Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
See my previous post for cost comparisons, etc.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Estimated cost of meal:
Easy Mac: $.35
Former life total: Dinner @ McDonald's: $10
Leaner Life Savings: $8.30 or 83%!!!
Monday, January 25, 2010
Generally I call these "steak soft tacos" since hubby doesn't like fajitas and doesn't seem to care that if you leave out the veggies they are pretty much the same thing. This time I decided to go ahead and make the veggies for myself, and I'm really glad I did. They were very yummy! For some reason, the recipe tasted a lot spicier than usual. This could be that I added too much hot sauce, or the fact that I used Pace hot picante sauce on mine. The sweetness of the peppers helped offset the spiciness a bit.
Sidebar, I got the salsa for free by playing the Pace "Hand-Pick and Win" game here. Actually, I ended up being paid $1.75 to buy the salsa since the coupon was for $4 off and instead of reducing the value to the price of the salsa ($2.25) my Target checker just pushed the whole coupon through. Gotta love that.
Estimated cost of meal:
Sour cream: $.10
Former life total: Dinner @ Jalapenos: $33
Leaner Life Savings: $26.70 or 81%!!!
Monday: Steak fajitas, rice, beans (carried over from last week)
Tuesday: Chicken caesar salad
Wednesday: Hashbrown casserole
Thursday: Baked drumsticks, macaroni and cheese
Friday: Cold cut sandwiches
Saturday: Pot stickers, teriyaki steak, rice
Sunday: Turkey chipotle chili, cornbread
For more menu ideas, check out orgjunkie.com
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Leaner Life Savings: $19.70 or 82%!!
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
On a (rare) non-food related note, our favorite TV show Burn Notice came back from hiatus tonight! We're so excited. Hubby is also happy because his other favorite Supernatural came back tonight too. Combine that with Bones and that makes 3 hours of our favorite shows all in one block! Can you tell we're TV-aholics?
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
My family has been making biscuits and gravy for forever, at least as far as I know. My grandma's has always been the best, but my mom and I make a pretty decent version ourselves. This meal has been served at every special family breakfast I can remember my entire life. We still give my cousin a hard time for the one time she took too much gravy and that was probably about 20 years ago!
It must have been fate that when I met my hubby, I found out it was his favorite meal. I consider myself a good cook and can make pretty much anything, but this recipe is in my genes! Hubby likes a lot of different kinds of biscuits and gravy, and will eat them whenever we go out to eat for breakfast, but he claims he likes mine best. Of course he might know that if he told me it wasn't I'd be less inclined to make it for him, so take that with a grain of salt.
I like to serve with just microwaved bacon and orange juice, but my grandma thinks there should be eggs and my mom always makes sausage patties and usually some fried ham too.
Biscuits & Gravy
Jimmy Dean Original Sausage
Salt & pepper
For biscuits: Prepare Bisquick according to package directions for biscuits (2 1/4 cups mix, 2/3 cup milk, stir to combine, turn onto floured cutting board and knead 10 times, roll out with rolling pin and cut out with biscuit cutter). I like to use a 2-inch cutter - I have actual biscuit cutters but cookie cutters or even the bottom of a juice glass can be used. Liberally grease glass baking dish with oil, put biscuits in dish and turn to coat both sides with oil. Bake according to package directions (8-10 minutes @ 450 degrees).
For gravy: Brown sausage in 10-inch skillet with high sides. I use half a pound for just the two of us, for four people you'd want to use a full pound. As it browns, note how much grease is in the pan. You will want about 2 Tbsp (again for 2 people, 1 being a really big eater). If it looks like there won't be enough, add a small piece of bacon to the skillet. Once the sausage is browned, add flour to skillet and cook for a few minutes. The secret to flavorful gravy (learned only with the last few years after studying my grandmother's to find out why her's is so much better) is to cook the flour until it is very brown, almost burned. There is a fine line between browned and burned though, so be careful. Once it's ready, slowly whisk in milk. It usually takes around 2 cups for the consistency I like, but that's just an estimate. Let the gravy come to a boil to make sure it has reached its full thickness, then add more milk as necessary. If it's too thin, just wait for a bit and it will thicken up.
