Wednesday, March 14, 2012

No More Drama: Meal Planning (and recipe: Almond Chicken Bites)

A few years back I lived in a snuggly basement of a fantastic family.  I painted a few walls olive green and made my bed everyday.  I had only few responsibilities:  clean the bathroom, participate in Sunday evening family game domination, and cook one meal a week.

Yes, yes I did take a picture of my room.
Take a look at non-crispy Ling Ling.
My palms still get sweaty thinking back to the pressures of feeding people something beyond cereal and sandwiches.  I would flip madly through Rachel Ray and Taste of Home magazines desperate for help creating something that was palatable.  I remember my first dish:  sloppy joes.  They were decent.  No complaints.  Well, I never got complaints-just forced smiles of affirmation (and prayers for my future husband).  My meal that flopped was this "casserole" I threw together.  After an hour in the oven the carrots were still rock hard.  Then I realized the oven was having emotional issues and I had to deconstruct the casserole wiping cream of mushroom off the carrots and boiling them and frying the chicken.  Sheer panic, folks.  I think we even ate bread and jam that night.

That year I was encouraged to menu plan. . .for my once a week meal.  I never could do it.  I could not plan for ONE meal.  It was a rough year in the kitchen.

Now I'm married.  I didn't meal plan for the past 350 days of our marriage.  Yes, times in the kitchen were stressful.  I had some meals that were embarrassing to serve.  But those days are over, because BUDGET's back in town.  King Soopers, Sunflower Market-they were my little haven of spending.  How can you set a budget on the sustenance of life?!  So I would stop by most every day and pick up the necessities that were necessary to collect the dust in my pantry.

To be a wise steward of our money (and time), I figured I should start this discipline of planning meals.  It takes discipline:  You must set aside time and plan out your recipes in advance (that's called meal planning).

Here are some steps that I've created (I know no one has ever thought of this stuff before) to meal plan:

1.  Look at what's on sale.  (And try no to pine too much over the stuff that's not.)

2.  Write down list of items on sale that you would like to eat. (chicken sausage, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage)

3.  Start searching your favorite recipe sites for meals that include your sale items.  If you can't find a recipe you like, or it takes more than five minutes to find one worth trying, cross it off your list (sorry cabbage).

4.  Clip coupons or go to the stores website and add them to your savings card (King Soopers has this option).  Coupons for good foods are rare these days, so don't waste too much time here.  I typically search for toilet paper, toothpaste, and coffee coupons.

5.  Make your shopping list.

Yay.  Now I get to go shopping!!!  Any kind of shopping makes my day.  I don't even mind a Home Depot trip with Andy because I'm a deal hunter and my prey is lurking everywhere!

Today I will fight the double-ad Wednesday folks at Sunflower Market.  I got to get my game face on, so I thought I'd share with you some of the Hlushak culinary surprises. . . but not all at once.  Patience young grasshopper; maybe you'll find inspiration, or maybe you'll just laugh at what I make Andy eat :)

Almond Crusted Chicken Bites
(props to Nature's Table, the healthy cooking school next to my work for helping obtain a delicious recipe)
2 chicken breasts cut up into 1'' pieces (yum)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup almonds, chopped finely (use a food processor)
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper (um, or black)

The line up.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour yogurt into a bowl.  In another bowl mix almonds, thyme, onion, and garlic powders, salt, and pepper.

Dredge chicken cubes in the yogurt to coat.  Then dredge through the nut mixture to coat thoroughly.  (Your fingers will look like sweaters during this stage.)

Place coated chicken on parchment or foil lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is done.

Serve with Hlushak honey mustard sauce (created by the talented Mrs. Mom Hlushak) or I guess you could settle for ketchup, BBQ sauce, mustard, but why?

For your viewing pleasure, I bring you a close up of RAW chicken.

Just so we never forget who we are or where our honey mustard sauce is located.
Thanks for stopping by!  Enjoy making these tasty almond crusted chicken bites.  You can serve them with sliced baked sweet potatoes and a salad.  Mmmm!


  1. Looks like a fantastic meal! will have to try some time!

  2. yummy! 3 kids and 7+ years of marriage later, I'm still working on this one too! Love you Lauren and think of you often! Recently caught up on some of your entries about your heart. I love your heart and the way that the Lord has always been working in it! Thanks for sharing it with all of us! -Miriam

  3. I am so glad to have this recipe, they are delicious and you are talented Mrs. Hlushak! love you


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