Thursday, January 31, 2013

Food secrets and shapes

January 31, 2013

School was canceled today because of a rain/high wind/snow storm (weird weather today!). I decided seeing as we were stranded at home, we should have some fun food.

I wanted to make mini pizzas for lunch. But not just any mini pizzas. Angry bird pizzas. My kids love that game so I knew they would think the pizza was awesome. I used a can of biscuits for the dough, homemade pizza sauce, mushroom slices (eye balls), olives (pupils and angry eye brows), pepperoni (the red part of the bird), mozzarella cheese (the birds chest), and american cheese (it's mouth).

I needed a snack this afternoon. I made another batch of homemade potato chips. Yum! Then I started thinking about dessert for tonight. I wanted to make some brownies but I wanted to try something healthy. Sounds pretty contradictory right? My friend had mentioned that she made black bean brownies a few days ago. I was intrigued. Keep in mind that I have just in the past couple months started getting more accepting about beans. Her brownies turned out more fudge like (my guess is due to no flour being in the recipe). I wanted more brownie texture so I decided to experiment with the recipe. I looked at the black bean brownie recipe on Chocolate Covered Katie's blog. Katie's recipe called for 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed well). I only used half a can. Her recipe did not call for flour so I added 3/4 cup of flour. Her recipe called for 1/3 cup maple syrup or agave. I used sugar instead. I figured I better make the rest of the brownies taste awesome if I am going to fool my kids into eating black bean brownies. Her recipe called for (and I followed) 2 tablespoons of coco powder, 1/2 cup quick oats, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 stevia packs or 2 tablespoons sugar (I did sugar), 1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil (I used veg oil), 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Her recipe called for 1/2 to 2/3 cup chocolate chips. I didn't have any so I chopped up two Yooper bars. This is a milk chocolate candy bar that is in the shape of Upper Michigan (where I grew up and we were called "Yoopers"). Ha. It equaled out to be a little more than 2/3 cup but hey, can't go wrong with extra chocolate. Put all ingredients minus the chocolate into a food processor and blend until smooth. At this point I thought the batter was too thick so I added a little bit more than 1/4 cup of milk. Stir in chocolate. Spread into a greased 8X8 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. I served them topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. My daughter said they were the best brownies ever. My son said to never make a different recipe of brownies. Wow. I thought they were good but still a little on the fudge-like side. But shhhhhhhh. The kids don't know about the black beans. Our secret, ok?! The next time that I make them I may adjust the recipe to have a little less sugar to make these even healthier.

After making all our fun food for the day, I really didn't feel like cooking a big dinner. My son had an idea. Remember when we made a hotdog look like an octopus? He wanted to try to make a hotdog look like a weiner dog. He got pretzel pieces out for legs and a tail. He used smarties for eyeballs and steak sauce for pupils. My daughter wanted a rabbit shaped hotdog. She had clove eyeballs. They rounded off their meal with baby carrots and ranch, and some yogurt. I was really craving either noodles or rice. Ah, I still have a bunch of boxes of rice a roni. I grabbed a box of beef rice a roni. I was going to just make that but then remembered that I had a hamburger leftover in the fridge. I chopped it up (along with the sauteed onions and mushrooms that were leftover) and stirred it into the rice during the last few minutes of cooking. I also added a bag of frozen corn (from our farmers market). Topped it off with some of my homemade onion powder from my garden. Perfect comfort food for a snow day.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

100th post & grocery savings

January 30, 2013

My son decided to pack his lunch today. Good job starting us off buddy, saving $2. I gathered up my list and coupons and headed to the commissary.

My pre-challenge weekly average was $175 at the commissary. Today I spent $15.79 on toiletries/cleaners. I spent $3.38 on impulse items. I saw cottage cheese and it actually sounded good. Next I saw a four pack of biscuits that costed 20 cents less than one pack of crescent rolls. I like to use those biscuits for mini pizzas. I spent $77.76 on food. That includes a splurge for the kids. They did so great this week packing lunches/leftovers so I wanted to get them something special. What was it? Nutella. Surprisingly, I have never had it before. I also spent $10.16 on gossip magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $106.65 out of pocket. That is a savings of $68.35. The kids packed their lunches for a total of 6 times saving us $12. I think this was their best week yet! My pre-challenge weekly average for restaurants was $80. This week we bought a pizza and I went to lunch with friends. I spent $18.76. That is a savings of $61.24. Our total savings for this week is $141.59. This brings our grand total of savings to $1,845.28 in 105 days!!

Today is also my 100th post. I wanted to do something special for today. My entire family has been so supportive in changing our lifestyle and really trying to stick with the challenge. Never did I ever imagine that we would stick with it past the original 30 days! So what could I do for dinner? What is the best part about going to a party? The finger food! I decided to make tonight's dinner finger friendly. Ha.

We started with an edamame hummus. I figured seeing as the kids love the cookie dough hummus so much that we should try to branch out. Edamame, peanut butter, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and water. I served it with pita bread and carrots. My daughter loved it. My son on the other hand said he didn't really like it. I didn't believe him. He "thinks" he doesn't like edamame and I know he was just thinking about edamame when he ate the hummus. Honestly, you could only taste peanut butter. Don't worry buddy, I have a trick for you....

