Meal Planning Monday ~ Healthy Entertaining

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

When I ask people what their biggest roadblock is to eating healthy, many say it’s resisting temptation when at a party, event, or restaurant.  It’s definitely a challenge to eat healthy when someone else prepares the food and you have limited choices.  But I have been to parties at other people’s houses – people who I know are generally healthy eaters – and the buffet is full of unhealthy choices!  Do we think that entertaining has to include a smorgasbord of fat and sugar-laden treats?

Yes, it is possible to offer healthful and super-tasty choices when hosting your next event or party!  Last week, I hosted my first Ava Anderson Non Toxic party and Melissa, my nurse practitioner, was going to be in attendance.  Melissa has helped me clean up my diet quite a bit over the past couple months, so I felt challenged to apply what I’d learned and make sure the snacks I was offering to the ladies in attendance were both healthy and delicious!

My first snack was simple – a veggie tray loaded with organic baby carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers.  I chose an all-natural ranch dressing with no high fructose corn syrup or MSG (Newman’s Own is a good pick).

The ladies killed my second snack!  There were zero leftovers of the Greek Style Chips & Dip.  This one is so amazingly easy and tasty, you’ll be tempted to make it for every party and get-together you go to.

Photo Credit: www.KraftRecipes.com

 

Greek Style Chips & Dip

 

  • 1 pkg. (7 oz.) ATHENOS Original Hummus
  • 1 pkg. (4 oz.) ATHENOS Traditional Feta Cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cucumbers
  • 2 tablespoons sliced kalamata olives
  • ATHENOS Pita Chips Original

 

Spread hummus on the bottom of a glass 9-inch pie plate or similar sized dish.  In a bowl, combine the feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, and olives.  Spread the mixture on top of the hummus and serve with chips. I opted for the whole grain pita chips, and had a gluten free cracker option for dipping as well.  The great thing with this recipe is you can use different flavor options for the hummus if you so choose.

My final snack served for my party had to be something sweet – preferably chocolate to compliment the red wine the ladies were sipping!  I knew my “Healthy Candy” recipe would fit the bill… and I made it even healthier than usual by using dairy-free chocolate!  (Who knew there was even such a thing?)

Even Healthier Candy

 

  • 1 Package of Enjoy Life Mega Chunks
  • 1 ½ Cups of Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal
  • 1 Cup of Dried Cherries
  • ½ Cup of Walnut Pieces

 

In a medium bowl, microwave the chocolate on high for 1 minute.  Stir.  Microwave 1 more minute or until melted. (You can also do this on the stove top or in a double boiler).  Quickly stir in cereal, dried cherries, and walnuts until well coated.  Using a tablespoon, drop clusters on a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate for two hours or until chocolate hardens.  I store the candy in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  You can make this recipe gluten-free by using Rice Chex or another gluten free cereal.  And I must say, I am completely delighted and perplexed by the Enjoy Life products, the Mega Chunks especially.  How can anything be dairy, nut, soy, and gluten free and still taste so awesome?  (Bonus: Non-GMO!)  Judging by the lack of leftovers, I would say that my tasty treats were a big hit.

Still need inspiration for appetizers?  Another healthy entertainment option is homemade bean dip made with organic re-fried beans.  (1 can of beans + 1 cup of salsa.  Heat thoroughly and sprinkle with a little cheddar cheese if desired and serve with organic corn chips.)

What are your favorite dishes to serve that are both healthy and delicious when entertaining guests?

Meal Planning Monday ~ Meatless Alternatives to Backyard Burgers and Dogs

Today’s post is by Casey Lindberg-Coghill of Veggie and Glitter.

Summer is the season of baseball games, beach vacations, and of course, backyard barbecues. Even though sharing a meal with close friends and family on a warm summer evening is something that any of us would enjoy, it can be an incredibly stressful experience for those who have removed meat from their diets.

While most people wouldn’t think twice about tossing a pack of hot dogs or a few hamburgers onto the grill for a quick meal, vegetarians are often left stuffing their faces with baked beans, potato chips, or other unhealthy sides because there simply isn’t anything else available for them to eat.

Vegetarians, there’s no need to starve or stay at home during the dog days of summer. This week’s Meal-Planning Monday consists of cookout-appropriate meals that are big on nutrition and that are easy to whip up on a whim. With just a little bit of forethought, you can indulge in a savory and mouthwatering meal alongside your meat-eating friends at your next summer social gathering.

