Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cost Cutting Christmas Gifts

Times are tough, I don't have to tell anyone that. But what makes it feel even worse is when its Christmas time, Christmas is the time of the year when people are always compelled to splurge and shop and give great gifts to their friends and family. While the idea is great most people end up going overboard and putting themselves in debt. Which I have been known to do myself in the past. Its hard to limit myself. I want to give the people that I love and care about lots of things, the things that they want and that I know would be a very special and extravagant gesture. However I just can't afford to do that anymore. And as much as it hurts me, I know it would hurt much worse if I went ahead and made those large purchases. And then in turn it would hurt those friends and family as well because the financial struggle would be evident in the coming months. So no this year I'm sticking to my game plan and my budget. Instead of going out and getting each of my bosses and coworkers and then there's the lil monster's daycare teachers, ah the list goes on, $20 gifts a piece I cut back drastically. I decided to make homemade gifts and take my chance at doing some home canning. A task I'll admit had seemed like too much work, a little hokey and well kind of gross. I mean I grew up on Smuckers! But instead of doing pickles or jam, I found this great chutney recipe. (Yes the recipe I made for Thanksgiving) It was such a hit and I've bought chutney for friends as gifts before, so why not try my hand at it.

Let me tell you, this was the easiest present I've made! Literally it took less than an hour from start to finish and cost less than $20 for 6 jars! That's 6 people for under $20! I just used a big pot I had to boil the jars (which I had purchased for $7) instead of using a canner. I followed the recipe like usual and when it was complete I pulled the hot jars out of the water and filled the jars up. Put the lids back on and then sat them all back into the pot of water. Made sure the water covered the tops and let it boil for about 15 to 20 minutes. I didn't have a rack to lift the jars out of the water so that was fun trying to use a pair of tongs, but it worked. I sat the hot jars on a towel and let them cool overnight.

Instead of spending any money on wrapping my gifts I went "green" and used brown paper lunch sacks as my bags and went without the waste of tissue paper. I printed some cute holiday labels and placed them on the front of the paper bags. Then I printed out the nutritional information and some sample uses along with a recipe to use the chutney with. A simple homemade heartfelt gift that I know my friends will enjoy. And instead of breaking the bank I stayed in my budget!

Of course you can use any chutney recipe you find but I used the Cranberry-Pear Chutney from CookingLight. And then I found some helpful tips on canning at BellaOnline. I hope you all have happy and fun holidays!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - December 1st

Ok so we're still eating up the leftovers from Thanksgiving so we'll be good with those until this weekend. So I guess my menu planning actually won't start until the 8th. The weather's turned chilly so I'm feeling like lots of warm-you-up meals. Plus its the holiday season and you just have to splurge, of course the budget's super tight so we'll be trying to reign it all in. And since its a new month you'll see some of our repeats. And I know it's not complete but I've been sick so please forgive me :)

Monday, Dec 8th
Dinner: Sloppy Joe's with Corn and potato wedges

Tuesday, Dec 9th
Dinner: Stromboli and salad

This was a huge hit with both the hubby and my lil monster! I didn't really follow any recipe just threw a bunch of ingredients together. I used refrigerated pizza dough, rolled it out, threw some spaghetti sauce on it, chopped up some green onions and onions, opened a can of mushrooms, added some pepperoni and salami and covered it with mozzarella cheese. Then folded it over, brushed it with egg and sprinkled parmesan cheese on top. Bake for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the dough is crisp and golden.

Wednesday, Dec 10th
Dinner: The Duggar's Tator Tot Casserole

I've been meaning to try this ever since I first saw their show. It seems like a really yummy dish, of course not healthy though. I can't imagine my lil monster not liking it so that's whats important. I've seen some recipes adding peas or corn so I think I might try that, oh or maybe green beans?

Thursday, Dec 11th
Dinner: My lil monster's holiday show is this night so we'll prolly just grab something and go.

Friday, Dec 12th
Dinner: The Award Winning Chilifest Chili Recipe served with flour tortillas and gaucamole

Of which I have been sworn to secrecy for, ok well not really, but I'm not going to post it on the internet 'cause it a recipe that's been passed around just friends.
Saturday, Dec 13th
Breakfast: Sweet Potato Pancakes
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Turkey Tetrazzini (to find recipe)

Sunday, Dec 14th
Breakfast: Cream Cheese Apple Muffins
I found this recipe on Kate's blog and it sounded super yummy, plus I love the idea of being able to make a bunch and then freeze them. And with apples being dirt cheap right now, I can grab a bag for next to nothing. Oh I'm I'm also going to make the Apple Cinnamon Pancakes and freeze them too.
Dinner: Mexican Lasagna (following the big recipe to freeze)

Monday, Dec 15th
Dinner: Crockpot Maple Dijon Chicken

I found this yummy recipe on Stephanie's crazy blog. Can you believe she's using her crockpot everyday for a whole year? I love my crockpot but not enough to continuosly clean it everyday by hand. Anyways this meal sounds super yummy so we're gonna try it.

Tuesday, Dec 16th
Dinner: Chicken Enchilladas

Wednesday, Dec 17th
Dinner: Spaghetti

Thursday, Dec 18th
Dinner: Venison Stew with biscuits ontop

Friday, Dec 19th
Dinner: Lasagna (x2 to freeze)

Saturday, Dec 20th
Lunch: Soup & Sandwiches

Sunday, Dec 21st
Dinner: White Chicken Chili

Monday, Dec 22nd
Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie

Tuesday, Dec 23rd
Wednesday, Dec 24th
Dinner: It's Christmas Eve so we're going to my parents' house and we'll have appetizers and open presents!