Next, we got into cucumber sandwiches. I remember my mom making them on the little rye loaves of bread. However, instead of buying that today I wanted to use up the 3/4 loaf of bread I already had at home. How do you make it fun? Cut off the crusts and make cute little pieces of bread (I saved the crusts incase I need to make bread crumbs in the next couple of days). I beat together a pack of cream cheese, 1/2 cup miracle whip, and one packet ranch dressing mix. Spread the mixture onto the little bread, top with cucumbers, and some dill.

Our last item was a fruit salsa. Usually when I make this recipe I use peaches and papayas. However, at the commissary I noticed that papayas were $3.48 and mangoes were only $1.23. Looks like mango it is! 1 cup mango, 1 cup peaches, 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon cilantro, salt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and pepper. Also, I usually put in some tomatoes and a splash of tomato sauce but my kids aren't too big on tomatoes so I thought I would leave this as more of a fruity/dessert salsa.

After we ate, I started telling the kids about what I all bought at the commissary. I told them about the nutella and that I also bought a new jar of peanut butter. They wanted to try them. I told them to close their eyes so they could "really taste" it. I gave them each a bite of nutella. They loved it. I said to close your eyes again so I could give them a bite of the new peanut butter. However, instead I gave them a bite of the edamame hummus because I knew my son wouldn't know the difference. At first, my son said he liked it. That little guy opened his eyes and saw a smear left on his hand and noticed it was the hummus so he changed his mind and said he didn't really like it. Not going to work son. Momma is going to win this. So I gave them another bite of nutella. Then told them I would give them a bite of the new peanut butter. Nope. I gave them the edamame hummus again and this time I put it in his mouth so he wouldn't see it. What do you know. He says he likes it. Ha.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Shake it and Slide it

January 29, 2013

I had an unexpected restaurant outing today. My friends had been gone for four months (and had a baby while they were gone) and they got back home late last night. There was no way anyone was keeping me away from their baby for another single day! So I met them out for lunch at a Japanese restaurant. Yum.

I needed a fun snack for when the kids got home from school. I looked through the fridge and saw that there were strawberries that needed to be used. Hey, I also had three bananas. I decided to make them some strawberry banana milkshakes. I grabbed the blender and tossed in about a half a box of strawberries, three bananas, a handful of ice cubes, one scoop of vanilla ice cream (it was all that was leftover from my daughter's birthday party), and a splash of milk. Served it up in a fancy glass and a strawberry on the side.

I had a hard time figuring out what to make for dinner. A pot of chili sounded good until I realized that I was out of tomato sauce. Then I thought about burgers but realized that I didn't have burger buns or american cheese. Hmmmm. I'm not acting very challenge worthy. Time to rethink this. I looked on the counter and saw that we still had five hawaiian rolls. Those would be perfect for sliders. No american cheese? I grabbed the shredded mexican cheese instead. I sauteed up some onions, mushrooms, and garlic with a little white wine. For a side, I made homemade sweet potato fries and served a homemade pickle with it. The fries were awesome and so simple to make. Peel a sweet potato and cut it into pieces the size of fries. Drizzle with olive oil (stir to coat), and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I used kosher salt. I baked them at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn them after 15 minutes.

Monday, January 28, 2013


January 28, 2013

The kids both decided to pack leftovers for lunch today. One took macaroni/chicken and the other took lasagna (both took leftover green beans too). Hurray for kiddos, saving $4. This may end up being their best week yet for saving lunch money.

After school, my daughter wanted a snack. She grabbed the bag of frozen chicken quesadillas. You know, the quesadillas that I had been trying to get the kids to eat up for what feels like forever. Guess what happened. She LOVED them. My son heard her raving about them so he heated some up for himself.....which led to an empty bag! Wohoo! My daughter even asked me to buy more of them. If only they had tried them when I first asked them to. Mom always knows.

I was browsing recipes online and came across a couple interesting ones. I found a recipe for spanish style quinoa. It called for chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin. Yum. Uh oh. How am I out of cumin?! Nooooooooo! Well, I figured that those spices pretty much make up taco seasoning so I grabbed a pouch of that. The recipe called for 1 teaspoon of chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon each of garlic and cumin. So instead I just substituted 1 1/2 teaspoons of the taco seasoning. I sauteed onion, garlic, quinoa, and some bell pepper (frozen from my garden). Then stirred in a can of tomato sauce, water, and the seasonings. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Also while I was recipe browsing, I read a statistic. Now, I don't know if this is true or not but I read that roughly half of all food is thrown out. Seriously?! Since we started this challenge, we have gotten so much better at not wasting so much. However, the next thing that I read made me realize that we probably still have a long way to go. We are a broccoli loving family. We actually crave freshly steamed broccoli. After 14 years of marriage and making meals, I realize that I have been cutting broccoli incorrectly. Normally, I cut off pretty much all of the stems. For some reason, I had the impression that they were hard, dried out, and not edible. Little did I know that these are broccoli lies! Today I cut off the last couple inches of the stem because you could see it was tougher and a little dry. Then I held on to the floret part and peeled the rest of the stem. The stem can then be cut up in small circles (like you do for carrots). I threw the chopped stems into the steamer with the florets. I didn't say anything to the kids and decided to just watch them as they ate. My son ate his entire portion of broccoli (stem and all) and never said a word. My daughter picked out the florets to eat and left the stem circles. However, when I told her that she had to eat all of her veggies before she could have leftover birthday cake, she had no problem scarfing the rest down. I was pleasantly surprised with how they turned out. They were not tough. They were not dried out. They tasted, well, like broccoli. Ha. I think the trick is that you need to peel them.

