Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Week 17 Meal Plan- Reader Recipe Week!

Happy Memorial Day this week! Do you have any great plans? We'll be staying and playing around town, heading to Grandma's grave with flowers, you know, super exciting stuff like that. If you're staying home, make something fun for the holiday dinner! We're trying Kimberly's Boneless Buffalo Wings (from LMPD reader Kimberly) to make it a real party!

I'm actually devoting this entire week to my readers' recipes! Thanks to all of those who have submitted recipes. I mean really. Thank you, THANK you! I can't get through them all this week, but I'm excited to keep trying YOUR family faves!

Amber's Minestrone Soup, Green Salad, Garlic Bread

Alison's Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Rice, Veggie Stirfry

Shannon's Tuna Biscuit Casserole, Green Salad, Broccoli

Go out or eat leftovers

Alyssa's Falafels, Carrots Sticks, Cucumber Salad

Monday- Memorial Day!
Kimberly's Boneless Buffalo Wings, Corn on the Cob, Fruit Salad

BreAnne's White Chicken Chili, Fritos, Veggie Kabobs

Check out the grocery list here.

Week 17 Grocery List-- with Prices!

This week I'll shop at Maceys and Sunflower Farmers Market.

Ingredients for Week 17 Dinners

I will be purchasing:
1 loaf French bread ($1.39)
1 zucchini ($.51)
1 celery stalk ($.19)
carrots (1 lb $1.59)
1 bunch spinach (SF $.88)
1-2 green peppers (2 at SF $1.00)
1 head lettuce (SF $.88)
4 ears corn ($1.00)
broccoli ($.94)
1 cucumber (SF $.50)
1 tomato ($.60)
1-2 onions ($1.76)
1 red onion ($1.92)
1 head garlic ($.39)
cilantro ($.50)
1 bunch fresh parsley ($.50)
fruit for a fruit salad (SF- watermelon $2.00, blackberries $.88, peaches $.86)
frozen cut Italian green beans ($1.09)
1 big can pineapple tidbits ($1.19)
1 can cream of celery soup ($1.09)
Louisiana hot sauce ($.79)
Fritos ($2.50)
1 can refrigerator biscuits ($.59)
milk ($1.97)
optional: cream- I skipped it for health but it was on sale this week

In total, I spent $27.51 on this week's dinners.
The breakdown is approximately as follows:
Amber's Minestrone Soup, Green Salad, Garlic Bread $6.17
Alison's Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Rice, Veggie Stirfry $2.34
Shannon's Tuna Biscuit Casserole, Green Salad, Broccoli $4.05
Alyssa's Falafels, Carrot Sticks, Cucumber Salad $4.07
Kimberly's Boneless Buffalo Wings, Corn on the Cob, Fruit Salad $5.53
BreAnne's White Chicken Chili, Fritos, Veggie Kabobs $5.26

I will be using from my pantry:
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
3-4 chicken breasts
2 eggs
1 c grated cheese
sour cream
1 can red kidney beans
2 cans white beans
1 can black beans
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tuna
1 can chicken broth
1 can diced green chiles
small shell pasta
potato flour or potato flakes
instant yeast
baking powder
Ranch dressing
soy sauce
brown sugar
Worcester sauce
oil (lots- we've got some frying this week)
olive oil
red pepper flakes
sage leaf

I also stocked up on these deals:
3 Cheese Nips ($.98 each = $2.94)
2 Frenchs (20 oz) mustard ($1.18 each plus two $.50/1 coupons = $1.36)
2 Frenchs (12 oz) honey mustard/spicy mustard ($1.18 each plus two $.50/1 coupons = $1.36)
2 (48 oz) Nalley dill pickles ($1.88 each plus two $.75/1 coupons = $2.26)
1 Kraft salad dressing ($1.58 plus a $.55/1 coupon = $1.03)

Alison's Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Rice, Veggie Stirfry

This sweet and sour meatball recipe comes from Let Me Plan Dinner reader Alison. She says it was a family favorite growing up. . . you know, the kind where the kids fight over who gets the last meatball. :) I'm going to stirfry up some veggies using a little of this and a little of that (mostly using extra veggies I chopped for the Minestrone soup). Then I'll serve the meatballs over brown rice.

Here is Alison's recipe.

1 1/2 lb hamburger
1/2 c. oatmeal
1/4 c. milk
2 T chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce

Mix all. Form into meatballs. Cook in skillet. Remove from skillet and drain fat.

1/2 c. brown sugar
1 big can pineapple tidbits (not as good with crushed)
1 T soy sauce
1 T cornstarch
1/3 c. vinegar
1 small green pepper (I like to use an onion instead because I'm not a huge fan of cooked green peppers, but that's just my personal preference.)

Mix brown sugar, cornstarch, pineapple (and syrup), vinegar, and soy sauce. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Reduce heat. Add meatballs. Cover, simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Stir in green pepper (and/or onion). Cover, simmer until crisp-tender, 5 minutes. Sometimes it turns out a little thick, but if you just stir in water, it turns out delicious :) I hope you like it!

*We enjoyed making this meal! I would probably omit the pineapple juice or decrease the brown sugar, just because I prefer a little less sweet in my sweet and sour. Using onion instead of green pepper was an amazing idea! I thought the onion turned out perfect. If you still like green peppers, add them just a little later to the cooking time. Mmmm. Now I'm craving Asian.

Shannon's Tuna Biscuit Casserole, Green Salad, Broccoli

This casserole recipe comes from LMPD reader Shannon. She says it's a big hit with her kids! I'm not personally a huge fan of refrigerator biscuits in general, but I want to try it to see if my 1 1/2 year old will eat the tuna. We're always working on getting him to eat more fish!

I'll be serving this casserole with steamed broccoli and a green salad.

Here is Shannon's recipe as she wrote it:

1 can of refrigerated biscuits
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can tuna drained
1 c. milk
1 t. parsley
1 c. grated cheese

Mix the soup, milk, tuna, and parsley. Line the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking dish with the biscuits spaced about an inch apart. Pour the soup and tuna mixture over the biscuits. Top with cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Alyssa's Falafels, Carrots Sticks, Cucumber Salad

Alyssa blogs at Cooking a la Mode, and my goodness, her pictures are beautiful. (Are you giving lessons, Alyssa?!) You can check out her falafel recipe post as well as her soft pita bread post for her comments and photos. I'll be serving these falafels with carrot sticks and a cucumber salad (see Tianna's comment), and I couldn't be more excited to try the whole meal!