 

Sweet Potato Chickpea Burgers

Photo Credit: Jen of Peas and Crayons

If you’re anything like me, there’s no time that you despise frozen meatless patties more than during the summer months. When I first embraced a meatless diet, I would sneak a little frozen soy disc onto the grill and choke it down while my friends munched on flavorful burgers and hot dogs. I don’t mean to show disdain for frozen veggie burgers, but let’s face it: Any meal begins to taste absolutely terrible when you have it three times a week.

If I’m craving a burger or know that they will be served at a summer party, I now whip up a batch of homemade veggie burgers, which are much more satisfying than any store-bought variety I’ve ever sampled. This particular recipe is one of my favorites because of its unique blend of spices and the fact that it packs tons of protein and essential nutrients.

My meat-loving husband actually begs for these on occasion, so you may find that your non-vegetarian friends will love them as much as you do!

 Savory Corn Tart with Heirloom Tomatoes

Photo Credit: Casey of Veggies and Glitter 

One of my best summer memories involves sitting on the back steps of my childhood home with my sister, husking sweet corn gathered from my great-uncle’s farm. Not much has changed, as one of my favorite things about summer is the increased availability of fresh, local produce, especially sweet corn and tomatoes!

This delicious corn tart, topped with juicy heirloom tomatoes, contains simple ingredients and is a breeze to put together at the last minute and pop in the oven for only 45 minutes. Hearty enough to serve as a main dish for those who don’t eat meat, you could also bring it to a backyard barbecue for friends to enjoy as an accompaniment to whatever they are tossing on the grill.

Grilled Veggie Banh Mi Sandwiches

 Photo Credit: Kiersten of Oh My Veggies

I tasted my first Banh Mi sandwich when I decided to order one on a whim from a vendor at last year’s Southern Ground Music and Food Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. For those who may be unfamiliar with the concept, a Banh Mi sandwich has Vietnamese origins and typically consists of veggies, tofu, or cold cuts soaked in a vinegar-based marinade and served on a baguette.

While I personally loved the tofu-filled concoction I devoured in Charleston, this vegetarian version is more likely to sound appealing to those who would typically load up their sandwiches with meat, making it a great recipe to share with friends who unexpectedly show up on your doorstep. Because the veggies can be prepared on an outdoor grill, it would also be incredibly easy to serve this dish up as a vegetarian-friendly alternative to burgers or hot dugs at any backyard shindig this summer.

 

Three-Bean Salad with Quinoa

Photo Credit: Whole Foods Market

 A pile of fresh fruit, a leafy salad, or a handful of chips may be enough to get you through a cookout at a friend’s house, but it will leave you feeling starved and protein-deprived by the time you leave for the evening.

The next time you’re invited to a backyard burger party, bring along this chilled salad. Because it’s filled with protein, whole grains, and delicious veggies, you can enjoy it as a main entrée, while your buddies can enjoy it as a side.

To add even more essential nutrients to the dish, try cooking your quinoa in low-sodium vegetable stock instead of water and toss in any extra veggies you may have on hand!

Grilled Veggie Pizza

Photo Credit: Marie of Proud Italian Cook

 This recipe is the ideal solution when you’re in the mood for a weekend grilling party but you’re also having a hankering for pizza. Perfect for using up veggies from the farmer’s market that you may not have used throughout the week, this fresh summer meal takes only a couple of minutes to cook on your backyard grill.

In addition to running her wellness blog Veggies and Glitter, Casey Lindberg-Coghill is a freelance writer based out of Charlotte, NC.  Aside from being  a writer, Casey is also a huge bookworm and fashion enthusiast who has rather  unhealthy obsessions with Justin Timberlake and anything pumpkin-flavored.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Get Creative with Cauliflower

Today’s post is by Bee Mandelberg of Style Island.
As I get older, eating better and planning out my meals gets more and more important to me. In the old days as a single, social woman I would rely on take-out, a busy dinner social calendar, and a rotation of tuna fish sandwiches, pasta, and soup. Now, however, what I eat and when I eat is has become not only a focus, but a priority. I food shop and eat not for one, but for two now, and I love cooking for us… most nights. But thinking of what to make, and mapping it out can sometimes prove challenging. One of those biggest challenges can be figuring out how to provide variety in your meals. Ground turkey with vegetables is delicious, and boyfriend approved, but not exactly worthy of 5 nights of dinners. But, one of the simplest ways to create that variety is by exploring different ways to cook one food. A spin on an already tried and true success that performs both change and a twist. Case in point? Cauliflower. Not only a healthy option, but a delicious one, and easy to implement into any meal, even five nights worth of them!
Cauliflower Au Gratin
  • 1 head Cauliflower
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp flour
Roast cauliflower in oven at 400 degrees w/ olive oil, black pepper and salt for a few minutes. At same time, make sauce with all the ingredients in a pot and simmer. Pour over done cauliflower and put back in oven for 15 minutes until brown.