Thursday, Dec 25th
Breakfast: It's undecided if we'll be at my parents' still so we'll see
Dinner: At hubby's brother's house so I'll just bring a side dish if need be

Friday, Dec 26th
Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls
Lunch: Soup & Sandwiches
Dinner: Pizza - I'm not cooking! Lets order a pizza!

Saturday, Dec 27th
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Tyler's Ultimate Mac & Cheese

Sunday, Dec 28th

Monday, Dec 29th
Dinner: Crockpot Pepper Steak (Venison) and mashed potatoes

Tuesday, Dec 30th

Wednesday, Dec 31st
Dinner: New Year's Eve and our plans are up in the air so I'm not planning on cooking

Thursday, Jan 1st
Dinner: New Years tradition to eat black eyed peas so I've got a bbq black eyed pea recipe that I love and it turns it into a yummy meal.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Leftovers Galore!

Thanksgiving was great this year! My family was all together, well at least my side was with us. I didn't feel too stressed out at all, and everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. I think it helped that my mother brought the dressing and another veggie side so I wasn't trying to cook everything all at once. As soon as I can I'll update my thanksgiving day menu and post pictures. I must admit I was pretty proud. My turkey came out looking perfect and was the best tasting one I've ever had! So after all the fuss and muss we had a ton of leftover so I decided to get creative. 'Cause honestly you can only eat the "turkey day" plate for some many meals afterwards. Here is what I made with my leftovers....

Emeril's Thanksgiving Leftovers Shepherd's Pie: This was a great recipe because it really changed the ingredients up and made a totally different style of meal. Super yummy and clever why to use up those leftovers. But of course we never have any mashed potatoes leftover so I just whipped up a new batch for this meal.

Robin Miller's Stuffing Frittata: We always have a ton of leftover stuffing and never know what to do with it all. We end up with leftovers for weeks simply because we make half with oysters and half w/o so then we have tons leftover w/o the oysters. I found this recipe and knew it'd be a great way to use up those leftovers, well at least some of them. Plus it made Sunday morning breakfast a piece of cake, or better yet, frittata!

"Leftover Creamed" Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas: This originally is a favorite recipe from CookingLight that I like to make. I ended up not loving my creamed spinach recipe from Thanksgiving so there was a bunch leftover. I had a package of mushroom leftover from the shepherd's pie as well so in come a variation of my Mexican favorite.

"Ain't no Chicken Spaghetti" - a Pioneer Woman mix-up: Hubby loves Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti so its a staple in our menu now however with the plethora of turkey I figured why not give it a go with turkey, chicken's cousin. They're both poultry and I can't imagine it tasting anything but good. So for this yummy recipe all's the same except I substituted turkey for chicken!

Emeril's Thanksgiving Leftovers Shepherd's Pie

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onions
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon Essence or Creole Seasoning,
recipe follows
1/4 teaspoon p
lus 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 ounces mushrooms, stemmed, wiped clean, and sliced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 to 2 1/2 cups chopped or shredded roast turkey (white and/or dark meat)
1 1/4 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth
1/2 cup green peas
4 cups leftove
r mashed potatoes or Basic Mashed Potatoes
3/4 cup grated sharp or medium Cheddar
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch square or 2.2 quart baking dish with the butter and set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, Essence, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are soft, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until thick, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the meat and stir well to combine.
  4. Gradually add the stock and then the peas, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture is thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf. Carefully transfer to the prepared dish and spoon the potatoes over the meat mixture, spreading to the edges. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake until the cheese is bubbly and the potatoes are crisp around the edges, 22 to 25 minutes.
  6. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Stuffing Frittata

Cooking spray
2 to 3 cups leftover stuffing
1 cup shredded Cheddar (regular or reduced-fat)
6 large eggs
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoo
n mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon cho
pped fresh parsley leaves

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Coat an oven-proof nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Put stuffing in the bottom of pan to warm and stir to break up a little.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, milk, mustard powder, and nutmeg. Pour mixture over stuffing and cheese to cover stuffing. Sprinkle Parmesan over top. Cook on stovetop over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to the broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, until egg is cooked through and cheese is golden and bubbly. Sprinkle cheese over top.
  4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh parsley. Serve with sliced tomatoes.

"Leftover Creamed" Spinach and
Mushroom Enchilladas

1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 (10-ounce) can condensed reduced-fat cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 (8-ounce carton) fat-free sour cream
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, undrained

Cooking spray
1 cup chopped onion (already in the spinach mixture)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (already in the spinach mixture)
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (we're using leftover creamed spinach instead)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
10 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1/2 cup chopped seeded plum tomato
1/4 cup chopped green onion tops

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.

  2. To prepare sauce, combine first 4 ingredients; stir well.

  3. To prepare enchiladas, (here's where the variations begin: heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add jalapeno and saute. Proceed to step 4) Add onion and jalapeño; sauté 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.

  4. Add mushrooms; sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Now add the creamed spinach and ...Stir in garlic powder, cumin, omitting the salt, and spinach; cook 5 minutes or until heated. Combine spinach mixture and another 4 oz of creamed cheese, leftover from original recipe, because I didn't think it was creamy enough...or 1/4 cup cheese in a large bowl; stir to combine.

