Thursday, February 28, 2013

A quick meal; grocery savings

February 28, 2013

Once you see the pictures from this morning, you will know that my hubby was around for breakfast. He made my son some french toast with homemade syrup from my father in law. He made my daughter pancakes with banana in them along with some bacon.

My hubby packed a sandwich for lunch. My son also packed a sandwich. I had some of the leftover ragu. Still yum! Then it was time for me to hit up the commissary.

My pre-challenge weekly average was $175. Today I spent $40.20 on toiletries and cleaners. There were quite a few items that I figured I better grab this week so that I wouldn't run out (dishwasher soap, laundry soap, batteries, etc). I spent $104.63 on food. Ugh. However, I got a 9 1/2 pound pork roast to make pulled pork which costed $11.45. That monster roast will make many meals for us. I love pulled pork and it freezes perfectly. I spent $7.98 on gossip magazines. I had a good coupon day and saved $20 with coupons! There were quite a few coupons that were going to expire after today so I ended up buying a few things that I didn't really need this week but figured that I may as well buy them now with the savings instead of paying full price next week. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $140.77 out of pocket. That is a savings of $34.23. Ugh. Disappointing. Our restaurant weekly average is $80. This week we went out to lunch twice and spent $44.05. This is a savings of $35.95. The kiddos packed lunches this week and saved $10. Our savings for this week is $80.18. Our grand total savings is $2,348.20 in 134 days. I feel a little defeated after today but I just need to look in the cupboards and see that I actually did get quite a bit for my money.

I totally forgot that there was a circus tonight. After we got homework done, we rushed to get there in time. By the time we got home, it was 7 p.m. Yikes, an hour to cook, eat dinner, have the kids shower, and tuck them into bed. This calls for a quick meal. I chopped up some romaine lettuce, carrots, mushrooms, cucumber, and broccoli. We topped our salad with rotisserie chicken. I put feta cheese and ranch on mine. My hubby put buffalo sauce on his chicken and used a buffalo blue cheese dressing with blue cheese crumbles.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What kind of bread is that?

February 27, 2013

Both kiddos packed lunches today. My son packed a sandwich (surprise) and my daughter packed some random leftovers (rice, lima beans, yogurt, etc). I finished up the leftover soup.

I wanted to make some goodies today. I started off with wanting to bake. I saw that I had a sweet potato that needed to get used up. Hmmmmm. I did a little search and found that there really is a such thing as sweet potato bread. Kind of like banana bread. Count me in. I had a rather large sweet potato and the recipe only called for one cup of mashed so I have some leftover. I changed a few things in the recipe. I did half regular sugar and half brown. I added double the cinnamon. Pinterest, once again you rock! We had half of the loaf gone in about 20 minutes. I guess I know what I will be doing with the leftover mashed sweet potatoes! The fun part is that I made the kids guess what kind of bread it was. They guessed every veggie and fruit they could think of, except sweet potato. They guessed banana, pepper, pumpkin, carrot, apple, and grapefruit. Ha. They must have some off taste buds. Then my hubby came home, sampled it, and I made him guess. He thought banana.

I also had some kale that needed to be used. So I made some kale chips for the kids to snack on before dinner. Next thing I knew, my daughter ate the entire plate. Ha. Guess she likes them.

I've been going through the recipes that we tried during the past 6 1/2 weeks (while my hubby was gone) and finding ones that we want to remake so he can try them. Tonight's recipe was beef ragu. Once again made with local grass fed beef and local red wine. Yum. I figured seeing as there are carrots in the meat sauce that I didn't need to bother with a veggie side. I made some quick garlic bread to help use up some bread seeing as tomorrow is probably grocery shopping day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


February 26, 2013

Today worked out pretty well, challenge wise. My son packed his lunch. My daughter didn't want to but made a deal that she would pack tomorrow. My hubby didn't pack his lunch. Uh oh. However, I came to the rescue. After running some errands, I stopped to pick up the free pizza I won (guessing correctly for the coin toss of the Super Bowl). I brought the pizza and had lunch with my hubby at work.

The kids ate up the leftover brownie dip after school. I had my hubby grill up some local lamb chops for dinner. I sauteed some zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and mushrooms. Normally we add a tomato to this sautee but I didn't have any. Oh! I found 1/4 pint of home canned tomatoes in the fridge. That'll work. We also normally finish it off with parmesan cheese but tonight we tried it with feta. It was good but didn't look too pretty because it didn't melt all the way. The sautee was seasoned with salt, pepper, and basil. I was about to grab either some rice or pasta to make as a side. However, good thing I looked into the fridge first. Geez. There was leftover quinoa with corn. Leftover plain white rice. Leftover black beans and rice. Leftover egg noodles. Uh yeah. Time for a side dish buffet of leftovers. Everyone picked what side they wanted. Also, the kids aren't big fans of the zucchini dish so instead they had some of the leftover chopped veggies from salmon tacos (carrots, celery, and cucumber). I guess one way to use up leftovers without feeling like you had "leftovers" is to make a new dinner but one part of the dinner is a recycled side. No one complained about having rice/pasta that needed to be used up.

We finally checked the mail tonight on our way home from the kids' activities. Score! I got a coupon in the mail for a free 2 liter of Pepsi Next. A good challenge day indeed!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Food reinvention

February 25, 2013

Today was a total challenge success. We started our day by my hubby and kiddos packing leftovers for lunch. My hubby brought beef roast to make a sandwich out of. My daughter brought tacos. My son brought a sandwich.

