Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Chili

Our menu plan got switched around a bit this week when I got a flat tire.  I had to go get it fixed on Friday while hubby was at basketball practice, so I had dinner with my mom and grandma and pushed Friday's dinner to tonight.
I'm sure I have said this before, but one of my favorite things about making chili is how quick and easy it is.  This time I just made my regular chili recipe, which is basically just using a packet of Lawry's chili seasoning, a can of tomatoes and a can of beans.  It's simple, tasty and hubby loves it.  It would be much cheaper to use my own seasonings, but the Lawry's mix is so good that we deem it to be worth the "splurge."
One tip I suggest is using fire-roasted tomatoes instead of just regular ones.  They have more depth of flavor.  Also, for hubby's sake I puree them in the food processor and it makes the chili really smooth, except of course for the chunks of beans and meat.
We always serve chili with cornbread, made from the Jiffy muffin mix box.  My mom and grandma were saying that they used to make their own cornbread but have come to the conclusion that the Jiffy mix is just as good and probably not much more expensive than the raw ingredients you would need to bake from scratch.
Here's my chili recipe, even though I've basically detailed it above:


1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 package Lawry's chili seasoning (I feel it's the best and that no other packaged mix can compare)
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, pureed until smooth
1 can dark red kidney beans

Brown meat in skillet, drain or pat dry if necessary.  Add seasoning, then beans and tomatoes.  Stir until combined.  Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes.

See told you it was crazy easy!


Estimated cost of meal

Beef: $1.50
Seasoning: $.89
Tomatoes: $.61 ($.86/can at Walmart, less $1/4 coupon)
Beans: $.92 (couldn't find on sale, usually can get for around $.75/can)
Corn bread mix: $.43
Egg: $.11
Milk: $.16
Cheese: $.15

Total: $4.77

Former life total: Dinner at Sonic: $14

Leaner Life Savings: $9.23 or 65%!!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Follow

Friday Follow
TGIF!  It's been a long week and I'm so happy the weekend is almost here! 

It's been a landmark week for me - I participated in my first Wordless Wednesday, then decided that I had trouble with the wordless part so I "invented" Talkative Thursday.

This is my 3rd week participating in Friday Follow and so far I've really been enjoying it.  Without it I wouldn't have discovered some really great blogs.  Before last week most of the blogs I followed were for deals, coupons, freebies & giveaways.  Now I have discovered that I can read blogs not just for informational purposes but for perhaps an even more important reason - to make me laugh! 

Here are a couple I found last week, one by randomly clicking around the list and one because she followed me!

Emily from emcogNEATO:  It's hard to categorize this blog but what I can say is that she is an amazing writer and has a very unique voice. When I found this blog I went back and read every single post - pretty much took up most of free time on Friday but it was worth it.  She cracks me up - and  even made me cry at least once.  I now look forward to her posts every day! 

Missy from Loving My Children's Gifts: This is not the type of blog I would normally read, but I followed it as a return follow and I am so glad I did!  Even though I can't necessarily relate to the stories about her kids, she is so funny and engaging I love to read about them nonetheless. 

What other wonderful blogs will I find this week?  I can't wait to see!  Thanks for stopping by!

MckLinky Blog Hop

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Jerk Chicken

I have been meaning to try to make jerk chicken for a while but could mostly only find recipes that were overly complicated and involved buying exotic ingredients.  This is why I was really excited to find this post on the blog "From Blah to Ta-Daa."  I actually had all the ingredients on hand except for lime juice, and I needed to buy a lime for the rice we had earlier in the week so it worked out perfectly!
Traditionally jerk chicken is made with scotch bonnet peppers, which are some of the hottest in the world.  This recipe was noticably void of anything with that kind of heat, but I added some red pepper flakes because I thought it might need some kick.  I wasn't able to marinate it for the 24 hours it suggested, instead it got about 10.  I'm not sure if that made a difference as the chicken was still very flavorful.  Hubby was skeptical but took one bite and said "this chicken is good" so I figure it was a success! 
He was disappointed in my choice of side dish though.  He said that as long as I was making rice I should have made red beans and rice instead of just the rice pilaf I served.  Sadly, what he doesn't know (or won't until he catches up on my blog posts) is that I didn't make the rice fresh - I used leftovers that were frozen from the last time we had rice pilaf.  I think that the chicken had so much going on that all the spices in the red beans and rice mix would have been too much, but we'll tackle that next time I decide to make this.

***Tip*** The marinade included brown sugar.  My brown sugar is perpetually in a state of giant, dry clumpiness.  I remember seeing somewhere once that you could add a piece of bread and it would soften the sugar.  Last night before bed I tried this and this morning when I went to make the marinade the sugar was all soft and the clumps were gone!  It worked - how amazing!


Estimated cost of meal:

Chicken: $1.20
Limes: $.75 (stupid freeze in Florida I think it drove up our lime prices astronomically)
Other marinade ingredients: $.50ish
Rice: Free (included in previous meal's total)
Bread: $.80

Total: $3.25

Former life total: Dinner @ KFC (still chicken): $13

Leaner Life Savings: $9.75 or 75%!!!

