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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday and Breakfast Stockup


Well, so much for the constructive day I had planned for today. Think I'm coming down with hubby's stomach bug that he suffered over Christmas. Should make the next couple of days interesting to say the least!

I'm still going to list out what I want to accomplish today. If it doesn't happen today, I'll get it done throughout the week. My big project is Breakfast Stock-Up for the freezer. It's nice when I can give Jonathan lots of easy options for the boys in the morning, and all he has to do is grab, warm up, and go. This week I'm making:

Cinnamon Muffins
Scrambled Egg and Cheese Tortilla Wrap Ups
Pancakes
Granola Bars

If you've got a favorite breakfast recipe that is great for making ahead of time, please share it in the comments section!

On with the week's menu plan. We have a couple of repeats on the menu this week, as we were gone part of last week, and when I got back I was craving different things based on what we ate in St. Louis! ;) I'm including tonight's menu as well, since I changed it from last week. Seems like a couple of my recipes are influenced by the gifts of Penzey's Spices I got....note the glut of cinnamon dishes---have this awesome Vietmanese Cinnamon to try out! I will also be using my adobo seasoning this week--I used it Friday night in a batch of southwestern chicken soup and it was dee-lish!

Best part of this week is that even with steak one night, the overall plan Sunday to Sunday is still under $35. I'm really finding that popping leftover staples in the freezer makes a BIG difference!

12/28 Sunday
oven baked chicken drumsticks $2.40
broccoli w/ cheese sauce 1.00
cinnamon brown sugar glazed carrots .50
$3.90

12/29 Monday
tomato soup using my home canned tomatoes $1.10
grilled cheese sandwiches 1.20
grapes .50
$2.80

2 cans diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth .20
2 stalks of celery, chopped .10
2 carrots, sliced .10
2 cloves garlic .10
1 onion, chopped .15
2T. butter .15
1/2T dried basil
3oz. cream cheese .30
sauté onions, garlic, carrots and celery in butter until tender. Add tomatoes, basil and broth. Simmer for 15 minutes. Place vegetable mixture in blender, food processor or food mill. Puree until smooth. Return to stove. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper


12/30 Tuesday
Skillet nachos w/ shredded chicken from freezer $2.10
Tortilla chips .50
Fruit cocktail .85
$3.45

12/31 New Years Eve
fish sticks and fries for boys $1.50

1/1 Thursday
sirloin steak 8.00
asparagus 1.50
spinach salad 1.00
$10.50

1/2/09 Friday
creamy chicken enchiladas using shredded chicken from freezer $3.00
corn .40
$3.40

1/3 Saturday
beef and vegetable soup using leftover steak $1.50 ( I have leftover stock, veggies and tomatoes in freezer that help bring the cost down on this)
cornbread .60
$2.10

1/4/09 Sunday
brats in buns with sautéed onions $3.00
slow cooker baked beans (half this recipe)1.00
salad $1.00
$5.00

If you liked this plan, you should check out Menu Plan Monday! You can see more than 300 other meal plans with recipes, links, and special dietary restrictions at http://orgjunkie.com

Friday, December 26, 2008

Back Home and Exhausted

Well, we get the award for the most holidays we've been human petri dishes. Last year, we had just stepped into my in-laws house when we started all falling victim to the worst stomach bug I can ever remember having. I mean brutally bad. While hubby was still well, we decided to pile back into the car and hightail it back to town. I endured the 7 hour drive with a barf bag and a hefty dose of immodium. 6 hours after we got home, hubby was at the toilet taking his turn. We spent Christmas at home, sick, but at least together. One call to the in-laws confirmed that we had given them the gift that kept on giving. I'm sure they would have liked to return that gift!

This year, we thought we'd gotten all the sicknesses out of the way. We were especially vigilant in taking vitamins, washing hands, the whole bit. We got to St. Louis on Tuesday night, and my in-laws actually jokingly asked for the doctor's note proclaiming us healthy. We all laughed, got the boys ready for bed, and hit the hay for a busy Christmas Eve.

Wouldn't you know, morning comes, and with it, a new stomach bug for Jonathan. He stayed in bed all Christmas Eve while the boys and I made family visits at arm's length and no hugs. Christmas Day we opened gifts with the in-laws, then went over to my parents house for an early dinner. Remembering last year's events, and fearing that I might get ill, we packed everyone in the car after dinner and made a run for home. Under 7 hours, and we arrived at 1:30 in the morning.