 

Cauliflower Potato Salad
This is my personal spin off on one of my favorite recipes from the South Beach Diet. I always have it in my rotation because it’s easy, healthy and delicious!
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt / pepper
  • paprika
Cook cauliflower until soft and put in a bowl. Mix with all the remaining ingredients and then sprinkle with paprika and lemon juice. Refrigerate for a few hours, serve cold.

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower

Cook cauliflower for  8-10 minutes until soft. On pan, cover in 2 tbsp Olive oil, 3 garlic gloves, salt, pepper, and lemon. Cook in oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until crispy.
Cauliflower & Turkey Meatballs
I bought pre-made turkey meatballs from Fresh Direct and cooked them with cauliflowers and tomato sauce for my own take on a hearty dinner.
Bee Mandelberg is a lifestyle blogger and writer at Style Island.
A New York City native, she adores rifling through her mom’s closet for vintage
clothes, pretending to be Parisian and obsessively watching horror movies. You
can find her carrying a Vogue in one hand, and a cappuccino in the
other.

Meal Planning Monday ~ The Dairy Debacle

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

If you’ve been following my Meal Planning Monday blog for any length of time, you know how much I love cheese!  So, you can imagine my dismay when my natural health practitioner told me that I was sensitive to dairy and if I wanted to see real improvement in my allergy symptoms, I need to cut way back on milk products.  (My biggest allergy is mold… and cheese is essentially moldy milk, so this definitely stands to reason.)

I was glad that my health practitioner recommended a gradual replacement of my dairy products with alternatives rather than going cold-turkey.  She had me keep a food diary so we could pinpoint potential problems.  The first week of keeping the food dairy was an eye-opening experience!  I didn’t realize how much dairy I was eating every day: half & half in my coffee, whey protein in my post-workout smoothie, a slice of cheese on my breakfast sandwich, string cheese for a snack, cheese on my taco salad for lunch, cheese on my turkey burger for dinner, and Greek yogurt for my evening snack.  Yes, that is a LOT of dairy on a typical day for me.  So, one by one, I’ve started replacing all of that mucus-producing dairy with other options.

 My coffee is extremely important to me and I like it to taste good!  I normally sweeten it with a little stevia or coconut sugar, add a dash of cinnamon or cocoa powder, and some half-and-half.  I began replace ½ of the half-and-half with vanilla coconut milk until I worked up to all coconut milk.  I also liked the chocolate almond milk as a coffee creamer, but my husband drank most of it because it is that delicious.

Finding a replacement for my protein powder was a little more challenging.  I’m doing Shaun T’s Insanity program right now, and I feel better post-workout if I have a good protein shake.  My stomach is sensitive to artificial sweeteners, so I had to find one that was whey-free and sweetened with stevia.  I finally settled on PlantFusion which is actually a vegan protein powder.  It is slightly grainy, but blended with a frozen banana and berries, it’s very tasty.

I’ll admit, I had a lot of heartache over finding a replacement for my favorite evening snack – Greek yogurt.  It took me a while to warm up to coconut “yogurt” (cultured coconut milk).  I also realized that I don’t HAVE to have yogurt as my final snack of the day.  I could have some berries, nuts, or a little bit of Enjoy Life’s dairy-free dark chocolate chunks.  Or… some of this awesome Cookies ‘n Cream coconut “ice cream”!

Here are some other things I’ve learned during this process of culling out dairy from my diet:

  • I’m not alone in my quest to avoid dairy.  As I’ve talked to friends about it, I was surprised how many others were avoiding  it because of allergies, stomach issues, or a desire to avoid added hormones.
  • Butter doesn’t affect my allergies at all!  Yay for butter!!  The one dairy product I can eat with almost abandon!  (Grass-fed, organic butter is best – which thankfully I can buy that at my co-op).
  • By putting turkey bacon on my egg sandwich – instead of on the side – I don’t miss having the cheese.  Also, using hummus or pesto as a spread on my sandwiches serves as a good replacement for cheese.
  • I feel weird about asking the waiter to “hold the cheese” when ordering in restaurants.
  • I wonder, “Is it possible to OD on coconut products?”  I hope not!