Talkative Thursday (?)

So I was thinking that Wordless Wednesday, though a neat idea, is really hard.  One of the main reasons for blogging is to have an outlet to blab all you want to whoever will read.  At least that seems to be a lot of people's reason. 
As I tried to sleep last night I had what I thought was a brilliant idea - a new blog meme that is a follow-up to Wordless Wednesday and would allow me to talk all I want, either about the picture from yesterday or whatever I so chose.  Anyone want to join me?   
Actually, it turns out this idea was so brilliant that someone else already thought of it, though they called it Tell Me Thursday.  It looks like only about 4 people participate, which is probably about as many that I would get so maybe I'm not quite the meme mastermind that I pictured. 
Regardless, since I can now use words, I wanted to post the companion to yesterday's picture.  These came from a trip to Puerto Vallarta.  At their zoo they let you play with the baby cats for a small fee of $10 (100 pesos) per person.  They also let you feed all of the other animals at the zoo and provide a bag of food for $5.  We fed monkeys, zebras, giraffes, camels, goats, toucans, wolves, coyotes, baboons, pigs, flamingos, probably more I'm forgetting, and the highlight for me, bears.  Turns out bears like peanuts.  And animal crackers.  It did seem a little strange feeding animal crackers to animals but it was still really cool.
On our first trip we held a two-month old jaguar and a one-month old lion.  I don't have those pictures handy but I might put them up someday
The second trip (a year later) we held the little angels pictured yesterday and below.  They are brother and sister but I can't remember their names.  It was really neat to hold a black one because they are so rare, though I suppose all jaguars are getting rare these days.
The reason I didn't put this picture up yesterday is because I hate the look on my face and couldn't defend myself without words!  But the cat is cute, so it's worth sharing anyway.

So apparently this isn't a good quality copy of this picture.  I'll try to update with a better one later, but I wanted to get this posted while it was actually still Thursday and semi-relevant! Fixed!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Steak Sandwiches

As annoying as she can be, and as wrong about the actual time it takes a normal person to cook her meals, I like Rachael Ray.  Her food is usually pretty good.  Tonight's recipe is in her cookbook called "365 No Repeats" or something like that.  Someday I will take a picture of what my copy of the book looks like.  Let's just say that it has seen better days, and I am so glad I now have a gas stove because electric ones stay way too hot.
Anyway, Rachael's recipe for these yummy steak sandwiches is for some reason hard to come by online, but thankfully my trusty google came through for me eventually and I found it here.  Of course, as is almost always the case when I cook her recipes, I changed a few things.
I used sirloin instead of flank steak.  I think I've mentioned this before, but it really bothers me that flank steak is considered a "cheap" piece of meat.  I've never seen it on sale and it costs at least $8/lb at my stores.  Sirloin is a fairly good piece of meat and I've gotten it on sale for as little as $2/lb. 
Even though I do generally cook about four portions just for the two of us (hubby eats a lot of meat and I keep my 2nd portion for lunch the next day), two pounds of meat to make four sandwiches is just ridiculous.  I used one pound and still had enough to make at least six sandwiches. 
Hubby wouldn't eat the onions, so I only cooked a small onion instead of two big ones.  I used about 1/4 cup of chicken stock instead of the 2 cups the recipe indicated.  It just didn't seem necessary to waste all of that liquid if you were just cooking it all off, even though I know it might have provided an extra depth of flavor.  Since I was the only one eating it, I was okay without that. 
Though it took me about an hour to finish dinner, the result was very tasty.  I overcooked the meat a bit, trying to make sure it was done enough for hubby, but the flavor was still fine.  The onions were really yummy.  I added some dijon mustard to my sandwich just for kicks. 
I served with Terra chips, not only because Rachael Ray always suggests them as a side dish to most of her burgers/sammies, but because I got them for free!  They were definitely more exotic and interesting than regular potato chips, but unfortunately they didn't taste that great.  The texture was a little weird and inconsistent with so many different types of vegetables.  They were okay but I'm glad I didn't have to pay for them.
Ideally this meal would have been great with a nice salad or some asparagus, since it was lacking in veggies and those seem like they would go with the French aspect of the dish.


Estimated cost of meal

Steak: $2
Marinade: $.75
Onion Mixture: $.50
Cheese: $1 (used provolone from Wal-Mart deli)
Croissants: $1 (on clearance at the Wal-Mart bakery since they were near their sell-by date!)
Chips: Free

Total: $5.25

Former life total: Lunch @ Andre's (they sell croissants, it's the best I can do): $32

Leaner Life Savings: $26.75 or 83%!!!