Here are Alyssa's recipes, as she wrote them on her blog:

-Alyssa Griffeth-

1 can chickpeas
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 Tbs. fresh parsley
2 Tbs. fresh cilantro
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c.+ flour
vegetable oil for frying

1 recipe of Soft pita bread (or store bought pitas-- If you're in a pinch)
English cucumber slices, quartered
tomato, diced
shredded romaine lettuce
1/2 red onion, sliced paper thin
ranch dressing

Place chickpeas and onions in a food processor. Pulse until almost smooth. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, red pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until well-blended but not pureed.

Remove chickpea mixture and place in a bowl. Sprinkle in the baking powder and flour, and gently mix. Add enough flour so that the dough can form a small ball without being too sticky. Refrigerate, covered, while you heat the oil and chop the veggies. Mixture can easily be made several hours ahead of time.

Using a small cookie dough scoop sprayed with Pam, form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts (you should have about 16-18 balls). Flatten between greased hands, until each ball becomes a 3 inch circle.

Heat 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees in a deep pan (I always use a candy thermometer to make sure my oil temperature stays consist ant) and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 5 balls at a time for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Stuff warm pita bread with 2-3 falafel balls and all vegetable toppings. Add a generous amount of ranch dressing and serve hot.

Soft Pita Bread
Adapted from: King Arthur Flour

*Makes 8 flatbreads

3 c. flour
1 1/2 c. boiling water

1/4 c. potato flour OR 1/2 c. potato flakes
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 tsp. INSTANT yeast

Place 2 cups of the flour into a large mixing bowl (or Kitchen Aid). Pour the boiling water over the flour, and stir till smooth. Cover the bowl and set the mixture aside for 30 minutes. This process will cook out some of the starch, making the bread very soft and pliable.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the potato flour (or flakes) and 1 cup of the remaining flour with the salt, oil and yeast. Add this to the cooled flour/water mixture, stir, then knead for several (5-7) minutes to form a soft dough. Add additional flour only if necessary-- The dough should form a ball, but will remain somewhat soft. Let the dough rise, covered, for 1 hour. (Note: Since this is a flatbread, the dough will not rise very much due to the small amount of yeast-- But it should still rise noticeably.)

Divide the dough into 8 pieces (each around 3-4 oz.-- I use my kitchen scale for this), cover, and let rest on an oiled surface for 15 to 30 minutes. Roll each piece into an 8-inch circle, and dry-fry them (fry without oil) on a griddle or frying pan over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until they’re flecked with brown spots. Adjust the heat if they seem to be cooking either too quickly, or too slowly; cooking too quickly means they may be raw in the center, while too slowly will dry them out. Stack the cooked bread in between a soft, clean towel to keep them warm and soft. Serve immediately, or cool before storing in a plastic bag.

Kimberly's Boneless Buffalo Wings, Corn on the Cob, Fruit Salad

Happy Memorial Day! This boneless buffalo wing recipe comes from LMPD reader Kimberly. You can check out her recipe blog, Chez Fruge. I'm excited to serve these buffalo wings with chips, corn on the cob, and a fruit salad. Sound like a good holiday to you, too?

Here is Kimberly's recipe, as she wrote it on her blog. I will definitely be using less oil because I don't have a fryer. I will also be leaving some of these without sauce for the little one (he doesn't do spicy quite as well.

1 1/2 – 2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cayenne red pepper
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 boneless skinless chicken breast
7 cups vegetable oil
1/4 cup Louisiana Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

In medium bowl, mix flour, salt, black pepper, cayenne red pepper, and paprika.
In small bowl, mix egg and milk.
Slice chicken breast into small bite size pieces.
In your deep fryer or skillet, pour in the oil (mine took 7 but it’s a wider fryer – you may need more or less depending on the size of your fryer or skillet).

Heat oil to 375 degrees.

Dip the chicken pieces into the egg and milk mixture and then the flour mixture. Repeat this process to double-coat each piece.
Arrange chicken on a plate and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.
When 15 minutes is up, carefully place the chicken into the oil and fry for 5-6 minutes (depending on how big you made the pieces) until they are brown. (My fryer fit 7-8 pieces at a time.)
Remove chicken from fryer when browned (and cooked through) and place them on a plate lined with paper towel.
In a microwave safe bowl (one with a lid – you will need it later), combine hot sauce and butter and microwave until butter is melted (about 25 seconds). Stir.
Put the chicken in the bowl with the sauce mixture and cover with the lid. Shake well to coat each piece.
Serve with Blue Cheese or Ranch Dressing

*Thanks, Kimberly, for a yummy recipe! We liked feeling like we were eating out for a night.

BreAnne's White Chicken Chili, Fritos, Veggie Kabobs

This white chicken chili recipe is from reader BreAnne. I'll be serving this chili with tortilla chips and some grilled veggie kabobs (I'm thinking red onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms!).

Here is BreAnne's recipe as she wrote it, but scaled by half. I'll be substituting milk for the cream.

1 can canellini beans (white kidney beans)
1 can black beans
about 1/4 cup chopped onions (or more if you like onions)
about a clove of minced garlic
about 1-2 large chicken breasts
about 1 can chicken broth
1/2 to 1 can green chiles, diced
about 1/2 tsp of cumin
sometimes I add a dash or two of paprika or some chili powder or both (go by the smell of them together)
about 3/4 cups cream
around 1 tbsp cornstarch (mix with some of the cold cream)
salt and pepper to tastiness
a sage leaf
Sour Cream

Saute the onions and garlic and add the chicken with S&P and cook. Cut up the chicken into bite size pieces. Add the chicken broth and and the rinsed beans, and the sage leaf, cumin, salt and pepper, sometimes i throw in a little paprika, the can of green chiles. simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the cream. Add the cornstarch and cream mix and bring to a boil, then let simmer until you are ready to eat it.
Put some Fritos in a bowl and ladle some chicken chili over it. Dollop on some sour cream and if you like any green adornments (like cilantro or parsley) you can add that on top too!

Feel free to add or subtract and adapt in any way you like, it always turns out great!

