Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Park Day

Remember my quest to check out all the parks in my county? We took a break for the hot months of summer (this old mama can't handle the heat during August and September), but we're back at it in full force.

This week's park is open green space in the middle of a small downtown area. There is a new playground and splash fountains to play in. It was plenty warm for the boys to have fun in the water. Not for too much longer, though. I felt the first cool morning just today!

We're on track to hopefully hit all the parks by the end of the year. My original goal of seeing them all before Labor Day was a bit ambitious. Christmas is more like it. Only 25 more to go!

Kroger Bargain Meal September 27

Bargain Meal of the Week

I delayed the Kroger meal to Tuesday, because we actually ate this last night. I had every intention of taking an awesome picture of our yummy food. And, well, life gets in the way. I had an errand to run just before supper time, and I put the meatballs in the crock pot to simmer while we were gone. And I forgot to plug it in.

So, we rushed home, I threw everything on the stove, and in 20 minutes, we had supper. Pictures were somehow forgotten.

Everyone was fed and happy, and that was more important at the moment. So, close your eyes, picture this fabulous meal, and then make it soon!

Porcupine meatballs--$3.59
Rice--1 cup uncooked--$0.20
Black eyed peas--on sale (frozen)--$0.88
Cherry tomatoes--on sale--$0.99

Total cost of this meal--$5.66

1 pound ground beef--on sale $1.79
1/2 cup finely diced onion--on sale 3 lbs/$1.50--$0.15
1/2 cup uncooked rice--$0.10
1/2 cup water
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
1 large can crushed tomatoes--$1.50 (you could use on sale spaghetti sauce or tomato soup, too)
1 T worcestershire sauce--$0.05

Combine beef, onion, water, and rice and mix well. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Form into small meatballs. Brown in frying pan, then remove from pan. Add tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, and spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder) to taste. Bring to a simmer, add in meatballs, and then allow to simmer for 30 minutes until meatballs (and rice) are cooked through. Serve over rice with roasted cherry tomatoes and black eyed peas on the side.

Enjoy your $5 dinner! And, for more inspiration, as always, check out the bargain meal of the week at 5dollardinners.com!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Another week, another fabulous menu plan. Our garden is in the lull between summer and fall. We still have a few eggplant, lots of peppers, and some green beans. Our fall vegetables are coming right along, but not quite ready for harvest. Luckily, our local Korean grocery store has lettuce 2/$1, so lots of salads around here this week!

Friday: taco soup (would have been tacos, but I forgot to buy tortillas)

Saturday: Thai beef (lunch), salmon a la vera cruzana, tomato/basil salad, cream of onion soup with garlic parsley croutons, ice cream (supper)

Sunday: out (lunch), tortilla soup (supper)

Monday: porcupine meatballs, rice, black eyed peas, roasted cherry tomatoes, salad

Tuesday: fettucini alfredo with sauteed chicken, salad

Wednesday: hummus, baba ghanouj, tabouli, pita bread

Thursday: tomato soup with a swirl of pesto, chicken salad

Friday: "real" tacos--I promised the family!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hot Fudge Cake

Do you ever get that need for dessert? That thought that overtakes you, and you just know that if you don't get some chocolate, bad things will happen??

That need hit this week. At 7pm. Around here, that's late. Way late. For the first 2 years of parenting, Mike traveled for business all week. After bedtime, I was stuck in the house. And I learned to like it. Somewhere along the way I started dreading having to leave the house that late at night.

So, even for chocolate, I was going to have to make do. And, this dessert came to mind. It's one of those recipes where nothing becomes something. Something oh so delicious.

Thanks to Christie over at Southern Plate for this recipe. She calls it chocolate cobbler, but I've always eaten it as hot fudge cake. She's a foreigner, from over in Alabama, so that explains that. Whatever you call it, it's really good. This is one of the smoothest and creamiest of all the recipes I have tried (and I've tried several--I love this stuff). Even Mike ate it happilly, once at night and again in his lunchbox. This cake hasn't traditionally been his favorite, so that's saying a lot.

To gild the lily, I whipped some cream. Not necessary, but shoot. If you're gonna make something from nothing, do it up right.

Date night!

