Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Apple-Filled Crescents

The other day, I ran across this recipe for Apple Walnut Butterhorns.  "Looks great!" I thought.  But, I don't care for walnuts, so I decided to modify it a bit.  I thought about using pecans but wasn't sure how that would go over with my girl, so I left the nuts out.  Left the glaze off since I'm watching my diet right now.  Tweaked it a little more, and here's what I ended up with.  Delicious!

Apple-Filled Crescents

1 small green apple, peeled and diced
3 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. pumpkin pie spice
12 raw crescent roll triangles (I used the recipe from the link above, but used butter instead of shortening, but you could also use 1 can of dough)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine apple, brown sugar, and spice.  Lay the individual triangles out on a parchment-lined baking sheet (you don't have to use parchment, but I found that the filling oozed a little, and I hate scrubbing pans).  Top the wide end of each with a small spoonful of the apple mixture.

Roll each crescent from the wide end, stretching and tucking the dough to make sure the mixture is covered.

Bake at 375 for 12 - 14 minutes or until the rolls are brown. 

My daughter and I think these are great just the way they are, but if you want a glaze you can follow the recipe in the link up top.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Forming Some New Habits

Today I stumbled across a new blog, Saving Myself Silly, and I've been reading back posts all afternoon.  back in January, she talked about her desire to slowly start forming some new habits.  Basically, she started out the new year by picking one or a few habits in four different categories that she wanted to focus on for the month of January, with the intent to add more in future months as the ones she's already focused on become part of the routine.

I like this approach.  I tend to be an all-or-nothing, jump in with both feet kind of girl, and then I quickly fizzle out when I realize that I've overextended myself and gotten way too ambitious for my time and energy. 

So, I've decided to give myself this challenge, too.  I've started a list of all the different things I'd like to focus on, and now I'm trying to narrow down the most important or most interesting to start on.  They're all super-small, able to be accomplished in just a few minutes, or in front of the television if it takes longer (like actually folding the laundry, instead of leaving it in the laundry baskets until it piles up so high that my four-year-old tells me to call my boss and take the day off to fold clothes). 

May Day seems as good a day as any for a fresh start, so I'll report back then and let you know what I've decided on!

Menu Plan April 27 - May 3

Wow.  We didn't eat out at all last week!  I can't remember the last time we went a whole week without eating out.  Just goes to show that a budget and a menu plan can be powerful tools when you really work them.

Actually, we stuck to the menu plan 100%.  I was home sick one day and REALLY wanted to make chicken strips and Tater Tots instead of stuffed peppers, but we didn't have any chicken strips.  The pepper filling was already made (I'd made more than double last time and froze the extra), so it actually only took me a few minutes to throw together, not much more time than the alternative would have taken.

Our other "victory" last week was taking leftovers in lunches.  I actually ended up eating leftovers all week, with two meals of white beans and sausage, one of kielbasa and cabbage, and two of leftover pepper filling (no peppers - I just put the filling in a small casserole dish, topped it with some cheese, and baked it alongside the peppers).  Hubby ate kielbasa and cabbage one day and taco salad another day.  So we only used three of the frozen dinners we keep on hand for lunches.  That saved us about $18 right there, since in the past the leftovers would more than likely have gone in the garbage after sitting in the fridge for a week or three.

Yesterday, I declared a much needed day at home.  We're all fighting colds and I am tired and cranky and just need to recharge.  I decided as long as I wasn't going anywhere, I might as well pull the free turkey I got at Thanksgiving out of the fridge and roast it.  I think that's the first time I've ever roasted a whole turkey.  It took more than an hour longer than I thought it would to get done, so we weren't able to have it for dinner, but I put it in the fridge and we'll eat it tonight.  Then I'll pull the rest apart and package it up into meal-size portions.  I got a new vacuum sealer yesterday (my old one has been broken for months), so I can put it in the freezer and know it won't succumb to freezer burn too quickly.

