What’s for Dinner Week #4

Sorry this is a day late! I was under the weather all last week and I am just getting caught back up. Here are the dinner suggestions for week #4.

What’s for Dinner Week #4

Chicken Kiev


Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

Salt and Pepper

Cold Butter

Chives and Parsley, Dried or Fresh

Bread Crumbs


All Purpose Flour

Frying Oil

In between 2 pieces of wax paper flatten multiple breasts with a flat kitchen mallet or rolling pin. Once flattened and thin enough to roll easily set aside and finish flattening all of the chicken. On a cutting board lay one of the breasts face down and put a pat of cold butter at one end. Sprinkle breast with salt and pepper and parsley and chives. Carefully pick up one end and roll the butter and herbs up into a short log. Secure with toothpick if it doesn’t want to stay closed. Repeat until all of the breasts are used. You will have some large and some small when finished.

Set up your breading station with three wide mouthed bowls. The first with flour, the second with 2 beaten eggs and the third with the breads crumbs. Coat a rolled breast first in the flour then move it to the eggs to coat it and then to the breadcrumbs. Repeat until all of the chicken is coated and ready to fry. This is a messy process so be prepared to wash your fingers multiple times along the way.

Heat oil such as canola or peanut oil in a cast iron skillet. Oil should come to about halfway up the sides of the pan. Fry each breast until thoroughly cooked and golden brown on each side. About 15 minutes for the largest down to 8-10 minutes for the smaller.

Serve with mashed potatoes and my dad’s favorite, green peas.

Build your own Pizzas

I love using pre-baked Naan flatbreads for this because they are quick and easy and come in lots of different varieties. My store carries white, wheat and garlic and two come in a package.

Cheese and pepperoni may be your favorite but don’t hesitate to try something different like artichoke and feta, or spinach, tomato and ricotta. There are endless possibilities!

Stuffed Shells

The reason I like writing this series is to not only give you new recipe ideas but also to perhaps remind you of recipes you haven’t made in awhile for whatever reason.

Stuffed shells is one of those recipes for us. If you have made them in the past, I urge you to go find your recipe in your recipe box and go to town with it. If you have never made them before, here is a classic recipe for stuffed shells from Chrisy at Homemadehooplah.com.



Everyone has their own favorite chili recipe. I bet some are even award winners. Am I right? Or passed down from previous generations?

In any case here is mine.

Brown 1 lb. of lean ground beef in a heavy bottomed pot along with 1 chopped medium onion, 1 clove of minced garlic and 1 whole sweet green or red bell pepper chopped small.

Add a large can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz. I think?) and a small can of tomato paste, plus water to fill the small can.

Next I add a can of black beans and a can of red kidney beans, including all of the liquids from the cans.

Then, the spices. I swear it takes almost a whole container of chili powder to get it tasting right but let’s just say it is at least 3 Tbsp. Then a couple of bay leaves, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, a couple of Tbsps. of sugar to mellow it and cut the acidity and fresh parsley if you have it otherwise dried will do.

Simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours stirring it frequently to prevent scorching.

Serve with sides of sour cream, shredded cheese and oyster crackers.

If you like it spicier by all means add all the jalapenos or chili peppers you like.

Beef Stew

Beef stew is another one of our cold weather favorites. Stew with warm buttered bread…Yum!

Coat 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of stew meat in flour, shake off excess. In a Dutch oven heat 2 Tbsps of oil. Add the floured meat and brown meat on all sides. I deglaze the pan with a cup of beef stock just so I can scrape up the flavorful drippings on the bottom of the pan. It will also start to thicken because of the flour. If you prefer a bolder flavor you can deglaze the pan with a good red wine.

Add a can of whole peeled tomatoes along with the liquid in the can. Then add 2 celery stalks chunked including the greens and 3 carrots peeled and chunked and 2 medium to large onions chunked to the pot. Add your choice of herbs. I like parsley, and Thyme or Sage. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and let simmer on low for a good two hours in the Dutch oven, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

About 1-1/2 hours into the cooking process I usually add potatoes chunked up. They don’t take as long as the rest of it does and then if you like mushrooms you can add them then too. Mushrooms add that rich earthy flavor to a stew.

Serve when meat is tender and breaks apart easily with a fork. Add more stock if the stew boils down too much and becomes dry.

Serve with homemade French bread.

Baked Ham

There are many different types of hams out there. Some boneless, some bone-in. Some are sweeter like honey or brown sugar, some are saltier. Some are pre-sliced and some are do-it-yourself. Either way any ham you get is already fully cooked so all you have to do is put it in the oven covered until the internal temp is satisfactory. Easy peasy right?