*This was such a fantastic, flavorful soup! It seemed so bright and fresh, perfect for summertime. The Fritos in the bottom of the bowl were a really nice addition in terms of flavor and texture. I used chopped cooked chicken I already had on hand, but followed the recipe otherwise. Thanks, BreAnne!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Week 16 Meal Plan

I'm rather unimpressed with this week's grocery sales. All the stores only have a couple good sale items. This week's meal plan will be based a lot around the odds and ends I have in our pantry.

I was excited, though, to see that Sunflower Farmers Market has mahi mahi on sale for $3.88/lb. That's a great deal on fish, and since we're trying to increase our fish consumption (for heart health) I'm excited to buy it!

Teriyaki Chicken, Rice, Zucchini, Edamame

Not-Too-Fiery Fish Tacos, Black Bean Salsa, Green Salad

Lemon Herb Pork Chops, Broccoli, Cauliflower

Go out or eat leftovers.

Trimble's Chicken Noodle Soup, Homemade Rolls, Broccoli, Peas

Viva la Chicken, Tortilla Chips, Corn, Green Salad

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta, Green Beans, Carrots

Check out the Grocery List and Tips, too!

Week 16 Grocery List-- with Prices!

This week I shopped at Maceys, with a quick stop into Sunflower Farmers Market as noted by SF.

Ingredients for Week 16 Dinners

I will be purchasing:
1 zucchini ($.28)
2 tomatoes ($1.26 SF)
1 small red onion- maybe not, I have a white onion at home
cilantro ($.50)
1 head lettuce($.88 SF)
broccoli ($1.47)
1 bunch celery ($1.57)
1 lb carrots ($.72)
1 potato ($.40)
fresh basil ($1.69 SF)
1 lb mahi mahi (1.2 lbs @ $3.88/lb= $4.58)
1 (7 oz) can salsa verde ($.99)
milk (1 gallon - $1.97)
optional: 1 avocado ($1.29)

In total, I spent $18.28 on this week's ingredients.
The breakdown is approximately as follows:
Teriyaki Chicken, Rice, Zucchini, Edamame $.28
Not-Too-Fiery Fish Tacos, Black Bean Salsa, Green Salad $8.07
Lemon Herb Pork Chops, Broccoli, Cauliflower $1.42
Trimble's Chicken Noodle Soup, Homemade Rolls, Broccoli, Peas $3.07
Viva la Chicken, Tortilla Chips, Corn, Green Salad $3.40
Roasted Red Pepper, Green Beans, Carrots $2.05
Even though there weren't too many good sales this week, I was able to keep costs low by using up the odds and ends in my food storage. It really pays to have stocked up when things were on sale!

I will be using from my pantry:
5-6 chicken breasts
4 pork chops
1/2 lb Italian sausage
1 c sour cream
2 oz cheese
1/2 pkg cream cheese
garlic cloves
1 pkg tortillas
8 oz penne pasta
12 oz rotini pasta
teriyaki sauce
Italian dressing
lemon juice
12 oz jar roasted red peppers
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans
1 can shoepeg corn
1 can green beans
4 (14 oz) cans chicken broth
1 (10.5 oz) can cream of chicken soup
frozen corn
frozen peas
frozen edamame

I also stocked up on:
6 Pantene shampoo and conditioner- the big bottles! ($2.50 each = $15.00)
Hidden Valley Light Ranch ($2.49)
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (4 pack= $2.48)
Simply Potatoes Southwestern style refrigerated hashbrowns ($1.49 each = $2.98)

Week 16 Tips

When you prepare your green salad, save half in the fridge for Monday.

Wash and chop all your broccoli, but save half in the fridge for Sunday.

Cook about 3 chicken breasts in the crockpot in the morning (or even start Saturday night). Once the chicken is cooked and chopped, use half in Sunday's chicken soup and the other half in Monday's casserole.

Not-Too-Fiery Fish Tacos, Black Bean Salsa, Green Salad

We fell in love with the Fiery Fish Tacos on AllRecipes three or four years ago. Now that we have a child, though, we aren't able to make things quite as spicy as we used to. In this milder version, I'll try using mahi mahi (since that's what's on sale this week) but you could easily use tilapia and simply decrease the cooking time by a few minutes.

If you like spicy foods, double or triple the cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. Or just pass tabasco at the table like you always do. :)

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can white shoepeg corn, drained
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 red onion (you can use white onion if that's all you have on hand)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/2 c Italian dressing

1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/8 t black pepper
1/4 t salt
1 T vegetable oil
1 lb mahi mahi, cut into 2 oz strips
8 tortillas
1/2 c sour cream
avocado (optional), sliced
red salsa (optional)
lime juice (optional)

green salad

Prepare the black bean salsa at least 1 hour before dinner, or start the day before. Combine black beans, corn, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and Italian dressing in a medium bowl. Chill in the fridge. (Extra black bean salsa can be stored in the fridge for a few days, and is delicious with tortilla chips.)

In a small bowl, mix together cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, and oil. Coat mahi mahi with oil/spice mixture. Coat a pan very well with cooking spray and heat to medium-high heat. Saute fish 4-5 minutes per side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork; decrease heat to medium if fish browns too quickly. For each taco, top a tortilla with 1 strip of fish, black bean salsa, sour cream, and, if desired, avocado, salsa, and lime juice.

*I've eaten mahi mahi at restaurants before, but I've never bought it and cooked it myself. I like that it is another mild white fish, but it's definitely meatier than some mild fish like tilapia. The particular mahi mahi I bought at the store came with the skin on one side, and we wanted to remove it before eating. It was too difficult to try to remove the skin from the raw fish, so we cooked it skin side down first. Then we flipped it and removed the skin as the fish cooked on the second side. In the end, we flipped the fish back to the first side so it could get a little brown. It worked out fine, and we enjoyed our fish tacos!

Lemon Herb Pork Chops, Broccoli, Cauliflower

Lemon Herb pork chop recipe is adapted from AllRecipes. It is one of our favorite pork chop recipes.
1/4 c lemon juice
2 T oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t salt
1/4 t dried oregano
1/4 t pepper
4 (4 oz) boneless pork loin chops

broccoli florets
cauliflower florets

In a bowl, combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, oregano, and pepper. Place half the marinade in a large resealable bag with the pork chops. Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. Save the remaining marinade in the fridge as a sauce.

