Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mexican Chocolate Brownies

October 12, 2017

I ran a few errands with my son and when we got back home a craving hit me. Dessert. Any kind of dessert. I looked through the cupboards to see what I could come up with. I struck out on a few ideas and then I thought of doing my take on a Mexican chocolate brownie. Only problem is I didn't have quite everything that I needed. But if you know me, you know I don't let much come between me and my sweets! I found a way to make do with what I had.

I knew that to make my version of Mexican chocolate that I would need cinnamon, cayenne pepper,  and almond extract. I didn't have the extract. Hmmmm. I searched until I came up with something that would work. I grabbed a can of mixed nuts and dried fruit. I pulled out all of the almonds and put them into my food processor until they were pretty small pieces. That'll do.

For the brownies:
Mix 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup melted butter, 1 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. For the cinnamon, I added two drops of Young Living's Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil from their Vitality line. Beat in two eggs. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a couple dashes of cayenne pepper. I didn't measure it but I went extremely light on the cayenne. I didn't want the heat to overtake the brownies but if you like heat, add a couple more shakes. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. I then stirred in about 1/4 cup of the chopped almonds.

Prepare a 8x8 or 9x9 cake pan by spraying it with cooking spray. Spread the brownie batter into the pan and then top with a little more of the almonds. Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. It should just be pulling away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick should come out clean.

You will end up with a light, cake-like brownie with a nice cinnamon kick to it. I wouldn't be offended if you drizzled it with caramel. Oh, caramel. I may need to dive back in for another round!

*Note- I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's Vitality oils.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fall Pizza

October 5, 2017

I'm all about making leftovers not taste like leftovers. Yesterday, I made carmelized onions for our tacos and made sure that there would be leftovers. So, I planned tonight's meal around my leftover onions. Man, that sounds weird. But trust me. Those onions are so delicious. My first thought for tonight was pizza.

The easiest way to make your pizza taste better is to step up your crust game. You can buy dough from a pizzeria or from some grocery stores. I like to make pizza dough in our bread machine. It's as easy as dumping in a few ingredients and letting the bread machine do the work. You get fluffy, delicious crust with minimal effort. Score!

I tried coming up with ingredients that would go well with the carmelized onions. This is what I came up with: sautéed mushrooms, spinach, roasted butternut squash (also leftover from yesterday), and meatballs (leftovers that I just cut into quarters). I decided to go with a white sauce so I used alfredo sauce. I wanted the toppings to show through the cheese so I put thin slices of swiss cheese onto the sauce, layered the toppings, and then finished it off with mozzarella and asiago cheese.

The kiddos wanted just plain ol' cheese pizza. I popped open a can of my homemade pizza sauce, threw some mozzarella cheese on, and called it good. All I could hear in my head was "my pizza is better than your pizza". Ha! I didn't even take a picture of their pizza, because, well, cheese pizza.




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Taco Twist

October 4, 2017

A few years ago, we spent just over a year eating vegetarian. One meal that we kept in our rotation even after eating meat again was black bean tacos. Sounds boring right? Just wait. These aren't your ordinary black bean taco. Try rosemary carmelized onion, garlic mushrooms, roasted butternut squash, spinach, and avocado black bean tacos.

First up is the rosemary carmelized onions. These really make the taco. I made extra so that I could have leftovers for other dinners this week. Start by slicing up two onions, very thin. Melt some butter (about 5-6 tablespoons) in a skillet and then add the onions, separating the rings as you go. Give them a minute to get cooking over medium high heat. Season them with salt and pepper. Add 4 tablespoons of brown sugar. Turn the heat down and let them cook until translucent. It may take awhile. The longer they cook, the more tender and sweet they get. I forgot to look at the time, but I probably had mine cooking close to 30-40 minutes. I wanted to add some rosemary flavor but I hate feeling like I'm chewing on sticks. Ha! So, I put a tiny bit of olive oil (probably about 1/2 tsp) into a bowl and added one drop of Young Living's Rosemary Vitality Essential Oil. Then I drizzled it over the onions. Rosemary is a very strong oil. If you want more of just a hint of rosemary flavor, you can dip a toothpick into the oil and then swirl it into whatever you are cooking. One or two toothpick dips may be all you need.

