Friday, May 31, 2013

The everything omelet

May 31, 2013

My daughter saw an interesting container in the fridge this morning. She asked what it was. I hesitated. Remember how I processed beans with a little spaghetti sauce and yellow squash and stirred it into our spaghetti without telling them? There was leftovers. Evidence. Ahhh! I told her oh, it is beans and spaghetti sauce. She decided to pack it along with a tortilla, cauliflower, and yogurt. My son bought school lunch today. I saw there was leftovers of the salsa corn queso dip. Hmmmm, I better do my part with leftovers right? I finished it up with tortilla chips and washed it down with a molasses cookie (yay for the opening day of the farmer's market).

It came time for dinner and we all wanted something different. My son wanted a tofurkey hotdog in Italian bread instead of a bun. He grabbed a pear and called it good. My daughter wanted a frozen chicken pot pie....minus the chicken. I was thinking about doing some type of burger but then my hubby mentioned an omelet. Oh yes! I pulled out the veggies to start chopping. After a few minutes, my hubby asked "what all are you putting in your omelet?" I said, "more like, what am I NOT putting in it"? Red onion, green onion (from the farmer's market today), spinach (also from today's venture to the farmer's market), green/yellow/red pepper, cilantro, baby bella mushrooms, oh then I saw zucchini and yellow squash. I've never put them in an omelet before but tonight is a good night to try it. I had a pot of black beans simmering on the stove so I threw a handful in there too! I also chopped tomato and avocado to top it with. My hubby seasoned the filling with the garlic wine seasoning and cooked it in some local white wine and finished it off with american cheese. Yum. Double yum. I stopped eating the egg half way through so I could fill up on the extra pile of filling on the counter. My hubby settled on having a grilled cheese sandwich. Man style. He had red onion, baby bella mushrooms, habanero pepper, scotch bonnet, provolone cheese, cheddar cheese, and muenster cheese.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kiddos pick dinner; grocery savings

May 30, 2013

We all tackled the leftovers today. My daughter packed the rest of the spaghetti, some white beans, and cauliflower (and a tortilla to make a spaghetti taco, ha). My son packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cauliflower, and yogurt. My hubby had the leftover fajita. I had leftover spaghetti sauce and made up the rest of a partial box of pasta.

My pre-challenge grocery weekly average was $175. Today I spent $18.65 on toiletries and cleaners. I spent $9.73 on impulse items. Yikes, higher than my new normal. I saw the container for apple crisp and couldn't pass it up which meant I had to get an extra bag of apples. I also saw bean sprouts. I have never bought them before but my hubby and I had a conversation about them this morning. Figured it was a sign to see them so I got them. Also, we actually liked the "fake" chicken we had this past week so I thought we would try another item so I got beefless tips. I spent $113.15 on food. I spent $6.53 on gossip magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $152.07 out of pocket. Ouch. Oh well. I got a ton of deliciousness. This was a savings of $22.93. My pre-challenge weekly restaurant average was $80. This week we ate at Subway and Applebees (using a free sandwich from loyalty card and some gift cards) and spent $33.07 which is a savings of $46.93. The kids had three school days off this past week due to the holiday and unused snow days so they only saved $8. Our total savings for this week is $77.86 which brings our grand total savings to $3605.34 in 225 days!

I have a fridge full of food, endless recipes pinned for new meal ideas, and I allowed the kiddos to pick what we eat for dinner. What do they pick? The same thing we had night before last: Salsa corn queso dip. Ha. You got it! I wanted to make it a little healthier than last time (we used tortilla chips). We used dippers as if we were having a fondue night. We had green/yellow/red peppers, cauliflower, carrots, and Italian loaf bread. I made a few alterations on the dip tonight. I didn't have any leftover veggies from the grill so I just sauteed red onion, red/green/yellow pepper, and onion in olive oil then added in some local white wine. I used 1/2 block cream cheese, then a layer of black beans and homemade salsa (that was put through the food processor), a few whole black beans, the veggie mix (put through the food processor to be finely chopped), corn (frozen from farmer's market), cilantro, mexican cheese, and cheddar cheese. Baked for about 15 minutes at 350 and then under broiler to crisp up the cheese. I had a half an avocado in the fridge so that joined in on our little picnic! Delicious dinner that was pretty healthy. Well, healthy other than cheese but who can resist cheese? Certainly not us!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


May 29, 2013

My daughter packed leftover quinoa and leftover black beans (that I had processed with a little salsa) along with an apple for lunch. My son packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fruit salad, and yogurt. My hubby stepped in and drew on the sandwich bag. My son loved it!

My hubby was home for lunch today and we decided on having fajitas. He cooked up onion, portabella mushrooms, green/yellow/red peppers, and jalapeno pepper. He seasoned it with cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. We filled our tortillas with spinach, avocado, mexican cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. I found a container of whole black beans in the fridge so we added those in too. Yum!

The kids and I were on our own for dinner. I picked one of my favorites: spaghetti. I decided to change it up a bit without telling the kids. I have one bag of yellow squash (shredded) in the freezer. I broke off a chunk of it (about 1/2 cup) and thawed it out. I grabbed a bag of small white beans out of the freezer too. I didn't want the kids to see "stringy" yellow stuff in the sauce or they  might complain. I put it in the food processor. It wasn't really chopping because it was so small an amount. Instead of leaving whole beans in the sauce, I decided to throw about a cup into the food processor too. I added in a little homemade spaghetti sauce to thin it enough to chop. I added the mix to a saucepan with a quart of homemade spaghetti sauce. I steamed up some cauliflower, cooked up some angel hair pasta, and we were all set. I topped my spaghetti off with asiago cheese. My daughter topped hers with nutritional yeast and extra whole beans. I asked my son if he wanted beans on his. He said no. Little did he know there was already beans pureed in the sauce. Ha. I couldn't believe that we didn't taste a difference. The kids never knew they were eating squash or beans. It was delicious. My daughter and I went back for seconds!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Salsa Corn Queso Dip

May 28, 2013

The kids had today off of school for an unused snow day. We grabbed Subway for lunch and brought it home to have a picnic with friends. I had a veggie sub (provolone, spinach, avocado, tomato, cucumber, onion, green pepper, and banana peppers. My son had a ham sandwich. My daughter ordered a salad and once we got home she added some leftover white beans to it. Not a bad deal because I got my sub for free (yay for loyalty cards). We also had some fruit salad (bananas, pears, mandarin oranges, cantelope, grapes, and strawberries.

