Cook of the Week: Saving dinner and making memories

cook of the week
cook of the week

Saving Dinner, by Leanne Ely saved me when the kids were small. It’s available at Amazon, or learn more at

Once upon a time, my hubs and I had five kids in the house. Five. Five girls ranging in age from six-months to 15. Hubs was in school and I worked. It was crazy, to say the least.

Even though we were not in a position to allow our kids to participate in every sport or event that struck their fancy, we were still exhausted by the end of the day — when job number two started -you know, taking care of the house, the kids, homework and dinner.

Dinner. Holy schmoly. You can only serve hotdogs and chips so many times before the guilt steps in.

It was during this time, I heard about this wonderful book called Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. Dinner definitely needed saving, but five kids, especially girls, are expensive and money was tight. I wish I had stock in shampoo companies and hair doodle manufacturers, but I digress. Regardless, spending money on a new book seemed extravagant.

I debated for weeks on buying it. I rarely buy new books even though I’m an avid reader. Yardsales and thrift stores keep my library stocked, but curiosity about this concept of Saving Dinner only grew.

I was shopping at Sam’s Club one day and there it was! I tried to talk myself out of it, but finally caved and added it to the buggy along with the industrial size diapers, wipes, and laundry detergent.

Oh. . .my. . .goodness. That book literally saved dinner! The book is divided by seasons to utilize the produce that is readily available and then. . .by week! Each week includes six recipes and a shopping list. The shopping list alone probably saved two hours off my prep time. When you shop with five kids, you better have a list. It’s very easy to blame the list for not buying the newest toys.

“It’s not on the list.”

“We could add it.”

“No, the list fairy will strike us down. The list cannot be altered once we reach the store.”

“But you added that bottle of wine.”

“Different list.”

This book and Leanne understand how crazy life is and how daunting healthy cooking can be and she has found a way to make it happen, even with baseball, dance, piano, karate. The book was just the beginning — her website is an amazing upgrade, cutting planning down to about 10 minutes a week.

The recipes are easily adjustable for both taste preferences and serving size.

Her website makes it super-easy! Everything is automatic and the cost is so affordable that it’s easily paid for by not ordering pizza or to-go because you’ll be cooking at home.

Even though Casa Kirkland is far less crazy — only two kids remain at home and that cuddly six-month old is now a rising senior in high school, I’m still enjoying the recipes found in Saving Dinner and I can thank Leanne for hearing my girls talk about how they love sitting around the dinner table talking and how their teachers don’t believe them when they learn we eat dinner as a family five-to-six nights a week. You can’t put a price tag on those memories.


Spicy Chicken with Pineapple Avocado Salsa

1 7-ounce can of pineapple, crushed and unsweetened

1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and chopped

3 Tbsp green onions, sliced

3 tsp lime juice

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional

1 tsp ground ginter

1 tsp cumin

2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped

2 Tbsp chili powder

2 cloves garlic, pressed

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

5 Tbsp honey


For Pineapple Avocado Salsa: combine first eight ingredients in a bowl; set aside


In a small bowl, combine chili powder and garlic. Stir in enough oil to make a thick paste and rub it on both sides of the chicken breast halves. In a large non-stick skillet on medium heat, heat remaining oil. Brown chicken on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Drizzle with honey. Lower heat and cook, basting with pan juices, until chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve with salsa.

Serving suggestions: Sever with brown rice and a big green salad.

TRENDING NOW: Dahlonega resident loves vintage cooking. Read here.

Chicken Lo Mein

cook of the week

Photo by Debbie Tea on Unsplash

12 ounces angel hair pasta

3 tsp sesame oil

5 Tbsp chicken broth

5 Tbsp soy sauce (low sodium, if available)

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, pressed

6 chicken breast halves, boneless skinless, and cut into thin strips

3 cups cabbage, finely shredded

3 carrots, coarsely shredded

1 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced

3/4 cup onions, chopped


Cook pasta according to package directions. Transfer pasta to a large bowl; add sesame oil and toss until coated. In a small bowl, stir together the broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, and pepper; set aside.

In a skillet or wok, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

Add shicken strips and stir-fry about 3 minutes or until no longer pink; remove from wok or skillet and cover to keep warm.

Add cabbage, carrots, mushrooms and onions to the wok or skillet and continue to stir-fry another 3 minutes. Add broth mixture to the skillet. Stir-fry, mixing well, for 2 minutes more. Return chicken and garlic to the skillet and heat through. Serve.


Serving suggestion: Serve with a salad.


Photo by Fábio Alves on Unsplash

Mega Cheesyburgers


1 1/2 pounds extra-lean ground beef

3/4 cup Swiss cheese, grated

1/2 cupu Parmesan cheese, grated

1 clove garlic, pressed

4 scallions, minced

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard


In a bowl, mix all ingredients together. Wet your hands and press firmly into patties. Light the barbecue. Cook patties over medium-high heat until done to your liking.

Serving suggestions: Serve on whole-wheat buns with all the condiments. A big salad would round out the rest of the meal.

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