Wordless Wednesday: Good Kitty

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Pork Quesadillas

I decided not to take a picture of tonight's meal, since I realized that there were really no visual differences between pork quesadillas and the chicken quesadillas I have blogged about previously. 
This is the first time that I have attempted to make Mexican-style stewed pork and I think it turned out pretty well.  I put 2 lbs of pork shoulder in the Crock Pot and added a can of Rotel tomatoes w/green chiles, some water, garlic powder, chili powder & cumin.  It simmered on low for about 8 hours while I went to work.
When I got home I pulled it out and shredded it, then added some of the liquid from the Crock Pot and some salt.  It was tasty but not highly flavorful.  I think I could have made it more flavorful but adding the shredded meat back to the Crock Pot and simmering it for a bit, but I was afraid if the meat got too wet it would make the quesadillas soggy. 
As it was, it made a good quesadilla filling (would have been even better if I had some green chiles to add) but as hubby pointed out there's just not much to it on its own.   We had quite a lot leftover so we might find out soon how good it is as a chimichanga filling!
One of the best parts of this meal was how quickly I was able to pull it together.  I think I under-utilize my Crock Pot.  It really is such a wonderful thing to throw a few things in it in the morning and come home to have dinner almost ready. 
If anyone knows any great slow cooker recipes please pass them along.  Keep in mind that hubby won't really eat vegetables and I have an aversion to having to brown anything before putting it in the slow cooker as I think it kind of defeats the purpose.  I have a slow cooker cookbook and I swear 90% of the recipes involve browning.  Caramelization, schmaramelization.
My mom suggested I check out this blog but I haven't had a chance yet.  Think I might mosey on over there and see what I can find.  (Insert imaginary pause here as I go read this blog for a moment)...Guess what?  The most recent post is for Mexican pork!  If only I had seen that yesterday!  The citrus addition seems a little weird though.  I'll keep looking and maybe some of their recipes will show up on future Menu Plan Mondays.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday

I didn't have a very good week for mailbox freebies, so I'm including several other freebies I picked up at the store this week to make myself feel better.  Please forgive the photo quality (or lack thereof) as I was trying to take these pictures in a hurry this morning and used my cell phone to make it easier to upload.
Grr... can't get my bullets to line up properly!  I'm beginning to think learning HTML might be a good idea.

  • Magazines: Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Weight Watchers, Saveur

  • Samples: Yogi tea

  • Coupons: Beechnut $1 off (don't remember signing up for this)

  • Giveaway win: L'Oreal Mascara & Lash Serum from Saving Money and Living Life

  • Store freebies: 2 bags Terra chips & some fruit crisps from Babies 'R Us (chips were on sale 2/$2, used 2 coupons for $1/1, checker made mistake ringing up and only charged me $.01 for one bag, making the fruit crips free too), Fruit snacks from Price Chopper (on sale for $1, used $1/1 coupon)

  • Poster from Redwood Creek winery, as modeled by hubby (I actually got 2 but one was stuck in the package and I needed to get to work)
Please visit A Frugal Friend for more great Mailbox Monday finds!

Menu Plan Monday

My hopes to get back on track last week didn't exactly work out so well.  Maybe this week!  This could be a problem because I haven't been grocery shopping yet and I am about to make up a large part of this menu plan as I type.  We'll see how it goes!
  • Monday: Club sandwiches, chips
  • Tuesday: Mexican stewed pork quesadillas, rice & beans (carry-over from last week, still need to find a recipe)
  • Wednesday: French onion sliced steak croissant sandwich, some sort of potato
  • Thursday: Jerk chicken, rice pilaf 
  • Friday: Chili, cornbread
  • Saturday: Dinner out - our niece's birthday party is at 4:30 at McDonald's, so I'm assuming I won't come home right after and cook
  • Sunday: ??? Maybe the Chicken, bacon, ranch wraps I didn't make last week, but that's a lot of sandwiches in one week so we'll see.
For hundreds of other menu plans, visit!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Turkey Pasta

Please reference my original post about this meal for the recipe.  Since I've already talked specifics, I thought I would just share a couple of tidbits about this particular meal.
First, I made the biggest error I can make in hubby's eyes - I forgot to buy bread for this meal!  You'd think I ran over his cat or something (not that I haven't not-so-secretly wished for that to happen.)  I think my original plan had been to stop at the store quickly sometime late in the week and get bread and some other misc. items but I totally forgot.  He had to make do with some frozen rolls that didn't really go with the meal. I made some garlic bread out of a leftover hamburger bun for me, and it wasn't too bad.
Second, when we were making the menu plan this week hubby suggested turkey pasta.  This has always been one of our go-to meals but with this blog I feel a little more pressure to not keep repeating the same meals.  So, I resisted his suggestion and he reminded me that we could be like his grandparents who make roast beef every Sunday.  He said that if he wanted he could declare every Monday as Turkey Pasta Day and we would have to eat it. 
I was going to just ignore this comment and let it slide but a minute later he said, "I couldn't just declare it like that could I?"  Umm, no.  He could, but I would just ignore him. 
I realize that this story is probably funnier if a)told out loud and b)you know us personally and therefore get how funny it is to suggest that he gets to make demands like that. 

Giveaway Winner!