Preheat oven's broiler (or an outdoor grill to high heat). Remove chops from bag and discard marinade. Place pork chops on a greased baking sheet. Broil 5-7 minutes per side, basting 3 times with reserved sauce, or until done.

Place cauliflower in bottom of a steamer basket, and top with broccoli. Steam until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Trimble's Chicken Noodle Soup, Homemade Rolls, Broccoli, Peas

This chicken noodle soup recipe comes from LMPD reader Trimble. You can find it posted on her blog, Dinner Time Ideas. I was intrigued by how thick the soup looks in her picture; I can't wait to try it out!

I will be serving this soup with Grandma's homemade rolls, steamed broccoli, and microwaved frozen peas.

Here is Trimble's post, copied from her blog:

2 T butter
1 c sliced celery
1 c chopped carrot
1/2 t onion powder (or 1/2 cup chopped onion if you prefer)
1 small diced potato
1 teaspoon thyme (if you don't have this go to the store, do not leave this out)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (again, go to the store)
4 cans (14 oz) chicken broth
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 lb or 1 1/2 c noodles (penne are my favorite)
2 c cooked chicken, shredded or diced
1/2-3/4 c water

First I like to cook my chicken in a slow cooker on high for 4-6 hours. Put two small chicken breasts in, fill the slow cooker about 1/3 full with water and sprinkle in 1 1/2 teaspoons of onion salt. After the chicken is done, either shred or dice and set aside. On high heat, melt butter in a large pot and saute celery, carrot and onion powder for two minutes. Add potato, thyme, poultry seasoning, chicken broth and bouillon. Bring all to a boil. Add the noodles and chicken and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Depending on how thick you want this to be, add up to 3/4 c water. It's pretty thick if you don't add any extra water due to the noodles.

*This soup was delicious! I loved the strong flavor and thick texture. I threw my peas into the soup, just for more veggies. Thanks for a yummy chicken noodle recipe!

Viva la Chicken, Tortilla Chips, Corn, Green Salad

I got this Viva la Chicken recipe from my mother. I remember loving this casserole growing up. The tortillas are pretty flexible in this recipe- you can use flour or corn (but I prefer flour by a long shot!), and you can vary the amount depending on what you have on hand.

I decided to bake this casserole in individual ramekins. Isn't everything more fun when it's small?

Viva la Chicken
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 (7 oz) can salsa verde (or about 1 c if you buy the jarred kind)
1 (10.5 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1/2 c milk
1/2 c sour cream
3 T dried minced onion
4 large or 6 small flour tortillas
2 oz grated cheese (I like Colby Jack best)
tortilla chips (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together chicken, salsa verde, cream of chicken soup, milk, sour cream, and onion. Spray a 2- quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Rip up half the tortillas into small pieces (about 2 square inches), and place tortillas in the bottom of the baking dish. Pour half the chicken mixture over the tortillas. Repeat by topping with 2 more torn tortillas and remaining sauce. Top with grated cheese. (You can make this in the morning and bake it at dinnertime.) Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve with tortilla chips, if desired.

frozen corn
green salad

Microwave frozen corn and season with salt and pepper.

Prepare green salad.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta, Green Beans, Carrots

This Roasted Red Pepper Pasta is from Creative Stirrings. You can find the original post here. I have scaled down the recipe to feed 4.

1/2 lb Italian sausage
1 (12 oz) jars Fire Roasted Red Peppers, chopped and reserve juice
1 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes, reserve juice
1 T dried basil
1 1/2 t garlic minced
1/2 t salt
dash cayenne pepper and black pepper
3/4 c fresh basil leaves, chopped (I may skip this depending on the price)
1/2 pkg cream cheese (4 oz), softened and cubed
12 oz rotini pasta, cooked

1 can green beans

1/2 lb carrots

In a large frying pan, cook and crumble Italian sausage. Stir in red peppers (including juice), tomatoes (including juice), dried basil, garlic, salt, pepper. Add basil leaves and cream cheese; stir until cream cheese is melted. Serve over hot pasta.

Microwave green beans.

Place carrots in a microwave safe bowl. Cover halfway with water. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes more. Test for doneness with a fork. Continue microwaving at 1 minute intervals until tender. Drain water. Toss carrots with salt, pepper, 1 t butter, and a pinch of sugar.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A few things to say

I'm still looking for recipes from my readers! I'm looking forward to doing a week of readers' recipes, but I'll need a couple more to make that happen. So please, friends and fellow home cooks, share one of your family favorites. You'll be doing us all a favor!


Did you notice my food storage series last week? Feel free to look through, and then comment to share your wisdom with those (like me!) who need a little help.

Week 15 Meal Plan

I think the grocery stores are predicting sunshine because everything for a barbecue is on sale this week! I'm not sure I trust my weather forecasting to meteorologists, let alone grocers, but I'm feeling hopeful for some sun. If you need to stock up on barbecue ingredients-- ketchup, mustard, bbq sauce, etc-- this would be a great week. Some stores are even having decent sales on chicken and ground beef, so keep your eyes peeled. Invite some friends this weekend and have a party! Meet me at the park?

Also, FYI, we are trying to eat fish more often. Seafood is expensive, though, so if your budget can't quite handle it, try experimenting with the recipes using chicken or some other meat.

Crunchy Honey Mustard Salmon, Mashed Potatoes, Green Salad

Thursday- Breakfast for dinner!
Breakfast Burritos, Hashbrowns, Fruit

Hot Dogs, Pasta Salad, Oranges

Eat leftovers or go out.

Roast beef, Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Carrots

Chicken Parmigiana, Green Salad, Peas

Sloppy Joes, Green Beans, Sauteed Zucchini

Check out the grocery list here.

Week 15 Grocery List-- with Prices!

This week I shopped at Maceys, and picked up a few items at Sunflower Farmers Market.