So here's what our menu looked like for yesterday and the coming week:

  • Saturday:  Frozen skillet meal, salad (as soon as I realized the turkey wasn't going to be done, I knew I needed something QUICK to fix!). 
  • Sunday:  Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans
  • Monday:  Broccoli cheese soup, homemade crescent rolls, salad
  • Tuesday:  Bulgogi
  • Wednesday:  Canadian bacon (instead of ham) and pasta bake
  • Thursday:  Turkey Tetrazzini
  • Friday:  Creamed Tuna on Biscuits (my four-year-old makes AWESOME biscuits)
  • Saturday:  Dinner out (I'm going to my nephew's school play, so hubby and my girl are on their own, which likely means Taco Bell for them and I'm not sure what for me).  
Have a great week! And remember to visit Menu Plan Monday for more meal ideas than you can imagine!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Freezer Inventory Menu List - Charcuterie, Fish, and "Ready Meals"

This is the second installment in my menu planning around what is already in my freezer.  The first installment, covering the main meat elements (beef, pig, and poultry) can be found here.

This is really just a fancy word for processed and smoked meats - sausage, bacon, and the like.  This is probably my favorite meat category of all!  Here's what we have, and some ideas about what I'll do with it:

  • Chicken Garlic and Herb Sausage (1):  Sausage and pasta with cream sauce
  • Chorizo (of the Mexican variety) (2): 
  • Chicken Cheese Sausage (1):  We like these just as they are, grilled up with some potatoes on the side.
  • Kielbasa-style sausage (I call it kielbasa, but usually it's turkey or chicken smoked sausage) (2):  Kielbasa and cabbage
  • Hot Dogs (2):
    • Hot dogs
    • Chili dogs
  • Apple Chicken Sausage (1):  "The Stuff"
  • Breakfast Sausage (1):  Irish Sundaes
  • Canadian Bacon (1):  Actually just used this last night in Pizza Noodles
  • Bacon (3):  I don't think I need to explain this one - everything's better with bacon!

My husband doesn't like fish other than canned tuna and the occasional grilled salmon steak, so I don't usually keep it on hand.  At the moment, I hav:

  • Cod (1):  Cheesy Fish Sticks 
  • Tilapia (1):  I just like to cook this in parchment with a little butter, garlic, and seasonings.


AKA processed food, in a box or bag, ready to prepare at a moment's notice when I just don't feel like cooking.  We don't eat too much of this, as I like to cook and try to eat pretty healthy, but I like to keep a few things on hand (and some things I try to always have on hand).  At the moment, we have the following:
  • Fish sticks - once upon a time, they made a baked variety of these, but I can't find them anymore so we only have these once in a while.
  • Potstickers - my daughter's #1 favorite meal.  I always, always, always have potstickers on hand!
  • Swedish meatballs - I make these myself but I always make a triple or quadruple batch because, let's face it, making meatballs is tedious work.
  • Frozen burritos - bean and cheese for me, red hot chili for hubby and my girl - they like theirs with canned chili dumped over the top.
  • Meatless meatballs - I've never had these.  I won them in a contest a while back and haven't worked up the courage to try them yet.  Someday I'll sneak them into spaghetti and see what kind of faces my family makes.  
  • Lentil soup - homemade - I like to make a big pot and then freeze it in lunch-size portions to take to work with me.
  • Skillet Meals - I just picked these up yesterday for next to nothing on sale with a coupon.  Small bags - they say they serve three but I'm dubious.  I can always stretch them with extra pasta and vegetables, I suppose.  
  • Chicken Strips - my daughter's second favorite meal (oddly enough, she loves chicken strips but is not a fan of chicken nuggets).  I try to always have these and tater tots on hand for a quick meal when I don't feel like cooking.  We like to dip them in a sauce made of blue cheese dressing and Frank's Red Hot Sauce. 

