Monday, September 30, 2013

Menu surprise

September 30, 2013

We've had a busy few days. We had a leftover night but to make it more fun we added in a movie. We worked really hard on yard work and I didn't feel like cooking so we ordered a pizza. I wanted a quick dinner yesterday. I grabbed some leftovers out of the fridge and got to work.

I wanted to make veggie and quinoa quesadillas. I cooked up onion, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, and green peppers. I stirred in some leftover quinoa, corn, garlic & wine seasoning, and salt. I added mexican cheese and cilantro. Then I toasted up our quesadillas. I thought they were pretty good. The kids were iffy about them so I also made them cheese quesadillas.
I was busy making a huge batch of jalapeno poppers this afternoon. I took a break half way through to grab some lunch. Hmmmm. There was a bunch of the quinoa quesadilla filling leftover. If it's good in a tortilla, it should be good on a bun. Right? I haven't been steered wrong with a melty sandwich yet. I warmed up some of the filling and put it on a club roll. I topped it with a few slices of provolone cheese and popped it under the broiler. Sure enough. It was tasty enough that I didn't want to stop long enough to go grab a fork! 

I felt kind of bad that the kids didn't really like a few of my dinners lately. So I had the kids help make a menu list this week. I asked my son what he wanted. He surprised me by saying he wanted the spinach and artichoke pasta I had made before. You know, the pasta sauce that I made out of TOFU. Wow. You got it. I went to the cupboard and checked out my pasta stash. I told him that I could make it with regular spaghetti noodles or spinach noodles. He asked for spinach. WHAT? I'm not really sure what's going on with my kiddo but I like it! 

Last time I made this sauce, I used silken tofu. Today all I had was firm. I decided not to press it. I figured that seeing as I want it to be a sauce, I wouldn't take out any water. I put half of the block of tofu in the food processor with about 1/4 cup milk. Meanwhile, I sauteed onion, garlic, and spinach/arugula mix. I added in a little white wine, garlic & wine seasoning, and salt. I added the spinach mix to the food processor along with half a can of artichoke hearts. I put the sauce into a pan and added some freshly grated parmesan. I didn't measure it (my guess is 3/4 cup) - it was just enough that my son's arm got tired. Ha. I stirred in some basil. It was pretty thick so I added more milk to thin it out (maybe about 1/2 cup). I served it with the spinach pasta and some steamed green beans. 

Both of the kids said it was good. I was surprised that we all liked the spinach pasta. It only had three ingredients: organic whole durham flour, spray dried spinach powder, and water. For a healthy pasta, it wasn't bad at all. The three of us all want to buy it again. Score!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pie, pie, and more pie

September 26, 2013

Today's food was awesome! The best part is that there were two dishes that I thought I might be crazy for trying but they turned out so delicious.

I wanted to use up leftovers for lunch. I pulled some containers out of the fridge. I found grilled red onion and mushrooms, caramelized onions, and roasted butternut squash. I also grabbed the spinach and arugula mix, cilantro, muenster cheese, and provolone cheese. I warmed the veggies and piled them onto a club roll. I topped them with cheese and popped them under the broiler. Oh my gosh. I wasn't prepared for how delicious butternut squash and caramelized onion would be together on a melty sandwich! It makes me want to go buy another squash just to make sandwiches with. Yum!

I found a recipe today from Martha Stewart for tortilla and black bean pie. Hmmmm. Her recipe calls for 2 cans black beans, 1 pack frozen corn, 2 garlic cloves, 1 jalapeno, 1 onion, 4 scallions, salt, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 4 flour tortillas, 8 oz cheddar cheese, and 12 oz beer. She cooks the beans in beer. Really? I've never tried to cook with beer before.  I altered the recipe some and this is what I came up with.

I sauteed half an onion, two garlic cloves, half a green pepper, and half a box of mushrooms in some olive oil. After about five minutes, I added in 2 cups of black beans. I thought the recipe sounded like way too much beans (even for vegetarians) so I just added one bag from my freezer. I added salt, pepper, and cumin. I added a few extra shakes of cumin. I also added in paprika and oregano. I let it simmer until the beer had cooked out. I stirred in a bag of corn (frozen from farmer's market: about 4 cobs worth) and a handful of green onion. I let it cook a few minutes until most of the corn's juices were absorbed. I greased the bottom of a springform pan. I put in a tortilla and topped it with about 1/4 of the bean mixture. I topped it with mexican cheese. Tortilla. 1/4 bean mixture. Mexican cheese. Tortilla. 1/4 bean mixture. Cheddar cheese (I wanted mexican on top for a better presentation). Tortilla. Rest of bean mixture. Mexican cheese. It baked at 400 just until the cheese was melted (maybe 15 minutes). Carefully remove the sides of the pan. The recipe called for green onions on top. I decided to use cilantro and sour cream instead. I wanted the entire meal to be "pie" because my daughter has a slight obsession with pie. Ha. I served our taco pie with some of my homemade pumpkin pie applesauce. I couldn't figure out how to make our veggies into pie. Then it hit me. I have these cute little single serve pie plates. I put some veggie dip in the bottom and added veggies around the sides. Pie veggies. Ha. For dessert, I made a pina colada cheesecake pie. It was a mix that we got at a local wine festival. I just had to add the mix to cream cheese and cool whip. Easy as pie!

My daughter renamed the meal taco pie. How did we like it? My hubby said it was delicious. My daughter loved it. I loved it. It is now one of my favorite meals. My son wasn't a big fan. He said he would like it if it didn't have black beans. I told him that next time I could make him a separate one minus the beans. Deal.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pasta with leeks; grocery savings

September 25, 2013

I debated skipping grocery shopping this week. Well, for about two seconds. Then I wondered who was I kidding. I needed ice cream. Ha. There has been talk that the military may not get paid on October 15th. I'm really hoping it is just a scare tactic but I figured that I should plan our budget over the next few weeks a little more carefully just in case. I had gotten out of the habit of really meal planning. I sat down a few days ago and came up with meals. I tried to make most of the meals out of items that I already have at home. Once again, it seems that I have collected a bunch of random items that need to get eaten up soon. I kept all this in mind as I made my grocery list this week.

