Simple Meals

I planned M-F on the meal menu this week and I desperately need to stop at the store for some fresh produce to go along with the main courses. . . Monday, was well, very Monday like, so when I left work the last thing I wanted to do was face the grocery store.  I had planned on making sausage as the main part of our meal last night, but was unsure of what I would be able to scrounge up for sides.  I ended up settling on kidney beans and peas. . . Talk about simple meals.  It took all of 20 minutes to prepare so we got an extra long outside play session in before dinner and I would not take back those extra 20 minutes of bouncing on the trampoline and toddler giggles for anything.  The sausage I cut into bite size pieces and threw in the skillet to warm.  I dumped a can of kidney beans in a pan with a little garlic and boiled some water for the frozen pieces. . .and I added about a tablespoon of butter, just for a touch of flavor.  Such an easy dinner.  I am happy to report the babe ate everything on his plate (with the exception of a few peas he just couldn’t manage to get on his fork) and then proceeded to steal some of MY kidney beans.  Dinner doesn’t have to be a lenthy complicated affair.

This dinner promted a discussion about cold foods we can eat during summer, as I believe kidney beans, cold on a salad are absolutely heavenly and a mom in my mommies group suggested cold kidney beans as a snack for toddlers, what a great idea!  Her suggestion started the wheel are churning in my head for healthy cold summer salads.  My hubby isn’t a big fan of mayonaise based pasta salad and neither am I, I’m going to see how he likes a vinegrette based one, but I also am thinking bean salads, maybe broccoli salads, I’m sure the possibilities are endless. . . I will definetly report back on what I come up with but any suggestions are more than welcome.

 

Clean Eating Taco Salad

Instead if normal tacos we have been eating a taco salad version of tacos as of late. It’s delicious and simple, right up my alley and you can modify to include whatever veggies are a hit in your house.

In a skillet brown your meat (we use ground turkey but you could use ground beef, venison or whatever meat you like).  When the meat is browned add in Taco Seasoning and about 1/8-1/4 cup of water and let simmer for 10-20 minutes so the meat sucks up the flavor.  Add this point I also like to throw in onions, bell peppers and a can of black beans to the meat mixture.  I also boil some corn kernels while the meat is simmering.  While the food is stewing on the stove I grate some cheese and cut avocados and lettuce.  If I have any taco shells I’ll heat them up.  (If I don’t I just use tortilla chips.)

To put together make a bed of lettuce, add your meat mixture, the corn, then garnish with tomatoes, avocado and cheese.  We also throw Salsa (and maybe a little sour cream) in the mix to.  Crumble up some taco shells or tortilla chips for some crunch factor and Bam . . . Clean Taco Salad.

Easy, peasy.  Cheers and Happy Eating!

.002

Alfredo with Chicken & Broccoli

When I wrote Alfredo with Chicken and Broccoli on the food menu board, it sounded easy.  It sounded quick and delicious.  Delicious it was, easy it was, quick it was not. . . I don’t know if it’s because the babe helped me cook, but it seemed like this meal created much more mess than the usual and took quite a while too, but I thought I’d share it anyway as it is simple.

Steam some broccoli (and maybe some carrots too).

Boil Water for Pasta and Follow directions for the pasta of your choice.  We used Linguini because that’s what was in the cupboard.  On a side note: Italian pasta names are fun to sing and once I started singing”We are making linguini pasta” the babe chimed in and it was quite entertaining.  See, cooking can be fun.

Heat up the Alfredo sauce, (slowly on low heat.)

We had two leftover chicken breasts from earlier in the week so I cut them up threw them in a pan with some olive oil and let the babe help me shake salt and pepper, garlic, basil and grill dust seasoning on top.

I piled it on all our plates and Voila Linguini Alfredo with Chicken and Broccoli (and carrots).

As I write this it still sounds easy, but while I was cooking it I felt like it was taking forever. . .  I forgot to boil the pasta early and the chicken was cooked before the linguini had finished, so maybe that’s where I went wrong. . . and there were 4 pots, and two strainers and a cutting board to clean, so the mess was a bit more than normal. . . In any case, it’s not a horribly time consuming or complicated meal to make.

Cheers and Happy Eating.

3 Ingredient Chicken Taco’s

Have I mentioned how much I like simple meals?  One of my favorite simple meals is 3 Ingredient Crockpot Chicken Taco’s. . . (Okay, so technically after you load down your tacos with all the side goodies it’s more than 3 ingredients, but you only have to put 3 in the crockpot).

Ingredients:
4 Chicken Breasts
1 Package of Taco Seasoning (Your own or storebought)
1 Jar of Salsa (Again, your own or storebought)

Put all in crockpot and let cook on low while you’re at work (or home or whatever) for about 8ish hours.

Wrap up in a Tortilla adding whatever goodies your heart desires (Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cheese, Pico, Avocados, Corn, Beans, Sprouts, Sour Cream, More Salsa,etc…)

Voila!  Easy meal and if you leave out the sour cream, fairly healthy too!

Cheers and Happy Eating!!!

I Forgot to Take Something Out to Thaw. . .AGAIN!!!

If you’re anything like me you experience occasional bouts of forgetfulness. If there is one area I excel at in the forgetfulness category it is when it comes to remembering to take out something to thaw for dinner. Since this can become a problem, (especially if you are a repeat offender), I’m going to share with you how I deal with this problem. First and foremost I always have a few items around for back up! Most of my back up meals can be added to your grocery list for just a few dollars or you might already have the ingredients and just need help putting them together.

