December 28, 2011

Menu: December 27 – January 2

Tuesday: spaghetti and meatballs w/ sauce and diced tomatoes (this time I used oatmeal instead of bread crumbs. I just needed to add more milk as a result. Still super tasty and no body else realized it had oatmeal!)
Wednesday: Out to eat
Saturday: Pulled pork sandwiches (just throwing a shoulder into the slow cooker!) and fries
make baked artichoke and spinach dip and spicy bean salsa
Sunday: leftovers
Monday: fried ham, eggs, and biscuits

December 20, 2011

Menu: December 20-26

Tuesday: spaghetti with chicken and spinach
Wednesday: Slow cooker vegetable beef stew
Thursday: Out to eat
Friday: leftover stew
Saturday: homemade personal pizzas
Sunday: ham, sausage dressing, broccoli, zucchini, and rolls
Monday: leftovers!!!!

December 15, 2011

Menu: December 13-19

Tuesday: Jambalaya (it was a mix thing I had gotten as a gift)
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: Dad’s spaghetti and steamed broccoli
Saturday: easy baked tilapia and drop biscuits
Sunday: chicken enchiladas and spinach salads
Monday: spinach and parmesan hamburgers and sweet potato fries

So we're in an apartment in our new city. Rental furniture places are my new favorite people ever after sleeping on the floor. All of our things are off to yet another state and we just brought bare minimums with us. Realized yesterday that I packed 3 whisks but only 2 pans - a large skillet and a HUGE stockpot. WTH was I thinking when I packed?! So cooking should be an adventure. ;)

December 02, 2011

What's Left in the Fridge Quesadillas

We're moving soon. I know everyone is very envious. ;) Part of our goal this week is to eat up as much perishable food as we can. Tonight I decided to get sneaky and see if I can't do this while getting my starting to become picky toddler to eat foods that he used to like. He does like cheese quesadillas, but has decided that he no longer like spinach, tomatoes, and carrots. He's never been a big fan of chicken. Of course what's left in the fridge right now? Part of a bag of spinach, cheeses, salsa, and diced carrots. I pulled out a frozen chicken breast this morning and started formulating a unique for us quesadilla.

No real recipe since it was throw what I found in a bowl and put it between two whole wheat tortillas. ;) I combined in a bowl the diced carrots, what was left of our parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese, minced garlic, spinach broken into small pieces, a couple of tablespoons from the bottom of the salsa jar, and diced chicken (I did dice it as small as I could after I poached it).
Before I added the chicken.

Squish is currently 13 months old. He is a full up walker. He sits at the table with us, using the bumbo to give him that bit of extra height he needs. He currently has 6 teeth, 4 on top and 2 on bottom.

Oooo....I like quesadillas! (as mom snickers)

Happy Squish!

Showing off his empty plate!

For once my sneakiness worked (of course the healthy dose of cheese helped)! Who knows if he'll fall for this again, but I'll definitely give it a try in the future. Tonight marks the first vegetables other than sweet potato fries I've been able to get him to eat all week! And best yet, my fridge is a bit more empty. YAY!

November 09, 2011

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Over the past 9 months I've tried a lot of different whole wheat pizza dough recipes trying to find one my whole family will eat and enjoy. We've finally decided on a family favorite! I've done pizzas and calzones both with great success.

Recipe adapted from The Joy of Clean Eating

Makes 2 pizza crusts. 

1 tbsp honey
1 cup lukewarm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (but may need up to 3 1/2 cups depending on humidity and your flour)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp kosher salt

In a large bowl mix together honey, water, salt, 2 tablespoons oil and yeast. If you're unsure about your yeast, allow it to sit in just the water for 10 minutes to check, then add the remaining ingredients in the first line. 
Stir in 2 cups of the whole wheat flour. If should form a wet ball. If not, add more flour 1/4 cup at a time. Place dough on counter and kneed in the last 1/2 cup of flour. Dough should not be extremely sticky, but may be slightly more sticky than other pizza doughs. You can easily use a mixer with the dough hook for mixing and kneading. 
Cover a large bowl with the remain tablespoon of olive oil. Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap (this really seems to make a difference for me versus just a tea towel). Let rise for 1 hour.
After the dough has sat for an hour, separate into equal halves. Lightly kneed each half and then use as your pizza crust, calzone, or even make bread sticks. 

I recommend cooking pizzas at 450º for 10-15 minutes. No need to precook the crust.

Running short on time? I've had great success skipping the rising by using pizza crust yeast. 

Dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for 24 hours or place in the freezer in a freezer bag for up to a month. 

When I make a pizza, I usually make 2 pizzas - one to cook and eat and one to freeze for later. I top the pizza as usual and then freeze before baking. Once frozen the pizza should easily come up from the pan so you can wrap in foil and not be without your pan. 

Menu: November 8-14

Tuesday: Shrimp and grits w/ peppers
Wednesday: steak bites, mashed potatoes, and green beans
Thursday: waffles with strawberry topping
Friday: homemade pizza with spinach, chicken, and tomatoes
Saturday: veggie burgers and peas in pasta
Sunday: chicken tortellini with yellow squash
Monday: veggie burgers and sweet potato fries (that always come out crispy)

November 03, 2011

Menu: October 31 – November 7

Tuesday: Frozen pizza
Wednesday: hamburgers, whole wheat macaroni and cheese, and squash
Thursday: autumn salad
Sunday: grilled chicken sandwiches and steamed broccoli
Monday: Tilapia with wine and tomatoes with herb pasta and spinach side salad 

Didn't disappear, just went on a family vacation! Just a warning, we're coming up on a PCS that includes living in temp housing for 3 months. I have a feeling there will be some interesting meals and probably a lot more of my crockpot being used. Maybe I'll do a post on how to feed your family with an easy bake oven. :p

October 11, 2011

Menu: Oct 4-17

I didn't disappear, just went out of town for a couple of days last minute. Ended up finishing up the last menu I posted after we got back into town. Then last Saturday I, *gulp*, went to the commissary without a menu, let alone a detailed grocery list. Naturally, that lasted for all of 60 seconds before I took out my iPhone and created a menu while standing in the middle of the produce section. I cannot go without a menu. I couldn't figure out where to even begin buying food without a menu! Without a menu how do you keep food from going to waste before it goes bad? I just can't do it!