So today I'm tired, surviving on a mere 3 hours of sleep, but I'm home, and so far I'm healthy, as are the boys. Jonathan's feeling much better and I'm sure hoping that the rest of the weekend will be healthy and uneventful.

Think the in-laws might be asking us to get a hotel room next year ;)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Turkey Noodle Casserole

We got a much larger turkey than we needed at Thanksgiving, but I'm not one to eat 2 weeks of turkey. I'll burn out fast. So instead, I package up all the leftover turkey, put it in the deep freeze, and then use it once or twice a month until it's gone. Great way to stretch, and to not get so tired of turkey. You could also make this with chicken, or probably even tuna.

2 cups chopped cooked turkey
½ lb. of egg noodles, cooked .50
1 package frozen peas, thawed .80
1 can mushrooms, .40
1 can cream of mushroom soup .45
½ cup sour cream .25
¼ cup white cooking wine .25
1t garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
French fried onions for top .75

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In bowl, combine noodles, turkey, peas, mushrooms, soup, sour cream, wine and seasonings. Pour into greased baking dish. Bake 25 minutes. Add French fried onions to the top and bake an additional 5-10 minutes until golden and bubbly

Menu Plan Monday

On Sunday. An abbreviated week, with the holiday.

12/22 Monday
fish sticks $2.50
carrots .44
French fries $1.00
$3.90

12/23-12/25 w/ family

12/26 Friday
Skillet nachos $4.20
Canned pineapple .75
$4.95

12/27 Saturday
turkey and noodle casserole (using leftover chopped frozen turkey) $3.40
salad 1.00
$4.40

12/28 Sunday
pot roast and veggies 10.00
cornbread .60
$5.60 (2 meals—will freeze ½ for another meal)

Menu Plan Monday happens on blogs all over! Check out more menu plans and recipe ideas over at http://orgjunkie.com

Skillet Nachos


This is easy, yummy, and filling. Great weeknight meal. A family favorite here. For little ones, add the mixture to Scoops when you're done. Easy for them to eat, and fun!

1 can refried beans .65
½ lb. ground beef .90
½ package taco seasoning, or make your own .10
6oz. of cojack cheese $.94
tortilla chips .50

In iron skillet, spread out beans. Brown ground beef, add seasoning and water per directions on packet, and layer over beans. Grate or slice cheese and put on top of meat. Bake in a 350 oven until cheese is totally melted. Scoop onto plates. Serve with tortilla chips and other toppings like sour cream, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce and hot sauce.

$3.09

My favorite chocolate chip recipe


Making a batch of these today---they are my alltime favorites because they get that perfect crispy on the edges, chewy in the middle combo. Today they are a mix of semi sweet and white chips. I think the key to these is creaming the butter, shortening and sugar together really well, till it's nice and fluffy. I know some people prefer all butter to the butter/shortening combo. You can certainly swap in this recipe-I prefer the combo because I think it gives the cookie that perfect "bite". You might try butter flavored shortening. Adds to the flavor. Enjoy!

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or any flavor/combo you prefer)
2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Combine flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine soften butter with shortening, sugar and brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Beat in egg. Gradually add flour mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 min. I like them almost underdone, so I do about 7-8 on a dark sheet.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Favorite Spinach Salad

I love love love spinach salads. Not that we ate them very frequently when I was young. Occasionally we would do a spinach salad with hot bacon dressing, which is yum, but a lot of work. As an adult though, I've found that we incorporate spinach salads into dinner very regularly. In the summer I combine spinach with strawberries, blueberries and a nice apple cider vinaigrette. In the fall, pears, blue cheese and walnuts with balsamic honey vinaigrette. Pretty much anything I have in the house I can accomodate to a spinach salad. But our all time favorite is one Jonathan's family introduced me too. It's sorta like traditional salad meets russian dressing. Read on.