Do you have any food allergies?  If so, what do you do to avoid your triggers?

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ 4th of July

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Summer is my favorite season, and 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays!  What better way to celebrate America’s birthday than with exploding fireworks and great food!  This year my husband and I carry on the tradition of celebrating the 4th of July with our good friends.  Their fireworks show rivals the professional ones put on by the local cities.  So while the guys are bonding over the impending pyrotechnics display, the ladies are in the kitchen “oohing and aahing” over the delicious dishes lining the dinner buffet.  This year, I’m bringing a twist on traditional potato salad, Southwestern Potato Salad.

Whether you are hosting the 4th of July festivities this year, or bringing a dish to someone else’s party, my blogger friends and I have banded together to give you some patriotic dessert inspiration.  No doubt, your friends and family will be “oohing and aahing” over your contribution to America’s birthday celebration!  There’s also a patriotic jewelry craft tutorial for those of you want to add and a red-white-and-blue touch to your outfit.

Strawberry Kool-Aid Pie

 Check out this easy and patriotic pie from Cyndie Norell at Reviewz & Newz! Who wouldn’t love a slice of this great-tasting pie?

 

Patriotic Strawberries

 If you’re short on time, but still want to wow everyone with your 4th of July dessert contribution, whip up a batch of Amy Desrosiers’ Patriotic Strawberries!  With berries being in peak season right now, these are sure to be delicious.

 

Patriotic Star Chocolate Cupcakes

 Another great dessert recipe from Amy Desrosiers’ other website, SizzlingEats.com!  Kids and adults alike will love these All-American cupcakes.

Red, White, & Blue Earrings

Feeling crafty?  Learn how to make these earrings in a jiffy from Rachel Furlong of The Philosopher’s Wife.  A great finishing touch to your 4th of July party outfit!

What are your plans for the 4th of July this year?

Meal Planning Monday ~ Grillin’ Favorites

This week’s post is by Rose Siders of An Exercise in Frugality.

Summer is FINALLY here!  Ok maybe not quite yet, at least not officially, but in my house, Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff to summer. And you know what summer means? GRILLING!

This is our first year in a house where we can actually have a grill. All the apartments we lived in previously, we either couldn’t have a grill at all, or it was only allowed at the end of the driveway (so inconvenient when your apartment isn’t attached to your garage!). So this year, I begged…nay…I insisted that we would get a grill as soon as possible.  We didn’t have the money to spring for one of those fancy ones, so we got the little $20 table top version.

Now, grilling goes far beyond just plain ol’ burgers and hot dogs. Sure we all enjoy a barbecued frank or brat every now and then, but grilling is so fun and so flavorful, sometimes you gotta just branch out and try something new and unexpected!

I discovered Sriracha the other day. I know, I am totally late to the party as usual. I was at a restaurant and they had a Sriracha burger and I was curious, so I tried it. I loved it so much, I went out and bought a bottle of Sriracha and have been looking for different recipes to use it in. I thought a nice sweet flavor would pair well, so I got to tinkering and I came up with a version of a Honey Srirarcha Glaze that I wanted to share!

You can do this glaze on chicken breasts, legs, wings, or you can do like I did and do kebabs. I was feeling like a spicy yet sweet Asian vibe and so I went with chicken and shrimp. MAN were the shrimp spectacular!

If you like the spice, let’s turn up the heat!  For the kebabs, choose what you like. Mine were chicken, shrimp, mushroom and red pepper, but you can change the contents to what suits you. Sriracha is pretty versatile.

 

For the glaze:

5 Tbsp butter
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup Sriracha sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp lemon juice
dash pineapple juice
sesame seeds (optional)
1 tsp ginger (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Fire up the grill, and while it’s heating up, assemble your skewers. If you’re using wood skewers, don’t forget to soak them in water for 20 minutes before using them on the grill or they will burn.  Arrange your skewers on the grill, and brush liberally with the glaze. For extra heat, turn over and brush the other side too.