Back up Option #1: Breakfast for dinner can be a great back up plan as most people have a few eggs lying about and even the ingredients to make pancakes or waffles (even if you don’t have any pre-bought mix a little flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, eggs, milk and butter and now you do have mix.) Bacon or sausage or fruit/veggies on the side and just like magic you have a meal.

Back up Option #2: A quiche or frittata in a pie dish (if you don’t keep around a frozen pie crust or are scared to make one from scratch). The main ingredients are eggs, milk, cheese, maybe flour and whatever veggies (or meat) you have and want to add to the mix.  This option takes a little longer in cook time, but it will still get you a hot and healthy meal that doesn’t require a trip to the grocery store.

Back up Option #3: Bean and Cheese Quesadillas.  I always keep tortilla’s around, add a can of refried beans, some cheese and any veggies you might have on hand (if you have any left over meat from a previous meal you can chop it up and make this a non-vegetarian meal), and you have a meal. This one is great if you’re in a pinch for time or if you have a toddler that goes from fine to starving in 2.2 seconds.

Back up Option #4: Pesto Pasta/Spaghetti Aglio Olio.  Who doesn’t have some dried pasta laying about in the pantry?  Cook your pasta and add some pesto sauce. (This is a great item to keep in the fridge or freezer) OR if you don’t have Pesto you can add Olive Oil, Garlic, Pepper, Salt and Red Pepper Flakes and magically you have Spaghetti Aglio Olio (which is just fun to say). With both of these you can eat just pasta or spice it up with some veggies.

Back up Option #5: Fish Sticks. (We don’t do frozen chicken fingers at my house but you could do them instead of Fish Sticks). Maybe not the healthiest of options but the babe adores fish sticks and getting to have a little tiny bowl of sauce to dip in. It’s also super quick, easy, and low stress.  Pair off with some steamed veggies and a quick meal is made.

Back up Option #6: If you have some sides at home and just forgot to take the meat out to thaw, you can always pick up just the meat on your way home and subtract the money from next week’s budget since you have it on hand for later.  This should take at most 10 extra minutes to your commute, which isn’t much to sacrifice to avoid fast food take out.

Now, that being said while you’re making dinner tonight, take out tomorrow’s meat to thaw.  If you do that you will have to refer to this page one less time.

Cheers and Happy Eating!

Menu Planning

One thing that I have learned is that when you’re on a budget it helps to have your meals planned when you go grocery shopping.  Planning out your meals can seem like a tedious, time consuming waste of time when you first start out, but once you take your first trip to the grocery store buying what is on your list for meals (and anything else planned for snacks or paper/toiletry products) the savings starts to add up.

There are some wonderful websites that can help you with meal planning. There are  subscriptions to meal planning services for small fees.  Or you can just plan your own meals using recipes you already use on a fairly regular basis and than jazz it up by trying a new recipe once a week.  You can plan your meals weekly or monthly.  You can write down your meal plan on a sheet of paper or display it on a whiteboard or chalkboard in the kitchen so the family has in on the action.  Put down what you plan to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and don’t forget to include snacks.  I also like to pick one or two what I call back up meals for in case you forget to take out something to thaw.  I also recommend to pick one night a week where you can eat left overs or designate one day a week as crockpot night because coming home and not having to cook is just plain awesome (and sometimes you just get burned out from cooking all the time, or at least I do.)

Now it’s time to  make your grocery list.  Refer to your recipes if need be so you don’t forget anything.  You will find most spices and some staples (like butter or flour) you already have in the kitchen, so you won’t have to include them on the list, but double check just in case.  After you have the lists taken from the meal plan/recipes, don’t forget to include your toilet paper or toiletries.

Time to grocery shop!  The hard part of grocery shopping is not straying from the list.  Don’t be tempted to buy a bunch of stuff that’s not on your list.  Those impulse buys are the ones that will blow your budget. Go grocery shopping weekly (or in my case bi weekly as I almost always forget one important thing on my list like bread, or butter or toilet paper and sometimes I like to go bi weekly so my veggies are fresher).  Only buy what you need for the meals you’ve planned so you aren’t wasting as much money. I promise, the longer you do this the more it turns into a habit and the easier it becomes.  You will soon have the recipes ingrained in your head or have them so easily accessible you just have to do a quick double check while you’re in the store to make sure you haven’t forgotten everything.

The plus side to menu planning is the hour it took you to plan the meals will really pay off during the week, not just in money savings but it lowers your stress because you already know what you will be cooking for dinner.  Meals don’t have to be elaborate, it just helps if they’re planned out.

Crockpot Pork

Being a working mom is a delicate balance.  Cooking is a necessary evil when you want to eat healthy and you live on a budget.  While I have made peace with cooking for the most part, sometimes I go through stints where I don’t want to have anything to do with it.  Luckily for me I own a crock pot!  One of my favorite simple crockpot recipes is crock pot pork.

All it takes is 1 pork loin, 1-2 cups of water, and your choice of spices, and veggies (this of course is optional).

Put the pork loin in the crockpot and generously sprinkle on some spices (garlic, pepper, chili powder, tony’s, whatever you like) add enough water to cover the pork loin about ¾ of the way (about 1-2 cups depending on the size of your crockpot). I also like to throw in onion, red pepper, carrots and potatoes so I have a fully cooked meal when I get home.

Easy Peasy.

Cheers and Happy Eating.