1 bag spinach leaves
4oz. mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
3 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

dressing:

1/2 cup ketchup
2/3 cup cider vinegar
3T sugar
1T worchestershire sauce
2/3 cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
(this dressing will make several salads)

Combine all salad ingredients in large bowl. In shaker, combine dressing ingredients, shake well, and add small amounts to spinach salad at a time. Toss and add dressing until desired coverage is reached (I don't like really heavy dressing, but some people do)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Favorite Appetizers

Kate at http://asimplewalk.blogspot.com is hosting the appetizer leg tonight of the Bloggy Progressive Dinner. I think sometimes that appetizers are yummier to me than the actual main course! Here are 2 of my favorite easy cold appetizers.

Ranch Cheese Ball
2 packages of cream cheese, softened
1 package of ranch dressing mix
1 tsp dried dill
pecans, walnuts or almond slices
chopped fresh parsley

In bowl, combine cream cheese, ranch mix and dill. Shape into a ball. Combine nuts and parsley on a plate and roll ball until coated. Place on platter with various crackers.

Black Bean Avocado Salsa

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 bag sweet corn, thawed
1 red onion, minced
1 medium tomato, diced
2 avocados, peeled, seeded and diced
1T lemon juice
1T minced garlic
1 package dry italian dressing mix
juice of 1 lime
3T chopped fresh cilantro
2T red wine vinegar
1/2 t cumin
chipotle hot sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients but avocado in bowl. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Just before serving, dice avocado, toss in lemon juice to prevent browning, and then add to mixture. Serve with tortilla chips

Monday, December 15, 2008

Slow Cooker Apple-Sauerkraut with Turkey Sausage and Potatoes

This is an easy, cheap crockpot meal. I usually watch for the turkey smoked sausage (or regular smoked sausage) to go on sale, then I put a few in the freezer.

1 package turkey sausage $1.50
1 jar of apple sauce $.95
1 bag of sauerkraut, drained and rinsed $1.00
1 cup of apple juice .25
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion .25
3 medium potatoes, chopped .50
1 can of green beans .40

Place potatoes and onion in bottom of crockpot. Mix sauerkraut and applesauce together and pour over potatoes. Place sausage on top, and pour apple juice over mixture. Add bay leaf. Cook on low about 8 hours. Serve with green beans on side

$4.85 total

Erin at http://5dollardinners.com cooks for $5 every night. Lots of ideas from others each week in the $5 Dinner Challenge!

My baked goodies this holiday season

I have been leaning toward candy type items this year, I guess because so many people I know are doing cookies. So I thought this would be a nice change of pace. So far I've done these:
Tomorrow it's truffle night. Then we'll see what else I feel like making. Here's the recipe I'm eyeing for tomorrow:




Sunday, December 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday (early)



I did most of last week's menu, except for breakfast for dinner night. I had a client party for work, so hubby fed the boys fishsticks and fries, and I made quickie quesadillas and corn for the two of us after I got home and put the boys to bed. I also flipped Saturday and Sunday's meals, and I'm starting with the Sunday meal here so I can include the recipe for the beans. These are already done for tonight and they are YUM YUM YUM. I'm also doing some prep work ahead for this week's meals to make life a little easier. I have made notes throughout where applicable.
Overnight last night I cooked a bag of black beans in the slowcooker. The bag was .88 and I divided it into ziploc bags to approximate a can of beans. I used the method suggest by the Crockpot Lady here and they turned out GREAT!!! Plus, not all the sodium you get with canned beans. I am going to definitely do this more often.


The week's dinners rounds out at about $30.


12/14 Sunday
chipotle lime baked chicken (chicken marinaded in lime, chipotle sauce, then breaded in crushed tortilla chips and baked at 375 for 30 minutes or until cooked through) $3.00
(saving one breast for Friday’s dinner- I cooked in the marinade on stove top. Then shred, add 2T salsa, sprinkle of cumin, chili powder, garlic, 1 cup beans and freeze)
smoky black beans with bacon $.50
corn .40
$3.90

12/15 Monday
roast beef hash (using leftover roast from Saturday, potatoes and onion- cube potatoes and onion, sauté in olive oil until browned, add cubed roast beef, heat through until warm, season with salt and pepper to taste, serve with ketchup- top with cheese if desired) .75
mashed butternut squash, with butter and cinnamon (in freezer from last week)
spinach, blue cheese and pear salad with balsamic vinaigrette 1.50
$2.25

