Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Two new dishes; grocery savings

August 28, 2013

Today was grocery shopping day. My hubby had daytime hours off today so all four of us headed out. We ate at the food court before going into the commissary.

My pre-challenge weekly grocery average was $175. Today I spent $22.86 on toiletries/cleaners. I spent $91.94 on food. I spent $14.28 on impulse items. My hubby asked for refried beans, vegetarian sausage, and some vegetarian frozen lunches. I also grabbed a container of crescent rolls. I spent $7.26 on gossip magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $137.98. That is a savings of $37.02. My pre-challenge restaurant weekly average was $80. We went on a lunch date and also had lunch out today. We spent $52.10 this week. This is a savings of $27.90. This brings our weekly savings to $64.92. Our grand total savings is $4,394.12 in 315 days! I asked my son if he would try the organic version of cinnamon toast crunch cereal. He didn't want to. I told him that I would buy the organic one, but that it would not count as his one item (each kid gets to pick one special item from the store which eliminates them asking for something in each aisle). He agreed. I held a taste test once we got home. First a bite of the organic followed up by one of his regular cinnamon toast crunch. Fooled! He totally guessed wrong. Guess which cereal he'll be getting again next week!

I wanted to try something new for dinner tonight. I found a recipe "Ellie Krieger's Fried Rice with scallions, edamame, and tofu". I scanned it and then figured that I could just wing it. Fried rice isn't that difficult. I started out with garlic, ginger, red onion, green pepper, and julienned carrot. Next I added in cubed tofu (firm, that had been pressed). After a few minutes, I stirred in some leftover corn, edamame, and leftover quinoa. I figured that quinoa was close enough to rice. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and garlic & wine seasoning. I pushed everything to the outside of the pan and added two eggs to the center. I cooked and stirred it all together. I added soy sauce. I served it with green onion, sushi ginger, and teriyaki sauce.

I needed a side dish. I looked in the cupboard and couldn't believe what I saw. Dried seaweed. I totally forgot that my daughter had asked for that a few weeks ago. I thought I would try to make miso soup. Both of the kids love that. I didn't have miso paste. Hmmmm. I thawed out some homemade veggie broth and also stirred in some water. I sliced a few mushrooms very thin. I tore up a sheet of dried seaweed and added it to the broth. After letting it simmer for awhile (very low heat), I stirred in the mushrooms and small pieces of tofu. I served it with green onion.

Fingers crossed. How did dinner turn out? Did I score major brownie points for making some of my daughter's favorites (tofu)? Everyone really liked the fried quinoa with tofu. My son said it was amazing. Nobody could come up with any changes needed for next time. Wohoo! My hubby and I aren't really big on miso soup in general and my attempt tonight was no different. However, I was really hoping the kids would like it. Not so much. The broth wasn't quite right. I'm not sure if the seaweed's strong flavor didn't blend well with the veggie broth. Maybe I should have just used water. Maybe it really does need the miso paste. Oh well. The kids kept coming into the kitchen to steal chunks of tofu as I was cooking. Then they kept coming in to grab seaweed sheets. My son ate three and my daughter ate six. Holy smokes. I guess we're doing something right. Our kids definitely love a wide range of foods. Even though my soup kinda flopped, I'm still calling tonight a success. I cooked tofu and we all liked it. Score!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Creamy stuffed peppers

August 26 & 27, 2013

I wanted a warm melty sandwich for lunch. I sauteed some onion, mushrooms, and green pepper. I also added on arugula, black olives, and mexican cheese. Mmmm. Broiler sandwiches are the way to go.

I was walking around our back yard and looked at our apple tree. It was so loaded. I decided to pick a bunch of apples and see what I could do. The apples are still very small. So small that I was wondering if it was even worth messing with. I peeled and cut up a bunch of apples until I had six cups of apples ready to go. I cooked them with 1/4 cup water. I tried to keep the sugar limited but the apples themselves were tart so I had to add a little more. I probably ended up using about half a cup of sugar. They didn't take too long to cook. The kids loved it. I was so excited that I was able to make something delicious out of those tiny apples!

My hubby had to work through dinner so we had a fend for yourself night. I had leftover pizza. The kids had vegetarian chicken wings and leftover cauliflower.

Tomorrow's job is grocery shopping. That makes today's job using up stuff out of the fridge. For lunch, I grabbed the container of black beans that were processed with homemade salsa. I put some of it on a Hawaiian roll. I had containers of chopped up onion, mushroom, and green pepper leftover from when we made pudgy pies. I sauteed the veggies and put them on my roll. I added arugula and mexican cheese. Back to the broiler!

I wanted to make a dinner that would use up more of the stuff in the fridge. I had three big green peppers. Aha. Stuffed peppers it is. I decided to try altering how I made them last time and just go with whatever ingredients I had to use. I sauteed some red onion, carrots, turnips, green pepper, and fresh garlic in a little olive oil and butter. I added in kale and local white wine. I seasoned it with garlic & wine seasoning and salt. At the last minute, I stirred in corn and cooked quinoa. I found a container of cream cheese and processed black beans in the fridge. It was leftover from when I made lasagna. Perfect. I spread some of the cream cheese in the bottom of the peppers. I stuffed them with the quinoa veggie mix. I topped them with a sauce made from tomato sauce, brown sugar, and worcestershire sauce. I had also put a thin layer of sauce under the peppers. I put habanero pepper slices on top of my hubby's peppers. I topped the peppers with cheese. A few peppers had mozzarella. A couple had mexican cheese. One pepper had cheddar cheese. The baked at 400 for about 25 minutes. For a quick side, I chopped up carrots, red onion, and cucumber. I also grabbed the green onion, arugula, lettuce, and peas for a salad. There was just a small amount of homemade applesauce left so we each had a scoop. My daughter made us a batch of her deviled eggs.