This year, we (I use that pronoun so generously--we all know that the garden is Mike's baby) planted poblanos for the first time. With one dish in mind.

Queso fundido.

Mike loves it so much that he chose it as his birthday meal. And, really? What's not to love? It's so good. So melty. So cheesy. Soooo tasty. As soon as there were enough poblanos to roast, it went on the menu.

Once again, my old friend, you didn't disappoint.

We had more homemade salsa to top the queso with, although it's good with just a bit of hot sauce. I can't let an opportunity to eat tomatoes go by, so salsa it was. Sadly, our tomatoes did not survive the great flood of 2009, so this was the last fresh pico de gallo of the year. I'll miss you!! Can't wait until next summer!!

I hope that your last date night was a good one! I've been slacking on the drinks for the last 2 weeks. Time to break out a cookbook for some inspiration.

But, as always, even if we are eating ramen and drinking water, just loving my husband and talking to him with no internet, no magazines, and a dedicated early kiddie bedtime makes Saturday night my favorite night of the week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kroger Bargain Meal September 20

Our weather has been down right odd for the last week or so. Rain, rain, rain. We sit inside, longing for the great outdoors, and from where we sit, it looks like fall. Rain means fall, right? But, then you open the door, and you realize it's hot and muggy outside. It's still in the mid-80s with all that rain.

So, this week seems like the perfect time for a meal that's a blend of summer and fall. We're still enjoying the very, very last remnants of summer tomatoes, but today, they are on a cozy fall casserole. Good stuff.

Chicken tortilla casserole
1 pound chicken, cooked and removed from the bone--on sale--$0.99
2 pounds tomatillos--approx. $1.50
2 jalapenos or serranos--$0.10
2 cloves garlic--$0.10
8 ounces sour cream--$1
18 corn tortillas (half a package), torn into 5-6 pieces each--$0.50
8 ounces shredded cheese (monterey jack, cheddar, whatever)--on sale--$1.33

Place tomatillos, jalapenos,and garlic on a roasting pan. Roast at 400 degrees until soft, and tomatillos develop black spots on them. Place all vegetables and roasting juices in a food processor and process until smooth. Add salt to taste, around 3/4 teaspoon. Mix tomatillo sauce with sour cream until smooth.

Layer torn tortillas, chicken, cheese, and tomatillo sauce in a baking dish, starting with sauce, and ending with cheese. Bake until hot and bubbly, around 30 minutes, at 400 degrees.

Serve with your favorite salsa or pico de gallo.

Total cost for this meal--$5.52 plus salsa

Enjoy your $5 dinner! And, for more inspiration, as always, check out the bargain meal of the week at 5dollardinners.com!

Bargain Meal of the Week

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


This week, I made a big decision to step down and away from a mommy group that has been a big part of my life for the last 3 years. If you don't live in suburbia, mommy groups are the lifeblood of the preschool set. Everyone seems to be in one, and it is hard to find friends and playmates if you're not in one. So, it was such a hard decision. So many conversations about goods and bads, pluses and minuses, with my husband, my sweet (and patient) mother, and between me and God. So very many conversations. And, it was a long agonizing decision.

The moment I stepped away, though, I felt the peace of standing right where I should be. I still have my doubts, though. It feels like high school all over again. Will I ever have another mommy friend? Will anyone talk to me? Will I be doomed to take my children to the playground alone for the rest of my days? And, largest, the question that plagues me at night so frequently... what if? What if I'm making a mistake? What if I'm not hearing God? What if I'm messing up the rest of my life?

And, then, the soft still voice reminds me....

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:9

Even the silly needs of someone to play with at the park. He knows. He hears. And, so, for this season of my life, I'm going to trust. That there is a plan. And a purpose. And, it doesn't include being incredibly stressed out over a volunteer leadership position that involves countless casseroles and shopping. There will be another season for that (or not). But, right now, I lean back, and I trust in the overwhelming goodness of our God. Who really will meet all my needs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Date Night, vacation style!

Long, long ago, vacations had a complete and different meaning than they do today. ~smile~ Once upon a time, we would travel to the beach or the mountains, we would eat out fancy dinners, we would sleep late in the mornings, and we would relax all day long.

picks self up off the floor from a fit of laughter

These days, vacations include early mornings, lots of laundry, and relaxing of a different, non-laying around nature.

