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SAM_3150

2 lb. chicken sausage (I used bratwurst)

1 can baby corn

1/4 c. teriyaki sauce (we like Soy Vay)

1 package stir fry vegetables

Brown sausage in a little oil.  Add stir fry veggies and cook until crisp tender.  Add in baby corn and teriyaki sauce.  Serve over rice.

 

 

SAM_3149

1 package Trader Joe’s pearl cous cous

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp. each rosemary and thyme

1 package Cascadian Farmsfrozen Swiss chard

1 package Cascadian Farms multi colored carrots

1 can Cannelloni beans

SAM_3145

Brown Cous Cous  in oil until golden.  Season.  Add in frozen veggies.

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Add water as per vegetable directions.  Add in beans.

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Simmer until vegetables are crisp tender.

I made a huge batch of spinach dip for a party and had some leftover.  I experimented and came up with this delish dish!

SAM_3152

4 c. leftover spinach dip

24 frozen chicken tenders

1 c. sharp cheddar cheese

Heat spinach dip so it is spreadable.  Spread into bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish sprayed with coconut oil.

Place chicken tenders in a single layer in spinach dip.

Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

SAM_3151

Cover with foil and cook at 350F for 30 minutes.

I served this with risotto.  Everyone loved it!

SAM_3142

1 box lasagna noodles (I used old style with the ruffed edges like they did on ATK)

1 jar marinara (I used Lucky’s brand tomato and basil)

1 can diced tomatoes (I used Del Monte with basil, garlic and oregano)

2 lb. cooked, drained, crumbled ground turkey

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large sweet onion, diced

1 container cottage cheese

1 packet Knorr pesto sauce mix

1/2 c. butter or butter flavored spread, softened

1/4 c. shaved Parmesan cheese

1 c. Daiya mozzarella shreds

1 c. shredded Italian six cheese mix

3 whole wheat hoagie rolls

In a dutch oven,  saute onions in olive oil until softened, but not browned.  Add in canned tomatoes, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add in cooked ground meat and marinara. Continue to cook on stovetop for 3-4 hours, or transfer to crock pot and cook on high 3-4 hours or low 7-8 hours.  This can be made ahead and refrigerated until use.  I cooked mine in the crock pot and when straight into assembly with the heated sauce.

About 20 minutes before you are ready to assemble your lasagna, place lasagna noodles in baking dish and pour enough boiling water over noodles to cover.  Let stand for 20 minutes.  America’s Test Kitchen chose this as their favorite method, over using no-bake or actually boiling the noodles.  After 20 minutes, lay noodles out on kitchen towels and pat dry.

Combine cottage cheese, 1/2 packet of pesto sauce, and 1/2 c. mozzarella shreds, set aside. On ATK, they used heavy cream, Fancy cheese, and garlic  I used what I had on hand.

Combine butter (or spread) with 1/2 packet of pesto sauce, set aside.

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Put 1/3 of the cooked sauce in the bottom of a deep baking dish.  Top with noodles.

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Next layer with half of the cottage cheese mixture sprinkled with a little more mozzarella shreds, followed by another layer of noodles.

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Layer with half of the remaining sauce.

Then more noodles.

Then the remaining cottage cheese mixture.

Then the last of the noodles.

Then the last of the sauce.

Top it all off with the Italian cheese and Parmesan.

Cover with foil and place in 350F oven for 30 minutes.

 

When 30 minutes for Lasagna is up, increase oven temperature to 450, and remove the foil.  Let lasagna cook for 5-10 more minutes.

Remove from oven.  Let it sit for 20 minutes before cutting.  Important!!

Meanwhile, cut hoagie rolls into garlic toast size portions.

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Spread with the butter, pesto mix.

Place in oven until golden – about 5-7 minutes.

SAM_3143

I didn’t actually get a picture of this one, but instead put pictures of two previously posted “Empty the Fridge Chowders”  Making a chowder or chili is one of my favorite ways to use up leftovers.

4-5 c. leftover meat and starch (I had about 4 or 5 cups of some delicious boneless lemon pepper chicken thighs and brown rice and black beans that weren’t getting eaten fast enough.  I chopped the chicken up into smaller pieces)

1 bag Dole Chopped salad (I save the salad toppings and dressings from the chopped salad for future use).  Broccoli slaw would also work well as the fresh add-in.

