plan To Eat meal planning tool has made meal planning quick,  fun and enjoyable.  Check it out here:  Plan to Eat

 

You can take a virtual tour of the meal planning tool and learn all about it on their website.

 

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Cold and Flu Natural Remedies from the Kitchen

Cold and Flu season is no fun.  It seems like everyone is hacking and coughing.  I want to wear a hazmat suit when I am out in public to protect myself against the swarm of flu bugs in the air.

If or when the cold and flu catch up to me, I like to use my kitchen as the greatest weapon to combat the plague’s ugliness.

In addition using herbs, tinctures, infusions and oils, I like to use food to kick start and support the body’s natural immune system with foods as well.  One way I do this is by cooking cold and flu fighting foods.  Top on my list:

Chicken Broth:

Chicken soup slows down and inhibits inflammation caused by infections.  It thins secretions and helps keep everything moving.  Hot chicken broth calms coughing and soothes a sore throat.  It’s the ultimate sick comfort food!

The best way that I have found to prepare good chicken broth is using a crockpot or stove pot and cooking a whole chicken in water with lots of herbs and spices:  sage, garlic, onion, thyme, salt, pepper.  You can even throw in some powerful immune building Astragalus root and let it simmer all day.  I like to use my crockpot for this job by dumping everything in the crockpot overnight.  By morning, you will have a nice, rich, chicken broth you can strain off in a separate pot and you will have tender chicken you can pick off the bones.

To make chicken soup:  add vegetables to your broth and the chopped chicken.  Don’t forget the onions and garlic!

You should always keep chicken broth on hand for those times when you are sick and can’t make your own broth.  It’s always a great idea to have carton or canned broth quickly and easily available.  I buy organic chicken broth from Costco where it comes 6 cartons in one case.  It is easy to use, stores well and has an excellent, whole foods taste without the preservatives and after taste that most commercial chicken broths have.

Lemons:

Fresh lemons squeezed into hot tea are not only soothing to a sore throat and irritable cough, but they provide good, raw, needed Vitamin C to help fight off nasty bugs.

Hot Tea:

Make and consume hot tea often during a flu bug.  It’s very important to consume lots of fluid while you are sick.  Hot tea is a perfect fluid and the hotness aids in giving much needed relief from pesky cold symptoms.  I prefer hot herbal teas.  I use fresh or loose dry herbs like peppermint, echinacea, elderflower, elderberry, yarrow, rose hips, ginseng to make immune system builder teas.  Sweeten with honey.  Raw honey is especially useful for fighting off colds and flu.

Garlic:

Love it or hate it, you should befriend Garlic.  It is a miracle food!  Garlic has incredible viral and bacterial fighting abilities.  Taking a over the counter garlic pill isn’t going to cut it though.  I’m talking about using the real deal.  The garlic cloves that you peel and crush..that kind of garlic.  If I am really sick, I consume raw garlic that I have crushed by taking on a spoon smothered in honey and chased with a drink of water or juice.  I do that several times a day.  Other ways you can get down crushed garlic is by putting it in your chicken soup or putting in on bread and toasting it.  These are much more pleasant ways to take it.  Garlic works.  My only caution is not to consume garlic on an empty stomach.  It will cause great gastric discomfort.  Eat it with food!  There is a world of great information about garlic’s antiviral and antibacterial effectiveness on the internet.  Read to your heart’s delight.

Honey:

Pure wildflower honey is a miracle food that should not be overlooked.  I contains vitamins, minerals, enzymes as well as antibiotic agents and antimicrobial compounds.  It is perfect for sweetening hot herbal teas and helping to get garlic down.  In the book, Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Buhner, “  Honey is also exceptionally effective in respiratory ailments.  A Bulgarian study…found that honey was effective in improving chronic bronchitis, asthmatic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, chronic and allergic rhinitis, and sinusitis.  It is effective in the treatment of colds, flu, respiratory infections, and general depressed immune problems.”

I have found the best place to purchase honey is from farmers in my local area during the summer or fall months when it is readily available.  I have also found good quality raw honey from Whole Foods, however, it is quite a bit more expensive.  I have also ordered it off of Vitacost of a fraction of the price of Whole Foods.

Here are just a few ideas to help you combat the cold and flu bugs going around.  Good Luck!

Doctor Up Plain Hearty Veggie Beef Soup Tips

With these few tips, you can turn a bland veggie soup into something hearty and tasty.  Here are some basics that will help get your veggie beef soup off to a good start.

  1. Start with sauteing chopped onion and minced garlic with butter in the bottom of the soup pot.  This will add a punch of flavor!
  2. Or you can cook onion and garlic with hamburger in a skillet to add to the soup later.
  3. You can use sausage for an even richer, fuller flavor.  A mixture of spicy sausage and hamburger make veggie beef soup spectacular!
  4. Use chicken, beef or vegetable broth for the soup base instead of water.
  5. Add V-8 juice.  Adding a bit of V-8 juice gives veggie beef soup a rich hearty flavor.
  6. Add a splash of red wine.  Gourmet cooks use wine in cooking because it adds flavor and complexity.  Veggie beef soup is the perfect dish for a splash of red wine!
  7. Add your uncooked harder vegetables first.  Chopped potatoes and carrots first, frozen corn, peas and green beans next, chopped spinach and chopped cabbage next.
  8. Frozen vegetables rather than canned vegetables make a better tasting soup.
  9. Herbs and spices to use with Veggie Beef Soup:  thyme, basil, bay leaf, salt, pepper

You can take any veggie beef soup recipe and alter it and doctor it up using these tips.  Veggie beef soup is a perfect home cooked meal on a cold winter night.  Serve with Foccocia bread or cornbread.