12/16 Tuesday
cub scout night
cheese ravioli with marinara and parmesan (leftover frozen marinara and last 1/2 package of ravioli I bought at Aldi for 2.99) $2.50
salad w/ leftover artichoke hearts 1.50
breadsticks (last of my free stash from the bakery tour we took)
$4.00

12/17 Wednesday
chili dogs (beef hot dogs $1.20, buns .40, canned turkey chili $.85, chopped onion and cheese .55 for about 2/3 cup shredded cheese) $3.00
cheesy tots $2.00
$5.00

12/18 Thursday
Aunt Jenny’s Slow Cooker Meatballs w/ egg noodles $5.00
steamed carrots $.50
$5.50

12/19 Friday
southwestern chicken and bean meat pies $2.00
with filling made and frozen on Sunday, cheese (using pre-made pie crust rolled out and cut into squares I was able to get a 2-pack of these for 1.15- Place 2T filling, sprinkle of cheese in the center of each square, fold, cinch ends with fork and bake at 350 until golden)
corn .40
mandarin oranges .65
$3.05

12/20 Saturday
cheesy pasta bake (penne layered with cottage/mozzarella cheese mixture and spaghetti sauce with mushrooms, topped with mozzarella, baked until bubby) (already have sauce in freezer from a leftover meal) $2.50
tossed salad w/ w/ homemade Italian dressing 1.00
garlic toast .50
$4.00

12/21 Sunday
turkey and white bean chili (using leftover frozen chopped turkey-will post recipe later this week)$1.50
salad $1.00
tortilla chips $.40
$2.90
Get more meal plans and dinner ideas just like this over at http://orgjunkie.com

Aunt Jenny's Slow-Cooker Meatballs

Source: Cooking Light
Yield: 10 servings

1 1/2 pounds extra-lean ground beef
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh onion
1/2 cup ketchup2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 (16-ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
1 (12-ounce bottle chili sauce
Parsley sprigs (optional)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.Shape mixture into 30 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs. Combine ketchup, sugar, juice, and sauces in electric slow cooker.Gently stir in meatballs.Cover with lid; cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours.Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve over cooked egg noodles

Smoky Black Beans with Bacon

Smoky Black Beans with Bacon

1 can of black beans or 2 cups cooked black beans
3 slices of bacon, chopped
4 baby carrots, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
½ white onion, chopped
½ cup of chicken broth
2 knorr cilantro cubes
½ t cumin
1 t garlic
1 t liquid smoke

In preheated saucepan over medium heat, brown bacon. After a few minutes, add carrots, celery and onion, and continue until bacon is browned and vegetables are soft. Add beans, broth, boullion cube, spices and liquid smoke. Cook covered on low heat for 10-15 minutes. Serve.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Precooking can help you with the budget


I am finding more and more that precooking certain foods can help you save substantial money. It also gives you the "convenience" foods that you would spend more money on if you bought in that form in the store. Here are some ideas that you can do on the weekend that could save you $$$ and time in the long run:


Beans- Canned beans are convenient, but cost more money than dried beans, and they have a LOT more sodium. Dried beans can take a lot of time, so cooking in advance and then freezing into separate servings give you a more economical, and healthier convenience food.
You can find suggestions on how best to cook dried beans at http://www.centralbean.com/cooking.html. Once cooked, portioning about 2 cups of beans per bag will give you the equivalent of 1 can of beans. For a LOT less.
Meats- For certain dishes, like tacos, or dishes that require cubed, cooked chicken, I find that if I just keep pre-cooked portions in my freezer, I save time and money. When I cook ground beef a pound at a time, I end up using a pound, whether I really needed that much or not. These days, I find it easier to cook 4 or 5 pounds of meat in the pan, then I portion it up into ziplocs. Reality is that I can probably get about 7 or 8 meals this way, which I wouldn't have gotten the other way.
For poultry, same rule applies. If you're doing a baked or grilled chicken dish, throw in a few extra, then chop and bag for the freezer. You can make that meat stretch a lot further. The other perk I've found is that pre-cooked meats take a lot less time to defrost, which gives you another go-to item when you're pressed for time.
Happy cooking, and happy savings!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Craving This Dish