Tuesday: out of town
Wednesday: pumpkin soup
Thursday: leftover soup
Friday: pizza
Saturday: Sesame chicken salad (my husband's request surprisingly)
Sunday: Butternut squash lasagna (DH and I both loved this....and apparently this is one of Squish's new favorite foods! Definitely making this again!)
Monday: steaks, oven baked fries (rather crisp! Don't skimp on the olive oil and flip every 10 minutes), and fried squash
Tuesday: leftover lasagna
Thursday: Chicken kabobs, grilled corn on the cob (soak in water then grill husks and all for 20 minutes), and something rice
Friday: Taco Calzones
Sunday: guilt free spinach burgers and sweet potato fries
Monday: Gnudi

September 26, 2011

Menu: Sept 27 - Oct 3

Tuesday: creamy ravioli with squash, lemon, and chives

Wednesday (ILs): Rudy’s BBQ (pick up that afternoon), baked oven fries, and steamed green beans or corn on the cob
Bake - dark chocolate cupcakes with sturdy whipped cream frosting

Thursday (ILs): lunch out; Cajun chicken pasta w/ grilled chicken and salads

Friday (ILs): lunch – sandwich fixings and salads; dinner – DH and I gone, ILs and Squish – pizza

Saturday (ILs): grilled hamburgers with whole-wheat macaroni and cheese; dinner – Pork tenderloin w/ sweet potato hash and fresh bread

Sunday: leftovers; pumpkin soup and rolls (Squish: grilled cheese and peas)

Monday: leftover soup and rolls (Squish: elbow macaroni with purred sweet poatoes and carrots with peas)

September 20, 2011

Menu: September 20-26

Tuesday: Sesame Chicken Salad (really enjoyed this salad, and surprisingly so did my husband!)
Wednesday: spinach turkey burgers (super easy and tasty!) and sweet potato fries
Thursday: Garden spaghetti
Friday: steaks, whole wheat macaroni and cheese, and green beans
Saturday: waffles; chicken squash bake
Sunday: Mongolian beef with broccoli over rice

September 19, 2011

Guilt Free Pasta

This is what I came up with for the September HouseHold6 cooking challenge (click here to read more about it). I made this meal way back on Sept 7th for dinner using what I had on me without going to the store since I posted those pictures. I felt no guilt going back for seconds.

3 frozen chicken tenders (unbreaded)
2 small to medium yellow squash
1 medium zucchini
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 box of whole wheat penne pasta
pureed sweet potatoes
pureed butternut squash
salt and pepper, to taste
shredded parmesan cheese

I started off by throwing the frozen chicken tenders (yep, frozen! lol) into a pot of hot water. I put on the lid, turned the heat to medium-low, and forgot about it for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, I sliced the squash and zucchini into half moon shapes. I threw them into a large skillet over medium high heat with the butter. I then diced the onion and added that to the skillet. Occasionally I remember to stir the vegetables over the next 10 minutes.

While cooking the vegetables, I filled up a large pot with hot water. Once it came to a boil I added half a box of whole wheat penne pasta (about 8 oz). By this point I remember the chicken and check it. It was cooked! I removed the chicken tenders from the water and SAVED THE WATER (very important!). I set the chicken to the side to cool for a few minutes as I grabbed my pureed sweet potatoes and squash from the freezer (and proceeded to almost trip on my son lol). Once the chicken was cool enough to touch, I shredded the chicken tenders with my hands and added it to the vegetables.

 I then I added 2 cups of the saved water from the chicken (by this point the vegetables had browned up nicely). Once bubbling, I added a few ice cubes of my pureed sweet potatoes and squash. In the end I ended up added 6 ice cubes of each.

I kept stirring until the puree became hot and the sauce thickened. Then I added salt, pepper, and rosemary to taste (I have a lot of rosemary that I don't normally use in daily cooking, so I figured why not use it here). I added the pasta to the sauce once the pasta was cooked to al dente. Mix well and serve with shredded parmesan on top.

I found the pasta to be fantastic. DH said it was okay, but it needed more meat (I think he's still bitter from a previous meatless meal). Squish loved it and ate a cup of pasta himself!

Side note about frozen purees:
While most people consider frozen pureed vegetables to be only for baby food, I think it is useful for normal cooking. They are GREAT thickeners for soups and are easy to sneak into meals for picky eaters. My husband had no idea it was pureed vegetables till I told him. The next time you have an extra sweet potato or carrots hanging around, peel them and throw them to steam on your stove. Once tender, throw into a blender or food processor. Add water from the steamer/sauce pot as needed to thin out the puree. Freeze in ice cube trays. Once frozen you can throw them in freezer bags or containers. Super easy! Since Squish never liked baby food, I often throw a cube of our puree into whatever I'm feeding him for an extra veggie serving.

