Sunday, August 17, 2014

Foil Pack Meals (Part 2)

Ladies (and gentlemen), start your grill! And impress your dinner guests with Grilled Parm-Ranch Chicken.
I was excited when I read the ingredients for this recipe because it called for carrots and fresh green beans. Lucky for me (and family) it was time to pick the carrots, and green AND purple beans from our backyard garden.

My ingredients are pictured above, but I'd recommend you use an Italian herb blend and fresh garlic, (in lieu of the garlic salt I had on hand). If you don't love garlic, skip it. The ranch and Parmesan offer up a lot of great flavor. Mixing those up with your veggies make for a colorful medley.

I like to cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes to minimize cooking time and to make them a nice bite-size for kids. And if beans aren't your thing, I think broccoli would be a nice stand-in.

You can create your foil packs as a made to order individual meal (1 chicken breast per pack with their preferred veggies), or if you intend to dish up a plate you can do 2 (average to small size) chicken breasts per foil pack, then transfer to a dish once off the grill.

When you wrap the foil around your ingredients, be sure to allow space in the pack for heat circulation and expansion.

Grill for 20 minutes, rotating each pack 1/2 way through. It's recommended that the poultry's internal temperature reaches at least 170 degrees.

Our family thought this meal was a nice change of pace, and pretty to boot!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Foil Pack Meals (Part 1)

Who doesn't love a foil pack on the grill? I remember the first time I had one, it was "Hobo Potatoes" that my friend had made. Oh the cheesy potato goodness. I was impressed by how easy and delicious it was. And that was just a side dish. To make a whole meal, or at least main course, in a piece of tinfoil is just like one of those "one pot meals"!

Two foil pack recipes that caught my eye on Pinterest were the Hearty Beef Stew, and the Grilled Parmesan Ranch Chicken.
I started with the Beef Stew recipe and ended up having it again a week later because it really hit the spot for my family at dinner time. Grilling has been ideal with the amazingly beautiful weather we've had here in Minneapolis the past couple weeks!

The recipe called for brown gravy but I went my own way with this one. The recipe was really just inspiration for me this time. I didn't want a salty gravy gooey foil pack, but did want the hearty meaty I still used steak, potatoes and carrots, but left out the gravy and onions. Here are my ingredients:

I didn't pay that price. I bought the steak on sale with a coupon!
Super simple ingredients right? I prefer using fresh garlic and garden veggies, but ours had not yet been harvested when I made this meal.

So, I stoked up the charcoal grill and cooked up 2 foil packs for 20 minutes. The recipe says 14-16 minutes but you just never know with a grill. I checked the foil packs at the 15 minute mark but the potatoes were still a little firm.

Cooking these in 2 separate packs is especially nice if you have picky eaters and/or if you have to cut food up for kids. For 1 of the packs I cut the meat into smaller pieces. You could also put more/less spices and/or veggies in 1.


If you prefer to use the oven, you could bake the foil pack on a cookie sheet for 25-30 minutes.

The steak was tender, juicy and flavorful, and the potatoes and carrots were the perfect texture. I served it up with a spinach salad and some sweet peppers with ranch (my kids love them).

In my next post I'll share the Grilled Parmesan Ranch Chicken foil pack recipe. It's a bit more involved, but worth it!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A (Grape) Slice of Life

No doubt you stumbled upon, and were amazed by the simplicity of, this grape cutting technique on Pinterest, Facebook, or YouTube!

I don't cut grapes for my kids any more, but I do cut grapes for chicken salad. So I was excited to give it a shot.

The plate is wet because I had just washed the grapes, and didn't dry them.

My anticipation quickly dwindled. This was NOT going to work. Turns out, if your plate has any depth to it the grapes will sit too low and the knife wont have room to pass through.

The trick looked so seamless and easy!

But I didn't give up. I turned the bottom plate upside down!

This did work...


But resulted in grapes cut about 1/5 instead of 1/2, and many rolling off the plate. So yes, this is a great time saver and maybe a fun party trick, but I doesn't work well (with MY plates).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Baby Powder is Magical

I don't know about you, but I hate the feeling of sand in my sandals, and even worse having sand all over my car. So I pinned this beach tip. I was a little skeptical since there was no accompanying article or blog to explain and/or show that it actually worked to remove that stuck on sand from your skin.

I finally got around to trying it yesterday with my 4yr old. First, dry off as you usually would. Then sit your bum on your towel or beach blanket, with your sandals nearby.

Lake Nokomis - Minneapolis, MN
This was not staged. She really did have that much sand stuck to the TOP of her feet.