The rest of the ingredients are pretty simple. Dice up a butternut squash. Toss it in olive oil then season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes. Sauce mushrooms in coconut oil. After they cook for a few minutes, add some chopped garlic and salt/pepper. Cook on medium high heat until they start to get nice and brown. I love cooking mushrooms in coconut oil. Once you do, you'll never go back to sautéing them in anything else. As for the black beans, I cooked up a pot of beans yesterday, set some aside for today, and then froze the rest in two cup increments. You could also just use a can of black beans, but make sure you rinse them first. Today I used spinach. However, spinach and arugula would be my first choice. Arugula is delicious and very flavorful. Avocado, slice or mash. Other days when we have made this dish, we have added cilantro instead of rosemary. We've also used corn tortillas that my hubby would fry up instead of flour tortillas. You can play with the ingredients and take out or add what you like. If you wanted to add meat, pulled pork would be great!

*Note: I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's Vitality line of essential oils*


Monday, October 2, 2017

Turkey Shepherd's Pie

October 2, 2017

Yesterday we decided to have a big turkey dinner. Turkey, rosemary garlic mashed potatoes, our favorite side salad (browned ramen noodles, broccoli, romaine, green onions, with a red wine vinegar/oil soy sauce dressing), cranberry sauce, and fresh bread. Tonight, our daughter has a soccer game so I wanted to have dinner cooked and all set for us to heat up when we get home.

I wanted to do something with the leftover turkey. I froze a few meals worth but a 14 pound turkey makes a lot of leftovers! One of my favorite meals to make out of leftovers is shepherd's pie. It is a really forgiving recipe. I use the word "recipe" lightly because I don't really follow a recipe. I have made it with pulled pork, hamburger gravy, ham, vegetarian, and today I used turkey.

I started out by grabbing whatever veggies I had to use up. This part of the recipe is very forgiving too. Just use what you have. Today I used leeks, celery, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, and corn. However, in the past I have also used turnips, rutabagas, onion, mushrooms, and green beans. Ok, back to today. I sautéed up the leeks, celery, carrots, and sweet potatoes in some olive oil. I seasoned the veggies with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. After letting them cook for a few minutes, I added in some homemade chicken broth. You just need enough broth for the veggies to simmer in. You don't want it too runny. I put a little broth into a bowl and added one drop of Young Living's Basil Vitality Essential Oil. I like to add the essential oil to something prior to adding it to the pan. It helps it to disburse throughout the dish better. Next, I added in some frozen peas and some corn. The corn was from the farmer's market. I like to stock up in the summer, parboil it, cut it off the cob and freeze it. It has so much more flavor than buying canned or frozen corn from the store. Next, add in some chopped up turkey. I let the veggies simmer for a few more minutes. Then it is time to layer your pan. I like to use a glass pie dish but really any baking pan will do. I added the mixture to the pie pan. I topped it with leftover rosemary garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, and cheddar cheese. I let it bake at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes. Just let it warm through and let the cheese get as melty/chewy as you like.

I had extra of the turkey/veggie layer so I kept that separate. My son isn't a fan of potatoes so I knew he would eat better if I gave him a plateful of just the turkey/veggies. By saying "isn't a fan" I mean, really, isn't a fan. He is 11 years old and only started liking even french fries maybe five years ago. I figured he would still pick around the sweet potatoes. Evidently, this shepherd's pie was awesome because BOTH kids had seconds and my boy even ate all the sweet potatoes!

*Note: I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's Vitality line of essential oils*



Saturday, September 30, 2017

Copycat Moe's Burrito Bowl

September 30, 2017

One of my favorite meals (and one of my most requested recipes) is luau pulled pork. We make a slow cooker full of it and then freeze it in small containers. I love that you can freeze it and yet when it thaws out it still tastes just as good as the day it was made. We make so many different dishes with it: pulled pork over rice, pulled pork sandwiches, pork nachos, pork enchiladas, pork pizza. You name it, we probably make it with this recipe. Tonight I wanted to make a play off of a burrito bowl. Every time we go to Moe's or Chipotle, you can bet I'm ordering a burrito bowl! But first, you need to start with the pork.

