cheap cheap cheap eats

I’m all about cheap eats and recreating dishes I see on menus, for waaaaaaaay less.  With returning from vacation and a few inspirations I decided to make our final Lenten meal a special one. Considering my husband will be working on Easter, why not splurge on a dinner I know he’ll be able to actually enjoy fresh.  I say ‘splurge’ in the sense that it’s not a dish I’d typically cook; just a touch of fancy. It was definitely not a splurge on my budget, which I’m sure anyone would appreciate.

My inspiration: Salmon Niçoise Salad … I know it sounds fancy but it’s quite simple. I saw this on 2 different menus while in Palm Springs, CA. Now, the spinach salad alone (some versions are a dark green leaf or spinach, doesn’t matter) was $10, if you wanted to add salmon it was an extra $10. I mean, what a rip off! I can buy 3-4 bags of spinach for $10 … yes salmon can be pricey especially if it’s fresh, but I’d be more content with it only being an $8 surcharge.  Anyway, I wanted to create my own version on a smaller budget. Needless to say mine was $6 per serving … that’s $12 for the two of us. HELLO! I just saved $28 🙂 .

On to my version: I didn’t like how the salmon filets were looking on my grocery trip and then I eyed tuna steaks. They were frozen which is a great way to save and only $6 for 2!

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No it doesn’t look exactly like the Nicoise Salad but again, it’s my version! We wanted baked potatoes so instead of incorporating them into the salad, it became a side.

Tuna marinade: EVOO, honey, dijon, parsley. Let it sit for 30 min or more (S & P both sides of the steak!)
Salad dressing: red wine vinegar, EVOO, dijon, pepper
I kept similar flavors from the original but after finding so many versions of this recipe, I took ingredients from a few and combined them – it turned out quite nicely!
Baked potato: butter, cheese, S & P (really, did you need me to explain that to you?)

I grilled the tuna on my George Foreman, they only need 4 minutes to cook – no sense in heating up the grill for that.  Let them sit for 5-10 minutes OFF of the grill so it can cook all of the way through without making the center too tough.

Man this was the best idea ever and I’m so glad the salmon looked sad at the store. It’s okay to improvise if you can’t find an ingredient, find something in the same family and you’ll be just fine.

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Here are a few other creations from this week:
Lasagna – ground turkey, mushrooms, cheese, onions, DONE.
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Josh’s famous chili:
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Annnnd Feta/Spinach Chicken Sausages with spicy black bean patties

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So there you go, a few new recipes. Try them out & let me know how they go!

 

Not all copying is illegal

Copying music (MP3, sheet music, etc) : illegal
Copying during a test : detention and an automatic F
Copying someones homework : zero for the assignment
Copying someones fashion : a way of complimenting your friend but still creepy

Copying a recipe : you sure can!

This week’s new recipe was a copycat version of Panera’s broccoli cheese soup. I’ve used this blog site before for the autumn harvest squash soup, the author is on point with ingredients.  It’s really easy to make and was incredibly delish.

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A wonderful protein to add – pork chops! Let those babies cook in caramelized onions to get some good flavors going. They seriously take maybe 6 minutes (once the onions begin to cook down, put in the pork chops).
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One more new recipe for the week, chicken cordon bleu pizza. Nom nom nom. Courtesy of Betty Crocker and a Bisquick crust. I will now make this crust any time, no more store bought junk. It’s really easy 1 1/2 C of Bisquick, 1/3 C of H2O, and shredded parm – done. That makes enough for 1 medium pizza, we of course made 2 pizzas (1 for leftovers 🙂 )

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Hubby has been home all week for dinner! YAY!  He helped on pizza night as we know it’s rare that I actually get to making dinner on Thursday’s.

It’s funny that these recipes are healthy & diabetic friendly, most of you would enjoy them.  You don’t have to eat like a rabbit in order to be ‘healthy’ – choose your dishes wisely and pick fresh/organic ingredients.  Also, do not indulge! See how we made 2 pizzas but kept 1 for leftovers? Take note.

food is essential to life: make it good

I actually remembered to plan a meatless meal for tonight! BOOM!