First, thank you so much to everyone that participated in my first giveaway.  It was so exciting to have so many people come visit, follow and comment.  I can't believe I almost made it to 100 entries!  Wow!  That is much better than I could have ever expected.
I hope everyone will continue to follow and that soon I can host even more great giveaways!
Now, for one lucky person, the best part...

Congratulations sunnymum, entry #16, you won!  I will be emailing you shortly and you will have 48 hours to email me back or another winner will be chosen. 
Thanks again to everyone that entered!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Biscuits & Gravy

Do you hear that sound?  Kind of like sludge moving through a pipe?  That, folks, is the sound of my arteries clogging.  Thanks to the magic of blog archives, I can tell that it's been exactly one month since I last made biscuits and gravy, which is good because at least we aren't eating it every week or two as hubby would like. 
Don't get me wrong - I like this meal too.  It's very yummy.  And very fattening, which I don't really need a lot of help with at the moment.  I might have tried to refuse to cook it tonight, but resistance is futile.  Why?  Well, there's this little thing called the Coupon Book.
I don't think I've mentioned the Coupon Book on my blog before, so I'll tell you about it.  You see, last November after I lost my job and got scared that we would end up penniless, I started couponing.  A little obsessively.  So much so that hubby jokingly referred to me as The Coupon Nazi. 
Along came Christmas, and I was feeling guilty that I couldn't get him as nice of gifts as I usually would.  My brilliant idea?  A play on the coupons, his very own coupon book!  Now, I didn't want it to be quite like the cheesy ones you see that say good for "one free kiss" or "one free hug" or anything like that.  I decided to try to make it my own.
Thus ensued a ridiculously time-consuming craft project that, well, pretty much looked like a craft project.  It took many hours on multiple days to complete, involving designing, cutting, gluing and even sewing - I used a sewing machine to make perforated pages so they'd be easier to tear out.
I was feeling dejected and stupid for getting myself into the whole thing, thinking that hubby would just think it was pretty dumb and make fun of me for spending so much time on it. 
Much to my surprise, he actually loved it!  Or at least pretended to in order to protect my fragile feelings.  Whichever. 
Anyway, I tried to come up with creative coupons for things that were specific to him.  One of these is a monthly "Biscuits & Gravy" coupon.  He has 12 of these puppies he can redeem any time he wants throughout the year.  Therefore, if he suggests biscuits & gravy when we are meal planning, who am I to argue?  I'm the one who gave him the coupons in the first place! 

The Coupon Book
The B&G Coupon (check out my mad clip art insertion skills)

Friday Follow

Friday Follow
Today marks my second week of participation in Friday Follow.  I had 12 comments on that post and several new followers, plus several entries into my current giveaway (still going on - ends tonight!)  With the combination of this event and the giveaway promotions I've been doing, I have gone from 1 follower to 27 in just one week.  I call that a pretty good success!
Now I just hope I can post interesting enough content to keep my new followers around!  Welcome to you all and I look forward to getting to know you better!

MckLinky Blog Hop

Reminder: Giveaway Ends Today!

For anyone who hasn't entered my Fiber One Gift Pack giveaway, there is still time!  It ends tonight at midnight Central time!  Remember that even if you have already entered you can still get an extra entry by sending out a tweet!

Click here to enter!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mardi Gras Party - The Main Event

I survived my first Mardi Gras party!  Though it wasn't a traditional or very crazy party, I do think it was successful.  Hubby's family seemed to enjoy the food and the kids had fun playing with the coins, beads and masks. 
I stopped at Party City and grabbed some Mardi Gras themed plates, cups & napkins.  Normally I wouldn't have gone to the expense, but I didn't want to use all of my sister-in-law's dishes.  They were 50% so for everything it was about $7.50 which didn't seem that bad for a party.

The Spread
The biggest hit foodwise was the jambalaya.  It turned out really well - I was pleasantly surprised.  I've never really had jambalaya before.  I do make this really great Rachael Ray recipe though called "Jambasta" which has the flavors of jambalaya but with pasta instead of rice.  Now that I have had jambalaya, I know that the flavor is really close to the real thing!  Zatarain's sent a recipe with my party pack that differed from the one on the back of the package and involved using more fresh vegetables.  I think this was key to making it not taste like it came out of a box.  We will definitely be making this again in the future.
The red beans and rice were okay, nothing spectacular.  I have made the Zatarain's mix for these before, so I knew what to expect. 
As I suspected, I ended up just not using the glaze I had made for the chicken (wish I had seen this version of the recipe as it only calls for half of the ingredients compared to the one they sent to me). I'm pretty upset about how terrible it tasted and what a waste of good ingredients it was.  It used up 2 whole cups of good orange juice and most of a bottle of honey, not to mention some fresh ginger.  I don't even want to think about how much it cost to end up just throwing it in the garbage.  Depressing.
Since the glaze wasn't usable, I just seasoned some chicken strips with the Zatarain's Creole seasoning and grilled them on my trusty George Foreman grill.
The dip was pretty tasty - the Creole mustard has quite a kick to it.  I served it with celery sticks and crackers.
Another big hit was the homemade root beer (though we didn't make floats).  The first response everyone (even me and I was making fun of everyone else who said it) was "it tastes like root beer!"  Of course it does, it is root beer!  I guess we were all just a little surprised that it tasted so much like regular root beer even though it was homemade.  In a blind taste test I don't know that I would have known the difference between this and a store-bought version.
Hope everyone had a safe and fun Mardi Gras!
Dessert (I didn't put a baby in the cake but a baby did try to put himself in)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mardi Gras Party - An Introduction