It's so much more fun.

But, we still like the folks we were way back when. We might not get those late sleeping mornings for many years, but we can recreate some of the fancy dinners. So, for Friday night, we exhausted our children, put them to bed at 6:30, and we had a fabulous, fancy, at-home date night.

A splurge of a drink. These come shrink wrapped in a 6 pack, with fancy paper wrappers over the top. So much more than a normal coke. Admittedly, this drink is all about my husband. They taste good, but not that good.

Our favorite salad. Tomatoes, basil, and Italian salad dressing. I could (and often do) eat it every single day. Never gets old.

This. Well, this, I could not eat every day. Unless I wanted to weigh 500 pounds. Which might not be a bad thing. This sauce will make you rise up and slap yo' mama. This stuff is so good. You could bathe in it. You could slather it on as face cream. You get the idea. You need to make this.

I served the steak and blue cheese sauce (so good!) with spanish green beans (minus the bacon and made with fresh ingredients). They are a side dish worthy of the steak. Even if you don't make the blue cheese sauce, try these green beans.

Add in some good music, some good conversation, and we could feel ourselves totally in vacation mode. All at home, all on the cheap, and all with our babies sleeping upstairs.

Now that's my kind of vacation.


A certain beloved 3 year old wanted nothing more than "pink cupcakes pwease" for his birthday this year. Trust me, we tried to talk him out of it. Pink? For a mud loving, car obsessed little boy? Really? But, then... we had told him that I'd make whatever he wanted. And, if that's what he wanted, then that's what he'd get.
So, I set out to make pink cupcakes. I had intended on adding strawberries to white cake, but the, um, well, the strawberries lingered a bit too long in the fridge. Whoops. So, I found a lemon cake mix in the pantry, added some food coloring, and I dubbed them pink lemonade cupcakes. They were a HUGE hit!
My boys have birthdays about 6 weeks apart, and we'd just had a big party for the one year old a few weeks earlier. This year, we decided to have a family dinner, a day all about Will (and he actually got two days, because his Honey came over the next day), and cupcakes in celebration of his birthday. Simple, but he still felt special.

For more cupcake stories, check out Hoosier Homemade for Cupcake Tuesday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kroger Bargain Meal September 13

Bargain Meal of the Week

This week's Kroger meal is an old family favorite, chicken tettrazini. It's right at the top of my list for favorite casseroles. I made and froze a couple of these for after my second baby was born. I think that they were the best hit of all my make ahead meals. My husband and I have been known to lick the pan! We really love it that much.

Chicken Tettrazini
4 tablespoons butter, divided--$0.12
5-6 tablespoons flour--$0.10
1 cup milk--on sale $1.99/gallon--$0.06
1/2 cup white wine--you know me and my $3 wine--$0.30
1/2 cup chicken stock--free
2 cups chopped cooked chicken--on sale $0.99/lb--$1
12 ounces thin spaghetti, cooked--$1
1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms--on sale--$1
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese--$1.25

Saute the mushrooms in the butter, then add flour to make a roux (add more butter if necessary). Add the wine, milk, and stock to make the sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Add the parm cheese, stirring to melt. Add cooked chicken and spaghetti to the sauce/mushroom mixture, and mix well.

Pour into a greased casserole dish and bake at 375 for 30 minutes, until bubbly. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight; bake, covered, at 350° for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 more minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Total cost for this casserole--$4.83

Serve it with roasted tomato halves--on sale $1 for 3 tomatoes--$1
Making your total cost--$5.83. Enjoy!

And, as always, for more bargain meals, check out $5dinners.com

Menu Plan Monday

Today is the first day back to normal after vacation. It'll take a bit to get back in the groove, I think. As a big treat, we budgeted for two eating out meals while on vacation. We ended up only going out once. So, I was easily talked into Chinese take out for Sunday night. That's a great way to end a vacation!

We're also nearing the end of tomato season. But, never fear! The fall garden is in the ground, with great promise and hope growing amongst those tiny seedlings! Have I mentioned how much I love having a husband that has taken to gardening? This is a very good thing.