Sadly, this was the state of my kitchen after I finished cooking this meal! My son makes a bigger mess than me these days. . . . oy.

Menu: September 13-19

Tuesday: leftover turkey chili
Wednesday: Teryiki Madness spicy chicken copy-cat w/ broccoli
Thursday: homemade frozen pizzas (pepperoni and Italian sausage; chicken and artichoke pizza)
Friday: oatmeal waffles; Gone
Saturday: breakfast pizza w/ sausage; cheese fondue w/ apples, carrots, bread, sliced sausage; make homemade vanilla ice cream
Sunday: eggs, bacon, and biscuits; Out to eat
Monday: Italian sausage spaghetti (out of freezer)

September 10, 2011

Jalapeno Tilapia Pasta

2 1/2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz tilapia fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 (5 ounce) package baby spinach leaves
2 roma tomatoes, chopped

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil for the pasta. Cook according to directions to al dente.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic. Cook the fish in the oil until golden brown, turning once (about 5 minutes total).
Pour in the cream and lemon juice into the skillet. Stir in the jalapeno, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and paprika. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until sauce has reduced slightly and fish flakes easily with a fork (about 2 minutes). Mix the baby spinach into the sauce and cook until wilted. Stir in the chopped tomato and pasta once cooked. Serve with shredded parmesan cheese if desired.
As my husband says, this pasta has a bit of heat to it. ;)

Autumn Salad

Original recipe from Espresso and Cream.

6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1-2 pears, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries (or cherries)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
8 slices bacon, crisp cooked and crumbled*
4-6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 roma tomato, diced
1 chicken breast, grilled, and diced
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

In a large bowl combine the lettuce, pears, cranberries or cherries, pecans, bacon, chicken, and feta cheese. Mix well. Pour olive oil and balsamic vinegar over individual servings according to taste.

This salad was FANTASTIC. My husband was rather hesitant when he saw me prepping it. However, he ended up going back for seconds and thirds! We will definitely be eating this salad again.

*I will probably leave out the bacon at times in the future. I seriously doubt if we'd miss it as good as everything else is in this salad.

September 08, 2011

Menu: September 7-12

Wednesday: No Guilt Pasta
Thursday: quiche (ham and broccoli)
Sunday: jalapeno tilapia pasta
Tuesday: leftovers

September 01, 2011

HH6 Sept Cooking Challenge

Look, it's a disorganized pantry! Believe it or not I've actually been working on it. I only got half way though, so it looks worse than it really is. I feel like I should post an after pic next week so y'all don't think I'm a slob. lol

A neat, organized freezer. I just cleaned it out two days ago. Not much in there since I'm hoping we'll be moving sooner rather than later. I'm really hopeful sometimes.

A halfway organized fridge. I got halfway through cleaning it the other day. 

So why all the photos? It's a part of this month's HouseHold6 Cooking Challenge. I haven't joined in the past couple of months due to several reasons, but I really want to get back with it this month! 

The challenge? We all need to be prepared in the event of a disaster. You have stuff in your pantry and fridge/freezer. If a disaster should strike today and you have no access to going to a grocery store but your stove/grill is still working, what would you make with what you have on hand. 

Part of the challenge is posting photos of our refrigerator and pantry showing what we have. We have to use just these items to make our meal. Right now I'm thinking I'll be making a pasta dish and use up the frozen pureed baby food before it reaches it's limit as part of the sauce. Probably will do something with chicken. I've also got a few veggies in the fridge like squash, zucchini, spinach, and baby carrots. If nothing else, I'm sure Squish will enjoy it! Sorry, but you'll have to wait until at least the 18th of the month for me to post whatever I actually come up with. :)

August 30, 2011

Menu: August 30 - September 6

Tuesday: Italian sausage spaghetti w/ spinach
Wednesday: Grilled chicken citrus teriyaki
Thursday: Grilled hamburgers and sweet potato fries
Friday-Sunday: Hopefully out enjoying a real city!
Monday: frozen pizza
Tuesday: Toasted ravoli with marinara sauce and sautéed zucchini and yellow squash

August 29, 2011

Banana Oat Cookies

I always feel really bad when I'm eating my granola bars in front of DS. He's 9 months currently and ALWAYS wants to eat exactly what I'm eating, but honey is on our no-no list for now (and I don't feed him raisins either). Well, here's a recipe that's great for my son that I found to be rather tasty for myself. I'll keep making my granola bars, but when DS is around I'll break these cookies out instead!

(adapted from Oats and Naner Drops recipe found on

1 cup quick oats

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup brown sugar (can easily leave this out if making these for babies/toddlers)
1 cup (about 2) overripe bananas, mashed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 Tablespoons oil of choice

Mix dry together. In a separate bowl mix wet ingredients together. Add the wet to dry ingredients. Drop by the spoonful onto parchment paper or greased baking sheet. 
Bake 12-15 min at 350.
Yields about 20 cookies.

August 24, 2011

Menu: August 24-29

Yesterday I was out of town for the day and DH had yet more potato soup (but no complaints thankfully lol).

