Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Taco & Nacho Night

Taco Night

With Cinco de Mayo being this week, guest poster Kim Bergeron of Extreme Coupon Professors bring us some Mexican flair to add to May’s meal plan.  Here’s what she has to say:

Am I the only one who goes to a restaurant, reads the menu and says, I’m going to try making this next week?!  Well, once in awhile I do and with great success when the family loves what I bring to the table.

This week we brought our taco dinner up a couple of notches. We do have a large family, so quite often we need triple the amount. I came across taco casserole kits, which comes in handy on a busy night, but I wanted to add more to the table.

Recently, I was away in Mexico and had shrimp salsa. I had it twice a day, it was so amazing. Tonight I picked up a mild salsa seasoning packet and mixed it in a bowl with 4 chopped tomatoes and 1/4 of cup of red onion.( I can’t wait for summer garden tomatoes!) I added 1 cup of cooked medium shrimp to the mix. I sliced up an avocado and served a bowl of multi-grain scoops to go with the shrimp salsa. YUM! I was back in Mexico.

Chicken Nachos

One night I was able to meet a friend for dinner and we had chicken/feta nachos. Perfect for me to add to my taco night and it’s a huge favorite. I make the basic nacho which consists of the chicken, cheddar cheese and feta. Everyone has different likes and dislikes so I offer the black olives, peppers and onions on the side for anyone to add. It was a nice change-up and everyone enjoyed it!

As always, tweak the recipe to your liking! Use ground turkey, sliced steak tips, and/or ground chuck. Something so simple, changes the menu and you don’t feel like you’re having the same thing all the time. There is no right or wrong.

I have a couple other easy Mexican recipes that I like. One of them is from the Food Network site here!  I often like to have a side of rice and have found this recipe super easy and quick.

Recipes are endless, but I really have been enjoying looking at restaurant menus and seeing what I can put together that is easy and tasty!

Next week on our menu we’re having a Pizza Bar night! I’ll have to share that with you next time! It’s fun and everyone can have their favorite crust and toppings.

Enjoy these great Mexican favorites for Cinco de Mayo or your next Taco Tuesday dinner!

Kim Bergeron and family

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!

 

Welcome to the Dark Meat Side

 

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

 

 

 As a kid, I always wanted to eat white meat chicken.  However, as an adult, I have come to appreciate the virtues of dark meat.  First of all, chicken thighs and legs are cheaper per pound than chicken breast meat.  I stock up on boneless chicken thighs at Sam’s Club whenever I go.  I have found that dark meat doesn’t dry out the way that white meat does, especially when using the crock pot, because of its higher fat content. Despite this fact, recent research has shown that dark meat is actually very healthy for you. I guess you can say that I have officially gone over to the dark meat side!  Today, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite dishes made with boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

 

 

My stepsister, Leah, turned me onto this recipe for Chicken Taco Bowls.  I use thigh meat to make this in the crock pot.  It is a super easy recipe – and very versatile!  You can use this as taco or burrito filling, serve it over brown rice as I usually do, or use it as a nacho topping!  The leftovers – if you have any – freeze and reheat really well.  This would be a good candidate for cooking a double batch and stocking the freezer.

 

 

I frequently make my Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore with frozen chicken thighs, even though the original recipe calls for chicken breasts.

 

 

If you are a fan of wine, try my Tuscan Red Wine Chicken Thighs which can be baked in the oven – or even better – grilled! I like to serve them with wild rice and garlic roasted asparagus.   In fact, just writing about this recipe is making me crave them!  I may have to rearrange this week’s meal plan so I can fit them in.

 

 

When I am feeling lazy in the kitchen, I will toss four frozen chicken thighs in the crock pot with a bottle of BBQ sauce.  If you’re concerned about all of the corn syrup and other additives in the store bought varieties, try my healthy and delicious homemade BBQ sauce.

 

 

What about you?  Have you gone over to the dark meat side?  If so, what are your favorite recipes that use dark meat chicken?

Meal Planning Monday ~ The Fruits of Summer

 

Today’s post is written by Kim Bergeron of Extreme Coupon Professors.

Summer certainly brings different meals to our table than at winter time. I love using fresh fruits and veggies whenever I can. They’re easily at our disposal and if we are buying them at the stores, they’re at a much more reasonable price.

I’m going to start with a simple blueberry muffin recipe. This recipe is different than any other kind I’ve made. The key ingredient is sour cream. You’ve got to try them, they’ll be a hit in your home as they are in ours.  My sister-in- law raves over these muffins, so I just had to try them! Yep, she’s right! So moist and delicious. It’s a keeper!

Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins

Ingredients: 

2 1/2 Cups of flour + 1 Tbsp for dusting the blueberries
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of butter, melted
1 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of plain sour cream
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon or orange zest
2 cups of blueberries (If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw)

Directions:

Place blueberries in a bowl, sprinkle 1 Tbsp of flour and gently coat.
Preheat over to 400

In a large mixing bowl, place sour cream sugar, eggs, milk, melted butter, zest and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time. Mix until blended. Mixture will be thick. 
Gently fold in blueberries.

Place liners in muffin pans or grease generously.
Fill muffin cups to the top, it will not spill over. ( I like to sprinkle my muffins with coarse sugar before baking)

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-22 minutes.

Let cool and enjoy!!!

Recipe made 18 muffins.

 

Another breakfast recipe that I made over the weekend was Peach Stuffed French Toast. I’m telling you now, you’ll want to make this quite often and it probably won’t be for just breakfast.  I found this recipe in our local grocery store magazine, called Fresh Magazine, and I made a few changes to it to suit my taste.

The filling had just the right cream cheese and sweetness consistency. Though the recipe says it serves 4, we served 6. Certainly, you could add more filling to each serving, but I think it would have been too sweet and gooey for me. The recipe called for white peaches, but the Georgia peaches were on sale, so you know we went with those. I used 3 peaches for the recipe and I also used French Toast Bread. I love my french toast really thick.

I’ll be using this recipe over and over again, and switch it up a bit by using the fruits that are in season. Blueberries will be delicious as well as strawberries and apples.

Have fun, be creative and enjoy.  And get ready to become an addict of Peach Stuffed French Toast.

I recently made an easy chicken dinner with peaches and plums.  Again, with the great prices on fruit and low prices of chicken around here, we’re making delicious meals on a low budget. Who doesn’t appreciate that. I served this with a shrimp and veggie pasta salad and had a sweet ending of strawberry stuffed whoopie pies. I know what you’re thinking. You want to join us at our house for dinner every night. I’d love to have you anytime!

You can get  our Chicken, Pasta and Whoopie Pie recipes HERE. 

Always remember, make the recipe yours. If you prefer chicken breasts over thighs, use them. If you like peaches more than plums, use them. You know your tastes and your family’s taste. I love finding new recipes, but I want to make sure my family will love them too when I bring the plates to the table.

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! 

 

 

Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

I absolutely adore pasta dishes, but my favorite by far is Chicken Cacciatore.  It’s not something that’s easily found in restaurants in the Greater Cincinnati area.  In fact, there’s only one place in town that I know of that carries this delightful Italian dish.  My family is originally from upstate New York, which is rich in Italian heritage.  You can always find great pizza and usually cacciatore at most of the local family-owned restaurants in that part of the country.

So, I’ve been on a quest most of my adult life to recreate the awesome Chicken Cacciatore I used to eat so often growing up.  And I have finally come up with the perfect recipe, made in the crock pot.  Chicken Cacciatore is usually made with tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.  My hubby’s not a huge pepper fan, so I subbed in artichokes which we both love!  So, if you’d rather have the peppers, then omit the artichokes and add in one chopped bell pepper instead.

 And I am excited that I’ve discovered a gluten-free pasta that tastes amazing and doesn’t get sticky or clumpy.  I found it at my new favorite store, Aldi!  Their “Live G-Free” brand is very reasonably priced and everything I’ve tried from the line so far has been good.  (My hubby especially likes the Live G-Free chocolate chip cookie mix.)  If you’re keeping an eye on your carb intake, mix half past and half zucchini noodles, which is what I usually do with my pasta dishes.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

 

  • 1 – 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 2 – 14 oz. cans of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 – 14 oz. can of artichokes, drained and roughly chopped
  • 8 oz. fresh baby bella mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. red wine
  • 1 Chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 3 frozen boneless chicken breasts
  • Pinch of sea salt

 

Place all ingredients in the crock pot and stir to combine.  Cook 4 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low.  Serve over pasta or zucchini noodles.  Pairs well with a nice Merlot or Cabernet!

 

 

Save Money on Meat

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

I know from personal experience that eating a diet rich in protein helps to keep me strong and slim.  However, you don’t have to be a “meat-atarian” to get the slimming results of protein.  According to Robert Ferguson, creator of Diet Free Life (the healthy eating plan that I’ve followed for over three years), if you’re getting 15 to 30 grams of protein with each meal, you’re on track.