To your slow cooker, add 1/2 cup of apple cider. You can use apple juice and I've even used water in a pinch. Although the apple does add flavor to the pork. Next, put in a pork roast. I think we usually buy the shoulder cut. I always buy as big a piece of pork as my slow cooker can handle. I'd guess around 13 pounds. Put it fat side up. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of kosher salt (regular salt is fine too) all over the top of the pork. Pour 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke all over the salted pork. Cover and cook on low. My slow cooker takes about 12 hours to get the pork real tender. I like to get it going in the evening, let it cook overnight, and then in the morning it is ready for me to pull.  Once the pork is cooked, it will be very tender. You just need to shred it with a fork and pull out any remaining fat. Very easy, few ingredients, and you won't believe the flavor!

Ok, back to dinner. I threw some jasmine rice into my rice cooker. Once it was done, I wanted to add some flavor. I put probably about a teaspoon of olive oil into a bowl and added two drops of Young Living's Lime Vitality Essential Oil. I love all of the health benefits of using essential oils and cooking with them is an easy way to use them. Lime is great for your digestive, immune, and respiratory systems. I chopped up cilantro and then added the oil and the cilantro to the rice. I sautéed onion, green peppers, and mushrooms in coconut oil. I kept the seasonings simple and just used salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Everyone got to build their own plate using whatever ingredients they preferred. I had a bed of romaine and spinach, sautéed onions/green peppers/mushrooms, cilantro lime rice, pulled pork, homemade salsa, sour cream, avocado, and queso.

Dinner was delicious! My daughter cleaned her plate before I was even half way done and she said "mmmm the rice was really good"! We all agreed this is definitely a make again dinner. If you have other ideas on how to use pulled pork, leave a comment below!

*Note: I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's Vitality line of essential oils*

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Ginger Chicken Stir Fry

September 21, 2017

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the week: farmer's market day! This of course means one thing. I have to use up a bunch of veggies I still have so that I can buy more fresh deliciousness tomorrow. Ha! One of my favorite meals to make either the night before farmer's market day or the day before I go grocery shopping is stir fry. You don't need a recipe. You don't need any certain veggies. You don't need any certain meat. Use up what you got.

Tonight we had onion, leek, celery, green pepper (a little wilty but nobody will notice once it's cooked up), mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, and chicken. The leeks, green pepper, carrots, and chicken was all from last week's farmer's market. Fresh and local has so much flavor. I can't wait until next year and I get my garden back. There is nothing more satisfying than harvesting after you have worked in the garden all summer. Love it! Ok, back to dinner.... My hubby seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, and ginger. Once everything was pretty much cooked he asked if I wanted to add in any essential oils.  Hmmmm. Yep! I grabbed my bottle of Young Living's Ginger Vitality essential oil (which is safe to ingest) and just added two drops to a bowl of teriyaki sauce. You don't need to add much to get a really great burst of flavor. I looked into the health benefits of ginger. Of course, like every oil, there is a LIST of things that it can help support. It was so fitting when I saw that it can help with discomfort from teething (my hubby had to get a tooth fixed today at the dentist and he is feeling pretty tender) and good for muscle support (I went to the gym and had leg day after taking about four months off). We finished dinner off with just some steamed jasmine rice.


It's time to curl up on the couch and sip on something warm: Thieves tea. If you are wanting a boost to your immune system, join me! I played around with what I all put in it and finally came up with the perfect cup. I start with a splash of carmel coffee creamer, a squeeze of local honey, one drop of Lemon Vitality essential oil, one drop of Thieves Vitality essential oil, hot water, and two spoons of spiced chai tea mix. The creamer and honey help the oils to disperse throughout the tea. Yu-u-um.

*Note: I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's Vitality line of essential oils.*


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cranberry Turkey Grilled Sandwich

September 20, 2017

It's always a challenge for us to pass up eating at a restaurant when we have to run errands. The one tip I have for you is to try to recreate some of your restaurant favorites to make eating at home more appealing. We had to run a couple of errands today and came back home starving for lunch. I know if I had not planned on this special lunch, we would've given in and eaten elsewhere.