It's one of my favorites and I don't get to make it often, as hubby doesn't like "mexican style" rice, or for that matter, really rice in general. (Except in Chinese food, and if fried with eggs, even better lol)

This is one of those that as a young adult I actually created myself, and have tweaked as I've gone along. You can adjust heat and spice as you like. I've recently begun adding a tablespoon or so of adobo sauce to the rice, and a finely diced chipotle. Gives a nice smoky flavor to the dish.
Southwestern Chicken Bake

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts $3.00 ( you could cut up the chicken and stir in and use less to cut down on cost if you wanted to)
1T olive oil
1 onion, chopped .25
1 can of corn .40
1 can of black beans ( I have been cooking from dry and freezing) .20
1 can of tomatoes with chili peppers .60 (on sale)
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t chili powder
1 clove of garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups of rice, cooked (we use brown) .50
1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded $1.00

Preheat oven to 375. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Preheat olive oil in skillet on medium high heat. Brown chicken 5 minutes on each side. Remove and hold on plate. Place onions in same skillet and cook on medium until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain and rinse corn and beans. Combine rice, corn beans, onion, spices and tomatoes (with juice) in 9x13 pan. place chicken on top. Cover with foil and bake in oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with cheese and bake for 5 minutes more until melted.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Menu Plan Monday


12/8 Monday
Papa Murphy’s pizza nite for family-the boys have been asking for pizza for a while now!

12/9 Tuesday
balsamic glazed pork chops $3.50 (3 pork chops)
butternut squash $1.00
spinach, pear and blue cheese salad $1.50
$6.00

12/10 Wednesday
spaghetti and meatballs $3.50
Italian salad $1.00
Bread sticks free
$4.50

12/11 Thursday
breakfast for dinner
ham and cheese scrambled eggs $2.50
hashbrowns $1.00
raisin toast .50
$4.00

12/12 Friday
cheesy turkey and noodle casserole (using chopped frozen turkey from t-giving) $2.00
green beans .40
biscuits $1.00
$3.40

12/13 Saturday
bbq baked chicken $3.00
slow cooker black beans with bacon $.75
spinach salad $1.00
$4.75

12/14 Sunday
roast sirloin $10.00
cheesy potatoes $1
corn .40
$11.40
Get more great menu plan ideas and recipes at http://orgjunkie.com

Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops

On the menu this week. YUM!

Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops
· 1 large sweet onion, chopped
· 2 tablespoons butter
· 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
· 3 tablespoons apricot preserves
· 1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar
· 4 pork chops, about 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick
· 1/4 cup flour
· salt and pepper
· 1 tablespoon olive oil
· 1/2 cup chicken broth
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, cook onions in butter until golden brown and tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add vinegar, apricot preserves and brown sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place flour, salt and pepper in plastic bag and add pork chops. Shake to coat. Arrange in the skillet and brown on both sides. Add chicken broth; simmer covered for 10 minutes, then uncover and continue cooking for 5 minutes longer. Add onion mixture, cover, and cook for 10 minutes longer.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Great way to jazz up canned green beans!

Okay, so first, I have to apologize that I didn't take a picture of this. I stumbled upon this video earlier for green bean and blue cheese gratin.

The recipe looked WONDERFUL, but fattening, as it calls for a whole pint of cream. Also fresh green beans, which I didn't have. But these kept bouncing around in my head so I improvised at home. I melted 2T butter and stirred in 1/2 of italian bread crumbs. sprinkled about 3T of them along the bottom of a little baking crock. Then added one drained can of green beans. I have blue cheese because I love it in salad, so I crumbled about 1.5 ounces over the top, then, since I had no cream, added about 1/2 cup of skim milk. Topped with the rest of the bread crumb mix, and then popped in the oven with my mini meatloaves and roasted potatoes at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Let them sit for 10. OMG!!! I will definitely make those again!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cake Bars



So, out of all the things I made for Thanksgiving, my very favorite was this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cake Bars. I mean so good I've hidden them from the rest of the family so I can keep them all to myself! Never stand between a woman and her chocolate.

I revised the original recipe because they looked so rich, and these are still really rich, so a square is EXTREMELY satisfying! I will probably make these again for Christmas.

Chocolate Chip Cake Bars

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


In a mixing bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan. Bake in a 375 degree oven 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into small squares.