With my new cooking adventures I think it’ll be easier for me to come up with vegetarian meals each week. In years past I would buy boxed fish sticks and whip up some mac n’ cheese. Every Friday this was my dinner! I may as well have gone to McD’s and picked up their fish sandwiches (God I love those things, don’t get me wrong – there is something about them that are addicting! I would LOOOOOVE to go for one of those now but I know better). Lenten meals don’t have to consist of seafood though, not everyone likes fish or shrimp. So I’ll give you tonight’s dinner.

Grilled cheese & sweet potato fries. Simple!  We’re not talking plain old Kraft slices either. I picked up smoke provolone, an avocado, and I’ll saute red onions – stack it up on some sourdough bread. I’m making homemade fries too – 1 potato per person, slice them up, and sprinkle smoked paprika – bake and eat. That sounds DELISH!!! I’ll let you know how it turns out!

I’ll do a picture show of the last few nights of meals (in no particular order). Chicken sliders inspired by Ree Drummond, remember that you can change recipes – the recipe police will not come after you! This also shouldn’t stop you from making something that looks good; if an ingredient doesn’t seem necessary to the overall flavor then it’s okay to omit.

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Another Pioneer Woman recipe, this one I followed to the T. There wasn’t anything you could leave out. When you open the link it will say quick and easy – so true, it was ready in under 20 minutes. The only thing that wasn’t quick and easy, opening the darn pasta box. SERIOUSLY! “Tear here” is a bunch of BS.

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I forgot to include the picture of me food processing the red peppers but that is an important step. Look at Ree’s instructions, she gives step by step pictures – love her blog!

Next in the line up braised short ribs. A bit pricey but this isn’t something we will make on a regular basis; it was actually my first time cooking short ribs. I found this on the Food Network’s website from Claire Robinson’s 5 ingredient fix. The only thing I changed was the cooking time… I did it low and slow – 300 for 6 hours! Do it and you’ll thank me later.

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I had planned root veggies as a side however the tax office took waaaaaay longer than expected. So I didn’t have time to put them in the oven and had to bust out the insty mashed potatoes. No biggie. As I pulled the meat out of the pot, the bones fell off – yepp, I knew this was a good plan 🙂 This could easily be a slow cooker meal but you’ll still have to brown the meat before, it’s crucial to keep the juices inside the meat.

Oh yes, on the disaster that was brinner. It was a huge hit the first time around, I had to plan a second one… except it actually became a real breakfast. I didn’t feel like cooking that night and since we were both home the next day for breakfast, why not make a proper meal to start our day.

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Seriously, Pinterest… you can really suck sometimes. My cute idea quickly changed to scrambled eggs with chopped green peppers. That is where Josh stepped in, he makes THE BEST scrambled eggs; McLane agrees.  Want to make your waffles stand out? I added cinnamon, so yummy.  We needed protein so I cooked JD’s sausage patties. There’s an easy meal!

The final dish: mahi mahi with a mango salsa. I used the root veggies that were skipped from the night before, didn’t want them going bad and having to toss. The marinade that I found for the fish was s0-s0, I think I just needed to have more liquid but the fish was covered … maybe it was the marinade. I won’t even post it. It wasn’t bad, it was just lacking flavor.

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That’s it! I know it’s a lot but now you have no reason to be uninspired. So many meals to choose from 🙂 Pick your weapon!

 

Lay’s Contest < Willy Wonka

I wonder if I should submit a flavor to the “Lay’s Do Us a Flavor” contest … I came up with a real good one this morning, inspired by my kitchen sink “Bacon Greasy Dishes”. What? Not a good one? Sorry, did I make you throw up a little bit in your mouth? I mean, it’s on par with some of the other submissions, ones like ‘chocolate chip cookie’ or ‘salted butter’ (Paula Deen would like that one…), oh this is the best ‘wiener schnitzel and sauerkraut’. C’mon America, how fat can we be that we need the joy of eating potato chips that taste like a complete meal. This ain’t no Willy Wonka factory, however if anyone comes up with lick-able wall paper please be kind enough to inform me first (that won’t add any calories to my diet, right?!).

My husband and I saw the contest commercial the other night and we talked about the last winners, we did like the Siracha chips but chicken and waffles was gross, I may as well just drank syrup from the squeeze bottle. I can’t remember the 3rd winner, we never found those chips which surprised me because we do live in the most obese city in America, let’s hear it for San Antonio!

