Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pantry Basics

My husband thinks I'm a little different when it comes to organization. What can I say--I love lists. And I love being prepared.

Add to that the love of getting the most for the least amount of money, and then you end up with a pantry like this:

So there it is--28 boxes of cereal (I may have taken a few out to use. Oh, and this is my 2nd pantry, really. and those cans go back about 5 cans in depth....). I'm not crazy. I'm frugal.

Which brings me to my ideas on food and money.

How can you save money for your family?

Hit the sales when they're there, ensure the food's safety (freeze, can, buy non-perishable, or use right away), and use it all up.

So my weekly food shopping plan goes something like this:

1. Look over recipes and have a rough idea of what your family might enjoy for the week (I have a few meal staples that I will post on this site, plus I will browse new recipes on or

2. Know your store's sales and plan your meals around their sale or reasonably-priced in-season veggies/meats (Is there a sale on pork roasts? Stock up and plan for seasoned roasted pork one night, shredded BBQ pork sandwiches the next, and sweet and spicy chili later in the week).

3. Stick to your grocery list. If I enter the store with no list or have forgotten it, beware! I will exit with a dozen donuts, those waxy mini donuts in a box, ice cream (usually 2 containers), bagels, cream cheese, chips, and perhaps some frozen lasagna. Really. That's sad. So I know that, at least for myself, I must carry that geeky list with me.

4. Always allow for about $10 of "extras" in the food budget. It just happens. I always find something I either forgot to account for or some item that is never on sale that I just must have (usually items we eat anyway).

5. On weeks with little inspiration, plan on two separate grocery store trips. There is no need to buy enough vegetables for 5 meals when you really only have 2 planned out completely. Why risk not using them?! I know I am horrible at using all items I purchase unless I have a complete meal plan (just ask the eggplant in my fridge).

6. Know your prices.
*all prices are per week*

I aim for $10=meat (meats whose leftovers can double as sandwich meat are a bonus)


$5-$8 milk

$10= fruit

$5-10 veggies

$2.50 crackers

$3-5 baking ingredients (I don't buy cookies or desserts. I figure I can make them at a cheaper rate)

$4 yogurt

$30 other (cereal, hummus, tortillas, oatmeal)

$5 canned beans, canned tomatoes

$5 bread

And I usually end up with a total around $100-125. I allow an additional $25 for toiletries, diapers, soaps per week as well.

Sure, the first weeks of following this rough guideline may leave you feeling like there's not enough food with which to get creative, but after a few weeks you will find that this week's in-season zucchini would work well in a zucchini dish paired with that ground turkey that had been on sale last week that you had frozen.

Want some more ideas on how to save a little extra money???

Grow a little.

Working your hardest to create a small garden brings the opportunity to not only enjoy home-grown food, but also allows for savings on produce. I absolutely loved the apple trees I had planted at my former home. They produced a fair amount of fruit, even for being young trees. Unfortunately my dog loved the apples more than I did, and became a proficient apple-picker. But still--container-garden tomatoes are a favorite of mine. I hope this summer brings many a tomato into my kitchen!

I can't wait to incorporate more recipes and garden tips on this site. So much to look forward to!

I Have Seen God

Well, here he is. Many have tried to see God, and I have been a fortunate one to be able to do so.

My four year-old insisted that he knows what God looks like. And then he drew this picture of him:

So he pointed out that he has a goatee, hair, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arms, a body (torso), legs, and he didn't know what that other thing was :) Just an extra leg, I guess.

So folks, now you have seen God.

And on another note, today my husband teased me by telling me that I should post photos of my food storage pantry online. He says this thinking I won't actually do it. He thinks he's so funny. Yes, it could be embarrassing for me....

I just hit up the cereal sale at a local grocery store. My oldest counted the boxes. 28!!!!

What can I say, we really like cereal in my house! hahaaa

Well, he thought I wouldn't post photos, but here they are. For all to see! Argh, I'll put them in the next posting. Gosh, I hate technical issues sometimes!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Peanutella Magic!

So again, here I go, raving about my favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. But she had a recipe on there for Peanutella (like Nutella but w/peanuts).

I just had to try it. To save some $$ and for added "fun" I convinced the kids that we should shell our own peanuts. just ended up that I did 99% of the shelling (boy, kinda rough on the hands). But anyway, that's my own fault. And still, I saved several bucks....

So anyway, the oldest and I just finished making Peanutella :) And boy, is it sooo good! Dairy-free and rich and creamy....but I totally have "peanut-butter mouth" (think of a dog eating peanut butter...stuck on the roof of its mouth....).

So the oldest had the best idea. Since I had swiped our peanutella on graham crackers, he tried adding marshmallows. and yes, we have a winner!

So take my word for it, you've got to try this one!

And to note, I added some Karo syrup to sweeten the deal, plus more oil than was called for (my mixer didn't like me until i did).

So there it is--enjoy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Run! Fire Alarm!!!!

That is what tonight's excitement was all about.

I tried a new recipe. It involved a baking stone. Uh oh. My experience with my poor baking stone has not been stellar.... I usually burn whatever I am baking, or it is undercooked and sticks to the poor stone. Or a little of both--burnt and dough-y. The stone is now stained, with burnt goo that smokes when I use it each time--Lovely reminders of my skills ;)

So tonight I wanted pizza. The kids wanted pizza. With dad out of town for work and just the 3 of us at home, I thought it would be a great idea to try a new recipe.

And when I need a new recipe I rely on my favorite blog for recipes: The Smitten Kitchen. Deb has a way with food. She even has made me enjoy vegetables! Surprising, I know!

