Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Taco" broiled sandwiches

April 30, 2013

Today was a day full of food experiments. My daughter packed a ham sandwich and my son packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. My hubby packed hard boiled eggs, banana, fruit cup, apple, broccoli, and cereal bars for his breakfast and lunch.

I saw a lunch idea on Pinterest. A piece of bread is topped with mozzarella cheese, tomato slice, and green onions then put under the broiler. Hmmmm. Good but I know I can make it better. I looked in the fridge. There was still one leftover sweet potato/bean patty. I am not going to call it a "burger" anymore because it just wasn't that texture. Anyway I warmed up half of the patty and then spread it over two pieces of bread. I then topped them with spinach, green onions, tomato, avocado, and cilantro. I looked for cheese and found a five cheese white blend and some mexican. Hmmmmm. Which one? Nah, both! I did one bread of each and stuck them under the broiler. It only took a few minutes to get all melty. I grabbed my mountain dew (because what is a healthy meal that isn't washed down by something bad for you right?) and headed for the couch. I made the mistake of taking a bite of the mexican cheese bread while I still had the remote in my hand. I couldn't put my food down long enough to choose a show and get off of the guide channel! I finally set my food down when there was about a bite left....and only because I needed my napkin. Ha! The white cheese one was good but not as good as the mexican cheese one. I'm not sure if next time I will toast the bread first so that it gets a crunch. I mean really. If I couldn't set it down long enough to breathe (ok, to turn the channel) then why mess with it!

The kids needed an after school snack. I saw that there were three bananas and half a box of strawberries that needed to be finished up. I settled on trying a muffin recipe from Once a Month Mom. They were actually pretty healthy: banana, strawberries, applesauce, honey, butter, vanilla, flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. The kids loved them. They each had two muffins but I had to cut them off when they wanted a third!

I decided to go with tacos for dinner with a side of cilantro lime quinoa. I went to an amazing blog Inspired by Sam (ok, so she is my cousin I may be a "little" biased). I tried her recipe for the quinoa. I had a few problems but I totally blame myself not her recipe. I didn't measure the cilantro but I don't think I had nearly enough for the recipe. Anyway, it wouldn't chop up very well in my processor probably because it wasn't very full. I shouldn't have been such a cilantro hog this week!! Also, we liked it but it was a little too limey for us. I should have tasted along the way as I added the lime juice. Oops. For the tacos I tried something new. I tried to embrace our newly found part time vegetarianism and bought a bag of veggie crumbles to replace ground beef. I. Was. Scared. I poured it out of the bag and it surprisingly looked like crumbled beef. I may have ruined the texture when I added water along with the taco seasoning packet. It turned it into more of a bean texture. We topped our tacos with romaine lettuce, green onions, cilantro, taco sauce, sour cream, tomato, avocado, and mexican cheese. So what did everyone think? My son wanted the leftover pasta with alfredo sauce (which was part beans) but I asked him to try a bite of tonight's dinner. He took a bite of the "meat" and said it was really good on it's own. Then he took a bite of it mixed in with the taco toppings and said he couldn't taste it. My daughter loved it. She finished her taco in record time and then went back in for a second scoop of just "meat". My hubby said "they tasted like tacos".  Wohoo!! Oh, and I had an accidental mixture on my plate. The quinoa was great when I mixed it with the toppings that fell out of my taco. It cut the lime just enough so I went back and had a mini taco salad.

Side note: My son hung out with me while I scrolled through Pinterest this morning. He read the word "vegetarian" and asked what it was. I told him it is when you don't eat meat. He then asked, "am I a vegetarian"? I still don't feel like a real vegetarian. Today was day six. I think because we have the intention of eventually adding meat back to our meals a few times a week that I feel like a liar if I say I'm vegetarian. Well. My hubby is down 5-6 pounds and I am down 1.6 pounds (that's 1 POINT 6, not 16, ha) in the past six days. The only change we made is eliminating meat....not eliminating ice cream. Good god, no! I'm a vegetarian this week....and I feel great!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Here's what I've "bean" up to

April 29, 2013

What a food day! The kids started our day off by packing ham sandwiches and some of the leftover quinoa salad. My hubby packed leftover grilled potatoes/peppers, fruit/cottage cheese, an orange, and hard boiled eggs.

I saw that we still had leftover sweet potato/bean burgers. It wasn't really a burger texture so I wanted to try something different with it today. I made a wrap. I sliced the burger and warmed it up. On my tortilla, I layered spinach, green onion, cucumber, carrots, purple cabbage, sweet potato/bean burger, avocado, and cilantro. Yum!

The kids needed a snack after school. I had strawberries and bananas that need to be used up. What fun would it be if I simply asked, hey kids can you eat these fruit please? Instead I went with a recipe from Fit Sugar and I altered a few of the ingredients. I mixed together raspberry yogurt (instead of greek yogurt) and a banana in the food processor. I stuffed the strawberries with the mixture and then topped it with shaved chocolate (instead of sliced almonds).

I tried my hand at dry beans today. I was a little intimidated so I thought I would share my experience incase any of you want to give it a try. First spread your beans on a counter and look through them for any stones, weird beans, etc. Rinse the beans. There are two methods from this point. You can bring them to a boil for a few minutes, turn off the heat, and then let them sit for an hour. I read several websites that suggested a cold soak for 6-8 hours was better. I put the bag of beans into a pot and added 8 cups of cold water. They soaked for 6 hours. Drain and rinse. Then it is time to cook the beans. I added the beans and 6 cups of water to the pot and let them simmer. I think they cooked for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. I did not add any salt or any seasoning to the beans. I wanted to be able to use them in a variety of dishes so I decided to keep them pretty plain. My one pound bag of beans ended up yielding the equivalent of 4 cans! I paid $1.25 for the bag of great northern beans. As a comparison, I paid $0.85 for a can of cannellini beans. If you take the $1.25 that I paid and divide it up between the can equivalents that it made, it actually costed about $0.31 per "can". Not only are dry beans cheaper, but now I know the exact ingredients in them too!

I wanted to use my beans tonight. I decided to make an alfredo sauce. I put about a cup of beans and a couple splashes of half and half into the food processor. I sauteed onions and garlic in butter. I stirred in the bean mixture and about another cup of half and half. I added salt, pepper, basil, and some freshly shredded romano and asiago. I served it with a box of pasta that has been hanging around for awhile and some steamed broccoli. I was giddy on the inside (had to keep a straight face) as I waited for everyone to try the sauce. Before I knew it, my son had cleaned his plate and had asked for seconds of the pasta. Yay! Everyone liked the sauce. The one problem was that it kind of dried out. This could be due to two things. One, I cooked way too much pasta. You would think that for as often as I make pasta and for how much I love it that I would have a clue as to how much to cook. Ha. Nope. Two, my ratio of half and half to bean mixture may have been off. We will fiddle with it next time. Yep, there's a next time.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Food Surprises

April 28, 2013

We decided to go to Subway for an early lunch on our way to a rubber duck race today. The kids ordered first. My son had a ham sandwich. My daughter ordered a chopped salad with chicken. My turn. I always get the same thing: turkey on flatbread. Guess what. I went for a veggie sub today instead. Flatbread, provolone cheese, spinach, tomato, cucumber, green pepper, red onion, and banana peppers. I didn't even miss the meat. I was surprised that it didn't really change the flavor of it because I always cram so much veggies in there. My hubby was up next. Did he get cheesesteak? How about spicy Italian? Nope. He surprised me by getting a veggie pizza.