I like the simple approach of just putting the ham in a roasting pan and covering it with tin foil until hot and browned. But for those of you that like to pretty your ham up with things such as pineapple slices, cloves and cherries go for it. Any kind of ham is good to me!

Serve with a side of potatoes or perhaps squash.

Leftover Night

Ham sandwiches anyone?


Note: All of these recipe amounts are based approximately on 4 people and might have to be adjusted if you have teenagers with a healthier appetite.




Domestic Discussions Part I

cifelli pic

Photo provided by Melanie Cifelli-7 month old “Moose” gets his head stuck in the cat door

I have always been fascinated by other peoples’ domestic practices. So much so that I thought I would take my interest to the next level and have a sit down with a few people to see what they do in their homes. How do they handle housekeeping, money, children, spouses, food prep and home improvement? Here is my first “Domestic Discussion.” Hope you enjoy!

Melanie Cifelli is one of my favorite people to talk to because she makes me smile. Melanie, her husband Scott and their three boys, Caleb, Ethan, and Joey along with their 3 cats and 2 dogs, all occupy a rural country home that together, they have been renovating for the past 13 years.

Besides renovations, which I will discuss in a bit, Melanie’s life revolves around teenage boys, school sports like soccer and basketball, her home business, on-the-go meals, and her avid couponing which she learned at the height of the coupon craze and still practices on her weekly trips to the grocery store.

A little background on Melanie: To start with Melanie was born in the UK but grew up in Australia. She married her husband Scott who was an American citizen and after having the three boys they moved back to the US. In 2003 they purchased their current home.

At first Melanie didn’t really know if she was domestic enough to do a Domestic Discussions interview with me. “I am not what you call a Domestic Goddess.” she said to me in her Aussie accent. I assured her that everyone has some sort of domesticness (if that is even a word) in them.

First we discussed couponing. In Australia, she said they don’t have coupons or rewards cards. When she moved to the US she didn’t know how to use a coupon and was a little scared to try. It wasn’t until the extreme couponing craze and multiple television shows about the subject that got her confident enough to try couponing. She started with one, she told me, and it worked, so she tried more. When she first started she didn’t know if she should just hand them all to the cashier or lay them on top of each individual item she had a coupon for. I kind of chuckled remembering my mother laying them on each item on the conveyor belt.

Melanie says some weeks her shopping receipts are cut almost in half by using coupons. If there is a week that the newspaper coupon ads are particularly good she will buy more than one set of newspapers just for the coupons. I asked her which newspaper she liked the best and she said she rarely bought the Democrat and Chronicle, sometimes the Daily News, but most often the Buffalo News. It had the coupons she wanted and it was 50 cents cheaper.

In asking which stores she frequented the most, Tops supermarket was at the top of the list with their bonus card and $1 coupon doubler coupons that come out every few months. She also frequents Save-A-Lot and Dollar General which also take coupons. Aldi is another store she visits but they do not accept coupons.

I asked her if she used Amazon’s Subscribe and Save or Big Box stores like Sam’s, BJ’s or Costco. Yep both Amazon and Costco were favorites of her’s she said.

One of the things I learned from Melanie after our couponing discussion was that Tops let’s you use more than 4 of the $1 Coupon Doubler coupons. I was under the impression you got 4 per bonus card. Nope you can use more but not in the same transaction. Interesting!

Our discussion turned to family next. Her three boys are very active teenagers with sports, jobs, and school. She said most days meals are on the go due to differing schedules but she tries to make them as healthy as possible. Her crock-pot gets used a lot she says. She tries to make extra so there are leftovers and if they are on the road for a game Subway is a healthy alternative to fast food.

Melanie is a stay at-home mom but on the side she sells on Ebay, Etsy and occasionally Craigslist for extra income. The former co-owner of Amelia’s Antiques in Batavia sells antiques as well as crafts online from home after her shop closed a few years ago. She loves to restore antique and vintage items and from the view sitting at her kitchen table I would say she is very good at it.

One major thing that has consumed her life the past decade is the renovation of her home which they have owned for 13 years. Generally her husband is a do-it-yourself kind of guy which can make for some pretty funny stories. She told me about a particularly funny story about when Scott decided to rip out the toilet without quite having everything ready to put another one in right away. “Nine days without a toilet” she grins telling me. Although I am sure she wasn’t smiling at the time it happened. “We were foster parents to two other children at the time so we had 5  children under the age of 7 living in this house and we didn’t have a toilet for 9 days.” Luckily she said they did have a functioning, albeit a not so great to look at toilet in the back of the garage but traipsing out there in the middle of night wasn’t the greatest fun. I told her she should write a book about all of these funny stories.