My pre-challenge weekly commissary average was $175. Today I spent $18.97 on toiletries/cleaners. I spent $5.09 on impulse items. I got a new yogurt. The coconut one comes with toasted almonds and dark chocolate chips. Key lime comes with graham crackers and white chocolate chips. I also got the kids each a pack of ramen noodles. I decided to grab a vegetarian ground sausage again this week. I spent $10.16 on gossip magazines. I spent $53.48 on food. WHAT?! That's awesome. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $86.39 out of pocket. This is a savings of $88.61. My pre-challenge weekly restaurant average was $80. This week we went out for Japanese and out to Ruby Tuesday. Japanese is always expensive for us. We spent $106.36 this week. Ouch. This is over by $26.36. The kids did great packing lunches. They saved $18.85. This brings our savings for the week to $81.10. Our grand total savings is $4,622.80 in 343 days!

I tried a new recipe tonight that I got from a friend. I altered it a bit. Heat a little oil and butter and saute some onion. The recipe then calls for ground beef but I used the vegetarian sausage. I let that brown up a bit. I decided to take the "sausage" out of the pan, set it to the side, and add it back later. Add 2 or 3 sliced leeks, a small can of tomato paste, and one cup of vegetable broth. We love garlic so I decided to add in a clove of fresh garlic. I used homemade broth. Let it cook for 15 minutes. Season it with 1 tablespoon of mustard, 1 tablespoon of paprika, salt, and pepper. I had to add extra broth as it cooked down. My guess is that I added almost an extra cup of broth. When done cooking, stir in one cup of sour cream. I stirred the sausage back in and added rotini pasta. I served it with freshly grated parmesan cheese. I needed to use up some of last week's farmer's market finds. I had a zucchini, yellow squash, garlic, red onions, and tomato. I sauteed them up with olive oil and butter. I added local white wine, salt, pepper, garlic & wine seasoning, and basil.

Our family had mixed reviews with dinner. The kids weren't too thrilled with it. I think that the reason my daughter didn't really like it was the mustard. She isn't much of a mustard girl and I always think that I can fool her and "hide" it and she won't taste it. She always does. Ha. I'll learn one day. My hubby said it was good but that we should add mushrooms to it. Mmmmm. Agreed.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Quinoa patties

September 24, 2013

The kids only had half a day of school today. My daughter's school got out before lunch. My son was able to pack his lunch though. I spent the day making a small batch of applesauce. Pumpkin pie flavor was a hit last time so that is what I went with today.

My daughter came home and we worked on her math. Wow. I can't believe how complicated they are making 5th grade math. We must've worked on it for two hours. I think we have it straightened out now though (hopefully!).

I decided to try out some new dishes for dinner. I saw on Fat Free Vegan Kitchen a recipe for homestyle green beans and potatoes. I tried it out. Basically, saute some onion and garlic. Add in chunked potatoes (I used red, purple, and yellow) and green beans. Add broth (homemade vegetable) until it just covers the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. During the last few minutes of cooking, add 1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke. I added an extra splash.

We really liked the beet burgers that we made for our spooky dinner. I wanted to make a quinoa patty tonight and decided to base it off of that beet burger. We mixed cooked quinoa, red onion, garlic, leftover shredded beet, freshly grated parmesan cheese, egg, panko bread crumbs, and black beans. My hubby seasoned them with garlic & wine seasoning, pepper, and paprika. He cooked them up in a little olive oil. I served it with a side salad. My son had fun learning how to use a sharp knife. He cut the carrots, onion, and green beans tonight. We had carrots, red onion, green pepper, cucumber, and sunflower seeds on our salad. I had my patty with a little of Country Bob's all purpose sauce (like a steak sauce). My hubby decided to add cheese to his and have it like a burger. My kids saw him grab the burger bun and they wanted in on that deal too. Ha. For dessert, I made apple crisp.

How did dinner turn out? The potatoes and green beans were missing something. They didn't really have much flavor. The quinoa patties were really good. I just love the beet flavor. It really stands out. My son said it was ok. My hubby, daughter, and I all really liked it though. Crazy son. He just doesn't get it. :) On to dessert.... I made the apple crisp really thin. Let's face it. The best part of apple crisp is the topping and after all those math problems today, I needed it!

Monday, September 23, 2013


September 23, 2013

I feel like a "real" vegetarian today. For lunch my hubby and I grilled up Morningstar Grillers soy burgers. This was the second time I had bought them. On purpose. So that tells you that they are a pretty decent substitute. We also grilled up red onion and mushrooms. I topped our burgers with american (and 3 pepper cheese for my hubby). I added lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mustard. These burgers are pretty filling too.

Normally I plan a meal by starting at the entree. I felt all over the map tonight. I wanted to try butternut squash. I have never had it before. Our friends gave us one from their garden and tonight was the night to give it a try. I peeled and cubed the squash. I tossed them in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a local maple sugar. I threw them into the oven at 415 degrees for 20 minutes. I then realized I still had no clue what else I was making. Ha. I looked in the freezer and saw vegetarian riblets. I grabbed those for my hubby and me. My daughter had mentioned chicken nuggets (vegetarian ones) so I grabbed those for the kiddos. I stirred the squash and then turned the oven down to 350 and added the "meat". Hmmmm. What else? I am a rice hoarder. I fully admit to it. On any given day, I have at least 5 types of rice.

*Side note: After writing the previous sentence, I had to go check. I have a brown/wild rice mixture. Arborio rice for risotto. Jasmine rice. Two kinds of sushi rice. I don't even make homemade sushi. Ha. Mahatma rice - I love that one for spanish rice. I also had a bag of brown rice. I didn't even bother checking the cupboards for rice a roni. Ha! I figured I would stop counting at 7.

Ok, back to dinner. I settled on trying the brown and wild rice mixture. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic & wine seasoning. I had never cooked it before and figured I should give it a try too. It's a little time intensive for my taste (ok, so it's not really that intensive, just more than simply stir and simmer). You bring it to a boil, simmer for 35 minutes and then let it rest for 15 minutes.  I'm too impatient for that which is why I have passed it up until now.

My hubby said the riblets were pretty good. My son took a bite and said they were good. I thought they were surprisingly a good substitute. Even the texture was good. The rice was good too. We were running a little late for cub scouts so it didn't have very long to rest. It would probably be better with more rest time in order to make it a little more fluffy. The butternut squash went over well too. My hubby said it tasted like sweet potato. My daughter cleaned her plate. As I was halfway through dinner, I realized that every item on my plate was new! Overall, a successful vegetarian day.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Spooky dinner

September 22, 2013

It's here. My favorite dinner of the year. Our 6th year of our family tradition: spooky dinner. This year we decided to have it on the night that we decorated for Halloween as a way to bring in the holiday season.

