Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter food fest

March 31, 2013

My hubby was busy working on his secret creation for our Easter dinner so I made lunch for us. There was only one leftover steak. How do I make that stretch to feed both of us? I sauteed some onion, mushrooms, and garlic. I added some local white wine, salt, and pepper. Then I added the chopped steak and a handful of green peppers (frozen from my garden). I put a bed of spinach in my tortilla (hubby didn't want spinach) and then put the steak mixture on top. I sprinkled on some mexican cheese and some sour cream. Yum! My daughter ate up some leftover pasta and my son used up the last of the bread (surprise, goober sandwich).

Ok. You have waited long enough. Are you ready to hear about my hubby's secret creation?! You know he has a love of bacon. How do you incorporate bacon into Easter? Bacon Easter baskets! He made a bacon weave and put it on an upside down muffin pan. He made little twisty handles. We filled the bacon baskets with lettuce, shredded lettuce on top for "grass", and black olive and cherry tomato "eggs". They were a hit!

Our friends brought over deviled eggs, bacon wrapped lil smokies with brown sugar, rice crispy treats, fried pickles, and ham pinwheel sandwiches. I also made a batch of cookie dough hummus with cinnamon graham crackers. After snacking for hours, no one really felt like a big dinner. We decided to cancel out on making mashed potatoes, gravy, and buns. We settled on just having a light dinner of ham, pineapple, and corn (from the farmer's market).

It's dessert's time to shine. I made one of my mom's recipes. Lemon pie. I'm not even a big fan of lemon, but man this pie is yummy! In a graham cracker pie crust, the bottom layer is lemon pudding, lemon juice, and milk. Then you mix in cool whip with some of the lemon pudding and spread that on. Then top it with more cool whip and lemon zest. My hubby even made a pretty orange rose for the top. The other pie was a first time attempt for me. I made a thin mint pie out of girl scout cookies, cream cheese, sugar, and cool whip. I topped it with some shaved chocolate. The mint pie was good but was heavy when eaten alongside of the lemon pie.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spinach pasta

March 30, 2013

We had some food fun this morning. My hubby had a trial run for something awesome he has planned for our Easter dinner. I can't wait to share it with you but you have to wait until tomorrow!

Once again, we had some errands to run today. Lunch out?! Nope. We made some broiled sandwiches before we left the house. We used lemon pepper chicken, homemade pickles, and muenster cheese.

Today was absolutely beautiful outside which at our house means one thing: grill. My hubby grilled us some local tenderloin steaks along with some onion and mushrooms. My daughter asked for some type of pasta. I found a bag of pasta that was tiny shells made with tomato, spinach, and beets. They were so colorful. Hmmmm. What sauce do I make? I settled on a homemade white cheese sauce. I sauteed some onion and garlic in butter and olive oil. I stirred in about 3/4 of a bag of fresh spinach. After a couple minutes, I stirred in 1/3 cup local white wine. Once the spinach was cooked, I stirred in half a block of cream cheese. After that was melted, I added 1 cup of milk, salt, and pepper. I saw that I also had maybe 1/4 container of feta cheese. In it went. I added about a tablespoon of cornstarch to a few splashes of milk and stirred it into the sauce to thicken it. I took the sauce off the heat and then grated in some fresh romano cheese. My hubby decided to fry up a habanero pepper like he did for our blt's yesterday. That must have been one hot habanero! As he was cooking it, he started to cough. Then my son (sitting at the counter) started to cough. Uh oh. Then it hit me by the sink. Goodness it was strong!

I was pretty surprised at dinner. My daughter will eat raw spinach leaves. She isn't too thrilled with cooked spinach though. Lately she has gotten really good about eating more spinach. Tonight she had two helpings of the spinach pasta. As if that wasn't cool enough, she then asked if she could put "cheese" on top of it. Do you know what she meant by cheese? Nutritional yeast! My son then asked if he could sample some of daddy's hot pepper. He started out with a tiny speck. No problem. He moved up to a small speck. No problem. Then he moved on to a small piece. Whamo! What brave kiddos we have. Even though he may have ran through the kitchen screaming....still brave. Ha.

Friday, March 29, 2013

When you pepper a pepper

March 28 & 29, 2013

On Thursday, my daughter bought school lunch and my son packed his usual goober sandwich. My hubby had a work event (Hail & Farewell) that we went to in the evening. They served bbq sandwiches, cole slaw, baked beans, corn bread, salad, and chocolate covered bacon!

We started our day today by making plans. We wanted to go to the zoo. My hubby and kiddos had today off of work/school. Uh oh. That normally would mean lunch out right? I reeled them in with some bacon. We made blt's before we headed out for the day. We used bacon, guacamole, lettuce, spinach, red onion, and tomato. My hubby looked through the freezer and saw some whole habaneros from the farmer's market. I sliced one up for him and he coated it in flour, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. He fried the habanero in the bacon grease. He said it turned out excellent and gave it a nice crunch. My daughter even put spinach on her sandwich! Wohoo!

After hitting up the zoo, we needed a snack. We went to TGIF. We decided to just share an assorted appetizer tray (boneless wings and celery, pot stickers, and soft prezels). We even all ordered just water! This is such a big improvement to how we used to be. Prior to this challenge, we would have ordered drinks and probably just stayed out for dinner. We made some good choices and combined with my coupon it brought our bill to $11.

We weren't too hungry for dinner so we decided to do a light dinner of seafood. My hubby grilled clams and served them with a garlic butter sauce. He also grilled up some bacon wrapped scallops. Yay! I love scallops.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Saving with spuds

March 27, 2013

My daughter packed leftover chicken wings for lunch today. My son packed a ham sandwich. Wow. I asked him if he wanted to eat up the ham but I was fully expecting him to ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My hubby grabbed the wrong container for his lunch (thought it was shepard's pie but he grabbed just mashed potatoes) so I brought him the shepard's pie on my way to get groceries.

My pre-challenge weekly average at the commissary was $175. Today I spent $12.46 on toiletries and cleaners. I spent $85.65 on food. I grabbed a bunch of potatoes from the loose bin for our Easter dinner. I weighed them. It was 6 pounds and would have costed $2.64. I looked over at the bags of 10 pounds of potatoes. They were on manager's special for $2.99. I figured that I may as well pay 35 cents more and get an extra four pounds of potatoes! This also includes $15.82 for our ham. I wanted just a little bit of lunch meat. I saw that lemon pepper chicken was on sale for $3.99/pound. Chicken it is. I spent 95 cents on impulse items. I saw some Easter chocolate/mint that I couldn't pass up. I spent $5.08 on gossip magazines. There was only two of my usual four at the register and I didn't feel like running around looking at other registers. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $100.85 out of pocket. This is a savings of $74.15.

The kids did good packing their lunches this week which saved us $16. Our pre-challenge restaurant weekly average was $80. This week we went to our friend's restaurant and also to Moe's. We spent $56.26, which is a savings of $23.74. This brings our savings for this week to $113.89! I can't believe we hit over $100 with us going out to eat twice. Our grand total savings is now $2,774.64 in 161 days!!