These turned out so yummy, but a warning that the mushrooms REALLY absorb the spice, so expect those to be spicier than the meat. Wooooh! I love the spicy, sweet, Asian infusion vibe from these spicy skewers. Play around with the meat and vegetables too for endless options. This recipe would also be great on chicken legs and wings!

If spicy isn’t your game, I totally understand. Here’s a few other great grilling recipes that I enjoy:

Grilled Pineapple Porkchops

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Corn

Paleo Chipotle-Lime Chicken Kebabs

Grilled Peaches with Vanilla Cream and Walnuts

The thing I love about kebabs, is the inclusion of vegetables. Not only are they healthy, but often veggies like mushrooms are inexpensive and can stretch your meat further. So rather than everyone just filling up on expensive beef, you get more mileage out of your meat, and the flavors meld beautifully on the grill. It’s a great way to stretch your budget, AND get your family to eat more healthy veggies. Vegetables like zucchini, various bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, and even asparagus would be excellent when used as a part of your kebabs. Use whatever is in season at your local market for the best bargain!

What’s your favorite go-to grill meal?

Rose  Siders is no stranger to pinching pennies. She writes her blog An  Exercise in Frugality as a way to teach others how to get more while  spending less. When she’s not blogging, she can usually be found  cooking, playing video games with her husband, or spontaneously  crafting.  You can find An Exercise in Frugality on Facebook and Twitter.

Meal Planning Monday ~ It’s Picnic Time!

This week’s post is by Kim Bergeron of Extreme Coupon Professors.

It’s Picnic Time! Summer starts with a bang – heading to friends’ houses for BBQs, congregations lining up church picnic outings, and my husband’s company puts several picnic outings together over the summer. What do all these have in common? Yummy food, of course, with good friends.

Certainly, you know almost every picnic will have your traditional burgers, chips, salads and watermelon, but I wanted to come up with a few different and memorable dishes you can bring along with you!

Now, my first picnic dish is our Black Bean Salsa. It’s a simple recipe that is so tasty with chips, over chicken, or for a side. We’re asked at every outing for the recipe, so now we bring recipe cards for friends to take with them.

Does anyone bring brownies and cookies to picnics? Well, here we have a recipe that is a brownie cupcake with a cookie surprise. Every kid loves these at picnics! Top them with frosting and a cherry for a sweeter look.

My new favorite outing dessert is our pies in a jar. Yep, make individual pies in  canning jars. I stock up on pie filling so everyone has their favorite pie. These are so cute, easy and everyone will be impressed!

We have a large family and when we go off for the day I pack our food most of the time. One thing we purchased secondhand was a tailgating grill. This past weekend we went to the mountains one day and the ocean the next. There’s nothing like a Tailgating Picnic- eating hot BBQ chicken and steak by the beach, especially when the people next to us are having PB&J.

Here’s a twist on chocolate covered strawberries, another picnic dessert that will vanish before your eyes. I simply melt the chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until it’s all melted. Then I roll my strawberries in the melted chocolate, then in crushed toffee. (You can find crushed Heath bar in a bag in the aisle with the chocolate chips.)   I make an extra batch and leave them at home-this makes my family very happy!

The fun thing about picnics and BBQs are that you don’t have to limit yourself to the boring basics. Be creative and have fun!  Watch for more delicious picnic recipes in my Picnic Series.

I’m a wife, mommy and a lover of life enjoying everything from playing board games to cooking to traveling. Finding deals for our family has allowed us to do the fun things in life with enjoyment and less stress. When I find a deal I’ll always share it on
my blog,
Extreme Coupon Professors. Hop on over to see all the ways to save!

Meal Planning Monday ~ Splurge Meals

This week’s blog post is by Heather McCurdy of Real: The Kitchen and Beyond.

Every frugal meal plan needs a splurge here or there. This week I want to share some splurge meals we love and how we still keep them budget friendly, or relatively so. We like to plan a gourmet meal every week that costs a little more but still has a frugal trick or two.