We also have a variety of breads, cheeses, produce, and starches (cooked beans, cooked rice, frozen hash browns, etc.) in the freezer, which I incorporate into our meals.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pizza Noodles

I'm trying to figure out how it is that I've never posted this recipe.  Well, maybe I did but Google couldn't find it, who knows.  Anyway, this is a quick and easy, tasty and filling recipe.  You can switch up the meat and veggies to include anything you like that you would normally put on pizza.  The sauce mixture can be prepared in the time it takes to cook the noodles.

Pizza Noodles
4 servings

6 oz. dry spaghetti noodles
2 T. olive oil
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. "pizza meat", cut into bite sized pieces (Canadian bacon, ham, pepperoni, sausage, etc. - whatever you like)
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
Optional:  Fresh oregano, basil, and parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese

Cook the noodles according to the package directions.  When finished, drain.

While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms; cook until onions are soft, about five minutes.  Add seasonings, meat and tomatoes, cook five to 10 minutes more, until everything is nice and hot.  Stir in cooked noodles and fresh herbs.  Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Freezer Inventory Menu List - Beef, Pig and Poultry

Over the last few days, I've been perusing the information and forums at Budget101.com and GroceryBudget101.com.  I'm not sure why the menu planning bug has suddenly struck once again, but it inspired me to take the freezer inventory I made on Saturday and plan out a list of meals I could make with the meat and other items tucked away in the freezer.

We've already used a package of Italian sausage and a quart of navy beans (in White Beans and Sausage, which was delicious and provided me with two days of lunch leftovers), a smoked turkey sausage in the kielbasa and cabbage, a box of taquitos, and a pound of hamburger (tonight was taco salad.  As per my usual, I cooked a pound of ground beef and a can of chili beans (separately - my husband won't eat the beans and I won't eat the taco meat), fed us dinner and set aside leftovers for his lunch tomorrow, and then put the remaining taco meat and beans in the freezer for the next time I make chili.  Tomorrow night we'll use some of the Canadian bacon in pizza noodles, and then I'll probably make the rest into egg McMuffin-type sandwiches that I can refreeze for quick breakfasts, though I may find something else to do with it instead.  I'm kind of up in the air on that. 

This is a work in progress that I'm sure I will edit as I go along (and add recipe links), but here's a start:


  • Cooked Corned Beef (2):  Hash is pretty much my only option here (picky husband).  
  • Ground Beef (5):  
  • Bulgogi meat (this is just thin sliced beef) (2):  
    • Bulgogi
    • Cheesesteak-style sandwiches
  • Chuck Roast (1):  After I bought this, my husband announced that he doesn't really like pot roast, so 'll probably cook it, cool it, then separate the meat from most of the fat and find some casserole recipes to use it in.
  • Flank Steak (1):  Grilled steak salad
  • Corned Beef (1):  See Cooked Corned Beef (I just cook it and then portion it out)
  • Boneless Chuck Steak (1):  Same deal as the chuck roast. 
  • Bottom Round Roast (1):  Eventually, my husband will make jerky out of this.  Though I'll probably insist on cutting a few hunks off first to make cube steak, one of his favorite meals.

  • Ground Pork (2):  Add to meatballs/meatloaf mixture.  I don't do much with ground pork on its own unless it's made into sausage.
  • Loin Roast (1):  Roast pork
  • Loin Chops (1):  Grilled pork chops
  • Marinated pork loin (1):  Roast as is
  • Pork Shoulder (1):  Either Carnitas or Pulled pork (or maybe I'll cut it in half and do both)
  • Ground Turkey (1):  Turkey Burgers
  • Chicken Tenderloin (3):  
    • Bruschetta Chicken
    • Breaded and Baked Chicken (I have a couple of those new Kraft "Fresh Taste" breading packs in the freezer)
    • Blackened Chicken Salad
  • Shredded, Cooked Chicken (3):
  • Whole Chicken (1): Roasted or rotisseried
  • Whole Turkey (1):  Roasted
  • Thighs, Bone and Skin on (1):  Italian Shred
  • Thighs, Boneless/Skinless:  (2):  
  • Chicken Carcass (1):  Combine with carcass from whole chicken to make broth (which I will NOT forget about in the garage fridge like I did with the last batch!)
  • Chicken Broth (3):  To be used as needed in recipes.
That's enough for one post! For the rest of my ideas, click here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's the little things that excite me.