What did we make? There is a turkey sandwich at a restaurant back home that I absolutely LOVE. My parents visited us earlier this month and my mom recreated that sandwich for me. Now it is my turn to recreate my mom's recreation. Ha!

Another tip for cooking in general, is to make each ingredient shine on it's own and then once it all comes together, it will be amazing!

I started out with a cranberry swirl bread. Yum! It has so much more flavor than just using white bread, although you certainly could. I took some honey pecan flavored cream cheese and added some of Young Living's Rosemary Essential Oil from their Vitality line. It is safe to ingest and it is so awesome to be able to get the flavor of rosemary without having to feel like you are chewing on little sticks. Ha! I probably put a few tablespoons of cream cheese in a bowl. I dipped a toothpick into my bottle of essential oil and then swirled the toothpick into the cream cheese. I did two toothpick dips (clean toothpick each time!). Spread the cream cheese on your bread. Next up, cranberry sauce. Spread it like jelly onto the cream cheese. I only put the cranberry sauce on one slice of the bread. Then add some fresh spinach. So much more flavor than just lettuce. Layer on some oven roasted turkey breast and swiss cheese. Butter the outsides of the bread and toast them up like a grilled cheese sandwich until golden brown.

I hope you are ready for the deliciousness that is about to hit your face. Lunch at home has never tasted so good.

*Note: I can only vouch for the safety of ingesting Young Living's Vitality essential oils*

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Essential Mini Meatloaf Recipe

September 19, 2017

There is nothing better than shopping local. I love going to the farmer's market and loading up. Veggies, fruit, eggs, beef, pork, jerky sticks, tomatoes for canning...you name it, I get it. I was able to use a few local ingredients in our dinner tonight. I used local beef and eggs for the mini meatloaves and yellow beans as a side. I was trying to figure out the other side item and the kids just wouldn't budge off of wanting macaroni and cheese. Oh well. Life is about balance.

I took our go to recipe for mini meatloaves and gave it a little updating. I wanted to fit in some extra health benefits by using some of Young Living's essential oils from their Vitality line (which is safe to ingest). I wanted to add in some support for our immune, respiratory, and digestive systems.

The four of us love mini meatloaves so I use a bigger recipe. This is one meal that we don't mind leftovers!

For the meatloaves:
2 lbs ground beef
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 eggs
3 drops Basil Vitality Essential Oil
3 drops Thyme Vitality Essential Oil
1 drop Oregano Vitality Essential Oil
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup tomato Sauce

For the sauce:
1 cup tomato sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
parsley (about a palmful)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

To top:
french fried onions

Mix the Essential Oils with the egg and then added all of the meatloaf ingredients together. Shape into 8 loaves. Place them on a baking sheet covered in tinfoil and sprayed with a little non-stick spray. Bake in an oven preheated to 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Then pour the sauce over the meatloaves and top with some french fried onions. Bake for another 5 minutes.

My hubby and I both really liked the meatloaves with the essential oils. They give SO much flavor! However, it was a tad much for my daughter's tastes. I think next time I would try cutting back on the Thyme and Basil to 2 drops each. I'm telling you, a little goes a long way when you cook with essential oils but you just won't believe the difference in flavor from using dried herbs to essential oils. The flavor alone is reason enough to use them but once you think about the added benefits of supporting your body's health systems- it makes me want to convert all of our recipes! I have a few ideas already and I can't wait to figure out more!

*Note: I ONLY can speak for the safety of ingesting Young Living's Vitality oils*

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chicken Moo-dle Soup

May 22, 2017

I started the day by meal planning. I went through the fridge, freezer, and cupboards and made a list of what meals I could make out of what I have left. The movers actually called us today and asked if they could start packing us up a day early. Yikes. So I spent the day in the kitchen using up what I could.

I decided on making a pot of soup. There was leftover hamburger gravy in the freezer. Hmmmmm. I only had two cans of beef broth though. I figured I would try something new and if it didn't turn out then we could figure out something else for dinner. What did I want to try? Soup using half beef broth and half chicken broth.