How was dinner? Everyone really liked the stuffed peppers. We agreed that we liked this recipe even better than the last time I made stuffed peppers. I love stuffed peppers. It is such a versatile dish. You can alter it and throw just about any veggie you have into the filling. Out of mushrooms? No big deal. Just add more of something else. Have leftover rice in the fridge? Use that instead of quinoa. You get the idea.

The garlic & wine seasoning really makes the deviled eggs pop. My son who really isn't a fan of eggs (in any form) asked me to buy two "boxes" of eggs tomorrow and to make them all into deviled eggs. Ha!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Guess what I made today

August 25, 2013

Today was a fun food day. My hubby made us all breakfast today. He made us omelets out of sauteed onion, mushroom, green peppers, and kale. The meat eaters had ham. He also added in american cheese. We topped it with green onion and avocado. He seasoned the omelets with kosher salt, garlic & wine seasoning, and basil. Oh! I almost forgot. I was busy in the kitchen before everyone woke up. I made a loaf of bread. Very special bread. Bread that I made one of my guests (the lucky one who slept in the latest) try and guess what kind of bread it was. It took 12 guesses!

  1. Zucchini- no
  2. Maple- no
  3. Brown sugar-(yes it was an ingredient, but no)
  4. Peach- no
  5. Apple- no
  6. Cucumber- no
  7. Nuts- no
  8. Orange- no
  9. "Well, I know it's not potato". At this point, we gave him a hint. I said it is a vegetable that your wife likes.
  10. Avocado- no. Then we gave him another hint that he had eaten it in the past few days.
  11. Guacamole- no. Then his wife gave him the hint that he had eaten it on the way to my house.
  12. Aha! Sweet potato!
Ha. I'm not sure if I have ever laughed so hard eating breakfast.

My hubby and I went out on a date this afternoon. Yay! We went to TGIF for a light lunch of skillet nachos and spinach artichoke flatbread. Then we went to the movie theater.

We made a campfire and had pizza pudgy pies for dinner. We had onion, mushroom, green pepper, arugula, black olives, mozzarella cheese, and my homemade pizza sauce. The meat eaters also added in ham and pepperoni. My hubby decided that he didn't want pizza pudgy pies so he had a sauteed onion/mushroom and a buffalo hot sauce cheese sandwich.

Dessert. Oh, dessert. I may have ended up with two plates in front of me! It is the recipe for "wave your flag cake" from Kraft. You top angel food cake with jello and berries. The frosting is made out of cream cheese, cool whip, and sugar. We used raspberry jello and raspberries from the farmer's market. We also topped it with some blueberries. Yum. It is so know, so you can keep filling your face without getting too full. Ha! My kind of dessert.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The tale of two pies

August 24, 2013

My mom taught me well. I in turn, taught my kiddos well. To do what? Garage sales! My son scored baseball cleats and talked the lady down to a quarter. My daughter talked another lady down to a quarter for a magnetic mirror (brand new) to go in her locker. They found deals left and right but I left empty handed. It was still a lot of fun to see how excited they would get when they would find a bargain.

In the midst of our rummage sale run, we headed out for lunch. Our company treated us to a delicious lunch at Moe's. I stuffed everything I could into my burrito: rice, black beans, tofu, grilled onion/pepper/mushrooms, queso, guacamole, cilantro, and pico de gallo. Yum! We finished up our day out by stopping by our local apple cider mill. We got a few bags of apples, warm cider donuts, and a gallon of apple cider.

My hubby and I got to work on dinner. He made up another batch of his amazing caramelized onions. We duplicated the best pizza (pie) we ever had (the one he made a few nights ago) and added a few items to it. We had grilled green pepper and mushrooms. I sauteed corn and fresh garlic in butter (seasoned with salt and pepper). We also used arugula, black olives, mozzarella cheese, provolone cheese, feta cheese, and a little bit of muenster. Of course we used my homemade pizza sauce. What did our company think? "This pizza could be served in a pizzeria"! She also said that from now on onions will be caramelized in many of her recipes. Score!

Next up was dessert. We made an apple pie with the apples that we got from the cider mill today. I'm not sure where this recipe originated from but I got it from a friend about 14 years ago. 3/4 cup sugar (I do half brown and half white), 2 TBsp flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 2 tsp lemon juice, 6-7 cups apples (peeled and sliced), and 1 TB butter. Mix sugar with next five ingredients. Place bottom pie crust into pie plate. Place half of the apples into your pie plate. Sprinkle with half of sugar. Add rest of apples and then the rest of the sugar. Dot with butter. Top with other crust and cut some vent slits. Bake at 425 for 45 minutes. What did our company think of dessert? "This pie is better than the pie we bought at an apple store". Double score!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Coconut sauce

August 23, 2013

What a great food day! We started off by trying out a new pancake mix. I found a package of apple cinnamon pancake mix at a small local store. My hubby mixed them up (using apple juice) and cooked us up a batch. I used our juicer and made fresh tangelo (cross between grapefruit and tangerine) juice. We used my father in law's homemade maple syrup. The pancakes were delicious! I will definitely be heading back to buy some more!

We hit up the farmer's market and got our next job for the day: corn. I bought 7 dozen. We had a quick lunch of sandwiches, homemade pickles, and chips. I was thankful for my company today. It made the work go much faster with six hands pitching in. We peeled the corn, blanched it for five minutes, dunked it in a sink of cold water/ice, cut it off the cobs, bagged it, and froze it. Whew. My freezer is happy....and so is my dog. He was thrilled with having to "clean up" all the corn that flew off the counter!