I baked some salmon filets and dinner was all set.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Macaroni, meet chicken. Chicken, meet macaroni.

January 27, 2013

I started to clean out the fridge and set all the leftovers on the counter. I saw the rest of the cheese pizza and thought "hmmm no one is going to want to eat that anymore". The next words out of both of my kids mouths were "I want a piece of pizza". Ha. How wrong was I? They finished up the pizza and I had some leftover lasagna (my daughter ended up having some lasagna as well).

During the afternoon, we were hungry for a snack. My daughter grabbed the leftover apple pie salsa and homemade cinnamon tortilla chips. My son asked for the cookie dough hummus....It only took a couple of minutes until all three of us were digging into the hummus and they once again tried to bicker over who got the last bite. Ha. I guess I better make another batch of it soon.

I still had some rotisserie chicken that needed to be used up for dinner. I didn't really feel like making soup. I started browsing through Pinterest and my daughter saw a recipe for homemade macaroni. She said "oh, macaroni. Can't we put chicken in macaroni?" Indeed we can. I made a box of macaroni and cheese. Meanwhile, I heated up the rest of the rotisserie chicken and half a bag of peas from the freezer. I mixed them all together and put them into a small cake pan. For the topping, I took the leftover homemade croutons (kids had a blast crushing them) and mixed the crumbs with a little bit of melted butter and some freshly grated parmesan cheese. Topped the macaroni mixture and then baked at 400 for just a few minutes. My son said "this stuff is delicious". I think I would make it again except next time it needs more cheese sauce because the topping/baking it takes away some of the moisture.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Birthday lasagna

January 26, 2013

We started out our day by heading to the sledding hill at our local ski hill for some cub scout sledding in our homemade sleds (out of cardboard and duck tape only!). We were out of the house by 8:30. We got home in time for a quick lunch of leftovers for me and noodles for the kids before we started preparing for my daughter's birthday party.

I made some homemade croutons yesterday. They are so easy to make and use up bread (I always seem to have too much bread). I wanted to try to make most of the food easy for her party seeing as we had morning activities. So I also had prepared another dish yesterday, my daughter's request: cookie dough hummus!

I wanted a salad and decided to take the easy way out. I bought two bags of salad that already had the veggies in it. I got two different kinds in order to get a nice variety of veggies. Next up, my daughter asked for green beans canned from our garden. Easy enough, open a few jars and heat. I also baked up some garlic bread (oops, forgot to take pictures of the bread and beans). I had some cheese, sausage, and crackers. Perfect snack to set out and all that took was some chopping. Main course: lasagna. Ok, so that is where most of my prep time went.

I made two pans. One had local ground beef in the sauce along with a layer of pepperoni. The second pan was meatless. I made my own sauce using up jars of my home canned tomatoes. Yum. I love making lasagna because I always end up with extra sauce. I got three containers to put in the freezer. I had 5 adults and 9 kids at her party. I guess we didn't eat as much as I had thought we would. I sent one container of lasagna home with a friend, and ended up with three for us. It freezes well so there are some nice meals for when I don't feel like cooking.

A birthday party wouldn't be complete without a cake. However, my hubby is the cake maker in our family. Over the years he has made dora the explorer, thomas the train, earth and star, three layered rose cake, and a baseball cake (I'm probably forgetting some too). However, he had to work and wasn't able to be here for the party. So store bought hello kitty it is! Not too bad a meal for about $25 (plus the cake)!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Food favorites with a twist

January 25, 2013

My son packed his lunch today. Thanks for saving $2 buddy! My daughter wanted to eat school lunch because they had one of her favorites: shrimp poppers. And it happens to be her birthday so how great is that?!

We are going to a friend's purse party tonight (my daughter's birthday party is tomorrow) and there will be food so I just wanted to make us something small to eat for when they got home from school. I wanted to make sure that my daughter still felt that she had special food for her birthday even though we aren't having a big dinner at home. I decided to take some of her favorite items (ravioli and peanut butter) and to make her some new recipes.  I tried something new instead of simply simmering them. After they had cooked for a few minutes, I dipped them in a mix of italian bread crumbs and freshly grated parmesan cheese. I baked them for about ten minutes at 375 degrees. I served them with a side of homemade pizza sauce.

