Thursday, December 31, 2009

Restaurant style date night

A few weeks ago, we had a great date night that started out with Happy Honeys. I just left out the brandy from the recipe as written, and they were fun, seasonal drinks. They didn't really go with our meal, so we enjoyed them first, as we sat and laughed about something (I can't remember exactly what...but I'm sure it included my 3 year old).

Later on that evening, we enjoyed one of my favorite restaurant treats, shrimp cocktel! It's Mexican shrimp cocktail, and it is oh so good. I eat mine with saltine crackers, and Mike eats his with tortilla chips. Either way is really good. I even served these up in my large iced tea glasses to be more restaurant like (sometimes we eat it in bowls, more like gazpacho).

I had read recently to give tiny shrimp a try. Something about the smaller the shrimp, the more likely that they would cook through before the outside gets tough. Anyway...the grocery store had these tiny guys on sale, so I tried out the theory. It proved true for us. They were really tender and sweet.

And another date night comes and goes. But, I can't wait until the next one!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Meal Plan, um, Wednesday

Late is better than never. At least in my world.

Friday: frozen pot pies (it was one of those days)
Saturday: take out calzones
Sunday: shrimp cocktel
Monday: chimichangas
Tuesday: pan fried steaks, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach
Wednesday: white chicken chili
Thursday: boeuf bourguignon, french bread


I've mentioned before that we don't eat out like we used to before children. We used to eat out a lot, and we enjoyed every single meal. Thank goodness for the memories. At 1 and 3, my boys can be difficult to entertain in a restaurant. When we do go out, it's usually for lunch, and it's at one of the places that we know delivers our food very quickly. Cause, really? Who wants to play tic tac toe with an uninterested toddler for 20 minutes while you wait on food? This is not my idea of fun.

All this to say....

Sometimes, you just want food that you normally get in restaurants. Even if it is supper time. And your kids had one of those days, and you don't even dare take them out of the house to pick up take out. What to do? What to do?

You learn to fry chimichangas, that's what you do!

These are beef and bean chimichangas.

Topped with lettuce, radishes, onions, salsa (homemade, but with canned tomatoes), and sour cream.

Mike and I proclaimed them better than our favorite Tex-Mex place! Definitely a winner. Perhaps not so good for the waistline, but very good for the fulfillment of a craving.

Where ya' been??

I'm back from my unintended, unexpectedly long blog vacation!!

Where have I been? Well.... I've been growing sweet baby number 3. We're expecting, June 24th of next year, and we're so excited. But, sometimes, the first trimester isn't the best time to think about food, take pictures of food, shoot, even cook food! So, there has been very little of that going on.

Thankfully, I'm near the end of the first trimester, and I'm feeling tiny bursts of second trimester energy. And my appetite is back! Hooray!!
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Date night

This week's date night started with the drink. I found limes on sale 20/$1 last week at my ethnic market. Woohoo! So, for our drink, we had Texas margaritas (a tiny bit of orange extract makes them Texas style). That salty rim is soo good.

To go with our virgin margaritas, we had these fabulous nachos. They turned out really well. The avocado pushed it over the top. Yum!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Drink of the week

Because we had an honest to goodness, out of the house, all day, date last Saturday, I didn't make any fancy meals Saturday night. I think we made do with canned soup and Ramen!

But, on Sunday afternoon, I did make this fun drink that everyone enjoyed. We're definitely from the south, and every sweet drink is called "coke" in my house. My three year old dubbed this one "coke tea." I think that means he liked it.

Everyone else knows it as iced red zinger tea. And, Will was right. It's good stuff.

Date Day!

Last Saturday, we enjoyed a rare day without our wonderful, fabulous, full-of-energy children. It was great!

Much thanks to my parents for both babysitting and giving up the tickets so that we could both go to the game. We had so much fun!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pumpkin soup

I've got a lot going on this fall, so I am planning on moving away from specific Publix/Kroger bargain meals, and I'm just going to focus on some of the frugal meals we eat during the week. I tend to shop several stores, not just what is on sale at one store in one particular week, so this will be a more true representation of what we eat and how I shop.

If you are a Publix or Kroger bargain meal reader, I hope you'll stick around for some of my more generic frugal meals. Still the same great food, just not tied to the specials of the week!

This week, we had a true fall special, pumpkin soup. This meal was inspired by my friend Dana. Her family thinks it is great, and it's a favorite here as well.