Dinner rolled around and we decided to make one of our favorite sauces. The copycat recipe for Red Lobster's Parrot Bay coconut sauce (found at My hubby grilled some chicken thighs with teriyaki sauce for the meat eaters. I baked some vegetarian chicken tenders for the non-meat eaters. I cooked up some jasmine rice figuring that it would soak up the sauce nicely. I steamed some green beans and set out all the veggies/greens for a salad. We used up the rest of the loaf of Italian bread too.

I had  our meat eater company try a bite of the vegetarian chicken tenders. The reply? "So that's just a chicken strip"? Ha. Close. Just not chicken. The sauce was delicious as usual. We were talking after dinner and mentioned how it would be good used as a dessert sauce too. We could put it with pound cake or even over ice cream. Mmmm.

I bet by now you thought I would leave you hanging and you would have to go search for the sauce recipe. Wrong! 1 cup pina colada mix, 1/4 cup water, 2 TBsp crushed pineapple (I used fresh pineapple), 1 TBsp and 1 tsp sweetened coconut flakes, 3 TBsp and 1 tsp powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, and 3 tsp cold water. Mix the first five ingredients in a sauce pan. Heat on medium low temperature until it simmers. Stir frequently. Simmer slowly for 10-12 minutes. Mix corn starch and water and add to sauce. Simmer 3-5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. You're welcome!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Homemade baked beans

August 22, 2013

We spent the morning playing with our puppy. Ok. So we spent the day playing with our puppy. Ha. I picked a few goodies from the garden today (green beans and lettuce) while my son picked and snacked on green onions. Crazy kid.

I wanted to make a pot of baked beans for lunch. I got a recipe for semi-homemade beans from my hubby's cousin. The base of it is a can of store bought baked beans and then you add in more beans and some homemade sauce. We made them for my son's birthday and everyone loved them (my son included who normally doesn't like baked beans). Today I wanted to eliminate the store bought beans. I wanted it all homemade so I would know exactly what was in it. I started out by cooking up some onion in olive oil. I added 2 cups each of lima beans, small white beans, and black eyed peas (all cooked from dry beans and then frozen). I decided to double the recipe for sauce seeing as I had eliminated the store bought can. I added in a cup of brown sugar, a cup of water, a cup of ketchup, 4 teaspoons of vinegar, and 2 teaspoons of mustard. They were delicious. There is no need to start out with any store bought variety. I may try to cut back on the brown sugar next time. They weren't too sweet for me; it is just the thought of putting so much sugar in it. I made melty subs to go along with our beans. The meat eaters started out with ham and pepperoni. We all had sauteed onion, mushrooms, garlic, and green peppers. I used provolone and muenster cheese on them. Under the broiler until melty, and then it is time to add on arugula and avocado. I put out four types of homemade pickles for everyone to choose from. Yum. Double Yum. 

I worked on a large pot of black beans today to freeze. I ended up with five bags after my daughter kept stealing from my pot! For dinner, I half way took the easy way out. We heated up the leftover lasagna rolls. I cooked some corn on the cob. We had more of the Italian bread with garlic butter. We had salad again with all of the fixings (lettuce, arugula, baby kale, green onion, carrot, green pepper, peas). My daughter made a batch of her famous deviled eggs. The secret (shhhh don't tell her I told you) is using garlic and wine seasoning from The Melting Pot. Wow. Kind of makes me wish we just had a plateful of deviled eggs for dinner!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lasagna rolls & grocery savings

August 21, 2013

Divide and conquer. That was today's strategy. My daughter and I ran errands and got groceries. My hubby and son stayed home and finished up our to do list (some cleaning and some man work).

My pre-challenge grocery weekly average was $175. Today I spent $24.39 on cleaners and toiletries (including expensive allergy medicine). I spent $1.49 on impulse items. I saw a loaf of Italian bread and thought it would go great with lasagna tonight. I spent $10.16 on gossip magazines. Now on to food. I spent $113.17 on food. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $152.11 out of pocket. A little higher this week but for a good reason....we are having company stay with us. Yay! This is a savings of $22.89. My pre-challenge weekly restaurant average was $80. This week we ordered in from a local Italian place and went out to Olive Garden. We spent $90.17. Oops. This is over by $10.17. Taking that overage out of our savings brings our weekly total savings to $12.72. Our grand total savings is $4,329.20 in 308 days. It feels like it has been slow moving for the past month or so. Oh well. It will pick up soon!

I decided to alter our lasagna recipe tonight. I knew I could include black beans with the filling and no one would notice it. I put a block of cream cheese, about a cup of black beans, and a few spoonfuls of homemade spaghetti sauce into the food processor. I spread the mixture onto cooked lasagna noodles. Next I added a sauteed mixture of onion, mushrooms, spinach, and garlic that was cooked with white wine. I seasoned the veggies with adobo and garlic/wine seasoning. After the veggies, a little bit of mozzarella cheese went on. I rolled up the lasagna noodles. I put a little sauce in the bottom of a cake pan, set the rolls on top, then put more sauce on them. I topped the rolls with american cheese, pepperoni for the meat eaters, mozzarella cheese, and romano cheese. I baked the lasagna rolls at 400 until warmed then stuck it under the broiler to brown the cheese.

My daughter made her special garlic butter to go on the Italian bread. She added parsley, salt, and pepper. I forgot to get it in the picture though. Tonight was also the first night that we got to eat green beans from my garden as a meal. Delicious. I let everyone build their salads and choose what items they wanted. We chose from lettuce, baby kale, arugula, pea shoots, peas, carrots, green pepper, and green onion.