Okay so you might be wondering why my sink was filled to the brim with greasy dishes – we cooked bacon last night. Even though we disposed of the grease properly, my tin foil attempt to keep the pan clean was an epic fail. I do not stove cook bacon, that splattering mess goes in the oven set to broil. Our dinner however was not a greasy mess – a pizza creation that I ‘stole’ from BJ’s Brewery. We love their pizzas but they are literally 3 inch deep dish meals; 1 slice and you’re done. This clearly doesn’t work with one who has diabetes so I purchased all of the toppings and a thin crust, there you go, a healthy alternative already.

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I used chicken tenders to make dicing easier, marinate those suckers in EVOO and garlic. The more garlic, the better 🙂
I bought a can of diced tomatoes, make sure to drain them really well or you’ll end up with a soggy crust! Pour some ranch and there you go. It wasn’t dry at all, the juicy tomatoes along with the ranch masks the fact that is no actual sauce.

How is ranch healthy? BOLTHOUSE. How many times must I tell you about this brand? JUST SWITCH ALREADY!

Oh geeze, I just got another idea for a potato chip flavor … one that could have avoided this whole greasy kitchen sink mess in the first place … ‘Garlic Chicken, Bacon, and Ranch Pizza”. No cooking required. Duh! Oh my gosh, I feel so fat just thinking about it.

And to prove my husband doesn’t read the menu board, this is what I have to do for ingredients that I know he’ll want to eat as a snack:
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It worked because the other morning he informed me that the cottage cheese almost fell victim to his growling stomach. After I used it I did cross out “NOT” and wrote “EAT :-)” all over it. It was gone the same day.

And here’s Sous Chef Geno keeping guard of the oven

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Be sure to check out my food pictures on Instagram … MRSDLH50 – #kitchentails

 

ice, ice, baby

Well, there goes my hopes of getting things done (outside of the house) today… San Antonio has pretty much shut down.  All school are closed and highways are blocked.  Listen, the weather isn’t bad but this city doesn’t have the trucks to clear icy roads; cars are stuck on overpasses (that are 4+ stories tall… no thank you!). And as I told my husband before he left for work … it’s not him I’m worried about (being from Erie, PA – he knows ice and snow), it’s the other idiot drivers out there.  Of course he called when he got to work to A) let me know he arrived safely and B) inform me about the dummy who tried to be cool and pass everyone, slammed on his brakes at a red light, and swerved sideways into the median, all in front of a cop. See what I mean?

So with that being said, if the roads melt a bit and I get the courage to drive amongst morons then I will head to the grocery store.  The cold front is supposed to be gone by Sunday where it will be back up in the 70’s and then 3 days later, freezing temps at night. This is insane.

Anyway, I have plans on making french onion soup tonight – never made it before and it’s been something on my “you must attempt this” list.

I have not cooked a decent meal since Tuesday. It’s been leftover central up in here! I love it though because I think it’s fun to find different ways to create something by swapping out the “usual”.  For instance, I made loco moco which is a traditional Hawaiian dish but instead of using rice, I used the leftover quinoa mixture from the stuffed peppers.

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So easy: make 4 burger patties, sass up canned gravy by adding extra mushrooms, you can make rice for the bottom, cook up some eggs, and it’s done! It’s really silly how delish this meal is.  We fell in love with it a few years back while in Hawaii. It’s so filling – it’s a “every 6 months” kind of meal; not something we could eat on a regular basis.  Plus it only took 20-ish minutes from start to plate.

Last night I marinated 2 chicken breasts in green chile sauce, pan cooked them, and served over top of the quinoa mixture – Josh loved it.  No one says a certain mixture can’t be used for other dishes.  Me on the other hand whipped up some nasty frozen “fish” filets – they were in the freezer as a back up meal in case I didn’t feel like cooking.  Yeah, do yourself a favor and DO NOT BUY THEM, I will never trust Gorton’s fishermen again. Once you start eating real fish filets from the seafood counter, there’s no turning back to buying the cheap garbage.

So as of Wednesday Josh is back to his 8 week schedule of hardly being home, it’s been nice having him around to help with dinner … he was put on patty duty:

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I will leave you with this fun piece of nutritional info on 1,000 island salad dressing, get ready to be amazed.