Crumble biscuits in a bowl and top with gravy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Estimated cost of meal
Former life total: Breakfast @ Gomer's: $22
Leaner life savings: $17.45 or 79%!!!
Monday, January 18, 2010
This salad was my newest attempt, adapted from the recipe here. I added grilled chicken because I just didn't think it would be filling enough with bacon alone.
I made croutons in the oven like I always do, rather than in a skillet as the recipe suggests. I also seasoned them with garlic powder instead of pepper, since some of the comments mentioned that the recipe was way too peppery.
The dressing was interesting. It was pretty sour, so I added quite a bit of extra olive oil and sugar to try to counter balance that. I also substituted sour cream for half of the mayo, based on suggestions in the comments on allrecipes.com. The bacon drippings didn't really seem to add any flavor, and made the mouth feel of the dressing somewhat unpleasant. I burned some of the bacon since I'm used to cooking it in the microwave, and had to start over just to get enough drippings to make the dressing.
Hubby will eat just about anything with bacon, but he thought it would have been better with caesar dressing. When I pointed out that if I did that the only thing separating this salad from the chicken caesar I make would be the bacon, he didn't see any problem with that.
I think I will make a salad like this again, but just stick to ranch dressing in the future. It will be a lot cheaper to make (basil is so pricey) and probably taste better too. I might also add some shredded cheddar cheese and maybe some cucumbers next time - that sounds pretty good!
Estimated cost of meal:
Mayo/sour cream: $.50
Total: $8.15 (so not worth that)
Dinner at McDonald's: $12
Leaner Life Savings: $3.85 or 32%
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Estimated cost of meal:
Former life total: Dinner @ Houlihan's: $40
Leaner Life Savings: $35.25 or 88%!!!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
With the gift card, after drinks (just soda/iced tea) and tip we only had to pay $5 OOP, so this was just as cheap at eating at home and we got appetizer, drinks and dessert!
Friday, January 15, 2010
We went to New Peking Chinese Restaurant in Westport. Nothing fantastic to report - I had a mixed appetizer platter and it was pretty good but not that filling. She let me eat some of her dumplings though since that's what I had originally thought I was going to order. I just love the sauce they serve with those - I think I'm going to try to make them sometime soon. I still have wonton wrappers leftover from the crab rangoon experiment. I just need to figure out what all is in the sauce and find a good recipe for the dumplings. Oh, and convince hubby to try them. Wish me luck!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Of course, these aren't really authentic Thai since they are from Rachael Ray, but at least they are Thai-inspired. I thought this recipe would be a safe choice since it didn't involve any exotic ingredients, and most were already in our fridge/pantry.
The result was not one of my favorite meals, and hubby hated it. I couldn't get the peanut sauce to any reasonable consistency, despite adding way more oil than it said to in an attempt to thin it out. It was very thick and not spicy at all, again despite attempts to doctor it such as adding excessive amounts of cayenne pepper. This could be because our cayenne pepper is very old and has lost its kick, but it was disappointing no matter the reason.
The vegetables were ok, nothing special. The chicken was fine, and hubby used it to make himself a quesadilla (I didn't mix it with the veggies since I knew he might not like it).
We won't be making this again, but I won't give up on trying to get him to eat Thai food. Someday when I have a permanent job again and life isn't so lean I will take him out to one of the local Thai restaurants and let the pros show him how good it can be!
Estimated cost of meal:
Basil: $2 (how Rachael Ray thinks this is readily available for reasonable prices throughout the country is beyond me)
Peanut Butter: $.20
Former life total: Dinner @ Korma Sutra: $45
Leaner Life Savings: $37.75 or 84%!!!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
One other note - hubby gave me what may have been one of the best compliments on my cooking ever! He actually wished that we had leftover shepherd's pie, because he thought that sounded good after his crummy day. He normally hates leftovers, and for him to truly want to eat them is unheard of! That dinner must have been even better than I thought.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Last time I made this Crockpot staple, hubby complained there was not enough ham in it. So this time I added quite a lot of ham, and he still hardly ate any of it! He wasn't feeling well but it was a little upsetting because this recipe always makes way too much no matter what, but even more so if he doesn't eat.