Happy Mardi Gras!  Do people even say that?  How about "laissez les bons temps rouler"!  I have never really been a big Mardi Gras person.  I'm not from New Orleans - though I went there once and it was crazy even when it wasn't Mardi Gras.  Interesting place - good for when you are young and single.  Hubby never went and I'm not sure I'll ever suggest he does!
Anywho, there is this website called House Party that partners with different companies and asks people to host parties centered around their products.  When I applied to host the Zatarain's Mardi Gras party, I did not think I would get accepted and I totally didn't think about the fact that Tuesdays are not a good night for us.  So, it was to my surprise and not-so-excitement when I was notified that I had been selected as a host. 
Hubby has basketball practice with his nephews and brother-in-law every Tuesday, and this week they are preparing for the post-season tournament.  His sister's family would have been a large part of my invitee list if this were not the case, so I decided maybe I could make the party work around their schedule.  Luckilly they were kind enough to let me bring the party to them!
So, tonight I will be travelling across town with all of my party supplies and food and setting up shop at their apartment.  Here's what I will be serving (mostly thanks to the food and recipes provided by Zatarain's):

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Taco Salad

Tonight was one of the busiest nights I've had in a really long time.  First, I worked a little bit late trying to make up some time after missing the morning taking my mom to the doctor.  Then, I had to go grocery shopping as I put it off yesterday during a freak snowburst (I didn't want to drive in the white-out conditions and I'm glad, because things like this were happening all around the area). 
After I got home I had to make dinner for tonight and also for tomorrow night's Mardi Gras party.  It was hectic to say the least!  I decided to swap out tonight's scheduled meal for one we were going to have later in the week because I thought that taco salad would take a lot less time to make.  Thankfully, it did!
I browned hamburger and seasoned it with a taco seasoning packet.  The directions on this particular packet (La Tiara I think - it was on sale) were really vague and said to add onion, but I ignored them and just added a little water instead.  Then I just let it hang out (Rachael Ray speak) for about 10 minutes while I gathered the rest of the ingredients.
Hubby just had his with lettuce, cheese and a lot of chips.  I had mine with all of that plus some leftover spicy pinto beans, sour cream and salsa.  It was really tasty and quick and just what I needed since I had so much work to do for my Mardi Gras dinner.


Estimated cost of meal

Beef: $1.50
Seasoning: $.50
Beans: $.50
Lettuce: $.10 (I got a crazy good deal on a package of Dole lettuce at Hy-Vee - on sale for $.99 less $.75 coupon=$.24 for the whole bag, only used about 1/3 for this recipe)
Chips: $.25 (I bought some Hy-Vee generic chips a few weeks ago for $.99 and we still had some leftover - actually one generic that I think I can live with, especially considering the savings vs. Tostitos)
Cheese: $.15
Sour cream: $.05
Salsa: Free (from winning game here)

Total: $3.05

Former life total:  Dinner @ Taco Bell (I actually love their taco salads): $12

Leaner Life Savings: $8.95 or 75%!!!

Mailbox Monday

My favorite part of the week is here!  I love seeing all the great freebies everyone got in the mail, and sharing my own.  Thanks to Debra at A Frugal Friend for hosting this fun event every week!
While you are here, please feel free to enter my giveaway for a Fiber One gift pack!
I totally forgot to add in the free pants we won from the Docker's Super Bowl promotion!  That was the best part! 

  • Weight Watchers magazine (random Nov/Dec issue, must be catching up since it's a new subscription)

  • Stimudent sample plus $.50 coupon (can't remember where this was from)

  • Celestial Seasonings green tea sample, from being a fan on Facebook & taking a quiz

  • Uniball Super Ink pen (still available here)

  • Bring Your Own Bag window cling to remind me to bring my reusable bags into the store! (here)

  • Ponds sample & coupon from vivemejor (good thing my original major in college was Spanish, I can mostly understand the packaging)

  • Giveaway win - Awesome chocolates and coffee from Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters, won from SavvyChicSavings

  • Rebate checks from Staples & Olay totaling $18.75 (resulted in free pens, a tape dispenser, almost free paper and a free bottle of lotion!)
Please visit A Frugal Friend for more Mailbox Monday fun!