Next up, you gotta have dessert. I made some homemade ice cream. Ok, so not ice cream in the traditional sense. I found a recipe for ice cream that is just frozen bananas, splash of vanilla, pinch of salt, tablespoon of peanut butter, and a little milk. It isn't overly sweet seeing as there is not any sugar in it so I chopped up a mini chocolate candy bar and tossed that in as well. But once you name it "peanut butter banana chocolate chunk ice cream", who can resist?! Not my kids because they said both new recipes were amazing!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dessert chips and apple pie salsa

January 24, 2013

You will not believe what happened. My kids bickered over who would get to take the leftover chicken fried rice for lunch to school today. Wow. I never would have thought when we started this challenge that they would evolve and really embrace our new lifestyle. Good thing for them that there was enough for both of them! I had the rest of the leftover beef tips, gravy, and rice.

We ran some errands today and the kids asked if we could eat dinner out. I told them that we would be done with errands way before dinner, but that we could pick something up that would still be good in a few hours. I gave them three options (two of which I had coupons for and the third was just plain cheap). Once again to my surprise, they picked the cheapest option. What was my kids' idea of a splurge for tonight (a reward for us doing so well with the challenge last week)? Spending $5 and picking up a hot & ready cheese pizza to take home and have a picnic while we watch a movie.

I wanted to make us a fun dessert for our picnic. I had half a pack of tortillas that needed to get used up soon. Hmmmm. Homemade cinnamon sugar tortilla chips with some homemade apple pie salsa. Another Pinterest score! The recipe is so simple (from "The Peach Kitchen"). Combine 2 cups of peeled/cored/diced apples, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon in a pan. Heat until it boils and some of the juice has come out of the apples. Mix together one teaspoon of corn starch and one teaspoon of water (I needed a little bit extra water). Stir that into the apples and cook until thickened. Cut tortillas into triangles. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 410 degrees for 5-8 minutes (I did mine for 8 and they were nice and crunchy). My son said "mom, I love the apples". My daughter couldn't get enough of the cinnamon sugar tortilla chips. And now, time for our movie.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chicken fried rice & grocery savings

January 23, 2013

I finished up the last of the leftover ham soup before I headed to the commissary. Uh oh, I had a pretty long list.

My pre-challenge weekly average was $175. Today I spent $11.36 on toiletries and cleaners. I spent $2.29 on impulse items. I saw a container of orange/mango/peach juice that sounded good plus it has a lot of vitamin C in it which I am really trying to push this week. I spent $8.35 on magazines. I spent $63.04 on food. However, that is including $25.40 that is for food for my daughter's birthday party (feeding 5 adults and 10 kids). After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $107.67 out of pocket today. That is a savings of $67.33. My kids packed leftovers for lunch today (soup and penne) which saved $4. My pre-challenge weekly average for restaurants was $80. Can you believe that we did not go out to eat at all this week? Wohoo! So this brings my total for the week to saving $151.33. My grand total of savings is $1,703.69 in 98 days!!

I wanted a quick meal for tonight because we have wrestling. I saw that I had leftover rice. Hmmmm. Chicken fried rice. I chopped up part of a rotisserie chicken to add to it. I sauteed garlic, ginger, and green onion (frozen from my garden). I cooked two eggs along with a dash of soy sauce. I combined two cups of the leftover rice, a pile of chicken, one carrot, the eggs, about 3/4 cup of frozen peas, and two tablespoons of soy sauce. I sprinkled in a little salt. Voila. After about three bites, my son said "this is really good mom".

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tips and chips

January 22, 2013

For lunch, I had a bowl of leftover ham soup. I wanted to make a snack for the kids. Ok, I wanted to make a snack for me. Ha. I have been craving the homemade granola bars since I scarfed down the last of them over a week ago. Those bars are more like cookies. So delicious!

Dinner was very easy tonight. I saw a recipe on Pinterest for beef tips and gravy. I had a package of local beef stew meat that I wanted to use. I feel kinda bad because this recipe really isn't the healthiest. The gravy is a can of beef broth, a can of cream of mushroom soup (I used cream of chicken because that is all I had), and an envelope of onion soup mix. I used up the rest of the box of white rice. For our veggie, I made kale chips. Unbelievably, the kale was the first thing gone from my daughter's plate. And she had seconds! The beef was awesome. This may need to become a weekly or bi-weekly meal at our house.

Today I planned out some meals, made my grocery list, and printed out my coupons. Looks like tomorrow is grocery shopping day!

Monday, January 21, 2013

A "penne" for your dinner

January 21, 2013

The kids had today off of school. Good thing because my daughter came down with a cold (again) so she could use the extra day to rest. She requested Mrs. Grass (chicken noodle) soup with an egg in it to make it like egg drop soup. My son asked for spaghetti-o's. I couldn't make him eat leftovers if my daughter didn't have to. He then asked if he could have a piece of the leftover focaccia bread with his lunch. I finished up the last of the leftover shepard's pie.