Wednesday: Hearty Sausage Skillet (anything requiring more thought and effort is beyond me today)
Thursday: Orange chicken in crockpot over rice w/ broccoli
Friday: Balsamic glazed salmon fillets, green beans, and sweet potatoes
Saturday: Cheese fondue
Monday: ground turkey stroganoff and green beans

August 17, 2011

Menu: August 17-22

Wednesday: pepper steak over rice (yep, got off by 2 days - had enough leftovers!)
Thursday: Pancakes with blueberry syrup and strawberries
Friday: Veggie burgers (yep, DH is gone! Lol) and sweet potato fries
Saturday: chicken quesadillas
Sunday: baked potato soup and green beans
Monday: leftovers
Dessert: pumpkin pie ice cream

August 11, 2011

Menu: August 11-15

Thursday: chicken taco salads
Friday: penne a la betsy w/ steamed broccoli
Saturday: grilled bratwursts, crash potatoes, and green beans
Sunday: sour cream enchiladas and spinach side salad
Monday: pepper steak over rice

August 04, 2011

Baby Led Weaning

Someone finally called me out on it! With all the cooking I do, why don't I make my own baby food and post about it? Well, that's because I decided I hate pureed baby food. For our family it's just an extra waste of time and energy. When Squish was 5 months he started trying to grab the food off my plate. I would give him one of his baby spoons and sippy to distract him and he would still try to grab the food off my plate. He looked like he was ready to eat! So I spent part of an afternoon making my own pureed sweet potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash. I was very excited to be cooking for my baby. And then I tried spoon feeding him my homemade baby food. He stole the spoon. He was not interested in me feeding him at all. Messy doesn't even to begin to cover what happened to my son, myself, the high chair, the walls, the floors, etc. I quickly found myself dreading giving him solids. I skipped feeding him several days in a row justifying it with "he doesn't need to eat everyday anyways at this point." Well, he didn't need to eat solids but I realized that something still needed to change.

Squish's first stolen spoon. 

Baby led weaning is skipping past the cereals and purred baby food stage. It's letting the baby completely feed themselves. They choose what they want to eat and how much. Once Squish was able to sit at 6 months he was placed in his high chair next to me at the dining room table during meals. If it was appropriate for him to eat, I put it on his tray. He started off with steamed zucchini and sweet potatoes in thin long sticks. Easy for him to pick up and grab and soft enough that he could learn how to chew easily. With a couple of days he figured out the best way to get the food in his mouth and he started trying to chew. Soon he worked on swallowing the food.

Lil' Stinker's first pancake at 6 months!

Squish recently turned 9 months old. He has two bottom teeth and that's it. He loves to eat and will try anything I give him. The only food limits he has is nuts and honey right now. Most importantly though, meal times are fun and relaxing again for the whole family.

Strawberry face at 7 months.

Baby led weaning does require the delaying of solid foods till at least 6 months. The baby needs to be able to sit unassisted, able to grasp and hold on to food, and no longer have the tongue thrust reflex. They should also be showing an active interest in food and eating. For some babies they're very interested by 5 months, for others this may not happen till 13 months. It's good for parents to remember that the main source of nutrition for at least the first year should be from breast milk or formula and to not get caught up in how much solid food a baby is eating. Baby led weaning is definitely not for every family or every baby.

Squish often holds food in both hands and eats out of both!
Here he's enjoying a calzone at 8 months.

August 03, 2011

Watermelon Sherbet

Recipe found in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, August 2011 issue.

5 cups cubed watermelon (no seeds!)
1/2 cup sugar
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup cranberry juice (could also use grape juice or some other similar juice)

In a small saucepan, the gelatin and juice. Let sit for 5 minutes. Then turn the heat to low and stir until the gelatin dissolves.
Meanwhile, puree the watermelon in a food processor or blender. Add the sugar and send it spinning briefly to blend.
Mix the two mixtures together in a large bowl. Place bowl in fridge for at least 30 minutes to get it cold.

Pour mixture into your ice cream maker and turn it on. After 20-25 minutes you should have wonderful sherbet! Store in freezer, removing a few minutes before you want to scoop out servings.

If you don't have an ice cream maker, pour mixture into an 8x8 pan and place in freezer. Cover and freeze for 2 hours. Break up mixture and put in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Return to pan and cover and freeze for 6 more hours.

My beautiful ice cream maker. It was my birthday gift from my parents!

And 20 minutes later, ready to eat! Super yummy. :)

Menu: August 2-10

Tuesday: Hamburgers, French fries, and carrots
Thursday: chicken kabobs with cherry tomatoes and roasted red potatoes
Friday: Mongolian beef, steamed rice, and green beans
Saturday: iron skillet deep-dish pizza w/ sausage, zucchini (and jalapenos on my half)
Monday: pasta with turkey meatballs
Tuesday: sausage, eggs, and biscuits (with I’m sure sautéed zucchini….again)
Wednesday: grilled cheese and French fries
Dessert – Homemade vanilla ice cream with Oreos

July 29, 2011

Garden Spaghetti

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti pasta
2 cups small broccoli florets
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 cup chopped carrots
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped zucchini
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons basil
1/4-1/2 cup lemon juice (to taste, but definitely use some!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups-ish of your favorite tomato/spaghetti sauce (even the jar stuff does fine)

Cook spaghetti according to directions, making sure to not over cook.
Meanwhile in a large skillet combine the vegetables, oregano, basil, and olive oil. Stir occasionally over medium heat until hot. Add your favorite tomato/spaghetti sauce.
Once spaghetti is cooked, drain, and add to the vegetable mixture. Add the lemon juice and warm the mixture.

This is a great recipe to adapt to whatever vegetables you have laying around. I added a few spinach leaves to mine since I had some left that needed to be eaten.