  5. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Warm tortillas according to package directions. Spoon about 1/3 cup spinach mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up. Place filled tortillas seam sides down in the baking dish. Spread remaining sauce evenly over tortillas; top with 3/4 cup cheese.

  6. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Top with tomato and green onion.

Now of course I've still got quite a few leftovers so I'm still scheming and scouring ideas for my leftovers so we'll see what else I can find and/or get creative with!

Recipe and photo courtesy of CookingLight.com

Monday, November 24, 2008

Turkey Day Madness

Ok I know it's a little late but better than never. I just have to brag about how well my turkey day went. It was absolutely amazing! We were expecting a large crowd this year, but who knew how many we'd actually end up with. Hubby's family is great however they can never seem to get their plans lined up even the day of an event. So just in case we bought the biggest turkey the store had, a great big 20 something pounder. And like always hubby's family bailed out and itwas just be my side but that's ok 'cause that meant more leftovers for me! Ok enough blabbing and on to the good stuff. The menu, I really wanted to do it up this year since it was the first year we would be hosting Thanksgiving and I had new place settings and serveware. I had to make my table look fabulous, well as much as I could on a Walmart budget, and I think I achomplished it. Anyways here's what was on the menu.....

Served on cold salad plates: Pear, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

Cranberry - Pear Chutney

Buttermilk Brined Turkey - now I used the Williams-Sonoma Turkey Brine, this stuff is amazing! I love just opening it up and smelling it. All the flavors are perfect, made the whole house smell absolutely wonderful while I was prepping my bird. I also am a huge follower of the buttermilk marinade for any type of poultry so I went ahead and did Williams-Sonoma's recipe.

Here's my beautiful turkey bird! (Oh I didn't fill it with stuffing)
You have to get this stuff for your turkey! I imagine you could prolly make some yourself but I don't really think it'd be cost effective unless you already have all the spices.

Oyster and Cornbread Dressing (old family recipe that mom brought)

Reisling Gravy

Creamed Spinach
I wasn't thrilled with this version of creamed spinach either. It was supposed to be a "copycat" of Boston Market's version but it still fell flat in my opinion. It just wasn't creamy enough. So this make year 2 that I've struck out with the creamed spinach. I believe I'm going to start going through recipes this year in order to find the perfect one for next year.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
No real recipe to this one, just add butter, buttermilk, salt and
pepper and mix to your desired consistency.

Strueseled Sweet Potato Casserole

This is always a show stopper! And who would have guessed it was a CookingLight recipe? Now granted its still not great by any means but its a far cry from the overloaded candied yams we're all familiar with but tastes so much better!

Brussel Sprouts (mom's specialty, I think they're a mustard and parmeasan)

Dad's Deviled Eggs (dad's specialty)

Rolls (brother brought)

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake
This was by far the best cheesecake I've ever made. And I mean really made, we're talking homemade and baking in the oven then chilling. I modified the directions a little by accident, added all the sugar in at once but you really couldn't tell the difference. And the crust was so different, everyone loved it. You must try this recipe.

So here are a couple pictures of our yummy table before we all sat down. Please note my brother's girlfriend was the first to sit down, very ready to digg in :) Oh and my lil monster in the back alreday scarfing down mashed potatoes!

I hope everyone had a happy and health Thanksgiving with friends, family, and those they love!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - November 3rd

So I've been really busy and lazy at the same time. I hadn't been to the store really in over a month so we've been living off our pantry and freezer. But we're down to the bottom now and I've got to restock and prepare for Thanksgiving at our house. Since we've got such a tight budget I try to plan out at least 2 weeks to a month worth of meals at a time. So since that's what I do I'm going to go ahead and list our meals for the month starting with today. Of course the shopping list is much longer this time. Now since produce can't last a month I do pick up salads and a few parishables every so often. And since Thanksgiving is this month, I'll be picking up stuff for that closer to the week.

Wednesday, Nov 5th
Dinner: I'm having dinner with my younger brother for his birthday, so hubby is fending for himself.

Thursday, Nov 6th
Dinner: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Coleslaw and Baked Apples
I'm going to do the double duty pork again, I'll be putting the pulled pork on sandwiches for this meal though. And as before I'm using the crockpot instead of a slow grill. A coworker went to her family farm last weekend and brought home bushels and bushels of apples so she brought a bag full to me. What a yummy treat!

Friday, Nov 7th
Dinner: Three Bean Chili and Cheddar Biscuits

I'm going to try this recipe as a variation of our tradition, Texas Style (NO BEAN) chili. Lil monster needs some veggies and I think he just might eat this. I'll be making a little blander version for him though.

Saturday, Nov 8th
Breakfast: Oatmeal and oranges
Lunch: Sandwiches and or leftovers
Dinner: Pulled Pork Fajitas and spanish rice (boxed)

This is the yummy 2nd meal from my double duty pork.

Sunday, Nov 9th
Breakfast: Kitchen Fridge Omelets
Dinner: Lasagna and ceasar salad (bagged)

This is leftover that I had frozen from when I originally made the recipe.

Monday, Nov 10th
Dinner: Meatloaf Stuffed Green Bell Peppers, garlic mashed potatoes and corn

This is a yummy yummy recipe that reminds me of my mom and family dinners. I've got to make it quick so I used boxed mashed potatoes and open a can of corn.

Tuesday, Nov 11th
Dinner: Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas and black beans

I loved this recipe from Kim, only this time I'm going to skip the step of mixing the leftover marinade in with the topping sauce. I thought it was a little too overpowered with the honey. So we'll see how this turns out.