I started out by sautéing onion, celery, carrots, and turnip. I added in two cans of beef broth and the leftover hamburger gravy. I also grabbed three containers (sour cream size) of homemade chicken broth out of the freezer. I added just a few shakes of salt, pepper, basil, garlic powder, and onion powder. I had two partial bags of egg noodles. They had different cooking times so I just added the one that had to cook the longest, and then after a couple minutes I added the other bag. When the soup was about done, I added in a partial bag of frozen peas. This soup really just had any leftover items that I wanted to use up prior to the move. However, soup is very forgiving. I make so many different soups and they all just use whatever I have on hand. I rarely follow a recipe. My son said the soup was great. Hubby and I both really liked it. My daughter fell in love. She said it is her new favorite soup! I guess combining chicken and beef is the way to go! Hubby was pretty proud of himself when he came up with the name for Chicken Moo-dle Soup. Ha!


Next up, I wanted to use up some of my baking ingredients. I saw that I had almost a full container of bread flour. I decided to keep it easy and just use my bread machine today. I threw together a loaf of white bread. Perfect for soaking up some soup!


I couldn't forget about dessert. My grandma always made me molasses cookies. They were a huge part of my childhood memories. After I got married and moved away, she still made me a batch of cookies each time I visited home. I saw the jar of molasses in the cupboard and knew just what I wanted to bake. Her cookies. They always bring back fond memories, and a feeling of home. We are getting ready to go on a cross-country move with two kids and a dog.... her cookies are just what I need.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hide the Meatball

May 10, 2017

The countdown is ticking. The clock is counting down. Either way, I have 20 days until the movers come! Operation use up food is in full force.

I hit the freezer and found a few items to use up. I had a container of leftover spaghetti sauce. I also had two meals worth of meatballs. I made beef/sausage meatballs last week. The kids just weren't into them for some reason. I don't understand why because it was all basic Italian flavors that they like. Mama had tricks up her sleeve tonight.

Normally when I make spaghetti, I brown up some ground beef and then add my homemade spaghetti sauce to it. Well, tonight I thawed out one of those packs of meatballs, chopped them up so they would be similar size to ground beef, and threw those into the spaghetti sauce. I steamed up some asparagus and called it good. I am down to one box of angel hair pasta now. If you know me at all, you will realize how shocking that sentence is. I must be doing great at moving prep!!

Did dinner pass the kid test? They ate much better tonight. However, I will admit that when I had to go to the kitchen for something I overheard my son say, "gross, meatballs". Ha. So maybe I didn't trick them. We did, however, use up some freezer food. I'm calling this a win. I actually liked the combo of beef and sausage in the spaghetti. Just don't tell the kids that there is one more operation hide the meatballs coming up soon!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Peppermint Brownies

May 9, 2017

Today was grocery day. It was a much needed distraction. I had one of those days. You know the ones. The day where you want to turn the volume down on everything. The day when you keep saying "shhhhh". So I rolled some peppermint essential oil on my forehead and got to work.

Our move is coming up quick. The movers will be here three weeks from today. It is time to get serious about using up the food in the house. Wait. Didn't I say that last week?! Well, now I need to be serious, serious.

I asked the kids this morning what they all wanted from the grocery store. They had only a few items that they requested: lunchables/salads for lunches, cereal (my boy is a cereal monster!), and lots of "individually packed snacks". My daughter also added in that she wanted me to stock her up on the food that she hasn't been able to eat for the past two years. She gets her braces off before I grocery shop again! Yay for no braces! I knew that as long as I had those items for them that it would be ok to not stock up the cupboards like I normally do.

As for my grocery challenge, I was able to save $26.60 at the grocery store. We didn't go out to eat this week so I saved $80. My savings for this week is $106.60. If you are just tuning in to my blog, I go off of a weekly average. If I spend less at the grocery store or restaurants, then I take that difference and put it into a savings account. Watching that amount grow is so motivating!

Let me get back to using up food. I was trying to figure out what to have for dinner. I looked through the freezer. I looked through the fridge. I looked through the freezer again. Nothing sounded good. As I was about to bypass the pan of lasagna, for what has felt like the tenth time, I decided to just go ahead and use it up tonight. Why keep procrastinating? Chances are the lasagna would then end up in the trash simply because I just didn't feel like it. Lasagna night it is.