This week I am going to do something big and share my favorite splurge meal that I recently pulled out of the archives of my memory. In the 8 years since I started creating this dish it has always gotten rave reviews and I HAVE NEVER SHARED IT. This is your lucky week and you cannot fail to see why as you read on. I use cheddar when I am making potatoes with this meal, and mozzarella when I am making pasta.

chicken ricotta with asparagus

Chicken Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 – 15 ounce ricotta
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 slices bacon (we use beef)
  • 8 ounces cheddar or mozzarella, shredded
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Dice garlic.
  • Thinly slice chicken into tenders.
  • Fry bacon, set aside on separate dish but leave grease in pan.
  • Add garlic and chicken to bacon grease.
  • Saute until chicken is almost cooked through. I usually have to do this in 2 batches so I use half the red wine vinegar for each pan.
  • Add red wine vinegar.
  • Finish cooking and transfer chicken, garlic, and drippings to a baking dish.
  • Cover chicken with ricotta.
  • Sprinkle shredded cheese over top.
  • Crumble bacon and sprinkle over top cheese.
  • Bake until cheese is melted.
  • Serve over pasta or with potatoes.

Serves 4 adults or 2 adults and 4 (younger) kids.

Tips to Make ‘Gourmet’ Chicken Frugal

  • Slice the chicken smaller. Chicken tenders or thinly sliced stretches farther as people tend to eat less, which is actually a healthier thing.
  • Serve with a simple pasta, rice, or potatoes.
  • Buy your cheese and ricotta when it is on sale, or with a coupon. Either can be frozen before using. Mix ricotta well after thawing.
  • Buy bacon on sale and freeze it until ready to use.

White Fish and Roasted Pepper Salad

White Fish and Roasted Pepper Salad

We know fish is a healthy addition to our diet and we all love it. The problem is that it can get quite expensive. I like to find recipes where I can add fish but make a smaller amount stretch farther. A great way we get fish into our diet is with this White Fish and Roasted Pepper Salad. It is the perfect quick and easy meal since it only takes 15 minutes on the grill, and is very light, refreshing, and healthy. Hello summer and hello frugal.

Tips to Make Fish Frugal

  • Buy your fish pre-frozen. Just double check the ingredient label to make sure there are no weird ingredients like carbon monoxide. Yeah, really. I prefer wild caught so I really buckle down and only buy on a sale.
  • Whole Foods has some of the best prices for high quality wild caught fish. Many times it is flash frozen and cryovac’ed which makes it fresher than being shipped in fresh.
  • I love to plan this meal when there is a good sale on green salad mixes.
  • Skip store bought dressings and make your own if you don’t want to go the route of the simple lemon dressing.

Black Bean and Salsa Meatloaf

Black Bean and Salsa Meatloaf

Oh beans, beans, beans. They get the short end of the stick in our house, but finally I am winning the family over. A favorite way we eat them is actually mashed up and mixed into Black Bean and Salsa Meatloaf. You can say YUM again. Pair this meatloaf with rice or potatoes and a vegetable for that perfect and frugal comfort dinner. Make sure you keep the meat lean as you will lose less volume in cooking. A can of beans is cheaper than a pound of ground beef.

Tips to Make Meatloaf Frugal

  • Substitute 1 pound of ground meat for 1 can of black beans, drained and mashed.
  • Buy salsa on sale.
  • Buy ground meat on sale and freeze. Sales on ground turkey are sometimes the best. I buy those trays and throw them straight in the freezer.

Bean Burritos

Bean Burritos

Dinner on the run never looked so simple. In this Bean Burrito recipe I give tips on prepping ahead of time so that evening sports rush doesn’t involve a drive thru. My bean burritos are so easy and so good my kids asked for them again two days later. Oh, and they love it with the avocado. That’s a win for me. Plus using beans means that you can still get protein without the meat and without the expense of meat.

Tips to Make ‘Fast Food’ Frugal

  • Buy your rice on sale and with a coupon.
  • Buy beans on sale and stock up or buy the dried and bagged beans and pre-make then throw in the freezer.
  • Plan this meal when you see avocados are on sale.
  • I keep it easy by using pre-washed lettuce. I love buying the organic bags of lettuce at Whole Foods when they are $2 a bag. Burritos for dinner then leftovers for a taco salad the next day for my lunch.
  • Buy cheese on sale and freeze.
  • Buy salsa on sale and with a coupon.
  • Buy or make your own tortillas or wraps.

Chicken Cheddar Ziti

Chicken Cheddar Ziti

We love our pasta. This is a favorite dish when we have leftovers. I will use chicken sausage, leftover chicken, or cook a few extra drumsticks just so I can make this dish and pop it in the freezer for a busy day. Using leftovers to create another meal is one of my favorite frugal food tips. Chicken Cheddar Ziti is a meal my family can eat any day and changes up the traditional pasta dish just perfectly.