Pumpkin Soup
3/4 pound Italian sausage (I used homemade from pork butt)--$0.63
1 can pumpkin--$0.79 (Aldi)
2 cups chicken broth--free
1 onion, diced--$0.25
1 cup heavy cream--$0.75 (Aldi)

Brown onion and sausage in soup pot. Drain if needed. Add pumpkin and broth, and stir to combine. Heat through. If the consistency is too thick, add water (you want a thick soup consistency). Add cream, adjust seasonings (salt and pepper), and heat through. If too thick, add water to desired consistency.

We served this with stuffed mushrooms (with that other 1/4 pound sausage) and salads. So good! It was a really nice fall supper.

And, total cost? 2.42! Add the salad ($1.50/head of lettuce) and mushrooms, and the total cost was under $5.

Date night

For us, part of what makes date night special is a splurge here and there. We eat lots of beans during the week, and sometimes I leave off the cheese or nuts, especially if I think that we won't miss it (and we rarely do). We feel like we eat really well, and we're usually excited about supper.

But, for date night...

We're even more excited! This salad had two of our favorites...avocado and black olives. Yum!

We enjoyed old school pink lemonades. Lemonade flavored with maraschino cherry juice, topped by one of the cherries.

And delicious grilled steak, baked potatoes, and asparagus! We're usually local, in season, eaters (trying to be trendy and all....hahaha....really, I'm just cheap), so asparagus in November is a BIG treat. One that we enjoyed to the very last bite.

Thanks for dropping in on our modest little splurges! Splurge on someone you love this week. That cherry in their drink might be just the thing to tell someone you love them!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kroger Meal November 1

This week, we enjoyed corn chowder. Perfect for chilly weather and long, dark evenings.

Potato corn chowder
3 potatoes, chopped--approx $0.30
1 package frozen whole kernel corn--on sale--$0.88
1/2 lb bacon, diced fine--approx $1.50
1 onion, diced--$0.25
1/4 cup flour--$0.20
2 cups milk--$2.39/gal--$0.30

Boil potatoes in salted water to cover until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, fry bacon in a large pan. Remove bacon and reserve. Add onion to bacon grease, and cook until transluscent. Add flour to bacon grease/onions, and whisk until smooth (making a roux). Add milk, whisking constantly, until mixture boils and thickens. Add potatoes to mixture, mashing slightly as you stir. Add potato cooking liquid until desired consistency. Season to taste with onion and a genersou amount of black pepper. Serve with bacon bits on top.

Total cost of this bargain meal--$3.43

And, as always, check out $ for more cheap supper inspiration!

Bargain Meal of the Week

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kroger Bargain Meal October 25

Bargain Meal of the Week

This is a meal that I make to use up leftover pork chops. Any pork will do. It's from a great cookbook called The Dinner Doctor by Anne Byrn (who also wrote The Cake Mix Doctor). Some of the recipes are heavy on cream soups, but most of them aren't, and the flavors really work well. Anne Byrn is great at modern, Southern food. Check her book out!

Mock Cassoulet
adapted from The Dinner Doctor by Anne Byrn

1/2 pound smoked sausage, such as kielbasa, cut on the diagonal into 1 inch slices--on sale buy one, get one free--approx $1
1/2 pound leftover cooked pork loin--on sale--$0.90
1 cup chopped onion--$0.30
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved--pennies
2 cans Great Northern beans, undrained--use 1/2 lb dried--$0.50
1 can diced tomatoes with onions, celery, and green peppers--approx $0.80
1 T dry red wine--$0.12
1 bay leaf
5 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs--my garden is still producing. How is yours?
2 T olive oil--$0.20
1 1/2 cups coarse homemade bread crumbs
2 T chopped parsley

Cook sausage, pork, onion and garlic over medium heat until the sausage browns slightly. Pour in the beans, tomatoes, wine, and seasonings. Simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, brown the breadcrumbs and parsley in the olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet. Ladle the cassoulet into bowls, sprinkle some of the bread crumbs on top, and serve.

Serve with 1 pound asparagus--on sale--$1.99

Total cost for this meal--$5.81

Enjoy your $5 meal! This is one of our winter staples. What's not to love about beans? For more great ideas, check out $5dinners for lots of other peoples' take on their local sales flyers.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Our week in tacos

This is a weekday breakfast tacos. Just scrambled eggs, topped with cheese and hot sauce.

Quesadillas. Our lunch staple.

Fish tacos. These are so easy. It's just a fish stick, some lettuce, and some sour cream.

This is a quick Korean meal. Our local store sells pre-marinated meat, which I stir-fried with scallions and rice balls (another Korean thing). I ate mine over rice, but Mike ate his as tacos. Korean tacos. Now that's Atlanta for you.