Friday: steaks with blue cheese onion sauce (wow!), tomato basil salad, green beans

Saturday: hot and sour soup (lunch), leftovers (supper--Mike went to a football game, and it was just the boys and me)

Sunday: leftovers (lunch), take out (supper)

Monday: tamale pie

Tuesday: cabbage, ground beef, tomato stir fry (sort of unstuffed cabbage)

Wednesday: pepper steak, rice

Thursday: grilled swordfish with tomatillo sauce and roasted corn

As always, orgjunkie has hundreds of other menus posted at Menu Plan Monday. Check it out!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Vacation...and why it's swell to have little kids that don't have school schedules to keep

We are busy enjoying the last week of summer...even if our "last week of summer" extends past the expected Labor Day finality of the season.
I'll have lots of pictures and recipes to share next week of not-so-frugal vacation food and fun things we see! See y'all then.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Publix Bargain Meal September 3

Bargain Meal of the Week

I have no pictures of last night's meal, because of a dead camera battery. Nonetheless, it was an excellent meal, picture or not. Definitely a keeper for us! Because I'm a bit obsessive that way, this is another recipe out of Everyday Food's September issue. I'm telling y'all, when a magazine has a good issue, it really has a good issue! This is a much cheaper meal for us, because we have tomatillos and jalapenos growing in our garden (both of which are easy to grow, according to my sweet tomato king...try them next year!).

The real recipe for this meal involves a whole chicken, simmered in the sauce. I have no doubts that this would be an excellent way to eat this dish. But... my mom and I took my boys to a bounce house for the morning/early afternoon, and we didn't get home until late. By the time everything settled down to cook supper, fast was the name of the game! And, this came together very quickly. So, an adaptation it is. On the plus side, the adaptation is less meat, more vegetables, which is how we like it. So, it's all good.

Tomatillo Chicken
adapted from Everyday Food, September 2009

1 bone-in chicken breast--on sale $1.69/lb--$1.50
2 pounds tomatillos, husked removed--approx $1/lb--$2 (could use purchased puree instead--it comes in little cans in the Latino section)
salt and pepper
2 jalapenos, chopped (mine were hot, so I seeded them)--$0.10
1 medium onion, chopped--$0.28
garlic powder to taste (out of the real stuff)
1 can hominy, drained--$0.59
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro--about 1/4 of a bunch--$0.20

Bake chicken breast at 400 until it registers 165 degrees, about 40 minutes. Let cool; remove from bone and shred chicken.

Puree tomatillos in a food processor; set aside. Heat oil in a large pot. Add jalapenos and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir in tomatillo puree and hominy. Simmer until tomatillos are cooked and change color slightly from bright green to a duller green, about 20 minutes. Add in shredded chicken and let warm through. Stir in cilantro. Correct seasonings with salt and pepper.

Total cost--$4.67

Serve with:
white rice--$0.25
sour cream--on sale $1.25/16 ounces--$0.31

Total cost for this meal--$5.73

As always, check out $5 dinners for many more variations on what's on sale at your local store!

A little tomato love

Yesterday, I was able to give my mom some tomatoes from our garden. After many, many moons of receiving her beautiful, tasty produce, it was good to give her a bit, too.

Tomatoes are one thing that makes my life feel hugely bountiful. This time of year there are just so many of them! I love glancing over and knowing that I can cook absolutely any tomato dish I desire, and I have everything I need. It's a wonderful feeling of excess.

As is this blog I stumbled upon this week. I'm not sure if I could feel so joyful in the face of an incredibly hard budget. But, Emily is making it happen at Under $1000 a month. Check her out!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My sweet firstborn

Three years ago, in the middle of the night, I walked into a local hospital not realizing how my life would change. And how very quickly that change would occur. Two days later, we were headed home with this very sweet, very cuddly, very squishy little baby.

These days, that little baby has grown into a big boy who loves to be our helper. He loves to push around his little brother. And sometimes in their toy car.
He loves the special privilege of eating lunch in the living room occasionally.

Mama, can we watch Mighty Machines and eat lunch?? Pwease??
And, mostly, he's full of life and zest. He keeps me on my toes, he loves me like no one else, and I adore that little boy.
Last night, we heard him singing...

Me so happy, so very happy
Me got the love of Jesus in my heart
Nothing more I could ask for.
I love you Will! Happy 3rd birthday!