I wanted to make soup out of the leftover beef broth and some of the beef from the slow cooker yesterday. I looked in the fridge to find other ingredients for the soup. Hmmmmm. Today is going to be a day of reinvention of food. Why do I always put the same veggies (onion, celery, carrot, corn) in soup? I had some leftover red potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower from when we had fondue. Why do I always use pasta or rice in soup? I had leftover quinoa with corn. This was the easiest soup ever. I put the broth in a pot. I added the container of cooked veggies. I added half of the container of quinoa and corn. I added a little bit of chopped beef. Simmered until heated through. It was actually pretty good! I really liked the cauliflower in soup. I will have to keep that in mind next time I make some.

I saw that I had three bananas that needed to get used up. I decided to make the kids some smoothies for after school. I normally start with some milk but today I used orange juice instead. I added spinach and bananas to the orange juice. After blending, I added strawberries and ground flaxseed. The kids really liked it (my daughter had 2 1/2 glasses) but they prefer it made with milk.

Time to plan dinner. I knew I was going to make salmon. There are leftover taco shells. Ok, so salmon tacos it is. What side dish would go with that? Ah! Black beans and rice. I have leftover rice. Perfect. I used half a can of black beans and sauteed them with some red onion. I added a bunch of the rice and 3/4 of a pint of home canned tomatoes. I seasoned it with cumin, oregano, thyme, and salt. For the tacos, I seasoned the salmon with oregano, salt, and cumin. As my hubby grilled the salmon, I got to work on the toppings. Why do taco toppings always consist of lettuce, onion, tomato, and cheese? I cut matchsticks of cucumber, celery, and carrots. I also cut up some red onion and lettuce. My daughter mixed together some guacamole and sour cream. Oh man. Dinner turned out even better than it did in my head. Ha. I will definitely make this again. The guacamole/sour cream really complimented the salmon. My hubby used leftover hard shells. The kids and I used tortillas. My daughter went back for seconds and made it in a lettuce wrap.

Who can let that extra half a can of black beans go to waste? I'm sure you know where I'm headed. Yep, dessert. I made half a batch of the brownie dip. I can't wait to dig into that tonight after our evening activities.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Keep whining!

February 24, 2013

My daughter certainly got into the challenge spirit with breakfast this morning. She took "breakfast taco" to a whole new level. She took a banana, honey, and peanut butter and put it all inside of a leftover hard taco shell. Ha.

We went skiing today so it was the perfect day to use the slow cooker. Dinner will taste like I cooked all day but instead I get to enjoy the day with my family. My hubby seared a local beef roast and put it into the slow cooker with some beef broth. I sauteed some onion and garlic in the pan he has used for the beef. Then I added some local red wine to deglaze the pan. That deliciousness went on top of the roast. All we had to do once we got home was to cook up some rice and sautee some onion, garlic, and home canned green beans. My hubby decided to have his roast with some leftover egg noodles instead of the rice. Wohoo! Use up those leftovers! The roast turned out great. I got the inspiration for adding red wine from when I made beef ragu a couple of weeks ago. It really adds a ton of flavor and it goes so well with beef. I may need to splash some wine into more of our recipes!

I wanted to try a recipe I found on the blog Natasha's Kitchen. She made a dessert called raspberry pretzel jello. I'm in at raspberry. First is a crust made out of crushed pretzels, sugar, and butter. Bake it and let it cool. Next is a layer of cream cheese, sugar, and cool whip. Top it with raspberries and raspberry jello. The kids LOVED this. They had seconds but I had to say no when they asked for thirds. Ha. I really liked the cream cheese and jello layers. I think I prefer a different crust though. I may combine this recipe with my mom's recipe for something similar. She makes it with a flour/butter/sugar crust (but doesn't have the cream cheese layer). Oooooh, that or graham cracker crust. Yum! My hubby said he would prefer it with a graham cracker crust too.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Yeast-erday's purchase

February 23, 2013

How do I get us to eat at home on the first Saturday that my hubby is back with us? Tacos of course! We made taco meat with some local grass fed beef. We topped the tacos with onion, lettuce, mexican cheese, homemade salsa, tomatoes, black olives (part of a can leftover in the fridge), and a mixture of avocado and sour cream.

I decided to make a bean/taco dip too. I used my new food processor to blend pink beans with a few spoons of sour cream. I added in taco seasoning, ground flaxseed, and some nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is another new healthy item that I wanted to try. I bought it yesterday at a health food store but forgot to try it until today. It comes in a canister and you can sprinkle on food. It tastes kind of like cheddar cheese. The bean mixture went on the bottom. Next was a layer of avocado and sour cream blended together. Oh wow. I love love love avocado and sour cream. I may need to find more recipes to put that in. I topped the avocado layer with some chopped spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and mexican cheese. My hubby said he liked the dip but prefers it the way we used to make it (the bottom layer was half sour cream and half cream cheese). I think next time I will do half beans and half cream cheese to ease him into this. Ha. As for the nutritional yeast, we couldn't really taste it in this dish. Which, I guess is good. You get all the healthy benefits, but you don't have to taste the "healthy" item. I will probably try it in some soup or pasta next to help make it creamy.

We felt like seafood for dinner. My hubby grilled up some clams and tuna. I made a side of quinoa with corn (frozen from our farmers market). I sauteed some onion and garlic with it. I also added some green onion (from my garden) too.

Friday, February 22, 2013


February 22, 2013

My hubby is finally home after being out of state for 6 1/2 weeks. Which is awesome for us, but maybe not so awesome for the challenge. Ha. We decided to go out for lunch today. We went to a little hawaiian place. We had kalua pork and cabbage, fried shrimp, chicken katsu, a hamburger, macaroni salad, and tons of rice. It was delicious and reminded us of the years we lived in Hawaii. Lunch was $27.

