Saturday, February 17, 2018

Chicken Pasta

February 17, 2018

I love it when a meal comes together. When you see random ingredients, wing it, and it turns out awesome. When the entire family agrees to put it into our rotation. Now let's see if I can remember everything that I threw together. Ha!

I sautéed onion, garlic, green peppers, and mushrooms in olive oil. As they were cooking, I started on the pasta. I decided to cook the angel hair pasta in chicken broth. I make my own broth and I know it's already pretty flavorful so I didn't need to add too much other seasonings. I pulled the cooked pasta and added it to the veggie mixture along with rotisserie chicken and a small container of alfredo sauce. I grabbed some peas from the freezer and threw them into the pot of chicken broth that the pasta had cooked in. They only needed a few minutes then I added them to the pasta. I also added in a little bit of the chicken broth to thin the sauce out a bit.

I actually made this dish a few nights ago and am just now getting around to writing about it. I feel like I added either a drop of Vitality essential oils or maybe even poultry seasoning but I just can't remember which one! That will teach me to stop procrastinating and write down my recipes. Ha! I'm pretty sure that I seasoned the veggies as they sautéed. More than likely I just used salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Most recipes that we make are really not recipes anyway. We grab seasonings, ingredients we like, and wing it. I like looking at recipes to get ideas and then run with it. So hopefully, you'll find an idea in this post and be able to add to your dinner rotation too!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Childhood Favorite for Grown-Ups

February 12, 2018

Days like today, I need to thank my son for my delicious lunch. No, he didn't cook it for me. He was my inspiration though. My boy loves sloppy joes. Like, loves loves them. It is usually the meal he requests on his birthday every year. I found a recipe (Pioneer Woman) so that I could make them from scratch instead of popping open a can. That way he still gets the childhood favorite but I know exactly what is in them and don't have to feel bad about giving in to him. I've made these for years now and they are always a big hit. Today I took it a step further and man, it was so good! I'll get to that in a minute. First, comes the sloppy joe.

I started with 1 pound of local ground beef. Add about 1/3 cup of chopped onion, 1/2 of a bell pepper chopped (I've used every color), and a clove of garlic minced.

Cook over medium heat until the beef is cooked through and the veggies are tender.

Now it's time to add the sauce ingredients. Add 3/4 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon mustard, dash of cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, and salt to taste. In a separate bowl, add a dash of Worcestershire sauce. I prefer to use Black Pepper Essential Oil from Young Living's Vitality line instead of traditional black pepper. This essential oil is strong so I just dip a toothpick into the bottle and then swirl the toothpick into the Worcestershire sauce. I did two toothpick dips (clean toothpick each time). Then add the Worcestershire sauce to the rest of the mixture. If you aren't using essential oil, just add enough black pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and let it cook down to the desired consistency. It usually just takes a few minutes.

You are now ready to have the best sloppy joe! But hold up. Do you want to take it one step further? The answer is yes. Yes, you do. I decided to turn my sloppy joe into a sloppy joe grilled cheese. I used swiss cheese and it was delicious!

Here's a tip for the tomato paste. The small can will have way more than you will need. I separate the rest of the can into tablespoon increments and freeze them. Then when my son requests sloppy joes it is as easy as popping one out of the freezer and it melts right into the sauce.

*I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's Vitality line of essential oils.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

You spent WHAT?!

January 6, 2018

It's always motivating to see a big ol' savings. When I started my 30 day challenge over four years ago (ha!), that is what made me stick with the challenge. It wasn't just that I was spending less on food. It was that I actually transferred the "savings" from that week to a separate account and then watched that grow.

This past December we traveled over 1,700 miles round trip. You can't put a price tag on spending the holidays with family. However, watch me do just that....

Our trip costed us around $75. I know, I know. You spent WHAT to travel that far?? Let me break it down. This past summer the Army had us move again. We spent quite a bit of time in hotel living while we waited for renters to move out of our house. Are you in a hotel loyalty program? You should be. We earned two nights stay for free. Ok, so now that our hotel will be covered, how did I get away with food and gas for so little money?