Ingredients for Week 15 dinners
I will be purchasing:
1 pkg. hot dog buns ($1.50)
4-8 hamburger buns ($.75)
1 lemon ($.50)
1 head lettuce ($.78)
fruit (blackberries $.88)
oranges ($1.05)
1 red pepper ($1.99 ouch!)
a little broccoli ($.74)
a little cauliflower ($.47)
1 onion ($.65)
1 lb baby carrots ($1.59)
7-10 red potatoes ($2.66)
1 zucchini ($1.00)
milk (1 gallon $1.97)
eggs (1 dozen $.88)
1 pkg. hot dogs (turkey franks $.99)
12 oz salmon fillets (.84 lbs @ $8.99/lb = $7.56)
2.5 lbs beef pot roast (2.1 lbs @ $1.98/lb = $4.16)
Italian breadcrumbs ($1.59)
optional: 1 tomato
optional: 1 bunch green onions

In total, I spent $31.71 on this week's dinners.
The breakdown is approximately as follows:
Crunchy Honey Mustard Salmon, Mashed Potatoes, Green Salad $9.76
Breakfast Burritos, Hashbrowns, Fruit $2.41
Hot Dogs, Pasta Salad, Oranges $6.74
Roast Beef, Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Carrots $8.41
Chicken Parmigiana, Green Salad, Peas $1.98
Sloppy Joes, Green Beans, Sauteed Zucchini $2.40

I will be using from my pantry:
3 chicken breasts
1 lb ground beef
chopped pecans
4 potatoes
fresh bread crumbs
8 oz rotini pasta
8 oz angel hair pasta
Parmesan cheese
3 to 6 oz mozzarella cheese
spaghetti sauce
Italian dressing
dry Italian dressing mix
Dijon mustard
1 (11.5 oz) can tomato juice
Worcester sauce
1 can green beans
frozen hashbrowns
frozen peas
olive oil
brown sugar
Lipton onion soup mix
garlic powder
parsley flakes
Italian seasoning

I also stocked up on:
1 Pompeian red wine vinegar ($1.79)
2 pkg egg noodles ($.68 each = $1.36)
1 McCormick pepper grinder ($1.49 plus I had a $1/1 coupon from RP-4/25)

Crunchy Honey Mustard Salmon, Mashed Potatoes, Green Salad

This salmon recipe is adapted from AllRecipes. Sorry, folks, but it is not cheap. (Seafood rarely is...) But what is the point of being frugal, if not to buy the things you need to be healthy? We're working on increasing our HDLs, and salmon is a fantastic way to do just that. If you can't do salmon, I would bet this honey mustard would taste delicious on chicken. Let me know how it goes if you try it!

2 T Dijon mustard
1 t butter, softened
1 heaping T honey
1/2 t garlic powder
1/3 c fresh bread crumbs
1/3 c chopped pecans
2 tsp parsley flakes
2 (6 oz) salmon fillets
salt and pepper
1 lemon

4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/3 c milk
2 T butter
salt and pepper

green salad

Preheat oven to 400. In a bowl, stir together mustard, butter, honey, and garlic powder. Place in the fridge for a few minutes. In a separate bowl, stir together bread crumbs, pecans, and parsley flakes. Place salmon on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top with mustard mixture. Press on bread crumb mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes per inch of thickness, until salmon flakes with a fork. Just before serving, generously squeeze lemon juice on top.

Place potatoes in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain. Mix in milk and butter. Mash with a potato masher or electric mixer until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare green salad.

Hot Dogs, Pasta Salad, Oranges

Are you ready for summer?

My pasta salad recipe is pretty typical, but I do have one secret: dry Italian dressing mix. I like my pasta salad to have maximum flavor without adding too much oily dressing. That's why I add a little dry dressing mix to my salad; it's like using super-flavorful dressing instead of regular!

8 oz rotini pasta
3 c chopped veggies (onion, carrot, bell pepper, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, etc)
optional: 3 oz mozzarellla, cubed
1/3 to 2/3 cup Italian dressing
1 to 2 t dry Italian dressing mix

1 pkg. hot dogs
1 pkg. buns

oranges, separated into sections

Early in the day, cook pasta according to directions; drain. Place in the fridge to cool. About 1 hour before dinner, mix together pasta, veggies, and cheese, if using. Then mix in Italian dressing to desired taste. Sprinkle on a little dry Italian dressing mix, also to taste. Place pasta salad back into the fridge to chill.

Cook hot dogs according to your preference (grill, boil, pan fry, microwave (with a slit for ventilation)). Serve on buns with your preferred condiments.

Roast beef, Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Carrots

I'm not terribly in love with roast beef, but it's one of Grandpa's favorites. So, we end up having it almost every time it goes on sale (which is every few weeks, if you haven't noticed).

2.5 lbs beef pot roast

7-10 red potatoes
1/4 c olive oil
1 pkg Lipton onion soup

1/2 lb baby carrots

In the morning, place beef in greased crock pot. Season generously with steak seasoning or salt and pepper. Cook on low 7-10 hours. Remove roast and let rest at least 10 minutes. Cut across the grain into thin slices. Place sliced roast beef back into crock pot for at least 10 minutes to warm.

Preheat oven to 425. Chop potatoes into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. On the baking sheet, toss potatoes, oil, and soup mix. Stir until all potatoes are well coated. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Place carrots in a microwave safe bowl. Cover halfway with water. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes more. Test for doneness with a fork. Continue microwaving at 1 minute intervals until tender. Drain water. Toss carrots with salt, pepper, 1 t butter, and a pinch of sugar.

If you'd like, make a gravy for the roast beef. Melt a couple teaspoons of butter over low heat in a medium saucepan. Add about a tablespoon of flour; stir to combine well. Whisk in about 1 cup of beef broth from the crock pot. Increase to high heat, stirring well until it comes to a bubble. Stir and cook on high for one more minute. Reduce heat to low and season with salt, pepper, and a little squirt of Dijon mustard.

Chicken Parmigiana, Green Salad, Peas

This chicken parmigiana recipe is an adaptation of a few different chicken parmigiana recipes I've found. Nothing too fancy.

1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 c Italian breadcrumbs
3 chicken breasts, cut in half
12 oz spaghetti sauce
3 slices mozzarella cheese, cut in half
or 3 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese

8 oz angel hair pasta

green salad

frozen peas

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 7x11 baking dish. Bead egg, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Place breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl. Dip chicken into egg then coat with bread crumbs. Place in baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Pour spaghetti sauce around and on top of chicken. Cover/sprinkle with mozzarella. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Return to the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Serve chicken parmigiana over cooked noodles.

Prepare green salad.

Microwave frozen peas. Season with salt and pepper.

Sloppy Joes, Green Beans, Sauteed Zucchini

This sloppy joe recipe is from my great-grandma. Seriously.