Wednesday, Nov 12th
Dinner: Traditional Beans & Ham with cornbread and skillet fried potatoes

Nothing says country more than this meal. I used to pretend I was a pioneer girl back in the early days when my mom would make this. Yeah I know I'm silly. I could just see families eating this back then.

Thursday, Nov 13th
Dinner: Maple Glazed Salmon, Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

Its salmon night and my favorite salmon meal!

Friday, Nov 14th
Dinner: La Bamba Casserole

I went ahead and pre-made this when I got home from the grocery store and then froze this so all I'd have to do was reheat it and top with tomatoes and onions! Super easy.

Saturday, Nov 15th
Breakfast: Rice and bananas
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Crockpot Traditional Yankee Pot Roast

Now this calls for stove-top cooking but as always I use the crockpot and it's just so much easier!

Sunday, Nov 16th
Breakfast: Biscuits and Gravy with fried eggs
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Chicken Spaghetti

A staple in our home now, hubby loves The Pioneer Woman!

Monday, Nov 17th
Dinner: Traditional Tuna Casserole and slices peaches

What's more to say?

Tuesday, Nov 18th
Dinner: Ham and Pineapple Sandwiches
Another mom's recipe from when I was a little girl. I think lil monster will really like these.

Wednesday, Nov 19th
Dinner: Make-Your-Own Baked Potatoes

I've got some big baked potatoes and we can fix them how we want, maybe add some broccoli cheese or bbq?

Thursday, Nov 20th
Dinner: Chicken Stir Fry and rice

Don't you just love frozen bagged dinners!

Friday, Nov 21st
Dinner: We've got tickets to the Nutcracker Ballet! So lil monster will be going to grandma's and we'll be eating out!

Saturday, Nov 22nd
Since lil monster's gone for the weekend hubby and I will prolly just scrounge around :)

Sunday, Nov 23rd
Since lil monster's gone for the weekend hubby and I will prolly just scrounge around :)

Monday, Nov 24th
Dinner: Sloppy Joe's with Corn and potato wedges

I just buy canned sauce and then spice it up a little, then proceed to finish the recipe as is.

Tuesday, Nov 25th
Dinner: Stromboli and salad

I remember mom making this and I loved it so I'm going to try it for my lil monster!

Wednesday, Nov 26th
Dinner: Texas Chili (NO BEANS)

Since the weather cooler and since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I don't want to be cooking. I'm going to throw this together in the crockpot and then while our guests are in town they can have turkey leftovers or chili if they get tired of the turkey.

Thursday, Nov 27th
Breakfast: still undecided as to what I'll make, some easy and doesn't need to cook hopefully
Dinner: see Thanksgiving Menu

Friday, Nov 28th
Breakfast: still undecided as to what I'll make, some easy and doesn't need to cook hopefully
Dinner: Leftovers Turkey Shepherd's Pie

Ok so that brings us up to the weekend after Thanksgiving, I'm sure we'll still have lots of leftovers so we'll munch on those and then if we need anything else we'll prolly order out.

Stay turned for recipes and I'll have the shopping list up here by tonight!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tis the season!

So I know its a little early but you've got to start early when you have an extremely tight budget for Christmas. So I've got my list of people and I've got my ideas and the bargain shopping has begun. But alas it seems that no one (specifically the hubby) knows what to get me. And quite honestly I'm tired of telling him, and then getting exactly that, nothing more nothing less. Where's the fun in that? So I'm going to have my running "wishlist" of items and things that I love and would love to have whether it be for Christmas, anniversary or birthday. Or oh god forbid maybe just a surprise! And who knows maybe you'll find a few things to add to yours, and of course if you have a favorite something you know I'd love let me know!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Back from the dead

Ok so I'm barely recovering from my bout with the porcelain god, of whom won. It was a defeat of which I ended up with an IV and meds because I couldn't stop praying to that porcelain throne. So needless to say last week's menu didn't survive as the hubby had to fend for himself as the lil monster was shipped off to grandma's. So thankful I have a close family! I'm still not up to par, I've had a bagel and tea today so we're gonna call it a "please be kind, and rewind" week. Hoping that I'll feel well enough by Wednesday to pick back up there with the lasagna rolls.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - October 13th

Ok, so yes I know that it's Wednesday but I've been a little slow and besides I haven't been to the store umm since before our trip to MO about 3 weeks ago. I've been lazy and using up my pantry. So here's what we had and will have for the rest of the week.

Monday - It's the hubby and I's 1 year anniversary!
Dinner: Out to eat in celebration and the top tier of our wedding cake

Dinner: Spam has it's rewards! One of my favorite restaurants, Blue Mesa, is turning 20 yrs old and they are having a birthday celebration. Free all you can eat buffet, cash bar and live band. Lets party all week long!

Dinner: Leftovers Lasagna Rolls

I've got leftover cottage cheese and lasagna noodles, still have some of that marinara sauce (plus canned if I need it). I think I'll pick up some frozen spinach (but I do have canned, wonder if that will work) and some mozzarella cheese. Of course I've got leftover hamburger meat and parmesan cheese too.

Dinner: Mama's Makeshift Chicken Casserole and Oh Yeah Baby Glazed Carrots

I've got some celery and a bag of carrots that need to be used. Some frozen breaded chicken tenders and cream of mushroom soup. I think we're set for coming up with something on the fly whether its rice or noodles and some frozen corn. Maybe we'll see what else is in the freezer for veggies. And to add more veggies I'm gonna add Emeril's glazed carrots as a side.