 

Dole_Chopped_304x304_0001_12oz-Blend-AsianBlend

Combine the leftovers with the greens from the Chopped salad, and place in crock pot.

SAM_3119

Add in:

1 jar salsa (I used Muir Glen organic that was on sale)

3 Tbsp. bacon jam

1 Tbsp. dehydrated minced onion

2 C. chicken broth

Any leftover meat and starch will do.  I sometime even freeze leftovers I know will work well in a chowder or chili.  Make sure you label them, though.  They are often unrecognizable when you look at them in a container in the freezer.

SAM_3120

To the chicken, rice, bean, and chop salad mixture, I then added salsa, bacon jam, dehydrated minced onion, and chicken broth.

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Cook on low in the crock pot for 8 hours.

Optional toppings:  Shredded cheese, nuts, sour cream, crushed chips, etc.

Optional add-ins:  Any leftover veggies or starches.

 

 

I menu plan and check out the sales at local markets all week long.  Wednesdays and Thursdays are the new sales days here, so I plan around that.

I thought about what makes me different from others who also love good food.  I recalled things people have said to me regarding my culinary explorations.  It comes down to my ability to feed my family good quality food at bargain prices by planning my menu around what it on sale.    Ensuring that leftovers don’t go to waste by freezing and/or utilizing them is another method for cutting food costs.  My menu plans and shopping lists are fluid, changing daily with my mood, and based on what is on clearance at the store.  I love those racks of stuff they are getting rid of, and the meats marked down on their last day!

I saw Rachel Ray speak about her menu planning, and she utilizes her own version of this method.  The difference is, she doesn’t have to focus on the cost of cooking what family members ask for, she has an unlimited budget.  My food budget varies from week to week, but averages around $150.00 per week to feed 6-8 adults dinner each night, while keeping leftovers or sandwich fixings around for daytime eating.  Oatmeal and cereal for breakfast most days.  Some yogurt, family breakfast on Sunday.

I have food on hand dinners for the next few days, but as of Friday, I will need more food.  The cupboard is nearly bare as far as my usual staples, i.e., canned beans, frozen seasoning veggies and side dish ingredients, frozen leftovers ready for future use.  So this week has the potential to be one that runs a little higher than usual.  I find it so rewarding to buy at the right price and food prepare items ahead to make meals quicker to fix.   Cooked meatballs, cooked and crumbled ground meat and sausage, and cooked (and then shredded) chicken in the freezer help make weeknight meals so much easier!

 

I always buy condiments and grains when I see them on clearance or for an exceptional price.  For instance, I have Lea and Perrins White Wine and Herb Chicken Marinade on hand for a future meal that I bought from the clearance rack for 2/3.49.  The regular price is $2.88 at another store on sale, so it was still a good price.  I also have some S & F Lemon Pepper Chef Sauce that was on sale.  I will definitely be on the lookout for some chicken on sale, since I freeze the chicken pieces in the marinade and defrost it the night before I’m cooking it.  We are a little spoiled in our family, though, and usually opt for boneless chicken.  Less flavor, no homemade broth, higher per pound price, but still first choice most of the time (unless I’m feeling poor, or their giving chicken with bones away).

At least once a week, I make a meal in the crockpot that requires little or no effort on the part of those eating it!  Chili.  Stew.  Chowder.  This usually falls on Wednesday night, when I shop at a new local market called Lucky’s where they have “sip and stroll” and I have to say the level of aggression among fellow shoppers is measurably lower since we are all sipping wine or beer.  People actually smile and sometimes even speak to each other!  It’s a bit of a novel experience nowadays to shop within such a nice vibe.  Their sales are amazing, too, and since Wednesdays you can shop the previous week’s sale or the coming week’s sale, I am presented with more options.  I also find Aldi to be a good choice for my Wednesday night shopping. I keep an eye out for when they have ground turkey on sale, or when I’m bringing food to a gathering and my ingredients are not on sale a the Lucky’s, Aldi, or on the weekly BOGO sale.  Staples such as baking needs, butter, sandwich fixings, breads, produce, and pastas and grains, not to mention canned goods and foil and the like, are all super reasonable at Aldi.  Lucky’s has an app where I can get additional discounts, and tonight I saved $11.00 off my $85.00 bill.  All the items were already on sale, and the discounts were on top of the sale, like coupons.