I even had a good mail day. My mailbox was stuffed with awesomeness. I got four laundry soap samples, one toothpaste sample, two emergen-c samples, 10 coupons, and a coupon for a free 20 ounce soda!

I needed to find an after school snack for the kids. What did I see? Strawberries past their prime and bananas that were past firm and a few days away from needing to be turned into banana bread. Smoothie day! I decided to keep this really simple and see if my daughter wanted to make it. She added two bananas, about a half a container of strawberries, and a splash of milk into the food processor. After they were blended, she added about a cup of frozen blueberries (from the farmer's market). After it was blended, they sampled. My daughter wanted honey stirred into hers. My son had his as is.

I decided to do a dinner re-do. My hubby was out of state when I made this meal before so I wanted to make it again so he could try it. I sauteed onions and garlic. Then I added a cup of local white wine and half a container of sliced mushrooms. I let it reduce for a few minutes and then I added a little bit (maybe half a cup) of homemade chicken broth, a container of pea pods, rotisserie chicken, salt, pepper, and basil. Most of the juice reduced and then I added cooked angel hair pasta. My hubby grated in some romano cheese. I served it with an easy side of steamed broccoli. Yum! My hubby said it was really good. My son said that I should make that dinner every night. Ha. I guess that means it is a winner.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Philly cheesesteak sloppy joes

March 26, 2013

My son packed his lunch today. He wanted to use Easter eggs again. He packed a hotdog and then searched around for something to put in his eggs. He found homemade cereal bars and fruit snacks. My daughter wanted to buy school lunch today because they were serving roasted garbanzo beans. I mean really. How can she pass up garbanzo beans?! Ha. I had leftover pulled pork shepard's pie.

I found a recipe for a twist on Philly Cheesesteaks on taste of home cooking blog. It's called "philly cheesesteak sloppy joes". I browned some local ground beef. Then I added onion and green pepper (frozen from my garden and farmers market). After a few minutes, I added a cup of beef broth (that I had in the freezer), two tablespoons of steak sauce (I used Country Bob's all purpose sauce), salt, pepper, and I also added adobo. As it simmered, I had everyone pick out what type of bun they wanted. We had hawaiian rolls to use up. There was also hotdog buns and a couple sub buns. Instead of making the cheese sauce from the recipe, we just topped the sandwiches with muenster cheese and then stuck them under the broiler. As sides, we just grabbed some sweet potato chips and homemade pickles.

The verdict? Everyone liked the sandwiches. I think next time I would double the amount of all purpose sauce that I put in. It was good but I think that extra sauce would really boost its flavor.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pulled pork shepard's pie

March 25, 2013

I can thank a friend of mine for a website she pinned on Pinterest. It made my kids want to pack their lunches today. So what did she pin? Packing parts of their lunch inside plastic Easter eggs. My son packed leftover pasta, leftover homemade granola bars, and inside his eggs he put grapes and his treat of jelly beans. My daughter pulled out the leftover rice and leftover taco meat. I was grabbing her some toppings for her taco and she said "no mom. I'm just having the meat over the rice". Way to use up those leftovers! In her plastic eggs, she had grapes and her treat.

I wanted to use a container of leftover pulled pork from the freezer for dinner. Hmmmm. What should I do with it? I wanted it to be a meal that we hadn't tried before with pulled pork. I settled on Shepard's pie. I spread pulled pork in the bottom of a pie plate. I topped it with a bag of corn that I had froze from the farmer's market. I had a tiny amount of peas in the freezer so in they went too. Next, was a layer of mashed potatoes. I made two large baking potatoes and half a head of cauliflower into mashed potatoes.  I add a little milk, butter, and sour cream to them. On top of the mashed potatoes went some gravy. All I had was chicken gravy. I topped it all off with some cheddar cheese. I baked it at 350 until bubbly and then put it under the broiler for a few minutes. Voila. A new pulled pork dish. Whenever you have leftovers and need to find a new way to use them up, just think of some of your favorite recipes. Then it is easy to substitute some of the ingredients for what you have on hand.

The verdict? Everyone really liked it. I would make this again. I think we still like hamburger and ham better in Shepard's pie though. I could have waited until after Easter and then we would have used leftover ham and potatoes. Oh well. Now you guys know what you can make with your Easter leftovers. You are welcome! Ha!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Loco for Coco(nut) shrimp

March 23 & 24, 2013

We had an incredibly busy weekend. On Saturday, the kids both had pinewood derby races for boy/girl scouts. We were there from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. They served us breakfast (donuts) and lunch (hotdogs, chips, cake, drinks) free of charge. We only had a little while after the races until we had to leave for our next activity (I had a Mary Kay party to go to while the kids went glow in the dark golfing with daddy). After being at the races all day, there was no way either of us felt like cooking dinner. We went to Moe's for a quick dinner of tacos, nachos, and quesadillas. I'm not sure why but I was still surprised at what my daughter ordered. Keep in mind she is only 10. She ordered a tofu taco with black beans as one of her toppings. Really?!

We did some cleaning this morning and then decorated for Easter. We needed a quick lunch because we had an Easter party to go to this afternoon for my hubby's work. I was proud of us though. Instead of heading out for a quick bite, we just heated up some pot stickers. Thank you Schwan's! My hubby's work provided the food for the party. They served us sandwiches (tray of assorted lunch meat and cheese), vegetables and dip, fruit and dip, assorted chips, assorted cookies, and drinks. After filling up and munching all afternoon, we really weren't too hungry come dinner time. I figured tonight would be a good night for us to try out a new recipe. Man am I glad we did.

We love coconut shrimp. You know, like Red Lobster's shrimp that comes with the coconut sauce. Mmmmm. Well, we got to work. I pulled up the recipe titled "Red Lobster Parrot Bay Coconut Shrimp and Sauce" on cdkitchen.com. My hubby worked on the shrimp while I did the sauce. The shrimp are coated in bread crumbs, coconut flakes, pina colada mix, powdered sugar, spiced rum, and cornstarch. The sauce is made out of pina colada mix, water, crushed pineapple, coconut, powdered sugar, and cornstarch. My hubby was frustrated because the coconut mix didn't seem to stick very well to the shrimp.

The verdict? Oh wow. I think I said "oh this is so delicious" after literally every bite. Ha! I think that there was plenty of coconut on the shrimp. My hubby would like to try it with fresh shrimp (we just used a bag of precooked shrimp that I had in the freezer) to see if it would help the coconut to stick better. I wouldn't change anything about the flavor of this recipe. The sauce was amazing. I contemplated finishing off the rest of my sauce with a spoon after I finished the shrimp. I was able to contain myself though. I am already thinking about the next meal that we can use this sauce on. Coconut chicken?! Mmmmmmm. If you like coconut/pineapple, you NEED to try this recipe.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Beer bread and brownies

March 22, 2013

My daughter wanted to buy school lunch today. I guess she couldn't pass up a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. That's ok. She packed a lot this past week. My son packed his other lunchable. I forgot to mention that the $1 lunchable he picked out was a double pack!