Dinner: Grilled Chicken, rice and steamed veggies

Simple standard, using boxed chicken style rice and whatever veggie is in the freezer.

Breakfast: biscuits and gravy
Lunch: sandwiches
Dinner: Fabulous Fried Fish and french fries

We made this batter recipe for my lil monster's 1st birthday party and it was by far the best fried fish recipe ever!

Breakfast: Sweet Potato Pancakes and sausage patties
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Going to the store so we'll see

Ok so the recipe is actually for pancakes but I'm out of pancake batter so I'm going to use waffle mix and turn them into waffles instead. We all like variations. And what's better is this is a great recipe for getting my picky eater to eat veggies.

So here's what I'm going to pick up on my way home: mozzarella cheese and frozen spinach! See that's it, oh well and maybe more milk.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pulled-Pork Fajitas

So easy, I love this. My pork is doing double duty so all I have to do is throw it together and serve since it was cooked ahead of time.

Menu: Pulled Pork Fajitas and all the yummy fixin's

Pulled-Pork Fajitas

1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (ground red) pepper
About 2 pounds leftover roast pork
8 flour tortillas
Fresh cilantro leaves
Avocado wedges
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped red onion

  1. Combine the vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and cayenne pepper in a medium saucepan. Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cut pork into 1-inch-thick slices, then shred it by hand. Stir the pork into the sauce, cover, and heat through, stirring occasionally.

  2. In a large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the tortillas one at a time until crisp and slightly charred around the edges, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. (You can use the microwave if you choose instead)

  3. To serve, spoon some pork into the center of a tortilla. Top with cilantro, avocado, tomato, and onion. Roll.

What's better than a no fuss meal?

Carolina Pulled Pork with Lexington Red Sauce

Sorry I'm just now posting this - week got away from me but anyways here's what I did...

Menu: Carolina Pulled Pork with Lexington Red Sauce on hamburger buns with store bought potato salad

Carolina Pulled Pork with Lexington Red Sauce

8 hickory wood chunks (about 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (I just used brown sugar)
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (5-pound) bone-in pork shoulder (Boston butt)
1 cup cider vinegar
2 1/4 cups water, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon canola oil
Cooking spray

1 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  1. To prepare pork, soak wood chunks in water about 16 hours; drain. (Nix this if you're doing the crockpot)

  2. Combine turbinado sugar and next 4 ingredients (through ground red pepper); reserve 2 tablespoons sugar mixture. Rub half of the remaining sugar mixture onto pork. Place in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal and refrigerate pork overnight.

  3. Remove pork from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Rub remaining half of sugar mixture onto pork.

  4. Place the pork in the crockpot and combine reserved 2 tablespoons sugar mixture, 1 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, and oil in a small saucepan; add this to the crockpot OR cook over low heat 10 minutes or until sugar dissolves.

  5. Skip this step if crockpot cooking: Remove grill rack; set aside. Prepare grill for indirect grilling, heating one side to medium-low and leaving one side with no heat. Maintain temperature at 225°. Pierce bottom of a disposable aluminum foil pan several times with the tip of a knife. Place pan on heated side of grill; add half of wood chunks to pan. Place another disposable aluminum foil pan (do not pierce pan) on unheated side of grill. Pour remaining 2 cups water in pan. Coat grill rack with cooking spray; place on grill. Place pork on grill rack over foil pan on the unheated side. Close lid, and cook for 4 1/2 hours or until a thermometer registers 170°, gently brushing pork with vinegar mixture every hour (avoid brushing off sugar mixture). Add additional wood chunks halfway during cooking time. Discard any remaining vinegar mixture. Preheat oven to 250°. Remove pork from grill. Wrap pork in several layers of aluminum foil, and place in a baking pan. Bake at 250° for 2 hours or until a thermometer registers 195°. Remove from oven. Let stand, still wrapped, for 1 hour or until pork easily pulls apart. Unwrap pork; trim and discard fat. Shred pork with 2 forks.

  6. To prepare sauce, combine 1 cup vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1 1/4 cups (about 5 minutes). Serve sauce warm or at room temperature with pork.

  7. After your pork has cooked, shred it and take 1/2 of the meat and seat aside for Thursday night's Fajitas. Then mix with the bbq sauce and serve!
I served this on hamburger buns with store bought potato salad. Super yummy

Monday, October 6, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - October 6th

Gosh this weekend was so hectic and I'm sitting here back at work and can barely even think about what we're having for dinner. This week is definitely going to be pulled together from what we've got in the pantry 'cause I'm not going to the store yet. Maybe I'll go next week. So lets see what I can scrounge up....

Dinner: Traditional Tuna Casserole

(picture is courtesy of the recipe's original creator Campbell's soups)

Dinner: Carolina Pulled Pork with Lexington Red Sauce

I'm trying a new pulled pork recipe, hoping that it can pull double duty for me this week. And as usual I'll be adapting it to cook in my crockpot other wise --
You'll need to start this recipe a day ahead to allow ample time for the wood chunks to soak and the flavors of the dry rub to penetrate the meat. Slow, low-heat cooking is key to tender pork that shreds easily. While the pork is still warm, shred it into uneven shards, mixing together some of the crisp, dark outer meat with the moister interior meat. Combine the classic Piedmont sauce--a thin, vinegar-based mixture--with the meat for a tangy kick, or mix it with shredded cabbage for Lexington coleslaw.