Okay, now sprinkle the baby powder anywhere there is sand on your skin. Don't forget to check the back of your calves, sand likes to hide there.

Next, wipe off sand (and powder) with your hands.

And that is a successful pin! There may be some baby powder residue left but that's so much better than sand. That and the powder has a pleasant scent and leaves your skin feeling & looking a bit softer. Now slip on your sandals and walk away sand free!

Don't worry, we trimmed and painted her toenails today so she's prepared for any additional impromptu photo shoots in the near future!

Go forth and enjoy the beach!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Repurposed Wipes Container Turned Educator

I love all the pins showing how people reuse containers from various infant and toddler care items (bum wipes, wet wipes, formula etc.). But I had yet to come across one that seemed useful for our family.

I did like when I came across ones that were an activity or game for babies or young kids. So I've been keeping an eye out for items I thought would be a good fit for the size container I had as well as something potentially educational for my 4yr old and (almost) 2yr old.


Last week I found some small, soft, colorful foam shapes in the dollar spot at Target. It was a pack of 20 with 5 shapes, each shape a different color. So I grabbed a few supplies, and got to work!

And here's what I came up with...

A fun way to learn vowels, upper vs. lower case letters, colors, and shapes! The game rules are that the kids take turns picking one block out at a time. If the letter on the block was in their name they get to keep it. If the letter is in their sibling's name they need to give it to them (encourages sharing). The first one to collect all four of one letter (in their name) wins! So they also learn about the vowels in their own name, as well as their sibling's name. The game works best with 2 players.

We tried this out for the first time tonight before bed. It turned out to be a fun and exciting way to settle down and be calm. Have you ever heard those words in the same sentence? My 4yr old asked if we could play again tomorrow night. This makes me happy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oven Fried Cheddar-Garlic Chicken

Tonight's dinner was brought to us by this pin titled "Kittencal's Moist Cheddar-Garlic Oven Fried Chicken Breast"
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
3/4 cup dry bread crumb
1/2 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

This easy to make and delicious pin was a real crowd pleaser. A definite re-pin! I didn't have any wedge/block cheese in the house so I used shredded in its place. Also, to accommodate the kids, I cut the chicken breasts into small pieces (nuggets perhaps).

This allowed additional surface space for the extra yummy (and extra crispy) breading! The chicken was definitely moist (sorry if you aren't a fan of that word haha). So much flavor, no need for any ranch or ketchup.

The only reason I would recommend going out of your way to purchase a block/wedge of cheese (if you didn't have any on hand) is if you have picky eaters that would otherwise pick off the "crust".

I thought the amount of liquid in the wet mixture was very slightly too little. I think I'd simply add a bit more butter next time. Also, I had a lot of excess bread crumbs. So I'll use less of that in the future.

At nearly 9pm, I'm STILL thinking about this meal. I wish I had doubled the recipe so I'd have leftovers for tomorrow!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chicken Bacon Alfredo Gnocchi

I pinned it on Wednesday. I made it on Thursday!

And I'll make it again. It was really good. And I hardly changed a thing from the original recipe.
Here's their ingredient list:
3 cups gnocchi
2 cups frozen broccoli
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1 - 15 ounce jar Alfredo sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Here are my ingredients (plus 6 strips of Oscar Mayer bacon unpictured):
No, this isn't an ad for Target brand products...but it could be!
I started to thaw a package of chicken breasts, but then realized I had 1/2 a rotisserie chicken. So I shredded some of that up (didn't measure it). I think that savory flavor added even more to this dish. I chose a style of gnocchi that is smaller in size compared to those in the original recipe (I've always preferred the petite ones). If you've not purchased/cooked gnocchi before don't be afraid! It's easy to find in both the noodle isle and the frozen food section. I purchased mine in the noodle isle, and it cooked on the stove-top in 2 easy minutes.

Now for the sauce. I've never liked the taste of store bought alfredo sauce, and haven't purchased any in years. But I gave it a chance with this "Prego Homestyle Alfredo", and it complimented this dish perfectly.

If you're a big fan of garlic, go for it! A small amount would marry well with this casserole. And if for some crazy reason you're not into cheese (really?), you could leave it out and this would still be a great meal.

Back to the recipe. It instructs you to place & mix the ingredients in a casserole dish, but I don't own a fancy (nor large) casserole dish. So I placed the ingredients in a large bowl, mixed them, then transferred the mixture to my old-school casserole dish.

Next I topped the mixture off with what appeared to be a ton of shredded mozzarella (it looked like a dish full of cheese). I popped it in the oven for 22min and broiled for an additional 2min.


Seconds, everyone?