I wanted to make some type of snack for us today. I looked in the cupboard and saw a box mix for garlic beer bread. The leftover avocado salad dressing that I made yesterday made a good spread to go with our bread. The garlic beer bread got mixed reviews. Some of us like the regular beer bread better. Some of us like the garlic better.

I wanted to make a dessert for us. I figured that I would try using yogurt somehow seeing as I have a huge container of plain yogurt. I had bought it to make the avocado dressing with but the container is still over 3/4 full. I read that you can replace oil with either apple sauce or yogurt. I made brownies and replaced the oil with plain yogurt. What did everyone think? My son liked them but said he rather them be less cakey and thicker. My daughter said best brownies ever. I'm picky with brownies. To me, it is hard to find the right texture. These tasted good (I think the yogurt was a success) but I think I need to try a different brownie recipe next time. My hubby said they were good but not the right texture. I'm still calling them a success for hiding the yogurt.

Ok, I reached my cooking limit for the day. Time to go out to our friend's restaurant. Yes, again. Happy Weekend!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Three fold awesomeness

March 21, 2013

My daughter packed her chicken nuggets, applesauce, and string cheese today. My son packed ham, cheese, crackers, and applesauce. My hubby packed ham sandwiches. I wasn't too hungry so I just had some rosemary ham wrapped around string cheese. Ok, so maybe I wasn't too hungry because I filled my face with a donut.

I've had spring fever lately. I can't wait until we can sit on our patio and look at my gorgeous garden. For now, we have over 6 new inches of snow on the ground. I won't let that stop me from having a "spring" dinner. My son requested that I buy chicken drumsticks this week. The reason? He wanted to eat chicken and hang on to the bone. Ha.

I sliced up some onion, mushrooms, and zucchini. I tossed them in olive oil, salt, and adobo. I stuck them in a grill basket. My hubby seasoned the chicken drumsticks with salt and a mix he made for when we make mojito chicken (a winner recipe from Guy Fieri on Food Network). I think the mix is a combination of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, kosher salt, pepper, and paprika. My hubby took the zucchini mix and the chicken and headed outside to the grill....In wind chill of 16 degrees! Thank you hubby!

I had to figure out one more side dish for dinner. Aha! My aunt had mentioned a recipe for homemade salad dressing. It involved avocados so you know I'm in. Her recipe is as follows. In a food processor, combine an avocado, 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, and salt. We sampled it and decided to add to it. I added some basil, pepper, cayenne pepper, and oregano. The oregano really added to the flavor. I made a bed of spinach, romaine lettuce, carrots, red onion, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

What awesomeness happened during dinner? There was three fold awesomeness. First, as we were doctoring up the salad dressing, my daughter was sitting on the counter and calling off seasonings for me. As she grabbed seasonings, she noticed the bottle of nutritional yeast. She asked if she could eat some "cheese". Um, yes. She sprinkled some in her hand to snack on. Second, my daughter was in the middle of her salad and said "this lettuce is good". I had her show me what "lettuce" she was referring to. Yep, you got it. It was the spinach. Ha! Third, after my daughter finished eating all of her dinner, she continued to pour pile after pile of nutritional yeast onto her plate. Sigh. Mom's job is done. Well done.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A fiesta of grocery savings

March 20, 2013

The kids both packed lunch again today. My daughter scoured the cupboards and came up with a can of vegetable soup. That thing has been hanging out for awhile. I was glad to see her eat it up. My son brought some of his leftover spaghetti-o's. I had the rest of the leftover beef tips and gravy over some rice.

The kids only had a half day of school due to parent teacher conferences. Seeing as there was a break in the snow storm this afternoon, I decided to try my hand at grocery shopping while taking along both kiddos.

My pre-challenge weekly average was $175 at the commissary. Today I spent only $12.03 on toiletries and cleaners. I spent $69.73 on food. I had a great surprise when I got to the deli. They had samples of a new flavor of ham: rosemary ham. They also had mesquite turkey. Mmmmm. The kids both liked the ham so I looked up at the sale board to see if possibly it was on sale. Man did I luck out. The lady told me that she had ordered three packs of the rosemary ham. However, they had shipped her three cases! Their mistake meant that they had ham to get rid of. Instead of selling it for almost $9 per pound, it was on sale for $1.99 per pound! Score! I spent $2.25 on impulse items. Not too bad for having the kids with me. They talked me into getting lunchables for them. However, we did compromise. Instead of them getting the big kits that come with drinks, candy, and sides costing around $2.60-$3.00 each, they got the small packs. My daughter picked chicken nuggets for 75 cents and my son picked a snack pack of crackers, cheese, and ham for $1.00. The other impulse item was something that I had been hearing about lately due to St. Patrick's Day: Irish soda bread. I've never had it and wanted to try it. There just happened to be one loaf of it on the clearance rack for 50 cents. Looks like today is the day for trying it out. I spent $7.26 on gossip magazines. Last week, someone suggested that I buy subscriptions to my favorite magazines versus buying them each week. I looked into it. It would be way cheaper to get the subscriptions. I just can't bring myself to pay that much all at once though. For now, I will keep getting them weekly. Maybe sometime down the road I will switch to subscriptions. After they added their surcharge and took out my coupons, I paid $89.50 out of pocket today. That is a savings of $85.50.

Our pre-challenge weekly restaurant average was $80. We went out to an Irish restaurant and also to our friend's restaurant this week. Yikes. We spent $86.59 which is over by $6.59. Something put my challenge into perspective this week. There was a helicopter crash in Afghanistan and we were worried sick that it had been one of our friends. Kind of made us realize that if we want to go out and enjoy a lunch with our family, then so be it. I don't have to save x amount of money each and every week. We are allowed to splurge. We are allowed to still enjoy our time together. This is just a way for us to change our "usual" eating behavior.

The kids did amazing at packing lunches this past week. They had their best week yet. They saved $18. After adding up our savings and subtracting our restaurant overage, we still managed to save $96.91 this week! I can't believe it after going out twice AND having the kids with me to grocery shop. This brings our grand total to $2,660.75 in 154 days!

Today marked a milestone for me. My blog has been viewed in 17 countries. The latest to view was Mexico which then gave me inspiration for dinner tonight. Remember when I made pulled pork chili and my hubby said that it tasted taco-y? I decided to use that to my advantage. I had half a block of cream cheese. I spread that in the bottom of a pie plate. Then I covered it with some leftover pulled pork chili that I took out of the freezer. I sprinkled on some nutritional yeast (adds some cheddar cheese flavor while adding super nutrition!), then I topped it with some shredded pepper jack and mexican cheese blend. I baked it at 350 until bubbly and then stuck it under the broiler for a few minutes. Next up was tacos. I made some local ground beef taco meat. I had black olives leftover in the fridge. I chopped up some onion and lettuce. We also topped the tacos with sour cream, guacamole, mexican cheese, and taco sauce. Ok, so the next item doesn't really go with the theme. I was anxious to try the Irish soda bread. We warmed it up and put a little butter on it.