I am just starting to feel better since the last round of germs went through our house and like I said, my daughter started it over again. We have a big scouting event this coming weekend along with my daughter's birthday so I wanted to try something to hopefully get her feeling better and to keep my son and I from getting it. I read on Pinterest that a teaspoon of honey with a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon taken twice a day for two or three days should do the trick. I'm game. I mixed all of us up some and then cut up a banana for us to eat with it. I figure, if it helps us great. If not, at least the kids will have fun eating all this sugary stuff. Ha.

I took a container of turkey out of the freezer leftover from Thanksgiving. I had planned on making pasta primavera with a cheese sauce. However, after eating a spoonful of honey I didn't feel like eating a heavy cheesey sauce so I changed dinner plans a bit. My son picked out the pasta. He found a partial box of quick cooking penne (cooks in 3 1/2 minutes). Perfect. I had a bag of frozen carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. When did I buy that? I hardly ever buy frozen veggies. It made for a very easy meal tonight. I steamed the veggies in the microwave while I boiled the pasta. I stirred together the turkey, pasta, veggies, and a jar of our home canned spaghetti sauce. I topped it with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

3 meals of leftovers

January 20, 2013

I had good luck yesterday at lunch. I asked the kids to pick between three items that had been in our freezer for awhile and needed to be used up. They were fine with that. So I decided to try my luck today at breakfast. I told them to pick something from the freezer. They could choose between homemade french toast, homemade strawberry muffins, homemade waffles, and store bought waffles. You would have thought I asked them to pick something from the garbage. They were not happy. Oh well, they will get over it in a few minutes. They both had strawberry muffins.

For lunch, I figured we would eat up some leftovers. I pulled the shepard's pie out of the fridge. Once again, the kids complained. Uh. Today is not their day for leftovers. Good thing I'm the mom and they have to do what I say. Ha. Shepard's pie for all of us.

We were all looking forward to dinner. So much so, that we ate at 4 p.m. There was a little bit of the ham, potatoes, and green beans leftover from when I made them in the slow cooker. I took the ham broth out of the freezer and added some barley. There was only about 3/4 cup left in the box. That's alright, it will be plenty. I cut up a little bit of onion, two stalks of celery, and one carrot. Into the pot they went. After they cooked for awhile, I added the leftover ham, potatoes, and green beans. I added a bag of corn (frozen from the farmers market). I could probably have gotten away with only using half of the bag but I used the entire thing. The kids loved the soup. My son said he liked it better than when I made ham chowder. Lesson of the day: hide leftovers in soup and everyone will feel like it is a "new" meal. We finished off dinner with another round of the cookie cups that I made yesterday (cookie dough over a muffin pan turned upside down), filled with cheesecake pudding, cantelope, strawberries, bananas, and mandarin oranges. Everyone loves dessert leftovers!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

7 veggie shephard's pie & cookie cups

January 19, 2013

I gave the kids three options for lunch: frozen chicken quesadillas, quesadilla pizza rolls, or corn dogs. I have been trying to get them to eat those three items for what seems like forever, but they never want them. I totally expected them to say they wanted something else. Imagine my surprise when they both said "I'll have corn dogs". I guess that means leftovers for me (the last of the spaghetti) because I can't really make myself something new if they are eating up that stuff. Good job kiddos.

Today is my friend's birthday so I invited her and her kiddos over for dinner. Her request: shepard's pie. I wanted to make it a somewhat healthier version. Usually when we make shepard's pie it is with corn. I noticed that some recipes called for carrots and celery. Hmmmm. Why not use both recipes? I also figured seeing as I was using onion, celery, carrots, and corn that I may as well throw some green beans in there too. When I made the mashed potato topping, I used 4 baking potatoes and half a head of cauliflower. It still tastes like mashed potatoes but with only half of it being starchy. Ok, so the cheddar cheese topping wasn't so healthy. Oh well. I seasoned the local beef with salt, pepper, garlic powder, minced garlic, thyme, and basil. It was delicious. I just wish it stayed together a little better when I plated it.

I wanted to keep dessert light. I cut about 4 inch circles out of sugar cookie dough. I flipped over a muffin pan and put the cookie dough over the muffin cup. I skipped every other cup so that the cookie dough had room to expand. The result? Little cookie cups! I made a no fat no sugar cheesecake pudding. That went into the bottom of the cookie cup. Next, in went some bananas, strawberries, cantelope, and mandarin oranges. Finish it off with a little bit of cool whip. Yum!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Unveil the kale

January 18, 2013

Today was a mixture of old and new. I had spaghetti leftovers for lunch. Then I had to run some errands. Yay me for eating at home before I went to town! One of the errands was replacing the local beef that I had to throw away after one of my freezers stopped working. Usually we place a large order with a group of friends, directly from the farmer. However seeing as it was just me today, I went to a little wood fired brick oven store that also sells local meat. I scored! I got ground beef, beef stew, beef roast, ground lamb (not too sure what I will do with that), and lamb stew. As I was waiting for the guy to ring me up, I noticed all the delicious bread that he was taking out of the oven. He had a tray of focaccia bread sitting right in front of me. Uh oh. I need one. I love shopping at local stores and helping small businesses. So hey, I had to do my part right?! It was delicious. I wish I had listened a little closer when he told me what seasonings were on it.