With that being said, I’m going to give you some strategies to save money on your protein purchases.  The price of meat is definitely NOT getting any cheaper and eating grass-fed and organic is downright expensive!  Three things to keep in mind: buy on sale, eat less meat, and occasionally go meatless.

Buy on Sale

I have a tendency to create my monthly meal plans around what I’ve recently scored on sale at the grocery store.  I also check out what’s marked down in the meat department.  If it’s something that looks fine but has an imminent expiration date, I’ll either cook it up right away or freeze it.  The crock pot is definitely a good friend of mine because it makes cheaper cuts of meat taste delicious and fall right off the bone.  I purchase the vast majority of my chicken with the bone in because I get more for my money.  I frequently cook a whole chicken in the crock pot and make several meals out of it.  For example, tonight Nick and I are going to have rosemary chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy with broccoli.  I’ll shred the leftover dark meat and mix it with BBQ sauce and send Nick to work with BBQ sandwiches and sweet potato fries for lunch.  As for the remaining white meat, I’ll use it later in the week for my Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup.  Also, ask if there’s a discount if you buy in bulk.  I recently bought chicken thighs from a local farm and they gave me a discount since I purchased 10 pounds (and froze most of it).

Eat Less Meat

Most Americans eat larger servings of meat than their bodies actually need.  You can painlessly cut the amount of meat in a dish without sacrificing taste or feeling hungry.  For example, when I make spaghetti and meat sauce, I can easily cut back on the amount of ground turkey (or beef) and add a package of fresh mushrooms (washed and sliced) to the meat while it’s cooking.  Mushrooms have a meaty taste and are rich in protein, so it’s not really noticeable that the amount of turkey has been decreased. If you don’t like mushrooms, you can sub in your choice of zucchini, onions, bell peppers, or eggplant.  You can also do this with black beans or leftover brown rice when making tacos or burritos.  This will allow you to stretch a pound of ground meat over two meals instead of just one.  Be creative!  You also add corn, pinto and other beans, quinoa, barley, and other grains or vegetables to stretch your meat.

Occasionally Go Meatless

Yes, you can get enough protein from non-meat sources!  It seems there’s been a surge in the popularity of “Meatless Mondays.”  Don’t believe me?  Just search “Meatless Monday” on Pinterest and see the thousands upon thousands of recipes that pop up!  With delicious sounding recipes like Lentil Chili, Butternut Squash & Black Bean Enchiladas, Mushroom Fajitas, and Spinach & Ricotta Pasta, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything at all!  Some of my personal vegetarian favorites are Black Bean Chili and Easy Cheesy Casserole.  I also can’t wait to try this Sweet Potato Salad recipe!

If you have any other tips for saving money on your meat purchases, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Slow Cooker Comfort

Hello. It’s Heather popping in from Real: The Kitchen and Beyond. The dreariness of fall has hit in full force. I hear the rain falling outside as the damp seeps in. Fall is my favorite time to pull out slow-cooker meals. With school in session and fall activities starting up, there just never seems to be enough time and the first thing to go tends to be dinner time.

Besides the questionable healthiness of swinging through the fast food drive-thru, we also have the cost factor. With a family of 5, 3 of whom are growing children, fast food definitely isn’t very frugal. Having a meal plan and making it functional for busy days and evenings, ensures I hit that drive thru less. Freezer meals and slow cooked meals save the day and budget.

I have a new healthy favorite slow-cooker meal that is easy and packed with hidden veggies. After dinner I asked my thankfully not too picky eaters if they knew there was zucchini in it. (Tip one, puree it well and nobody will know.) This recipe will make two batches, filling two goals for me. One, a great healthy slow-cooker meal, and two, a freezer meal. The best part is this meal is egg-free for those who may be allergic to most lasagna dishes.

Chicken Sausage Zucchini Lasagna Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken sausage, cooked (I make them ahead of time in the oven then fridge for meals)
  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 2 – 24 ounce cans crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups diced zucchini
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium sweet pepper
  • 32 ounces ricotta
  • 24 ounces mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic/3 cloved, diced
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil

Directions

  • Boil water and cook lasagna noodles to al dente, drain.
  • Finely chop sausage in food processor or blender with a bit of tomatoes, be careful not to puree.
  • Blend rest of tomatoes, zucchini, onions, peppers, and garlic in blender or food processor then mix with sausage.
  • Mix together ricotta and seasonings.
  • Put 2 cups of meat and veggie sauce mixture in bottom of pan.
  • Fill surface with one layer of noodles, slightly overlapping them.
  • Cover noodles with about 1/2 cup ricotta mixture.
  • Add another 2 cup layer of sauce.
  • Add another layer of noodles.
  • Add another 1/2 cup of ricotta.
  • Add one more layer of noodles.
  • Dot with ricotta mixture and 1/2 cup sauce.
  • Cover with 8 ounces of mozzarella.
  • Slow-cook on low for 4-6 hours. Should be ready at 4 hours.