It was nice to not need to make dinner. Why was it nice? It freed up time for me to make dessert. I decided to go for a double peppermint whammy today. Peppermint brownies. Homemade brownies are a great excuse to use up some of my baking items before moving day. Homemade brownies are another great way to get some peppermint into my life. Just make your favorite brownie recipe (or box mix) and then add 2 drops of Young Living's Peppermint Vitality essential oil to the mix. You will thank me later. Promise.



It's been fun finding so many new ways to use essential oils to support our families wellness. If you are ready to help your family, I will post my link below. If you can't click the link, you can copy/paste it into your browser.

https://www.youngliving.com/vo/#/signup/new-start?sponsorid=11918323&enrollerid=11918323&isocountrycode=US&culture=en-US&type=member

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Tilapia Tacos with Lemon and Corn Salad

May 7, 2017

I have been craving fish tacos. I bought some tilapia fillets but forgot to figure out what else to put into the taco. I didn't feel like running back out to the store tonight so I just made do with what I had...and they turned out great! My daughter had her taco and then asked if she could eat my son's dinner (he was slowly waking up from a nap). Ha! I told her no but went and made her another taco. My son ended up eating two as well.

I seasoned the tilapia with a seafood rub. I grilled the fillets for about 4 minutes per side. They were pretty thin though. The tacos had romaine lettuce, cucumber sticks, julienned carrots, and cilantro. I wanted to try using lemon essential oil in our meal. Young Living has the vitality line which is safe for consumption. Today I've made a Lavender and Purification sugar face scrub, diffused Lavender and Stress Away, rolled some Deep Relief on my daughter's calf (sore from a full day of soccer and over 30,000 steps!) and pulled a giant splinter out of my son's toe with a drop of Thieves. After all that, it was time to try essential oils in the kitchen! After placing the tilapia into the taco, I just topped it with one drop of lemon essential oil and spread it across the fillet with the back of a spoon.

I wanted a light side dish. I decided to keep the same flavors as the taco. I came up with a corn salad. I added about three ears of corn (cut off the cob, or you could use frozen), about a third of a green pepper diced, about a third of a cucumber diced, a small handful of fresh cilantro chopped, a little bit of the julienned carrot, and two green onions sliced. I made a quick dressing. I combined just a few tablespoons of olive oil, about a teaspoon of honey, and two drops of lemon essential oil. I seasoned the salad with just a dash of salt and a shaking of cumin and garlic powder. Sorry- there's really no measurements tonight!


We all really liked both the tilapia tacos and the corn salad. My daughter had her corn salad inside the taco. We agreed it is a make again meal. I think next time I will try it with red pepper instead of green. The sweetness of the red pepper will go great with the corn. I LOVE that I can easily find a way to incorporate essential oils into cooking. It takes 75 lemons to make Young Living's 15 ml bottle of lemon essential oil. That is some concentrated goodness! This is a great way for us to get all the health benefits that oils can offer!

Oh boy. I had to take a quick break from writing this so I could help my son get the diffuser going again. It's safe to say that our family is falling in love with essential oils. If you are interested in trying out the amazing health benefits of essential oils, or any of Young Living's other personal care or cleaning products, I'll put my link below. If you have any questions, I'm always around!

https://www.youngliving.com/vo/#/signup/new-start?sponsorid=11918323&enrollerid=11918323&isocountrycode=US&culture=en-US&type=member

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Menu planning

May 2, 2017

As I pull up the page for my blog, I must say.... I've missed this. Life got busy and I had to step away from blogging for awhile. Since my last post, the military moved us across the country. We have been in Louisiana for over 2 1/2 years; however, the military said it's time for us to pack up once again and head back to New York. Time is counting down and I need to get serious about using up cupboard staples, condiments/sauces, and freezer food.

For those of you unfamiliar with my blog, I'll give you a quick rundown. I started a 30 day challenge to save money on food (groceries and restaurants). I was spending an average of $175/week on groceries and $80/week going out to restaurants at the time I started the challenge.