We had planned on making one of our favorite chicken dishes this weekend. Mojito chicken has tons of flavor and we all love it. It came time that my hubby should have marinated the chicken. I asked, "do you even feel like chicken?" totally expecting him to say sure. Once again, I was surprised when he said "not really". I think I will pop the chicken into the freezer until we settle into this vegetarian thing for awhile. I really doubt this is going to end up full time long term so we'll see how soon we need to thaw out some meat!

I was having a hard time figuring out what I felt like for dinner. I couldn't believe what we settled on. Remember the creamy mushroom and kale quesadillas that we made for dinner yesterday? Yep. We made those again. I can't remember any other time that we made the same item two nights in a row. My hubby also grilled up a basket of potatoes, onions, and red/yellow/orange peppers. We must be ready for meat tomorrow, right?!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Day of New Flavors

April 27, 2013

How did we spend our Saturday? Did we do the usual and go out to eat? Nope! Unbelievably we decided to make a vegetarian lunch at home. What? Three days in a row? I never thought this would be us but here we are.

First up was a sweet potato burger. I saw a recipe on How Sweet Eats. It was a mixture of sweet potatoes, cannellini beans (we used small white), garlic, panko, flour, egg, paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper, and cumin. The sauce for it was sour cream, maple syrup, and salt & pepper. Then it was topped with avocado. Our side dish was a recipe from Ambitious Kitchen for crunchy cashew thai quinoa salad with ginger peanut dressing. As I write this I just realized that I forgot to put cashews in. Ha. Oops. The salad had quinoa, red cabbage, red bell pepper (we also used orange and yellow), green onion, carrots, cilantro, and edamame. The dressing was peanut butter, ginger, soy sauce, honey, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. What was the verdict? My daughter said she liked the sweet potato burgers so much that she liked them even more than a peanut butter sandwich. That is a HUGE deal. She is a peanut butter junky which probably explains why she loved the quinoa salad too! My son had half of his huge burger gone before I even sat down to eat. My hubby said it was good. We both agreed that this shouldn't be called a burger though maybe more like a sandwich. Our 4th vegetarian meal in a row was a success! But how long can we keep beef/pork/poultry at bay??

Well, we kept it away for one more meal tonight! My son has been asking for a finger food meal and we settled on doing a picnic and movie tonight. Our first finger food was the leftover sweet chili dip and tortilla chips. The second food was a creamy mushroom and kale quesadilla (with cream cheese and mexican cheese; recipe from Eat Live Run). You know our deep love for chicken wings? Well, I found the next best thing. A recipe on The Curvy Carrot for buffalo cauliflower! The quesadillas were AWESOME. We all scarfed those babies down! My daughter had scarfed down two of them before I told her that it had the dreaded cooked mushrooms inside. Two dinners in a row that she ate cooked mushrooms and loved them. Weird things are happening at our house! My son asked if I could make more of them tonight. Ha, ok so that's another keeper recipe. The three of us really liked the cauliflower (my son thought they were too hot but he isn't big on chicken wings so what does he know). Evidently they were a good chicken wing substitute because during dinner my hubby said "take your fork off of here and I'll go get more chicken". Ha!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

No Meat Fajit-ahhhh

April 26, 2013

The kids both packed lunches again today. My daughter brought the leftover goldfish pasta. My son brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. After we tucked in some drinks, fruit, and yogurt, they were all set.

My hubby had today off of work so we had a date day. Yay! We decided to go out to eat at TGIF. They had a new appetizer called tuna crisps. It was a chip topped with ahi tuna, guacamole, and jalapeno pepper. We gave it a try but were pretty disappointed in it. I ordered a black bean burger. I had decided to do one or two vegetarian meals each week (starting yesterday) and found that I am actually wanting to do it more. I never thought that would be the case. What really shocked me was when my hubby ordered. He got the black bean burger too! They were really good. The texture was good. The best part? Afterwards we didn't feel all stuffed and gross as we normally do after a beef burger.

It's dinner time. I pulled up a new recipe for fajitas from Good Life Eats. I put together the marinade: 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon chopped garlic, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 3/4 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon paprika. Ready to marinate the meat. Oh. Did I forget to mention that our "meat" was portabella mushrooms?! The mushrooms marinated while we chopped the rest of the ingredients: yellow, red, and orange bell peppers along with red onion. The recipe said to saute the onion and pepper in half of the marinade. However, the mushrooms had soaked it all up. My hubby just used a little bit of white wine instead. After a few minutes, he added in the mushrooms. We also topped our fajitas with mexican cheese, avocado, sour cream, and cilantro.

The verdict? After a few bites, my daughter asked "where's the meat?". Maybe the kids missed having meat in it. However, my daughter really liked the portabella mushrooms and she normally hates cooked mushrooms! I'd say that's a score! I absolutely LOVED the fajitas. I kept saying over and over after dinner "mmmm those were sooooo good!". My hubby said they were really good and he didn't miss having meat in them. My son said that he didn't like the red peppers and next time he would want to add enoki mushrooms. I wish I had more portabella mushrooms because we would totally make these again this weekend! Look at us, day two of semi-vegetarianism. Wohoo!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hawaiian Beans & Rice; Grocery Savings

April 25, 2013

The kids both packed lunches today. Goldfish shaped pasta and (surprise) a goober sandwich. I really wasn't feeling like leftovers but I was in a hurry to get to the grocery store so I settled with the hash from last night.

Yesterday, my hubby and I watched a couple food documentaries. Ugh. If you ever want to be completely grossed out at how meat is produced/handled and how it affects our bodies, then I suggest you watch the documentary "Vegucated". We also got part way through "Hungry for Change" which discusses the dangers of artificial sweeteners (as in diet soda or crystal light). Don't get me wrong. I am by no way saying that we are always eating the right things. I eat ice cream a few (ok, many, ok most) nights of the week. I will probably never be able to give up mountain dew. I will never completely give up any type of meat. We have already started buying a lot of meat locally. However, if we can make a few small additional changes then I think it can only help our family's health. I would like to start making one or two vegetarian meals each week. Just the word "vegetarian" makes me feel like it will be meals that we won't like or will still feel hungry after we eat. I am going to beat that way of thinking.  With that being said, grocery shopping was difficult today. I was very unsure of what beans to buy (as a meat substitute) and how I will cook them. Here is how I did...

My pre-challenge weekly commissary average was $175. Today I spent $$20.62 on toiletries/cleaners. A worker came up to me in the produce aisle and held up a huge pack (18 double rolls) of toilet paper and asked if I had seen the sale price. I hadn't. It was normally $8 and some change but today was $4.24! I hadn't planned on buying that large of a pack and it wasn't the brand I normally buy but who could pass up that deal? Not me! Also, I normally get a box of 20 zipper quart storage bags (store brand) for $1.39. For some reason, I looked at the very top shelf today. The same brand had a box of 50 sandwich bags without the zipper. I noticed that the bags are slightly smaller than a quart bag. It was only $1.45. That's like I got the extra 30 bags for 6 cents! I spent $6.29 on impulse items. We love sea bass. I noticed that they sell a sustainable version called barramundi so I had to try that. I spent $5.08 on gossip magazines. I spent $98.89 on food. However, $46.29 of that was fruit, veggies, and beans. I bought a lot more of that type of stuff now that I want to do some vegetarian nights. For comparison, I pulled out a receipt from two weeks ago and I had spent $24.73 on fruit/veggies. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $134.97 out of pocket. This is a savings of $40.03. Our pre-challenge restaurant weekly average was $80. This week we went out once and spent $22.35 which is a savings of $57.65. The kids packed lunches a few days this past week and saved $12. This brings our savings for this week to $109.68 and our grand total savings to $3,193.02 in 190 days!!  I talked to my sister in law this morning and she mentioned how expensive eating healthy/farmer's markets can be. So I decided to do something different this week. One other blog I follow (The Peaceful Mom) always shows the groceries after she shops. I took some pictures of my purchases today to show just how much I was able to get.
Oj, sweet tea, milk, coffee creamer, bananas, grapes, strawberries, limes, avocados, apples, spinach, lettuce, mint, cilantro, red cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, cucumber, yellow squash, green onions, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, portabella mushrooms, and sweet potatoes.
Chicken thighs, barramundi, super pretzels, salmon burgers, half and half, yogurt, apple crisp, citrus fruit cup, muenster cheese,american cheese, cottage cheese/mango, sliced ham, mexican cheese, and morning star griller's recipe crumbles (meat substitute).
Pancake mix, cereal, quinoa, cornstarch, pineapple, mandarin oranges, dry black beans, dry great northern beans, canned black beans, canned cannellini beans, canned small white beans, beef broth, chips, bread, hamburger buns, tortilla shells, and coconut.
Gossip magazines, toilet paper, vitamins, dish soap, batteries, disinfecting wipes, and storage bags.