My daughter went to a birthday party this evening which included dinner. My hubby is working again so it is just me and my son. We settled on leftover ham, potatoes, green beans, and he had a pear as well.

I wanted to make a snack for us for when my daughter got home. We are going to watch a movie and have a Friday night in together. Well, we already tried chick peas (hummus) and quinoa recently, why not go all out and try to make something else new....kale chips! A friend made them for us last year but we couldn't remember too much about them. It was super easy. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Rip kale leaves off of the thick stem. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until the edges start to brown. I asked my son to sample one so I could write the review. He ate one and said "oh my god. Can I have another one?" Ha. My daughter tried it and said "amazing". We decided they taste like a cross between broccoli and popcorn. Yes, that sounds like a gross combination but surprisingly it works.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Slow cooked ham

January 17, 2013

Lunch was definitely a win for this challenge. I couldn't decide what to have so I heated up a little of the spaghetti with turkey leftovers and the rest of the quinoa and corn leftovers. Yum.

I found a recipe on Pinterest that I wanted to try tonight. It was really just red potatoes, green beans, ham, onion, and chicken broth in a slow cooker. I didn't have any red potatoes. I figured that regular baking potatoes would be just fine in it. I happened to have a bag of frozen green beans. As in store bought green beans. What? When did I buy that? I have a ton of home canned green beans from my garden and I did have a bunch of green beans (from my garden) in my freezer too (until this past week when that freezer broke), so why did I have these?? Oh well. I'm glad I did because the recipe called for frozen beans. I also added some allspice because I love allspice on ham.  I had bought a small chunk of ham (close to three pounds) that was on sale for less than half price. I froze a small portion of it for another meal. I made enough for tonight to feed us and to have some friends over. I served it along with a hawaiian sweet roll. I was so anxious to dig in to dinner that I forgot to take a picture of my plate. Oops! I got a picture of what was left in the slow cooker after I put it onto a platter.

This simple meal was actually pretty good. The beans and potatoes had really good flavor from the ham. Don't get stuck in a rut when it comes to how food is prepared. I have never done a ham in a slow cooker before. I either cook a large ham (like for holidays) in the oven or I buy a ham slice to cook on the grill. Now I wish I had bought another ham chunk seeing as they were on sale. You get all the deliciousness of a holiday ham but with the ease of a slow cooker. I even saved the juice to make some soup with on another day.

After dinner, I wanted my friend to try the cookie dough hummus. My kids along with her daughter scarfed the rest of it down! My kids were even bickering over the last couple bites of it. Seriously? That still blows my mind. Ha.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The amazing hummus (& groceries)

January 16, 2013

The kids both packed their lunches today and both had leftovers! Yay. I had some leftovers for a quick lunch before I headed to the grocery store.

Remember that my pre-challenge weekly average for groceries was $175. Today I spent $23.02 on cleaners/toiletries. I spent $1.58 on impulse items. I decided to get the kids each a lunchable as a surprise for them doing so well with the challenge this week. However, I got them the small package instead of the one that comes with a drink. I spent $64.21 on food. I lucked out. I was going to get a small ham for a new dish I want to try. It just so happened that they were on sale for less than half price! I spent $7.98 on gossip magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $93.98 out of pocket today, which is a savings of $81.02. This week, the kids packed their lunches (5 lunches total) for a savings of $10. Our pre-challenge weekly average at restaurants was $80. This week I spent 19.64, which is a savings of $60.36. My total savings for the week is $151.38! My grand total savings is $1,552.36 in 91 days!!

As soon as I got groceries put away, I dove into making another batch of the cookie dough hummus. I still can't believe we love this stuff! When the kids got home from school and saw the hummus, I heard "mmmmmmmmmm, thank you mom". Then I was told to title this post "the amazing hummus". Ha. How can I refuse?!

I needed a quick dinner because we have wrestling tonight. I cooked up 1/2 pound of ground turkey (froze the other half for another day) and added a jar of my home canned spaghetti sauce. I cooked up some angel hair pasta, scooped out some strawberry cream cheese dip, and grabbed some cut up cantelope for our plates. Quick, easy, and oh so delicious. I figured seeing as I have talked about my home canned spaghetti sauce so many times, I would give you the recipe (which I got from my sister). If you don't do canning, you can still make this and freeze it. I did that for many years before I started canning.

2 large onion, 1 large green pepper, 20 ounces tomatoes (I used tomatoes from my garden but you could use store bought too), 30 ounces tomato sauce, 24 ounces tomato paste, 1/2 pound mushrooms, 4 cups water, 2 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons each of parsley, basil, oregano, garlic powder, sugar , salt, and italian, and black pepper to taste. Bring it all to a boil and then simmer for 2-3 hours. It can be processed in a hot water bath for 30 minutes to can it or simply put it into containers and freeze. Enjoy! I love it on any type of pasta.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When life hands you lemons (chips), make cookies

January 15, 2013

My son started the day off right for us by packing his lunch. Yay boy! He saved us $2. I however, had a splurge day. I went out for lunch with a bunch of friends.