After spending the day planting the garden, I didn't feel like cooking a big meal. I had seen a recipe this morning for a corn dip. It had me at corn but lost me at mayo. Ha. There really wasn't a whole lot of other ingredients other than peppers. Hmmmm. I bet we can make it even better. We decided to wing it. We spread half a block of cream cheese in a pie plate. I thawed out two cups of black beans and put most of them through the food processor. It was a little thick so I put in a little homemade salsa just to thin it out. That went on top of the cream cheese. We topped it with the whole black beans (just a handful). I sauteed some onions and garlic. I added in some green/yellow/red peppers that were leftover from when we grilled veggies this weekend. That went on top of the beans. Next I added corn (frozen from the farmer's market). We used cheddar and mexican cheese and then topped it off with a few green onion tops. How fun. They were from kitchen scraps that I got to regrow! As we waited for the dip to warm (400 degrees for about 15 minutes and then broiled to melt the cheese), the kids snacked on the leftover corn and some of the fruit salad from this afternoon. My son gave the dip a thumbs up. My daughter said it was the best dip ever. My hubby said "I can't believe we ate the whole thing". Ha. It was awesome. One of our new favs.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tinfoil Surprise

May 27, 2013

We had cravings for onion rings today. We thought we would go out for a snack after watching our daughter walk with the Girl Scouts in the Memorial Day Parade. The restaurant we had in mind was closed so we headed for home to make some frozen ones instead. I was also craving chicken wings. Did we give in and have meat? Nope. We made more of the gardein seven grain "chicken" tenders (alternative) and just dipped them in buffalo sauce and ranch. I still can't believe we like them.

The kids were playing outside today so I delivered them a little snack. They ate up the rest of the leftover cupcake dip (out of beans and cupcake mix) with apples and pears. We felt like hanging outside and grilling dinner. Hmmmm. We were thinking about making burgers when my hubby made a great discovery. We still had three leftover chickpea/black bean burgers. They were hiding under tinfoil. I never peek under tinfoil. Ha. My son said he would have a tofurkey hotdog instead. We grilled up a basket of mixed veggies: green/yellow/red peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, and onion. I made some carmelized red onion and baby bella mushrooms for our burgers. We also topped them with spinach, avocado, ketchup, and mustard.

Why not finish off a day of cravings with fulfilling a dessert craving?! My hubby made us carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. It is so fluffy and moist. Can't wait to finish off those leftovers!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Boy, am I stuffed!

May 26, 2013

Today started off very unusual. I actually wanted breakfast. I asked my hubby to make me an omelet. I had onion, mushrooms, spinach, american cheese, avocado, basil, and cilantro. Wow. Best omelette I have ever had. It made me think that maybe we should make them for lunch. Ha.

We grilled up some onion, mushrooms, peppers, and potatoes. We made a wrap and added spinach, avocado, and some country bob's sauce (an all purpose sauce). The kiddos wanted hotdogs. They decided to try the tofurkey hotdogs. My hubby grilled them and they chose toppings of ketchup, mustard, and homemade relish. My hubby and I each took a little sample to try. I was so scared! My son chimed in and said they tasted like regular hotdogs. My hubby ate his and said "huh, it does taste like regular hotdogs". I put all three toppings on mine (yes, to try to hide the hotdog. ha.). It actually wasn't too bad. It seemed firmer than a regular hotdog, a little different, but something I could eat if I really was craving a hotdog.

Dinner was delicious. I had a potato dish at the Pampered Chef party I went to a few days ago. I loved them and had to recreate them. Tonight was the night. Hollow out red potatoes and roll them in olive oil and some garlic/wine seasoning. Invert and bake them for about 30 minutes at 350. Once they cool a bit, stuff them with a mix of chive and onion cream cheese and sour cream. Top them with cheddar cheese and green onion. Next up was a quinoa stuffed mushroom. I found a recipe on Greatist. We altered a few things and this is what we came up with. Remove stems from a box of button mushrooms. Chop the stems. Saute some onion in olive oil. Add the stems, a teaspoon of chopped garlic, basil, salt, and pepper. After a couple minutes, add a good splash (such a technical cooking term) of white wine. Let the wine evaporate and add about 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, 1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach, and 1/2 cup cooked quinoa. Add 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Cook a few more minutes and then remove from heat. Add 1/4 cup of freshly grated cheese. Tonight we used asiago but parmesan would be great too. Fill the mushroom caps, top with a sprinkle of cheese, and bake for about 30 minutes at 350. We also made a quick side salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, cucumber, tomato, red onion, avocado, and sunflower seeds. I had a pot of chickpeas simmering on the stove and my daughter hijacked a spoonful to add to her salad. Everyone said dinner was very good. I think this was one of my new favorites. I couldn't stop talking about how good it was even after the kitchen was all cleaned up. Winner meal! I think this was the first time I have ever used mushroom stems. I always assumed they were tough or something so I always threw them out. Not the case! Trim up the end and they are good to go. I just realized that I had avocado at all three meals today. No wonder today's food was awesome!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

What's for dessert?

May 25, 2013

Today was a busy day. We bought all of the plants for our garden. Even with our expansion this year, I'm afraid I won't have room for everything I want to grow. Yikes. While we were out, we decided to grab lunch. I had a gift certificate so we went to Applebee's. Macaroni and cheese and fried shrimp for the kiddos. My hubby had a four cheese grille served with tomato basil soup. I had the napa chicken and portobello mushrooms. Well, I had them hold the chicken because they don't have very many vegetarian options. It came with portobello mushrooms, zucchini, roasted red peppers, red onions, and crispy red potatoes in a red wine sauce. We all shared pretzels and beer cheese. Yum!