After I put groceries away, I wanted to make a snack. I saw a recipe on Justbaustralia.com for spicy sriracha white bean dip. I eliminated two ingredients (sesame oil and curry powder), added an ingredient (salt), and adjusted the amounts of another (sweet chili sauce). In my food processor, I blended a can of cannellini beans (drained and rinsed), one tablespoon of olive oil, two teaspoons of soy sauce, 7 tablespoons of sweet chili sauce, 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic, about 1/8 cup water, one tablespoon of lime juice, and just a few shakes of salt. The recipe had only called for two tablespoons of sweet chili sauce; however, I wanted this dip to not have the "bean" taste so I added extra. 

Tonight was our first night of vegetarian meals. My friend showed me a recipe on No Meat Athlete for Hawaiian beans and rice. It is sauteed onions and garlic, black beans, red cabbage, and spinach in pineapple juice seasoned with smoked paprika and soy sauce. It is served with white rice with toasted coconut stirred in it and topped with a seared pineapple drizzled with soy sauce. How did our vegetarian meal go? My hubby liked the dip but thought it needed a little heat so he added cayenne pepper to his serving. He said the beans and rice were good but could use some crunch, possibly chopped macadamia nuts next time. Whoa! He said next time! The kids weren't too thrilled with dinner though. Oh well. Can't win em' all. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pulled Pork & Sweet Potato Hash

April 24, 2013

I knew that the kiddos wanted to pack their lunches today but I figured that it would entail peanut butter sandwiches. Before they came out to the kitchen, I pulled some options out of the fridge. They were able to choose between leftover beef barley soup or to eat up the last of the hotdogs or lunch meat. My son asked if he could have a snowman sandwich with the turkey. I guess snowmen are popular, even in April! My daughter made a turkey sandwich on a hotdog bun. Um, not sure why she didn't want to use bread but whatever. I don't care as long as she is using up what we have.

My hubby was home for lunch today so we had to think of something delicious to keep us out of a restaurant. BLT's was it. I started by pulling out the usual ingredients out of the fridge. Lettuce for my hubby, spinach for me, tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and bacon. Then I saw something that might work. Cilantro. We love fresh cilantro but usually only put it in mexican dishes. It was delicious!

I grabbed a couple small containers of leftover luau pulled pork out of the freezer. I wanted to use up whatever veggies were still hanging around before I get groceries tomorrow. I decided to make a dish that I had tried once before but my hubby hadn't been home to try it: who hash. I started by sauteing onion and sweet potato (cubed) in some olive oil. Next, I added in sliced mushrooms and a little bit of homemade chicken broth. I was going to make a separate side dish of spinach but decided it would go well mixed in with this dish. I added in fresh spinach and more of the broth. I covered it and let it simmer for a few minutes. I stirred in the leftover luau pork along with a little salt, pepper, and a very small amount of thyme. Most of the flavor in this dish comes from the luau pork so I didn't want to overload it with other seasonings. I saw that I still had about half a pack of the enoki mushrooms. Hmmm. Those may as well end up in here too. Ha. I added them during the last couple of minutes of cooking. I put the hash on a bed of napa cabbage (for some crunch) and topped with a few chopped green onions. Yum. My hubby enjoyed his first go at who hash. I asked what changes I should make for next time. His response? "Nothing". Yay!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Snack People Two

April 22 & 23, 2013

Yesterday wasn't much of a challenge day so I combined it's post with today's. My daughter had planned on packing some of the leftover parrot bay chicken for her lunch. I had jury duty and had to leave the house first (I packed the rest of the chicken). Uh oh. Poor little lady forgot to pack her lunch without mom there to remind her. She was so disappointed. My friend had planned on making dinner for us seeing as she would have my kids until I got out of jury duty. She made us some beef stew and brownies. Yum.

Today my son packed a sandwich and my daughter packed her chicken. My hubby was home for lunch. Neither of us could decide what sounded good for lunch. Uh oh. That normally means we will be heading out to eat. Finally we settled on grilling salmon. I looked in the fridge and saw some other veggies to pop on the grill: potatoes, zucchini, onion, and mushrooms. We seasoned the veggies with seasoned salt and some of the garlic & wine seasoning that we bought from The Melting Pot. Everything was so delicious. My hubby packed the leftovers for his dinner tonight.

I knew the kids would need a snack when they got home. I looked around to see what needed to be used up seeing as grocery shopping day is coming soon. If I had said to the kids, hey guys, can you eat up these two random carrots, 1/3 of a cucumber, and this last pack of crackers, I'm sure they would have said they didn't feel like it. However, if I cut them up and make a fun snack out of it then they will gobble it down! They loved the snack people I made for them before so I settled on making more people today. Their people had cracker bodies, carrot arms/hands/legs/feet/necks, grape eyes and nose, and pea pod smiles and hair. They even finished up the leftover "parts" (extra carrot, cucumber, and pea pods).

Seeing as my hubby was gone for dinner, I figured that we would just eat up some leftovers for dinner. Surprisingly, the only leftovers in the fridge was the beef barley soup. Now instead of cooking dinner I can spend the night planning out next week's meals. Help me Pinterest!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tofu Tacos & Parrot Bay Chicken

April 21, 2013

Finally. My hubby had a day off with all of us. We looked in the fridge to figure out what to make for lunch. Hmmm. There was half of the tofu leftover (we only used half a pack when we made Vietnamese spring rolls). I wasn't too sure how long tofu stays good for once open so I wanted to use it up today. I wanted the tofu to be in small pieces because for some reason that seems more tolerable for my hubby and me. Tofu tacos it is.

I rinsed, pat dry, and pressed the tofu. I cooked it in a little olive oil until golden brown. I added a pack of taco seasoning and some water. I'm not sure if there is a better way to do it because adding the water back to it definitely altered the texture. I wanted to hide the texture of the tofu so I had my hubby fry up the rest of the corn tortillas leftover from when we made taquitos. I knew that some strong flavors from cilantro and red onion would help to hide the tofu too. We also used mexican cheese, tomato, lettuce, avocado, taco sauce, and sour cream. Oh! A side note about avocado. I bought two avocados on Thursday. They were not even close to being ripe. I read that you could put them in a brown paper bag and it would help to ripen them. Oh wow. I took one out of the bag today, cut it in half, and could not believe what I saw. It was the ripest avocado I had ever seen. EVERY speck of avocado came out of the peel. Usually I have a thin layer stuck to the peel. Awesome trick. What did we think of the tofu tacos? My daughter thought they were amazing and had two of them. I wasn't really surprised with her though because she loves tofu. My hubby said they were good and "taco-y". They were obviously missing the meat and pretty much just tasted like the taco toppings. Hey, I'll take that. I had one taco with the crunchy corn shell and then went back for half of a soft shell taco. Can't be too bad if I went back for seconds! My son said they were awesome.