Tips to Make a Freezer Meal Frugal

  • Buy pasta on sale. Keep an eye out for coupons and match the sale with the coupon for free or almost free pasta.
  • Buy cheese when it is on sale. I like to freeze it if I get a great deal. It isn’t greatest for eating after frozen but works just as well in cooked dishes.
  • Use a few chicken sausage links, leftover chicken, or boil chicken drumsticks then strip the meat off them.
  • This dish works with just a little sauce but buy it when it’s on sale and stock up or make your own.
  • I watch for ricotta to be on sale and if I have a coupon, even better. I stash the ricotta in the freezer and then thaw and stir well before using.

Who says eating frugal has to be boring or from the box? You just have to get creative with your ingredients, and you can eat like a frugal gourmet. What’s your favorite gourmet meal? How are you going to ‘frugal’ it up?

Heather writes at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond where the food is (mostly) real and the making’s easy. She believes any one can cook. Just follow the steps, starting at #1. Read, follow, taste, venture out. Don’t be afraid to fail, then try again. Her other hats are homeschooling, editing fiction, ghostwriting, and culinary marketing. Oh, and she believes life is always better with dessert.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Best of Summer

 

Happy Memorial Day!  Much love and respect to our troops, past and present, and to the families of our fallen soldiers.

I know that the official first day of summer is June 21st, but for me the start of summer is Memorial Day weekend.  Everyone is out manning the grills, mowing the lawns, and opening the swimming pools.  So I thought I would highlight some of the “Best of Summer” Meal Planning posts so you can make sure your summer meals are both easy and tasty.  Here are some of my favorites!

 

Save Big, But Still Impress, at Your Summer BBQ ~ How to have an awesome BBQ without breaking the bank!
Favorite Picnic Side Dishes ~ Inspiration for your side dishes to accompany your burgers and hot dogs!
Keeping It Cool in the Kitchen ~ Get tips for cooking great summer meals without heating up the kitchen.
Summer Desserts ~ A round up of sweet, cool treats for hot, sticky days!
I am an Ice Cream Evil Genius!  For those of you with an ice cream maker, don’t miss these delicious recipes.
Happy Campers ~ Great recipes for your summer camping trips.
Summer Fun ~ These aren’t recipes to eat, but for fun activities to keep your kids occupied and happy all summer!
What are  your best tips for successful meal planning during the summer months?

Meal Planning Monday ~ From the Garden

 

This week’s post is by Sheri Ann Richerson of The Experimental Homesteader.

Growing a garden is a great way to save on your grocery bill and eat the freshest produce possible. The fresher the produce is, the more nutrients it contains thus the healthier it is for you. Fresh produce from the grocery store – at best – is several days old. Farmer’s markets are a good source of fresh produce if you can’t grow your own, but sometimes even that produce was picked a day or two before market day.

Growing a garden is simple if you start right and that means starting with the soil. Healthy soil is essential to growing good produce full of nutrients. It doesn’t matter if you grow your produce in containers, in the ground or in raised beds.  Start with buying organic soil meant to grow vegetables in or enrich the soil in your garden with three inches of compost before you plant.

Set up a rain barrel or hose in the area you are growing your produce in. Plants typically need an inch of water a week to thrive but this does vary according to the plant and weather conditions. For those who have never grown a garden before, start simple. A single tomato plant, a few radishes and some lettuce are all you need to grow a simple salad garden – and you can do this in a container. Other easy-to-grow crops include green beans, cabbage, green onions and most salad greens.

Monday ~ Two Pea Sauté with Basil, Parmesan And Sesame

I like this recipe because it allows me to use smaller amounts of snap and snow peas. Often early in the season my plants simply don’t produce enough of the two combined to make a side dish. This dish is a great way to use some of the extra basil you’ve harvested. The sesame seeds add an unexpected crunch that is delightful – and you can grow sesame in your garden. I like to pair this recipe with pork chops.

Tuesday ~ Spicy Flat Italian Beans

My mouth is watering just looking at this recipe. It is that good.  I often visit a Farmer’s Market in a nearby city because I have the opportunity to buy grass fed, non-GMO meat. The man I like to buy my meat from was selling these beans. I had never seen them before and struck up a conversation with him. He explained to me these were a great substitute for green beans and cooked up in about 10 minutes. I was sold and bought some. I came up with this recipe because I like spicy food.  Try it paired with beef or alter a  stir-fry recipe to use the beans in.