And best of all, it's Squish approved! :)

July 25, 2011

Menu: July 27-August 1

Wednesday: spinach and chicken calzones
Thursday: Garden Spaghetti with quick tomato sauce
Friday: Fish tacos and sweet potato fries
Saturday: Steak bites, smashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli
Sunday: Corn & Bean Fritters with Tomatoes and fried squash
Monday: mini meatloaves, whole wheat macaroni and cheese, and sautéed zucchini
Weekend deserts - Easy Fruit Pocket Pies and Fat-Free Watermelon Sherbet

July 20, 2011

Menu: July 19-25

Tuesday: Out to eat (have to make a run into town w/ DH)
Thursday: sweet potato gnocchi with Gouda cheese sauce (these are good and VERY filling!)
Friday: leftovers and side salad
Sunday: Southwest chicken sandwiches, sautéed zucchini, and tater tots
Monday: Red beans and rice

(I don't know why I'm on a sweet potato kick, but apparently I am.)

July 18, 2011

$50 a Week

No joke, that's all I spend the majority of the time for groceries in a week. If I go over, I tend to have spent less the week before or will spend less the week after. Right now I do find it easier to go once a week since here in the middle of no where we don't get the nicest of products with the longest expiration dates.

PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT I'M ONLY FEEDING TWO ADULTS AND ONE BABY WHO JUST PICKS AT FOOD. It it unrealistic to expect to feed a family of 4 on $50 if you're having to buy all your food at the grocery store. It's even more unrealistic if you live in an expensive metro area like NYC.

In my food menu, I plan out what I'm going to bake for snacks and lunches. I plan out everything for the week food wise. Many times we eat leftovers for lunches. When we don't eat leftovers, we enjoy salads, wraps, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and other basics. We are also not big snackers. A hand full of crackers and 2 slices of cheese or a hand full of grapes is about the extent of our snacking most days. And if you're able to garden, do it! We're overrun with zucchini which isn't exactly a dream come true, but hey we have cheap (just for the price of seeds!) veggies to eat every week. No food goes to waste and I make every cent of my $50 count!

Other ways I keep our spending down at the grocery store is by using reusable products. We don't buy sandwich and snack bags for lunches because I bought just a few reusable ones (yep, I'm making etsy WAHMs rich!). We also are switching over to cloth napkins, much to my husband's dismay. We've already been using cloth tissues and using washable mop heads and cleaning rags. And cleaning products? We clean with vinegar and water 99% of the time. As nice as it is to be "green" it's even nicer to save money in the long run!

And the best way to keep cost down at the grocery store? Don't enter the store without a complete grocery list. Then only go down those aisles that have products you need. Only buy what's on your list. So simple, but so many people get side tracked and add unnecessary items.

And now for my receipts! Sorry these are "old" now but I've been working on this post for over a month now and when a vacation gets in the way...well, that's what happens!

Week 1: (yes, seriously that was the only trip to the store I made that week)

Week 2: 
Walmart - (just the underlined part was food)
Commissary -
Last minute invite that we needed to bring something to -

Week 3 - What happens when you let yourself get off course just a tad.
I circled the extra items that I totally didn't need:
That's right if I stayed on track I would have easily stuck to my budget!

When I got home last week, one of the first things I did was make a quick menu and go grocery shopping! Yes, even before I unpacked my suitcase. If you saw what "food" my husband had in the fridge and pantry, you'd run to the store too. I spent $35 to get me through to my normal shopping day of Tuesday.

July 15, 2011

Back! Menu: July 15-18

Ended up extending my trip and just got back home last night at 10pm after a 16 hour drive. Yes, I drove 16 hours straight with an 8 month old. Bright idea? Not really, but hey I survived!

Friday: baked Asian style honey chicken, macaroni and cheese, and steamed broccoli
Saturday: Hamburgers, tater tots, and green beans
Monday: Homemade pizza and sautéed zucchini

Will also be making blueberry zucchini bread and homemade vanilla ice cream.

Any any ideas of what to do with our monster zucchini? We've got 4 of them and more zucchini coming in every day. Eek.

June 13, 2011

Menu: June 14-20

Tuesday: Lettuce Wraps and sautéed zucchini
Wednesday: grilled turkey, cheese, and tomato sandwiches and garlic fries
Thursday: Jalapeno Tilapia Pasta
Friday: Calzones
Saturday: Chili rubbed steak and pan salsa, green beans, baked potatoes
Monday: Scrambled cheese eggs and waffles topped with strawberries

No menus for the next 3-4 weeks. Squish and I are headed out of town and poor DH will have to cook for himself.

June 12, 2011

How I Menu Plan

There are many, many ways to menu plan. This is just how I do it.

1. I look to see what's in my freezer and pantry that I can use to create a meal. I can usually create at least one complete meal out of what's already available. Do I have a lot of brown rice hanging around? Is there chicken or sausage in the freezer from a previous week's good deal? Is there a half bag of vegetables hiding in the back of the freezer that needs to be used before I completely forget about it? I want to make sure that nothing is going to waste that I've already bought. Often I'll think of another meal that I can make and I'm only missing an item or two.

2. I pull out coupons. I go through the coupons I already have. I search online and see if there is anything useful to print off. Some weeks I find coupons for cheese, lunch meat, cereal that isn't full of sugar, brown rice, fish, and more! Other weeks I find nothing other than junk, which is not entering my house. Another place to find coupons? The store shelves. The best coupons usually come from the stores themselves, and yes, I'm THAT person who takes about 10 for future use.

3. I look at store ads. Even the commissary has an ad online. When I lived in a real city, I looked at the ads of the two closest stores to me that did not require me driving out of my way. I note any great deal that I am interested in.

4. Considering the ads and coupons, I piece together a few more meals for the week. Sometimes this means searching through my recipe binders to remember what they are, but I am able to find them!