We're happy to share the taco love!

Date Night!

Last Saturday was cold and rainy. We had thought about camping, but that thought went out the window with the forecast (as an's been an awfully rainy October...not much fun this year). So, we went riding to look at a campground and scope it out. The day was long and boring. And nothing went the way we expected. Late afternoon came, and nothing sounded good for supper.

Except junk food.

I'm a huge fan of junk food. It's almost (almost) embarrassing. But, it is what it is. So, on Saturday night, I gave in to the urge. I packed everyone up, and we headed to the store to find some junk food. We lucked up! I hit a sale and had some coupons, so this is what we came home with.

We also found a sale on a beloved beverage, Cheerwine. Yum!

And in a flash, a boring rainy day became a fun evening of trashy appetizers and good drinks. And good company, of course.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mama let me skip my nap today!

Who can resist rest time when it's on the big bed with new library books? We decided to check out a new library this morning for story time. How can you visit a new library without checking out new books? Well, obviously, you can't!

Listening to that big boy "read" his books is one of the things that makes my mother-heart smile. This is what I thought it would be all about. And, it turned out, I was right.

Monday, October 12, 2009


When we first got married, we lived a fairly busy life. Two professional jobs, one with a good bit of travel, and the other with many, many overnights at the hospital. Some weeks, we passed in the night. My mom had gotten remarried, oh, about 4 years earlier, and she really encouraged us to have a date night. What??!?? I remember thinking she was nuts. Every night was date night, you know? We didn't have any distractions. No kids, no dogs. Nothing really to get in the way of doing whatever we wanted.

But she was right.

What we didn't have was a lifetime of shared memories. Years of knowing that once a week, no matter what, we'd make time to share an evening, just the two of us. We'd laugh and giggle through most of them, and every once in a while, we'd hash out serious decisions on date night. Some of our serious decisions don't look so good come the morning light a few years later, but we can always bring about laughs just by talking about when and where we made those decisions. As we smoked our crack pipes.

For the first few years of our marriage, I was the planner. I made sure that Friday or Saturday night was open, I told Mike what we were doing, that sort of thing. But, somewhere along the line, he started liking our date nights, too.

Babies came, the budget got tight, and we started having most of our nights at home. It's still fun, still exciting, and I still love talking to him for hours. But, sometimes, you know? It's nice to know that he's still interested, too.

So, when, right before the boys' bedtime on Saturday, Mike announced, "we're going on a road trip", we were all intrigued. "Where are we going, Daddy????" And, I couldn't help but smile as he told the boys that we were headed out to get Mama some good supper for our date night. Take out is always the way to my heart. That man is smart.

Remember I was a bit bored by my drinks? I've been reading all around, and this week, I found a recipe for a cranberry lime tonic. Tonic isn't something I use frequently, but it works really well in this drink. Sweet, but that hint of bitter from the tonic works well. It doesn't taste like punch from a wedding shower, you know? I'll make this one again.
Another Saturday, come and gone. And it's still my favorite night.


This week's Kroger bargain meal is tortas. I've been reading Rick Bayless cookbooks the last couple of weeks, and so Mexican food was on the brain. I love tortas (love them!), although my dear Mike is always, "well, they are good for a sandwich." Whatever.

I should add a disclaimer here. We will eat anywhere, and we will eat anything. We've had some really great meals ordered in a language we didn't understand. And a few flops. One of the flops was at a local torta shop. Where I live, chicken hot dogs are a very popular meat amongst Mexican folks. And, you guessed it, the torta my husband ordered had hot dogs on it. So, now, he's afraid of hot dogs every time I bring up tortas.

But, here's how I made them the other night, no hot dogs in sight!

These buns are bolillos, from the Buford Highway Farmers' Market. We went there last weekend and were able to sample warm tortillas, Mexican deli meat, Salvadorean cream, Eastern European cold veggie salads, Russian salami, and several varieties of kim-chi, all in a space smaller than Walmart. That's my kind of place!

These sandwiches start with a smear of refried beans on the bottom bun. Topped with ham. Just regular old cheap lunch meat. Nothing fancy.

After the ham comes the main meat of the sandwich. Whatever you like. This is roasted chicken thighs, in a chipotle vinaigrette.

Top with cheese. I thought we had white cheese at home, but alas. Sometimes you gotta make do.

Of course, we added pickled jalapenos.

And avocado slices, plus (for me only), a smear of mayonnaise.