Remember awhile back we made coconut shrimp with the parrot bay sauce (like Red Lobster's)? I was craving that sauce so I thought we would try it with a simple panko crusted chicken breast. We served it with some steamed broccoli. Everyone LOVED the chicken and sauce. We all had seconds. After dinner, I made a comment that I was glad that I have to leave the house first tomorrow because then I get dibs on the leftovers. My daughter's face fell and she said, "nooooooo, I wanted to take it". It looked like she was going to cry (she actually said I might cry, although I think she was kidding) so I split up the leftovers so that we both can take a little container. Ha. That is when you know a meal is good is when you fight over leftovers.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

April 20, 2013

We wanted to try to recreate a dish that we had recently. In order to do so, we needed to go to the Asian Market downtown because the commissary didn't have one of the items that the recipe called for. We thought we were being so smart and got ready early so that we could go buy the item and get back home in time to make lunch. Yeah right. We realized once we got to town that we were too hungry to wait. Oh well. Moe's for lunch and it was delicious. The person making our tacos, quesadillas, and nachos asked if we were all vegetarians. Why? Because my daughter ordered a tofu and black bean taco. Ha.

After lunch, we headed to the store. I found the spring roll wrappers that I needed. I also scored something that we used to eat in Hawaii but haven't seen in stores since we moved away years ago: enoki mushrooms! Honestly, I think the reason that I like them so much isn't due to their flavor. It is because they are so cute. Ha. They are long, skinny, small, white mushrooms. If you were to imagine a meadow of mushrooms blowing in the breeze....yeah, it would be these guys.

My hubby had to work this evening so we decided to make the spring rolls right when we got home so that they would be ready for him to pack for his dinner. Ok. Here comes the kicker. Are you ready? We made TOFU spring rolls. Let me start off by saying that my hubby and I do not like tofu. Well, maybe we have never really given it a chance. Our kids love it but we had no idea how to prepare it. About two weeks ago, we went to a cooking class presented by a couple who own a restaurant  that has amazing food. They import ingredients from all over so that they can create the best dishes. Anyway, the class was only about tofu. They made smoothies, roasted vegetable tofu scramble, chocolate mousse tofu pie, tofu parmigiana, tofu orzo pasta salad, fried tofu, and vietnamese style tofu spring rolls. It completely opened my eyes for tofu. Now if only we can use their inspiration and actually make something with tofu at our house!

They gave us basic recipes (no amounts) at the cooking class. We took her recipe and altered it to fit what we wanted to include. We bought extra firm tofu. Wow. It was only 99 cents! Tofu needs to be drained, rinsed, and then pressed in order to get all excess liquid out of it. My hubby stuck it between two tupperware lids, rubber banded the lids together, and put it in a big tupperware container to catch the water. We put it in the fridge for about 1 1/2 hours. Pat the tofu with paper towels. He chopped it up small and cooked it in a little oil until golden brown. Meanwhile, I got to work on the veggies. I julienne cut carrots, cucumber, green onion, red onion, and napa cabbage. We also used the enoki mushrooms and some chopped cilantro.

The next step was to make the sauce. A little sauce goes into each spring roll and the rest is used as a dipping sauce. Oh no. She didn't give us amounts. I figured that this would be where I mess up our spring rolls. I decided to just go with it and mix the ingredients at a ratio that I hoped would work. I used 1/2 tablespoon of chopped garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of minced ginger, 6 tablespoons of sweet chili sauce, 4 tablespoons of fish sauce (don't let the name scare you!), 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, salt, and pepper.

Ok, so now how in the world do you turn a spring roll wrapper that comes in the package super hard, turn into a pliable wrapper? Run warm water over it for just a few seconds on each side. Then we set it down on the counter and you need to give it a few more seconds to finish softening up. We ran our fingers over it (like you are smoothing it out) and you could tell when it was soft enough to roll. We layered on our veggies, tofu, and sauce on the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper. Roll the wrapper (away from you works best) one full roll and then tuck in the sides and continue to roll all the way up. I took a picture of it before we started rolling so you could get an idea of how much filling to use. Serve them up with the sauce and some sushi ginger. If you are going to put them in the fridge, cover them with a damp paper towel and then cover with cling wrap.

The verdict? They were delicious! I can't believe that we made tofu, that it was delicious, and that I want to make it again! You don't even notice the tofu once you have the flavor of the veggies, cilantro, and sauce. I wouldn't change a thing about our recipe. My sauce rocked! My son wasn't real fond of them. He said he liked them but he would rather eat leftover spaghetti for dinner. My daughter loved them. She already asked me to make them again tomorrow. I can't wait to hear how my hubby liked them. The thing with spring rolls is that you are only limited by your creativity. We could make these with crab or shrimp. We could make them strictly veggie. I'm still not sure if I want to bite into a big chunk of tofu. But I'm definitely ready to try another recipe with hidden smaller pieces! Bring on the Tofu.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Reuben on Rye

April 19, 2013

The kids were ready for a break from packing lunches. I knew my hubby would be home for lunch today. Hmmm. I needed a way to convince him to stay home instead of going out to eat together. Aha! I got it. Reuben sandwiches. We had leftover sauerkraut in the fridge. We also used provolone cheese, thousand island dressing, turkey lunch meat, and marble rye bread. Just build your sandwiches and toast them up like a grilled cheese sandwich. Yum!

I wanted an easy meal for tonight. I looked in the freezer and saw a leftover container of beef roast that my hubby had smoked. Beef barley soup it is. Soup is so easy to me. It doesn't matter what veggies you have on hand. What you have will work. Add together broth, meat, veggies, and a starch (rice, pasta, or barley) and you have a winner meal with minimal effort. Today I started out with onion, celery, carrots, potatoes, and barley in some beef broth. I added the beef, a jar of home canned tomatoes, a hand full of chopped fresh spinach, salt, pepper, basil, and thyme dried from my garden. When the veggies were almost finished cooking, I added a jar of our home canned green beans and a bag of corn (frozen from the farmer's market). After a little chopping and simmering, dinner was ready. The perfect cozy meal on a rainy night.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fruity island; grocery savings

April 18, 2013

The kiddos both wanted to pack their lunches again today. I can't believe they are not tired of sandwiches. They also brought cucumber and cantaloupe. Man, that was a giant cantaloupe. It felt like it lasted forever! My hubby was home at lunch time again. Uh oh. There wasn't much to choose from at home so we ended up going out to eat before we got groceries.

My pre-challenge weekly average at restaurants was $80. This week we had dinner delivered from our friends' restaurant, went out for lunch with the kids, and also had lunch out today just the two of us. We spent $71.55. That is only a savings of $8.45. Ugh. The kids did unbelievable this week at packing lunches and eating up what we had at home. They BOTH packed every SINGLE day. They saved $20.