The kids helped to plan some of the items and even helped prepare some of them. It is such a fun time. Let me tell you about the giggles....

We feasted on bugs, eyeballs, flesh dip, a man eater, kitty litter, and dirty worms. We washed it all down with some pond punch that was filled with fish, fish eggs, and a worm. Sound delicious?! It was!

Our bugs were olives with clove heads and rosemary sprig legs. Our eyeballs were babybel cheese with olive and pizza sauce pupils. The flesh dip. Ha. We took a skull decoration and covered it with chive and onion cream cheese. My hubby added yellow and orange food coloring to the cream cheese to make it a fleshy color. He also added on mushroom and olive eyes along with eyebrows and some wounds. Our man eater was a beet burger. This was our first time making these. My hubby put together 1 cup of shredded beet, 1 cup of rice, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, a tablespoon of fennel, 3 tablespoons of onion, 1 tablespoon of garlic, 1 tablespoon of mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic & wine seasoning. He cooked them in a little olive oil. He made faces on the man and the man eating bun. Our kitty litter was a marble cake. We topped it with graham cracker crumbs that we mixed with coconut creme pudding. It was topped with some extra graham cracker crumbs. Tootsie rolls mold into perfect turds after being microwaved for 15 seconds. Everyone loves to shape turds. Ha! What better way to serve it up than with a kitty litter scooper! Dirty worms are smushed up black beans for the dirt. The worms are hotdogs that are sliced thin then cooked in boiling water for about 30 seconds or until they begin to curl. Pond punch was half sprite and half lemonade. We added a swedish fish candy and a gummy worm. We also needed fish eggs for it. I cooked small tapioca pearls for about 20 minutes. I split them into two bowls (along with the water they cooked in) and added food coloring. One bowl got 4 drops of blue. One bowl got 3 drops of yellow and one drop of green. Also, I stirred in 2 tablespoons of sugar into each bowl. They sit for 20 minutes. Next, you need to drain and rinse them in cold water. My new skimmer came in very handy. Voila. Pond punch.

I can't begin to tell you the amount of laughter that filled our house tonight. Or how many times I heard things such as "don't forget to eat your turd", "what species is that feces", and "you're gonna give him pink eye" (as my son used a pepper strip to "pick" the nose of the skull and then smear the flesh dip across the skull's mushroom eye). Ha! The fish eggs were unreal. The texture was perfect! Besides having a ton of fun, we also found a new recipe that we like: the beet burgers. They need something to help them hold together a little better but the flavor was incredible. There is some leftover shredded beet and I can't wait to figure out something else to make with them. Spooky dinner 2013 was spooktacular!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sweet potato pizza

September 19, 20, & 21, 2013

Thursday was a busy day. I decided to pull everything out of my garden and finish it up for the year. I had a ton of green onions and carrots to take care of. I also cut my thyme and lettuce. After working on the garden food for 6 hours, I was in no mood to make dinner. I was beat. I was about to suggest that we could order dinner in when the kids spoke up. They wanted to cook for me. Yay! They put together cold subs for them and hot subs for my hubby and me. I assisted with chopping some veggies and putting our subs under the broiler. Our sandwiches were on our choice of a club or hawaiian sweet roll. Toppings were ham (for the kids), sauteed red onion/leek/green pepper/garlic/mushrooms (for my hubby and me), lettuce, spinach, green onion, cucumber, avocado, thyme, cilantro, and our choice of provolone/muenster/3 pepper cheese. They served it with chips, homemade pickles, and watermelon.

Friday we had a work function for my hubby. We decided to go out to eat Japanese on our way.

Tonight I decided to try my hand at surpassing my hubby's genius lunch from earlier this week. His pizza was so incredible. He had used my leftover cream of potato/leek/fennel soup as the sauce. Tonight I made a white pizza sauce.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in 3 tablespoons of flour. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of milk. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, 1 garlic clove, a few sprigs of thyme (leaves taken off the stems), and 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese. Just stir until the cheese is melted and then take off of the heat.

I topped the pizza with roasted sweet potato, caramelized onions, sauteed garlic/mushrooms/spinach/arugula, corn, and provolone/parmesan/mozzarella cheeses. I asked the kids what they wanted on their pieces. They both said just cheese.....until I had them taste the sweet potato. Then they added sweet potato. They munched on the extra slices while I grabbed the next ingredients. I had them try corn. Yep, add corn and then they finished the leftover corn. I couldn't change their minds about the mushroom saute or the caramelized onions though.

The pizza turned out great. It was well balanced between the salty and savory cheese and the sweetness from the onions, sweet potatoes, and corn. My daughter loved it. I think I still prefer the pizza my hubby made with my soup as the sauce. It just gave it a little bit extra flavor. However, had I not had that pizza earlier this week, I would have really loved tonight's pizza! I'd say our first attempt at sweet potato pizza was a success!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sausage stir fry

September 18, 2013

The kids finished up our week strong. Neither one of them bought school lunch at all this past week! I was really craving Subway this afternoon but I took the kids' lead and ate what we had at home.

My pre-challenge grocery weekly average was $175. Today I spent $16.54 on toiletries/cleaners. I spent $9.61 on impulse items. I picked up a can of artichoke hearts, vegetarian sausage, black bean hummus, and a portobello cream sauce starter. I spent $95.77 on food. However, I needed special ingredients because we have something awesome coming up. We are doing something different this year. We are having our "spooky dinner" as a way to start off the Halloween season. We had to move it up this year due to our schedules and thought it would be a fun weekend to decorate and have our spooky dinner too. I can't wait to share it with you! I spent $10.89 on gossip magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $135.68 out of pocket. This is a savings of $39.32. My pre-challenge weekly restaurant average was $80. This week I went out for lunch with friends, a lunch date with my hubby, and out for lunch with my hubby and the kiddos. The cafe (two of the lunches) only takes cash and I didn't write down how much we spent. My best guess puts our weekly spending at $75. No savings. The kids did amazing and saved $21 by packing lunches every day. This brings our savings for this week to $60.32. Our grand total savings is $4,541.70 in 336 days!