I toasted these sandwiches in a dry skillet, pressing on the top, so that they got all crusty and gooey and delicious. You need to try them! We eat these with hot sauce (what don't we eat with hot sauce?), but other than that, they are good as is. If you are lucky enough to eat at Los Tortas Locos, you get a whole salsa bar to choose from. The peculiar homemaker was not feeling up to making a salsa bar this night, so hot sauce it was. And they liked it!

4 bolillas or hoagie buns--??--I'll just put my cost--$1.33
1/2 cup refried beans--$0.25
ham--I use the cheapest stuff here--$0.50
2 chicken thighs, roasted and shredded--on sale--$0.99/lb--$0.50
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup oil
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
shredded cheese, about 1/2 cup--on sale $2.50/16 oz--$0.31
pickled jalapeno slices, optional--$0.20
1 avocado, sliced--$1
mayonnaise (optional)

Mix vinegar, oil, salt, and chipotle until well combined. Toss chicken in this vinaigrette and allow to sit while you prepare the sandwiches. Slice buns. Spread top with mayo if desired. Layer bottom with refried beans, ham, chicken, cheese, and avocado. Top with jalapenos if desired. Toast sandwich in dry skillet until outside is crisp and slightly browned, cheese is melted, and the filling is warm.

Total cost for tortas --$4.09

Add half a bag of Kroger brand tortilla chips--$0.50--and you've got a great meal. Enjoy!

For more $5 meals, check out $ Lots of ideas, every week.

Bargain Meal of the Week

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Publix Bargain Meal October 7

I think it's fascinating to look at the history of a family by the food that they eat. I find all food fascinating (that's why I'm fat), but especially in a time-line sort of way.

I grew up with regular old Southern food. If Paula Deen has cooked it on her show, then I've eaten it at my grandmother or mother's table. Our food was good, no doubt, but not very spicy. My great-grandparents grew one jalapeno every year, planted strategically far from the regular garden, and we were warned. "Those are hot!!" My great-uncle ate an entire jalapeno once at Thanksgiving. We were sure he was in some sort of drunken stupor and didn't know what he was doing.

And, as always, in a family, things slowly changed. My mother got remarried to someone who had recently lived in south Mississippi, home of all things hot sauce. Someone introduced me to eating fried chicken with Texas Pete (a combination straight from heaven). And, I married someone that thinks Mexican food is the holy grail.

So, I learned to spice it up. And, to like it. And, that's how we came about andouille.

My mother first introduced me to this dish last summer. I love eggplant, and this may be my favorite way to eat it. My husband does not love eggplant, but he really loves this dish. So, if you are an eggplant lover or not, you need to try this dish. It's really good. And it's very simple, perfect for a weeknight meal.

Eggplant and Andouille
1 T olive oil
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced--on sale--$1
1 onion, diced--approx $0.30
2 celery stalks, diced--approx $0.25
1/2 bell pepper, diced--on sale $0.99/lb--$0.50
1 cup diced tomato--on sale $1.99/lb--$1
1/2 pound andouille, diced--$1.75
cajun seasoning
Hot rice, for serving--$0.30

Saute onion, andouille, celery, and bell pepper in olive oil until vegetables are soft and andouille has rendered some of its fat. Season liberally with cajun seasoning (usually around 1-2 teaspoons). Add eggplant and tomato, with enough water to have a stewy consistency (around 1 cup). Cover, turn heat to low, and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until eggplant is cooked through. Serve over cooked rice.

Total cost--$5.10

As always, check out $ for more meal time inspiration!

Bargain Meal of the Week

Dessert date night

This season, my step-dad has been very, very gracious to share his season tickets with my husband. We love some college football around here, and well, we're not the biggest donors that the university has ever seen, you know? So, the tickets are a fun treat, and my husband really enjoys going. I'm even going to go and enjoy a game in a couple of weeks. And I can't wait!

This week's game was a mid-afternoon game, which cuts into date night a little bit.

But, never fear! I had a solution. We enjoyed apple crisp with vanilla ice cream and coffee when he got home. And I got to hear all the highlights from a heartbreaking loss.

Lots of dreams and plans and schemes get shared on that back porch. This week was no exception.

Loving my husband. That's what Saturday night is all about.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lunchtime learning

Wacky Mac

Meal Plan Monday

From this week's menu, you'll quickly be able to tell that I've been reading an old friend. One of my Rick Bayless cookbooks, Mexican Everyday. Such good stuff! This cookbook is billed as his "quick and easy" cookbook. Like all Rick Bayless recipes, they are long and wordy, though, so sometimes I laugh at the quick and easy part. They are all delicious, though.