My pre-challenge weekly average at the commissary was $175. Today I spent $26.61 on cleaners and toiletries. I spent $6.17 on gossip magazines. I guess it helps me out when they only have two of the four magazines that I like. I spent $0 on impulses. Wait, what?! And that is taking my hubby with me! I spent $92.41 on food. However, $10.88 of that is a few jars of spices. Man, the paprika my hubby likes is expensive ($4.99)! After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $124.91 out of pocket. That is a savings of $50.09. This brings our savings for this week to $78.54. Sigh. Anytime it is under $100 I feel disappointed. Oh well. We still managed to save money with us eating out three times. Our grand total savings is now $3,083.34 in 183 days! Ok, that makes me feel better!

I wanted a fun snack for the kids today. I saw an idea on Pinterest. I bought some fruit today and got to work. An orange. A banana. A kiwi. What do they equal? A fruity island paradise! The kids loved it.

I couldn't figure out what I wanted for dinner so I asked the kids. My daughter asked for spaghetti. It is one of my favorites so of course I couldn't turn her down. I used local grass fed beef and a jar of my home canned spaghetti sauce. Of course I had to use cheese somewhere, right? I topped it with freshly grated romano. An easy side dish was the leftover home canned green beans.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Strawberry Squeaks

April 17, 2013

For the second time this week, I made breakfast. I made pancakes and french toast. Here I thought I was being awesome....until the smoke alarm went off and woke up my hubby! To my defense, our smoke alarm is over sensitive. There wasn't even smoke. Reason 1,022 why I prefer to snuggle up with coffee and a blanket and have the kiddos get easy breakfast items. Ha.

I was on a mission today. I wanted to use up leftovers and items that I would be buying tomorrow. The kids both packed lunches again today. They are on a roll this week! Sandwiches, yogurt, and my daughter also brought mashed potatoes (she has a slight obsession with my mashed potatoes). My hubby had lunch at home today. How do I keep him out of restaurants? With tacos! We started putting away the taco leftovers and he decided to pack taco salad for his dinner tonight. There was a little bit of lettuce, red onion, and tomato left on the cutting board. It didn't look like enough to keep but I did anyway. I figured that I could just add more to it when we wanted salad.

I wanted to have a fun after school snack for the kiddos because I haven't done that in awhile. I looked through the fridge. Ugh. Slim pickings. All the fun snacks need ingredients that I don't have. All except one. I wasn't sure how the kids would feel about it but figured I would give it a whirl. Strawberries. Check. Mini chocolate chips. Not check. I had mini cinnamon chips though. Licorice pieces. Check. I always seem to have a ton of random candy in the cupboard. Cheese. Check. Have you figured it out yet?! Strawberry mice. Lay the strawberries on their side. Poke a tiny hole with a sharp knife and then insert a mini chip for eyes and nose. Licorice rope makes the tails and then serve by cheese. The kids thought they were awesome! Ah! I just realized that I forgot to put on the almond slice ears. Oops!

Seeing as my hubby had to work through dinner, I figured that it would be a good night to do a smorgasbord. I pulled ham, pork marsala, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, pancakes, waffles, cantaloupe, and the tiny salad out of the fridge. Holy smokes. The kids didn't even complain about having leftovers. I guess giving the option of choosing whatever they want makes it fun.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mashed Potato Ravioli

April 16, 2013

Grocery shopping is coming up soon so I am trying to get the kids to eat up stuff before it goes bad. They packed lunches today: sandwiches, yogurt, and cantaloupe. My hubby packed the leftover tilapia and some fruit. I just wish that I had paid attention to what he had packed in the tiny container. I rinsed it out after he got home.... oh goodness. It burned my throat just rinsing it. It was the leftover hot sauce he made out of ghost peppers and habanero peppers and it was no joke! I babysat today and my little buddy and I ate up the rest of the hotdogs and cantaloupe.

I knew that I wanted to use up some of the 10 pounds of potatoes (leftover from Easter). Well, maybe it was more like 9 pounds because we had used them once. I asked around for ideas and I also looked online at Idahopotato.com. I found some great ideas and decided to try one out tonight. Mashed potato ravioli. It just so happens that I still had half a pack of wonton wrappers leftover from crab rangoon night. This should turn out somewhat like pierogies. Fingers crossed!

I decided to make my own recipe for the mashed potato filling. I have some pretty killer mashed potatoes if I do say so myself. I use a little butter, milk, salt, pepper, garlic, and sour cream in the potatoes. The recipe I looked at called for parmesan cheese in the filling. All I had was romano so I added that instead. I let the mashed potatoes cool in the fridge for about half an hour. My hubby got home just in time to help make the ravioli. We brushed the edges of the wonton wrappers with a beaten egg. Next we put a tablespoon of mashed potato filling inside, topped it with another wonton, and sealed the edges. A few minutes in a pot of boiling water and we were all set. Remember my daughter's "famous" garlic butter sauce? My son suggested that we top our ravioli with the garlic butter sauce and top it with some basil to make it look fancy. Ha. Ok, that is coming from a 6 year old. I served the ravioli with the sauce, basil, and some freshly grated romano cheese. I heated up the last of our Easter ham (yay for easy freezer meals!) and some corn (frozen from the farmer's market). So how did everything turn out? The ravioli were delicious! The only problem is that about half of them burst while cooking. Not sure if I had the heat too high, added too much filling, or didn't seal them enough. Oh well. The kids still kept going back for more and didn't stop until they were all gone. The best part about the meal? Improving my mashed potato recipe. We all agreed that from now on mashed potatoes will have cheese and basil. They. Were. Unbelievable.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pork Marsala

April 15, 2013

The kids started off the school week the right way: by packing lunch! I did my part and had leftovers for lunch too. There was a small container of leftover taco toppings which is perfect for a salad. I added more romaine lettuce and some pea pods to it and topped it with the rest of the crab that was leftover from when we made crab rangoon.

I needed a quick dinner tonight. The kids each have an activity so we had to eat an early dinner. Plus I didn't feel like cooking. There was a pack of pork for scallopini that I had bought simply because it was super cheap. I think the pack was $1.49. I decided to make pork marsala. I didn't want to pull up a recipe to follow so I just threw stuff together.

I dredged the pork in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. I fried the pork in about a tablespoon of butter and a couple shakes of olive oil. After they were golden brown, I set the pork to the side. In the same pan, I added onion and cooked for a few minutes. Next, I added garlic, mushrooms, and marsala wine. I didn't measure anything but I would guess about 1/2 cup of wine. After that reduced, I added some of my homemade chicken broth. I didn't measure but it looked to be about 1/2 - 3/4 cup. I thickened the sauce with a mixture of corn starch and water. My easy side dishes were home canned green beans and a Hawaiian roll.

I asked everyone what they thought of dinner because it was a "new recipe". Everyone really liked it. My hubby said "it's really good, what did you put in the sauce?" Yay! I guess my "recipe" was a success.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ice Cream Waffles

April 14, 2013

What a delicious food day! I had the kids go play while I made them a special breakfast. Yes, I know. I actually "made" breakfast. Score one for mom already! I saw a fun idea on Six Sisters' Stuff. I made waffles and cut them into an ice cream cone shape. The "ice cream" was sliced bananas. The "cherry on top" was a slice of strawberry. The kids loved it! My son said he didn't want to eat it because it was too pretty. Ha. Then he dove in.

My hubby grilled tilapia for lunch. We decided to make it into tacos. I still had about half a pack of corn tortillas leftover from when I made chicken taquitos. He quickly fried the shells while I got out the toppings. I saw the leftover avocado slaw from yesterday. Ohhhh. That would go well with tilapia. I also cut up some cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, spinach, and lettuce. My hubby wanted some spice for his taco. He made a mixture of ghost chili peppers and habanero peppers (both frozen from farmer's market) and mixed it with taco sauce. What taco would be complete without finishing it off with sour cream. Yum!