Tonight's dinner was an experiment. I wanted to try a vegetarian sausage. The package said to just use it as you would any ground sausage. Hmmmm. That's kind of like ground beef. I decided to make some jasmine rice. I cooked up the sausage in a little bit of olive oil. I cooked up carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, red onion, leek, purple cabbage, and green pepper. I added in stir fry sauce and soy sauce. I seasoned it with garlic & wine seasoning and chopped garlic. I also seasoned the sausage with the garlic & wine seasoning. I served it with teriyaki sauce and sushi ginger.

The sausage was a success. My daughter loved it and had two helpings. The rest of us liked it. I wasn't crazy about it plain (although, I don't really like regular sausage either) but once it was mixed in with everything else I liked it. I even had seconds. I'm excited to try it out in other recipes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Healthier fettuchini

September 17, 2013

Once again, the kids packed their lunch. I checked their school accounts today and I couldn't believe how little money they have spent since school started. They are doing an awesome job of using up leftovers. The best part is they are doing it happily and without me even asking. Score!

My hubby was home for lunch today. He asked if I wanted to go out. Uh oh. Hold strong. We settled on making sandwiches under the broiler. We love melty goodness sandwiches. My hubby sauteed red onion, portobello mushrooms, green and red peppers, and fresh garlic. I had muenster cheese and he had three pepper cheese. Under the broiler our little hawaiian sweet sub roll sandwiches went. I added on spinach and avocado. Oh wow. I was sad to see the end of my sandwich. Ha!

My hubby had to work through dinner. I thought I would have a couple friends over for spaghetti. My friends couldn't make it tonight. I looked through the cupboards and saw a pack of pasta that has been hanging out waiting for us to try. I figured seeing as my friends weren't coming then it was a good night to try something new. How would the kids like mung bean pasta? Better would I like mung bean pasta?!

I steamed green beans from my garden. I have a bunch of bread that needs to be used up (seeing as my son has been eating leftovers instead of his usual peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). I melted some butter and added chopped garlic and some garlic & wine seasoning. I drizzled it over the bread and toasted them up in a pan. I popped open a jar of my home canned spaghetti sauce. The pasta only takes about 6 minutes to cook. My son walked by as I was cooking and he said, "mmmmm those plain noodles smell good mom". WHAT?! I topped our fettuchini with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Here we go. My son took a few bites and said "this is really delicious". A few bites later he leaned over to my plate. He pointed at the fettuchini and said "this". Then he pointed at the bread and said "this". Next up was the green beans and he said "and this"......are delicious! Yay! My daughter was more quiet but I asked her after we ate and she said she loved it. As for me: it didn't really have a bean taste. It had a different texture than white pasta, which is what we are used to. It didn't really absorb the spaghetti sauce and it got a little watery after being on the fettuchini for awhile. No big deal. It's just a little messier. It definitely tastes different from white pasta but it's pretty good for a healthier option. I think we will be having mung bean pasta again. I see alfredo in our future.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Grilled burgers

September 16, 2013

The kids started out the week by sticking to their lunch boxes. Yay! Leftovers have never been used up so well as they have the past couple weeks. I couldn't wait to get my hands (and my fork) on the leftover pizza from yesterday. It was just as delicious today.

There is a freeze warning tonight so I spent the day in my garden gathering up all that I could. Then I had to find ways to use up what I had picked. I decided to make a small batch of green tomato salsa. I didn't have all of the ingredients that I normally use so I just used what I had on hand. Instead of lime juice, I used lemon. I didn't have nearly enough cilantro either so I tossed in a little basil. It turned out ok. It isn't quite as awesome as the normal recipe but it made three small jars. I decided that I may as well can them because it would be too much to just keep in the fridge. I also grabbed a little of the hot pepper relish that I had made for my hubby and put it in two tiny jars. I'm kind of hoping this is the last canning I do for this year. I feel like I've cooked and cooked and cooked. And cooked. I will need to work on corn tomorrow. How exciting. It is the first year that we have grown corn.

Tonight's dinner was an experiment. My hubby had seen a new veggie burger in the store. I dug in tonight and grilled us up some of the Morning Star Grillers soy burger. I also grilled red onion and mushrooms. I had american cheese and my hubby had three pepper cheese. I added garden lettuce, ketchup, and mustard. I served our burgers with a side salad and homemade pickles. Oh boy. I was a little nervous for a soy burger. I've liked our bean burgers. But soy?

Wow. I can't believe I liked it. The burger was surprisingly similar to a beef burger. All four of us liked them. I think next time I will add more awesome toppings (caramelized onions!). This wasn't the best "beefy" burger but dressing it up a little will make it a definite repeat at our house. Overall, a win.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My hubby's genius lunch

September 15, 2013

Today was a pretty incredible day for the challenge. You've read about me doing some pretty weird things with leftovers throughout this challenge. Today was a day of recreating leftovers.

My hubby had an idea for lunch. It was so out there that I had to sit and think it through for a minute to figure out if I should give him my "ok". He wanted to make pizza and instead of using pizza sauce he wanted to leftover cream of potato, leek, and fennel soup. WHAT?! Soup as a pizza sauce? He then said that he would also add caramelized onion and sauteed mushrooms. Ok, he had me at caramelized onions. He added a little garlic & wine seasoning on top of the soup, er, I mean sauce. Ha. He finished the pizza with provolone, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. How in the world is this going to work?! Oh. My. Gosh. Seriously. After every single bite, I let out a sigh or an "oh wow". I kept talking about this pizza for a good ten minutes after we got done eating. This pizza was amazing. I can't wait to make another batch of soup and you can bet there will be pizza the next day!

I couldn't let my hubby out "challenge" me so I tried to come up with something to use leftovers for dinner. I had seen a recipe for stuffed potatoes several months ago. Most recipes call for kidney beans and chili to stuff the potatoes. Hey, I have leftover vegetarian quinoa chili in the fridge. Perfect. I cut the potatoes in half and boiled them for ten minutes. I scooped out 2/3 of the potato. I gave the potatoes a coating of olive oil and baked at 375 for 20 minutes. I filled the potatoes with the chili and topped half of them with cheddar and half with mexican cheese. They baked at 400 for ten more minutes. I couldn't bring myself to throw out all the potato that I had scooped out. I threw them into a pan with some butter, fresh garlic, some chopped fennel, salt, pepper, and garlic & wine seasoning. After a few minutes, I added in a little local white wine. I figured we could sample them tonight and someone would have them for lunch tomorrow. I also got a side salad ready and added in some sliced fennel to try.