I realized on my way to lunch that I forgot to take anything out for dinner. Hmmmm. I figured that I would figure out something to do with the leftover salmon. After I got back home, I began my recipe hunt. Leftover salmon. Leftover quinoa with corn. No way. There was a recipe for burgers using salmon and quinoa. I altered the recipe a little and came up with our "burgers". I combined the salmon, quinoa with corn, panko bread crumbs, two eggs, and soy sauce. I fried them up in a little olive oil. Uh oh. I don't have hamburger buns. I improvised and used up the hawaiian sweet rolls to make sliders. I topped mine with teriyaki sauce. My son used ketchup (of course). My daughter used soy sauce. What about a side dish? I saw a can of baked beans. Ugh. Baked beans is an item that I always feel that should be on hand but I never feel in the mood to eat. I wasn't sure how well this dinner would go over with the kids so I knew I better have a good dessert to use as bribery.

I had found a recipe on Pinterest for cookies that you put a box of pudding mix into. They were cranberry white chocolate with cheesecake pudding cookies. I did not have white chocolate so we used lemon baking chips. I didn't think that I had cranberries either until I discovered one single serve pack at the back of the cupboard. Score!

The verdict? The kids gave the burgers a rating of "good" and "outstanding". The cookies were rated "amazing" and "out of this world". Ha. I guess today is a win. Tomorrow is grocery shopping day. Here's to hoping we have two win days in a row!

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Lettuce" eat

January 14, 2013

I looked through the fridge to figure out what had to be used up for lunch. There was a little bit of rotisserie chicken left. And by little, I mean, why did I even bother saving that little amount?? I still have two heads of romaine lettuce. Mmmm. Chicken salad. There was also some leftover edamame. I bet that would be good on a salad. I cut up a carrot and some mushrooms and added that too.

I wanted to have a snack ready for the kids when they got home from school. I noticed that we had some grapes that were getting past their prime. If I had told the kids, 'hey, eat those grapes because they are going to be bad soon', they would not want to eat them. However, if I made a fancy snack then it would make them eat anything. Ha. I also let them share a ginger ale. Shocking I know. I don't like to let them have soda ever.

I took some salmon out of the freezer. I couldn't figure out what to do with it. I knew I didn't feel like standing outside in the cold to grill it but just having an oven baked fillet of salmon didn't sound like what I wanted. Ahhhh. Romaine would be perfect for lettuce wraps. I cut up the last carrot and got out bowls for teriyaki sauce. What else? I wanted to make quinoa again. Man, I think I might be addicted to that stuff! I sauteed some onion and garlic, added the quinoa, and cooked for another couple minutes. I had about 3/4 cup of leftover chicken broth in the fridge so I used that plus 1 1/4 cup water for the quinoa. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and basil. Towards the end of cooking, I added a bag of corn (frozen from our farmer's market) and a handful of green onion (frozen from my garden). Oh my gosh. This recipe was exactly why quinoa exists. It was awesome. My son who said he did not like quinoa too much when I made it last week, ate his entire helping tonight and said he liked it. I think the kids liked it even more when we named the dish "corn-oa" (corn wah). I actually got disappointed when I realized that tomorrow is Tuesday and I will be going out for lunch with friends. Wait, what? Did I just get disappointed that I couldn't have leftovers? What is happening to me?! Ha. Hmmmm maybe the kids will want leftovers for dinner tomorrow.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dinner out (nope, "in") and a movie

January 13, 2013

I wanted a quick and easy lunch for us. The kids picked out the box of spongebob macaroni (remember, my one impulse item for the week). I made a pot of Mrs. Grass soup (chicken noodle soup that I loved growing up) for myself.

We decided to take the vehicles to get washed today (50 degrees in January!!). While we were out, I thought that I would make a compromise with the kids. We would do a night out but have it "in". How is that, you ask? I had a coupon from the kids' school fundraiser for buy one sub sandwich get one free. This would be plenty for us seeing as my hubby could not join us for dinner. Which means, I only paid $6.30 for the three of us to have a fun dinner night "in".

 I told the kids that we could get subs for dinner but that we would only be getting the sandwiches. No kids meals. No bags of chips. No drinks. We would then take them home, set up a picnic in the living room, and watch a movie (free off of Netflix). It actually was a good challenge night. We used up the end of a jar of homemade pickles. Yay, only a billion to go. Ha. We also had the rest of the homemade potato chips. The most labor intensive part of the meal was that I cut up some cantelope and served it with strawberry cream cheese dip.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

hot "dogs" on a leash (spaghetti)

January 12, 2013

I was going to take the kids ice skating today. Uh oh. We will be out and that means lunch out. How do I convince the kids to eat at home? With some food fun of course. I had hotdogs that had to be used up. Boring. But if you stab hotdog with a spaghetti noodle it suddenly becomes hysterical (to kids anyway). They had fun stabbing their hotdogs. Although I think they had more fun eating it as it dangled from the spaghetti. Ha.