We debated driving about an hour and a half to one of our favorite restaurants (Melting Pot) for dinner. However, we really didn't feel like being in the truck for that long. What is the next best thing when you want to have a fun dinner? Due a dinner of fondue! We broke out our fondue pot and skewers. My hubby grilled a local beef tenderloin. My daughter and I steamed some red potatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli. We also chopped up some of the leftover italian bread that my daughter had picked out and an apple. The fondue for tonight was a pre-packaged box we found of swiss cheese with white wine and brandy. Oh man. Everything was so incredible. You know those nights where you are full and you should step away from the table. But you don't. My daughter walked back into the kitchen (yes, I was still sitting there) and she asked "didn't you say you were done like five minutes ago?" Ok, so that was my cue to walk away. Ha.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shepard's pie-sta; grocery savings

February 21, 2013

I pulled the leftovers out of the fridge for lunch and my daughter said "uh we always have leftovers for lunch". I decided to give them a break seeing as they have been so good about the challenge. We had macaroni and cheese instead.

Today was grocery shopping day! My pre-challenge weekly average was $175 at the commissary. Today I spent $26.67 on toiletries and cleaners. I spent $92.64 on food. Impulse items were higher than normal (during the challenge, but way under normal for pre-challenge) at $4.19. I saw there was a box of 28 mini granola bars on clearance (because they were valentine theme) for $1.55. My daughter asked for a day old loaf of italian bread that was on clearance for 85 cents. Also, I decided to buy sweet tea for my hubby. He comes home today after being out of state for 6 1/2 weeks. He deserves a splurge. Ha. I spent $10.53 on gossip magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons... oh wait. I had a pretty good coupon week. I saved $15 with coupons! Ok, so my total out of pocket today was $125.70. Not too bad seeing as I bought my hubby a bunch of his favorites. This is a savings of $49.30 at the commissary. The kids both packed lunch on Thursday which saved $4. Seeing as they have this entire week off of school, they didn't have the opportunity to save much lunch money. However, they have been eating a lot of leftovers at home. My pre-challenge weekly average at restaurants was $80. This week I spent $0. Yay! This brings my weekly savings to $133.30. My grand total savings is $2,268.02 in 127 days!! This challenge has gotten easier with each passing week. Have you tried cutting back?

We were in the truck getting ready to leave the commissary parking lot and my daughter looked in a bag and saw the spinach. Her reply "ew spinach". I laughed and said "do you have any idea how many recipes I have put it in during the past few weeks"? She asked which ones. I figured I may as well let the cat out of the bag. Smoothies. Smoothies. More smoothies. Remember that lemon chicken soup that you said is now your favorite soup in the world? Yep, that soup. Let's just stop there. Ha.

I wanted to use something up from the freezer for dinner. I had a container of leftover shepard's pie filling. Hmmmm. That is kind of like hamburger gravy. I grabbed a bag of egg noodles. Uh oh. There wasn't enough left. I grabbed a different bag and just added some a few minutes into the cooking time (they were smaller and didn't take as long to cook). Once the pasta was cooked, I topped it with the shepard's pie filling. Voila. Shepard's pie-sta. I served it with a slice of the loaf of italian bread that my daughter picked out. Yum! Made me kind of sad that there isn't any leftovers for tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Is that rice?

February 20, 2013

I enjoy cooking for my family. I like making fun snacks for them. I feel like I am being a good mom if I make them good food....just not before 11 a.m. Ha. I am not a morning person. I don't like making breakfast and therefore am not really good at it. This morning my daughter brought me the box of pancake mix and looked at me with a big smile. I stared blankly at her. She pushed the box a little closer to me. I grabbed my coffee cup. She pushed it a little further and gave me puppy dog eyes. Uh oh. Daughter 1- Mom 0. I gave in.

I made a few regular pancakes and then noticed that I had some over ripe bananas. I've heard of banana pancakes before. Let's give it a shot. I just chopped the banana into small pieces and stirred it into the pancake batter. Oh wow. I can't believe we have been missing out on something so delicious. Pancakes may always have banana in them from now on. I'll just have to tell my hubby so he'll know when he makes breakfast. Ha.

I pulled out a leftover buffet for lunch. My daughter had lasagna. I had who hash (ok, a sautee of pulled pork and sweet potatoes). My son had chicken (leftover from when I made homemade broth out of the carcasses) and the rest of the pancakes.

Ok, so here is where I thought my day was going to take a turn for the worse. I really thought that this would be the meal that my kids thought I had lost my mind. I saw that I had a small amount of pulled pork left. There was also a small amount of chicken. Really, they were too small to do anything with. Unless I mixed them together. Hmmmm. I read about something cool today. Put cauliflower in a food processor to make cauliflower "rice". Oh yeah, I'm all over that. I sauteed some onion, garlic, and ginger in a little olive oil. Then I added the cauliflower "rice". After a few minutes, I added teriyaki sauce and the chicken and pork. I felt like we needed something else to go with the meal. I looked in the freezer and I actually had a bag of asian vegetable mix. Steamed them up and put them on the bed of "rice"/meat.

The test. I called the kids in for dinner. They asked what we were having and I said stir fry. After a few bites, my daughter asked "what's in the rice stuff?" Wohoo! She called it rice! I said "teriyaki sauce, onion, garlic, ginger, pulled pork, and chicken". It was so hard to hold a straight face. I wanted to scream "it's cauliflower!!". They ate and then I asked what they thought. They both liked it but my son prefers bigger pieces of meat in stir fry. Ok, I can handle that. Really? Do they not realize that it is cauliflower?? I told them to look at the rice and see what they thought it was. My daughter said quinoa. Ha. I can't believe this worked. Yes, it had a little different texture than rice. However, it is definitely a fun substitute. Kids 1- Mom 1. Ahhhh, the challenge lives another day...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It's beta (better) with feta

February 19, 2013

We were invited to a friend's house for lunch today. We filled up on sandwiches, chips, homemade pickles, and inside out carrot cake muffins. Yum! After hanging out and snacking for the afternoon, we finally got home just in time for dinner.