5. If I still have empty spaces in my menu, I input a meal that I've been craving, that my husband has requested, or I go searching for something new to try.

I'm working on another blog post about how I approach a grocery store trip to save money. I've even saved a few recipes to prove that I really do only spend $50 a week.

June 11, 2011

Glazed Smoke Sausage and Fruit Kabobs

Original recipe from Hillshire Farm.

1 package smoked sausage (lite or turkey versions work well too)
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 can sliced peaches drained OR 1 1/2 cups fresh peach slices
1/4 cup apricot preserves (strawberry preserves works well too)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Cut sausage into 18 slices. Thread sausage, pepper, pineapple, and peaches onto 6 skewers. Combine preserves and mustard in a small bowl; set aside.
Grill kabobs over medium heat for 10 minutes. Brush kabobs with glaze and grill for 2 more minutes.

(Please excuse the bad iPhone photo.)

Spinach Feta Burgers

1 lb ground turkey or ground beef
1 egg
5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Heat spinach for 1-2 minutes in a microwave in a covered bowl.

Combine in a large bowl the ground meat, egg, spinach, pepper, and feta cheese. Mix well. Form into 4 large hamburger patties. Grill or cook in a skillet for 6 minute on each side.


Original recipe can be found here.

1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chocolate syrup

Preheat over to 325º. Grease an 8x8 pan.
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, butter, and water. Cook over medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips till melted and smooth. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into chocolate mixture. Mix the chocolate syrup in to the batter. Spread evenly into prepared pan.
Baked for 25-30 minutes.

June 08, 2011

Almost Whole Wheat English Muffins

Almost whole wheat since half the flour used is all purpose. I didn't want the muffins to turn into hockey pucks. :)

Orginal recipe by Sarah Fowler.

1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 packet)
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Combine milk, butter, and honey in a saucepan over medium heat. Warm until butter starts to melt, then whisk. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile pour water into the mixing bowl of stand mixer and sprinkle with yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes. While waiting, line baking sheets with waxed paper and sprinkle with the corn meal (you'll probably need two baking sheets).
Pour cooled milk mixture into yeast mixture. Stir. Add the whole wheat flour. Using the dough attachment, mix very well for 2 minutes. Add in the all purpose flour and salt. Continue to use the dough hook until the dough is no longer sticky. You may need to add a little bit more flour. When done, let rest for 5 minutes.
After resting, roll dough out to 1/2 inch thick. Cut the dough into circles. (I used a plastic cup.) Transfer muffins to baking sheets. Cover and let rise in a warm area. I turned my oven on and once it was a little warm, turned it off and placed the baking sheets in there. The muffins need to rise until doubled in height, anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours (the oven helps!).
After muffins have doubled in size, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook each muffins in the ungreased pan over medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Flip and cook for another 5-10 minutes.
That's it! We found them to be very delicious. These do freeze great! I got about 15 muffins out of the dough.

June 06, 2011

Menu: June 7-13

Lots of new recipes! Last week I decided to be mostly boring. This week I want new stuff! I'll link and post recipes as I can get to them. :)

Tuesday: Tuna Melts on Whole Wheat English Muffins and sautéed zucchini
Wednesday: whole chicken in a crockpot, fried squash, and butter dips
Thursday: pork chops with honey mustard sauce, green beans, and crash potatoes
Friday: Spinach and chicken tortellini soup (using leftover chicken)
Saturday: Oat waffles; Strawberry glazed smoked sausage and fruit kabobs with brown rice
Sunday: Spinach Feta Burgers and garlic fries
Monday: Sweet potato ravoli

June 01, 2011

May 27, 2011

Menu: May 24-31

Tuesday: Easy Baked tilapia
Wednesday: Chicken Squash Bake w/ zucchini (my garden is overflowing with zucchini)
Thursday: Ham Quiche (have Easter ham in the freezer)
Friday: Hamburgers, baked fries, and easy apple dumplings
Saturday: Breakfast pizza w/ ham; TBD dinner; oreo cheesecake
Sunday: pineapple skewered shrimp, brown rice, green beans
Monday: Applesauce pancakes; ribs, grilled corn, rolls
Tuesday: Pasta and turkey meatballs

May 25, 2011

Nutri-Grain Bars

Original recipe by This Chick Cooks.

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lightly beaten egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup juice (apple, grape, cranberry, etc)
1/2 cup all fruit spread
2 tablespoons wheat germ, optional

Preheat oven to 325º. Mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add oil, egg, vanilla, and juice (I used cranberry since it's what we had). Mix well. Press half of the mixture in a greased 8x8 baking dish. It will be a thin layer. Spread the fruit spread on top. Spoon the rest of the dough on top of the fruit layer. Carefully spread it on top of the fruit.  It is a bit messy, but spooning clumps of dough throughout the top helps. Top with the 2 tablespoons of wheat germ. Bake 20-30 minutes. Let it cool before cutting into bars.