For dinner, my hubby smoked salmon. I decided to do a yellow squash sauté. I started with onions in a little butter and olive oil. After a couple minutes, I added the squash. After a couple minutes, I added garlic, spinach (the rest of bag from last week), and mushrooms. I looked in the fridge and saw that I had about 2 ounces left in a jar of home canned tomatoes. In it went. Of course this sauté is only made better by topping it with freshly grated romano. I had some fruit dip that needs to be eaten up in the next few days so we had cantaloupe with dinner. I wish I wasn't so stuffed from dinner because I would totally do my part to finish the other leftovers.... angel food cake!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Crab Rangoon

April 12 & 13, 2013

Yesterday was kind of a boring food day so I decided to combine it with today's post. The kids both packed lunches yesterday. They were excited for the spaghetti-o goldfish. I just had some of the leftover lemon pasta pilaf. Yum. I spent my day getting items ready for the rummage sale and giving the house a real good cleaning. When dinner time came around, I wanted to nap not cook. We ordered delivery from our friends' restaurant: sliders (for my son), chicken wings (for my daughter), buffalo chicken sandwich (for my hubby), and buffalo chicken salad for me.

Uh oh. Two days in a row we ate out. We went out for lunch today to a Hawaiian place. My daughter got loco moco. That was one of my favorites when we lived in Hawaii. It sounds gross so bear with me. It is a hamburger patty, topped with a fried egg and gravy and served with rice and of course macaroni salad. Weird combo but it works. I had my other favorite: luau pork and cabbage. My hubby had chicken katsu. My son had a burger. Again.

Ok, so here is where food gets fun again! We decided to attempt one of the best things you get from Chinese restaurants..... have you guessed? Crab rangoon! I found a recipe at Little B Cooks.  I was a little surprised when she wrote that they turned out better with imitation crab than with real crab. The filling is cream cheese, imitation crab meat, green onions, garlic powder, and soy sauce. You put filling in a wonton wrapper and seal the edges with a beaten egg. They are fried for just a couple minutes until golden brown.

As my hubby worked on the filling, I needed to come up with a side dish. It seems like when we order a delicious tuna appetizer at restaurants that it will be served with some type of random slaw or salad. I cut up some cabbage, red onion, green onion, cucumber, and carrots. Hmmmm. I needed some type of dressing. I didn't want to use the typical mayo (not much of a fan). I put an avocado, some of our favorite teriyaki sauce, fresh lemon juice, and some minced ginger into the food processor. We served our meal with a side of sushi ginger.

The verdict. The crab rangoon turned out great! I think the only thing we would change next time is add some chopped garlic along with the garlic powder in the filling. Although, we are garlic lovers so if you aren't just stick with the powder. The slaw was missing something. Half way through dinner, I grabbed the salt shaker. That helped. We still couldn't quite place what it needed. I think next time we would just slice an avocado to serve with it and do some sort of a vinaigrette on it instead.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lemon pilaf; grocery savings milestone

April 11, 2013

My son once again packed his lunch today. My daughter realized that school was serving a turkey, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and apple slices meal today. She couldn't miss out on that! I told her it was fine to buy school lunch.

As I prepared for grocery shopping, I realized something. My grand total savings so far was $2,860. 76. Next week will be six months of this challenge. Oh man. My goal had been to save $3,000 by the six month mark. However, I soooooooo want to hit it early and make that goal today. I calculated how much money the kids saved on lunches this past week: only $10. Uh oh. My hubby and I ate brunch out this week. We spent $23.33. Our pre-challenge weekly average was $80 on restaurants so we saved $56.67. So that means that I can only spend $102.43 at the commissary today in order to make my $3,000 goal. That is totally unattainable. Sigh. I still put forth my best effort.

My pre-challenge weekly average at the commissary was $175. Today I spent $27.62 on toiletries and cleaners. One item that I needed to buy was Swiffer dusters. I looked at the price of the refill packs and then compared them to the refill packs of the dusters from Pledge. Hmmm. Pledge was cheaper. I decided to buy a small pack (that came with the handle) of the Pledge and give it a try. Hopefully we will like them just as much and then I can continue to buy them and save money. My daughter needed toothpaste. I normally go back and forth from Crest and Colgate. I looked for the cheaper kinds and compared the ingredients. I grabbed a box of "Ultra brite". It was only 88 cents! It was comparable to other types. What do you know? It is made by Colgate! I needed garbage bags. I usually get either Glad or Hefty. I realized that the store brand that I get of storage bags also makes garbage bags. They were pretty cheap: $2.89 for 20 bags. When I unpacked groceries, I took them out of the box and put them in the Hefty box. We'll see if hubby notices a difference. I spent $1.74 on impulse items. I decided to get a can of baby corn. My kiddos love them. Also, the commissary had a new item today. My kids love spaghetti-o's. How about spaghetti-o's in the shape of goldfish?! I spent $70.20 on food. I decided to only buy one gossip magazine today: $2.18. Ok, are you ready?! After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $97.63 out of pocket today. That is a savings of $77.37. My total savings for this week is $144.04. This brings my grand total savings for this challenge to......$3,004.80 in 176 days!!! I did it! Oh yeah, and did I mention that a few weeks ago I called our cell phone company and our cable company and got our rates lowered? Those two bills together will be lowered $950 over the next year! It really is unbelievable how much we are overpaying. Whether it be in grocery shopping, eating out, cell phone data plans, or other household expenses, there is always "fat" to trim away. Have you trimmed your fat?!

I saw a recipe for lemon pasta salad that sounded good. Good until I read heavy cream as an ingredient. Ugh. I decided to make up my own lemon pasta dish. I sauteed onion, garlic, and mushrooms in olive oil. I added in some local white wine. After a few minutes, I set it to the side. I brought chicken broth to a boil and added orzo pasta. I treated it like a risotto. I would simmer it and let some broth reduce and then add more to the pan. During the last few minutes of cooking, I added some frozen peas and the onion/mushroom mixture. After taking it off of the heat, I added the zest of one lemon and the juice of about 3/4 of that lemon. I topped it with freshly grated romano cheese. I served it with rotisserie chicken and Hawaiian rolls. Yum! For dessert, we celebrated me hitting my goal with cake! We had angel food cake along with a duo of sauces. You got it. Leftover sauces. Ha. Lime pie dip became sauce number one. Blueberry crepe topping became sauce number two. They both went amazing with angel food cake.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Relish the secrets of pasta salad

April 10, 2013

The kids switched today. My son wanted to buy school lunch and my daughter packed a sandwich. I checked their school lunch accounts and couldn't believe what I saw. For the past month (although they were out of school for a week), my daughter bought lunch five times and my son only bought lunch three times!

My hubby had a late work day today so we went out for brunch together before he went in. While we were out, we bought a few things for our garden this year (seeds, etc). I got home and did some planning on what veggies would go where in the garden and what to put in the expansion (uh, once my hubby builds it!). That got me thinking about what we all canned last year. I looked through the cupboards to see if I should can the same amount of stuff this year or if I need to plant less of something. I saw that I still have an entire row of sweet green tomato relish. Geez. I need to figure out what to do with it other than topping hotdogs or in deviled eggs. We only use a tablespoon or two at a time. I'll never make it through all my jars like that.