I forgot to take anything out of the freezer before we left for the day. Then once we got home we had gotten about 5 inches of snow/ice so I had to shovel in front of the garage/door/sidewalk before I headed in. The kids were already complaining that they wanted to snack so I knew I had to find a quick dinner.

I saw 6 cheese tortellini in the freezer. They only take about 4 minutes to cook. Ok, what else? I grabbed a bag of corn (frozen from the farmers market) and thawed it in some running water. After the tortellini was cooked, I took them out of the pot and drained the water. Then I put about two tablespoons of butter into the pot and once it was melted I added about two tablespoons of flour. I cooked it for a few minutes and then added some milk. I didn't measure, maybe about a cup. I stirred to combine the flour mixture and milk. 6 cheese tortellini can only be made better if you add a 7th cheese, right? I looked for some cheese and saw I had a container of feta. There was only a little bit left but I figured it would be fine. Once again, I didn't measure, but maybe it was about 1/3 cup. I looked over and saw my corn. Hmmmm. I bet that would be good stirred right into the sauce. I combined the corn, sauce, and tortellini. I topped it with green onions (frozen from my garden). Voila. Dinner is cooked and served within about 15-20 minutes. I was a little nervous about the feta sauce. I've never attempted to use feta like that. Oh. My. Goodness. It was awesome! My son loved it too. He asked if I could make it one day so he can pack it for his lunch. Ha.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Who hash

February 18, 2013

Today was an excellent challenge day. Last night I took two containers of leftovers out of the freezer. I grabbed lasagna and beef barley soup. Those items along with the leftover mini pizzas from last night were the only options that I gave the kids for lunch. What do you know, with zero complaints, we knocked out some leftovers. Yay!

While I was digging around in the freezer, I noticed that I still had one container of leftover luau pork. Man, I love that stuff. It is so flavorful and easy to make and it freezes perfectly. It tastes just as good coming out of the freezer as it does going in. I took it out to thaw and started looking up recipes to see what I wanted to make with it for dinner. I found a recipe but I would need chicken broth. Uh oh. I'm still out of chicken broth until I shop later this week. Aha! I have two chicken carcasses in the freezer. Looks like it is time to make some homemade broth.

After thawing the carcasses, I put them into my big soup pot and added water to cover them. I wasn't even going to add veggies because the rotisserie chicken is already so flavorful. However, I noticed that my celery was beginning to wilt so I figured that I may as well add it to the pot. I also added a chunk of onion and a large carrot. I simmered it for five hours. Yum! Then strain and you have yourself some delicious homemade broth (and out of something that you would probably have thrown out!). It made enough for using tonight plus about 8 cups to freeze.

We needed a snack this afternoon so I looked through the fridge. I still had half a carton of strawberries. Smoothie time. I grabbed my food processor and got to work. Blend milk and spinach. Then add banana and strawberries. Blend. Then add frozen blueberries and ice. Blend. Then add ground flaxseed, cocoa powder, and local honey. Blend. The kids liked it but said that they prefer it without the cocoa powder. I'm thinking it wasn't sweet enough even with the honey.

Oh, and a side note about flaxseed. After you grind it up, store it in the fridge or freezer. It loses its nutritional potency quickly after grinding. Ground flaxseed is my newest superfood find. It protects against breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. It helps to protect against cardiovascular disease and can lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It can help to reduce inflammation. It helps with hot flashes. I find that it doesn't have a taste so it can be hidden in just about any recipe. Granted, I don't believe that any one item can 100% protect from cancers, etc. I do believe that it doesn't hurt to do what I can to protect the health of my family. Also, I read that pregnant or nursing moms should not eat flaxseed. Do your own research before you start something new but I found that flaxseed is something that we will embrace!

For dinner, I settled on making some hash. I guess that hash is basically any dish with meat and potatoes sauteed together. I diced up a sweet potato and sauteed it in olive oil with some onion and mushrooms. After about 5 minutes and it was slightly tender, I added about 1 3/4 cup of my homemade broth and stirred in some of the leftover luau pork. I covered and simmered it for maybe 10 more minutes until the sweet potatoes were tender. I finished it off with some green onions (frozen from my garden). I served it with an easy side of cottage cheese. Usually my son will just push the cottage cheese around on his plate. He says he doesn't like it. Tonight I told him that it is really just like string cheese but all chopped up. He took a bite and said "mmmm this is good". Then proceeded to finish off his pile. I loved the hash. The kids really liked it too. Although, their favorite part may be when we named it "who hash". Ha. They have an incredible love for Dr. Seuss.

And dessert. I found a recipe on for inside out carrot cake muffins. Inside out being that there is cream cheese frosting inside of the muffin. I was sold at cream cheese. Ha. They were pretty easy to make. We all liked them. I think next time I will add more cinnamon and ginger though. Maybe even as much as doubling what was in the recipe. But I had fun making them. I got to use my new food processor to shred the carrots. I think pretty soon I'm going to wonder how I survived with out that thing. :)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fend off temptation

February 17, 2013

This challenge has saved us a lot of money. Yes, I'm keeping track of how much money I am saving on groceries and restaurants. However, there has been a change in our view of priority spending. We don't go out shopping just for fun very much anymore. We limit our trips into town. On days that I do shop, I find myself thinking "do I really need this?". It is harder to keep track of that kind of saving but I have certainly noticed quite a difference. After cutting back on our spending for so long, I felt the need to splurge today. Well, half splurge. Ha.

I told the kids that we would go see a 3d movie at the theater. In order for us to go, we had to eat leftovers for lunch prior to leaving. Score number one.