We paid to eat at restaurants seven times. We also paid for our family and friends that came with us (9 extra meals). This doesn't count the one meal that our family took care of for us. And we all know that gas isn't cheap (especially when your route takes you through Canada). So, how did we do it?

My challenge. The money that we had "saved" from shopping smarter for food almost completely covered our vacation. We paid about $75 out of our regular budget.

If you are trying to save up for something, you need to try this challenge. If you would like a little extra cushion in your budget, you need to try this challenge.

Find the average of what you spend at the grocery store. I shop weekly. I added up four shopping trips, divided by four, and that is what I used as my average. I did the same with restaurant spending. Now your challenge is to spend less this next week. Compare brands, clip coupons, give in less to impulse buys, meal plan, eat at home, get creative with leftovers. Do what you can to make it work.

Then unlike just couponing, when you tally up the week and see that you "saved" $50, actually move that $50 to a separate account (or envelope or whatever). Seeing a savings account grow versus just knowing you spent less is so much more motivating to keep it going. You won't believe how fast that account will grow! If you spend more than your average one week, just count it as a zero. Don't take away from your savings.

We've used it to pay our mortgage (military moved us and we had to pay for two homes for over a year), vacations, a puppy, etc. The new year is a perfect time to start a new challenge. Even if you think you are already careful with spending. Even if you think you wouldn't be able to cut back. You'll be surprised when you start comparing and paying attention to what you spend, just how easy it is to cut back somewhere. How could your family benefit from having a little extra money each month?!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Turkey, Sweet Potato, & Kale Soup

November 21, 2017

I gave the kiddos options of either homemade pizza or soup for dinner. I went to grab the ingredients to make soup and couldn't believe I was completely out of carrots. What?! I always have carrots. How do you even make soup without carrots?! I wanted to make do with what I had so I got creative. You may want to keep this soup in mind for after Thanksgiving. It would be a perfect soup for using up those leftovers. I may rename it Thanksgiving Soup. Ha!

To start, I chopped up onion, celery, sweet potato, kale, and garlic. I sautéed the veggies in a little bit of olive oil. I added in chicken broth, chopped turkey (you could use chicken), and corn. I seasoned the soup with salt, pepper, sage, and basil from Young Living's Vitality Essential Oil line. I added in a couple handfuls of pasta and let it simmer until the pasta was tender.

Oh. My. Gosh. I think I just came up with my new favorite soup! It is so much more flavorful than just a traditional chicken soup. I love the sage and basil. It really kicks the soup up a notch.

From now on, I'll be buying an extra sweet potato anytime I am cooking up a turkey because I know what I'll be doing with the leftovers!

*I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's Vitality line of Essential Oils.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Chicken Gumbo & Apple Crisp

November 7, 2017

I've been trying to get our restaurant spending back on track. If you've followed my challenge, you know that I use our savings on groceries/restaurants for special events. Right now I am saving up for a vacation. My tip to you is to find your weakness. I know that I am our family's weakness. If I want to go out to eat, we go out. If I suggest a certain recipe at home, we eat at home. So it's on me to make us stick with it! I got groceries today and loaded us up in hopes that we stick around home for the upcoming four day weekend.

While getting groceries today, I saw really nice looking okra. I love okra, even though I really only use it one way. Gumbo. We fell in love with it when we were living in Louisiana. I play around with the recipe and tonight I used chicken. I have made it with shrimp, fish, chicken, sausage, and a combo of them.