The stuffed potatoes turned out great. The chili really went well with it. I think next time I will serve them with a little sour cream on top. The scooped out potato and fennel saute was good too. The fennel actually worked in the salad. I'm excited that we found two new ingredients this weekend that we really like (leek was the other).

Ok, now I just have to wait about 14 1/2 hours until I can have another slice of that pizza for lunch tomorrow.....

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cream of potato, leek, & fennel soup

September 13 & 14, 2013

My hubby and I went out for a lunch date yesterday. We went to this amazing little cafe. It is run by a husband and wife and everything is made from scratch. We tried a cream of potato and leek soup (last week we tried their cream of potato and fennel) along with their special of the day. Wow. It was probably the best soup I've ever had. Unreal the amount of flavor. We were so stuffed that we didn't really want much for dinner. The kids had leftovers.

We spent the rest of the afternoon canning. We did 10 pints of salsa, 9 jars of taco sauce, and 4 pints of tomato juice. I had tried making taco sauce once about 7 years ago but didn't like it. This was my first attempt since then. We just kind of made it up as we went along but I had my hubby guestimate his seasonings so that I could jot down the basic recipe.

12 cups tomatoes (peeled and chopped), 3 tablespoons paprika, 3-4 tablespoons oregano, 2 tablespoons cumin, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons pepper, 2 cups onions (we used half red and half of it white), 4 jalapenos, 2 tablespoons adobo, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons sugar, 3 tablespoons lawry's, and 2 tablespoons chili powder. Saute the veggies and garlic in olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Put the sauce through the food processor and then can in a hot water bath for 35 minutes.

Lunch time rolled around today and I felt soupy. Ha. I wanted to go back to that cafe. I told my daughter about it and she wanted to try it too. My son had McDonald's on the way. We all ordered soup. I ordered the cream of potato and leek. My hubby got cream of potato and fennel. My daughter ordered fragrant lemongrass with karrif lime, bean thread noodles, & shrimp. Wow. Yum!

I decided to attempt my hand at making a soup similar to hers. I wanted to do both a fennel and leek combo. I wanted the leek to be the star so I decided to only use one of the two fennel bulbs that I had bought. I never make cream based soups so I was a little nervous. I once again jotted down what I added so that I could recreate this soup if it turned out well.

I sauteed one fennel bulb chopped, 2 leeks chopped, 3 1/2 cups diced potatoes, and one large bulb garlic diced in two tablespoons of butter. I seasoned them with salt, pepper, and garlic & wine seasoning. I let them cook on low for about 30 minutes. I added 4 tablespoons of local white wine. I didn't want them to brown but to just get tender. Ten minutes later, I added 1/2 cup of homemade vegetable broth and let it simmer for another ten minutes. I put the veggies into the food processor. It came out looking pretty similar to mashed potatoes (you could process it less if you want chunkier soup). I added it back to the pan and stirred in two cups of heavy cream. It was still missing something. I saw that I had a few sprigs of fresh thyme from my garden in the fridge. Perfect. It probably was about 2 tablespoons worth. I served the soup with a slice of fresh sweet bread (yep, from the cafe too) and topped the soup with green onion.

How did my first cream soup go? My hubby said it was very good. My daughter said it was phenomenal. My son said "woop woop"! Ha. I really liked it. I think the only change for next time will be to double the amount of leeks. This tasted really good but I want the leeks to really stand out.

Ok. Time to move on to warm apple pie...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Homemade applesauce & vegetarian chili

September 12, 2013

I met my friends this morning and we went to a local apple cider mill. I love this time of year. They have the best apple cider, apple cider donuts, apple selection, and list goes on. I bought two giant bags of apples, a gallon of cider, and some cider donuts. After going out for lunch, I headed home to make applesauce.

I kind of just threw stuff together but I did jot down amounts so that if it turned out good I would be able to recreate it. Ha. I made three batches. I put my apple peeler/corer/slicer to good use today. Each batch started out with 14 apples which equaled out to about 16 cups of sliced apples. I added one cup of the fresh apple cider to each batch. Batch one: 6 tablespoons of maple sugar (something fun I found at the cider mill today) and 6 tablespoons of my father in law's homemade maple syrup. Batch two: 1/2 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice and 1/4 cup sugar. Batch three: 1/4 cup sugar and 2 1/2 teaspoons raspberry extract. After the apples cooked down (roughly 45 minutes- 1 hour), I put the applesauce through the food processor. Wow. It makes the applesauce the perfect consistency. If you are looking for a strong flavor, I would add a little more of the flavorings. I wanted it to be more on the subtle side for the kids.

I was talking with my friend this morning and she told me something new to try. She boils her apple peels with water and then uses that juice to make jelly. Hmmmmm. I decided to boil my peels and see if I could just get juice/cider to drink. I let it boil while I canned the applesauce so it may have boiled for 1 hour- 2 hours. It is missing something. I think it will need sugar in order for it to be drank straight. I may use it for cooking something but that is for another day.

Now on to dinner. I made a really quick pot of chili. This was my first attempt at vegetarian chili. Yikes. I had red onion chopped in the fridge. I used that seeing as it was already chopped otherwise I would have used white. I sauteed the onion and fresh garlic in olive oil. I added in three stalks of celery and two carrots (cut small) along with two cups each of black beans and cannellini beans. I added about a cup of green pepper that I had in the freezer. Next up: tomatoes. I grabbed a quart of home canned tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce. Separately, I cooked 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup water. I stirred the cooked quinoa into the chili. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic & wine seasoning. I served it with mexican cheese, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and green onion. My daughter made a side of crescent rolls. Of course we all had some of the fresh applesauce too. Dessert: cider mill donuts!