The verdict? I LOVED the pulled pork chili taco dip. I think I may use the rest of the chili that I have in the freezer as dip. My hubby said it was good and that we should make it again. I think the real testament to the dip is that after he ate it he still had no clue what it was made out of. Yay for the chili successfully hiding! The soda bread had mixed reviews. I think it would have been better had it been fresher. It was a little dry. It was a strange texture. I couldn't quite figure out if it was a dessert, dinner bread, or what. I don't think I would buy it again. My hubby said sure buy it again. I asked, "really"? He said that it isn't something he would ask for but if I bought it then he would eat it. Ha. Ok, so no more Irish soda bread for us.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Banana split fake out

March 19, 2013

The kids kept the momentum going for this week. My daughter packed ramen, yogurt, and crackers. My son packed pasta and an apple. My hubby packed the leftover pork loin, hawaiian rolls, and leftover broccoli. There was actually no leftovers for me for lunch. I decided to do the next best thing. I used up a box of pasta roni that has been in the cupboard for awhile.

I noticed that we still had cocoa crispies cereal. Hmmmm. I also had two individual packs of pretzels and a medium snack size bag too. Oh yeah, I know where this is going. Time for some homemade cereal bars. I love these things!

I made beef tips for dinner. I made these a few months ago. I had used a can of beef broth, a can of cream of chicken soup (because I was out of mushroom), and a packet of onion soup mix last time. I didn't have the onion soup mix today. It was probably a good thing though because even though it was delicious, it was a little salty last time. Today I just seasoned up the local beef (stew) with adobo and onion powder. I put it in the slow cooker with the broth and cream of mushroom soup and let it go on low for about 8 hours. My hubby made some jasmine rice to go with it. I took some of the sauce and thickened it with cornstarch mixed with water. I will be going to the grocery store soon (whenever the snow storm lets me) so I wanted to use up veggies that I will be buying again. There was a little bit of kale and a little spinach. I sauteed onion and garlic and then added the kale and spinach. After a couple minutes, I added a little bit of water to help them steam and then seasoned it with adobo, pepper, and kosher salt.

I didn't think the kids would want the kale/spinach sautee so I looked for something else for them. Aha. I had a box of strawberries that we hadn't even touched yet. There was also some bananas that no one seems interested in eating. I knew I had to make it more fun than just saying "hey can you guys eat up this fruit that is about to go bad". I settled on "banana splits". I cut a banana in half lengthwise. I put half of each on a plate. I topped the banana slice with strawberries and then drizzled some chocolate on top. The kids walked in and said "ooooooh, why did you use a banana"? I told her that I just wanted to be a fun mom. Her reply? "Oh, I thought there was a reason behind it." Then my hubby chimed in and said "or because they had to be used up". Ugh. Really?! Stop spilling my beans. Ha. After I took the picture of my plate, my daughter asked if she could have that plate. Really? Even with the kale/spinach? Yep! They both said they liked it but it was a little too salty. No prob. That is easily fixable next time.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pork tenderloin

March 18, 2013

The kids had agreed that they would pack lunches often this week. This was part of the deal we made in order for us to go out to eat twice this past weekend. They stuck good to the word and both packed today. Although, I can't say for sure if it is really because of the deal or if it is because of those kool-aid drinks. My daughter packed the leftover chicken wings, celery, and yogurt. My son packed a sandwich and an apple. I went to a friends house for the day and she made waffles for brunch and I had some of her leftover potato soup (yum!) for lunch.

I got home and didn't feel like doing much cooking. Thankfully I had one of the kids' favorite meats in the fridge which also happens to be super easy. Marinated pork tenderloin. All you do is open the package, put it in a pan with a little water, and stick it in the oven. My kiddos separated broccoli florets and put them into the steamer pot. This is going so easy.... What else? I always feel like we need to have a starch side. I asked if anyone wanted rice or pasta. Everyone decided that we could just have a bread side. You know me and there is always so much bread to eat up around our house. There was part of the loaf of Italian bread. There was an entire pack of Hawaiian rolls. We each picked what bread we wanted. A low effort meal but so delicious. The tenderloin always comes out so moist and flavorful. I almost always buy the teriyaki flavored one. It is our favorite. We used two dipping sauces tonight. We used a teriyaki sauce and an all purpose sauce that I fell in love with a few years ago. It is called "country bob's all purpose sauce". It is awesome on just about any cut of meat you make! By accident we combined some of both sauces on our plate. Oh wow. What a heavenly accident. Ha!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A good wife always has bacon

March 17, 2013

This morning began with a laugh. My son finished up his "cinnamon toast crunch" box of cereal. You know, the box where I filled it with the off brand version. He asked me if I could go shopping on Tuesday this week instead. I said, no, I go when I go. I told him that he needs to pace himself and a couple of days each week he needs to eat something else for breakfast. His reply? "Why don't you just hide it from me and then I won't know I have it?" Ha! I looked at my hubby, laughed, and said "boy, I have something to tell you". I got out the off brand bag (it was two boxes worth of cereal so I had hid the other half until he would get it this coming week). I explained to him that it was just a different company that made it but it is cheaper. I reminded him that he had just finished off a "box" of this cereal so he didn't even notice a difference in taste.

We ended up going to our friend's restaurant for lunch. My hubby had a fish sandwich. My son had already had some noodles and meatballs at home so he wasn't hungry. Also, my daughter and I shared an order of chicken wings so the bill wasn't bad at all. Plus, we had a few wings leftover so she is excited to pack them for lunch.

It came time for dinner and we had no plan. Nothing sounded good. We didn't really feel like cooking. A quick look in the fridge showed me a few things. We had bacon. A good wife always has bacon. Ha.  We had avocado and tomato that needed to be used. We always have lots of bread that gets difficult for us to use it all. Blast-o! Bacon lettuce avocado spinach toast and (red) onion sandwiches. My hubby made the bacon while I prepared everything else. I figured that we would only use about half of the avocado. I put the other half in the food processor with a few spoons of sour cream. This way if we get in the mood for nachos later (I say "if" haha) then we will be all set for the toppings. I asked my daughter what toppings she wanted. At first she said just lettuce and bacon. After a couple seconds, she said "I'll have both lettuce and spinach". What?! I guess hiding spinach in so much of her other food and then later revealing that she had loved those dishes really worked out! You know the nights where after dinner is all said and done and you wish you had just sat down so you could eat those delicious flavors again? Yep, tonight is that night.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stuffed mushrooms

March 15 & 16, 2013

On Friday, my daughter packed lunch again. Those kool-aid drinks sure are a great incentive! She just did some ramen, yogurt, and an apple. My hubby packed his lunch as well. He had a sandwich, two oranges, and a banana. I finished up the leftover quinoa kale craisin pilaf. I love that stuff!

Dinner was something that we never get to do: a night out without the kiddos. There was a military ball so we got a babysitter and had a fun night of dressing up. Gotta love it when my hubby gets to wear his formal military uniform. Yay! I had redeemed our cash rewards for using our credit card and used that money to buy our tickets for the ball. I also did my own hair and nails along with wearing a dress that I already had. They served prime rib, roasted chicken, mixed veggies, potatoes, caesar salad, rolls, and cake. The kids went to my friends house to meet the babysitter. My daughter had pizza that my friend bought and my son packed a sandwich (man, how is he not sick of those?!), yogurt, and some other snacks.