Menu Plan Monday

Time to get back on track after way too much cheating on our plan last week.  I was selected to host a Zatarain's Mardi Gras House Party, so that should be interesting.  When I signed up I forgot that hubby has basketball practice on Tuesdays, so we will be bringing the party to his sister's so we can share it with their family before they all have to go to practice.
  • Monday: Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps, chips
  • Tuesday: Mardi Gras Party (Jambalaya, red beans and rice, cajun chicken, homemade root beer)
  • Wednesday: Eating out @ Jack Stack BBQ (we have a gift card from Christmas to use still)
  • Thursday: Taco salad
  • Friday: Biscuits and gravy
  • Saturday: Turkey Pasta
  • Sunday: Pork Quesadillas, beans, rice
For hundreds of other menu plans, check out!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Valentine's Day Steak Special

I had originally planned to make fondue for Valentine's Day, but we got off schedule this week and decided to move Saturday night's steak dinner to tonight. It's probably for the best as it really is one of hubby's favorites anyway, and he would have probably just been humoring me eating fondue. 
I season the steaks very simply with my favorite seasoning, garlic powder, kosher salt & fresh-cracked black pepper.  Then, because it was a special occasion, I went all out and sauteed them in a mixture of butter and olive oil.  I even warmed up the oil with a clove of garlic in it to turn it into garlic oil, but I don't know if I could really taste a difference from that. 
The steaks were served with canned corn (one of the two veggies hubby will agree to eat), sauteed mushrooms for me (also canned, I can't justify paying for fresh when I eat them alone and I put them in butter, lemon and garlic so anything would probably taste good that way), garlic cheese bread and sauteed potatoes. 
I posted the recipe for these potatoes in my New Year's entry, but I think it is worth doing again.  They are pretty much the best potatoes ever.  I might like them more than I do French fries.  Nah, probably not.  I know it sounds really simple and straight-forward, and it is, but the result is so delicious.  It's not exactly the healthiest thing in the world, but I find that acceptable on holidays.  There are only three ingredients, potatoes peanut oil and salt. 

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 quarter-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.


Estimated cost of meal

Steaks: $5
Potatoes: Free - leftover from Christmas & bought by my mom
Corn: $.50
Mushrooms: $.80
Bread: $1.10

Total: $7.40

Former life total: Dinner @ Pierpont's (maybe next year, one of the best meals I've ever had, steak or otherwise): $100

Leaner Life Savings: $92.60 or 93%!!!

Dinner Tonight: Weekend Update

For some reason the term "when it rains it pours" seems to be echoing in my head right now.  It was a really bad week for cheating on our home-cooked meals.  We went out once during the week and then again Friday and Saturday!  Plus we went to lunch today.  Bad Laura! 
My hubby can take part of the blame since he didn't feel like doing dishes on Saturday.  I came home feeling guilty after spending way too much money at Kohl's (but I saved $195!!!) and I asked if he was upset and he said he would be less upset if we could go out to dinner.  Counterintuitive but I agreed nonetheless.
On Friday we went to Sweet Tomatoes and had soup and salad buffet.  Friday nights they always have hubby's favorite - clam chowder.  It was pretty yummy and after our coupon wasn't all that expensive, though still $10 or so more than what we would have made at home.
Saturday we went to Jose Pepper's, our favorite Mexican place.  We even splurged on dessert, a Valentine's themed strawberry shortcake dish that I thought was pretty much a disaster, but hubby liked it.  Good thing too, since it could have probably fed about 6 people and he's still working on the leftovers.
Of all nights we didn't cheat and go out, I actually cooked our Valentine's dinner!  I'll post that separately since it's probably worthy of its own entry.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Follow

Friday Follow

I'm excited to be participating in my first Friday Follow, hosted by Midday Escapades, One 2 Try and Hearts Make Families.  Hopefully this will result in at least a few more followers, and perhaps some entries into my very first giveaway!

I stumbled upon Midday Escapades because she hosts great giveaways.  I will be looking around at the other two hosts sites later today, plus trying to follow a few more on the list and hope to find some great new blogs to add to my ever-growing list.

Happy Friday everyone!  Thanks for stopping by!

MckLinky Blog Hop

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Beef and Noodles

This meal is based on something that hubby's mom used to make for him when he was a kid.  He remembers it very fondly but she passed away when he was a teenager and no one had ever learned her recipes.  When we got married, he asked me to try to re-create the dish.  Since I never had hers, I don't know exactly how it compares but I think mine ended up okay.  The first time I made it he actually stopped in the middle of dinner to call his sister and tell her what we were eating! 
Tonight's attempt turned out pretty well.  For some reason I ended up with a really good piece of sirloin that cut really well and tasted even better. 
The meat was really flavorful and tender.  I think this due to the fact that it was a good cut of meat but also because I seasoned more than usual and I didn't cook it quite as much so it wasn't as well done and chewy.
I decided to use only half a bag of noodles since we usually have way too many leftovers, but it turned out I didn't use enough and it was a little too meaty.  Since he wanted more noodles, hubby ended up eating more than he usually does and there wasn't enough for leftovers.  Hopefully next time I can find a happy medium.
I served with green beans and biscuits, as I thought those would be good accompaniments to a nice old-fashioned comfort meal.