How did dinner turn out? Everyone said the lasagna was really good and nobody could taste the beans. Score!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chicken sandwiches & tortellini

August 20, 2013

This morning was amazing. I snuggled my puppy like nobody's business! That little ball of fluff sure does make a good couch buddy. While I enjoyed my buddy, my hubby took over the kitchen.

We both fell in love with caramelized onions when he made that pizza earlier this week. You know, THE pizza. If you haven't read that day's entry, go now. I'll wait for you to come back......

My hubby decided to up our boring chicken (vegetarian) patty sandwiches. He baked the patties. He topped them with provolone cheese. I shouldn't say topped. It was more like smothered. Or cloaked. Next went a layer of caramelized onions. Sigh. He didn't stop there. He added lettuce from our garden, arugula, and tomato. We had a simple side of homemade pickles. Oh wow. I think caramelized onions need to go on everything from now on! So Yum!

My hubby worked this evening. The kids and I worked on cleaning the house. Dinner rolled around and I didn't feel like dirtying up the kitchen again. I had a pack of three cheese tortellini. I also had some homemade spaghetti sauce leftover from yesterday. I had a small container leftover of the spaghetti sauce mixed with processed black beans as well. There was still some of the steamed cauliflower in the fridge too. I grabbed the block of romano cheese and called it good. The kids also munched on some shelled peas. My daughter had cleaned her plate when I asked her what she thought of the sauce. I then informed her that there was black beans in it. She couldn't even tell. My son had three helpings and asked for "1,000 tortellinis". Ha. Definitely a food win day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

When meat eaters and a vegetarian come together

August 19, 2013

We spent the morning working around the house. The kids liked that I made a list of what had to get done versus me just asking them to go do a specific job. They were able to pick which job they wanted to do next. Lunch rolled around and I got so excited. Yep, all because I remembered that there was leftover pizza from last night. Oh man. That pizza. So so delicious. I can't wait to make it again. Caramelized onion, grilled veggie, and corn pizza is a recipe here to stay. My hubby and I finished the pizza. The kids had macaroni and cheese. We also made a big side salad out of baby kale, arugula, lettuce from my garden, green onion, carrots, cucumber, green pepper, mushrooms, pea shoots, and peas.

I had some friends over for dinner (and then a Mary Kay facial party) so I had to figure out what meal I could make for meat eaters. I settled on spaghetti. It is easy enough to add meat to theirs while keeping mine vegetarian. Then I remembered something. Awhile back I had processed a handful of black beans with some spaghetti sauce and spread it in the lasagna roll ups. No one could taste the beans. I decided to make a batch for myself. I had about a cup of black beans in the fridge. I stuck them in the food processor and added homemade spaghetti sauce. I had a pan of grass fed local ground beef and spaghetti sauce for my friends and all the kids. I topped our spaghetti with freshly grated romano (forgot until after the picture). I steamed cauliflower. I made another salad for dinner. The black bean spaghetti turned out great. I prefer the beans processed with the sauce instead of having whole beans in the spaghetti like I had been doing. Yum!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

This pizza tops them all

August 18, 2013

Well, it's happened. It only took two months shy of 15 years of marriage and eleventy billion homemade pizzas but we've done it. We just made the BEST pizza we have ever eaten. It tasted like something Chef Ramsey (one of our favorite t.v. personalities) would serve. Hold on to your seats. I am about to give you the ingredients for the best pizza your mouth will ever taste. Ready?!

We started off with our homemade pizza sauce. I've already given you that recipe previously so I will move on. Next, my hubby made caramelized onions. Oh wow. They are the star. He sauteed onion in olive oil and butter. He added in local white wine, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. They cooked for probably about 25 minutes. They turned out so delicious. Almost like candy. I asked him if he could make a batch of caramelized onion every weekend so we could use it throughout the week. Yep, they were that good. Next up, fresh corn from the farmer's market. I cut it off of the cob. I added the corn and some chopped fresh garlic to some butter in a skillet. I sauteed the corn and added just a little salt and pepper. I only partially cooked the corn because it would finish cooking on the pizza in the oven. My hubby's next step was to grill some veggies. Sure you could just add raw green pepper and mushrooms. Why skip a step that elevates their flavor? Don't. You will thank me later. We had some sliced black olives leftover in the fridge. We also put on some arugula. We topped the pizza with mozzarella and provolone cheeses.

I cannot begin to explain the amount of flavor going on in this pizza. The caramelized onions gave the pizza a sweetness. The grilled green pepper and mushrooms added a smoky flavor. The arugula gave a peppery/spiced flavor. The corn added to the depth of sweetness. My hubby and I both agreed that this was the best pizza we have ever made. And we've made so many variations over the years. We made slow roasted pulled pork and potato pizza. We made taco pizza. We made santa fe chicken pizza. We made sausage and mixed veggie pizza. We even ate (at restaurants) buffalo chicken, duck with hoisin, and rueben pizza. You name it. We ate it. This one still tops them all. Thankfully there are two pieces leftover so there won't be a fight at lunch tomorrow!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A few days in the life of...

August 15, 16, & 17, 2013

Here we go. Another few busy days. I had a friend over on Thursday. Why? I was going to make pickles (again) and she hadn't made them before. Perfect time for her to come over and learn how to make some. We spent the day making 4 quarts and 11 pints of pickles. My friend left and I realized that I still had some pickle juice leftover. Hmmm. I threw 4 more pints together of mixed veggies (green beans, cauliflower, and peppers.

The kids got to test for their orange belt in karate on Thursday evening. We had a quick dinner before we left. My hubby and I had melty deliciousness. We made sandwiches on mini sweet Hawaiian sub buns. We sauteed onions, mushrooms, and green peppers. We also added arugula and mexican/cheddar cheeses. Into the oven for a few minutes and we were all set. The kids had peanut butter sandwiches and fruit.