Saute 1 cup each of green pepper, celery, and onion along with two cloves of garlic (chopped or through a press). I like to use olive oil to saute the veggies. Once they are tender, add two 14.5 ounce cans of beef broth, 16 ounces of tomatoes (I used home canned but stewed would be ok too), 1 teaspoon salt, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, and 1 bay leaf. I used to add 1/2 teaspoon each of oregano and thyme. However, now I use Young Living's essential oils from their Vitality line. You get a huge burst of flavor plus all the benefits of supporting your body's systems. I wanted to use my oils to help boost our immune systems. They are pretty strong so you don't even need a drop of each. I think I dipped three toothpicks into the bottle and then swirled it into the tomatoes before adding it into the pot. I'd start with two and see if you want a third. Bring to a boil, cover, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. If you are using fish, add that next and let it cook for 10 minutes. I used a rotisserie chicken tonight so it didn't need extra cooking time. Next add chopped okra. The pack of fresh okra that I found was about 12 ounces. I cut the top and the tip off of them, then sliced. If it feels a little harder to cut and you can hear it sounding "crispy", don't use that one. It was allowed to grow too long and will be tough. Ok, so add your sliced okra and let it simmer 5 minutes. Remove your bay leaf. I like to serve the gumbo with rice. My favorite rice is Jasmine. I also sprinkle a little bit of Tony  Chachere's gumbo file on top. I don't know what it is about this gumbo recipe, but man, I just love it! So flavorful. Each bite makes me want to say mmmmm. Ha!

Now on to dessert! Seeing as dinner was a little homage to our time living in Louisiana, I figured we could do a little homage to our current home in New York. It's fall in NY and that means one thing: apples! I wanted to kick up apple crisp so that it would not only have more flavor but also give our immune system another boost. I started out with a store bought package of the dry ingredients for the crisp. I softened the butter for it and stirred in 4 drops of Young Living's lemon essential oil and 1 drop of their Cinnamon Bark essential oil. Then mix the butter with the dry ingredients, sprinkle on top of sliced apples and bake. Easy peasy. I think it's fair to say that dessert was a hit. There's hardly any left!

*I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's essential oils from their Vitality line.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Caldillo and Mexican Rice

October 26, 2017

I have two life lessons for you tonight. But first, a little back story. It was probably about 8 years ago and we were traveling across the country. We decided to make a pit stop at a friends house for a couple of days. It just so happened that they had some family staying with them at the same time and man did she know how to cook! So while we were there, we were treated to some home cooked Mexican meals. It was amazing. What was even more amazing was that she taught me a few of her recipes as she was cooking for us. Life lesson number one: always plan your visits around when deliciousness will happen. Ha!

Tonight's dinner is two of her recipes: Caldillo and Mexican Rice. She was very particular about the order that ingredients were added. She wasn't sure why it would make a difference, but to her it did. So, to me it does too. She didn't have measurements for a lot of it so it is based a lot off of taste. Here we go...

I had never heard of Caldillo before. Just imagine a hamburger soup with a Mexican kick. Start off by browning a pound of ground beef, along with some chopped onions. Season it with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cumin. When you think you put enough seasonings, add more. And maybe add more again. You really want that cumin to pop. When the beef is about half way cooked, add 2 medium potatoes that are chopped into bite size pieces. Continue cooking until the beef is cooked through. Add 3 cups of water and heat to boiling. Then turn down the heat and keep it simmering, covered, until the potatoes are tender. Add 1 can of tomato sauce and a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn and green beans). Cook for another ten minutes.

Heat up 2 cups of water and add 5 chicken bouillon cubes to it. Set it aside. Add some olive oil to a pan. Heat the oil and then brown one cup of Mahatma rice in the oil. Carefully add 1 can of tomato sauce. It is going to splash up so be prepared! Then stir in the bouillon water. This was one thing she was very particular on. She said that you had to add the tomato sauce first! Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. There is no need to stir. Once it is done, add some cumin and chopped fresh cilantro. Stir. Let the rice sit for 10 minutes without the lid.

To serve: Put rice and caldillo into a bowl. You can then top it with your choice of sour cream, mixed shredded cheese, tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro. We love to eat tortilla chips with it. My hubby crushed some up into his bowl. I used them as a scoop and ate some of my dinner like a dip. Yum!

Life lesson number two: learn to make do. I had to make a few adjustments to the recipes tonight. The only potatoes that I had on hand were purple potatoes. Hmmm. Ok. The recipe called for a mix of carrots, corn, and green beans. The only bag I had also included peas. Ok. I normally have a bag of Mahatma white rice. I buy this rice only for when I make this dish. I was out of it so tonight I used Jasmine rice. I didn't feel like running up to the store and didn't think these minor changes would make much of a difference.