How did my first vegetarian chili go? My son liked it but would rather less beans. My daughter said it was amazing but she would want more beans. Ha. My hubby said it was "delish". I loved it. I don't miss the meat in it at all. Wohoo! All three flavors of the applesauce went over well. Nobody could pick with one was their favorite. With my new found vegetarian chili recipe and my 13 jars of applesauce, I'm ready for winter! Ok, maybe not quite yet.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spinach artichoke tortellini; grocery savings

September 11, 2013

Ahh grocery day. How I love you. There is nothing more satisfying than a full fridge and lots of good stuff in the cupboards. The kids have done amazing this past week with packing their lunches. My daughter bought school lunch only once. My son would ask "what is for school lunch today"? I would tell him and also tell him the leftovers that we had. His reply, "but you can get hamburgers any day right"? Hamburgers, by the way, were his favorite school food and got it every time he ordered school lunch last year. However, my awesome little buddy chose to pack his lunch EVERY day. I couldn't believe it. I forgot to add their savings for the first day of school to last week's totals so I will add that extra day in today. The kids saved $23.05! Yay! My pre-challenge grocery weekly average was $175. Today I spent $17.85 on toiletries/cleaners. I spent $109.92 on food. Ugh. However, I have lots of new dishes that I am making this week so there were plenty of ingredients that I had to get. I spent $2.59 on impulse items. There was just no way that I could pass up pumpkin bars mix and cream cheese frosting. I spent $8.71 on gossip magazines. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $140.15 out of pocket. This is a savings of $34.85. We went out a few times this week. My pre-challenge restaurant average was $80. This week we spent $73.45 (including the pizza we had to order when the kids bumped the gas stove on for 30 minutes!). This is a savings of only $6.55. Our savings for the week equal $64.45. Our grand total savings is $4,481.38 in 329 days!

I felt adventurous and wanted to try something new for dinner tonight. I started out by cooking some onion and fresh garlic in a little olive oil. I added in half a bag of spinach and some local white wine. Meanwhile, I added silken tofu and 1/4 cup of milk to the food processor. I poured the tofu/milk mix into a saucepan. Then I added the spinach mix and a can of artichoke hearts to the food processor. I stirred that into the tofu/milk mix. I added about a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic & wine seasoning. I boiled some five cheese spinach tortellini and added the sauce to it. I steamed some green beans. Also, I wanted to do something special for the kids. They have been such troopers both with this challenge of spending less money and also with going vegetarian 20 weeks ago (tomorrow). Although they have added some meat back in a couple times a week, my hubby and I have completely stuck with it. I felt bad that they may have missed some of their old favorites so today I also cooked up a teriyaki pork loin for them. I cooked half (thinking they would want some as lunch tomorrow) and froze the other half.

How did my dinner go? I figured that they would think I did something weird to the dinner. They know me by now and know that I like to "hide" ingredients. I thought that they would probably think my "hidden" item was the green in the sauce. Fingers crossed that nobody notices the tofu! My son saw it and asked if it was guacamole (which he doesn't like). Ha, no buddy. My daughter took a bite and I heard "mmmm". She took another bite and I heard "mmmMMMMMMMM". Ha. Ok, one person down. Two to go. My son took a bite and said "wow mom, this is DELICIOUS". Two. I looked over at my hubby's plate. It was almost empty and before I knew it he went back for seconds. Yes! Everyone really liked it and nobody could think of anything I should change for next time. Unbelievable. Success!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


September 9 & 10, 2013

I woke up yesterday feeling thankful. Thankful that I have two great kids. Thankful that my hubby and I are besties. Thankful that he isn't deployed (while many of our friends are). Thankful that someone I love recently received a clear bone scan when being scanned for cancer. You never know what can happen and I wanted to take the day to show my family how much I love them. Why wait until a major holiday to have a great holiday meal?! Let's have a love celebration. (Ok, so I felt sappy. My hubby laughed when I called it a love celebration). Ha!

I got to work and processed 2 dozen cobs of corn. I bagged and froze it then decided to try something new. I wanted to make cream corn. I took the last six cobs (uncooked) and cut the corn off. I put about 4 tablespoons of butter into a saute pan. I melted the butter and added the corn, 1 tablespoon of sugar, salt, and pepper. I let it cook on low for about 25 minutes. I mixed one tablespoon of flour with one tablespoon of water. I stirred it into the corn. Then I added 3/4 cup of milk and let it cook for a few more minutes. Wow. This corn is so good!

My next project was making my hubby some hot pepper relish. I used the basics of a recipe my aunt gave me last year. I knew my hubby wanted it a little less sweet so I reduced the sugar. I started out by adding 1 jalapeno, 4 cayenne, 2 big habanero, 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, 1 1/2 cups green pepper (a small amount of it was red), and 1 cup onion into a little bit of oil. I cooked them for just a few minutes and then added in 2 cups of green tomatoes (way less than the relish I made last year because I wanted to highlight his peppers and not green tomatoes). I added a little less than 1/2 tablespoon each of mustard seed and kosher salt. I added 1/4 tablespoon of celery seed, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 cup sugar. I let it simmer for about an hour and then put it through the food processor. My hubby tested it and said "ooooh, that's spicy". Yay! I usually don't make things hot enough for him.

I decided to make meatballs (vegetarian ones out of chickpeas) and boiled potatoes with garlic butter to go along with the cream corn for dinner. I got the meatballs made and rolled. I got the potatoes cleaned, cut, and into water. Earlier I said that you never know what can happen..... yesterday was an example of that. I went into the kitchen to turn on the oven and stove and discovered that the kids had bumped the stove about 20-30 minutes earlier and our kitchen had filled up with gas. Yeah, that put dinner on hold. I figured it was probably best to air it out, order a pizza, and wait to cook the meatballs and potatoes until later in the evening and just keep them for dinner the next day. Once again, feeling thankful that I noticed it before I turned on the burner. Thankful I didn't blow up! Oh well, our celebration will wait for a night.

I wanted to make a dessert for us. I found a recipe on Taste of Home for a moist chocolate cake. It said it was so moist that it didn't even need frosting and was topped with a dusting of powdered sugar instead. It sounded perfect seeing as I didn't have any frosting or cream cheese to make a batch. I gave it a whirl. Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons of baking cocoa (I used 5 because under the comments it said it needed more chocolate), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Make three wells in the mix and add the following: 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour 1 cup cold water over it all. Beat on low. Pour into a greased/floured 8 inch square pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Dinner rolled around and seeing as it was all cooked all I had to do was heat it up. We had our meatballs, potatoes with garlic butter, homemade cream corn, salad with lettuce/arugula/peas/green onion/sunflower seeds, homemade pumpkin pie flavored applesauce, and my daughter's famous deviled eggs. When it came time for dessert, I couldn't figure out how to add powdered sugar to the cake without it clumping. My hubby had a great idea. He suggested I put powdered sugar into my skimmer (handheld little strainer) and tap the side. It worked great!