Friday of course means the farmer's market. I scored a huge bucket of tomatoes which then turned my lazy day into a 5 hour tomato session! I canned 7 quarts and 4 pints of tomatoes. I also wound up buying another basket of pickling cucumbers but those had to wait. I was too tired to make dinner so we ordered in. We had stuffed riggies and a veggie pizza from a local Italian restaurant. The pizza had onion, mushrooms, green peppers, black olives, and broccoli. Yes, I know. Broccoli doesn't sound good as a pizza topping. It totally works!

My hubby and I spent our morning making, you guessed it, more pickles. He loves those things. The hotter the better. We made 14 pints today. I'm thinking I may be done making pickles for this year. We will see if I am able to walk past the pickling cucumbers next Friday. Ha! For lunch today we had burgers. My hubby and I had grilled portobello mushrooms. He topped them with smashed black beans, fresh garlic, green onion, arugula, and avocado. He also had some habanero peppers. I had american cheese. He had buffalo blue cheese and provolone. The kids had beef burgers. We had to stay in the pickle mood so we had a side of homemade pickles. The kids tackled some more of the fruit they scored at the farmer's market.

Time for dinner. A beautiful summer evening. To me that shouts out a bonfire and pudgy pies. There is nothing better than a campfire sandwich and hanging out with my family. Tonight's pudgy pies had homemade pizza sauce, onion, green pepper, mushrooms, black olives, arugula, and mozzarella cheese. YUM!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Spaghetti two ways & grocery savings

August 13 & 14, 2013

I started the day by loading up my slow cooker. I added turnips, red and white potatoes, carrots, and onions to vegetable broth. I threw in a couple bay leaves. We packed a lunch and headed to our friend's house for the day. We brought ham (for the kids), provolone cheese, arugula, green peppers, red onion, pea shoots, and cucumbers. We also brought along some veggie chips. We played at the park and then headed home to make dinner. I saw that I had a container of leftover red quinoa. Hmmmm. That will work as a bed for the veggies and broth. I grabbed some Hawaiian rolls and called it good.

Today was grocery day. My pre-challenge weekly average was $175. Today I spent $14.40 on toiletries and cleaners. I spent $69.78 on food. I spent $4.55 on impulse items (I couldn't pass up three cheese tortellini). I spent $7.99 on gossip magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $97.96 out of pocket. That is a savings of $77.04. Our weekly pre-challenge weekly restaurant average was $80. This week we took our daughter's friend to Pizza Hut, met a friend at TGIF, had Subway on a busy night of canning, and met my hubby for lunch today at the food court at the PX. We spent $114.37 this week. This is an overage of $34.37. Taking my grocery savings and subtracting our overage leaves us with a weekly savings of $42.67. This brings our grand total to $4,316.48 in 301 days.

My daughter has been asking for spaghetti. She had one stipulation: she wanted meat. I can do that. Spaghetti is an easy meal to make part vegetarian and part for meat eaters. I cooked some angel hair pasta and stirred in a jar of my home canned spaghetti sauce. I grabbed a bag of small white beans out of the freezer and broke off about half a cup. I threw them in the microwave on defrost. I browned up some local grass fed ground beef for the kiddos. When I plated our dinner, I just put some beef on their plate and topped it with the spaghetti. I topped my spaghetti with the beans and some freshly grated romano cheese. As an easy side, I decided to make a salad. I added baby kale, baby arugula, green onion, peas, red onion, green pepper, cucumber, carrots, pea shoots, and sunflower seeds. Whew. What a salad! Spaghetti is one of my favorite meals so of course it was delicious! My daughter had a second helping.  As she put her plate into the dishwasher she said,"I appreciate you making meat, mom". Ha. No problem kiddo.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Stuffed peppers

August 9, 10, 11, & 12, 2013

I can't believe I have neglected my blog for so many days. I've been a busy gal. On Friday, we took our daughter's friend out to dinner with us and then over to our house for a sleep over.

On Saturday, I made another batch of hot (habanero, garlic, & dill) pickles for my hubby. I had one jar leftover of the pickling juice so I threw in a handful of green beans and crossed my fingers that they would turn out like a pickle. They were a success. My kids already ate half of that jar! My son asked me to make more of the green bean pickles so that he can bring them to school when the school year starts.

On Sunday, I made another batch of pizza sauce. Our neighbor asked us to go blackberry picking with them in their patch. I ended up with a basket full of berries. Score! I made a blackberry pie and still had a small container leftover. My neighbor asked me if I would make him jam out of his chokecherries. Yep, I'm game. Into the canner it went. It was my first attempt at jam so I was nervous. Chokecherries have a dryness to them but this morning once we buttered our toast and put on some of my jam..... it worked! My son loved it. He even asked for it for lunch today. I was totally shocked when he asked for another toast and jam after dinner tonight (my daughter did too!). I guess I better get back to the canner and find more jam to make.

I'll give you a few highlights of some of our food we have been enjoying during the past few days. We had a ton of grilled veggies for lunch (along with some beans and cheese). We had corn on the cob served with butter and thyme (oh yum!), and a mix of potatoes, onion, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, and yellow squash.

One night we weren't too hungry so my hubby and I had a dip dinner night. We used up a few leftover items to come up with our dip. There was leftover containers of vegetarian chili, cream cheese/cheddar cheese (from filling jalapeno poppers), and a mix of onion, mushrooms, green pepper, and orange pepper. My hubby sauteed the veggies and layered cream cheese mix, veggies, chili, and topped it with cheddar cheese. I LOVE dip nights!