IMG_5202 Chelsea introduced a greek yogurt-based dressing to me not too long ago. Yes is absolutely tastes different (not yucky though) however notice the calories, 40 vs. 130 – holy cow! I don’t mind giving up its classic  flavor if it means I’m ingesting something that isn’t as bad for me.  Try it out, this company makes a variety of dressings (ranch, blue cheese, 1,000 island… ) Bolt House – got try it!

Oh lovely, it’s raining again.

Whirlwind Weekend

The Higby Hacienda Housewarming Weekend is complete and was a semi-success.  I stuck to my favorite finger foods and maybe those were a bit too successful because everyone chowed down on those instead of my dinner so needless to say I’ve got a ton of leftovers.  I don’t mind though, it means I won’t have to make a grocery run for this week (I’ve got some frozen chicken that I can bust out in a few days when the pulled pork runs out).

I was scared to use a new slow cooker recipe on the pork but I loved the root beer base – yes it was a bit sweet but I prefer sweeter BBQ. I had Stubb’s smokey BBQ sauce to mix in and for adding extra as you build a sandwich.  I guess I could have only bought 1 tenderloin but you know if I did that, everyone would have ate and then I would have ran out of food. So buy more and be prepared it’s the safest way to go.

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I totally cheated on the sides – went to Rudy’s BBQ for cole slaw and potato salad… got 2 quarts of each and only 1/2 of 1 quart was eaten.  I actually just had some to go along with my lunch, nom nom nom. More for me 😉  Josh’s sister had sent these cute glass ornaments filled with seasoning to make dip mixes with.  What an awesome and clever idea! They were tasty and everyone loved them; bowls were almost scraped clean. I put out 2 brands of crackers (1 gluten free rice / 1 rosemary & olive oil Triscuits). Always provide options!

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Other finger foods offered: pizza balls and zucchini bites. I’ve previously blogged about those 2 recipes, feel free to search for them 🙂

Guests brought plenty of desserts and a few other apps … beer was plentiful (got some good use from the beer drawer, lol!).  After all was said and done, belly’s were happily full with food and adult beverages.

To cure any grumbling stomachs the next morning (we had a couple guests stay the night who traveled from Austin), I prepared a light brunch recipe adapting something from Giada De Laurentiis.  That girl has more time and money on her hands so I clearly changed a few things … this is a close cousin to the classic lox and bagels.  Which is actually funny because she didn’t even mention that in the TV episode she prepared this dish on. So yeah, I purchased pre-made pizza dough, whipped cream cheese, smoked salmon, and capers. It was budget friendly, simple to make, and a 10 minute dish.

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**I felt the need to add a disclaimer – I had a fabulous time (as did my husband) with our guests this weekend.  We were so excited to see our friends … being able to catch up and just chill.  I am not calling the overall party/those who attended a “semi-success”, it is only referring to my food … the reason I blog.

We Survived the Holidays

Sort of.

I didn’t feel like cooking the day after my family had left. We decided to try out a burger place near by … it kept popping up on my dad’s phone as a place to try; that marketing sure did work.

I’ve got to give this place credit for cooking delish burgers, perfectly seasoned with a ton of toppings to choose from.  The grease on the other hand (and face and dripping down your chin) was not gentle on our tummies.  Good grief we needed a roll of paper towels while eating! I don’t understand why so much grease is needed for a freakin’ burger!  I was in pain right away and Josh was hurting the whole next day. So while we did incredibly well over the holidays we completely face planted the day after. It goes to show once you commit to a certain way of living (see, I didn’t say “diet”) your body doesn’t want you to go back! NEVER. GOING. TO. BOBBY J’s. AGAIN.

I had to get back on track this week with some healthy meals.  I kept it simple with salsa chicken, sweet potato burritos, and today will be a slow cooker kind of day with meatball minestrone soup.  It’s darn cold enough to have a hearty soup!

Salsa chicken couldn’t get any easier … chicken breasts, taco seasoning, and salsa. DONE! I made a version of this in my slow cooker once before and it didn’t turn out so great, the chicken was really dry.  I love this oven version and will definitely make it again. I picked up some Spanish rice – of course I didn’t look at the box to see it required me to add my own tomatoes. WHAT?! Since when? Thankfully I had a can of zesty green chile and diced tomatoes in my pantry. Phew.