We decided to go out for lunch today. We went to an Irish restaurant for an early St. Patrick's Day celebration. We stuffed ourselves. My hubby ordered an open faced reuben sandwich. My son had a burger. My daughter had a blt. I had sesame crusted tuna, rice pilaf, and veggies. The three of them also got fries with their meal. And by fries, I mean the most amazing fries. They were potato slices that I think were deep fried like a chip but the middle stayed fluffy like a fry. They were awesome!

We were still pretty full from lunch so we decided to do a fend for yourself dinner. My son had....surprise. Another sandwich along with some mandarin oranges. My daughter had....surprise. More ramen noodles along with mandarin oranges. My hubby decided to try something new for us.

He cooked some bacon and set it to the side. He sauteed some onion, garlic, and jalapeno from my garden (the last of it). He mixed it all together with a half a block of cream cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. He stuffed a mushroom cap with the mixture and then sprinkled the tops with shredded pepper jack cheese and baked them at 400 for 20 minutes. Once they were cooked, he grated some fresh parmesan and sprinkled that on top and then broiled them until golden. They were delicious!



Thursday, March 14, 2013

Food surprises

March 14, 2013

Today was a day full of food surprises. Surprise number one: my hubby packed leftover spaghetti for lunch. He likes spaghetti, but doesn't love it. On the first night. I don't think I have seen him eat leftover spaghetti in the past 14 years (ok, so maybe I just don't remember). Surprise number two: my daughter asked me "hey mom, can I pack lunch today?". School lunch was a hot meatball sub which is one of her favorites. The reason she wanted to pack? You got it. The new juice drink I bought because of the good deal on it. My plan that they could only drink them if they packed lunch worked. Ha. My daughter packed ramen noodles, goldfish, and yogurt. Surprise number three: my son who almost always packs a sandwich, asked to pack leftover spaghetti. Woah. I saw that we had hotdog buns that need to be used up so I just made a ham, homemade pickle, and muenster (the rest of last week's) cheese broiled sandwich.

I knew I wanted to use chicken thighs for dinner. I started browsing around online to get ideas. I saw something that peaked my interest....but also made me think that maybe this would be the meal that no one would want to eat. That thought was after I had it in the slow cooker so fingers crossed and lid down! I just seasoned the thighs with salt and ginger. I put them in the slow cooker and then added a jar of homemade (well, from my parents) peach salsa. I also added just a little water. I set it on low and let it cook for about 6 hours. Seeing as it was a sweet chicken, I wanted to do a complimentary side. I settled on making another batch of the quinoa kale and craisin pilaf that I made for lunch a few days ago. I sauteed some onion and garlic in olive oil and then added the quinoa. I toasted it for a few minutes and then added homemade chicken broth. I simmered it for 4 minutes and then added some chopped kale and about 3/4 cup craisins. It simmered for about another 8 minutes. My daughter made another batch of her now famous (ok, it's not....but it should be) garlic butter sauce. She put it on some slices of the leftover italian bread. So what did everyone think of peach salsa chicken?? Surprise number 4: we all liked it! The peach salsa gave the chicken just the right amount of sweetness. It was fall apart tender and very moist. Yum!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

2 food tricks; grocery savings

March 13, 2013

My hubby packed his lunch today. The leftover lasagna temptation worked! My daughter took the other lasagna piece and the leftover red potatoes for her lunch. My son took leftover pasta, yogurt, and string cheese. There really wasn't any other leftovers for me to choose from. I really didn't feel like it, but I just had a lemon pepper chicken sandwich with guacamole. I figured that I should use up some bread seeing as I was heading to the commissary.

My pre-challenge commissary weekly average was $175. Today I spent $11.72 on toiletries and cleaners. I used to buy bounce dryer sheets. Last time that I had to buy more I did a little comparison shopping. I tried the brand sun instead. Well, that box is just about gone and guess what? I didn't notice a difference. I needed to buy more today and I got the prices to show you the difference. I looked at a box of bounce with 40 sheets. It costed $2.18. I looked at a box of sun with 100 sheets and it costed $1.75. At first glance, you may think oh, it is only saving 43 cents. Yes, 43 cents today. However, you then still have 60 more sheets at home. Totally worth giving it a try!

I spent $86.22 on food today. I have resisted buying jasmine rice for weeks seeing as I still have four other types of rice. I couldn't resist any longer and put it on the list this week. But those 5 pounds will last awhile. I also bought a few items this week that we didn't really need yet but my coupons were expiring today so I rather buy them this week at a discount than full price next week. I was going to buy 4 oranges. I remembered reading that it is cheaper to buy fruit by the bag instead of from the loose bins. I checked it out today. Sure enough. I could buy 4 loose oranges and pay 59 cents each totaling 2.36 or I could buy a bag of 10 oranges for $2.97. I went with the bag and it was like getting 6 more oranges for 61 cents! Another way I saved was with chicken. I was going to buy some sort of chicken. I compared packages and found that I could get a pack of thighs (with skin on) for $1.67. We don't like the skin but it can easily be cut off. The past few weeks my son has become obsessed with cinnamon toast crunch cereal. I only buy him the small box each week and when it runs out, it runs out. I noticed today that malt o meal makes a bag of their comparison of cinnamon toast crunch. Hmmmm. It just so happens that my son left about half a cup of cereal in the bottom of the box this morning. Oh yes! I am going to dump the malt o meal version into the brand name box and see if he notices the difference. I pay $3.00 for the name brand box with 12 ounces. I can get the malt o meal version for $4.49 for 28 ounces (more than double the brand name box). I will set aside the other half of the bag and refill his box again next week so I won't have to buy cereal next week. Be flexible at the deli. I wanted ham last week but the lemon pepper chicken was on sale so I went with the chicken. This week ham was on sale. Yay! Instead of $8.69 per pound it was $5.99. Does anyone know if lunch meat freezes well? I'm wondering if I can buy extra on sale weeks and then freeze it. One other deal on food items. I needed olive oil. We normally buy filippo berio oil for $3.29. However, pompeian oil was only $2.49 (plus I had $1 coupon making it $1.49). It is so easy to switch brands on items like that because you don't even notice the difference. I spent $2.14 on impulse items. I had a coupon so that I would get a package of frosting creations for free (actually it costed 68 cents but the coupon was for $1 so they paid me to take it) so my impulse item was 59 cents for a pouch of cupcake mix. I also bought something that I never do. There was koolaid in the plastic bottles (in a six pack) on sale for 85 cents plus there was $1 coupon if you bought three. I bought three and paid $1.55 for 18 drinks for the kids. I usually get them capri sun pouches for their lunches so I compared and honestly, the capri suns really aren't much healthier. The kids will be excited for a fun new drink. Nice incentive for them to pack lunches too!