What did everyone think of our love celebration? Everyone loved the cream corn. I'll have to make that again. My hubby, daughter, and I all liked the cake. My son said it was too chocolatey. What?! It was light with just the right amount of sweet. I'll have to make that again too. It was fun having a nice big dinner. My daughter was so excited that she got to contribute; she had me video tape her giving a cooking show while she made the eggs. :) I enjoy cooking and often use food to show my love. Today was just another day. However, it felt great to take a little extra time and make something special for my family. We talked about how lucky we are as a family. As we sat around our picnic blanket (which has kind of become a tradition), I couldn't help but feel thankful once more. Now go. Go cook. Go spend extra time with your kids. Hug your hubby just a little bit longer. Be thankful for all you can do.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Homemade salsa & Enchilada soup

September 6, 7, & 8, 2013

Time to catch up on the blog. On Friday I went to the farmer's market. Our favorite farmer finally had some really hot peppers. I got ghost peppers and habaneros so that I could make my hubby some hot salsa. I got home and got to work. Wow. What a job. It took 8 hours! However, this is seriously some delicious salsa. I can't take credit for the recipe though (I got it from a friend last year).

Her recipe is 2 cloves garlic, 1 jalapeno, juice of 1/2 lime, 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons black pepper, 28 ounces fresh tomatoes, 1/2 bunch cilantro, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 cup finely diced red onion, 1/2 cup green onion, and 1 green pepper diced. Bring tomatoes and seasonings to a boil. Add cilantro, jalapeno, peppers, lime juice, garlic, and onions. Bring back to a boil and then simmer for 7-10 minutes. Pack in jars and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

My hubby likes hot stuff though so I play with what hot peppers I use. I really upped the ante this year. I made 8 times the recipe and added the following peppers: 36 habaneros, 9 ghost peppers, 8 jalapeno, 5 cayenne, and 8 red paper lantern peppers. For the first time in almost 15 years of marriage, my hubby said "I wouldn't make it any hotter". Ha! Victory. He loves it! I ended up with 20 pint jars for him, almost a jar for the fridge, and almost a jar of mild for me to munch on.

My hubby got creative with a new dip. He used cream cheese, caramelized onions, grilled pineapple (broken into bits), sesame ginger sauce (similar to teriyaki), and cheddar cheese. I was a little skeptical when he suggested it but I'm glad I let him do his thing. It was really good! The balance of sweet and savory was great.

Today was another busy day in my kitchen. We started out by making 44 jalapeno poppers. They are a tedious process but well worth the work. Love them. Next, I got working on applesauce. I kept it pretty simple and just added a little apple cider to my chopped apples along with sugar and apple pie spice. I let it simmer for awhile until it was pretty soft (still some chunks). The kids loved it.

My hubby made us a quick lunch of grilled veggies. He grilled red onion, mushrooms, and zucchini. He also grilled purple and yellow potatoes. He had fun spiral cutting them with my apple corer/peeler/slicer. We had salads of lettuce, arugula, peas, green onion, mexican cheese, avocado, sunflower seeds, and cherry tomatoes. The kids had the rest of the leftover taco pasta salad, fruit, and salad.

My daughter got to work on the next project: vegetable broth. She wanted to be in charge and do it all on her own. She used all but three stalks of celery from a bunch. She just cut them in half. She peeled about 6 carrots and cut them in half. She peeled and quartered two onions. She peeled and halved three cloves of garlic. I'm still a little nervous with her using a stove (gas) so I assisted when it came time to cook. I added a little olive oil and the veggies and gave them a few minutes before adding in water. We added 16 cups of water. She seasoned it with salt, pepper, three bay leaves, and a handful of fresh thyme. We let it simmer for almost an hour. We had to run a few errands so we transferred it to the slow cooker and let it cook for about two hours on medium. I wasn't sure if it would be enough flavor but I was pleasantly surprised. There was no need for any other seasonings. It came out great. Just look at that color! I strained the broth and got it into containers in the freezer.

I decided to throw together an enchilada soup for dinner tonight. I sauteed up some onion, garlic, green pepper, and jalapeno (only a half of one I had left in the fridge- can't make it too hot for the kids). I had my daughter thaw out a bag of black beans and one of corn. We stirred those in. I found half a quart jar of home canned tomatoes in the fridge. I added some of her vegetable broth. I cooked quinoa separately and added that once it was ready. We seasoned the soup with oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cumin. The trick to enchilada soup is to really use cumin. I mean, REALLY use cumin. When you think you added too much.....that is when you need to add some more. Unfortunately I didn't measure anything tonight. Just go by taste test. That's the most fun way to cook anyway.  We topped our soup with green onion, cilantro, avocado, sour cream, and your choice of mexican cheese or pepper jack cheese. My hubby needed some heat in his soup so he stirred in a spoonful of the crazy hot salsa I had made on Friday. The kids had crackers with their soup. My hubby and I had tortilla chips. I kept the carrots that were cooked in the broth and the kids had a few of those with their dinner too. The soup turned out perfect. We all loved it and nobody could think of any changes needed for next time. Score!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Portobello stroganoff

September 5, 2013

The kids packed their lunches again today. My daughter had a pasta and bean soup, crackers, grapes, and v8. My son had pasta and meatballs, string cheese, and a yogurt smoothie. My hubby was home this afternoon so we took advantage of the kids being in school and went out for a lunch date. We went to this great local restaurant run completely by a woman and her husband. We had cream of fennel & potato soup to share. We each had the special: a veggie burger made with roasted portobello mushroom, quinoa, whole grain rice, and vegetables on a freshly made cracked wheat bun with an organic green salad, corn fritters, and a slaw I think was made out of green papaya and daikon radish. Everything was amazing. On our way out, she talked us into (very easily) lemon cookies, raspberry granola, and a blueberry ricotta poundcake.

Tonight's forecast has our very first frost advisory for the year. Sigh. I'm not ready for my garden to get hit yet. So I spent hours this afternoon harvesting, cleaning, chopping, dehydrating, blanching, and freezing some of my goodies. I froze two quart baggies of sliced green onion and stuck a container in the fridge. My dehydrator is full of sliced green onion. I'm not sure if I will make it into onion powder or keep them as slices. I have one quart of blanched green beans in the freezer (and a container in the fridge to eat). I washed a huge container of lettuce. I have a gallon bag full of green peppers. I have a bunch of jalapenos, apples, and tomatoes that I will need to work on tomorrow. I'm hoping that our garden will pull through tonight ok. Wish me luck!

After working on that stuff for four hours, I didn't feel like making anything too difficult for dinner. I browsed a recipe for portobello stroganoff. I read through the comments and some suggestions were to add worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Hmmmm. I closed out of the recipe and decided to just wing it.