We spent the afternoon tilling the garden and getting it ready to plant. I came inside to start dinner and figured a nice comfort food meal would feel good after being out in the wind all day. My hubby put together a mushroom stroganoff. He followed a recipe on The Svelte Gourmet. Onion, mushrooms (we used baby bella and button), white wine, salt/pepper, dijon mustard (we used champagne dill mustard), worcestershire sauce, flour, sour cream, and dill weed came together to make a delicious stroganoff. It went perfectly with the fun noodles I found this past week. My daughter loves it when I make lasagna and the curly ends of the noodles fall off. Those are her favorite part and she always snags up the extras. Well. Guess what I found. That's right. A box of mafalda pasta which look just like the curly ends of lasagna! I can thank my sister for introducing me to our side dish. When she first told me about this salad, I was skeptical. However, it is delicious! It has romaine lettuce, spinach, strawberries, mozzarella cheese, cashews, and a strawberry poppyseed dressing.

The kids finished eating dinner and wanted dessert. Can you guess what they asked for? The leftover hummus I made out of great northern beans and yellow cupcake mix. Ha. No problem kiddos. Eat those beans!!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Did that just happen?

May 24, 2013

Today was simply unbelievable. It started at lunch time. We ran errands prior to lunch. We didn't go out to eat. Wow. We really are changing! We came home to make lunch. The kiddos asked for macaroni and cheese. I was going to have the leftover fajitas. My hubby surprised me by saying that he was going to try the fake chicken that I bought yesterday. WHAT?! I didn't think he would go near it! I got "Gardein brand seven grain crispy tenders". I heated up the fajita mix of onion, mushroom, and peppers and stuck it on a bun. We topped it with the baked "chicken", provolone cheese, spinach,and avocado. We stuck them under the broiler to melt the cheese. I can't believe we all liked the chicken. Seriously?! The kids asked me to buy it again.

We went to a birthday party this afternoon and I fell in love with one of the dips there. It was a lemon hummus served with fruit. I asked my friend for the recipe. She laughed and said she had made it up because she had leftover lemon cupcake mix. It was so delicious. I think I am going to have cupcake hummus each week!

My daughter had a friend from school over this evening. She asked if her friend could stay for dinner. Uh oh. A newly vegetarian cooking for a meat eater. This is going to be bad. I thought I could play it safe and make spaghetti with my home canned spaghetti sauce. Let's face it. I don't like to play it safe with food. I decided to make burgers. And by burgers, I mean a new recipe. Ugh. Why would I do that with company over? I was stressed thinking she was going to hate our food and go home and complain to her parents. Ha.

I started out by making the hummus. I threw two cups of great northern beans, one cup of yellow cupcake mix, and a little almond milk into the food processor. I kept adding milk until I got the right consistency. It didn't get as smooth as my friend's so I think I will try a different bean next time. The girls wolfed some down while I started on the burgers.

I found a recipe on Savvy Vegetarian for a Chickpea Black Bean Veggie Burger. I skipped a few of the ingredients and substituted some as well. Here is what I used. 2 cups of black beans, 2 cups of chickpeas, 1/2 cup of jasmine rice (because out of the five kinds of rice in my cupboard, I didn't have brown), 1/2 cup quick oats, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, 1/4 cup parsley (fresh), 1 clove garlic, 1/4 cup flour, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, 2 teaspoons basil, 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/2 can tomato paste, salt/pepper.  Mash half of the beans and set aside. Take the grated carrot, finely chopped celery, and garlic and cook in oil until soft. Add the veggies to the whole beans, rice, and oats. In the frying pan, add the flour, cumin, and paprika. Cook for a few minutes to toast. Add the flour mix, liquid smoke, and soy sauce to the whole bean mixture. Process it in the food processor. Stir in the mashed beans and salt/pepper. Add the tomato paste to help bind. The recipe made 8 patties. Fry the patties in oil (I used olive oil) until brown on each side which is about 15 minutes total. We topped the burgers with your choice of cheddar or american cheese. We served them with lettuce, spinach, red onion, tomato, avocado, ketchup, and mustard with a side of home made pickles. I put out a platter of the cupcake dip and apples. Oh boy. Here is the test. Will my daughter's friend like dinner?? I could hardly keep my eyes off her as she ate. Ha. She completely cleaned her plate. I found out after she went home that she told my daughter it was the "best burger I ever had, even better than regular burgers". WHAT?! How awesome! Everyone liked the burgers and the cupcake dip. Today was unbelievable but definitely a win day!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Finger Food & Grocery Savings

May 23, 2013

The kiddos both wanted to buy school lunch today. My hubby packed leftover taco pasta. I met a couple of friends for lunch. Two thumbs down to Applebee's for not offering much for vegetarian options.

Today was grocery shopping day. My pre-challenge weekly average at the commissary was $175. Today I spent $24.51 on cleaners/toiletries. I spent $104.46 on food. I wanted to make sure we had lots of good stuff for the long holiday weekend. I spent $4.82 on impulse items. I had planned on getting a box of individual mixed nuts. They were on sale for a little over a dollar off plus I had two $1 off coupons so I went ahead and got two boxes. I also got the kids macaroni and cheese. It's been forever since I got it for them. I spent $5.08 on gossip magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $137.66 out of pocket. This is a savings of $37.34. The kids packed lunches and saved $20 this week. Our pre-challenge weekly average at restaurants was $80. This week we spent $53.01 which is a savings of $26.99. Our savings for this week is $84.33. Our grand total savings is $3,527.48 in 218 days!