Wednesday ~ Cooking Kale & Swiss Chard

I hear it a lot – what do you do with kale or Swiss Chard. You can eat it raw in a salad. You can cook it a lot of different ways but some recipes are just bland. After numerous attempts at cooking both kale and Swiss Chard, I finally came up with this recipe – and I love it. Both of these vegetables are really good for you and while some people disagree with cooking either kale or Swiss Chard, this is my go-to recipe.

Thursday ~ Fresh Garden Salad with Herbs & Flowers

Salad is plentiful during the summer months. With a bit of protection, lettuce and a number of other greens will grow year-round even in my Indiana garden (USDA hardiness zone 5/6). During the spring, summer and fall there are so many ways to add flavor and color to a salad. Edible flowers such as dandelions, violas and rose petals add so much color not to mention vitamins and other essential nutrients. Toss in some herbs such as dill weed or basil and the taste really pops. Of course don’t forget standby favorites such as fresh fruit, nuts, meats and cheese. In fact, once your salad is made you might even realize you don’t need as much salad dressing because you would rather enjoy the taste of the salad.

Friday ~ Easy Coleslaw from the Garden

Coleslaw and fried chicken are the perfect summer meal. Nothing compares to the taste of homemade coleslaw. It is worth the effort of growing the produce and making the slaw even though the process is kind of messy. Watch out for those little white butterflies in your garden if you grow cabbage and if you start seeing holes in it, simply sprinkle some food grade diatomaceous earth on top of your cabbage. That will solve the problem.

Saturday ~ Grilled Bacon Wrapped Corn with Lime and Dill

Wrapping bacon around corn-on-the-cob might seem odd but it gives the corn a wonderful taste and keeps it moist. Be sure to prepare the lime and dill butter in advance. In fact you can make the butter and freeze it to save time. Then all you have to do is put pats of frozen butter on the corn before wrapping it in bacon. I have found that using thick sliced bacon produces better results than the thin bacon you normally see in the stores but either will work.

Sunday ~ Baked Maple Bacon Green Beans

I love this recipe. It might not be the healthiest, but once in a while that is ok. This is a great recipe to take to family reunions or church pot luck dinners, but be prepared to be asked for the recipe. You might even find people like it so much that you are asked to make this recipe every time there is a get-together. Fresh green beans, thick sliced bacon and real maple syrup are the keys to making this recipe taste great.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of fresh green beans
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 4 to 6 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Bacon

 

Directions:

Begin by rinsing the fresh green beans off under cold running water. This is necessary to do because sometimes faded green bean flowers, dirt or bugs are stuck to the outside of the bean.  Once the green beans are clean, snap off both ends. Some people prefer not to do this, but I like to. The decision is yours. Just make sure no stems remain on the beans.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

The next step is to gather five to eight green beans into a bunch.  Wrap the bacon around the green bean bundle one time making sure to slightly overlap the bacon ends.  I used kitchen shears to cut the bacon at this point. I was able to wrap three bundles of green beans using one slice of bacon.

Lay the bacon bundles in a baking pan that has edges with the bacon ends facing the bottom of the pan.  If you wish, you can lay extra slices or chunks of bacon over the top of the green bean bundles at this point.

Melt one stick of butter – or if you are using homemade butter, melt 1/2 cup of butter. Be sure to measure it un-melted.  Pour the melted butter over the top of the green bean bundles.  Drizzle maple syrup over the top of the green beans. The maple syrup does sweeten the green beans and next time I am going to try this recipe without using the maple syrup.  Sprinkle salt, pepper or your other preferred seasonings on top of the green bean bundles.

Place the green bean bundles into the pre-heated oven. Do not put a lid or foil over them.  Cook for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven up to 400 degrees F and cook for 10 to 15 minutes longer. This will crisp the bacon and make it delicious.

Sheri  Ann Richerson is a leading pioneer in the self-sufficiency movement.  For the past 19 years she has been living, teaching, and promoting  organic gardening, natural health and self-sufficiency through all forms  of media. Her bestselling books include “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To  Year-Round Gardening,” “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Seed Saving &  Starting” and “101 Self-Sufficiency Gardening Tips.”

For more information, please visit her writing website at SheriAnnRicherson.com, her gardening and homesteading website at experimentalhomesteader.com or subscribe to the Experimental Homesteader podcasts on iTunes.