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We ran out of spinach, oops.  So I snacked on grape tomatoes and mini corn while I was cooking.  It didn’t spoil my dinner, don’t worry. I literally had 3 of each to get my veggies in and a yogurt thousand island by Bolthouse Farms… try it out. Yes it tastes different than what you’re used to but the calories drop from 140 per serving to 35. HELLO! Thank you Miss Chelsea.

You might be cringing at the idea of sweet potato burritos but oh man are these SO GOOD! With the combo of spices it tasted like a sweet chili. Don’t let your stomach rule how many burritos you put on your plate – 2 was plenty. Josh barely finished the 2 large burritos I served him. Success! This meal could be vegan if I omitted cheese. Tell me, how many of you would be really turned off if I started this with “I made a vegan dish last night”. It only means everything used was grown/planted… not derived from an animal! No seafood, meat, or dairy (minus my cheese). Another dish that I’ll add to my recipe rotation. **I left out the water, I didn’t make sense to me – I didn’t want soupy potatoes.**

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Yes you are seeing that right … an upside down apron, so clever! Another cute gift from my parents.  It’s your measuring chart, just look down. I love it. And I am chief of quality control … the potatoes were good on their own. I had to resist until dinner was ready.

Quit Yer Belly Achin’

I love the Facebook posts around holiday season: “Oh my God I ate too much” or “Oh my God I REALLY ate WAY too much”.  I say, host your own gathering and control the food spread. Obviously you may not be able to do this every year but it could be a start; show your friends how you can create an amazing buffet and not feel disgusting at the end of it.  Oh the other part of that is, freaking control yourself! Just because 10 trays of cookies are prepared doesn’t mean you need to sample a few from each.

Honestly sometimes I eat a light snack before going over to someones house. It’ll hold me over in case there are some bad foods offered – I won’t be hungry to eat; it can also curve my hunger in case there aren’t any finger foods and one must wait until dinner.  I don’t want to scarf my dinner down so fast that my belly hates me. It’s all about self control.

I may be blessed in the sense that my good friend Chelsea is all for eating healthy and cutting processed foods, it made Thanksgiving easy. There were no cries from the peanut gallery when I introduced my low carb/low calorie menu.

On to Christmas, my family came to town! I got to cook one dinner (Christmas Eve) for them, Chicken Marsala.  It was a bit difficult cooking for 5 adults when I’m used to only myself and my husband (even though he counts for 3 or 4 sometimes 😉 ) Dinner turned out great and they liked it.  Clean plate clubs all around. I added prosciutto this time (now that I don’t live in the ghetto, my new/fancy grocery store sells it!) and now I can taste why it’s necessary.  You need some kind of salty flavor since mushrooms are quite bland – the flavor of the Marsala wine cooks out and even using s/p on the chicken, the dish was still missing something the first time I made it.

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Everyone was in the kitchen! Josh requested ‘rusty mashed potatoes’ so he had to prepare them. They are pretty easy because they don’t require any peeling. He lucked out. My mom is a slicing and dicing machine.  She turned her nose to my mandolin and said “I’m your mandolin, give me those veggies”. Yes that’s my standard peppers, zucchini, and squash medley. It’s easy and tasty. Plus how pretty is it? So many colors!

We did have Christmas dinner at home, it was prepped and cooked by everyone.  It started with marinating a 3 lbs beef tenderloin the night before. I’m still getting used to the fact that my fridge can hold such an item – I love marinating food over night, the flavors are amazing! Easiest marinade ever, I didn’t “food process” it, just throw everything in the baggie (yes, dice the shallots and I put the rosemary branches in whole). I doubled everything since this piece of meat was extra special. Let that baby sit over night, pull out 30 minutes prior to grilling and you’re set.

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My dad braved the cold San Antonio weather to man the grill. He is the ultimate grill master; I won’t EVER order steaks at a restaurant.  He has made me expect the best when it comes to meat.  We’re slowly working on our grilling skills so hopefully Josh learned a thing or two while my family was here. I never experienced an oven cooked meat for a holiday while growing up. Even in 5 feet of snow, the grill was going.

