Tuesday’s Dinner – Chopped Salad with Chicken

I don’t like lettuce.

Well, that may be a strong statement. It’s not that I don’t like lettuce persay, but it really irks me when I go somewhere for a salad and it ends up being a bowl full of lettuce with a cucumber and tomato flippantly tossed in for effect. UGH!
However, last year I discovered a new favorite – the Vegetable Chopped Salad at The Cheesecake Factory. I vowed that when I went back, I’d write everything down so I could recreate it at home, and in December I did just that. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to add it into my family’s menu, but tonight it happened! Essentially, it’s chopped (in cubes) cucumber, asparagus, edamame (not chopped), bell pepper, sharp white cheddar cheese, and tomato. Actually, I think the original omits the cucumber but adds apple, so really, I just made up what I wanted to! I added the Tyson’s Crunchy Chicken Tenders on the top for protein and to give the kids a little more sustenance. I also found a copycat recipe for the Cilantro Lime Viniagrette and it was wonderful.

The quick dinner also allowed me to get out in time to attend a grocery class last night. Yes, you heard me right. Kelly (www.faithfulprovisions.com) goes to our church and has turned this thing into a science. She went from spending over $1,000 a month on food to now spending $40 a week for a family of four! I’m definitely not there yet, but my past two trips I’ve spent $100 (mostly stockpiling deals on sale) and I’ve saved over $50 each time, so I’m well on my way. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how it’s working out.

Birthday Freebies

As Britton’s 3rd birthday approaches on Sunday, we’re beginning to reap the benefits of freebies that come with such an event. I’ll try to update this with links later, but here are just a few sites we visited last year to sign up for free birthday goodies:
Moe’s, California Pizza Kitchen, Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery, Dairy Queen, O’Charleys

Mom, you’re the best cooker

Even though Britton didn’t go for my grilled tilapia with soy and ginger or the Japanese cucumber side salad, he did like the rice, which earned me the above praise tonight.

Mommy, the bright is following me

…said this morning by Britton in the van on the way to church when the sun kept getting in his eyes.

Do you keep track of the funny things your kids say? Even if you don’t have kids, I remember having a quote board on our fridge in college and it kept us amused many a late night. Anyone else have any funnies from this week?

Thursday’s Meal – Mexican Lasagna

I’m still trying to only visit the grocery store once a week, thereby forcing me to meal plan and save money. Most of you can testify I’m not the best at coming up with recipes on the fly, but tonight when I searched my kitchen, I came up with the idea of using some frozen ground beef and making tacos. But we’d already finished our tortillas earlier in the week and didn’t have any taco seasoning, so I made use of the remainder of homemade salsa, the end of a bag of tortilla chips, a can of kidney beans and some leftover Taco Bell sauce and VOILA! Mexican Lasagna! Actually, it was more like layered nachos but it was delicious!

I browned the ground beef, added about 2T of chopped onions and let that combine and cook down. To that mixture I added 2T of chili powder and a shake of cumin, with some salt and pepper. Then I poured in the salsa (about a 1/2 cup) and the four Mild Taco Bell sauce packets I found in the fridge. To that I added one can (15oz) of drained, Dark Red Kidney Beans and let it all combine.

I coated a 9×13 oven safe dish with about 1T of olive oil, then placed a layer of tortilla chips. On top of that I put a layer of the beef/bean mixture (about 1/2 of it) and then a layer of freshly grated sharp white cheddar cheese (all I had on hand, but it was great!). Then repeat the chip, beef, cheese layers and put in a 425 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes just to melt the cheese. It was much tastier than those taco seasoning packets you buy and very filling.

Minor Milestones

Well, after a month of being sick, we finally discovered that Britton has an ear infection in his left ear. His drippy nose has plagued us, mostly because of his inability to blow. We weren’t sure how to explain how you blow your nose, but finally tonight he did it! This may seem minor to many of you, but it’s a big deal (especially for us as parents so we don’t have to constantly chase him around with a Kleenex!)

Really, this is comparable to the day he started brushing his teeth without me having to sit on top of him to accomplish that goal! Boy, potty training seemed easy compared to personal hygiene…

Menu Time Sunday

I’d like to say I could share my entire meal plan for the week, but I haven’t gotten that organized yet. However, I did want to share my on the fly easy dinner from tonight. For lunch we actually ate at Moe’s after church because we had free money to use – we always stock up on gift cards at restaurants at Christmastime because they usually offer a free bonus (case in point – Moe’s offered a free $5 gift card when you spent $20).

Ok, back to dinner. I was going to make homemade pizza, but was missing a key ingredient, so I rummaged through the pantry and fridge and decided instead on Pizza Pasta (since I’d already promised the kids pizza) and Roasted Cauliflower. Typically I probably would have added a green salad and some garlic bread, but I hadn’t done my shopping today, so this was it!

Pizza Pasta & Roasted Cauliflower

Pizza Pasta & Roasted Cauliflower

Here are the basic recipes (since I made it up and didn’t measure!):
PIZZA PASTA:
In a pan with a little olive oil, I browned 1 lb. ground turkey (but you could easily use ground beef), then added about 5 cloves of chopped garlic (I love garlic!) and about 2T of chopped onion. I seasoned it with a little sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, Steak Grill Seasoning, Garlic salt, Italian Seasoning and Basil. After about 5 minutes, I added @ 3/4 cup of beef stock to deglaze the pan before adding a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes with garlic and onions I had pureed in the Magic Bullet and then another can of tomato sauce (with a little bit of zucchini puree to beef up the veggie content!). I let it all simmer while I boiled my whole wheat penne pasta. Once the penne was done, I added it to the sauce pan (which is also oven safe) with about 1T each of feta cheese and freshly grated parmesan/reggiano. I mixed that all together, sprinkled a light layer of Shredded Italian six cheese blend and then topped with the pepperoni. Then I popped it in the oven at 35o for about 30 minutes. It’s healthier and tastes better than anything you just pull out of a bag or a jar!

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER:
I LOVE roasting vegetables. It enhances the flavor and protects the vitamin content. It’s really simple. Take about 1T of butter and 1T of olive oil in an oven safe pan and melt it while the oven’s preheating (typically around 400 degrees, but I just popped it in the 350 oven tonight with the pasta). Once melted, add some chopped garlic, your vegetables and a little salt and coat.
Then just put in the oven about a 1/2 hour, pulling it out about 1/2 way through to shake and turn the veggies over. You can tell they’re done once they start crisping on top. (If you don’t have a lot of time, you quickly steam them just to get the cooking process started, but if you do it more than a couple minutes, they’ll just get soggy).

What are your favorite last minute pantry meals? Let me know!