The meal I am most proud of these past few days is tonight's dinner. I browsed a few recipes to get ideas and then decided to just wing it and throw stuff together to make stuffed peppers. Here is what I came up with. I cooked a cup of red quinoa. I sauteed red onion, fresh garlic, mushrooms, orange pepper, red pepper, and spinach in olive oil. I added local white wine, salt, garlic & wine seasoning, oregano, thyme (from my garden), and italian seasoning. I stirred in some leftover small white beans and about 3/4 of the cooked quinoa. I cut green peppers in half lengthwise. I used my mom's recipe for sauce. Two large cans of tomato sauce (I used 3 cups), 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (mom's recipe calls for 2). I also added in a tablespoon of worcestershire sauce. I put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a cake pan. I set the peppers on it and baked at 400 for ten minutes. Then I filled the peppers with the quinoa and veggie mixture. I took a picture of the filling so you could see it better than the finished peppers. I spooned some sauce over the top and then added mozzarella cheese. I poured sauce all around the peppers and stuck them back into the oven for about 20-25 minutes. I steamed some broccolini and green beans. This was my first picking of green beans from my garden. I was too anxious to wait until there was enough for a meal so I just threw them in with the broccolini.

How did the stuffed peppers turn out? My daughter took a bite and said that it tasted like ground beef. I took a bite and thought I tasted bacon. What? Ha. We all loved them. My favorite part was when I asked everyone for what changes should be made next time. We all answered, "nothing". Yay! Dinner success.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Roasted turnips; grocery savings

August 7 & 8, 2013

I did something extraordinary yesterday. Ok, maybe not. However, it was extraordinary for me....I actually made breakfast! I made a batch of buckwheat pancakes for my kiddos. I gave them a little dusting of powdered sugar and topped them with my father in law's homemade maple syrup.

I still had a container of leftover cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and garlic/wine seasoning from when I made homemade jalapeno poppers. My hubby used some of the cheese mixture, kale, onions, mushrooms, and extra mexican cheese to make us quesadillas for lunch. Yum!

I got busy with housework and didn't realize that it was time to make dinner until it was really close to time to go to karate practice. It seems like that always happens on Wednesdays. I threw some black beans and homemade salsa into the food processor. I sauteed some onion, mushrooms, garlic, and green pepper. I got out arugula, cilantro, small white beans, more black beans, sour cream, green onions, and mexican cheese. A night of quick wraps it is.

Today was grocery day. My pre-challenge commissary weekly average was $175. Today I spent $29.78 on toiletries and cleaners. I spent $10.06 on impulse items. I saw a cereal bar made out of quinoa, craisins, and almonds. I couldn't pass them up. I also got the kids each a lunchable. They never get them anymore so I let them today as a treat. We compromised though and they got the small ones that only come with the meal and not the drink, snack, etc. I also got a bag of a new fruit. It is a cross between tangerines and grapefruit. I spent $7.26 on magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $127 out of pocket. This is a savings of $48. My pre-challenge weekly restaurant average was $80. Remember how awful we did last week? We made up for it this week by not eating out at all. Wait, what?! Awesome. That is a savings of $80. Our total savings for this week is $128 which brings our grand total savings to $4,273.81 in 295 days! Yay! This makes me feel much better than last week.

I wanted to have turnips for dinner. Our first experience with turnips (earlier this week) was amazing and I knew we had to plan on having them again tonight. I made a pan of roasted veggies. I had turnips, sweet potato, and onion. I tossed them in olive oil and just used garlic and wine seasoning. They cooked in the oven at 425. Perfect. I also had a pack of vegetarian chicken that bakes at the same temperature. I put together a side salad too. Lettuce from our garden, arugula, spinach, green onion (from my garden), red onion, peas, tomato, cucumber (first one from my garden!), carrots, and sunflower seeds. I used my new julienne peeler for the carrots and cucumber. The kids LOVE julienne veggies. I guess they are more fun when they are cut differently. Ha. My daughter picked out some hawaiian rolls to go along with our meal.

We now have four fans of turnips in our house! I'm already looking forward to figuring out how to use up the rest of the ones our friends gave us!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jalapeno poppers & vegetarian shepard's pie

August 5 & 6, 2013

Yesterday wasn't much of a fun food day. We had leftover grilled veggies/salad for lunch. We went to visit our friends before dinner and ended up staying and chatting until 8 p.m. Oops! We got home and my son had a sandwich and fruit. My daughter had cereal, an egg, and fruit. My hubby and I had a dip night. He put cream cheese, vegetarian chili, garlic and wine seasoning, diced onion, and cheddar/muenster/chipotle cheeses on top. Yum!

Today we had another day of leftover veggies and salad for lunch. It is so quick, easy, and delicious to have a summery salad for lunch. I can't say that I am getting tired of them. Yet. Ha.

My hubby headed into work and I got to work in the kitchen. I made a batch of homemade jalapeno poppers. I used to not even like jalapeno poppers. That is, until we found this recipe in a "top secret restaurant clone" cookbook. The recipe is for Red Robin No-Fire Peppers. Over the years, we made some changes to it. Here is how we make them. Slice peppers in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds/membrane. Poach them. They only need to be boiled for 8-10 minutes (not 10-15 per the recipe). Dry the peppers. We added the step of dipping them in flour first prior to filling them; it helps it to stick better. The recipe calls for cream cheese as the only filler. BORING. We season it with our favorite (garlic and wine seasoning) and also stir in a handful of shredded cheddar cheese. There is no need to add salt or oil to the eggs as per the recipe. We simply beat them with a mixer. We do not measure the flour or seasonings. Just eyeball how you would normally season flour to bread something. Season with garlic powder, paprika, and onion powder. We also started adding the garlic and wine seasoning that we get from The Melting Pot (can you tell we love garlic). So you dip the poached peppers into the seasoned flour and then fill it with the cream cheese mixture. Next, they go back into the flour. Then into the egg. Back into the flour. Back into the egg. And its final resting spot is in crushed corn flakes. Freeze the poppers for a few hours before you try to throw them in a freezer bag. When it is time to cook, just heat up oil in a pan and cook them until golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and fill your face! 