My son asked for finger food for dinner. My hubby made some caprese wontons. He put wonton wrappers in a muffin tin. He filled each wrapper with a slice of tomato, half of a fresh basil leaf, and a pinch of mozzarella cheese. He baked it for about ten minutes and then topped it with a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar. He also made us each quesadillas. My son had a cheese quesadilla. My daughter had freshly ground peanut butter and banana. My hubby and I had jalapeno cream cheese, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and mexican cheese. The veggies were seasoned with chili powder and cumin. We served it with avocado and sour cream. Yum!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Taco Pasta

May 22, 2013

My daughter packed the leftover bean alfredo and some strawberries for lunch today. My son packed the leftover smoked sausage, leftover pasta (I had extra without alfredo on it), and half an orange. My hubby packed leftover fajitas. I was spoiled at a friend's house. She had a pampered chef party and I filled my face with tons of delicious food. I tried a few new things and I can't wait to make them. But that is for another day...

I've been trying to branch out our meals. It feels like we eat a lot of wraps, tacos, burgers, etc since we became vegetarian. I decided that tonight would be a comfort food. What is more comforting than a nice warm casserole? I sauteed some yellow and red onion and garlic in olive oil. I stirred in half a can of pink beans (and smashed them) and one cup of black beans (that I had frozen). I threw in a handful of green and red peppers (frozen from the farmer's market). I had an aha moment and got a bag of corn out of the freezer (from farmer's market). I took two pint jars of my home canned salsa and put them through the food processor. I stirred it in to the bean mixture. I mixed in some cooked veggie spiral pasta. I topped it with a little cheddar and mexican mix cheese. I baked the casserole at 350 just until the cheese was all nice and melted. We put our casserole on a bed of lettuce. Not a ton. This isn't a salad; just a nice bit for crunch. We then topped it with fresh tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, cilantro, and jalapenos. For a side, I asked my son to make a fruit salad. Tomorrow is grocery shopping day. Fruit salad is a fun way to have us eat up the random leftover fruit. He added in pineapple, cantaloupe, raspberries, banana, and grapes.

What did we all think of my taco creation? My son said it was a little spicy. It didn't stop him from having two helpings! My daughter liked it. Her second helping was just a pile of leftover black beans. I loved it. I think this dish will become a regular and definitely one that we serve for company. My hubby thought it was really good. He said spice is nice. Ha. He was happy I had fresh jalapenos for him to add.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Grilled Lunch

May 21, 2013

My daughter packed leftover pizza, yogurt smoothie, and potatoes for lunch. My son packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, yogurt smoothie, and raspberries.

My hubby was home for lunch today. We settled on making grilled fajitas. He grilled red onion, red/yellow/green peppers, jalapenos, and portabella mushrooms. We topped our fajitas with spinach, mexican cheese, sour cream, avocado, and cilantro. The marinade is so full of flavor. 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon water, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 lime juiced (we used 1 tablespoon of lime juice from the container), 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. How good are the fajitas? If/when the day comes that I am once again a meat eater, I would still request these! Big thanks to Good Life Eats for such a great recipe.

My hubby had to work through dinner which made it a perfect night for an experiment. Ha. Poor kids. I grabbed a bag of great northern beans out of the freezer, thawed them in water, and then got to work. I put them along with a few splashes of almond milk into the food processor. In a pan, I sauteed onion and garlic in butter. I added in a tablespoon of flour and cooked for another minute. I added in some almond milk and then stirred in some mexican cheese. Once it was melted, I added in the bean mixture, salt, pepper, basil, and garlic/wine seasoning. I cooked quinoa pasta and added in peas during the last few minutes of cooking. Ok, so why was this an experiment? The only milk that I had was vanilla flavored almond milk or coconut flavored almond milk. I tried it with the vanilla. My daughter liked it as is. My son said next time it should be thinner. Ugh. I remember that from last time. Oops. I guess I can skip the flour because the beans thicken it up. The vanilla really didn't matter too much. I could taste a hint of it but I think it is fine versus buying a different thing of milk just for cooking.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Two recipes: One meatloaf

May 18, 19, & 20, 2013

Our past few days have been pretty busy so I combined them into one post. My daughter and I did something very special on Saturday. This weekend marked one year since we lost my father in law to cancer. We decided to donate our hair to children with cancer in his memory. While we were out, we went to lunch at Moe's. I was about to order a black bean and rice taco and my daughter made a comment about tofu. To her surprise, I said I would try it. It actually wasn't bad! There was one bite (I think there wasn't too much toppings in that bite) that it seemed a little too spongey for me. Otherwise, it covered up with pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, lettuce, black beans, rice,and cilantro. I think I will be ordering it from now on. Gasp!

Our dinner that night was over a bonfire. We made one of my childhood favorites: pudgy pies. Picture basically a grilled cheese sandwich. We made pizza ones with onion, mushrooms, black olives, spinach, homemade pizza sauce, provolone, and mozzarella cheese. Normally for dessert we would make a sandwich with pie filling and dust it with powdered sugar. I didn't have any but that wasn't about to stop me from a pudgy pie goodness! I found a jar of homemade spiced peaches from my parents. They had written on the jar that it would be good on ice cream, waffles, or pancakes. Hmmmm. It was amazing in the pudgy pie!

We did a lot of yard work on Sunday. We started our day (well lunch) with mushroom and kale quesadillas. We worked all day and took a quick break to eat and then went back to planting. Seeing as we had so much work to do we decided to grab dinner versus cooking. My son and I had Subway (mine for free because of loyalty points). My daughter and hubby had pizza.

Today my daughter leftover pizza for lunch. My son packed a sandwich. I had a jar half full of home canned tomatoes in the fridge. Pasta and tomatoes for me. Yum!