Each week, I would try to get creative to repurpose leftovers, because let's face it, nobody likes leftovers. At least they don't in my house! My hubby takes the award for his genius leftover repurpose. He took my leftover cream of potato/leek/fennel soup and used it as a pizza sauce. The pizza was then topped with caramelized onion, sautéed mushrooms, and a trio of cheese (provolone, mozzarella, and parmesan). I was skeptical until I took a bite. It was awesome!

I tried to cut down on impulse buys at the grocery store. I tried to cut back on how often we went out to eat and to make less expensive choices when we did go out. The challenge was like it was made for me. I made lists. Oh, I LOVE lists. I "hid" food in recipes. Like when I made "double yellow cupcakes" (yellow cake mix with yellow squash hidden in them) and my kids loved them!

Each week, I would total up what we had spent on food. If I spent less than my average, I saved the difference. I would transfer that money to a separate account so I could actually see the balance grow. That was big motivation to stick with the challenge. If I spent more than my average, I just counted that week as a zero. Once I saw how much money we were wasting and how much fun it was to save money, I couldn't stop the challenge. I am now in my 4th YEAR. The first year, I was really working hard at the challenge. I saved $5,036.79. The second year, I loosened up a bit but still saved $4,096.29. The third year took a little nose dive. I saved $1,518. Hey, it's still savings. I am six months into our 4th year and I have saved $1,422.59.

Give the challenge a try for yourself. "Shop" your cupboards, your freezer, and your leftover stash first. Try to plan your menu around the items that you need to use up and also by buying one ingredient for two separate dishes (like shredded coconut for cookies and for coconut shrimp).

I'm down to a month before we move. Prior to our move, I want to use up my home canned items. I have tomatoes, taco sauce, salsa, relish, and beans left. I am also trying to use up our extra condiments/sauces, etc that the movers won't pack up. Here is the menu that I came up with for this week.

Enchiladas
Meatballs
Marsala Chicken
Lasagna
Tilapia Tacos
Chicken Gumbo
Hummus

The enchiladas will use up a jar of taco sauce and of tomatoes (my kids think it is too spicy so they like theirs thinned with tomatoes). Seeing as I had to buy tortillas for the enchiladas, I also planned to make tilapia tacos. I looked in the freezer and saw that there is a pound of sausage that I have been avoiding. I will make meatballs with beef/sausage. There is also a half batch of lasagna in the freezer so I'll thaw that for an easy meal on soccer night. I looked through the condiments and saw that I have a partial bottle of marsala cooking wine. I don't want to have to haul partial bottles during our move but I know I don't want to just dump them out! So, chicken marsala made the menu. I was craving chicken gumbo (which will use up another jar of home canned tomatoes). I LOVE okra in gumbo. However, my kids do not. Hubby isn't around for gumbo so I only planned on using half the package. I also bought a turnip so one night I can make roasted veggies to use up the rest of the okra. I have several bags of chickpeas in the freezer. I cook them and freeze them in two cup portions. My son loves cookie dough hummus so I will use up some chickpeas and make his favorite hummus for a snack. Tonight we had the chicken gumbo.



I didn't plan a meal for each night this week. I left one night for leftovers. This is just my starting point. Throughout the week, I find other things to whip up. If you make it, they will eat it. Ha! I will probably get around to a pasta salad to use up some of my homemade relish. There are a ton of bananas in my freezer.... Anyone have ideas other than banana bread/muffins, or smoothies?

Today was grocery shopping day. I calculated my weekly challenge totals once I got home. I saved $56.04 from restaurants. I was over $8.54 with groceries. Once I deducted that overage, my weekly savings was $47.50. I was a little disappointed. I thought I was going to get away with spending less at the grocery store today but man, my kiddos like to snack. Ha! Even though I didn't need to buy meat other than the rotisserie chicken, I still ended up going over. This is why I like to do both grocery shopping and restaurants for this challenge. Some weeks, I spend less at the store, but we go out more. Some weeks it is the opposite. As long as I keep a balance between the two, my savings pile up. Now, who doesn't like a pile of savings?!