For freezer meal:

  • Preheat oven to 325.
  • Using a 9 x 13 aluminum pan,
  • Start with a layer of noodles.
  • Add a layer of meat sauce, then ricotta.
  • Continue layering until all ingredients are gone.
  • Cover with 16 ounces mozzarella.
  • Bake for approximately one hour, or until cheese is golden brown.
  • Let cool.
  • Wrap with several layers of plastic wrap.
  • Wrap with foil.
  • Tape reheating directions to package.
  • Freeze.
  • Pull out to thaw in refrigerator about 1 day in advance.
  • Pull plastic off, replace aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
  • If still frozen, add 20-30 minutes, depending how frozen it is.

 

Here are four more great slow-cooker meals that will have dinner on the table almost as soon as you get home. The best part is that if you do most of the prep work the evening before or that morning it will really make dinner quick and easy.
  1. Chicken Tacos – shredded taco meat, tortillas, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and salsa
  2. Change up your traditional Chicken Noodle with this Chicken Couscous Soup.
  3. Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Cheesy Cauliflower Soup
  4. Slow – Cooker French Onion Soup + Slow Cooked Brats

 

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.

October ~ A Month of Meals

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Do you meal plan weekly or monthly?  I’ve tried it both ways and have come to the conclusion that it’s less stressful for me to meal plan monthly, since I only have to do it 12 times a year, instead of 52!  On numerous occasions, I’ve had people ask me to share my monthly meal plan so they can get some fresh ideas for their own meal plans.

October is going to be frightfully busy for me!  I start teaching Financial Peace University tomorrow, which is a nine-week class.  I’ve also been doing more financial coaching appointments in the evening lately.  That means plenty of FFY (Fend For Yourself) days on the calendar!  I’ll be batch cooking to stock the freezer with soups, chili, BBQ, and pasta for those busy evenings.  I also plan on baking during the weekends – homemade granola bars, pumpkin bread, zucchini muffins, and plum cake!  Here’s what I’m cooking in October.

Week One

 

Monday ~ Homemade vegetable soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.  There will be plenty of leftover soup to be frozen.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Hubby will probably reheat white chicken chili for his dinner.

Wednesday ~ Breakfast for dinner: Omelets, hash browns, turkey sausage and fruit

Thursday ~ FFY – Financial Coaching.  Hubby will have to reheat a freezer meal.

Friday  ~ Spaghetti & Meat Sauce with salad.  I’ll make a double batch of the sauce and freeze the leftovers.

Saturday ~ Oven Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans.  I’ll also bake pumpkin bread sometime over the weekend.

Sunday ~ Using the leftover chicken meat from Saturday, and the chicken stock in the freezer, I’ll be making chicken soup.  Recently, I’ve been omitting the noodles and adding extra veggies, like peas, green beans, and corn.  We’ll round out the meal with crusty rolls and butter.

Week Two

 

Monday ~ Broiled or grilled chicken breasts with artichokes & tomatoes.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  I’ll put beef stew in the crock pot in the morning, so it will be ready when Nick gets home from work.

Wednesday ~ Loaded Nachos.

Thursday ~ Turkey Chili with salads.  Plenty of leftovers for the freezer!

Friday  ~ White Bean, Kale & Carrot Soup with beer bread.  This is a cheap, filling, meatless meal.  Thanks to my sister, Leah, for this recipe!

Saturday ~ I’m going to try my hand at making Chicken & Asparagus with Black Bean Sauce and serve it with brown rice.  It’s a more involved recipe than most of the ones I make on a regular basis, so I’m saving it for the weekend.

Sunday ~ Turkey and gravy with mashed potatoes and a veggie.  I’ll also bake a double batch of granola bars.

 

White Bean, Kale & Carrot Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cups chopped raw kale
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans white beans, undrained
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a stock/soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; sauté until soft. Stir in broth, carrots, beans, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until carrots are almost tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale; cover and simmer for another 15 minutes or until kale is done, stirring occasionally.