Tonight I decided to take our newly favorite meat substitution (chickpea, asiago cheese, panko bread crumb, oatmeal, worcestershire sauce, fresh parsley, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and eggs) and turn it into one of our go to meals: mini meatloaves. The only alteration that I did to the recipe was to add a little tomato sauce to the mixture. After they baked for 20 minutes, I topped them with the sauce that we use for meatloaves. It is a recipe I got in 8th grade home economics and we love it! I mixed together the rest of the can of tomato sauce, one tablespoon of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce, and a little fresh parsley. Half of them got topped with french fried onions. Baked them for five more minutes and they were all set. I had my hubby grill up some baby red potatoes. I wanted another side of veggies so I looked in the fridge. I grabbed the asparagus. I had a tiny bit of a red onion and a white onion. In they went. I found about 1/3 of a zucchini and yellow squash. In they went. I grabbed a handful of baby portabella mushrooms. In they went. The veggies were all tossed in olive oil and seasoned with the garlic and wine seasoning from the Melting Pot. Double Yum!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Coconut Bread

May 17, 2013

The kiddos finished off the school week by both packing their lunches. My son had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, raspberries, and yogurt smoothie. My daughter had a peanut butter sandwich, applesauce, and juice. I had some of my favorite comfort food: pasta and home canned tomatoes.

I wanted to do some baking today. I was thinking about making the sweet potato bread again. It's been awhile and we all really liked it. I got side tracked when I was looking for the recipe. I saw a recipe on Honey and Jam for coconut bread. Hmmmm. The recipe called for eggs, milk, vanilla, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, sugar, coconut flakes, and butter. I decided to alter a few things with the recipe. I don't buy cow's milk anymore. I had some coconut almond milk. Ohhh. That should go well. I also didn't want to have big flakes of coconut so I stuck it into the food processor. I like coconut flavor but don't really like the long pieces of it. I got out the butter. 6 tablespoons. Ugh. I had read that you can substitute half of the butter in a recipe with avocado. I decided to give that a whirl. I got out the sugar. 1 cup of sugar. Seriously? I couldn't make myself pour the whole thing in so I went with 3/4 cup instead. I was surprised with how well it turned out. The avocado trick worked great! You don't taste it (although I did still see a few flecks of green). There was still plenty of sugar. Wohoo! I may even try 1/2 cup next time. Surprisingly, even with all the coconut pieces and the coconut flavored milk, it still didn't have a strong coconut flavor. The kids really liked it. I had to say no when they asked for their um, 3rd (I think) piece before dinner! My hubby tried it and said we should make up a batch of the parrot bay coconut shrimp sauce for it and that it would be like dessert. I knew there was a reason I married him! Ha! I think I see some coconut/pineapple sauce in my future.

I made another batch of the lasagna roll ups that we made a couple weeks ago. Spinach, onion, mushroom, and asiago cheese rolled up and then topped with american cheese, mozzarella cheese, asiago cheese, and of course using my home canned spaghetti sauce. Yum! I steamed up a quick side of cauliflower and carrots. My son didn't want lasagna. He asked if he could have a hotdog. Uh oh. I don't have any. He asked if he could make a sandwich. I told him I didn't have lunch meat. He asked "don't you have ANY meat"? Oh, poor buddy. I remembered that I had smoked sausage (along with bacon and a bunch of other beef in the freezer). Tonight was a test. Can we grill up meat and smell it and still not give in? The answer is yes we can. My hubby, daughter, and I had lasagna while my son got his fill of sausage.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Leftovers Turned Philly Cheese "Steak"

May 16, 2013

We had a great challenge day today. Both kids packed lunches. My daughter brought some of the leftover veggie ragu and fruit. My son packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, yogurt smoothie, and grapes. My hubby was home for lunch. We were so indecisive. We mentioned that there was still leftover "club" (minus bacon) pizza. It had spinach, tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, and carmelized onions and mushrooms. We have looked at those leftovers for the past several days but never feel like it. We just gave in today and ate them. Man! Why were we so grumpy about leftovers? It was delicious.

My hubby had to work through dinner so he packed the rest of the ragu and some fruit. I decided to hold off on the dinner I had planned so that he could enjoy it with us. I asked the kids what they would like for dinner. All I heard was a bunch of "I don't know" and saw a few shrugs. Great. Not much help. My food indecisiveness kept up with me all day. I procrastinated making a decision and went outside to water plants instead. That turned into playing catch with the kids. Uh oh. Next thing I knew, we were hungry and it was time to cook. Now what?

I looked in the fridge and remembered how leftovers had worked out well at lunch. There was a container of the "meat" that we used for tacos. It was actually the mixture of chickpeas, asiago cheese, panko bread crumbs, oatmeal, and egg. I took a nibble and figured that it didn't really taste too much like tacos. I asked the kids if they remembered when we made philly cheese fakes (mushrooms instead of beef). They agreed that we should do sandwiches like that and to add in the leftover taco mixture. Their one request was that I didn't add in all of it so that they could have a pile of it on their plate. Ha. Ok. I sauteed onion, yellow and green pepper, and mushrooms in olive oil and then added some white wine. I added in a handful of spinach and some freshly chopped parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic wine seasoning. After the spinach was wilted, I added in the taco mixture. I loaded up our burger buns, topped them with provolone cheese, and stuck them under the broiler. We weren't too hungry so I just made us some fresh juice (strawberry and apple) and grabbed some homemade pickles. I topped my sandwich with avocado. Avocado makes everything better.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Veggie Ragu & Grocery Savings

May 15, 2013

The kids finished our week off strong and both packed lunch today. My daughter packed the leftover orzo pilaf and strawberries. My son packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, string cheese, and strawberries. My hubby had leftover tacos. I used leftovers and made a repeat of yesterdays veggie sandwich lunch. Yum!

Today was grocery shopping day. My pre-challenge weekly average was $175. Today I spent $22.74 on toiletries and cleaners. I spent $8.56 on impulse items. My highest week of impulses in awhile but they were all good stuff: cottage cheese, fresh parsley, fresh rosemary, red potatoes, and pears. I spent $10.16 on gossip magazines. I couldn't pass them up! I spent $115.81 on food. I spent a bit more than usual. Oh well. You should have seen how much stuff I got. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $156.78 out of pocket. Yikes. This is a savings of only $18.22. Our pre-challenge restaurant weekly average was $80. This week we only ate out once at Panera Bread for $31.92 which is a savings of $48.08. The kids had a pretty good week of packing lunches and saved $16. Our savings for this week is $82.30. I wish I had hit the $100 mark (seems I keep missing it lately). However, I am looking forward to all the yummy stuff we will be able to make with all of these ingredients! Our grand total savings is $3,443.15 in 210 days!