After the movie, I once again didn't feel like making dinner. Geez, hope this isn't going to become a habit. I was tempted to get some take out to bring home. We settled on a "fend for yourself night". We used to have them growing up and I loved them. It usually meant that I was having noodles (my favorite). Tonight, I was craving mini pizzas. Remember a few weeks ago I was going to buy a can of crescent rolls, but saw that I could get four cans of biscuits for 20 cents less than one of crescents? Well, that last can was hiding in my fridge. Spread the biscuits out a little and they are the perfect mini pizza crusts. I topped them with homemade pizza sauce, onion, mushrooms, black olives, pepperoni (leftover from the pasta salad I made for the potluck), and mozzarella cheese. Even though the kids didn't want any pizza tonight, I made a few of them with just the toppings they like so that they would be more likely to eat leftovers tomorrow. Ha.

My son wanted to make himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My daughter wanted macaroni and cheese. Seeing as it was just her eating it, I asked her if we could save the box for another day and instead have her try a single serve macaroni homestyle. I had gotten a great coupon for that item and I think I only paid about 25 cents for it. It is only a good deal if you end up actually using the product right?! My daughter said it was ok to make it. Score number two. The kids wanted a grapefruit and fancy cut carrots for their sides.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Smoothie Surprise

February 16, 2013

I told the kids that if they were good today that I would make them a surprise. I told them that they had to wait in their bedrooms while I made it so that I could surprise them. Ok, or so I could "hide" some ingredients. Ha. I started out by throwing a handful of spinach and some milk into the food processor (have I mentioned how much I love my new toy?!). After that was blended, I added in a banana and about half a carton of strawberries. Oh! A side note: I have been peeling bananas wrong my entire life. Do you peel them by starting at the end with the stem that holds the bunch together? Flip it around! Pinch the other end, peel it back, and you have the perfect banana without all the stringy pieces! Smoothies are the perfect way to use up fruit that is slightly over ripe. Strawberries have a small soft spot? Throw it in! Ok, back to my smoothie.

 I blended again. Next, I grabbed some blueberries out of the freezer (from the farmers market) and a handful of ice cubes. I blended and also added some local honey. Maybe about a tablespoon. Then I got to thinking. Hmmmm. I bought flaxseed this week. I pulled out my old food chopper and dumped in some flaxseed. I ground it up and then added two tablespoons to the smoothie. Served it up in fancy glasses and called the kids in for their surprise. They loved it. I had one too and I was surprised that you could not taste the spinach or flaxseed. I think the trick is that you have to add enough strawberries so that the smoothie isn't green. I think the color would have turned us off even if you couldn't taste it.

After scrubbing some grout today, I really didn't feel like cooking. Don't judge me on the following list of ingredients. I grabbed a cup of mahatma rice and poured it into a cake pan. The recipe I was browsing had water listed but I wanted to use chicken broth instead. Ugh. I'm out of chicken broth. Next best thing is to boil some water and add some chicken bouillon. I mixed the bouillon water with a can of cream of chicken soup. Hang on, it gets better. Then I stirred in an envelope of onion soup mix. Yesterday I had only used 2 of the 3 chicken breasts in the package. Today I took the last one and cut it into thirds. The chicken went on top the rice and then the soup mix went over the chicken. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Then I stirred in some frozen peas and baked for another 10 minutes. I'm sure we are completely loaded down with sodium after that meal. Oh well. I guess it's a good thing I started us off so healthy with our smoothies!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Grill away the wind chill

February 15, 2013

The kids both decided that they wanted to buy school lunch today. I checked their account balances. Oh my gosh. My son had not purchased school lunch since January 29th! Good job boy.

I went to a local bakery which also sells beef and lamb from two local farmers. I got some ground beef, tenderloin steak, and lamb chops. I asked if he had any focaccia bread. Remember I got it a few weeks ago and my kids fell in love with it. They thought it was very pizza-esque. Sure enough, he had some still in the brick oven. Yum. I waited until it came out and then drove the half hour home in torture. It smelled so amazing that I couldn't wait to get home.

I didn't want any heavy sauces for dinner. Who cares if it is winter and feels like only 21 degrees outside. I'm grilling! I grilled up some mesquite marinated chicken breasts. I also made a mixture of green pepper, onion, mushrooms, carrots, and zucchini. I seasoned the veggies with salt, pepper, adobo, and thyme from my garden. Tossed the veggies in a little olive oil and they were all set. I made a side of chicken rice a roni and served the chicken with my favorite teriyaki sauce. Simple and delicious.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Vittles

February 14, 2013

Who knew that Valentine's Day would help out the challenge? My daughter was going to buy school lunch today because it is an item she likes (oven baked chicken). However, once I gave the kids their presents, she decided to pack lunch. She wanted to bring her valentine cookie pop. I made the kids a heart sandwich (peanut butter and pb&j), added some fruit, yogurt, and their cookie pops. They grabbed a juice and they were all set. I decided that I would do my part too and had leftover ham and potatoes and cauliflower for lunch.

We have a potluck dinner tonight for cub scouts. There is also a cake/dessert raffle. For the potluck, I decided to keep it simple and make a pasta salad. I had some of the ingredients at home already so I didn't need to buy all of it. I used rotini pasta, italian salad dressing, onion, celery, green pepper, black olives, pepperoni, and provolone cheese. I was going to put cherry tomatoes in it but I forgot to buy them. Oh well. I'm not running to the store, the salad will be fine without them.