I forgot to soak the beans until late last night, so I followed the quick-soak method on the back of the package. Except, where it says to boil for 2 minutes, I accidentally forgot they were on the stove and actually boiled them for about 30. Oh well, they didn't seem to be any worse for the wear. We like our beans pretty mushy so it didn't matter that they were cooked a little longer.
Slow-Cooker Ham & Bean Soup
1/2 cup finely chopped onion, or 1-2 Tbsp dried onion
2 garlic cloves or 1-2 tsp garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 lb dried navy beans, soaked at least 24 hours or prepared using quick-soak method
1 ham hock
1-2 cups chopped ham
Combine all ingredients in crock-pot, using just enough water to cover, cook on low about 8 hours. Remove ham hock, reserve usable meaty portions and chop, return them to the pan. Discard bone and fat. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Serve with cornbread.
Estimated cost of meal
Ham hock: $1
Cornbread mix: $.45
Former life total: Dinner @ Panera: $17
Leaner Life Savings: $11.85 or 70%!!!
Monday, January 11, 2010
My grandmother is in town and I was scheduled to spend some time with her this evening, so I decided to make this dinner over at my mom's house. I'm not sure if the change in setting was the cause or not, but for some reason it took a really long time for me to make this recipe. If it hadn't been for that, I would say that this was definitely one of the most successful meals I have made recently. The flavor was really good, but a cost-benefit analysis would suggest it wasn't worth spending over an hour and a half cooking it!
I served to my husband, grandmother and my mother and they all seemed to like it. Of course, they are also all biased towards being nice to me but I think they genuinely enjoyed the dish. If I could figure out how to cut out a lot of the prep time, or even make ahead and freeze, this would be a keeper. It was just the way Shepherd's pie is supposed to be - warm, savory and comforting. I don't feel like it was too heavy, though it was truly a meat and potatoes meal. I liked the corn and green beans being in the dish, it made it easier than having to remember to cook them on the side!
I served with Grands biscuits, which my mother was skeptical of but they were very tasty! I usually buy the reduced-fat wheat variety, but tonight we had the regular buttermilk kind and they were satisfying and made a good compliment to the main dish.
Estimated cost of meal:
Half & half: $.20
Ground beef: $2
Chicken broth: $.50
Green beans: $.35
Remaining small ingredients: $.50 (probably less but just to be safe)
Total: $5.27 (for a satisfying meal for 4 people, plus leftovers!)
Former life total: Dinner @ Cheesecake Factory: $70 (for four)
Leaner Life Savings: $64.73 or 92%!!!
- Monday: Shepherd's pie (substitute ground beef for lamb, green beans for peas)
- Tuesday: Slow cooker ham & bean soup, cornbread
- Wedesday: Thai chicken wraps, rice
- Thursday: Biscuits & gravy, bacon
- Friday: Slow cooker goulash, noodles
- Saturday: BLT salad (add grilled chicken, hold the tomatoes)
- Sunday: Slow cooker cheesy potato soup
For hundreds of other menu plans, visit orgjunkie.com.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I served with a Pizza Shoppe-inspired salad, complete with their amazing pink dressing. It might look strange but it tastes garlicky and delicious. At the restaurant the salad is topped with mozzarella, BacOs and pepperoni and served with crackers. I used more Italian cheese and crushed pita chips and I decided to forego the pepperoni and ran out of bacon bits when making the pizza (not BacOs, but close enough).
Estimated cost of meal:
Bacon bits: $.20
Pita chips: Free! (got a free sample in the mail)
Former life total: Dinner @ SPIN!: $27
Leaner Life Savings: $20.55 or 76%!!!
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
We had the two for $20 meal. Hubby got a bacon cheeseburger and I had chicken tenders. They were edible but nothing special. We shared some spinach and artichoke dip. We each had a soft drink, so the total with tip and tax after the gift card was only $6.74. Not too shabby!