I spent $10.16 on gossip magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $108.49 out of pocket. That is a savings of $66.51. Our pre-challenge restaurant average was $80 a week. This week we only went to our friends opening of their restaurant and spent $37.42, which is a savings of $42.58. The kids saved $10 by packing lunches. Our total savings for this week is $119.09. Our grand total savings is $2,563.84 in 147 days!

My son has wrestling tonight so I needed a quick meal. Remember how I froze the leftover mini meatloaves? Well, tonight is the night to use them up. I also have several containers of lasagna sauce in the freezer. I decided on making spaghetti tonight with the sauce and just chopping up the meatloaves and using that in the sauce versus browning up a pound of beef. Shhhhh. I bet they won't even notice the difference. The container of lasagna sauce was small so I also added a pint of home canned spaghetti sauce. I let it simmer for awhile so all the flavors would blend and hopefully mask the meatloaf. I steamed some asparagus as a quick side. Remember the delicious garlic butter sauce for our baby red potatoes? I bought a loaf of italian bread from the half price bin today. We made our own garlic bread with the same garlic butter sauce (parsley, salt, pepper, minced garlic, butter). Yum! Our asparagus also took a little dip in the garlic butter sauce.

So what was the verdict with today's experiments? My son had a bowl of his "cinnamon toast crunch" after school. Little did he know he was eating the off brand. I could barely contain my excitement (I had to turn away) when he said "this is the best cereal in the world and I will never eat another kind". Ha!!! My daughter helped me get the garlic bread ready and I asked her to taste the sauce. She said "mmmmm those are really good meatballs. Next time put more meatballs". Ha!!! Today is awesome. My hubby said dinner was good and then I spilled the beans about the meatballs. I told them they were different tonight and to guess what they were. My hubby guessed meatloaf. I guess they didn't disguise themselves all the way, but enough for everyone to like it!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Garlic your plate clean

March 12, 2013

I woke up early this morning and hung out with my hubby while he got ready for work. He was trying to think of what to pack for lunch. He didn't want leftover chili. He didn't want a sandwich. I could tell I was losing him. He was leaning to the dark side....eating out. I asked if he wanted pulled pork because I could thaw some out real quick. Wohoo! He packed pulled pork, an apple, and a banana. Good thing my hubby packed lunch because neither kid wanted to today. I didn't really feel like leftovers either but went ahead and had leftover egg noodles and leftover pulled pork chili anyway.

I knew that my hubby wouldn't want a lot of the chili leftovers. He had two containers of his hot (habanero and ghost pepper) chili left. I decided to label one and throw it in the freezer. It will be a "new" meal for him maybe next week. That way he won't get burned out on it but it won't go to waste either. I also froze part of my chili. I also had some leftover mini meatloaves. Hmmmm. I know just what new meal I will make out of them (nope, not going to tell you now). I'll freeze them for a few days until I get to that dinner. When I stuck them in the freezer, I saw that there was still two pieces of lasagna. Perfect. I figured those would be temptations for my hubby and my daughter to pack lunches tomorrow. So out of the freezer came the lasagna.

We have kind of been on beef overload lately. Time for some fish. Dinner tonight is salmon. I asked my hubby to grill it up for us after my daughter seasoned it with kosher salt and old bay. I didn't really know what else I was going to make. I looked around in the fridge and saw that there was still half a bag of baby red potatoes. I've had them for awhile so I guess it is a night for potatoes. I boiled them whole until fork tender. My daughter wanted to help so I had her make the butter sauce for them. She combined a few tablespoons of butter with some minced garlic. She asked how much garlic to add. I said, oh maybe 1/3 of the spoon. She had a little more than that on her spoon and asked if it was ok. I said sure because we love garlic. She melted the butter and then sprinkled in some salt, pepper, and parsley. After the potatoes were cooked, I poured the butter mixture over the top. I wanted another easy side so I just heated up some home canned green beans from my garden. Add a slice of Hawaiian sweet bread and we were all set.

Oh my goodness. The garlic sauce was incredible. On my last bite of bread, I finally made the decision to dip it into the butter sauce. Oh wow. I'm not sure what has held us back from making potatoes like this before. But I know not much will keep us from making them again. In fact, the garlic sauce was so good that we already planned our next use for it. Thanks to my daughter's great idea. That's another secret so you will have to wait to find out.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Pulled Pork Chili

March 11, 2013

Today was another good challenge day. My daughter packed a container of leftover salad and some lemon pepper lunch meat to put on top along with a yogurt. My hubby packed his lunch too. I ate up the rest of the quinoa kale and craisin dish and the mushroom pilaf seeing as there wasn't much of either one left.

I organized our big freezer today. I thought I was about out of corn from our farmers market but I found 18 more bags in the bottom of the freezer. Yay! I also found some other goodies to use up. There was 3 bags of tomatoes from my garden. There was habanero's and ghost peppers from the farmers market. Hmmmm. I also have a ton of green peppers and some red peppers frozen from the farmers market too. Aha. Tonight's dinner: chili.

I wanted to try something new. I decided to make chili with some of the leftover luau pulled pork. I sauteed some onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil. Then I added some green and red peppers. After a few minutes, I added pulled pork, pink beans, tomato paste, and tomatoes. I seasoned it with salt, chili powder, and cumin. I separated some of the chili into a different pot and added a habanero and a ghost pepper for my hubby. I decided to finish the chili off a little different too. I served it over a bed of egg noodles. It was then topped with mexican cheese and sour cream. Yum! The kids both said the chili was amazing. My hubby really liked it too. He said it tasted kind of taco-y. Ha. Right up his alley. Who knew that pulled pork could turn into awesome chili?!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Campfire lunch

March 10, 2013

We were starting to have a lazy Sunday and tried to think of something to do. Then it hit me. Spring fever. I wanted to be outside. Even though we still have snow and ice on the ground, I wanted pudgy pies. What is that, you ask? Imagine a comfort food from your childhood. Imagine a golden grilled cheese. Except, it's not a grilled cheese. It is filled with pizza. You butter the pudgy pie cooker (a metal sandwich cooker used in a camp fire). Next you build a pizza sandwich. We used homemade pizza sauce, onion, mushrooms, black olives, pepperoni, and a five italian cheese blend. The cooker seals up the edges as it is cooked to a golden brown. During the summer, we also make dessert pudgy pies. They are filled with pie filling and then dusted with powdered sugar. These things are so simple, yet so incredibly delicious! A big thank you to my hubby and son for shoveling off our patio and building us a fire!

I wanted to give a new recipe a try. I was pretty skeptical. My son has a new obsession: cinnamon toast crunch cereal. I gave it a whirl today. Little did I know about the difference between wax paper and parchment paper. Ugh. Wax paper totally stuck to most of it so I ended up with about 1/3 of the cereal that I should have. The result? We agreed that the next batch needs more sugar in the batter. My daughter loved it and said she would eat it if I made it again. My son said he liked it, wanted more sugar, and would like it to get soft once it sits in his milk for a bit. I think after I buy some parchment paper that I will give it another try. Maybe if I bake it for less time, it will be the right texture for him.