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1/4 c ketchup
2 T vinegar
3 T mustard
1 (11.5 oz) can tomato juice
4 T brown sugar
1 T Worcester sauce
4-8 rolls or hamburger

1 zucchini
Italian seasoning
optional: shredded cheese

1 can green beans

In a large frying pan, brown ground beef with onion. Drain off fat. Add next 6 ingredients (ketchup through Worcester sauce). Simmer on low for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring every half hour, until thick. (Or cook on medium-high for 15-20 minutes, stirring often, until thick.) Serve on buns.

Chop zucchini into thin circles. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Sautee zucchini until tender. Season generously with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Sprinkle lightly with cheese, if desired.

Microwave green beans. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Food Storage Series Part 6: Keeping Track of It All

This post will conclude our series on food storage. I absolutely welcome all your comments (because let's face it, I'm no expert). Do you have any great tips? Have you found great ways to organize your food storage in small spaces or on a limited budget? Do you have a state-of-the-art inventory system?

I do not have a state-of-the-art inventory system. As most everything I do with food storage, I keep track of what I have in a very simple way. In addition to trying to keep everything in my brain and remember generally what we have on hand, I use a white board on the fridge.

This white board looks ridiculous. I bought it when we were first married in August 2006. Since it was back to school time, the locker supplies were on sale. So I got this goofy teen white board on a great sale, and it's still on the fridge after almost 4 years. It didn't even come with a marker, so I have a dry erase marker attached to a random magnet with a rubber band. High class, I tell you.

I use the top part of the white board to keep track of the meal plan for the week. It's a constant reminder of the little things I need to do (start the crock pot, defrost that chicken, etc, etc). I use the middle of the white board to write myself reminder notes (don't forget Monday's appointment, dinner idea for next week, etc.). The bottom section of the white board is what helps me keep track of my food storage.

Every time I start to run low on an ingredient in the kitchen cupboards or fridge, I run down to the storage room to get more. If I start to run low in the storage room, I write that ingredient on the white board. I try to put things on the white board before I actually run out so that I have time before I need to buy it. Then I watch the sales. If one of these ingredients goes on sale, I stock up. If I end up needing something for a meal plan before it goes on sale, I still have room in my budget to pick one up.

It's nothing close to genius, but it's a simple system that works for me!

Food Storage Series Part 5: Freezer Fancy

Don't mind the small child trying to climb in the freezer.
I love the freezer! I have discovered its wonders while learning how to buy in bulk.

Here are some of the things I keep in the freezer.

  • nuts
  • baking chips
  • frozen fruit
  • yeast
  • homemade jam
  • juice
  • pastry mat

  • desserts
  • vegetables
  • meat (organized by chicken, beef, and pork)
  • bread (in foil)
  • deli meats
  • butter
  • tortillas
Most things can be frozen in their original packages. However, a few items need some attention to avoid freezer burn.

Bread can be frozen for a few days just fine. But when buying large quantities of bread (thus freezing each loaf for a longer period of time), I've learned to wrap each loaf of bread in a layer of foil. Since the foil never touches any food, you can reuse your foil, loaf after loaf.

Meat needs the most attention before freezing. If you're going to use meat within 1 or 2 days of buying it, you can keep it in the fridge. Otherwise, freeze it. Meat can be frozen for at least a month in the foam tray/cling wrap packaging from the butcher department; so if you're going to be using an entire package at once (like a roast), go ahead and throw it in the freezer. You can put it in the fridge the night before to start thawing.

If you buy a large quantity of meat on sale, separate it into smaller portions before freezing. I like to do the smallest portions we ever use in recipes: 1/2 lb of ground beef, individual chicken breasts, individual steaks, and about 3 pork chops at a time. Wrap each portion in a double layer of foil. Then use a permanent marker to mark the date, the meat, and the weight. These packets can be kept in the freezer for a few months as they are, but if you bought a lot of one kind, you can always group the packets in a large, freezer-quality resealable bag.

Food Storage Series Part 4: The Fridge

I don't think there's too much to say about the fridge. I just have a few helpful points.

  • I like to keep my bread in the fridge because it helps keep it from going moldy.
  • I try to keep my leftovers in plain sight so I don't forget to use them up.
  • Keeping all my condiments well organized helps me quickly see if we're running low on any particular ingredients.
  • Don't you just love those drawers that keep your fruits, veggies, and cheeses organized? If you don't have enough drawers for your liking, pick up some plastic bins at the dollar store. You can usually find some that fit perfectly in a fridge.
Does anyone have any good ideas for refrigerating food to help it keep longer?

Sorry I don't have anything super exciting to say about the fridge, but stay tuned for my post with helpful ideas on freezing food!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Food Storage Series Part 3: The Kitchen Cupboards

Kitchen cupboards hold a lot of things: dishes, small appliances, table linens, and of course, food. We only have a few cupboards in the kitchen dedicated to food, so I keep the majority of my pantry items in the storage room downstairs (see Parts 1 and 2).

Our kitchen cupboards are for:
  • food we use every day (cereal, crackers, raisins)
  • food packages that are already open (bread crumbs, corn meal, rice)
  • cooking basics (spices, oil, vinegar, sugar)
  • a few canned goods that we use often (I bring up a few at a time)
  • food that's expiring soon- to remind me to use it (right now two cookie mixes)
  • any ingredients for this week's dinners that I had to pick up at the store

I don't worry about keeping the cupboards too organized because we're always rotating through things so quickly.

I also keep some fresh items on the counter so I never forget to use them up. I keep a basket for potatoes, onions, and garlic. These things might keep better in a dark space (like under the cabinet), but I found I use to forget what I had on hand.

I also keep fruit like bananas, peaches, mangoes, and pears in a basket until they are ripe.

I probably have more space in my current kitchen than I need for food. Even if you don't have much cupboard space, you can function pretty well if your serious food storage is well organized and easily accessible.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Food Storage Series Part 2: Tips to Remember about Food Storage

Wow, that last post was getting a little long! Here I'll sum up a few things I've learned.

Make do with the space you've got.

If you've got a special storage room with shelves and all, then consider yourself lucky!

If all you have is a little floor space, you can still find a way to keep your food organized and (somewhat) accessible. Plastic grocery bags may not be ideal, but they work for me. :)

If you don't have any extra rooms, you can still find space in creative places (under beds, in multiple closets, etc.). If I had to use under-bed space, I would organize food into plastic bins and separate canned foods to one room, dry goods into another. Keeping bins well labeled would certainly make it easier to find things quickly.