Click the picture for the link to Taste Of Home.  They have a lot of home cooking recipes that are sure to please!

Feeling Sorry for the Hungry Man Frozen Dinner Guy

I love going to the grocery store with a good meal plan in hand.  I feel like donning a super hero cape and zipping down the aisles in hysterical laughter over how awesome it is to be able to go buy ingredients and bring them home with a master plan of creating something wonderful and tasty out of something basic and real.  Well, not really, but almost.  Maybe I should get out of the house more often!

These days with children under foot,  I go to the store alone and take my time looking and thinking.  Sometimes I see something that I haven’t used in a long time.  That head of red cabbage or those meaty mushrooms or fluffy kale look interesting.  Interesting cheeses or special cuts of meat.  All those bakery goods smell so good.  Sometimes it sparks an idea of something I instantly want to make.   I check things off and pat myself on the back that I picked up everything on my list.  The job of meal planner, grocery shopper, cook and baker is a relentless job because everyone around here expects to eat more than once a day!  I try to make it a thrilling  job by thinking they can’t survive without me shopping, planning and cooking for them!

By the time I am finished shopping, my cart is overflowing.  These are the ingredients to my master menu plan for the week for my hungry family. These ingredients will be turned into something that make my kitchen smell delicious and that fill our hardworking, famished bodies with healthy, tasty, down home goodness!  At least that is the goal and the hope!

I get up to the check out stand and in front of me is a lone guy with his buggy.  Mountain Dew, beer and a stack of Hungry Man frozen dinners and more beer.  My perfect food world is shattered for a few moments.  A depressing sight.  Seriously, with all the choices available in this store…”that’s the best you could do?”  Maybe it is my first-born-ness coming out but I have a strong desire to change his food choices for him and tell him what he should eat.   However, I quickly realize that it’s not my business anyway?  He is a grown man and can make his own grown up food choices without my help.  He moves on.  My abounding cart re-engages my thoughts and I push forward.  Putting the frozen dinner guy out of mind, I remind myself that every time I dread making supper for my family just think of the Hungry Man frozen dinner guy and be very glad I have the privilege of serving my family by making them a satisfying homemade supper they will all love.

Re-engage this year and start seeing your job as planner and meal maker for the important job it is and avoid scoping out other people’s grocery carts.  It’s probably rude.

 

White Bean Collard Soup With Sausage

White bean collard soup with sausage is a homey fall soup that is easy to make.  It goes great with homemade cornbread.   I prefer to make white beans from dry beans but you can use canned beans to save time.  You can use Cannellini beans, Navy beans or Great Northern beans.  You can also use frozen collards or frozen kale, turnip or mustard greens in the freezer section of your grocery store or you can buy fresh greens and wash and cut yourself.  I use pork sausage with a medium heat to suit our taste.

Here is a basic recipe:

  • 12 to 16 oz of sausage, (thawed if frozen)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4  to 5 cups of chicken broth
  • 20 oz of frozen chopped collard greens.   You can substitute mixed greens, kale, turnip or mustard greens.
  • 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) of white beans
  • Splash of white wine.
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. First cook up the sausage in a skillet with the chopped onion.  When the sausage is browned, it is ready.
  2. Add the greens, the white beans, and 4 cups broth and splash of wine.  Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until soup is slightly thickened, just around 10 minutes.  You could serve now or leave on warm for a while longer to let the flavors of the sausage fully blend in.  I sometimes make the soup and then transfer it to a crockpot on low heat until ready to eat.

Serves 4 to 5

Other blog post ideas for bean soup, sausage and collards or like combination:

Check out this link to Slow-Cooker White Bean Soup with Audouille and Collards

Or this link for Martha Stewart’s Sausage and Kale Soup


Ohh, Happy Fall

Summer officially turned into fall on September 22, 2012 —The arrival of the autumnal equinox marked the time of year when day and night were of equal length and signaled to summer to rest it’s heat and fall to blow in the season change.

So what does this mean at my house?  Well, fall just happens to be my favorite time of year.  The leaves start to change into brilliant red, orange and yellow colors.  The air becomes crisp.  The nights become the perfect host for snuggling up with the kids by the bonfire.  The contrast of the cool air at our backs and the warm radiant heat glowing before us is storybook like.  Outside has a wonder and brilliance that is much anticipated and much needed after a hot summer.

Inside my home, my kitchen starts to kick it into high gear.   After being on a  summer semi-sabbatical, my oven revs up baking all sorts of autumn themed goodness  with no care or worry about over heating the house.  My large stove pots happily work overtime every fall simmering up rich, hearty soups and stews.  Delicious smells waft from the kitchen in a happy parade announcing the change of the season.  It’s truly dreamy.

Copious amounts of pumpkin and zucchini bread and hearty home made soups are on the list this month.  I enjoy pairing my soups and stews with homemade cornbread baked in an iron skillet.   Cherry pie and apple dumplings spell fall happiness and are sure to ignite giggles galore from wide eyed-spectators impatiently licking their lips waiting for the oven timer to say “beep..beep —-beep…beep”.  Spiced cider and hot cocoa become a hot item once we enter October and November.  Hearty, filling casseroles and quiches satisfy with the available abundance of squash, onions and potatoes.

The days now become shorter and shorter with nights longer and longer as we head into full fledged fall.

Maybe later on this fall, we might once again watch a fall meteor shower while sitting round the fire sipping hot chocolate and making s’mores.

Oh, Happy Fall.  How I love Thee….



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