I also found a 10 pound bag of potatoes on sale for $2.50, so they'll show up several times. Oh, yes, and who could forget 5 heads of lettuce for $1 at my favorite international market?? So, a good bit of salad. And, as a final glimpse into my menu planning, we're having pinto beans. Why? 'Cause someone at the fair had a booth with pinto bean plates. And they looked and smelled so good. But 5 bucks for pinto beans?? I just couldn't do it. So, they're showing up this week.

Friday: nachos with the last of the lentil/rice mixture

Saturday: homemade pizza, apple crisp with ice cream

Sunday: eggs, toast, grits, bacon (big breakfast), tortas with ham and roasted chicken (supper)

Monday: Mexican seafood soup, corn tortillas

Tuesday: chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad

Wednesday: pinto beans, cornbread, baked apples

Thursday: spinach and mushroom enchiladas with tomatillo sauce, refried beans

As always, check out orgjunkie's enormous Menu Plan Monday for lots of inspiration and ideas!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Publix Bargain Meal October 1

Bargain Meal of the Week

This week, I thought I'd pull out an old faithful frugal meal. Tacos made with lentils and rice. This is a very easy, very quick meal to throw together. It's perfect for the nights when you aren't sure what you are making until about 5:00. Although I know that none of you have those days, they sneak up on me from time to time. And, unfortunately, neither my kids nor my husband share my love for noodles with butter and parmesan cheese (my go to dinner when I was a single girl). They actually want, well, supper. So, this is easy to accomodate. And, it looks like I slaved all day.

That's my kind of meal.

I always have this size tortillas on hand. I think that they are called "fajita" tortillas. They are perfect for soft tacos. This package size is 20 small tortillas, so for us, that's 2 meals, plus a few extra.

The lentil/rice mixture. The night I made it, we were starving, and there was no time for pictures. This is the next night, as leftovers. So, you can see, this makes a huge portion. My husband also likes it cold (?), so he sometimes takes it for lunch that way.

It's easier for my boys to eat things as quesadillas, instead of tacos. The cheese melts, which holds everything together. And quesadillas are soooo easy. I just heat one side of the tortilla in a dry skillet, flip the tortilla, add the filling (this time, it was cheese, plus the lentils), fold it over, and let it brown. This takes less than 5 minutes.

And, voila! Perfect quesadillas. These are a huge staple at my house. Lunches, snacks, supper for when the grown-ups want grown-up food, picnic fare. You name it, and we've eaten quesadillas for it. For this night, the boys had quesadillas, and the grown-ups had regular, American tacos, but there are no pictures.

Just use your imagination. Flour tortilla, lentils, cheese, lettuce, salsa, and sour cream.

I made salsa to go along with this meal. I use this recipe as the base for all my winter salsa, but then I just tweak it as needed. This salsa started with real tomatoes, roasted in the oven. I used serranos (my mom has these fabulous serranos this year--they taste really good, but they are mild enough for my non-hot-head-baby), onion, and cilantro. No garlic, just because I was out. I almost always use lime juice.

This salsa is very (and I do mean VERY) flexible. Any peppers work. Real tomatoes, canned tomatoes, it'll all work. I've used Ro-tel instead of regular tomatoes. And, sometimes I mix roasted tomatoes with canned. Whatever you have. Tomatoes are tomatoes. It might taste different, but it's all good.

A thing of beauty to behold.

And, easy as all that, supper is done!

Lentil and Rice Taco Filling
adapted from

3/4 cup dry lentils--$0.38
3/4 cup brown rice--$0.30
4 cups water
2 T chili powder--we'll say $0.20 for all spices
1 t cumin
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
1 T salt

Bring the water to a boil. As the water is heating, add the lentils, rice, chand spices. Bring the whole mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and allow the mixture to simmer for about 45 to 50 minutes. The water should be mostly absorbed.

Roasted Tomato Jalapeno Salsa
from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

2 fresh jalapeƱo chiles--$0.20
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled--$0.05
½ cup white onion, finely chopped--$0.15
1 pound fresh tomatoes, roasted--on sale--$1.49
1/3 cup (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro--$0.25
A teaspoon of fresh lime juice--$0.20

Serve tacos with lentils-rice--$0.88
tortillas--I'll count 10 small tortillas--$1.15
cheese--4 ounces--$0.42
sour cream--4 ounces--$0.38
salsa--use half of a homemade batch--$1.17
lettuce (it just takes a little)--$0.30

Total cost for this throw-together meal--$4.30. Way cheaper than Taco Bell. And you don't have to get in your car. Now that's my kind of quick meal.

As always, for more $5 meals, check out bargain meal of the week over at $