Week Three

 

Monday ~ Spinach Stuffed Chicken. My freezer is packed with frozen spinach, so I’m trying to work it into my meals this month.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Freezer meals for everyone!

Wednesday ~ Chicken & Potatoes in the crock pot – easy and delicious!  I’ll strain the juices left in the crock pot and freeze it because it makes awesome stock for chicken soup!

Thursday ~ Out to Eat for Dinner!  A well-deserved night off for me!

Friday  ~ Meatloaf with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and broccoli.

Saturday ~ Rosemary Lemon Chicken in the crock pot with Parmesan potatoes and a veggie.  Make 5 balls of foil from 1’ x 1’ sheets and set the chicken on top of the foil balls inside the crock pot.  This keeps the skin from getting soggy.  I rub the chicken with olive oil, sprinkle it with rosemary and stuff it with lemon wedges, and cook it breast side down.

Sunday ~ Easy Cheesy Casserole and side salads.  The leftovers from this casserole freeze really well.  I also plan on making zucchini chocolate chip muffins.

Week Four

 

Monday ~ Spicy Shrimp & Tomatoes.  This can be served over rice or pasta, or with crusty rolls to dip into the tasty juices!

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Freezer meals for everyone!

Wednesday ~ Black bean soup with tortilla chips.  Fast, vegetarian, and leftovers freeze well.

Thursday ~ BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with sweet potato fries and a veggie.

Friday  ~ Chicken and mushrooms with white wine sauce over wild rice with garlic roasted cauliflower.

Saturday ~ Salmon and Steak with twice-baked potatoes and salad.

Sunday ~ Grilled Chicken Tenderloins with Hash Brown Casserole and green beans.  I’m also going to bake my favorite cake – Cardamom Plum Cake – just because!

 

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Fill Up on Fiber

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Most of know we should be getting more fiber in our diets.  Fiber fills us up, helps control blood sugar, and is great for weight loss and digestion.  But many times the word “fiber” conjures up visions of tasteless fiber cereals and prune juice.  So I’ve rounded up some super-tasty recipes that help you and your family get in your daily fiber requirements.

 

Fig & Banana Protein Shake

 At the co-op last week, there was a lone package of fresh figs on the shelf.  Since I was feeling adventurous, I bought them and brought them home. Then I stared at them for a while, wondering what the heck I should do with these fresh figs.  After some searching on Pinterest, I found several interesting recipes like Figs with Honey, Ricotta, and Balsamic, Clean Eating Fig Butter, and Fig and Almond Butter Smoothies.  Since I love having a good smoothie post-workout, that sounded like something I would love.  I chopped up my fresh figs into quarters and froze most of them.  I ended up making my fig smoothie with ½ cup chopped frozen figs, 1 frozen banana, a scoop of chocolate protein powder, and a cup of Silk’s Coconut-Almond milk.  It was delicious!  Turns out that fresh figs are pretty healthy, too!  They’re high in fiber and minerals like calcium and potassium.  4 small figs provide almost 5 grams of fiber!

I found this recipe for “Scoopable Chinese Chicken Salad” on the Hungry Girl website.  It is super easy to make on busy nights when you’re short on time and don’t want to cook.  Last week, I batch-grilled several pounds of chicken breast meat, most of which I cut into chunks and froze in 1-cup servings.  I had been purchasing Tyson’s Grilled and Ready Chicken Breast Chunks, but a quick calculation showed I’d save close to half off if I went the DIY route.  I added some edamame and dry roasted peanuts to the recipe.  You could also use this as a filling for Asian lettuce wraps.    1 ½ cups of this simple, tasty salad provides 4.5 grams of filling fiber.

 

Grilled Chicken with Artichokes & Tomatoes

My husband loves artichoke and spinach dip, but I avoid turning on the oven  in the summer if I can help it.  So, I decided to figure out something tasty to make with my canned artichoke hearts without the oven.  I ended up sautéing some minced garlic in olive oil in a skillet on the stove top.  Once the garlic turned golden, I added a can of petite diced tomatoes, a can of artichoke hearts (drained and chopped), and a teaspoon of Italian herbs.  I covered the mixture and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, I had some chicken breasts that I had brushed with Italian dressing cooking out on the grill.  We put the chicken on our plates, topped it with the artichoke and tomatoes, and sprinkled it with some mozzarella cheese.  It was so tasty and filling, we didn’t even miss having a starch like rice or potatoes with it!  ½ cup of cooked artichokes provides 7 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein for only 45 calories!