So anyway, pizza.

I made the dough. Just as I was kneading it my friend calls--there has been an emergency. Long story short--she's at the ER with her husband (who ends up being okay) and needs someone to come get her kids. I throw the mostly-kneaded dough into the oiled bowl and leave it to rise....

The problem is, it never rises. I even used brand new yeast, too! I still don't know what happened, but whatever--I need pizza. The kids are starving(and now there are 3). So I roll out the dough (I didn't take pictures because I expected a total disaster at this point). I make the pizza according to the directions. I even have corn meal for the baking stone (hoping for a non-sticky experience--fingers crossed!).

And you know what?

It was just BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

It's like the moment when you realize your brand new baby is just perfect, after months worrying about whether they will be a mutant child with 11 fingers and four toes.

Anyway, I actually wanted to eat this pizza perfection. So that's when I took a picture :)

And see? I am proud! Thanks Deb, for the great recipe! And then....I wanted to stick in another pizza....I thought I should heat the stone a bit more, so left it in there to heat up a bit more. I was just thinking how I didn't want a dough-y middle to my pizza. So after 5 minutes, in chimes the deafening, "Beep, beep, beep, beep....." you get the picture. The baby starts screaming, the older 2 kids start screaming and running all over the house, "Run!! Fire alarm!!" My friend's poor little girl keeps shouting, "Mommy says this is when you run out of the house!!" Meanwhile, the kids can't hear my explanation over all the beeping, their screaming, etc. so I focus on fanning the smoke detectors. It's comical, this scene. I am sure my neighbors noticed. And to all of you neighbors, I am sooo sorry!! To top it off, the jacket I grabbed to fan the detector swats my oldest in the side with its zipper as I'm flailing it around the hallway. So now there's a new crier.... Oh, it was great. THIS is life. Never dull. So, it was smoky because I still had some cornmeal left on the stone. So please, if you make this recipe, shake off the excess cornmeal before placing another pizza on the stone! :) Thank you. Lesson learned. Oh, but the pizzas were amazing!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

But what about dessert?

That's right. Warm Molten Lava Cake. mmm....

It's a shame that I am the only adult in the household whom dreams of this dish. The husband will accept a serving right after it is made, but it's not his favorite. I am the one whom really loves it--I am a lucky girl!!! And yes, I have eaten the entire pan by myself (ouch!).

Warm Molten Lava Cake:
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder (divided)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In an 8x8 inch glass pan (i've used non-stick metal, but it's just not as good) combine flour, sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, baking powder, adn salt. Stir with a fork (or you can be like my dad and carefully scrape all the lumps out with a metal spoon. or be like my conventional mom and grandma and sift it all together. or you can be like me and be lazy and just use the fork).

This is the part where I say, "Wait, wait, wait....I have forgotten something. Oh shoot, the baking powder!" And then I mix it in as if nothing had happened (thank goodness I remembered before I had baked it!). And thank you, recipe for being so forgiving!

Then sprinkle brown sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, and chocolate chips on top of the batter.

Top with the hot water and vanilla. Don't mix these last ingredients into the batter. Just let them sit on top. Strange, I know. But otherwise you'll just end up with a strange cake. Which, of course, I would still eat. But you are wanting warm, molten, chocolate cake....I do, anyway!

Bake for 30-35 minutes (when the surface of the cake looks dry). The dish should be bubbling around the edges. Allow to cool for a short while (this is the hardest part), then serve with vanilla ice cream.

Leftovers (if you have any) may be stored for up to a day at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving.

What's on my mind? Food!

So this week has been quite a normal week.

Kids wake me up, we eat breakfast, we play, get dressed, stuff some lunch down kids' throats, check backpack's contents, pre-heat the car (baby cries EVERY time i do this!), stuff kids into snow gear, take oldest to school, drive home/grocery shopping, pick kid up from school, drive home, the kids play, and I usually pass out on the couch or disappear into the facebook void. Except this week, with the inspiration of my husband (sigh), Food Network TV, and Men's Journal, Feb. '11 issue (thank you Daniel Duane!), I decided to actually cook healthy meals every day of the week!

I always intend on making great things for my family to eat. Meals that are healthy, inexpensive, easy, quick, and that my kids will eat. I don't ask for much :)

So when I find a recipe that fits into all of the above categories, I cling to it for dear life! It becomes a keeper.

And that's what we have for my first recipe of the week (thank you Sandra Lee, for the inspiration!): Grilled Chicken Cutlet Sandwiches with Herb Mayonnaise

So I didn't have the time/planning/patience to make it just as her recipe states, but I bought one of those thinner french baguettes from my grocery store's bakery (the key to the recipe--crispy on the outside, soft on the inside),

then grilled some chicken tenders from the freezer (on a cast iron panini skillet), then made her "herb mayo" with just chopped parsley and mayo :) but really, it was fantastic! We topped the adult sandwiches with tomato, cheddar, and lettuce, and the kids had just cheese and/or tomato. We ate every crumb!

Ooh! And let's not forget the other half of the meal--Sweet Potato Fries!!! Yum!

My love affair with sweet potatoes (or yams) began after a visit to Papua New Guinea. As one of the staples in the area in which I spent time, I went from hating the sweet potato to CRAVING it! Now I get my fill from these yummy fries (from Men's Journal): slice sweet potato into long wedges. toss in olive oil, and sprinkle on thyme and salt. bake at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes (i stop to flip fries midway through baking). Sooo easy. Healthy. And delicious!