I sauteed onion and fresh garlic in butter for a few minutes. I added a box of (sliced) baby portobello mushrooms. I let them brown up a bit and then I added local red wine. Shocking I know. I usually use white wine. I wanted this to have a "beefier" taste. Ha. Funny coming from a new vegetarian right? I let the wine cook out and then I went to add broth. Uh oh. I was out of vegetable broth. I saw that I had a packet of onion soup mix. I added it to 1 1/2 cups of water, stirred, and then scooped out the dehydrated onion. I probably could have left them in there but I just wanted nice fresh onion. I added the "broth" and let it simmer for a few minutes. I added in probably about 2-3 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce and a few shakes of salt. I happened to have half a can of tomato paste in the fridge so I added that too. I stirred a couple tablespoons of flour into about 5 ounces of sour cream. I turned the burner down to low and added the sour cream. I served the sauce over egg noodles and with freshly grated romano cheese. I made a side salad with garden lettuce, arugula, peas, green onion, cherry tomatoes, julienned cucumber, and sunflower seeds.

How did my thrown together dinner turn out? Two bites in my hubby said "this is really good". My daughter said she loved it. The three of us all had second helpings and couldn't think of anyway we would want to improve it next time. My son on the other hand didn't like it. Crazy boy doesn't know what he is missing out on.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A twist on stuffed shells; grocery savings

September 4, 2013

Ahhhh. Here we are. The first day of school. I had a busy day. I woke up at 4:40 (too much excitement) but got up at 6:00. I started the day by making the kids each their favorite breakfast. I made apple cinnamon pancakes for my daughter. I followed that up by making lemon chip zucchini muffins for my son. After they got on their busses (separate schools this year), I headed out to the commissary.

My pre-challenge weekly average was $175. Today I spent $24.68 on cleaners/toiletries. I spent $4.84 on impulse items. I saw some snacks/breakfast items that I wanted to have on hand for the kids. I also wanted to try a new organic macaroni and cheese. I spent $10.89 on gossip magazines. I spent $119.32 on food. Yikes. After adding in their surcharge and taking out my coupons, I spent $166.86. This is a savings of only $8.14. Our pre-challenge weekly restaurant spendings was $80. This week we ordered pizza from our friends' restaurant and went out to lunch. We spent $65.33 which is a savings of $14.67. Our total savings this week is $22.81. This brings our grand total savings to $4,416.93 in 322 days.

I wanted to try something new for dinner tonight. I was hoping that it would play out as well on my plate as it did in my mind. I browsed a recipe this past week that gave me the idea and then I just played the rest by ear. I cooked large shell pasta. I put extra firm tofu in my food processor. It came out creamy. Almost like a cross between ricotta and cream cheese. I seasoned the tofu with salt, oregano, italian, and garlic & wine seasoning. I sauteed onion, fresh garlic, and spinach. I added local white wine and seasoned it with salt, pepper, garlic & wine seasoning, and adobo. I added the spinach mix to the tofu. I stuffed the shells and set them in a cake pan with a thin layer of homemade spaghetti sauce on the bottom. I topped the shells with more sauce, mozzarella cheese, and freshly grated romano cheese. I baked them at 350 for about half an hour. For our side, I wanted to do one of our favorite veggie dishes that we copied from Bonefish Grill. I sauteed onion, garlic, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and the rest of the bag of spinach. I added white wine and seasoned it with salt, pepper, oregano, basil, italian, and garlic & wine seasoning. When the veggies were almost tender, I added a little bit of home canned tomatoes (I had some left in the fridge).

How did dinner go? My hubby cleaned his plate and said it was delicious. He just thought it should have more sauce. I agree. Either more sauce or slightly less bake time. My son said "mmmmmhmmmm". My daughter said she loved it but would like meatballs with it too. Nobody guessed it was tofu. I'd say that's a win!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The easiest dinner

August 29 - September 3, 2013

I've been a slacker. I took a few days off of my blog for a couple reasons. One, I've been busy. I have shredded and frozen 12 cups of zucchini. I made 34 jalapeno poppers. I made 27 jars of pizza sauce. Two, I was too tired to cook or not very hungry so some of our dinners weren't really blog worthy. Ha. A few of the notable things we have had in the past few days are the following.

My hubby made homemade mozzarella sticks. First, he froze string cheese. Then he dredged them in flour that was seasoned with garlic & wine seasoning, seasoned salt, Italian seasoning, and corn meal. Then they dipped in egg and back into the flour. He fried them in oil until golden brown and then served them with leftover homemade pizza sauce. They turned out great! We also made fried mushrooms and fried green tomatoes that night along with our dinner. However, the star was the mozzarella sticks.

We had grilled cheese one night. But not any old grilled cheese. We had caramelized onion, some of the leftover corn/green pepper/mushroom mix, provolone cheese, muenster cheese, and my hubby had chipotle cheddar. Oh wow. Every grilled cheese should be so good!

We also tried vegetarian sausage. I'm not big on sausage period so I was a little nervous. I was surprised. They actually tasted pretty good. My hubby and I both said we would buy them again. We topped them with grilled onion, homemade relish, ketchup, mustard, and my hubby had habanero mustard.

Now on to tonight's dinner. The easiest dinner ever. Well, actually it began at lunchtime. I wanted pasta. I decided to make extra shells so that I could make a pasta salad for dinner. After cooling the pasta, I looked in the fridge to see what I had to use up. I had containers of red onion, green onion, peas, more of the leftover corn/green pepper/mushroom mix, and black beans processed with homemade salsa. I added them all to the pasta. I stirred in the end of a bottle of catalina dressing. I also added the end of a bag of mexican cheese. I love having containers of chopped veggies all ready to go. I try to keep some of our favorite veggies chopped because we use them in so many different dishes. Onion, green pepper, and mushrooms are put in salads, sandwiches, and just about everything in between. For our side tonight, I had a container of green beans in the fridge. They were from my garden and I had previously washed them and snipped the ends. All I had to do tonight was throw them in the steamer pot. I wanted dessert. Who doesn't?? I pulled out my favorite new kitchen item: the apple corer/peeler/slicer. I had 5 cups of beautifully sliced apples in no time. I melted some butter and stirred it into the mix for apple crisp. It baked while we ate dinner. Aaahhhh. Easy dinner that tastes delicious. The kids each had two helpings of the pasta salad as I made it this afternoon. They had two helpings each again at dinner. I'd say that's a win!