Archive for November, 2008

Computer Problems

Arrrggh! No internet!

Arrrggh! No internet!

Sorry I’ve disappeared lately. We’re having problems with our internet connection. I should be backonline soon! Look for a new post Monday!

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November 21, 2008 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

Menu Plan Monday

It’s time for Menu Plan Monday over at I’m an Organizing Junkie once again. Here’s this week’s plan:

Monday: Basketball Game! Buffalo Wing Soup and sandwiches, carrot and celery sticks with dip

Tuesday: No School! Baja-Style Fish Tacos, Mexican Chicken Soup

Wednesday: Sausage Rice, Salad

Thursday: Basketball Game! Peking Chicken Pizza, Tossed Salad

Friday: Chicken and Black Bean Taquitos with Adobo Sour Cream, leftover Mexican Chicken Soup

Saturday: Mediterranean-style Burgers with Rosemary Mayo, Greek Salad

Sunday: Grandma’s Birthday!

November 10, 2008 at 8:07 am Leave a comment

Pizza Gets My Vote!

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Pizza can be healthy, as well as economical … if you make your own. It can also be customized to suit your occasion or your family’s varied tastes, so pizza can be a valuable tool in your frugal arsenal. There are several options when it comes to pizza dough. Pillsbury sells a pre-made refrigerated dough and you can also find frozen balls of pizza dough in the freezer section of your grocery store. Pre-baked crusts are also available. The most economical (and tastiest!) way is to make your own. A little flour. Some yeast. Salt. Sugar. And you have it. Try a few dough recipes until you find one you like. Prepare ahead and you can have a delicious meal on the table in very little time and with little cost.

Here are a few pizza dough recipes to get you started:

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough from Culinary in the Desert

Pizza Dough from A Year in Bread

Brown-Eyed Bake’s Pizza Dough Recipe

Pizza Dough from Judy’s Gross Eats

After a hectic day of after-school activities and all the election day brouhaha, I tried a new pizza recipe that was a hit with my family: Peking Chicken Pizza. The pizza was delicious and quick since I used pizza dough from my freezer and leftover chicken. This is a great example of how thinking outside the box can turn a simple meal into something extra special.

peking-pizza

Peking Chicken Pizza
Recipe from Culinary in the Desert (Adapted from Rachael Ray)

8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper
cornmeal, for dusting
12 or 16 ounces prepared whole-wheat pizza dough
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons plum sauce
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
6 ounces shredded Monterey Jack
2 scallions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
3 tablespoons chopped orange bell pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees with a pizza stone placed on the lowest rack.

Heat a grill pan over high – drizzle oil over chicken and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Grill chicken, turning once, until done – about 4 to 6 minutes on each side. Remove and let cool. Slice into very thin strips.

Sprinkle enough cornmeal to slightly cover a pizza peel. Stretch and roll out dough to a rough 12″ circle on a lightly floured surface and transfer to the cornmeal-dusted peel. Sprinkle the edges of the dough with sesame seeds. Spread plum sauce and barbecue sauce over the pizza – arrange the sliced chicken on top and scatter with the cheese. Sprinkle the top with the scallions and peppers. Slide pizza onto the stone and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese has melted, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly before serving.

Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

November 5, 2008 at 12:13 pm Leave a comment

A Pantry is a Wonderful thing

When we first looked at this house, I was thrilled with the 2 acre yard, the old red barn in back and the big old trees shading the house. When I saw the big kitchen, I was ecstatic. But when I saw the pantry … I was sold. At some point the pantry had been a full bathroom. Tub, sink, the whole nine yards and a spacious bathroom at that. Due to pipes that often froze, the former owners took out the bathroom and replaced it with a *huge* pantry.

I’d grown up with a good pantry. My parents grew most of the food we ate. We raised our own beef and on a couple of occasions (still seared into my brain) chickens. My mom always had a huge garden and put up corn, beans, tomatoes, strawberries. We even raised our own popcorn! We had apple and pear trees, a grape arbor and persimmon trees. There wasn’t much we had to buy at the store. So I’d always wanted a nice-sized pantry.

Having a nicely stocked pantry can save you both time and money. It lets you keep ingredients on hand so that you don’t need to make an expensive run to the grocery store at the last minute. It gives you flexibility in your meal planning. I have several meals that I can make strictly from pantry ingredients. I keep those ingredients on hand all the time. If unexpected guests show up or we end up at home for a meal I’d planned to be somewhere else, I can pull together a healthy meal quickly and inexpensively. Rachael Ray’s Smoky Black Bean and Rice Stoup is a great pantry meal. Jambalaya Pasta is another family favorite that I can usually throw together on a moment’s notice.