I finished this Domestic Discussion by asking Melanie what her hobbies were, what she would like to do in the future, and if there is anything she wished she had paid more attention to learning when she was younger.

She said she likes to write and wished she did more, adult coloring books are a new hobby, she has also been teaching herself guitar by watching you-tube videos, and of course her antiques and vintage items are a great inspiration to her. She said as far as what she would like to do in the future going back to school is something she was thinking about and she has always wanted to learn to speak Italian. She finished with she wished she had paid more attention to sewing when she was younger. Her mother who lives in Australia, can sew anything and is a wonderful seamstress. I agreed with her. I wished I had paid more attention when my mother tried to teach me to sew too.

I would like to thank Melanie for being my first interviewee for this Domestic Discussions series. It was so much fun getting to know her even more. -MM





What’s For Dinner Week #3

progressive dinner 2012too

Cream of Potato and Bacon Soup

This is one of my son’s favorite soups. It is easy and inexpensive to make but so satisfying on a cold winter night.

Recipe: Wash, peel and cut about 5 or 6 medium potatoes into small cubes. In a medium saucepan sauté a small thinly sliced onion in a TBSP of oil until translucent. Add potatoes, 2 cubes of chicken bouillon and 6 cups of water to the pan with the onions. Bring to a boil and simmer on low until potatoes are tender.

In another medium saucepan melt a stick of butter then add about a ¼ cup of flour to the melted butter. Whisk until it turns to a paste like consistency add more flour if needed. Whisk for about a minute making sure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Next slowly add milk to the pan whisking the whole time. I never really measure this but it should be thick, smooth and without lumps so approximately 2-3 cups of milk. You just made your cream for the cream of potato soup!

Add the cream mixture into the potato soup pot stirring it gently. The whole soup should thicken nicely.

Serve with crumbled fried bacon on top. We also have added corn to the soup and topped it with cheddar cheese too.

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas are super easy. I use the fajita packets in the taco section of the grocery store for seasoning. Grill or pan fry seasoned chicken breasts. Add thinly sliced onions and multicolored sweet peppers to the pan until just softened. Don’t overcook the veggies let them be slightly crisp not too mushy.

Use a soft taco that has been warmed in the microwave or oven. Fill the taco with the veggies and the sliced chicken, top with sour cream. Seasoned rice and refried beans make a great side dish.

Chicken and Biscuits

All I do for chicken and biscuits is boil split chicken breasts in a stockpot with thinly sliced onion and small chunked carrots and a few bouillon cubes. I add fresh sprigs of parsley and thyme when I have them in my garden otherwise dried herbs will do. When the chicken is cooked enough to almost fall apart remove the chicken to a plate to rest and cool. Add frozen peas at this point if you wish.

Make your favorite biscuits whether they are a refrigerator biscuit like Grands or a Bisquick biscuit.

To thicken the broth, combine about a cup of the broth and enough flour to make a thin liquidy paste.

Slowly pour the thickener back into the broth stirring gently. Bring to a boil then add the chicken back in after picking it off the bones. Pour over biscuits and enjoy!

Homemade Mac and Cheese

Everyone has a different recipe they like for homemade mac and cheese. I like to use whatever kind of cheese I have building up in the fridge like shredded taco cheese, a chunk of cheddar and some extra sleeves of American that haven’t been used yet.

I think one of the secrets is to slightly overcook the macaroni so it’s softer when it goes into the oven to bake.

The cheese sauce I do is pretty simple but I don’t measure anything either. I put a stick of butter into the bottom of a medium saucepan and melt it. I add milk and the cheese until all is melted together and hot and then I pour it over and stir it into the macaroni. Salt and pepper to taste and add any goodies to make it gourmet if you like.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly and there is a slight crust on the top.

Chicken Spiedies

I first ate a Chicken Spiedie at our favorite out of town hang out, the American Hotel in Lima, NY. It was first created however, in nearby Binghamton, NY. My husband loves these things but unlike the recipe below we like ours with melted mozzarella and caramelized onions too.