My daughter also turned me on to Ibotta app, and I’m hooked.  It’s like after-the-fact couponing.  Over the last six months, buying only items I would have bought anyhow, I’ve earned nearly $200.00 which is paid into my bank account using Paypal.  Sometimes when I forget to check what deals are available on Ibotta, I will check when I get home.    Referring friends gets you extra money.  Making your own “team” also gets you extra money.  I enjoy it.  I even got a discount recently shopping at Best Buy and on Groupon!

I find that I enjoy cooking more and we waste less food!  A win, win.

Happy bargain hunting and menu planning!

SAM_0181

3 lb. sausage (I used garlic and herb turkey sausage and chorizo)

1/4-1/2 c. chopped onion (I used green onions and sweet onions)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 c. beer

2 cans beans, drained and rinsed (I used black beans and garbanzo)

4 C. cooked grains, any kind (I used quinoa, brown rice mix)

Chop up sausage into small pieces into dutch oven with olive oil heated to medium high.

When it starts to sizzle and brown, reduce heat, add onion and stir.  Cook for about 5 minutes.

Add beer, cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes.

Stir in cooked grain.  Add a little broth, if too dry, or add a little bread crumbs, if too wet.

Serve topped with slaw type salad, for acidity and texture.

Sorry I didn’t get a picture of the finished product.

 

SAM_3109

3 packages Stonefire Naan Bread (I used garlic)

12 eggs (fresh from a farm my daughter and son-in-law just purchased!)

1/4 c. sour cream

2 Tbsp. minced dehydrated onion

1/2 tsp. salt

2 packages fully cooked turkey sausage links

2 c. shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

Whisk eggs, sour cream, onion, and salt together.  Soft scramble and set aside.  Keep it a little liquidy.

SAM_3103

Place naan on baking sheets lined with foil and sprayed with coconut oil.

Top with egg mixture.

SAM_3104

Chop defrosted sausage into small pieces and top egg mixture.

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Sprinkle with shredded cheese.

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Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes.

My kids are the best!  Mother’s Day couldn’t have been better!

KIMG0071

Flowers . . .

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Beautiful handmade card . . .

dishwasher

A new dishwasher!!

Coffee and my favorite movie!

scissors

Scissors – I’m always looking for them!

The best gift of all is knowing what good people my kids are.

SAM_3080

1 package RPs Pasta Company or other fresh lasagna sheets

2-3 lb. ground meat, browned and drained (I cook and freeze cooked ground meat when it’s on sale)

2 onions, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 c. chopped sweet peppers

1 jar marinara

2 Tbsp. pesto

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

4 c. leftover cooked quinoa

1 container ricotta cheese (2 lb)

1 packet Knorr pesto sauce mix – or Italian seasoning and Parmesian cheese

1 egg

1 package (8 oz) shredded Italian 6 cheese

SAM_3070I bought some fresh gluten free lasagna noodles.  It didn’t say how many sheets are in the package, so I worried that I couldn’t make enough layers, so I decided to try something new, inspired by pastitsio. By the way, the package has 12 sheets, enough for three layers!

SAM_3063

I cook the sauce overnight in the crock pot.  This step isn’t necessary, but it certainly adds another layer of flavor that can’t be replicated any other way.

Day 1:  The Sauce:

2-3 lb. ground meat, browned and drained (I cook and freeze cooked ground meat when it’s on sale)

2 onions, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 c. chopped sweet peppers

1 jar marinara

2 Tbsp. pesto

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

Combine ingredients in crock put.  Cook overnight 8-10 hours on low.  The house will smell amazing.

Day 2:  The Lasagna –

4 c. leftover cooked quinoa

2 c. cooked sauce

Combine quinoa and sauce.  Add a little more sauce if it looks too dry.

SAM_3062

1 container ricotta cheese (2 lb)

1 packet Knorr pesto sauce mix – or Italian seasoning and Parmesian cheese

1 egg

Combine cheese, pesto sauce mix and egg.

SAM_3060

Spray DEEP lasagna dish, and spread quinoa mixture into bottom.  Top with layer of half of the ricotta.

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Place layer of noodles on top of ricotta.

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Top with sauce in a thin layer.

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Top with layer of noodles.

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Top with remaining ricotta.

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Layer the last of the noodles.

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Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with shredded cheese.

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Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes.

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We really loved this.  My daughter suggested stuffing peppers with a quinoa mixture like I used for the first layer and I can’t wait to try it.

I made garlic toast using Texas toast multigrain bread and premade garlic spread.

Yummy!

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