Simple recipes but I hope you are prepared for how delicious they are!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Four Years of Savings and Cilantro Lime Chicken

October 25, 2017

Today is a super exciting day for me. Let me back up. Four years ago, I heard about a challenge. You know how every time you walk into a grocery store you end up getting way more than what you went in there to buy? The challenge was to stock up on groceries and then stay out of the store for 30 days. You wouldn't be tempted with impulse buys. I knew there was no way that I could do that so I put my own spin on the challenge. I figured out the average that I was spending at the grocery store each week. I added up four weeks and then divided by four. I did the same with how much we were spending at restaurants each week. My plan was to shop smarter, use up leftovers, cut down on impulse buys, and eat at restaurants less often. If I spent less than my average that week then I would actually transfer that money into a separate account. Watching the balance grow is so motivating! We would only use that money for special things. We used it for a couple vacations, to buy our puppy, and when the military moved us and we had to pay for two houses for over a year we used it to pay our mortgage. If I spent more than the average, I just counted that week as a zero. I planned on doing the challenge for 30 days.

Today was the final day in my 4th year!! I can't believe I have stuck with it so long. We certainly have not been as strict as the first year but I'm still pretty impressed with how well we did. When we moved again this year (thanks again military), we spent just over 30 days traveling. That is a lot of meals on the go. I packed our slow cooker and rice cooker. I knew that I could use the steamer tray in the rice cooker to steam up vegetables but I also found out that you could use the rice cooker to make pasta! Yes! It really cut down on how many meals we had to go to restaurants for. This past weekend was our 19th anniversary but we didn't hit up any restaurants. I planned out two meals that I LOVE that we make and it was so much tastier than going out anyway!

Ok, so are you ready for some numbers? The first year we saved $5,036.79. I was really getting creative with leftovers though. If you scroll back to some of those posts, you will probably laugh. The second year we saved $4,096.29. That year we had a move too. The third year we saved $1,518. Ok, clearly we slacked off. However, that is still over $125 a month! Today ended our fourth year and we saved $2,310.55. That is with moving and spending several weeks in a hotel! This is an average of saving just under $200 a month! What would you do with an extra couple hundred dollars a month?! This challenge really opened my eyes as to where our money was going. Need wiggle room in your budget? Try out this challenge. You will be amazed at what you can save. Ok, one more number just because I'm excited..... ready for this? So, in four years of just shopping smarter, recreating leftovers, sticking to my grocery list (I've loosened up on that one some), and eating at restaurants a little less (we do still go out), I saved a grand total of $12,961.63. WHAT?! All I can say is thank you Katie for doing your own challenge and inspiring me!!

Now on to dinner. I ended up combining two recipes for chicken thighs. They had similar seasonings and I figured they would mesh well. I started out by making a marinade for some chicken thighs. I mixed 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 large garlic cloves (through my garlic press), and about 4 tablespoons of chopped cilantro. I added in some of Young Living's essential oils from their Vitality line. I added 8 drops of Lime and 1 drop of Oregano. I also stirred in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I put the marinade all over the chicken thighs and then decided to sprinkle them with a little bit of cumin too. You could just add it to the marinade. Refrigerate the chicken and let them marinate for 15 minutes to 2 hours. I let them sit for probably close to 2 hours. I used a ceramic dish so that I could sear the thighs on the stovetop and then cover them and move them to the oven. I seared the chicken on one side in a little bit of olive oil. I flipped the chicken over then put the dish into the oven preheated to 375 for 20 minutes. Let the chicken rest for at least five minutes before you slice into it. The juices will redistribute and it will be so delicious.

Have you tried Rice a Roni's Cilantro Lime rice? I have a slight addiction to rice/pasta. Ok, maybe not so slight. Ha! I cooked the rice according to package directions. Once it was done, I wanted to kick it up a bit. I added two drops of Young Living's Lime essential oil from their vitality line to about a half teaspoon of olive oil and then drizzled it over the rice and stirred it in.

For the veggies, I sautéed onion, baby portabella mushrooms, and pea pods in a little bit of coconut oil. I seasoned them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Dinner was a hit. The chicken was juicy and flavorful. The combo of recipes totally worked together! The rice had just the right kick. I should write to Rice a Roni and tell them to add more lime!