My hubby had to work late so I knew it would be just the kiddos and I for dinner. Hmmmmm. This makes it a perfect night to get creative with dinner. I will probably be going grocery shopping tomorrow or Friday so I wanted to use up items that I would want to buy fresh when I shop. There was still Italian turkey lunch meat. We hadn't even opened the pack! There was one hamburger bun and two hotdog buns left. Ok, that must be a sign. Sandwich night it is. My son loves being in charge of sandwich night. He pretends he is a Subway worker. Ha. He built us sandwiches with Italian turkey, provolone cheese, spinach, red onion, and cucumber. I also had guacamole on mine. He served them with a side of a homemade pickle (man, we still have a TON of those too).

What else should we make? I wanted to use relish.  I asked friends earlier today and some suggested tuna salad, macaroni salad, or potato salad. I decided to throw together a random pasta salad and see if it worked. My daughter and I cooked up the end of the bag of vegetable shell pasta. We chopped celery that was starting to get a little wilted (the rest of it I will use to make chicken broth with soon), red onion, the rest of the cucumber, and one bunch of broccoli. I looked in the fridge and saw there was a bag of shredded cheddar cheese with just a little bit left. That'll work. There was also a small container of chopped tomatoes in the fridge. My son had wanted me to keep it so he could take it to lunch yesterday but he forgot. By small, I mean there was probably only about 10-15 pieces so I threw that in too. For the dressing, I mixed together a little bit of ranch (I didn't want it too heavy on the dressing) and half of a jelly jar of my homemade sweet green tomato relish. Oh boy. Is it going to taste weird? Will the kids eat it?? Well, after getting about 15 minutes into our movie night picnic, I hear.... "Mom, can you please get me more of the macaroni salad?" I asked what the kids thought of the pasta salad and if we should make it again. My son said "every day". Ha! Score! I guess I found what to do with all my relish.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Buffalo chicken salad

April 9, 2013

We had a good day for leftovers. My hubby packed a leftover hamburger for lunch. My son packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (yay, use up that bread buddy!). My daughter wanted to buy school lunch today but already made plans on what she wants to pack tomorrow. It came time for me to eat lunch and I looked in the fridge. We still have more of the beef rouladen from our German night. I didn't feel like having a big ol' hunk of meat for lunch. Hmmmm. How do I convince myself to eat leftovers? By serving it with one of my absolute favorites.....pasta and home canned tomatoes! I had half a serving of the rouladen and half of the pasta. Yum!

I had planned on making buffalo chicken salad for dinner. I ordered it the last time we ate from our friend's restaurant and loved it. I figured we could make it easily at home. I found a recipe on Pinterest a few days ago and I think it had the chicken breaded in panko bread crumbs and then fried. The recipe wouldn't open for me today. Oh well. Grilling the chicken will be healthier anyway. I remembered that we still have ten pounds of potatoes from when we all were too full to have potatoes on Easter. Grilled potato slices will go great with our salad. We put our buffalo chicken on a bed of romaine lettuce, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, and mushrooms. I also served some celery on the side. The buffalo sauce we bought was a slight bit too hot for me (I'm a wimp) so I mixed it with ranch. Then I remembered that there was still some of the sour cream/guacamole/avocado mixture in the fridge. So much for this salad being healthier! Oh well, it was delicious! The kids got pretty excited for their dinner when they saw their plates. I had arranged the veggies into a smiley face on top of their lettuce. Who knew red onion eye brows would be so funny?!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Time for lime

April 8, 2013

My hubby and both kiddos packed their lunches today. My hubby brought leftover smoked beef roast (sandwich). My son brought pizza and fruit. My daughter brought chicken nuggets and leftover spinach and pine nut quinoa. I was so disappointed that the tuna tataki was all gone. Then I got an idea. There was a container of leftover lettuce, red onion, cucumber, avocado, and tomatoes. There was leftover soy ginger dressing that I made. I still had sushi ginger. I substituted beef roast for tuna. It actually went together well. I think probably because the red onion, avocado, sushi ginger, and the dressing all had such strong flavors that it hid the beef.

I tried a new recipe tonight from bigboldbeautifulfood.blogspot.com for dinner. Chicken taquitos that are baked instead of fried. I sauteed chicken seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper and set it aside. I sauteed onion and garlic. Then I added cumin, salt, and paprika and cooked it for another minute. I added the chicken back to the pan and stirred in some cilantro. I was going to use corn tortillas so I heated up some chicken broth to a simmer. I dipped the corn tortillas into the broth for one second and then set it on a cutting board. I put some chicken mixture onto the bottom third and topped it with mexican cheese, rolled, and put it into a greased pan seam side down. Brush the tops with olive oil and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. We served them over a bed of romaine lettuce, red onion, and tomatoes. My hubby topped his with some lime juice. I also wanted a sauce for them. I grabbed some sour cream and a single serve pack of guacamole and put it in the food processor. Then I remembered that I had half of an avocado in the fridge so I put that in too. Everyone really liked the taquitos. I was surprised that they could be so crunchy without having to fry them.

I knew once I saw a recipe on shewearsmanyhats.com that I HAD to make it for my hubby: lime pie dip. It was so easy to make. Mix together half a block of cream cheese, 14 oz sweetened condensed milk, 1 teaspoon of lime zest (I used 2 tsps), 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Refrigerate for one hour to thicken up a bit. I served it with cinnamon graham crackers. Everyone really liked the lime pie dip too. My hubby said he likes this dip better than the cookie dough hummus.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tuna Tataki

April 7, 2013

Finally. A spring day that feels like spring. We wanted to cook on the grill today. My hubby grilled some local beef burgers while I looked for toppings. I had my sister's homemade relish on my hotdog yesterday and that got me thinking. Why have I never put relish on a burger? Also, I thought about my hubby's love for rueben sandwiches. I have leftover sauerkraut. Hmmmm. By the time that he brought the burgers inside, I had made my decision. Why chose a burger type when you can cut it in half and do both! On one half I put grilled red onions, homemade relish, american cheese, ketchup, and mustard. On the other half of the burger I put american cheese, sauerkraut, and a new sauce that I bought this week. It is kickin' onion blossom from miracle whip. They were both delicious!

We did some yard work today and needed a snack. Remember all the tuna that we ate on vacation this past week? It's time we try to make a tuna appetizer. I found a recipe on food network for tuna tataki. Oh yeah. This is gonna happen. My hubby fried some tuna that was crusted with panko bread crumbs. I made the sauce which consisted of: 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup olive oil (it could probably be less), and the juice of half a lime (it called for 1/3 cup but that would have been way too much), and some pepper. I chopped some red onion, tomato, sushi ginger, and avocado. We put the tuna and toppings in lettuce wraps. Oh wow. It was awesome! We snacked and there was still a big piece of tuna left. I asked my hubby if I could have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Wohoo! He said yes......then about 10 minutes later the kids came back to the kitchen and devoured the rest of the tuna. Ugh. I think we may need to make this a lot more often!

Ok. Dinner time. I had the pleasure of smelling it for about 7 hours before we got to eat. Anyone who knows my hubby knows that he can smoke some mean meat on the grill. He smoked a local beef roast and then finished it off in the oven. He rubbed it with season salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, and brown sugar. It was so full of flavor! Just look at that nice pink smoke ring!