Make sure you know where things are.
You have to find a system of organization that works for you. Keep food organized in such way that it will be easy to remember where you've put things. You may want to start over a few times until you find a way that works well and is easy to remember.

Don't forget to check on your food regularly.
Grandpa's spoiled food storage reminds us all to use up the food we buy!

Each week, I try to put away all the items I've stocked up on at the grocery store. Often, though, things start to pile up and about once a month I have to take a half hour to keep things straightened up and organized. This monthly look-through gives me a chance to remember exactly what I have on hand and double check expiration dates. I bring up any food to the kitchen that needs to be eaten soon.

I also like to keep a bag in the storage room to eventually deliver to the local food bank. If I got a little overzealous with a good sale and bought food items we don't seem to be eating fast enough, I add them to the bag. Whenever we have food drives, I already know what to give away.

If you have any great food storage tips (or any hilarious horror stories), please share!

Food Storage Series Part 1: Awesome Food Storage Room or Not

I'll be honest. I really wish my food storage looked like this:

Unfortunately, those shelves are filled with all of Grandpa's food, leaving no room for ours. What's even worse is that all of his food is past the expiration date because he was not able to keep up with rotating it in the last few years. Sad, but true, and it serves as a sobering reminder of how not being mindful of your pantry and food storage items can really put a lot of food to waste.

So I don't have any awesome food storage system. I'm pretty embarrassed to unveil this to the entire blogging universe. Brace yourselves.

All I have is a little bit of floorspace in Grandpa's storage room. When we move to our own home, I probably still won't have any food storage shelves (at least not for awhile.. . maybe Christmas?), so we'll have to keep making do with what we've got.

As you can see, I organize my food in two ways: piles of cans and groups of grocery bags.

The cans are organized into groups that make sense to me and make it easy for me to get what I need quickly. Here are my groupings:
  • cream soups and broths
  • tomato products (salsa, spaghetti sauce, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes with green chiles, tomato sauce and paste)
  • black beans
  • assorted beans (white, pinto, refried, Ranch style, garbanzo)
  • vegetables (green beans, mixed veggies)
  • miscellaneous (tuna, French onion soup, enchilada sauce, pineapple, etc)
  • quick meals (soup, chili, spaghettios)
I keep these groups of cans in cardboard cases or plastic bins. It's easy to see what we have on hand and what we're running low on. When it came time for the case lot sale, I knew I only needed to buy a few things (full case: black beans, crushed tomatoes; half case: green beans, cream of chicken soup).

My grocery bags are filled with all the dry goods. I have the bags grouped into general categories, and each bag is filled with very specific items.

Here are my categories:

  • nuts
  • granola bars
  • crackers
  • tortilla chips
  • cookies
  • chips and junk

  • dressings & marinades
  • sauces & oil
  • spices & dry dressing mixes
Pasta (Oh, we could live for quite awhile on pasta!)
  • long noodles
  • egg noodles
  • rotini
  • elbows
  • whole grain
  • miscellaneous shapes
Processed Foods & Grains
  • rice & Ramen noodles
  • macaroni, Rice-a-Roni, Pasta Roni, etc
  • soup mixes, stuffing mixes, potato flakes
Baking Supplies
  • flour, sugar
  • cornstarch, cornmeal, yeast
  • baking chips & extras
  • cake mixes
  • cookie & brownie mixes
  • cereal
  • PopTarts
  • oatmeal

  • laundry detergent
  • dishwasher tablets
  • soap
  • paper products
It may just look like a big, messy pile of junk, but I know where everything goes, so it's easy for me to keep track.

This post is getting SUPER long, so I'll wrap up my ideas in another post.

Food Storage Series Begins

I had a reader ask about my food storage.

Hmm, I thought.

I'm no food storage expert. In fact, I'm pretty embarrassed to post on it like I know what I'm talking about. I'm just trying to save on groceries while preparing for a rainy day, and I'm learning as I go.

But I do feel pretty strongly about it. I've heard friends say things like
"I always go way over budget during the month of the case lot sale..."
and other things like
"Whenever I run out of one of my pantry items, I just buy the cheapest (usually smallest) one I can find. My budget just can't handle buying the larger items, even if they're a better deal over time."
The whole point of learning how to shop the grocery sales is to stock up when items are their cheapest (using coupons if you can), so that you are continually shopping out of your own personal food storage "store." I'm able to fit plenty of fresh foods in my budget, as well as the occasional pantry item that does run out, because I generally have most ingredients on hand.

So come along for the ride. I'll post how I organize my food storage, pantry, fridge, and freezer. Keep in mind that I'm no expert, but I hope to be a friend with a few good ideas. If any of you lovely readers have great ideas, we would all love your comments!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Week 14 Meal Plan

Happy Cinco de Mayo, my friends! (Or rather, amigos!) For our Cinco de Mayo fiesta, I will be serving one of our favorite meals, Cafe Rio Salads. If you don't have time to buy pork and cook it in the crock pot, you could probably replace it with a different meat or go meatless all together. The pork is pretty delicious, but the other ingredients could probably make up for the loss.

Many of the recipes this week may look familiar. I will be posting more new recipes next week, but this week I'm going to focus my efforts on posting about food storage. Come back throughout the week for my simple tips and tricks!

Wednesday- Cinco de Mayo
Cafe Rio Salads, Chips and Homemade Salsa

Baked Potatoes, Broccoli, Cauliflower
(or try Potato Chowder if you have cream cheese on hand)

Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Corn on the Cob, Green Salad

Go out or eat leftovers

Sunday- Mother's Day
I believe the men should plan, shop for, and prepare this dinner, but if your Mr. Right is needing a little inspiration, try Marinated London Broil, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli.

Korean Beef with Broccoli, Rice, Edamame

Chicken Chili, Cornbread, Green Salad

Since this week's recipes are scattered all throughout the blog, you can click here to see all of Week 14 recipes at once.

Week 14 Grocery List-- with Prices!

Today I shopped at Maceys, with a quick stop in Sunflower Farmers Market for some of my produce.