Beef and Noodles

1 lb beef sirloin, cut into bite-size cubes
1 Tbsp flour
Garlic Powder, Seasoning Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tsp olive oil
1 package (12 oz) Reames frozen egg noodles
2-3 cups beef stock

Coat beef in flour and season with garlic powder, seasoning salt and pepper.  Add 1 tsp olive oil to 3-quart stock pot over high heat.  Sear half of meat mixture in pan until browned on all sides.  Remove meat from pan, add remaining 1 tsp olive oil, brown remaining meat and remove from pan.  Whisk 1 cup beef stock into pan and stir to incorporate the bits of flour and meat from the bottom of the pan.  Add noodles and enough beef stock to cover.  Simmer about 20 minutes, adding additional stock as necessary to keep noodles covered. Add meat back to pan and simmer an additional 5 minutes.


Estimated cost of meal

Beef: $2.50
Seasoning: $.20
Noodles: $.25 (on sale for $1/bag, used $.50 coupon)
Beef stock: $.75
Green Beans: $.75
Biscuits: $1

Total: $5.45

Former life total: Dinner @ Waid's: $28

Leaner Life Savings: $22.55 or 81%!!!

**CLOSED** My First Giveaway: Fiber One 90 Calorie Chewy Bars Gift Pack

The time has come for my very first giveaway!  I am so excited to share the opportunity to try these Fiber One 90 Calorie Chewy Bars with my readers!
I received my gift pack over the weekend and it took me a few days to get around to trying the bars.  This morning I had one for breakfast and I thought it was pretty tasty!  I was expecting it to be a granola bar, but it was more like puffed rice drizzled with and dipped in chocolate.  My favorite part were the mini chocolate chips on top.  They added a nice texture and an added boost of chocolate, because you can never really have too much chocolate!

Here is the information that Fiber One shared about this product:

With a busy schedule that always keeps you on your toes, it’s not always easy to find a quick snack that helps you feel full and isn’t loaded with calories but still tastes great.
Luckily, there’s a new solution for you! New Fiber One® 90 Calorie Chewy Bars can help you satisfy your sweet tooth without sabotaging your diet or your daily routine.
Available in flavors you’ll love, including chocolate and chocolate peanut butter, Fiber One 90 Calorie Chewy Bars contain 2.5 grams of fat. In addition, each serving is packed with five grams of fiber (20 percent of the daily recommended fiber intake, according to the Institute of Medicine), which can help keep you full, making sticking to a diet easier.

Now, on to the giveaway!  One lucky reader will win the Fiber One gift pack pictured above.  It includes a box of Fiber One 90 Calorie Chewy Bars, a water bottle, a pedometer, a reflective bracelet and a booklet for tracking calories and exercise.

Main entry: Leave a comment about your favorite guilt-free snack.  Please leave your email address if it's not in your blogger profile.

Extra entries (please leave a separate comment for each):

  • Subscribe to my blog updates via email (top right of my sidebar)

  • Follow my blog through Google Friend Connect

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Tweet about this giveaway (can be done once daily, leave a link in your comment).  Sample tweet: "Enter to win a Fiber One gift pack from @llsleanerlife:"

  • Blog about this giveaway (3 entries, leave separate comments & a link back to your blog)

  • Leave a comment on one of my other blog posts

Thanks for stopping by and good luck to all of you!  Giveaway ends Feb. 19 at 11:59pm CST.  Open to residents of the US & Canada.  Winner will be randomly selected using

Disclosure:  Fiber One® provided me with information and a free gift pack through MyBlogSpark.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Turkey Burgers

Sometimes I can be a bit of a food snob.  One of those times is when it comes to pre-made hamburger patties.  Seriously, how lazy do you have to be to not make your own hamburger patties?  It's really not that hard, especially if you have one of these nifty (and cheap) little gadgets I got for Christmas.  I think that frozen, pre-made patties taste just like frozen, pre-made patties.  Blech. 
So, it was a little out of character for me last month when I bought some pre-made patties!  In my defense, they were fresh, not frozen, turkey patties from Jennie-O.  They were on clearance at Target since they were approaching their "use or freeze by" date.  They only cost $2/lb for four quarter-pound burgers, exactly what I would have made had I used my own turkey that costs around $1.50-$2/lb.  They were pre-seasoned with onion and garlic flavor, which sounded right up my alley, so I decided to give them a try.  I figured they would be a great, quick meal for a basketball practice night (these were originally scheduled for Tuesday but got pushed back due to my Smokestack daliance).
The good part?  Hubby said he was okay with chips instead of fries (which would have taken about 30 minutes for oven-heating and baking time), so dinner was ready in about 10 minutes!  As the burgers cooked I got out the toppings and decided to jazz mine up a little with roasted red pepper, feta cheese, and the basil mayo dressing leftover from the BLT salad I attempted a while back.  Hubby had his with some chipotle cheddar.  He didn't comment on what he thought of the patties, but I thought they were just okay.  The texture was a little strange, kind of rubbery.  I don't think we'll be trying the pre-made patties again, but they weren't bad and it was really cool to have things ready so fast!