 

 


 

Yes, Black Bean Brownies!  I know – “Yuck!” was my first reaction, too.  But in all honesty, they are very tasty.  The original recipe called them “Amazing Flour-less Brownies,” and that does sound more appealing.  But the fact of the matter is that this brownie recipe has a whole can of black beans in it.  I’ve been trying to limit my intake of wheat, so I’ve been scouring the internet for some good gluten free recipes.  I did make some substitutions to the original recipe.  I replaced the sugar with ¼ cup Sugar Leaf stevia/ sugar cane blend.  Instead of a cup of chocolate chips, I used ¾ cups of Enjoy Life’s Mini Chips (dairy free) and ¼ chopped walnuts.  I cut them into 9 squares, ate one, and froze the rest of them.  This way when I have a chocolate craving, I can satisfy it without crashing my blood sugar.  Because each brownie has 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein, they’re very filling!  (My variation, 9 servings, nutritional info: Calories: 220, Carbs: 28, Fiber: 5, Protein: 7).  My recommendation is to serve them to your friends and family without revealing the secret ingredient until they’ve raved about how good your gluten-free brownies taste!

What is your favorite way to get more filling fiber in your family’s diet?

Meal Planning Monday ~ Back to Nature

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

On my journey to be as healthy as possible, I keep coming back to one thing – and that is getting back to nature!  When I go to the grocery store, I am spending a LOT more time in the All Natural/ Organic section.  It’s a bit of a challenge to eat this way and still stay within our grocery budget.  There aren’t as many sales and coupons for organic food, but there are some if you know where to find them!  In fact, I just printed coupons for Silk, Kashi, Cascadian Farms, and Food Should Taste Good on Coupons.com So this week’s post is all about how to save money while eating as close to nature as possible.

 

  • Grow some of your own fruits & veggies!  It’s actually not too late to plant some for a fall harvest.  Salad greens, herbs, summer squash, beans, peas, and more all have short growing seasons.
  • Patronize your local farmers.  Shop at your local farmers market, roadside fruit stand, orchard, or farm.  The food is likely to be tastier and cheaper because it doesn’t have to be transported across the country to the grocery store.  The bonus is that you’re supporting your local economy rather than the corporate food giants.  Also check to see if there is a food co-op close to you.  They can be a great source of organic and natural foods at affordable prices.
  • Buy in bulk when you can.  I called my local poultry farm and inquired about discounts for buying chicken and turkey in bulk.  I was able to get ground turkey for $2.00 per pound and bone-in chicken thighs for $2.25 per pound, buying 10 pounds of each.  I brought it all home and froze it in meal size portions.  Based on our consumption, I’ll stop by the farm and buy the same amount every three or four months.  It’s nice to know that the chicken and turkey is hormone-free AND I’m supporting a local family-owned business.
  • Buy the store brand organic food.  I regularly buy Kroger’s Simple Truth natural peanut butter, gluten-free multigrain crackers, among other things.  I’ve also bought Meijer’s organic line of beans, salsa, etc.
  • Make it yourself!  Yes, this does take a little time, but it is SO worth it!  You’ll save a ton on packaged foods like cookies, granola bars, ice cream, condiments, bread, etc. This past week, I’ve made zucchini bread, salad dressing, ice cream, and BBQ sauce.  I love knowing exactly what’s in my delicious food – no unpronounceable ingredients!  If you’re not doing any of this right now, start slow and work your way up.  Here’s two easy ones to try!

 

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Homemade BBQ sauce may seem ambitious, but it’s just a matter of tossing everything in a sauce pan and simmering it for an hour.  Most commercial BBQ sauces contain high fructose corn syrup, something we should all avoid!

  • 24 oz. bottle of organic ketchup
  • 24 oz. of water
  • 1/3 cup of Sweet Leaf’s Sugar Leaf (cane sugar & stevia blend) or 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ all-natural apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup of chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. onion powder

Put all ingredients in a large sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until desired thickness.  Once cooled, I recycled the washed ketchup bottle and filled it with the BBQ sauce and put in the refrigerator.  Any leftover BBQ sauce can be frozen.

 

Best Homemade Vinaigrette

This easy dressing can be made by the bottle or just for one salad!  It also makes for a great grilled chicken marinade.  You mix up the flavor by using red wine or balsamic vinegar and using different all-natural spice blends.  The possibilities are endless!

  • 1 part olive oil
  • 2 parts apple cider vinegar
  • Seasoning blend to taste

Do you have any tips to share on how to save money while eating organic/ all-natural?  If so, I’d love for you to share them here!

 

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.