Several months ago I stumbled upon an amazing beef ragu recipe at Verses from my Kitchen. I may not want beef right now but I would love to redo this recipe and make a vegetarian option for us. I replaced beef with mushrooms. I replaced beef stock with vegetable broth. I added in celery and great northern beans. Remember how I made a big batch of great northern beans and froze them? I had froze them in two cups increments but today I only wanted a cup. I grabbed a bag out of the freezer, gave it a whack against the counter, and voila. One cup came out. I asked the kids if I should put the beans in the food processor or add them whole. My son wanted them processed but my daughter did not. I saved her a handful of whole beans to add over her pasta.

I sauteed onion, two carrots, one celery stalk, and oh maybe a teaspoon of garlic in some olive oil. This is where I should have added my half a carton of baby bella mushrooms but I forgot until later on. Next I added about 1/4 cup local red wine. I let it reduce a little and then added in the following: the forgotten mushrooms, a bay leaf, 2 rosemary sprigs (they are called sprigs right?), about 1/3 of a quart of home canned tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, about a cup of vegetable broth, 1 tablespoon of sugar, salt, and pepper. I let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes while I cooked the angel hair pasta. I topped our veggie ragu with some freshly grated asiago cheese. It turned out great. My daughter had three helpings! There is just barely enough left for when my hubby gets home. If your kids don't like beans, this is a great recipe to hide them in. You didn't get a bean taste with it. The beans just made the dish a little creamier. I asked if I should make any adjustments for next time. Both kiddos said no. Score!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hit the Bench, Meat!

May 14, 2013

My son wanted to pack his lunch today. I figured he would ask for his usual peanut butter and jelly. I beat him to the kitchen so I pulled out an assortment of leftovers out of the fridge and simply asked "which do you want"? It worked. He picked salmon, an orange, and wheat bread. Yay buddy! My daughter decided to buy school lunch today.

My hubby was home for lunch. He felt like having a grilled cheese, not just a regular grilled cheese though. He wanted a kicked up grilled cheese. He sauteed some onion and portabella mushrooms. He added in some local white wine. He also put some scotch bonnet and ghost pepper in it. He used feta, cheddar, and provolone cheese. He said it was delicious. It looked it but I was too scared of his hot peppers to give it a try!

I didn't feel like a grilled cheese. I decided to saute up some onion, green/red/yellow pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, spinach, and portabella mushroom. I added local white wine to mine too. I stacked my veggies on a hamburger bun, topped it with provolone cheese, and stuck it under the broiler. When it came out of the oven, I added avocado. Oh man. I don't think I was prepared for how delicious it would be. I inhaled that sandwich a little too fast!

I wanted to try a new juice (because my new juicer is so much fun!) while I was working in the kitchen today. I added an apple, a handful of raspberries, and about six large strawberries. Wow! My new fav! Next, I moved on to making muffins. I wanted to take my usual banana muffin recipe and make it a little healthier. I googled recipes but had a hard time finding a recipe that used honey and applesauce instead of eggs, sugar, and butter. I decided to wing it. They turned out ok but I think I have two adjustments to make. I'll wait to give you the recipe until after my next attempt. The kids liked them though. Together they ate four of them after school! After my hubby got home, I asked him if he wanted some juice (yep, couldn't wait to get my hands on my juicer again). He asked for orange juice. Now I'm not much of an orange juice girl. I'll drink it here or there but not very often. Oh. My. Gosh. That was the BEST orange juice ever. I may need to start buying oranges by the truck full. Ha.

I took the recipe that we used for "meatballs" and "burgers" (chick peas, asiago cheese, panko bread crumbs, egg, and oatmeal) and made taco "meat" with it tonight. We seasoned it with paprika, garlic, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. We had put peppers/onions/mushrooms on our tacos at Chipotle a few weeks ago so I made us a similar topping tonight. Onion, red/yellow/green peppers, garlic, and portabella mushroom in white wine. We also used romaine lettuce, spinach, cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, mexican cheese, and taco sauce. How did the chick pea "meat" work out? We didn't even miss meat in our tacos. Yay!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Club Pizza

May 13, 2013

My daughter packed some of the leftover lentils and veggies and a new soy yogurt for her lunch. My son decided to buy school lunch today. Although I convinced him to try something other than the usual hamburger that he buys. He went for chicken nuggets today.

My hubby was home for lunch today. We settled on making pizza. He made us a batch of pizza dough in our bread machine. It makes the BEST dough! There was a small amount of leftover homemade pizza sauce in the fridge. We wanted to highlight the toppings and not just have sauce/cheese flavor so we decided not to open another jar of sauce. We wanted to do a club type pizza but minus the bacon. It was fun picking out what toppings to use. My hubby carmelized some red onion and mushrooms. We also used olives, spinach, cilantro, tomato slices, avocado, and fresh mozzarella. We needed a touch more cheese so we used a little grated mozzarella too. Yum!

I wasn't too hungry for dinner and thankfully neither were the kiddos (hubby had to work). I make a quite pilaf of orzo pasta, leftover corn, peas, salt, pepper, basil, and freshly grated asiago cheese.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hubby Takes Over the Kitchen

May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day! I enjoyed being spoiled today. My hubby asked what I wanted for lunch and I was really craving grilled salmon. He grilled up some potatoes as a quick side. Yay I had no jobs!

We relaxed at home today and spent the day in pajamas (my favorite kind of day!). What else did I want to do for my special day? Fill my eyes with as many food documentaries as I could. Ha. Three. My limit was three. We needed a mid-afternoon snack so I once again sent my hubby to the grill. Don't feel sorry for him. He loves to man that thing. We tried a new snack. He grilled eggplant and then topped them with fresh mozzarella cheese. After the cheese melted a little we topped them with home canned pizza sauce and some fresh basil. I'm still getting used to eggplant. I liked it better once I cut the skin off. I loved the mozzarella/sauce/basil though. I think we will play around with it. Maybe just top tomato slices with mozzarella and basil next time. Oh! And with grilled onions. Yep, that will be the next attempt.