Estimated cost of meal

Turkey patties: $2
Buns: $.90
Cheese: $.40
Veggies: $.50
Condiments: $.30
Chips: $.70

Total: $4.80

Former life total: Dinner at In-N-Out Burger: $11 (a girl can dream right?  actually, add about $400 for airfare to that)

Leaner Life Savings: $6.20 or 56%!!!

My New Obsession: Blog Giveaways

Back towards the beginning of my blogging adventure, I wrote about my addiction to free samples.  This is still going strong, as you can see here and here from all of the loot I've received.  Now I have moved up to a new addiction, blog giveaways!  To think that just a few months ago I had no idea they even existed. 
Basically (for those uninitiated like I was) there are bloggers that are given free items to review, then they are asked to blog about them and host a giveaway to offer the same item free to one or more of their readers.  Some of these giveaways get thousands of entries, while some have only a handful.  I think it all depends on how many readers the blog has, how they promote the giveaway and how desirable the free item is.  The more expensive an item, the more entries it tends to have. 
Each blogger has different requirements for how to enter their giveaway, sometimes you just have to leave a comment and other times you have to follow their blog, subscribe to their blog, become their Twitter follower, become their Facebook fan, blog about their giveaway...  The list goes on and on.  From time to time you might even see me post about one of the giveaways since blogging usually counts for multiple entries!
I am excited that I will soon be hosting my own giveaway for the first time!  In preparation for that I have added icons on the right side of my blog to follow me on Twitter, through Google or via email.  Sadly my followers list is still empty, but hopefully that will change soon!
Most of the giveaways I enter are found through linked giveaway posts, such as the Giveaway Gathering hosted every week by Deal Seeking Mom.
I have been entering giveaways since around the first of the year, and so far I have won 5 of them, which is an average of about one per week.  I'm not sure how many I have entered - probably more than I care to admit!  I was so surprised when I won my first one, but it spurred me to enter more and more and thereby fed my new addiction.  Here is a rundown of what I have won so far:

  • My second win was from Jolly Mom, where I won a Musicolor toy (there were over 300 entries in this one - which made me realize I needed to keep entering no matter how many other entries there were, I still had a good chance to win!)

  • My third win was a $50 Godiva card, courtesy of Shop at Home, won from Frugal Fritzie
  • My fourth win was a Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters gift pack of coffee and chocolate, from Jolon at SavvyChicSavings, who was even kind of enough to visit and mention my blog on her post! 
  • My fifth win, just received this morning, was from the Money Crashers New Years Giveaway Bash - they gave away over $9,000 in prizes and someone didn't claim their's so it fell to me, a 30-minute conversation with a personal finance consultant.  Of course I had hoped for one of the cash prizes, or one of the nifty tech gadgets they gave away (an Amazon Kindle is surely in my future someday), but I will try to make the most of this prize!  Maybe they will have even more ideas to help me live a leaner life.
Needless to say, I get so excited every time I win something!  I'm like a kid at Christmas, except now Christmas can last year-round! 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Asian Chicken Salad

See my previous post for details about this dinner.  There isn't really much to add to that, so this post will be short and sweet.  Tonight's version was delicious as usual.  There is a reason we keep making this over and over - it's yummy!  It's also pretty easy and quick to make, especially if there is leftover dressing from the last batch.  I'm even looking forward to having the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Smokestack

Sometimes the habits of my former life are just really hard to break.  Tonight, I gave into them and we had take-out for dinner.  This isn't the first time this has happened, and it probably won't be the last.  There were some contributing factors as to why I decided not to cook.
  1. French fries - the crispy, crunchy, delicious little devils.  They tempt me from afar.  Today at work someone had some - I never even saw them but could smell them wafting through the hallways.  Even when I thought I was going to cook dinner I had briefly considered stopping at McDonald's on the way home.  Why can't I resist them? 
  2. I worked about an hour later than usual. In my former life this was a normal occurrence, and of course in my former life I didn't cook for the greater part of two years, so the trigger of later hours let the old ways slip right back in. 
  3. I was tired and cranky.  Wait, am I always that way?  Not sure if that's a valid excuse.
  4. The kitchen was still dirty from last night's meal.  It wasn't that bad but I was frustrated because I thought I didn't have a clean cutting board.
So, with the combination of all of the above, we went to our old standby, the BBQ place right down the street.  I called in the order, waited a few minutes, went to pick it up and was back home to eat in less than 20 minutes.  Hubby was even frustrated that dinner was ready too early, since he had a plan for our TV watching for the evening.
It may be from a fry-induced delirium, but I have composed a Shakesperian soliloquy inspired by my beloved Smokestack:

O Smokestack, Smokestack, wherefore art though Smokestack?
Deny thy calories and refuse thy expensiveness
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love and I'll no longer live a leaner life

Ok, that's all I remember from the memorization exercise in 9th grade English.