Serves 6

The chicken cubes are grilled so if you don’t have a grill pan or don’t want to start your outdoor grill in the winter you can use a cast iron pan and brown them over high heat.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves , minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons grated zest plus 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
6 (6-inch) sub rolls , slit partially open lengthwise

MAKE SAUCES Combine oil, garlic, basil, oregano, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes in large bowl. Transfer 2 tablespoons oil mixture to separate bowl and whisk in mayonnaise, vinegar, and lemon juice; refrigerate. (Sauces can be refrigerated, covered, for 2 days.)

PREP CHICKEN Prick chicken breasts all over with fork, cut into 1¼-inch chunks, and transfer to bowl with remaining oil mixture. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.

GRILL CHICKEN Remove chicken from marinade and thread onto six 12-inch metal skewers. Grill chicken over hot fire, covered and turning frequently, until lightly charred and cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to sub rolls or bread, remove skewers, and drizzle with mayonnaise mixture. Serve with fries.

Here is a link to this recipe copied from My Sister’s Kitchen –  Chicken Spiedie Recipe.

Build your own Sliders

Sliders are basically two bite burgers like the original White Castle burgers. And we love them!

Have fun with topping like lettuce, tomato, cheeses, bacon, mayo, mustard, avocado, onion, relish, ketchup, pickles, etc.

Grab some mini rolls, some lean ground beef and some chips and you are all set.

Leftover Night

Take the night off from cooking and enjoy those leftovers!


For a printer friendly version here is a link to the original document What’s for dinner week 3  -MM

What’s For Dinner Week #2

doug food

Doug’s school project last year for Home Ec – Not bad huh?

After my first post last week for this series I have decided to write this week’s a little differently.

I removed the total cost for each meal because it was very time consuming and I wanted to be able to use my own items in the recipes especially in the summer when our fruits and vegetables are in full swing. I also did not want to be limited to just what was available in the ad. I wanted to use the ad as inspiration not for total food costs.

So here goes for Week #2.

On the menu this week:

CROCKPOT MEATLOAF – I love this version of meatloaf. The crockpot makes it so tender and when we have an away game I throw it in the crock and set the oven to turn on automatically for the potatoes and by the time we get home we have a wonderful meal waiting for us.

BREAKFAST FOR DINNER – Who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner? I make our waffles and pancakes from scratch and any leftovers get frozen and used for breakfast another day. The pancake batter can be made up the night before and stored in the fridge.

SCALLOPED POTATOES AND HAM – I ask the deli counter to slice nice thick slices of ham so I can chunk them up for this recipe. Deli ham quality is particularly good and much cheaper than ham from the meat department.

CHUCK ROAST IN THE CROCKPOT – It’s crockpot week it seems doesn’t it?Right now being on the go with basketball practice this seems to be the only way we eat without getting takeout every night. I love the mushrooms in this recipe. It makes for very rich and flavorful meat and sauce. Warm blueberry muffins with this roast instead of bread are a wonderful treat.

TACO NIGHT – Make taco night fun for everyone by having a build-your-own taco line with all of the ingredients in separate bowls. So many choices helps with picky eaters.

FRIDAY NIGHT FISH AND CHIPS – Make it easy and more healthful to bake instead of fry your favorite fish and chips. If you like, make a yummy fish sandwich complete with homemade tartar sauce too.

LEFTOVER NIGHT – Take the night off from cooking and enjoy those leftovers!

I would love to hear from you if you have any meal suggestions that you love to cook for your family. You can email suggestions to me at marymargaretripley@yahoo.com.

Here is the link to Week #2’s “What’s for Dinner?” What’s for dinner week 2


What’s for Dinner?

Funny enough, this new series called “What’s for Dinner” was a suggestion a few months ago by my husband. He knew I struggled sometimes with what to have for dinner and he knew everyone probably had days they struggled too.

We both decided that using my store’s ad to plan these meals would not only give inspiration but also be a tool to see how much each meal would approximately cost.

I have given you 7 meal choices this week. Pick and choose any that sound good to you. These are just suggestions and can be modified to fit your lifestyle, food preferences and budgets. Also in the summer with your own  home gardens and farmers markets the costs of these meals with be even less.

I have typed the meal suggestions into a Word document for easy printing. They each include a shopping list, breakdown of costs and the instructions or recipe needed to prepare the meal.

Hopefully these suggestions will give you some inspiration and help make your evening meal planning less stressful. Believe me I have heard plenty of times “I don’t know” or “whatever you want to make honey” more than my fair share.

I would love some constructive feedback if you are willing. I would also welcome any meal suggestions that are favorites of your family’s .

Here is the link to What’s for dinner week 1

Enjoy! -MM