Last year, my hubby made the cake for the raffle. He made the "lion" (the level my son was last year) emblem. It was awesome and of course his cake had the most raffle tickets. He is still working crazy shifts so this year the cake is left up to me. Uh oh. I'm not very good in the cake department. I settled on cupcakes. Kids love candy so I figured that I would cover them in candy in hopes to get them to want my cakes. I spelled out "cub scout pride" with valentine heart candies. I had some cupcakes leftover so I decorated them for my kids. They got one with peanut butter m&m's. The extra cupcakes were baked with a marble in the pan next to the cupcake liner in order to make it bake into a heart shape. The kids thought that was cool. The other extra cupcakes were decorated with more valentine candy hearts. Just a tip: kids love to have messages on their food. You could spell out "love" or their names.

The kids requested a fun after school snack. I did some looking online and decided on using a hotdog and string cheese to make a heart and arrow. Once again, kiddos enjoyed their snacks.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Non-taco dip; grocery savings

February 13, 2013

The kiddos both packed sandwiches for lunch today. I had some leftover beef ragu before I headed out for errands and grocery shopping.

My pre-challenge weekly average at the commissary was $175. Today I spent $18.06 on toiletries and cleaners. This is including one bottle of cleaner for the dishwasher that costed over $4. This is the third week in a row that I have tried different cleaners to get rid of what I'm assuming is lime or calcium buildup. Hopefully this one does the trick. I spent $102.98 on food. This is including $12.38 for the cub scout pot luck tomorrow. I had a few ingredients already at home and I based my dishes off of that. I spent $0 on impulses. Wohoo!! I spent $7.98 on gossip magazines. It does the challenge good when the check out lanes closest to me do not have all four of the magazines that I like. Ha. So today I went with three. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $128.14 out of pocket. This is a savings of $46.86. The kids did awesome packing their lunches this week with mostly leftovers or sandwiches. They saved $16! Their best week yet. We "splurged" this past Saturday and spent $13.50 on restaurant food to take home. My pre-challenge weekly restaurant average was $80 so this is still a $66.50 savings. My total savings for this week is $129.36. This brings my grand total savings to $2,134.72 in 119 days!!

I gave in and bought a food processor today (yay for tax returns!). I was so excited to try out my 12 cup processor. I decided to make a dip. I used one can of pink beans and three heaping spoonfuls of sour cream. I added in some taco seasoning (finally using up the last of that packet I opened and have used about four times). This was our base. Next, I wanted to try a new ingredient I found today. Flaxseeds. Supposedly they are super healthy. I thought I would grind them up and add them to the dip. They really didn't grind up. I'm thinking maybe it is because they are so small. My daughter sampled some and liked them and kept coming back to snack on them. I figured, hey, if she likes them then I may as well still add them to the dip. I sprinkled some flaxseeds on top of the bean mixture. What else can I do in the food processor? I chopped some onions. I shredded some lettuce. Ugh. That seemed kind of wet and mushy so I just hand chopped some instead. I added some spinach (shhh don't tell the kids). I wanted to play with my processor more so I thought maybe a shredded carrot would be ok in the dip. Then finished it off with some tomato and mexican cheese. My son said it was amazing. My daughter said we should make our taco dip like this from now on. Wow. Yay for trying new healthy stuff. I never would have thought we would become a bean loving, flaxseed eating family. But here we are!

I didn't feel like making dinner after cleaning up my mess. I pulled out an assortment of leftovers and we had a little buffet. Beef ragu, cauliflower, broccoli, and the kids added on some random items from the freezer too. My daughter had a few pizza rolls with her leftovers. My son had a cinnamon waffle with his leftovers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ragu, take two (helpings)

February 12, 2013

My son started us off on the right challenge foot today. He wanted to pack a snowman sandwich for lunch. I cut the snowman shapes and ended up with a bunch of scrap pieces of bread. I was babysitting for the day so I asked the little guy if he wanted to munch on some bread. He did. Ha. I had some leftover macaroni and cheese with tomatoes (canned from my garden) for lunch.

I was looking through my recipes to figure out what after school snack to make. I've been checking out some ideas for different butters, as in peanut butters made with other nuts or seeds. I had half a bag of sunflower seeds in the cupboard (I like to put them on salads). Perfect, I'll try some sunflower butter. It was pretty simple. Just put roasted sunflower seeds into a food processor (well, I only have my small food chopper). Process them and process them and process them. Eventually, they will stop being crumbly and will release their oils. I then added a little bit of local honey. I didn't measure, but I would guess around two tablespoons. I wanted it a little creamier so I added just a splash of olive oil. I served it with an apple. It was good. I would recommend it for anyone who loves sunflower seeds. You definitely get the sunflower flavor throughout it. I think I will play around with the texture next time and make it a little less thick to make it easier to dip.

I ended up having some friends over for dinner. I steamed some cauliflower for an easy side so I could get to work on the real star of tonight: beef ragu. I wanted to try a new recipe. If you have never had ragu before, it was pretty similar to spaghetti sauce. I found a recipe on Pinterest and then of course altered it to what ingredients I had on hand. In olive oil, I sauteed some onion, garlic, and carrot. When tender, add in red wine and simmer for a few minutes. Meanwhile in a separate pan, brown seasoned ground beef. Add the carrot mixture to the beef. Add the tomatoes, paste, broth, sugar, salt and pepper, oregano, and bay leaves. Simmer for 20 minutes to thicken. Serve over pasta and topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese. While cooking, the ragu seemed very liquidy. I was nervous that I had ruined the dish. I think I had added more tomatoes than the recipe I was following had called for. I put in a quart and then noticed I had half a pint of tomatoes still in the fridge from when I had made the macaroni and tomatoes. In that went too. However, once I combined the spaghetti and the ragu, it ended up being just right! Out of 3 adults and 4 kids, 6 of the 7 of us had second helpings! It was really good. It was taking one of my favorite meals (spaghetti) and taking it to another level. The red wine really adds to the flavor of the dish. I'm actually looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

I don't normally post amounts for recipes because honestly, I feel recipes are guides. You can alter them to what you have or what your tastes are. However, we all loved this meal so I thought I would share it with you.