Of course we had a theme for dinner, surf and turf! The seafood market at my new/fancy grocery store is fantastic. Obviously so is the meat market; they trimmed the tenderloin to perfection.  Seafood counter purchases: large scallops, jump shrimp, crab legs, and salmon. We kept it simple with the first three items: melted butter and threw in garlic, boom, there’s your sauce.  I used my favorite Martha recipe for the salmon.  Chelsea helped prepare a double recipe of it, brushed some on prior to cooking the salmon and then people could spoon on whatever they wanted once it was on their plate.

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I know you must be dying to find out what side dish I served. Drum roooolllllllll…. Mushroom Orzo! Geeze it was delish! I went back for seconds and there was only a small spoonfull! WHAT! The chef missed out! I have officially added it to my recipe box and will be making it again.  I actually didn’t have enough orzo so I threw in some quinoa. It was so pretty!

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I went with probably 2 dozen pearl onions, I don’t even know where the creator got only 8 from. Each of us would get 1/4 of an onion? Ridiculous! You’ll have to peel these stubborn suckers. Boil them for a few minutes, let them cool, and you should be able to pop the skin right off. Do this, save your sanity. Why yes that is a wine measuring glass! An awesome gift from my parents, based on the cooking regime Julia Child believed in: “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking.” One side of the glass is “sips for the chef” and the other is an actual measuring cup.

I’ll leave you with an assortment of pictures from that day – going back for 2nds or 3rds isn’t so bad when you prepare a healthy dinner! Enjoy!

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Always room to improve

I’m making sure to get my blogging done before the day begins.  Tis the holiday season and life is hectic … concerts, recitals, parties, family visits, decorating, gift shopping, and cleaning. Phew, just a bit stressful.  This week for dinner I wanted to keep is simple with some of our comfort food favorites, before my family arrives on Monday – most of our meals will be at restaurants, our bellies need some normalcy for now 😉

Monday
Chicken Bombs + baked beans + stuffed jalapeno peppers

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I’ve made chicken bombs before but this time around they were even better. Being familiar with the recipe things just went better in my kitchen; I also prepped them maybe 4 hours before its cooking time so the BBQ sauce could really soak in the meat. I splurged a bit on the bacon and purchased organic/natural/no nasty things added … honestly, I tasted a HUGE difference.  Plus it wasn’t greasy like the “normal” bacon you’d buy.  Spend a few extra $$ and get the ‘healthier’ version, it’s totally worth it – the slices are even bigger.

With the leftover cream cheese mixture for the “bombs”, I stuffed jalapenos and wrapped them in the remaining bacon. My husband loved them; I loved them too! Again, with the less greasy bacon the ‘poppers’ weren’t a slimy mess.  Add some classic baked beans for another side and you have a complete meal.

Tuesday
Spaghetti + pork/quinoa meatballs + garlic knots (store bought/frozen aisle)

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Yet another simple meal but I am constantly on the hunt for yummy spaghetti sauce. Well, I don’t have to look any further; I finally found one that my husband and I really like (as of last night!). There were HUGE chunks of green peppers and the flavors of Italian sausage really came through strong. I know it seems silly but I couldn’t figure out how my mom made spaghetti … it always tasted soooooo good. People joke “surely you can cook spaghetti” and while it is meant to poke fun at non-cookers, I felt like I belonged in that group! How could my spaghetti never be “that good”? I mean, it wasn’t horrible – I was just never happy with the flavors. I don’t have any intentions of making my own sauce, seriously I don’t have time for that. I will be happy using this new sauce and can be content that while my spaghetti still doesn’t taste the same as my mom’s, I am pleased knowing it’s now a close 2nd.

I digress; my point with this dish is that even with it being so easy, find sauces and spices that you really like to make the dish stand out from being “just another night of spaghetti”.  Class it up a bit more and make fancy meatballs. They take 20 minutes (prep to dinner table), so half way through you can start the spaghetti and everything finishes at the same time.  The garlic knots don’t take long; while I let the meatballs cool I popped in the knots and bingo-bango, 5 minutes later dinner is all set!

2 nights of successful dinners that a) didn’t break the bank; b) didn’t stretch our waists; c) were healthy and satisfying

Hooray for a normal blog finally!!! 🙂