This afternoon I picked up my order from a friend's Pampered Chef party. I ordered a set of six mini pie pans. They were too cute to not use for dinner tonight. Hmmmm. I didn't have any pie crust though. I figured that I could make some type of a shepard's pie. I didn't want to put gravy in it because the bottom of the pie pan is removable and I was worried the gravy would drip out. 

I sauteed red onion, celery, carrots, cauliflower,and turnips. This was the first time that I have cooked turnips. Our friends gave us some out of their garden and I was pretty excited to try them. I added chopped garlic, garlic and wine seasoning, and just a little bit of vegetable broth. I made some mashed potatoes. I normally add milk, butter, and sour cream to the potatoes. I was out of cow's milk and only had almond milk. I didn't want the potatoes to take on a weird flavor so I skipped the milk and just kept a tiny bit of the water that they were cooked in. I added about a cup of small white beans to the veggies and then let the broth cook out. I put a few scoops of veggies into the pan, topped it with mashed potatoes, then topped the pies with cheese. Two pies got cheddar cheese. Two pies got taco cheese. Two pies got mexican cheese. I put them in the oven at 400 just long enough to melt the cheese. I made a gravy out of the rest of the can of broth. I just added a little thyme, salt, and pepper to season it a bit and then served it on top.

My daughter said dinner was amazing and that she loved it. She had two helpings. She said that next time we should add corn. Agreed! My son said it was really good. I thought it was really good. I was surprised that the three of us all liked the turnips so much. I can't wait to try them out in another recipe!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dinner was paid for with pickles

August 3 & 4, 2013

I spent the weekend in the kitchen. Yesterday, we had a quick lunch of grilled veggies. My hubby grilled potatoes, onion, mushrooms, and peppers. I had mine over arugula and topped it with ranch and sunflower seeds. Then I got busy. I had bought a five gallon bucket of tomatoes at the farmer's market (so sad that my garden is so far behind this year). It was time for spaghetti sauce. Oh my gosh. Did I ever do the sauce! I used a pot that I had gotten from my father in law. It held FOUR batches of spaghetti sauce. I ended up with 27 pints of spaghetti sauce. I also did one small batch of pizza sauce and got 5 jars.

I use a spaghetti sauce recipe that I got from my sister (no idea where she got it from originally). 1 large onion, 1 large green pepper, 20 ounces tomatoes, 30 ounces tomato sauce, 24 ounces tomato paste, 1/2 pound mushrooms, 4 cups water, 2 bay leaves, a little black pepper, and 2 teaspoons each of:parsley, basil, oregano, garlic powder, sugar, salt, and italian. Add everything together and bring to a boil then simmer for 2-3 hours. You can either freeze the spaghetti sauce or process it for 30 minutes in a hot water bath canner. I love this sauce. I use it for lasagna now too. It is much easier to just pop open a jar instead of making lasagna sauce from scratch.

After working all day on sauce, we decided to enjoy our night. We had some friends over for dinner and a bonfire. We had tacos and a queso dip. My hubby browned some local grass fed beef for our friends' tacos. We had sauteed onion, pepper, and mushroom along with refried beans. We topped our tacos with lettuce, green onion, and jalapeno from my garden. We also used tomatoes, cilantro, mexican cheese, sour cream, and some of my homemade salsa. Our friends brought fruit platters, cheesecake, and angel food cake. Yum! It looked so good that I dove right in and forgot to take a picture. Oops!

I was back into the kitchen this morning. Today's job was hot pickles. I used habanero, scotch bonnet, and ghost peppers. I also added in a couple garlic cloves and sprigs of dill to each jar. I've got a very happy hubby! I can't wait to see (notice I didn't say taste!) how hot these are for him. He loves loves loves hot stuff.

I took a break for lunch. My daughter wrote up a menu (after browsing our fridge of leftovers) and then served us all our lunch. She made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my son. He also had an apple with some of the leftover lemon cupcake dip. She warmed me up some of the leftover grilled veggies. She added fresh garden lettuce and green onion, arugula, ranch, and sunflower seeds. For herself, my daughter made a peanut butter sushi roll (tortilla rolled up and cut) along with apples and lemon cupcake dip. Who knew that having it be a "restaurant" would make it fun for her to plate, serve, and clean up lunch!

Now for the star of the day: dinner. My hubby was pretty happy that I did the pickles for him so he decided to take over the kitchen and let me play with the puppy while he got to work. He tried a recipe that I found today on for Baked Barbecue Panko Tofu. He altered it and instead of making barbecue sauce he used our favorite teriyaki sauce. He pressed then sliced the tofu. He dipped it in teriyaki sauce. Next, he put it in panko bread crumbs. The tofu baked at 400 for 30 minutes flipping over half way through. The recipe called for basting the tofu after 30 minutes of baking and then baking 10 more minutes per side. We skipped that step. I had bought swiss chard at the farmer's market. We had never tried it before but I figured that it would probably be similar to spinach, which we love. My hubby sauteed red onion and garlic in vegan butter. He added the swiss chard with kosher salt and garlic/wine seasoning. It cooked covered until it began to wilt. Next, he added some local white wine and let it simmer until tender. I asked him for a carb as another side (we all know that I'm a carb crazy kind of girl). He found my rice stash and made a pot of sushi rice. I took the puppy outside and before I knew it I was being summoned with "hey honey, dinner is ready and it is all set for a picture". Ha. Yes! He outdid himself with plating. Only problem is now I want him to fancy up our plates everyday. My daughter saw my plate and asked if she could have a pretty plate too. This led to us all having pretty plates. :)