2 pounds ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
Onion- maybe 1/4 cup chopped
1 large carrot
1 heaping tablespoon garlic
2 bay leaves
5 cups tomatoes (I used home canned)
1 can tomato paste
3 cups beef broth
1 cup red wine
2 teaspoons sugar
salt & pepper
1 pound spaghetti
garnish with parmesan cheese

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stovetop Scalloped Potatoes

February 11, 2013

Due to our negotiations yesterday, both kids packed their lunches today. My son brought a sandwich. My daughter brought the leftover portion of sub. Normally, if they pack leftovers (or a sandwich because it uses up bread which we always have a ton of) then they are allowed to pack a treat. They get to pick out a small candy from the candy stash. That's right. I take their halloween candy, valentines candy, easter candy, birthday party pinata candy, any candy and all candy stays in the kitchen cupboard and they have to ask for a piece. This morning I asked my son what he wanted for his treat and he said....."can I just bring hummus?" I said, well you know that would be your treat then right (seeing as there is chocolate pieces in it)? His reply, "yep". Oh wow. I can't believe that just happened. He bypassed a sucker. He gave up his favorite mini candy bar- a kit kat. He didn't pick the candy coated almonds. He didn't ask for taffy. Nope. My son wanted the cookie dough hummus. You got it!!

A couple of weeks ago, I made ham, potatoes, and green beans in the slow cooker. While getting the ingredients ready, I figured that the ham was too big. I cut up a container of ham and stuck it in the freezer. Today was the day to use up the ham. I wanted scalloped potatoes but it seemed that every recipe I looked up needed to bake for an hour to an hour and a half. I'm too impatient for that. Ha. I sauteed up some onion in butter and olive oil. I added two potatoes that were thinly sliced. I seasoned them with salt, pepper, and adobo. I covered them and sauteed them until they got mostly tender (stirring occasionally). I added the diced ham, 1/2 cup milk, and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Hmmmmm. It didn't look like enough cheese so I added another cup. I let it simmer for awhile until the milk and cheese came together. The potatoes still needed a few minutes so I added another oh, maybe 1/4 cup of milk. Simmered for a few more minutes and then voila. Super easy scalloped potatoes.

I served it with a side of steamed broccoli. Don't forget to peel the broccoli stems (discard the end couple of inches) and steam those up too. This was the second time I have used the stems. My daughter ate around them and then asked "do I have to eat the stems too?" I had her eat one and then asked her what it tasted like. She shrugged and said "broccoli". Ha. So yes, she had to eat the stems too.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

When two desserts collide

February 10, 2013

I sure did get off easy this weekend. We had a baby shower to go to today. It was a late lunch/early dinner. The kids called it "lunner". Ha. We had chicken wings with celery, sandwiches with ham, turkey, provolone, and swiss, and pasta salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheese. Of course the kids washed theirs down with some cake!

After we got home, we decided that we really weren't going to be hungry for dinner. We settled on just making a snack. Surprise, surprise. The kids wanted hummus again. Ha. I made my version of Chocolate Covered Katie's cookie dough hummus recipe. Her version calls for 2/3 cup of brown sugar. Since I started making it, I have only used 1/3 cup and it has been plenty sweet. Well tonight I wanted to try to make this dip a little bit healthier. Plus, we have been fighting colds again and I'm slowly but surely starting to believe in the power of local honey for healing. My daughter helped me make up our hummus and we agreed that we should try using honey for half the amount and brown sugar for the other half (to equal 1/3 cup together). We tasted a bite and thought there really wasn't a difference from the previous times that I have made it. Yay! Next time I think I may try to just use honey. Katie's recipe calls for 1/3 cup chocolate chips; however, I just chop up plain candy bars. I always seem to have those leftover from making s'mores or from the kids candy. I stopped measuring and just eyeball how much chocolate we like in it but I think the first time I measured and it was more like 2/3 cup of chocolate pieces.

I grabbed the leftover brownie hummus dip out of the fridge and set it out with our cookie dough hummus. There was only a few spoonfuls left of the brownie dip. My son came up with an idea. He asked if he could dip his cracker into the cookie dough and then dip it into the brownie. Sure. Oh. My. Goodness! My son is the smartest!! What is better than cookie dough? What is better than brownie? Cookie dough brownie of course! I am hoping to buy a big food processor in the next couple of weeks and my first agenda will be to make a big batch of cookie dough brownie dip.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Dinner negotiations

February 9, 2013

Today was an easy day. Well, I should say an easy cooking day. Waking up to 7 more inches of snow (after 6 yesterday) and my snow blower being broken really wouldn't classify as easy.

We went to a birthday party this afternoon and boy did we pig out. There were three kinds of chicken wings, mini hotdogs in crescent rolls (oh how I love those things), veggies and dip, fruit, cheese and crackers, and cake.

After running a few errands, I asked the kids if they wanted to pick up a sub sandwich on the way home for dinner. I figured that seeing as my hubby is working tonight, I could feed all of us with a $5 footlong. Only problem is that my daughter didn't want a sub. She has been wanting chinese for a long time and I never feel like getting it. So I brought out my excellent negotiation skills. I told the kids that my son and I could share the sub (subs are his favorite) and we would then stop at the chinese place and get a take out container of the buffet for my daughter. The catch is that they both would have to pack lunches at least three times this coming week. Ha. They agreed.