Recipe and photos courtesy of CookingLight

Wednesday - It's state fair time in Texas and we're going to see old Big Tex today. Hubby and lil monster are gonna meet me downtown at noon and we're gonna gorge ourselves on those famous corn dogs, chicken fried bacon and fried banana splits! Needless to say we'll not be eating anything for dinner after our overload.

Dinner: Pulled-Pork Fajitas

I'm planning on pulling half of my meat that I cooked on Tuesday out before I add the sauce to it and then using it in this recipe. That way my pork will do double duty and I've got minimal cooking time on Thursday. 'Cause it's tv night and I can't miss my favorite shows!

Photo and recipe courtesy of RealSimple


Dinner: It's pizza night so either we'll order one or I'll grab a frozen one at the store on the way home.

Saturday - we're heading out to a local farm for their fall festival so lunch and dinner will prolly be eating out.
Breakfast: Oatmeal and toast
Lunch: TBD

Breakfast: Big Country Breakfast (biscuits & gravy, fried eggs and chicken fried steak)
Lunch: Sandwiches or leftovers
Dinner: Chicken Parmesan

Semi homemade chicken parmesan, a few steps more than my super fast version (store bought breaded chicken breasts) but oh so much yummier. I've still go leftover marinara sauce so this will be a great pantry meal.

Since this week is from my pantry there's no shopping list. If you don't have pork tenderloin or boneless skinless chicken breasts you might want to pick some up. Otherwise its all your basic ingredients like ckn stock, diced tomatoes, usual spices, cider vinegar, parmesan cheese. Really shouldn't have to buy anything this week.

And we have a winner!

Congrats to #4 - heatherf! I have to agree Tyler's clam chowder is amazing.
I really hope you enjoy the festival and Tyler Florence's new book. Please email me to claim your prize!

Thank you to everyone who entered and I appreciate your support. Now remember if you didn't win you can still win and bargain of a deal on tickets to the festival. Just log on to

and receive $5 off by entering "SIDEWAYS" into the comment box when purchasing your tickets.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Favorite Florence - Friday

We're rounding up our week of Favorite Florence recipes and the contest will come to a close tonight, so you'd better get your entries in. Now I thought it'd be appropriate to end our week and kickoff our weekend ready for some football, or baseball, which ever you fancy with the ultimate tailgating menu. You know a man who can cook up a mean bbq chicken (one of his most famous recipes) would definitely know how to throw a guys' guy kind of tailgating menu. So sink your teeth into these game ready recipes!

And don't forget to get your entry in for the contest!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Favorite Florence - Thursday

There's a been a change in the weather and it's really truly feeling like fall again. Whenever this happens I get that urge to made warm and hearty meals. You know those comfort foods that fill you up. And one of my favorite comfort foods is chicken pot pie. There's just something about a perfect pot pie. One that's not too runny, with a perfect flaky crust. Not too greasy, but not so dry that it soaks up all of that yummy sauce and you end up with a dry glob. Well of course you know that Tyler would have perfected the perfect chicken pot pie. I remember when I first saw this episode I ran right out to the store and bought everything to make this recipe, including the side dishes that he prepared with it. Horseradish and Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes and Watercress Salad with Dried Fruit and Almonds, I mean really you could get a better feast for your soul.

Ok can I go home now, I don't want to work, I want to go make this and eat it all up.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Favorite Florence - Wednesday

It's day three of our contest and continuing with our theme for the week I have yet again, another favorite recipe from Tyler Florence. Have I told you yet how my hubby loves to fish? Oh yes lets get this straight my hubby isn't an average joe, "hey lets go fishing" kind of guy, oh no he's very serious about the sport. Yes that's right I said sport, or at least he thinks its a sport. I can't tell you how many rods/reels the man owns. Just know that its more than enough to make our garage (mind you he has a friggin boat storage for this crap, that's overflowing, thus its made its way to the house garage) an obstacle course to maneuver through. And don't even ask about the bags of frozen fish bait in my freezer! His GPS is of lakes and fishing spots. Anyways one of the few good things about his addiction is we always have tons of fish to eat, so appropriately I'm always looking for a good fish recipe. Something besides the old greasy spoon fried catfish. So when I found Tyler's Ultimate Fish Tacos I was in heaven. Could it be true a blend of our love of TexMex and fish?! Oh how my mouth began salivating at the very thought. And oh how my mind couldn't even do the taste in real life justice.

Tyler's Ultimate Fish Tacos

Now I know the recipe calls for Mahi Mahi, which I imagine is great, but we can't really catch that in the lakes around here so we use crappie (pronounced "croppy" is a very light and mild flavored fish) I imagine any mild fish you can get your hands on will work just fine, or if you can find some mahi mahi at the store grab it. Though I'd strongly suggest you STAY AWAY from using catfish in this recipe. Trust me!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Favorite Florence - Tuesday

Have you figured out how much we love TexMex food yet? Oh you hadn't? Where have you been this whole time? Anyways my family loves Mexican food, my hubby begs me to make all our meals consist of chicken, corn tortillas and cheese, so of course another one of my favorite Florence recipes is Tyler's Ultimate Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa, yes I know I said Tyler's Tradition Chicken Enchiladas were my favorite but you see they both are, one is with traditional red enchilada sauce and well this is with tomatillos sauce. So see VERY VERY different enchiladas and I love them both. Oh enchiladas how I do love you!

Tyler's Ultimate Chicken Enchiladas
w/Tomatillo Chile Sauce

Now hurry up and grab a fork to dig into this oh so good recipe.