While we were out today, I wanted to try to get some local beef. We normally place a big order directly with the farmer, however, seeing as one of my freezers quit on me yesterday and I had to throw out my beef, I thought that I could make it faster by just stopping at a store that sells his beef for him. I looked online and found three stores. First store, strike one. Second store, strike two. Uh oh. Third store, strike three. Seriously? I guess I wasn't meant to have chili this week. My daughter asked if we could go out to eat at a Chinese place. Instead, we headed home to make our own stir fry.

I grabbed a container of turkey out of the freezer (Thanksgiving just keeps on giving). My daughter assisted and we chopped up onions, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli. I had seen a recipe a few weeks ago for cashew chicken and it called for rice vinegar and hoisin sauce (which I bought). Hmmmm. If it works with cashew chicken, it should work in my stir fry. Ugh. Wrong call. I added a pinch of sugar to try to balance out the vinegar taste. I added the turkey, water chestnuts, and teriyaki sauce. My daughter made a side of sushi rice and some edamame. Surprisingly, the turkey was delicious in stir fry. I will probably make stir fry again with one of my other leftover containers. You ever have a night where dinner is just not what you wanted and after eating you feel grumpy? Yep, that's tonight.

Friday, January 11, 2013

My freezer wasn't "chili"

January 11, 2013

Today started out good. The kids both packed their lunch, saving $4. Yay kiddos. I had leftover chicken spaghetti and yellow squash. It was a little dry as leftovers but I was too lazy to get back up and add anything to it.

I cleaned out some of the kitchen cupboards today and found a box of jello that needed to get used up. I wanted something fun to do with it. I looked online and saw that someone used blue jello as "water" and put gummy fish in it for an aquarium. Well, I had red jello. Hmmmm. The kids and I came up with an idea. It is lava and some "people" fell in. The people were sour patch kids gummy's.

I planned on making a pot of chili tonight. I was going to do fun things with it. I was going to try chili with cauliflower and carrots in it. However, this is where my day turned bad. I went to get a pack of local hamburger out of the freezer and surprise! The freezer wasn't working. All my local beef, garbage. All my green beans from my garden, garbage. All my zucchini from my garden, garbage. Sigh. I was so upset. There goes chili. I didn't have any other meat that would thaw quickly. What do we do? Go out for pizza? I asked the kids if they wanted to go to Pizza Hut on our way to see a volleyball game. Would you believe it if I told you that the answer was no?? My daughter, the sweetie, said "mom, how about you go sit down and I'll make dinner". Keep in mind she is 9.

So tonight, my daughter measured, poured, stirred, simmered, and presented....tuna helper. My son (6 yrs old) took care of the side dish. He opened a jar of home canned green beans (I heated them though).  As she was scooping dinner onto our plates, she pauses and goes to the cupboard. She digs around until she finds just what she is looking for: parsley. She wanted to make the dinner "fancy" for my photo. Sigh. Thank you kiddos. Tomorrow is a new I think I need some chocolate.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

When leftovers are tastier than the original meal

January 10, 2013

When I got hungry for lunch, I had some leftover quinoa. I had some leftover broccoli. Boring, right? Wrong! I made a cheese sauce out of butter, flour, milk, and cheddar cheese. I stirred in the leftover quinoa and broccoli. Oh my! I think quinoa was made to be covered in cheese! Quinoa mac & cheese will be staying in my keeper recipes.

I wanted to make the kids a fun snack for after school. I found a recipe for blueberry banana bread with oats. Remember how I totally forgot about a shelf in the freezer and the three bags of farmers market blueberries? I debated if I should just use my regular recipe for banana bread, but decided to give this new recipe a try. I wish I had listened to myself. It didn't stay together very well when sliced. To go with the bread, I also made the kids a blueberry banana shake. I only put one scoop of ice cream so it really wasn't too sugary a snack for them. Otherwise it had milk, ice cubes, maybe about a cup of blueberries, and a banana.

I was planning on making chicken marsala for dinner until I saw a recipe that a friend of mine pinned on Pinterest. It was for chicken spaghetti. Hmmmm. I love love love spaghetti. Yep, time to change my dinner plans. I looked at a few other chicken spaghetti recipes and then changed a few things. I sauteed some onions and garlic. Then I added some mushrooms and white wine. After that cooked down some, I added chicken broth and pea pods (I only had a small handful left in the fridge). Next, I added some of the leftover rotisserie chicken. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and basil. I thickened it with a little cornstarch. Stirred in some cooked angel hair pasta and topped it with freshly grated parmesan cheese. For a side, I sauteed some yellow squash, seasoned it with the same seasonings, and of course topped it with parmesan cheese. Wow. I don't think I was prepared for how much I would like the chicken spaghetti. My son and I both had seconds. You know it is a winner recipe when it is about an hour after we ate dinner, and I already am looking forward to having lunch tomorrow so that I can eat the leftovers! I can't wait until I have leftover rotisserie chicken again....I know exactly what I will do with it!