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Sorry, enough with my off-topic weather ranting. Tonight we had tacos. Normally I would use Lawry's taco seasoning but I couldn't find it at several stores this weekend and decided not to venture out in the blizzard tonight to look at the one store I think might carry it. So, I made some myself. I combined chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, sugar, salt, pepper & corn starch together. I had the recipe on a sticky note from the last time I made my own seasoning. I have fond memories of the previous experience, but this time it didn't turn out quite as well as I hoped. It was perfectly edible though and surely much cheaper than buying the premade packets.
We almost always eat soft flour tacos in our house as hubby prefers them and they are sold in much more reasonable quantities than the corn ones. The ones I bought this time said they were soft taco sized but felt really huge once I actually made my taco. I ended up rolling it and eating it like a burrito.
We stuff ours with meat, cheese, lettuce & optional sour cream and salsa (omitted this time). I serve with refried beans and Chipotle-style cilantro lime rice. A very simple, quick and satisfying meal.
Estimated cost of meal:
Sour Cream: $.10
Former life total: Dinner @ Taco Bell: $12
Leaner Life Savings: $7.60 or 63%!!!
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
RR seems to emphasize the potatoes as the star of this dish, but we disagree. This is basically just a twist on a steak and potato meal, which is of course one of hubby's favorites. The steak mixture is a little bit like fajita filling, kind of spicy and tangy from the hot sauce and lime juice. It gets nice and brown (especially if it takes you a while to get the potatoes on and it ends up sitting too long like mine did) and crusty on the outside, but is still tender.
I use about half of the ingredients that RR suggests for the potatoes but make a full recipe of the meat & veggies. I omit the cheddar cheese, which just seems superflous with all of the other dairy going into the mashed potatoes. Don't get me wrong - I love cheese but it just doesn't seem to fit in with this dinner.
Estimated cost of meal
Sour cream: $.25
Former life total: Dinner @ Freddy T's: $23
Leaner Life Savings: $17.01 or 74%!!!
Monday, January 4, 2010
We made this because I thought it would be good to add more salads to our menu choices and hubby loves it when my mom serves this one, but I think in the future we will just leave it to her and keep it as a side dish. We will keep trying over the next few weeks until we find a salad that will work better for us, other than the two we already make on a regular basis (Asian chicken and chicken caesar).
Estimated cost of meal:
Chicken: $2.50 (from salad bar, would have been around $1.50 had I made at home)
Lettuce: $.75 (Dole bagged salad mix on sale less coupon!)
Toppings: Free! (would have been $4.59 but I earned a free salad with my frequent shopper's card)
Former life total: Dinner @ Houlihan's (they make a yummy chicken salad): $35
Leaner Life Savings: $30.95 or 88%
- Monday: Chicken & tortellini salad, garlic bread
- Tuesday: Mashed Super Skins w/Steak & Pepper Hash, bread
- Wednesday: Tacos, beans, rice
- Thursday: Slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches, chips
- Friday: Dinner Out
- Saturday: Red Chicken (first repeat since I started this blog!), rice pilaf, cucumber salad, pita chips
- Sunday: Build-your-own pizzas, salad
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Korma Sutra's buffet costs around $10/person and is all-you-can-eat, though I rarely have enough room to go back for anything beyond my first plate. They always feature a variety of meat and vegetarian dishes. Hubby's favorite is the goat curry (I give him a hard time because if I had told him 2 years ago he would love anything involving goat he would have though I was crazy); I like the chicken tikka masala. It's in a creamy yogurt tomato sauce and usually a bit spicy but not too much. This time they had butter chicken instead, which is very simliar and in a blind taste test I admit I might not know the difference.
My other favorite is saag paneer, which is spinach with cheese and reminds me of spinach dip! It's really great on the bread - in our case garlic naan. They bring loads of it fresh from the oven and even wrap up the leftovers to send home with you. They also have plain and other flavors of bread, but I think garlic makes everything better!
On the side I get the veggie pakora - little bite-sized veggie balls breaded and deep-fried. I don't really know what is in them but they are really tasty! They also always have veggie samosas, which have a fried pastry shell and are stuffed with potatoes and peas. I like these but on the buffet the pastry loses it's texture pretty quickly, so it's better to get them fresh.