It's my first giveaway and I'm super excited because I'm teaming up with an event that I've been dying to attend myself and celebrity chef Tyler Florence!

I have long since been a fan of Tyler Florence when he first appeared on Food 911. I'll admit it though, back then I wasn't really focusing on the amazing recipes but more like how amazingly hot he was. What can I say, I had a crush. And rightfully so since he was named “Sexiest Chef Alive” by People Magazine. But after a few shows I began to take him seriously and realized what a great chef he was, and how I could really do these amazing recipes of his. Since then I've been hooked. I've enjoyed watching his career progress through his still running hit show Food 911 to his huge hit, Tyler's Ultimate series. My appreciation of him over the years turned from that "oh my what a hottie who can cook" to a real admiration for a guy who loves food and his family. There's just something about him, that when you watch his shows he seems, real, down to earth. Something that makes you really connect with him and trust that this food is gonna be great! That's what I love about him, not only does he take great classic recipes and make them better, but he makes them so that even a novice can master them. I've always wanted to make up a food 911 emergency just so I could watch him in person, but alas I'm really the shy type (at least in real life) and would prolly stumble all over myself and cut a finger off. However I've found the perfect solution to my dreams, Tyler is making an appearance at this year's Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival!

Gourmet Shows has been hosting this annual event for a few years now and it's really taken off! I mean how could an event that features celebrity chefs giving demonstrations up close and personal, along with the chance to eat their amazing food all in one place not be a huge hit? These types of things are always my favorite because its really like a smorgusboard of food and even better its got WINE! Hello, you'd better designate a driver 'cause you're gonna be drunk on good times. (hehe and maybe some of the best wine in the country but I didn't say that about the drunk part).

The 2008 Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival is gonna be huge this year because my Favorite Florence is going to be there! He's going to be doing 2 live performances along with cooking an exclusive Dinner & Dessert event, along with celebrity baker Duff Goldman. Seriously you do not want to miss this once in a lifetime event!

This 3 day festival is going to be h
uge with foods, wines, spirits and of course tons of specialty merchandise from your favorite chefs along with their live performances. In addition to my favorite Florence, Duff Goldman, Guy Mitchell, J. Geoff Johnson, Darryl Harmon, Ron Duprat, Vincent Tropepe, Eric Villegas, Rocky Fino, Lenny Strobel, Maria Liberati, Barry Sexton, Michael Ronis, and James Parker will be doing appearances thoughout the weekend so check out the fun filled schedule.

Okay okay and now for the good stuff! Gourmet Shows has been super generous and is allowing me to give away a great package to attend this amazing festival! If you win you will get...

  • 2 general admission tickets
  • 2 tickets to either the Saturday or Sunday performance of Tyler Florance
  • 1 copy (your choice) of one of Tyler's not yet released books

Check out the two highly anticipated books that he will be debuting at the 2008 Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival, that one lucky winner will grab and be able to have personally autographed while at the festival.

For a chance to win this package all you have to do is leave a comment letting me know what your favorite Florence recipe is. It could be something as simple as a 911 emergency food fix to one of his decedent ultimate recipes, just whatever is your favorite. Contest will be open from Tuesday, September 30th until 5:00 PM (central time) on Friday, October 3rd. Winner will be selected using random generator and will be announced at 8 AM (central time) Monday, October 6th. (Yes I know its a long time to wait for the results, but I'll be oot w/o internet access)

So for those of you who just can't wait and want to go ahead and grab your tickets, we've got a special for you. Receive $5 off by entering "SIDEWAYS" into the comment box when purchasing your tickets at....

Monday, September 29, 2008

Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore

I love watching the show "Throwdown with Bobby Flay", its always lots of fun and a great forum for delish foods. Now as much as I love Bobby, I have to admit that in the episode where he went up against a firehouse cook, you knew who was gonna win that one, at least in my mind. Firemen KNOW how to cook. I mean what is it about them, they all know how to make mean meals. God love firemen! So when Keith Young made his chicken cacciatore I knew I had to try it out, and sure enough it has never failed to please. But because I'm always short on time I'm going to try and change it up a little. So bear with me and cross your fingers that my beloved crockpot can "stand the heat" and fire up this fireman food! Hehe, ok enough of the fireman puns, lets get cooking. (ok sorry I just had to do one more)

Menu: Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore over white or brown rice

Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore

Flour, to coat chicken
2 (2 1/2 to 3-pound) chickens, cut into 8 pieces with the breasts cut into 1/3's (remember I'm using leftover drumsticks)
3/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
10 to 12 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1 cup dry white wine
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, with their juice, crushed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
6 leaves fresh basil, chopped

  1. Place the flour in a shallow dish and coat the chicken pieces, shaking off any excess.
  2. Add the chicken to the crockpot. Add the garlic and the mushrooms. Add the onion and bell peppers.
  3. Add the wine and the chicken broth, tomatoes, crushed red pepper, salt oregano and tomato paste.
  4. Allow to simmer on a low heat setting. Depending on your time needs and crockpot we want to watch to make sure that our veggies don't turn to mush but we want the chicken to be fully cooked and falling off the bone.
  5. If you want to thicken it up, remember the cornstarch trick and give it 30 minutes before adding in the fresh basil just before serving.

This dish goes well with any pasta or rice and tastes even better the following day.