How was dinner? My daughter had her tofu gone before I even sat down. She said it was amazing and had three helpings. My son said it was pretty good. He had a second helping. My hubby said that the tofu was good and had a lot of flavor when we dipped it in the teriyaki sauce. I liked it. It was really good when it was mixed with a little of the swiss chard. Oooooh. Onto the swiss chard. I LOVED it. My hubby really liked it and said he thinks he prefers that to spinach. My son didn't like it but he isn't too fond of the texture of cooked spinach/greens though. Overall, a definite win for our foodie weekend.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Homemade pizza sauce; grocery savings

August 2, 2013

We started our day by heading to the farmer's market. I scored some pickling cucumber and a big bucket of tomatoes. Looks like my weekend just got a lot more busy! We dropped off our goodies at home and ate some of the leftover taco salad for lunch.

Ahh. Grocery day. My pre-challenge weekly average at the commissary was $175. Today I spent $30.05 on toiletries and cleaners. I spent $109.16 on food. I spent $4.72 on impulse items. My daughter wanted seaweed. Ha. Yes, you read that right. She wants my hubby to make sushi. I also grabbed macaroni and cheese and a pack of tofu. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $149.08 out of pocket. This is a savings of $25.92. My pre-challenge weekly restaurant average was $80. This was a bad week for the challenge. We went out for lunch just for the four of us one day. The next day we went out for lunch with our friend. She drove 14 hours to come visit us so we splurged and went out for a huge Japanese lunch and picked up the tab. It didn't help our challenge but there are some things that are more important than saving a buck....and our friend is one of them. :) We also didn't feel like cooking dinner one night so we went out to eat our the restaurant that our friends own. Are you ready for this total? We spent $165.23 this week. Yikes. This is over by $85.23. After taking the restaurant overage away from my weekly savings....yep, I ended up $59.31 in the hole. Ugh. I think this is the first week that has happened. It is frustrating not saving anything this week. It is disappointing to write a big fat ZERO as our savings this week. Our grand total savings is still $4,145.81 in 289 days.

My hubby helped me make a batch of homemade pizza sauce this afternoon. I got the recipe from my sister years ago (not sure where she got it from originally). I love this recipe and make it each summer. The sauce can be frozen or processed in a hot water bath canner for 30 minutes. Saute 1 cup of onion in olive oil until soft. Add 1 tablespoon of garlic and cook for two more minutes. Add 4 cups of peeled/seeded tomatoes, 6 ounces tomato paste, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 teaspoon basil, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/2 tablespoon salt, pepper, a bay leaf, 1 tablespoon thyme, and 1 teaspoon italian. Simmer for one hour. After it cools a little, put the sauce through the food processor (after removing the bay leaf).  We doubled the recipe today and got enough sauce for 7 pizzas.

We had a bonfire dinner tonight. We made pudgy pies which are a childhood favorite. Think grilled cheese sandwich style but cooked over a camp fire. We started off with pizza ones. Homemade sauce, onion, green/orange pepper, mushrooms, black olives, spinach, and mozzarella cheese. For dessert, we had blueberry pie filling pudgy pies.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Taco pasta salad

August 1, 2013

Tomorrow is grocery shopping day (a couple days late this week). I wanted to eat up random stuff that we had leftover. I just had the rest of the salad mix from yesterday and topped it with some of the leftover craisin quinoa and avocado. My daughter had a peanut butter sandwich. My son had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They shared a plate full of farmer's market peaches. I think I cut up three peaches for them. Tomorrow is also farmer's market day. Yay!

My friend's daughter came over for a few hours this afternoon. The kids had popcorn while they watched a movie. Later they wanted a snack. I made a batch of the lemon cupcake dip to serve with apple slices. I did it a little differently today. I mixed together some of the cupcake box mix with some almond milk prior to adding it to the food processor with cannellini beans. I think it made it a little smoother mixing it with milk first.

I decided to make a taco pasta salad for dinner. We really enjoyed it a few days ago so I thought I'd make it again. I used veggie small shell pasta. I looked in the fridge to see what veggies I could add to the salad. I used up the rest of the farmer's market carrots, tomato, peas, and cucumber. I added orange/green bell pepper, green onion (from my garden), and yellow onion. There was a small container of leftover black beans that were processed with homemade salsa. In it went. I saw a container of leftover corn. In it went. There was about a half a can of black olives. In it went. I noticed that the jar of salsa had just about 1/2 cup left. In it went. I added about 1 1/2 cups of whole black beans. I added the end of a bag of mexican cheese and some catalina dressing. I served it with avocado (of course!) and the end of a bag of tortilla chips. Those crushed up chips are finally useful! Ha.

My hubby said that dinner was good. He also added a cherry bomb pepper to his plate. I hadn't heard of it before but when I saw it at the farmer's market last week, I knew he needed it. He said it was pretty good but not extremely spicy with a nice kick. My son had most of his dinner gone and he paused long enough to turn to me and say "mom, this stuff is amazing". Awww, thanks buddy. My daughter said she wants to have it for lunch tomorrow. You got it! It made me feel great because a few of the veggies (cucumber, carrots, peas) kind of sound weird in taco salad but I wanted to throw them in to use them up. It's nice to know I can count on my kiddos to go to town on some veggies!