When dinner time rolled around, I just wanted a snacky night where we could do an indoor picnic. I pulled up a bar stool and played on the internet while my hubby whipped up a new recipe. We found a recipe for potstickers on The filling was baby bella and button mushrooms, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, onion, and it called for siracha but my hubby substituted cocktail sauce instead. My hubby also made some cheese quesadillas. The potsticker filling was to die for! I will have to use that filling recipe for other stuff too. We could do ravioli or quesadillas. Yum!

Dinner wasn't complete until I could get some sweetness. I threw some strawberries and raspberries in the food processor. I topped angel food cake with the berry mixture. A satisfying light dessert. Healthy too.....unless I go back for another chunk!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Juice Me

May 11, 2013

We started our Mother's Day celebration early. We went out to lunch at Panera Bread. I had a Mediterranean veggie sandwich. My daughter had noodles. My son had macaroni and cheese. My hubby had a tomato mozzarella panini. After lunch we went shopping and I found my Mother's Day gift: a juicer!

Our next stop was at a natural foods store. I picked up some chia meal (the lady said it is easier to use than chia seeds). I'm not real sure what I will do with it but I know I've seen it in a lot of healthier recipes. I also found us a few brands of dairy free yogurt to try. I got a container of coconut milk ice cream. The real fun was that the kids even got to grind up their own fresh peanut butter! We tried one yogurt and the ice cream when we got home. Yum! They were great! Getting off of some dairy might not be so bad.

We came home and I started playing with the juicer. And playing. And playing. We sampled four different juices. First we made a carrot, celery, and apple juice. Next up was pineapple, sweet potato, and orange. Then we tried apple and strawberry. Our last juice was grapefruit, pineapple, and sweet potato. Some of these sound so weird. The sweet potato actually just adds a little sweetness. Ha. Go figure. Sweet from sweet potato. My daughter's favorite was the one with grapefruit, pineapple, and sweet potato. The rest of us really liked the pineapple, orange, and sweet potato.

I looked at a recipe on Iowa girl eats for grilled garden wraps. Her recipe called for grilled eggplant, yellow squash, and corn. Also, there was tomatoes, cucumber, and vegetable cream cheese in the tortilla. Good. But not quite enough. I decided to add in grilled zucchini and onions. I also brought out the bag of spinach. I bought a chive and onion cream cheese alternative for my daughter. Hmmm. I wasn't sure if anyone else would want to eat it. Uh oh. There was no protein in our wrap. I looked in the fridge and saw that I had leftover edamame. I through the edamame, an avocado, garlic, and lime juice in the food processor. I had everyone sample the "cream cheese" and edamame spread to see which they wanted on their wrap. My son said the cream cheese one. WHAT?! My daughter said both. Ok, real test time. Hubby? He wanted both too! I was planning on only having the edamame spread on mine but I couldn't be the only stick in the mud. I had both too.

How did our first meal of eggplant go? Everyone inhaled their wraps. My son just asked that next time we cut the pieces smaller inside of the wrap. My daughter really liked it. I think the only thing I would change is to add mushrooms next time. How did I not add them today?! What about the cream cheese alternative? It was fine with all the other flavors going on.

I had to get the juicer out one last time for the night. I wanted to make bloody mary's for my hubby and me. I used home canned tomatoes, red pepper (from farmer's market), and celery. We poured our fresh juice over ice and of course a little vodka. I finished mine off with celery and my hubby's with a homemade habanero pickle. Ok, that's it for tonight. My bloody mary is waiting...

Friday, May 10, 2013

From Meatballs to Burgers

May 10, 2013

My daughter wanted to try the leftover millet as an oatmeal substitute today. I heated up the millet with some coconut milk then topped it with cinnamon. She liked it but said she still prefers oatmeal. FYI millet dries out quite a bit over night in the fridge so I wouldn't purposefully make extra for leftovers. My son had cinnamon toast crunch cereal for breakfast and went to have his second bowl. Gasp! He finished off the last of the vanilla almond milk and said "mom, we need more vanilla milk"! I was totally expecting him to ask for more regular (cow's) milk.

Oh! Funny story that I forgot to tell yesterday so I will throw it in here today. I was listing off the veggies that I had added to the lentils. My daughter interrupted me and said "what about the potatoes"? Ha! There were no potatoes. She was eating chunks of portobello mushrooms.

My daughter packed a peanut butter sandwich today. She sprinkled her sandwich with some of the pumpkin seeds. My son packed some abc pasta. My hubby had a peanut butter sandwich. I decided to try a lunch idea that I saw on A pizzadilla! I got out a tortilla and topped it with homemade pizza sauce, onion, mushrooms, spinach, green and red peppers (frozen from farmer's market), and mozzarella cheese. I folded it in half and browned it up in a pan. It was delicious! Next time I need to heat up the peppers first. They were pretty juicy thawing out in my pizzadilla.

Nobody could decide what we felt like for dinner. I showed my hubby the list of recipes that I have the ingredients for. He asked if I wanted to do burgers. Wohoo! It just so happens that I had a pot of garbanzo beans simmering on the stove. The meatballs that we made earlier this week were such a hit that we decided to make the same mixture and just flatten them out and cook them as burgers. It was a mixture of garbanzo beans, panko bread crumbs, oatmeal, onion,worcestershire sauce, egg, asiago cheese, parsley, pepper, garlic powder, and salt that I found on We topped them with sauteed onions and mushrooms, lettuce, spinach, tomato, ketchup, and mustard. We made a side salad with romaine lettuce, spinach, red onion, mushrooms, cucumber, and tomatoes. I topped my salad with sunflower seeds. My daughter asked if she could steal a handful of garbanzo beans to top her salad. How did the garbanzo bean burgers fare? We all liked them and nobody has any changes for next time. Oh, except maybe cheese. I totally forgot cheese!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Day of New Foods

May 9, 2013

The quinoa fruit salad was a hit with my daughter. She packed some of the leftovers for her lunch today. My son wanted (what else) than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My hubby packed some of the quinoa salad as well. I had the leftover mini pizzas. My daughter's friend asked her what her lunch was. After my daughter told her, the little girl said "you eat the weirdest things". Ha. I'm proud that my daughter didn't give in to peer pressure and give up her love for "weird" foods.