Really good! It's a nice change from my normal granola bars that I make most weeks for snacks. In fact, it's rather sweet so I think I'll use less sugar next time. :)

May 23, 2011

May Cooking Challenge: Chicken and Artichoke Pizza

This month's HouseHold6 cooking challenge (see the button on the right?) was to make a pizza without tomato sauce. I knew immediately I wanted to make a pizza with pesto. I LOVE this on a pizza. I don't make it hardly ever since DH isn't so fond of anything other than basic pepperoni or sausage pizza (how boring is that?!). I did end up making two pizzas. One used pesto according to the challenge, the other some leftover quick tomato sauce so my DH would actual eat dinner. ;) Do note that the recipe below does make two pizzas. I'm saving the other half of the pesto that I didn't use to go in pasta for lunch this week.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1/3 cup yellow corn meal
3 tablespoons olive oil

1 can artichoke hearts, drained well
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Spinach-Basil-Walnut Pesto:
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil

For the dough, pour the water in a bowl. Add to it the yeast, salt, and olive oil. If you're not sure if your yeast is still good, mix just the yeast and water and let it sit for 5 minutes to check it. To the bowl add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon. With your hands add the corn meal until well mixed. Knead until dough is smooth. Place dough into a greased large bowl. Cover and allow to rise, usually takes me 45 minutes. If time is a crunch for you, you can just let it rest for 15-20 minutes.

While the dough is rising, gather the ingredients for the pesto. In a food processor pulse together the walnuts, spinach, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, cheese, and lemon juice until a paste forms. Drizzle in the olive oil till smooth.

During this time I usually cook the chicken and shred it. I also set the artichoke hearts out to drain before loosely chopping them.

When the dough has risen, preheat the over to 450ºF. Separate the dough into two equal pieces. Using your hands spread the dough out on your chosen pizza pan (I choose to lightly spray my pans with olive oil because have issues).

Top each with pesto followed by mozzarella cheese and then the artichokes and chicken.

Bake at 450ºF for about 15 minutes.

Man, was this pizza GOOD!

It was also good using the quick tomato sauce instead of the pesto, but let's be honest... It wasn't nearly as sensational as the pesto version. :D

May 18, 2011

Why Menu Plan?

Yes, it does take time and effort. I do spend 2-3 hours a week going through recipes, checking the plantry and freezer, finding coupons, planning my menu, and writing up my grocery list. Keep in mind I tend to change my mind a billion times before settling on a menu some weeks, so it's very possible to spend just a few minutes on a menu. I want to try new dishes, remember old ones that have been neglected, and use favorites that I'm craving. All while sticking to my ideal of only spending $50 a week (keep in mind it's just 2.5 of us here). Which brings me to my first reason why I menu plan.

1. It saves money. Who doesn't want to save money? I make my menus based on what I already have in the house so food doesn't go to waste or get close to expiring. I make a grocery list based on what is needed to complete my menu. I only buy what's on my grocery list (well, most of the time). I'm also not running to the store almost every day, so there's a big gas savings and less opportunity for me to buy items I don't need. A hint for when you're shopping? Don't go down an aisle unless there's something on your grocery list in there. Which leads me to....
2. It saves time. Don't laugh at me! Even with me spending 2-3 hours planning everything out, I'm still saving myself time! I've got time during the week to do other things because I'm not running to the store for something else I've forgotten. I don't have to wonder at the end of the day what I'm going to cook. I just cook what I planned! And by having my organized grocery list on my iPhone, I'm in and out of the grocery store (with a baby in tow) in less than 30 minutes with a full cart.
3. It's healthier when planned accordingly. We very, very rarely eat fast food. There's no reason for it, even when  we're stuck somewhere till 6:30 and have to be someplace else at 7pm. If there's a heavily scheduled day, I make food ahead of time to be reheated or I plan something simple. Menu planning means we have enough fruits and vegetables for the week and they get eaten. We eat a balanced diet everyday. If something not so healthy is on the menu for a meal, the rest of that day's meals contain those needed nutrients. Do note that I plan breakfast, lunch, and dinners but only post dinners mainly because it gets boring seeing cereal, eggs, sandwiches, wraps, fruit, and leftovers on the  menu constantly.

My biggest tip when deciding to start menu planning? Keep it simple! Start with one week and don't get fancy. Pen and paper work just fine. :)

May 17, 2011

Menu: May 17-23

Tuesday: Szechwan Shrimp, stir-fry veggies, and brown rice (I ended up not fixing dinner one night last week.)
Thursday: cheese tortellini in quick tomato sauce
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: whole-wheat blueberry muffins; pot roast, roasted red potatoes, steamed broccoli
Sunday: leftover pot roast and potatoes with sautéed squash

May 10, 2011

Menu: May 10-16

Ended up having friends over one night and going out to eat another night, so had to move around last week's menu some.

Tuesday: broiled tilapia parmesan (I'd suggest cutting way down on the butter), steamed brown rice, broccoli
Friday: Stroganoff w/ ground turkey and peas
Sunday: Szechwan Shrimp, stir-fry veggies, and brown rice

May 05, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Tacos

This is our favorite taco recipe with spaghetti squash replacing the usual ground meat.

1 spaghetti squash
taco seasoning (recipe to follow)
Corn taco shells
Baby spinach
Shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked black beans (about 1/2 a can)
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup diced onion

Split spaghetti squash in half. Scoop out the seeds. Cook however you normally would spaghetti squash. I like to place mine in a glass dish with a bit of water. Cover and microwave for about 15 minutes. While cooking, mix the black beans, corn, and onion in a bowl. Leave it sitting out. Once squash is tender, use a fork to get the squash strands out. Place squash strands in a saucepan, 1 cup of water, and taco seasoning. Simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place taco shells in the oven to crisp.
Fill tacos with seasoned spaghetti squash, black bean mixture, cheese, and spinach.

Taco Seasoning - recipe from Give Peas a Chance

3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon crush red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried cilantro
4 1/2 teaspoons cumin
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons black pepper

Mix. Store in an airtight container. Seasons one pound of meat.
This is (obviously) hot.