My Favorite Florence - Monday

Ok here we go, kicking off our week of My Favorite Florence recipes is Tyler's Ultimate Chicken Salad Sandwich. I absolutely love a great chicken salad sandwich! Now I'm not super picky like some people and will only eat a savory style or only eat a sweet style, I am a fan of both styles and love to try out lots of different versions. Tyler's Chicken Salad aired way back in Season 3 of his hit show (shows how long I've been a fan, eh? anyways) and his version immediately kicked my traditional chicken salad's butt big time. I mean how could it not when his is served on scrumdillyumptious cranberry brie toast! His chicken salad is a labor of love, like all of his ultimate recipes, but it is so worth the extra time if you can do it.

Now of course if you just don't have the time to poach your own chicken you can always pick up a roasted chicken at your local grocery store. I'd look for one that has a mild flavor.

Menu Plan Monday - September 29

Its that time again and fortunately I did this week with last week's menu. However because of the contest I will be hosting this week I'm going to add a few of my favorite recipes from Tyler Florence. Though technically I will not be making these this week, I'll post the recipes for them.

The theme behind our contest (to begin 9/30) is My Favorite Florence! Tyler Florence that is!

So stay tuned this week for some of my favorite recipes from this yummy celebrity chef along with a contest featuring him. And of course for a refresher of what I have on the menu for this week check out MPM September 22nd.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Breakfast Casserole

I love breakfast, it's always been one of my favorite meals of the day. Ok who am I kidding, I love all meals, but anyways breakfast has always held a special place in my heart. Saturday or Sunday morning breakfasts were always something special when I was growing up. It was the one time my dad got in the kitchen, and the one time we weren't all running in a zillion different directions. So that meant we always did it up right, and now I like to carry on that tradition with my own family. Now if only I could get my hubby up before noon so that he could actually partake in the meal without having to reheat it. But I digress, this casserole is a warm and hearty breakfast that is deserving of taking its place on my weekend morning ritual. What's great about it is you can prep the night before and then just pop it in the oven before you've even had coffee. I'm definitely not one for waking up at dawns first light to cook up my yummy breakfasts.

Menu: Breakfast Casserole and some nice fresh fruit

Breakfast Casserole

Cooking spray
1 (16-ounce) package frozen turkey sausage, thawed (such as Louis Rich) I'm just using breakfast sausage
8 (1 1/2-ounce) slices sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
2/3 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
1 cup egg substitute
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed 30% reduced-sodium, 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted

  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring well to crumble.

  2. Arrange bread in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top evenly with cooked turkey sausage and cheddar cheese. Combine 2 1/2 cups milk, egg substitute, and Dijon mustard, stirring with a whisk. Pour over bread mixture in dish. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

  3. Preheat oven to 350'

  4. Uncover casserole. Combine remaining 1/2 cup milk and cream of mushroom soup, stirring with a whisk. Pour over bread mixture. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe and photo courtesy of CookingLight

Chicago Style Pizza

Fridays always feel so hectic, why is that? Anyways because they seem so hectic and I'm always usually beat by the time they come around so I lean on the family staple that Friday night means pizza night. Now about half the time I'll stick with a good frozen standby but occasionally I like to do one from scratch especially if its quick and simple. Let me tell you, this one fits the bill. You can vary this recipe up anyway you like whether it be tame or flaming and feisty but regardless its a great HEALTHY pizza that all will enjoy.

: Chicago Style Pizza and caesar salad (go on I won't tell grab a beer too!)

Chicago Style Pizza

2 (10-ounce) cans refrigerated pizza crust dough
Cooking spray
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 1/4 cups cooked Atsa Spicy Pizza Sausage
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 450°.

  1. Unroll dough portions onto a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray, slightly overlapping the edges. Pinch edges together to seal. Pat the dough into a 15 x 12-inch rectangle.
  2. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border, and top with sausage, basil, and tomatoes.
  3. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and pepper.
  4. Bake at 450° for 2 minutes.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 425° (do not remove pizza from oven), and bake an additional 12 minutes or until cheese melts.
Recipe and photo courtesy of CookingLight

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

La Bamba Casserole

La Bamba Casserole will make your mouth want to do the mambo! It is one of my favorite recipes. It just always blows people away whenever I first serve it to them, they love it. This recipe goes way back, again to college, when I found it, made it, loved it, therefore made it for my Spanish class as a demonstration and needless to say I got an A. I love it because its so easy and versatile too. First off it can be as healthy as you want to make it or it can be semi-unhealthy. But since I'm (not on a diet) doing a healthy lifestyle eating, I try to make it the healthy way. And since we love spice I kick up the full spice on this baby.

Menu: La Bamba Casserole and can be served with a side salad and/or tortilla chips

La Bamba Casserole

1 (5.25-ounce) can whole green chiles, drained
Cooking spray
1 pound ground turkey breast
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained (aka rotel, hot or mild your choice)
2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1 (16-ounce) can fat-free refried beans
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped green onions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.

  2. Cut green chiles in half lengthwise. Arrange chiles in a single layer in an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.

  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add turkey, onion, chili powder, cumin, salt, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes, stirring to crumble. Add diced tomatoes; cook 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates.

  4. Spoon turkey mixture over chiles. Top with corn. Carefully spread beans over corn. Sprinkle cheese over beans.

  5. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes; top with chopped tomato and green onions.

I just can't express how much I love this dish! I usually add a dollop of sour cream and scoop it up with a few tortilla chips. It works great as a meal but you could just as easily serve this as a dip at a party. Ok I'm going to stop blabbering and scarf up this yummy yummy!

Recipe and photo courtesy of CookingLight