Ingredients for Week 14 dinners
I will be purchasing:
1 head garlic ($.39)
5 limes ($1.00)
2 bunches cilantro ($1.00)
2 heads Romaine lettuce ($1.76)
4 tomatillos ($.45)
3 tomatoes (a neighbor gave me some)
1 avocado ($.50)
1 large onion ($1.62)
1 jalapeno ($.08)
4 ears corn ($.80)
1 bunch green onions ($.50)
broccoli ($1.06)
cauliflower ($.63)
5 lb potatoes (free with London Broil purchase)
1 kiwi ($.50)
4 lbs pork roast (3.8 lbs @ 1.78/lb = $6.76)
1 lb London Broil- pick up more if you're having steak for Mother's Day ($1.98)
1 (11.5 oz) can tomato juice ($.79)
1 box Rice-a-Roni ($.88)
cornmeal ($3.59)
buns (8 hamburger buns $1.00)
Provolone (optional) ($1.98)
milk ($.88 with purchase of 2 Mother's cookies)

In total, I spent $28.15 on this week's dinner ingredients.
The breakdown is approximately as follows:
Cafe Rio Salads, Chips and Homemade Salsa $9.09
Baked Potatoes, Broccoli, Cauliflower $1.41
Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Corn on the Cob, Green Salad $8.48
Korean Beef with Broccoli, Rice, Edamame $2.96
Chicken Chili, Cornbread, Green Salad $4.91

I will be using from my pantry:
2 (16 oz) containers sour cream
2 eggs
1 chicken breast
1 pkg Ranch dressing mix
1 pkg Fiesta Ranch dressing mix
frozen corn
frozen edamame
tortilla chips
4-5 cans black beans (or a mix of pinto, white, kidney)
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 (14 0z) can crushed tomatoes
1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
chicken broth/bouillon
soy sauce
rice vinegar
barbecue sauce
dill pickles (optional)
Dijon mustard (optional)
baking powder
flour sugar
brown sugar
minced onion
garlic powder
chili powder

I will also stock up on these deals:
5 Maceys Cottage Wheat Bread- my favorite (.88 each! = $4.40)
4 Barilla Whole Grain Pasta(.88 each = $3.52)
4 Kelloggs Cereal- Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes (online coupons at Group A and Group C) ($1.98 each plus two $1.50/2 coupons= $4.92)
4 Rice a Roni (.88 each = $3.52)
2 Mothers Cookies (1.99 each = $3.98)
2 Spice It spices (.88 each = $1.76)
6 spaghettios (.45 each = $2.70)

Week 14 Tips

Don't forget to start your pork in the crock pot early in the day. Cook all 4 lbs pork. After shredding, save half in the fridge for Pulled Pork Sandwiches.

You may want to do some of the prep for Cafe Rio Salads ahead of time. You can make the salsa and dressing and chop the lettuce anytime during the day.

About 1 hour before dinner, shred and prepare the pork, make the guacamole, then prepare the rice and beans.

Chop all your broccoli and save at least half in the fridge for Monday's Korean Beef.

Prepare a big salad and save half in the fridge for Tuesday's dinner.

Don't forget to start the crock pot in the morning. About 1 hour from dinner you can start your Corn Bread and finish the Chicken Chili.

Cafe Rio Salads, Chips and Homemade Salsa

Cafe Rio is a popular restaurant around here. Their pork salad is by FAR my favorite thing on the menu. Although this is not any sort of official recipe, it is a really tasty impersonation! I've gotten variations of this recipe from many friends and acquaintances; this is my adaptation.

4-6 tortillas

1 c rice
2 c water
4 garlic cloves, minced
zest of 1 - 2 limes
juice of 1 - 2 limes (about 3 T lime juice)
1 T sugar
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro, if desired

Spray rice cooker with cooking spray. Add rice, water, garlic, and lime zest. Cook. In a small bowl, mix lime juice and sugar until sugar dissolves. Once rice is cooked, stir in lime juice mixture. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

2 t oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 t cumin
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (11 oz) can tomato juice
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro, if desired

In a medium saucepan, heat oil to medium. Add garlic and cumin and cook for a few seconds. Stir in beans and tomato juice. Stir frequently, bringing just to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is somewhat reduced. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

2 lbs pork roast
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c salsa

Spray slow cooker with cooking spray. Add pork. Cook on high for 6 hours or on low all day. Drain off half the liquid. Shred meat, discarding fat. Mix the sugar, salsa, and shredded meat back in the slow cooker. Cook on low for about an hour, until sugar is melted.

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped

3/4 c sour cream
1/2 packet Ranch dressing mix
1/4 packet Fiesta Ranch dressing mix
4 tomatillos, husked and cut into fourths
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed
juice of 1-2 limes
1 clove garlic

Put sour cream in blender, then add the remaining ingredients. Keep refrigerated.

1 avocado
minced onion
garlic powder
lime juice (about 1 T)

Mash avocados with a fork. Mix in other ingredients to taste.

Red Salsa
3 tomatoes, cored
1/4 onion
1/2 jalapeno, seeded
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime

In a blender, combine tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, and a few shakes of salt. Blend until smooth. Taste with a tortilla chip and add more jalapeno, lime juice, and salt to taste. Store in the fridge until ready to eat.

To assemble salads:
On individual plates, top 1 tortilla with rice, beans, and meat. Cover with lettuce and dressing. Top with guacamole, salsa, and sour cream as desired. Serve with chips and salsa.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Corn on the Cob, Green Salad

Here's to me and my pulled pork obsession! I love doing pulled pork two ways in one week. If you already shredded a big roast and kept half in the fridge for this meal, simply place the shredded meat and barbecue sauce in a crock pot on low for an hour or two before dinner.

Easy Pulled Pork Sandwiches
2 lbs pork roast
2 c barbecue sauce
4-6 buns

optional toppings for the adventurous crowd:
4-6 slices Provolone
6 small dill pickles, sliced thin
Dijon mustard

Place pork in a greased crock pot. Cook on high 6 hours or on low all day. Pour off liquid. Shred pork, discarding fat. Place pork back in crock pot. Mix in barbecue sauce, varying the amount depending on your taste. Cook on low for at least a half hour (up to an hour and a half) until sauce is heated through. Toast buns and fill with pulled pork. If desired, top with mustard, pickles, and cheese.

4 ears corn
green salad

Boil a large pot of water. Add corn to boiling water and boil for about 5 minutes.

Prepare green salad.