Included with the lunch buffet are mango lassi drinks, which are yogurt and mango juice and are kind of like smoothies. There are also some dessert choices on the buffet, I like to have a bite of rice pudding along with my chai tea - which is also included and they bring it to you whenever they see that you look about done with your meal! I think a warm cup of chai is so relaxing and just finishes off the meal perfectly. I wish they'd serve it everywhere... Starbucks version just isn't the same as the real thing!
Today's lunch was so yummy and I'm so glad we got to go, even though now that hubby likes it I do get to eat it more than once or twice a year.
Friday, January 1, 2010
- Appetizers: Rotel dip w/chicken & cilantro - my mom's specialty; puff pastries from Costco; Christmas cookies (I made these this morning & people snacked on them throughout the day - jam thumbprints, Russian teacakes and cranberry almond bark)
- Salad: I like to call it the "Hen House" salad since it is basically a bunch of ingredients from their salad bar. My mom makes homemade vinaigrette dressing to go with it, but the best part is the cheese tortellini (we're having this for dinner as a main course next week with chicken added for extra protein)
- Side Dish 1: Vegetable gratin (this link might not work since you have to log in to access it - but trust me it's worth registering to get it) - technically this is supposed to be a summer dish but I think it's the best vegetable dish I've ever had and would eat it any time of year. It's supposed to have a combination of zucchini and yellow squash, but we just used zucchini. It is combined with a garlic-thyme olive oil, topped with caramelized onions and tomatoes, more garlic-thyme oil then baked and later topped with bread crumbs, shallots & Parmesan cheese and baked some more to make the top crusty.
- Side Dish 2: Sauteed potatoes - I learned how to make these in my one semester of culinary school. The first time I made them they almost didn't make it to the table since they were being eaten right out of the pan as soon as they were ready! We haven't made them in years because they are a bit time-consuming and have to be served very fresh. We had almost forgotten just how good they were - it was the first time hubby had tried them and now he wants to know why we don't have them all the time! We probably will have to now! They are supposed to be cut into a fancy "tournee" but chunks or wedges are easier and taste just the same. Peel 2 small yellow potatoes (i.e. Yukon Gold) per person. Cut into uniform chunks or wedges. Place in pot and cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until tender but not yet falling apart. Heat half-inch of peanut oil in large skillet over high heat. Add potatoes to oil and cook until brown on one side, turn and cook until brown on all remaining sides. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle liberally with salt while still hot.
- Main Dish: Prime rib, w/Paula Dean's house seasoning. We actually just use a standing rib roast and call it prime rib - technically not "prime" but good enough. Thanks to living in the beef capital of the world (I just proclaimed that - wonder where it officially is?), we get really good beef at our local grocery store for really reasonable prices. Still, this dinner cost about $80 in meat alone, though we fed 8 people and had excessive amounts of leftovers. For comparison, a heat-and-eat prime rib dinner for 2 from our local grocery store costs $35 or $17.50/serving, so I think we came out a lot better than that. For some reason the roast took a really long time to cook, but the wait was worth it. The seasoning combines with the little bit of fat on the outside and makes this garlicky, crackly crust of goodness.
- Condiment: Horseradish sauce, inspired by Ina Garten's recipe here. I use the same ingredients as she does, but vary the quantities. This time I only used about 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and about 1 cup of sour cream, combined with about a tablespoon each of grainy and Dijon mustard, and about 2 tablespoons of prepared horseradish. The amounts are guesstimates, I just keep adding things until I like how it tastes. This year it was apparently the best it's ever been, since even my brother asked for the recipe and as far as I know he never even cooks.
- Dessert: Pecan pie and cranberry-apple crumble. My mom made the desserts and they were a hit, but I only tried the pecan pie. I almost didnt' get a chance since apparently people were snacking on it at lunchtime - good thing she made two. The pie was good but I was still so full I think my taste buds were on overload and didn't really enjoy it like they usually would.
All in all this was a really successful and tasty meal - definitely a good way to start off the year and hopefully we'll get to finish it in a similar fashion with the same dinner next Christmas!