We had planned on having salmon for dinner. However, once it was time to cook, my hubby didn't feel like cooking and asked if we could have leftovers. Um, what?! Ha. I told him that we could do half leftovers. We pulled out the leftover meatloaves, sweet potatoes, and corn. There wasn't too much of the vegetables left so I also wanted to make something else. I wanted some spinach. I sauteed some onion and garlic and then added spinach and white wine and seasoned it with salt, pepper, and adobo. For our starchy side, I pulled out an old favorite recipe. I've been using it for many years but can't remember where I found it (probably Taste of Home). I sauteed some onions and garlic in butter and olive oil. Then I stirred in 2/3 cup orzo pasta (I've made it with other small shaped pasta), 1/2 can of beef broth, 1/2 cup water, two large mushrooms chopped, 1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, salt, and pepper. After simmering for about 15 minutes, you have the most flavorful mushroom pilaf.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hambaaa-gers

March 9, 2013

So here we are. Another Saturday. Uh oh. How do we hold off the temptation of going out for lunch? Especially seeing as we had some errands to run and would be in town anyway. I've got it. Tell my hubby that I am craving hamburgers. I wanted to try something new though. He mixed together a pack of local grass fed beef with a pack of local lamb. He grilled the burgers while he also worked on a new topping. He made caramelized onions with balsamic vinegar, worcestershire sauce, and sugar. The toppings I chose were american cheese, caramelized onions, ketchup, and mustard. My hubby had pepper jack cheese. Kiddos like their burgers plain. We served them up with homemade pickles. The kids didn't notice anything different about the burgers. To me, they had a gamier taste than just beef. After lunch, we even told the kids that we did something different with the burgers today and asked if they had a guess what it was. They guessed that it was half beef and half chicken. Ha, nope. They liked my name for the burgers.... hambaaa-gers.

I decided to make one of the kids' favorites for dinner tonight. They LOVE my mini meatloaves. Well, seeing as the recipe is actually from my 8th grade home economics class....I guess they love my teacher's meatloaves. Ha. I have changed it a little bit over the years. We switched to using half beef and half turkey to make it a little healthier. The meatloaf itself is pretty basic. I think what really makes it is the sauce topping. It is made from tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and parsley. Tonight we added basil to it too. Oh, and by we, I mean my daughter. She had fun making the sauce. I sliced up a big sweet potato and drizzled the slices with olive oil. My daughter seasoned them with salt and pepper. They baked at 450 for about 20 minutes. About half way through, I flipped the potatoes over and then drizzled some of my father in law's homemade maple syrup on them. Our other side was simple. We grabbed a bag of corn out of the freezer (from the farmers market) and just heated that up. Yum. Yum. Yum. You know nights when you probably should have stopped eating about five bites before you did? Yep. One of those nights. It was delicious.



Friday, March 8, 2013

Keen quinoa copycat

March 8, 2013

The challenge kind of took a back seat today. The kids both wanted to buy school lunch. My daughter just couldn't pass up shrimp poppers. My hubby packed his breakfast and lunch though.

I was craving a dish from the restaurant Gordon Biersch: quinoa kale pilaf with craisins. Hmmmmm. I have quinoa. I have kale. I have craisins. I grabbed a container of homemade chicken broth out of the freezer and thawed it in the microwave. I chopped some onion and sauteed it in some olive oil along with some garlic. I added half a cup of quinoa and let it sautee for a couple of minutes. Then I added the broth (about 1 1/2 cups). I let it simmer for about four minutes and then I added a big handful of chopped kale and just less than 1/2 cup of craisins. It simmered for about 10 more minutes. I finished it off with just a little bit of salt.

It turned out great. The craisins add a delicate sweetness that balances out nicely with the kale. I scarfed down almost the whole thing but kept a little bit for everyone else to try. I had them each take a bite when they got home so that I would know if this is a dish they would want in the future. It passed my hubby's inspection. Next up, my daughter. She loved it. Ok, there probably isn't much chance of my son giving his approval....He liked it too! They all want it as a side dish another day. It will have to wait until I shop again because I'm all out of quinoa. I bet I could make it with some orzo pasta though. Oooooh. I'm looking forward to lunch this weekend now. Ha.

For dinner, we decided to go out. Our friends whom were part owners of a restaurant had their re-opening tonight as their first night as full owners. Of course we wanted to head out and support them.....we can always be tempted with chicken wings.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Double yellow cupcakes

March 7, 2013

Today was a good day for our challenge. The kids both packed their lunches: sandwiches, yogurt, and leftover fruit salad. My hubby packed his breakfast (banana and some mango) and lunch (the rest of last week's ham as a sandwich and an orange). I looked in the fridge to see what I should do for lunch. There was still a little bit of leftover pulled pork. Ooooh, I could have it on a club roll. Ugh. No club rolls. I saw we have hotdog buns and hamburger buns. I figured that the boys wouldn't eat all of the hotdog buns this week, plus they will expire before the hamburger buns will. So my choice was made for me. How do I make this lunch more appetizing seeing as I need to use a hotdog bun? Ah, by making it into one of my favorite lunches. I put the pulled pork on the bun. Next, I added some homemade pickles and then topped it with muenster (melt-ster as my daughter called it) cheese. Under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese was gooey (yes, such a technical cooking term), and my lunch was ready. Yum!

We decided to do tilapia tacos for dinner. I made a quick cucumber topping of cucumber, onion, tomato, cilantro, salt, and pepper. We also topped the tacos with mexican cheese, lettuce, and some of the leftover avocado/sour cream mixture. I couldn't figure out what side dish would go well with the tacos so I just did a side salad at the last minute. I chopped romaine lettuce, spinach, cucumber, tomato, mushrooms, and carrots. Ha, my daughter is reading this over my shoulder as I type and she said "oh, so that was spinach you made me eat". Ha. Yep. Tricky mom. We all really liked them. I think we may need to put some type of seafood taco on our menu each week.

Ok, time for dessert. Oh, who am I kidding. We had dessert after lunch. So now it is time for our second round of dessert. I wanted to make some cupcakes. I had a box mix for yellow cake. Let's start there. Hmmm. Yellow cake mix. That means I can hide something yellow, right? Next, I went to the freezer and grabbed a couple bags of yellow squash from my garden. After thawing them out, I put them in the food processor. I didn't want the kids to see any stringy pieces in the cupcakes so I made them more into a mash. I added 1 1/2 cups to the cupcake batter (made with 3 eggs and 1/2 cup oil). I also stirred in a little more than 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. I still had leftover pumpkin frosting that I made a few days ago. It went perfectly with these cupcakes. My son took a bite and said "this is really really delicious". My daughter said "these are the most amazing cupcakes". I guess they should have figured out that I was up to tricks when I let them have one after lunch.

Fruit salad; grocery savings

March 6, 2013

Both of the kiddos packed their lunches today. I finished up the leftover lemon chicken soup. Then I got busy running errands and getting groceries.