We all love the quinoa kale craisin pilaf that I copied from Gordon Biersch. I decided to alter it a bit tonight. I made spinach quinoa with toasted pine nuts. I sauteed some onion and garlic then added one cup of quinoa and cooked it for a couple of minutes. Then I added two cups of homemade chicken broth. I let it simmer for about five minutes and then added 3/4 of a bag of fresh spinach, basil, salt, and pepper. After cooking for about ten more minutes, I topped the quinoa with freshly grated romano cheese and some toasted pine nuts. My daughter said she likes this one better than the kale craisin pilaf. My hubby and I liked it but prefer the kale craisin pilaf. Another day where restaurant food had nothing on us. Yay!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Oh Crepe! It's Rouladen & Spaetzle

April 6, 2013

What an amazing food day! One item that I LOVE for breakfast (on the rare day that I eat breakfast) is crepes. Why do we never make them at home? Today is the day. I found a recipe on Allrecipes.com for a blueberry sauce. Ohhhhh. I have one more small bag of blueberries that I froze from the farmer's market. I pulled up a recipe on Cooks.com for crepes. Ok, hubby. Time to get to work! I assisted (well maybe I just grabbed stuff out of the cupboard) while he made me breakfast. The sauce had sugar, orange juice, blueberries, lemon juice, vanilla, and cinnamon. The blueberry sauce called for leaving the blueberries whole. I prefer a smooth sauce so after he finished it I just put it in the food processor. Oh my goodness. They were amazing! I think the next time we will put a little less orange juice in the sauce so that more of the blueberry stands out.

We wanted a quick lunch today. My hubby grilled us some hotdogs which we topped with ketchup, mustard, and some of my sister's homemade relish. Yum!

Tonight was German night at our house. Remember I said that I splurged on an item this week? It was spaetzle. They were $3 something a package which is expensive to me for a "noodle". It just so happens that we went to a friend's house last night and she is German. She pulled out her cookbook for me and gave me some tips for our meal tonight. She normally has gravy on her spaetzle. While pulling up the recipe today, I saw that you could layer spaetzle, sauerkraut, and then swiss cheese. We didn't have swiss so we tried muenster on some and provolone on some. I also couldn't pass up trying it with gravy. The main dish that she suggested was German Rouladen. Basically, you take a very thin piece of flank steak, spread mustard on it (I used champagne dill mustard), top it with bacon, onion, and pickles (I used homemade pickles). Roll it up and secure it with a toothpick or cooking string. Sear the rolls in butter and then add 2 1/2 cups water and a beef bouillon cube. Let it simmer for an hour. Most of our juice reduced so I added a can of beef broth. I set the rolls to the side and thickened the juice with cornstarch to make the gravy. The rolls were really good. Surprisingly flavorful considering we added NO seasonings. The gravy was ridiculously good. I was disappointed that there was barely any left after dinner! We will definitely make this again. So which spaetzle dish did we like better? The gravy made it sooooooo delicious. The kids thought the cheese made it taste like macaroni and cheese. They both win!

On to dessert. Ok, so this isn't a German dessert. We had blueberry sauce leftover from this morning. Hmmmm. I had a few cans of biscuits. My hubby assisted my daughter and she made monkey bread that we dipped in the blueberry sauce. Oh my goodness. I couldn't stop eating them! Who needs restaurants when you have food this good at home. Well done today hubby. Well done.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Grocery savings; new topping for blt

April 5, 2013

Today was grocery shopping day. I was a little nervous to go because with both kids and my hubby in tow I figured that we would be impulse buying like crazy. My pre-challenge weekly average at the commissary was $175. Today I spent $17.92 on toiletries and cleaners. I spent $100.09 on food. I kind of splurged on a specialty item for a theme dinner this week (you have to wait to hear about it). However, I made up for that with a few good deals. I got to the deli craving ham for sandwiches. They had Italian turkey on sale for $1.99 a pound. Ok turkey it is. I wrote to several companies a couple of weeks ago asking if they had coupons. Some said no. Some said yes and sent cents off coupons. Some said yes and sent me coupons for free items. Today I got french onion dip and Hawaiian hamburger buns for free! I was going to get a 12 pack of root beer for free but saw that they were on sale for $2.99. I figured that I would save my coupon for a week when they aren't on sale. Oh! Speaking of free... The cashier told me about a pack of coffee that I could get for free so I will get that in the next few days when we run errands. I spent $5.08 on gossip magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $119.88 out of pocket. This is a savings of $55.12.

The kids had this week off of school so the only savings they did was my son packed on last Thursday saving us $2. Our pre-challenge weekly restaurant average was $80. This past week we went to TGIF to share an appetizer and also ordered delivery from our friend's restaurant last night (we didn't feel like cooking after driving home all day from our vacation). We spent $51. This is a savings of $29. *Disclaimer: yes we ate at restaurants during our vacation but I used prior challenge savings to pay for our food expenses. We decided to not count the vacation against us for this week and just did the challenge for days that we were at home.* Our savings for this week is $86.12. This brings our grand total savings to $2,860.76 in 170 days.

We wanted an easy dinner. Easy but delicious. Of course it involves bacon! We made blt sandwiches with guacamole, lettuce, red onion, tomato, cucumber, and bacon. My daughter loves cucumber and I figured that it would just give our sandwiches extra crunch. I think we may have done this a long time ago. Anyway, it was yum!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Challenge savings put to use

April 4, 2013

Did you miss my posts during the past few days?! Of course you did. We decided to take a little road trip to the East coast. We have been saving money with this challenge since October and have not spent any of our savings yet. I couldn't decide if I wanted the challenge to pay for the entire trip or just the food. I finally decided that the challenge savings would pay for our food expenses during our trip. This way we can splurge on other times and not feel bad. Do you want to see the awesome food we enjoyed? It totally validated my challenge. Save a little here and there in order to save up for a nice splurge!

The first day of our trip we ate lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. We shared an appetizer of Ahi Carpaccio. I had seared Tuna Tataki Salad. My hubby had a Monterey Cheeseburger with avocado. My daughter had pasta. My son had corn dogs.
We had dinner at The Melting Pot. We had the four course meal. We started off with a cheddar and a traditional swiss fondue with apples, bread, and vegetable dippers. Our next course was salad. We had the tangy house dressing. Next up was the main course. We had two different cooking styles: mojo and bouillon. We cooked teriyaki marinated sirloin, honey orange duck breast, andouille sausage, citrus infused pork tenderloin, pacific white shrimp, chicken breast, and chicken potstickers. This course also came with more vegetable dippers. We chose two dessert chocolates. We had cookies 'n cream marshmallow dream fondue and bananas foster fondue. The dippers included: strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, rice krispies treats, marshmallows, pound cake, and brownies. 

Our second day we went to the number one seafood restaurant in town. I started off with a cup of clam chowder. We shared a sesame seared tuna appetizer (we dug in before I remembered to take a picture!). I had one of their daily specials. It was a salad with beets, seared scallops, pink grapefruit, and local feta cheese. All the tuna at this restaurant is caught locally and brought to them each day fresh. My hubby had sesame seared tuna with jasmine rice and seaweed salad. The kiddos shared an adult order of lobster ravioli with basil pasta, charred tomato coulis, and basil oil.

Next we hit up a frozen yogurt place that I have always wanted to try: Pinkberry. I had coconut. My hubby and son both had key lime. My daughter had passion fruit. 
For dinner we went to Legal Sea Foods. Three of us started out with clam chowder. I had their special of tuna and shrimp. My hubby had stuffed shrimp with a crab stuffing. My daughter had fish shaped ravioli and my son had macaroni.

What day would be complete without taking dessert back to the hotel? We picked two to share from the Cheesecake Factory. We had ultimate red velvet cake cheesecake and 30th anniversary chocolate cake cheesecake.

We decided to come home a day early. Today we did a little shopping at some outlets and just had Subway as a quick lunch. We had a great time and had delicious food. Nom nom as my daughter says.