This will give you some indication of just how pathetically little it takes to excite me.  Today I was thinking about our menu for the week (which we've followed to the letter so far), and how I hadn't bought any bell peppers for pizza noodles on Friday.   I got three green ones for tonight's stuffed peppers, but hadn't bought any extras, and the colorful ones were too expensive for my end-of-the-pay-period grocery budget.

"No problem," I thought to myself (why yes, I do have conversations with myself about meal planning and preparation - doesn't everyone?), "I'll just open a jar of roasted red peppers."  Problem is, if I open a jar of roasted red peppers without a plan to use up the rest of them, I might as well just throw them away because that's what will happen.

Cut to 5:30 p.m., making the stuffed peppers.  By the way, thank goodness I had a meal plan and pepper filling in the freezer from last time, because I came home early sick yesterday and I really just wanted to make chicken strips and Tater Tots, but I didn't have any chicken strips.   Most weeks, I'd just send my husband to Taco Bell.

Anyway, as I cut the tops of the peppers off, I thought about tossing them in the salad, but then I thought "aha!  Bell pepper chunks!  Pizza noodles!  Problem solved!!!"

I love it when a plan comes together...

And yes, I give you permission to laugh at me now.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Freezer Cleanout Day/This Week's Menu

This morning I inventoried the freezer.  It's funny - I specifically wanted an upright freezer instead of a chest model, because I didn't want to lose things in it.  My freezer isn't very big, about the size of a standard refrigerator (minus the top freezer compartment), but I still lose plenty!  So I've cleaned it out, thrown away just about everything dated 2011, and I'm starting over.

I've tried keeping a paper inventory on the freezer before, but it never works well.  This time I've made an Excel spreadsheet, organized by type (type of animal, produce, ready meals, etc.), and I'm going to slip it into a sheet protector and tape it to the door.  Then I can just use a dry erase marker to update as I go.  I've left open spaces to add new entries, also, and when it gets messy enough, I can just add those to the Excel document and print a new sheet. 

The good news is, if I plan carefully, I shouldn't have to buy meat for about six weeks!  Of course I will - after all, this is me (the compulsive grocery shopper) we're talking about, but at least I can use the time to keep an eye out for sales, coupons, and orange tags, and other good deals. 

Why this sudden interest in the freezer, you may ask?  Excellent question.  We've had several hits to the budget lately.  The cost of health insurance went up.  My husband reach the point where he could start investing in his 401k.  Then, we had to buy a new car.  No, we didn't have to buy a BRAND new car, but, to get what we wanted, the price difference between new and used was only a couple thousand dollars so we decided to bite the bullet and get the new one.  I drove my old car for 12 years and more than 200,000 miles, so it's not like we're "let's buy a new car just for the heck of it" people!  We were able to put down a healthy down payment, but we now have a car payment for the first time in about nine years. 

All of that means that we're now watching our dollars more closely than we have in a long, long time.  I've reworked our budget to make sure we know where everything is going, and I'm back to menu planning and avoiding food waste whenever possible.  I've started occasionally going back to the grocery store I tend to avoid, where the food costs less but many of the other customers are astoundingly rude.  At least they have a fabulous bulk section.  I still go to my regular store about every other week, where my daughter can visit their "playland" and hang out with other kids while I get the shopping done.

Click here for more menu ideas!

So, now that I have a freshly inventoried freezer, here's the menu plan for this week (I like to cook from scratch, but my daughter has swimming lessons on Mondays and Wednesdays so those are the quick meal nights):

Saturday:  White Beans and Sausage
Sunday:  Kielbasa and Cabbage
Monday:  Potstickers (of the frozen variety)
Tuesday: Stuffed peppers (found a container of filling in the freezer!)
Wednesday: Taquitos (the commercial frozen kind)
Thursday: Taco Salad
Friday: Pizza Noodles

Have a great week!