My pre-challenge weekly average at the commissary was $175. Today I spent $32.88 on toiletries and cleaners. I really didn't have too much of that stuff to buy but my hubby needed razors. Man those things are expensive. $13.84 just in razors! I spent $1.69 in impulse items. I had planned on getting one container of crystal light lemonade. However, they handed out coupons at the commissary for $1 off of two crystal light. So I got two today. I spent $10.89 on gossip magazines. I spent $94.98 on food. I normally buy "Pam" cooking spray. I looked at the non-name brand version today. Wow. It was $1.30 cheaper than buying Pam. Hopefully it will end up working just as good. I had planned on buying ham from the deli for sandwiches. However, they had lemon pepper chicken on sale. Ham was $8.99 a pound versus the sale price of the chicken was $3.99 a pound. Yep, chicken won. The food item that got me today was soda. I bought a 12 pack of mountain dew and one of root beer. $10.78 in soda! That is ridiculous and I wish I could totally cut it out of our lifestyle but that just isn't reasonable for us. Ha. After adding in their surcharges and taking out my coupons, I spent $137.73 today. That is a savings of $37.27. My pre-challenge weekly average at restaurants was $80. This week we spent $28.72. This is a savings of $51.28. The kiddos packed their lunches this week enough to save $8. This brings our weekly savings to $96.55. Our grand total savings is $2,444.75 in 140 days. I couldn't help but feel grumpy that my weekly savings didn't hit $100. I need to get out of that mindset. I shouldn't feel disappointed if I don't hit my "goal". Just think how much better we are doing at not wasting food and how much money we have saved in the long run.

I asked my hubby to make us breakfast for dinner. He took the time and made all of us our favorites. My son had french toast. My daughter and hubby had fried eggs and toast. I had an omelet or momelet as they are called at our house. The french toast were made with some white chocolate mocha coffee creamer in the egg mixture. He finished them off with powdered sugar and some of my father in law's homemade maple syrup. My hubby also made bacon. My daughter made us a fruit salad. She tried something new. She mixed together a can of peaches (with its juice), a small container of mango (with its juice), and a small box of vanilla pudding. After stirring the pudding in, she added some strawberries, banana, and cantelope. It turned out great! A little extra flavor and it makes the fruit nice and creamy. My omelet had ham, american cheese, onion, mushroom, spinach, tomatoes, and remember his secret ingredient....basil. I also made a batch of chocolate chip muffins. So after we ate, I asked everyone "so, how did you like your leftovers"? It was a great meal to use up some items from last week. The banana, cantelope, and strawberries were all from last week. Of course, I still had a bunch of bread leftover so that was the french toast and regular toast. The tomato and ham for my omelet was last week's. The muffins were a mix that has been sitting in my cupboard for too long. It was getting time to either use this stuff up or throw it out. It made much more sense to ask for breakfast tonight.
*I had issues uploading the pictures so the post had to wait until today to go up.





Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Healthy nachos

March 5, 2013

Tomorrow looks like grocery shopping day. So that means that today's job is to use up leftovers and make room for all the new stuff. For lunch, I ate some leftover lemon chicken soup. My daughter had a little of the soup along with some leftover rice.

I wanted to make a fun snack for when my son got home from school (my daughter stayed home today). I saw that we still hadn't touched the big box of strawberries that I bought last week. We also had some bananas that had to get used up. Oooooh! I also found some small containers of mango. Oh yes. This is happening. Strawberry banana mango smoothies. Yum! A new favorite.

My hubby had to work through dinner (yay he packed leftovers to take with him) and I didn't feel like cooking so I figured we would use up more of our leftovers. I pulled several choices out of the fridge and let the kids pick what they wanted. My son had balsamic chicken, a tortilla, cantelope, and strawberries. My daughter chose lasagna. I had some frozen so I just stuck it in the microwave and did auto defrost. She still doesn't have much appetite so I think she just managed one strawberry with her lasagna. Ok, so here is where it gets weird....

I wanted to use leftover pulled pork for my dinner. What should I do with it? Mmmm nachos. That's not so weird. But when I looked back in the fridge and saw a container of leftover steamed cauliflower, yeah, for some reason my mind thought this would work. I heated up some pork. I heated up cauliflower. I topped tortilla chips with the pork and cauliflower. I grabbed some green onion out of the freezer (from my garden). On it went. Next, I wanted something cool on top. Sour cream. Oh wait. I have an avocado. Yes! I used my food processor to make a puree of avocado with just a little bit of sour cream mixed in. I think I only added one scoop of it; just enough to help thin the avocado so it would process nice and smooth. I set the avocado/sour cream to the side and cut up some pepper jack cheese to put on the nachos. I popped the pan under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese got bubbly. Then I topped it with some of the avocado/sour cream. So, how did my weird nachos work?! They were awesome! I think that as long as you have other strong flavors (my pulled pork and avocado) then the cauliflower is masked. You can indulge in gooey nachos and you are still getting your veggies!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pumpkin cupcakes and 11 meals

March 4, 2013

Today was a great day for the challenge. My son used up some never ending bread by packing a sandwich for his lunch. My daughter brought some leftover lemon chicken soup. I also had some of the soup for lunch.

I was up early today so I figured it would be a good day for luau pork. It takes about 12 hours in the slow cooker. It is the easiest recipe (I may have already written about it) but it so delicious that I'm going to mention it again. Put 1/2 cup apple cider or juice in bottom of slow cooker. Place a large pork roast on top. Cover the roast with 2 tablespoons of sea salt (I just used kosher salt) and then put 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke on top of the salt. Cover and cook on low. My favorite thing about this dish is that it reheats just as tasty as the first day. I freeze leftovers and then can pull out containers for an easy meal later on that tastes like I've been cooking all day.

I looked through the fridge to see what to make along with our pork. I cut up the rest of the cauliflower and broccoli and got it steaming. I saw we still had a small container of cole slaw from when we ordered fish fry on Friday. Hmmmm. I wish I had little Hawaiian slider rolls to make sandwiches on. Oh wait! I did buy a loaf of the Hawaiian round bread (comes in a pie plate). I cut off big chunks of it and then cut it in half to make sandwiches out of. We topped our pork with barbecue sauce and cole slaw.

For dessert, I wanted to make cupcakes. I looked in the fridge and saw I still had 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potatoes. Well, the kids did love the sweet potato bread I made twice this week. I decided to make a half batch of it and put it into a muffin pan. If it looks like a cupcake, it's a cupcake. Uh oh. I didn't have a can of frosting. One more look in the fridge and I found what I needed. I mixed together 1/2 cup milk with a small box of pumpkin spice pudding. Then I added half a block of cream cheese (softened). Once that was blended, I added a partial container of cool whip that I found in the back of the freezer. There was probably less than half left. They turned out so good! My son said "It's amazing, and I can't stop eating it". Ha. I really loved them too. I'm betting that the last few of them do not make it through the night! There is still quite a bit of the frosting leftover. I may need to find something else to frost tomorrow.

After dinner, I got back to work. Remember that I had bought a 9 1/2 pound roast to use today? I separated the leftovers into different sized containers. A few really small ones. My hubby can take those to work for lunches. I made a few medium sized ones. Those I can use when my hubby works late and it is just me and the kiddos for dinner. I also did a couple bigger ones that will feed the four of us. Cook once, and feed us 11 times. Yep, a productive day indeed.