Having a pantry also allows you to take advantage of great sales when you find them. When I find a good price on certain items, I always buy as many as I can. I stock up on things like fire-roasted diced tomatoes or chicken stock that I know I’ll be using week after week. Pasta often goes on sale. I enjoy using unusual pasta shapes instead of the regular spaghetti or elbow macaroni. When I find something unuasual, I always pick it up. Using mafaldo or buccatini can make that ordinary pasta dish seem extra special without spending extra money.

My pantry also allows me the space to keep unusual ingredients to help make our meals more special. A couple times a year we find ourselves making the two-hour tip to a town that has a Trader Joe’s. I love TJ’s. There are so many exotic items that we never find out here in the rural Midwest. I have a shelf full of things like vindaloo paste and mango chutney. (To die for with some Fried Green Tomatoes with an Indian Twist!) I have soba noodles and lemon curd. Thai, Mexican, Cajun, Italian. My pantry is a lot of things but it certainly isn’t boring!

I take advantage of sales and try to keep my pantry well-stocked at all times. My pantry is full of onions (red and yellow), garlic, potatoes (sweet, gold and russet). Salsas, chutneys and salad dressings. Herbs, spices or flavorings. Vinegars, wines, honeys.  Canned tomatoes: stewed, diced, fire-roasted, crushed. You name it. I have it. If I watch a show on Food Network and want to recreate the recipe, odds are I have most of the ingredients or at least a close substitute. All without running to the store. And most are purchased inexpensively. Places like Aldi’s, Big Lots or dollar stores can be invaluable sources for unusual and inexpensive ingredients. You can often find small bottles of herbs and spices for under a dollar. Balsamic Vinegar or olive oil can also be found inexpensively. Also check sale tables and “Manager’s Specials” at your local grocery stores. I’ve found many great things marked down half or more simple becaus ethese extras didn’t fit on the newly re-arranged shelves or because the store was no longer buying for that particular vendor.

A well-stocked pantry not only saves you time, it can also save you money!

November 3, 2008 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

Menu Plan Monday (A Little Early!)

One of the best ways to save money when grocery shopping is to make a list and stick to it. In order to do that, you need to know what you are going to be making. Taking a few minutes every week to jot down a menu for the week can cut down all of those last minute shopping trips that always result in several impulse buys. I try to take a few minutes every weekend to look through all the recipes I’ve bookmarked through the week and pick a few to try. I look at the calender so I know which nights we’ll be out or in a hurry so that I can plan accordingly. For instance, if I know we have the early basketball game, I might plan a meal around a crock pot recipe so that it will be ready when we come home. If I know that one night we’re going out or eating a meal at someone else’s home, I won’t plan a meal for that night and that way I won’t have food left in the refrigerator going to waste. I’m also flexible. I usually list 6 or 7 meals each week but I feel free to switch things around if the need arises. If suddenly I find that we’ll have dinner guests, I might switch to a pasta dish or something that stretches well and serve the chicken I’d originally planned on another night. If pork chops don’t sound good for some reason, I’ll switch nights and make pizza instead. I also keep my options open and might switch Thursday night from Fried Chicken to Blackened Chicken if we’re in the mood for something spicy. The goal is to actually use up what I buy for the week. I also pay attention when I’m shopping and adjust accordingly if there is a really good sale at the store. If chicken breasts are on sale, I might switch in another chicken dish instead of a beef or pork meal.

A good place to look for menu planning ideas is over at I’m an Organizing Junkie who hosts a weekly Menu Plan Monday Blogging Event. Check it out for lots of great ideas.

Here’s my plan for the week:

Monday: Basketball game! Florentine Frying Pan Pizza, salad

Tuesday: Basketball Game! Slow-cooked Pulled Pork Sandwiches, cole slaw, macaroni and cheese

Wednesday: Grilled Mozzerella Sandwiches with Tomato and Basil Tortellini Soup or Zesty Black Bean Soup

Thursday: Leftovers! I’m going to the Taste of Home Cooking Show!

Friday: Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup/Chicken Soup, bread, green salad

Saturday: Taco Night!

Sunday: Blasted Chicken, mashed butternut squash, salad

November 2, 2008 at 10:44 am 1 comment


About Me

I'm a stay-at-home mom with four great kids, three cats and two dogs. I want to live the good life but I want to save money too and I'm not willing to live on boxes of mac 'n cheese and hamburger helper to do it! I deserve to have a life ... a good life!

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Check out my other blog, I'm Running to Eat! for more great recipe ideas.

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