A footlong was perfect because they will cut it in half for you and then we both got to choose what ingredients we wanted on our half. My son was pretty basic: turkey, shredded cheese, lettuce, and pickles. I had turkey, provolone, spinach, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and banana peppers. Even though we "splurged" and got take out food, we still made it frugal by not adding on extras. Do we want to add on chips or a drink? No thank you! We brought our sub home and plated it up with some chips we already had opened at home and some homemade pickles. My daughter stuffed herself with all the chinese food she could handle....ok, I helped her out with a little. The egg roll was awesome! She had also chosen white rice, lo mein noodles, chicken and broccoli, honey bbq chicken, sesame chicken, sweet and sour chicken, donuts, and shrimp.

After falling into a food coma for awhile, I woke up to my son asking for dessert. Hmmm. There was still some brownie hummus dip and cinnamon graham crackers. It amazes me that hummus will quench the kids' desires for dessert. So awesome.

Friday, February 8, 2013

An omelette's best kept secret (until now)

February 8, 2013

The big snow storm means no school for the kids today. This worked out great for the challenge. My son had leftover chicken stroganoff for lunch. My daughter and I had leftover lemon chicken soup. I can't believe that after one dinner and two lunches of eating it, I was sad to see the bottom of the pot. Guess I will be making that recipe again!

I needed to come up with a snack for us this afternoon. The kids really loved their snack people yesterday so I wanted to do something similar. Snowy weather makes me want warm comfort food. Yep, that means ooey gooey cheese! I had about 2/3 of a pack of cream cheese. I mixed that with two big spoons of sour cream to thin it out a bit. I had half a jar of our homemade pizza sauce in the fridge. I mixed half of it in with the cream cheese and sour cream. I spread the mixture into a pie plate. I topped it with the other half of the pizza sauce. Next up, cover it all with mozzarella cheese. Now for the fun part. I needed a face. I sliced mushrooms for the eyes, nose, and ears. I used pepperoni for the mouth and pupils. I used spinach for the eye brows and mustache. My kids have a slight, ok large, obsession with mustaches. I figured this would be an awesome way to get them to eat the spinach because I figured they would want to eat the mustache. Ha. I finished our pizza face off with some green onion (frozen from my garden) for hair. I stuck it in the oven at 375 until the edges were bubbly. I served it with tortilla chips (for my daughter and I) and with leftover pita bread (for my son). It was a hit! And I was totally right about the mustache.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to make for dinner. After snow blowing, I was tired and didn't feel like putting much effort into dinner. We saw a commercial for breakfast, and we all said "oooooooh". Ha. Perfect, breakfast it is.

The problem being: I'm not good at breakfast foods and my hubby is working tonight. Please turn out! My son wanted french toast. He likes it if you mix a little flavored coffee creamer in with the egg (and of course vanilla and cinnamon). I topped it off with a little powdered sugar and some of my father in law's homemade maple syrup. My daughter and I couldn't decide if we wanted fried eggs or an omelette (called a mom-lette in our house because I love those things!). My daughter said, well how about both? Ha. That's my girl. I made an onion, mushroom, spinach, and cheese omelette. Do you want to know the secret ingredient that will turn any omelette into the best omelette ever?! Basil. You can thank my hubby for that little tid bit. I'm not sure how he discovered that but he started making me them with basil and I have been hooked on his secret ingredient ever since. I made a couple fried eggs and toast. While I was cooking, the kids got busy with our side dish. They peeled and chopped an orange, banana, strawberries, and grapes and we mixed it with some strawberry cream cheese dip. It was all so delicious. How did my daughter react to an omelette with cooked spinach and mushrooms (two items she claims to not like) in it? She took a bite and said "ooooh, this is really good". After a few minutes, I noticed her picking at the mushrooms. Ugh. I guess it's mind over matter. Maybe next time, I will chop them up smaller so she won't see them. How did I do with the fried eggs? Ok, so maybe I popped the yolks a little. But I will still consider this a breakfast success.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Snack people

February 7, 2013

Both of the kids packed their lunches today. Yay for using up leftovers! I also did my part and had leftover lemon chicken soup. Yum.

I had a rough evening with the kids yesterday (their bickering and not behaving the way that they should) so I wanted to try to do something to get us started on the right foot when they got home from school today. I outdid myself. I found ideas on Pinterest to make fun snack foods. I saw one idea that I liked and then I added a few things to it and changed a few items. This is what I came up with....

Snack lady. She consisted of a "WhoNu?" cookie (they are cookies that are actually healthy; they have fiber, calcium, vitamin d, and vitamin c in them) for a head. She had craisin eyes, a vanilla yogurt chip nose, cheerio mouth, and pretzel ears. She had a graham cracker body. Her arms were carrots finished off with grape hands. Her legs and feet were celery. And what snack lady would be complete without clothes? She wore a cucumber tshirt and skirt. She was served with one of my daughter's favorite juices: peach mango juice. In a fancy glass of course. Snack man was not to be outdone by snack lady. Although he had the same body and body parts, his clothing was a tshirt and shorts. He was served with my son's favorite juice: apple juice. My kids LOVED their snack people. They screamed when they saw them. My son didn't want to eat it. He played with it and ate so slowly so that he could enjoy it. I told him not to worry that I could make snack people again. Ha.

I had some rotisserie chicken leftover. Hmmm what to make? I settled on chicken stroganoff. Instead of using a can of cream of chicken soup, I made my own. I sauteed up some onions and mushrooms in butter and olive oil. I added some white wine. Next, I added equal parts of chicken broth and milk. I thickened the sauce with some corn starch and added the chicken. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and thyme from my garden. At the end, I turned off the heat and stirred in two heaping spoons of sour cream. I served it with egg noodles. For our veggie, I sauteed up some onions and then added a jar of our home canned green beans. A little salt and pepper and they were all set. My daughter said that she loved the noodles and that it was so cheesy and like macaroni and cheese. Um, ok. Ha. My son said that he thought it was really good. I think that next time I need to find one more seasoning for it. Seemed like it was missing a little something.