May 03, 2011

Menu: May 3-9

Tuesday: iron skillet deep dish pizza
Wednesday: spaghetti squash tacos w/ corn and black beans
Friday: leftovers
Saturday: waffles and sausage; broiled tilapia parmesan, steamed broccoli, brown rice

May 01, 2011

Whole Wheat Pancakes - Two Recipes

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes from 100 Days of Real Food

  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground flaxseed (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ¾ cups milk (you can use any kind – skim, 2% or whole)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted + butter for frying
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 100% pure maple syrup for serving
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground flaxseed. Stir until well mixed and then make a well (hole) in the center of the bowl by spreading the flour mixture to the sides of the bowl. Pour the honey, eggs, milk, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter into the well, then gradually whisk from the center outward until the ingredients are well combined but still a little lumpy. Do not over mix the batter. Very gently fold in the mashed bananas (and/or other berries).
Preheat a non-stick or cast iron griddle (or sauté pan) over medium-high heat. Set electric griddles at 370 degrees F. Your cooking surface will be ready when a drop of water flicked onto the surface dances and evaporates instantly. Allow some butter to melt then ladle the pancake batter forming circles on the griddle or pan.
When the pancakes have begun to bubble in the center and the underside is golden brown, use your spatula to flip them. Cook until the 2nd side is golden brown, and then keep on a platter in a warm oven (200 degrees F) while you cook the remaining pancakes. Serve with warm maple syrup and a side of fruit. And freeze the leftovers for another day!

Whole Wheat Pancakes from Make Healthy Meals

Make that breakfast favorite just a little bit healthier. Still not exactly healthy, but an improvement. Mix in some berries to add a little something more. You can use other fruits as a topping, with whipped cream or syrup if you need that sweet taste.

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon common granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons oil

additional oil for frying

Oil a frying pan. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in one bowl. In another bowl, scramble the egg, then add the milk and the 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together, well enough to eliminate dry spots but no more.

Heat the frying pan to medium temperature. Pour a pancake. The pancake will bubble. When the bubbling settles down and the edges are slightly dry, flip the pancake. When the pancake looks done, remove it and start another one.


Yeah, I fixed two types of pancakes for dinner tonight because I wanted to try them both. Besides, breakfast for the week is taken care of now. ;)

We found both of them to be great. The banana pancakes puffed up nicely and had a great sweet taste from the bananas. I think next time I will add blueberries in the regular whole wheat pancakes. I meant to do that tonight, but totally forgot!

April 28, 2011

Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese

Just your basic stove top macaroni recipe with whole wheat substitutions. :)

1 1/2 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 cup milk
teaspoon ground mustard
1 to 1 1/2 cups grated cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to directions.
Meanwhile, melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Continue whisking for 1 minute. Add milk. Whisk until smooth. Turn heat down to low. Add ground mustard. Add cheese and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta and mix well.

April 26, 2011

Ravioli Gnudi With Quick Tomato Sauce

This month's Household 6 cooking challenge was to create a dish from a country that you have lived/stationed at or want to visit (excluding the USA).

Well, I have never lived anywhere but the US. I am just a couple of miles from Mexico, but I wouldn't exactly call that exciting by any means. One country I would like to visit though is Italy. I have fond memories of helping my full Italian grandmother, Nonna, in the kitchen to make homemade ravioli. It was delicious. Nothing has ever compared. Unfortunately she died many, many years ago and no one thought to write down her recipe. :( I wish I could present it, but since I can't I decided to challenge myself to make something that I haven't had before but reminds me of meals my grandmother used to make.

Ravioli Gnudi with Quick Tomato Sauce original recipe by Deborah Mele

Ravioli Gnudi:

9 oz spinach
15 oz ricotta
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (plus more for shaping)
dash nutmeg
dash salt
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Place spinach in a microwave safe bowl and cover. Cook for 2-3 minutes. (Can also steam.) Drain and squeeze out all excess water. Chop finely and drain once more. In a bowl mix well the spinach, ricotta, eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, salt, and flour. Bring to boil a large pot of salted water. Lower to a simmer. Form dumplings by hand, lightly rolling the gnocchi to coat with a little flour. Drop one into boiling water to test that your mixture stays together. Afterwards drop dumplings one at a time as you form them into the water. Once they float to the top, they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon. Serve with tomato sauce on top.

Quick Tomato Sauce:

28 oz can imported diced Italian tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon basil (or 3 tablespoons of fresh)
dash red pepper flakes

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic. When garlic begins to sizzle, add the tomatoes. Turn heat to high. When sauce begins to bubble, turn back down to medium low. Season with salt and pepper. Add the basil and red pepper flakes. Cook for a few more minutes.  

My finished product.

I really had no idea what I was doing, but this recipe was one I just HAD to try when I ran across while looking for something that reminds me of my grandmother. (Do note that I doubt if she ever made this because ricotta would have been too expensive for her.) I was wondering what the heck I was thinking when I took this picture:

How does one make these little treats? It was a rather sticky dough. Well, I can now tell you that a spoonful of dough dropped into flour and rolled around works just fine. Mine didn't turn out exactly like Deborah's photo, but it was close enough. Plus it tasted wonderful. DH even had seconds despite noting, "There's no meat." (You'll live, honey.)

The quick tomato sauce really was quick. If you're like me and live someplace where finding imported Italian tomatoes is a laughable matter, regular diced tomatoes do work. I added a little bit of sugar to mind and decided it was good enough for me. In fact I'm pretty sure I'll make this again. It's a bit more fool proof than this sauce (which I have managed to burn on the stove when I lost track of time...oops).