Our food day got a lot weirder from there. The kids had a half day of school so we went for a ride this afternoon. I took them to a little country store. It was so much fun. I'm nerdy. I like to look at food. So what. I found two fun new snacks for us. They had pumpkin seeds and honey roasted soybeans. We decided to give them a try. I also found dry split peas, dry garbanzo beans, mini bow tie pasta (the kids thought they were too cute to pass up), millet, and local honey. We tried out our new snacks as soon as we got home. My daughter and I  really liked the pumpkin seeds. They were similar to sunflower seeds (which I love). My son said he liked them a little. Next we moved on to the honey roasted soybeans. My son said "eh". My daughter liked them and said they were kind of like peanuts. I really liked them. It was a good crunchy snack.

I decided to go all out and try two new items for dinner tonight. Lentils and millet. Oh boy. My cousin had told me of how she cooks lentils. I cooked onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and baby bella mushrooms until they were about half way cooked. I added lentils, water, and half a pack of onion soup mix. As it simmered, I got the millet out. I toasted it a little in a pan before adding in the water. Two simmering pots is an easy dinner. I got cups out for the kids and asked what kind of milk they wanted. I grabbed the regular milk (cow) for my son because he had said yesterday that he preferred to have cow milk to drink but that the vanilla almond milk was good for in cereal. Surprise! He said he wanted the vanilla almond milk to drink! My daughter had the coconut milk. Wow. Look at us! Now the real test: dinner. Honestly, I wasn't too fond of the smell of the millet simmering. It just had a very strong "grain" smell to it. After a few bites my daughter chimed in "mmmmm this is really good". She devoured her entire plate and had seconds. She is looking forward to tomorrow so she can try to turn the leftover millet into an oatmealish breakfast. My son ate pretty well but when I asked him what he thought he said he didn't like  it too much. As for me? I didn't really like it either. The lentils just have a strange texture. I'm doing better getting into some beans but this just didn't do it for me. I'm willing to give both the lentils and millet another shot. Maybe they will be better in a different type of dish. I asked for suggestions on how to make the meal better (we ask this every night). My daughter said "more lentils". Ha. I should have known my little vegan would LOVE lentils. She said this is one of her favorites of our new meals.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Say Cheese (Kinda) & Grocery Savings

May 8, 2013

My daughter packed the rest of the leftover pasta salad for lunch today. My son packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We threw in some yogurt, fruit, and drinks and they were all set. My hubby mentioned last night that he hasn't had many options for lunches. I felt bad so I grabbed out some veggies to cook up for a sandwich filler for him to pack. Thankfully he jumped in when it was time to cook it though because he put an entire habanero and a part of a ghost pepper in the mix. It choked me out of the kitchen!

Remember my many morning stories that began with me curled up on the couch, clutching my coffee cup, and not wanting to move until I could shake the fog from my head? I feel like I'm on my way to the real me. I can't begin to tell you the difference in how I feel these past two weeks. One of the many differences is the way I feel in the mornings. I have so much more energy. I don't feel like I NEED coffee. I am able to get moving for the day so much easier. I had four errands done by 10:30 this morning and had grocery shopped and was back home by 12:30!

My pre-challenge weekly grocery average was $175. Today I spent $22.45 on toiletries and cleaners. I doubled up on two items because I had a dollar off of two coupon for both of them. I spent 89 cents on impulse items. This morning my son wanted his favorite can of pasta for lunch (ABC's). He was so disappointed when we didn't have any. It wasn't on my list today but I figured that he needed it. :) I spent $99.71 on food. I splurged on two kinds of yummy cheese. I spent $3.69 for Boursin. If you have had Boursin, then you know that it would be worth it to spend $10 on that stuff. Ok, maybe not but it is so delicious. I also spent $3.59 for some fresh mozzarella for a new recipe I have planned for this week.  I spent $2.18 on a gossip magazine. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $125.68 out of pocket. This is a savings of $49.32. My pre-challenge restaurant weekly average was $80. This week we went to lunch at Subway, dinner at Chipotle, and let the kids get McDonald's (yuck yuck ew ew). We spent $52.34 which is a savings of $27.66. The kids packed lunches and saved $14. Our total weekly savings is $91.98. This brings our grand total savings to $3,360.85 in 203 days!

I needed to use up another can of refrigerated biscuits. I made mini pizzas today for lunch. I used home canned pizza sauce, onion, mushrooms, spinach, green pepper (frozen from farmer's market), and mozzarella cheese. On a few of the pizzas I tried soy cheese for the first time. I wanted to get my daughter a cheese alternative seeing as she wants to go vegan. I figured I should give it a try before I give it to her. It actually didn't taste that different from regular mozzarella. It didn't brown up as much as regular though (it is the pizza on the front/right in the picture).

This afternoon I made a quinoa fruit salad. I saw a recipe on Two Peas and a Pod that I somewhat followed. I cooked quinoa and added craisins half way through the cook time. I let it cool and then added strawberries, peaches, mango, mint, honey,lime juice, and a little salt. Yum. Now my hubby will have something to take for lunch tomorrow!

I needed a quick dinner for tonight because the kids had activities. The stir fry that I usually make has sauce all over the veggies. I decided to keep the sauce separate today. I sauteed carrots, broccoli, celery, napa cabbage, and red cabbage. I stirred in edamame and baby corn. In a separate pan, I sauteed onion and mushrooms. I added in white wine. Once that was reduced, I added our favorite teriyaki sauce and a little soy sauce. It was served over sushi rice and a side of sushi ginger. The kids liked it much better having the veggies free of sauce.