Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday Dinner - Mexican Pasta

Another new recipe!  And it's cheap & easy (and yummy!)

Mexican Pasta

I'm super excited to share this one with you, I've had the recipe for a long time, but have never made it and right now I'm seriously wondering why!

Here's the scoop:

Ingredients (not pictured: chicken)

1 box of pasta (I used leftover rigatoni noodles this time, but next time I think I'll use spaghetti noodles...anything works!)
1 cup of shredded Mexican cheese (I added cheddar because I didn't have quite 1 cup of the Mexican kind!)
1 cup Salsa
1 Tbsp half & half
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Chicken breasts - cooked and chopped (I used 1 chicken breast and 3 tenders this time)
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes

First, prepare your chicken.  Since I was using chicken tenders, I cut up the whole chicken breast to be similar size pieces as the tenders...this helped it cook all at the same rate. 

I decided to bake mine in the oven with some fajita seasoning I found in the cabinet.  It worked great! 

I prepared this like the lemon pepper chicken I made about a week a little "butter happy"  you don't need as much butter as I used!  Let this cook in the oven at 375 till the juice runs clear and the chicken is completely cooked (about 30 minutes for me!)

Next, start cooking your noodles

And to make the sauce:

Start with a little olive oil in a pan (keep in mind you'll be assembling the whole dish in this pan, so you'll want something deep.  Once the oil is warmed up, add in the half & half and the cheese.  You'll want to have the stove on a medium heat.

Keep stirring till the cheese starts to melt.  Mine was just a big clump for a while (and I thought I'd totally ruined the meal!) so I added a couple more dashes of half and half - I think that helped!  Here's what mine looked like about 2 minutes in.

Then it started getting creamy and yummy...

Once the cheese is all melted, add in the salsa - cheese+salsa = yummy goodness!  (Queso anyone?!

Once this is all warmed up and bubbly, add in the cut-up chicken and crushed red pepper.

I was conservative with the red pepper flakes, but wish I had added more once it was all said and done.  You can also turn the heat down to low now...really you're just stirring together the already cooked ingredients at this point.
P.S. I have the weirdest double jointed thumb....annoyed that it's showing in this picture =)

Lastly, slowly fold in your noodles.  I made WAY too many noodles, so I'd probably say you should have about 3 cups of cooked noodles.  Once the noodles are all covered in the cheesy yummy-ness, let it sit on low heat for about 5-10 minutes.  This made about 4 servings total!

Our meal!  I'm pretty proud of how colorful I got the dinner tonight!

Check out this salad!  Leftover lettuce from the tacos last week, strawberries from my birthday party (a little bit of cheating here, because I didn't include the birthday breakfast in our groceries for the was a special treat), mango's from sprouts that were on sale, cranberries from sprouts...same story,  and mandarin oranges that I found tucked away in our cabinet!

Definitely a new staple at our house!  Hope you like it too =)


Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Since starting this little food/budget journey on my blog, I feel like the Lord has been up to a LOT.  (Well I know He's always up to a lot, it's just that in this particular season, He's making it BLATANTLY obvious what He is up to!)

I started this mission a few weeks ago because I was legitimately struggling to stay within my budget when it came to feeding our family.  It's important to me and to Trent to set and live by a very specific budget so that we're not careless with our finances, but also so that we can keep only what He's allowing us to keep.  I can honestly say God is providing for us PERFECTLY.  He's blessed us abundantly and more than enough so that I can stay at home with Kinley...

 ...and I recognize that is a luxury that many don't have the option of considering! 

But I also know that God's not providing an overabundance of financial wealth for us on purpose.  I already have the sinful nature of wanting to take care of myself so He's actually caring for me very well by placing in me a need for which only He can satisfy.

So here's what He's been teaching me:
1) He's trustworthy (and patient that I need to be reminded of this over and over...)
2) He's reminding me that He's sooo worthy of my praise!

When I see a need that I can't meet myself and He clearly provides...I've nothing else to do but thank Him and praise Him for it.  Really the end goal of my entire life (in any situation...not just finances), is plenty or in want...turn back to praise Him for His provision. 

Sometimes His provision looks like a paycheck, 
or a kind, overwhelming, and humbling giftcard, 
sometimes in free peppers from a church member,
or by providing just enough to re-do our kitchen nook into a playroom (more on that soon!!), 
or sometimes by causing food to stretch  further than I thought it would.

Today His provision showed up on my doorstep in a big Styrofoam box the note on the package says..."First aid for your budget"...meat from Omaha Steaks.  

I am so thankful once again, and grateful for God's provision.  Isn't it like Him though to provide for us in overwhelming and astonishing ways (that's the GOSPEL!).  Not always in the form of food, and not always like we'd wish or hope.  But He always provides what is best.  I am thankful for His lavish gift today!!  What a treat!!!

"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"  Romans 8:32

Week 3 Complete and under budget again!!! Tackling Week 4

I'm breathing a sigh of relief!  I made it under budget again this week with the final total being $47.41.

I actually thought I wouldn't have to make a second run to the store for the week, but come Saturday night (when I began cooking dinner at 7:00pm), I realized I didn't have enough potatoes and had NO onion to make my last meal for the week.  Trent kindly ran to the store for me and was even more kind to handle eating dinner at 9:30 = )...guess when you're trying a new recipe, it's not a good idea to wait till dinner time to start looking at the instructions!

Here's a rundown of my total spending for the week:  Grocery List 8/22/11

Now for this week!

I'm trying to get better about shopping at multiple stores.  A good friend have me this great advice that I'm slowly trying to tackle:
"One of my tricks is to shop at different stores for different things.  It's more trouble, but I am pretty sure the savings were helpful.  I start at Sprouts because it has the best sales."

Thanks for the advice Christi!

So I checked the weekly ads and here's what's on sale at Sprouts:
  • Tomatoes - $0.69 each Grape Tomatoes - 1 pint for $0.99
  • Cantaloupe - 2/$1
  • Celery @ Cucumbers - $0.69 each
  • Dried Cranberries - $2.99/lb
I'm a bit stumped as to how to make recipes up from the sales, because I recognize that buying something only because it's on sale isn't really a savings.  But also buying something that's a great deal now and can be used down the road, will save me money in the long run.

Then I took a look at what I've got left in my cabinets and's what I've got:
  • Onion - 2/3rds of one
  • Potatoes - 3 still from week 1 (how long to potatoes last anyway?!)
  • Taco shells
  • 1/2 tomato
  • 3 apples
  • Green Beans - frozen
  • Rigatoni noodles - approx 1/2 lb
  • Chicken breasts - 3 frozen
  • Corn Tortillas - frozen
  • Cheese - about 1/2 cup Mexican & 1/2 cup cheddar
  • Lettuce
  • 1/2 loaf bread - frozen

So here's what I think I've come up with for the week:

Cereal & Bran muffins...broken record I know, but I'm ok with boring and predictable breakfasts

Leftovers or PB&J

Monday: Leftover Tomato, Pasta, and Potato Bake
Tuesday: Mexican Pasta & Salad
Wednesday: leftovers
Thursday: Marzetti & Salad
Friday: Salmon Patties & Green Beans
Saturday: Wedding! So eating out =)
Sunday: Leftovers

Kinley meals: My cupboards are BARE for this little lady, so I'm going to have to do some serious baby food making/prep this week.  Cauliflower didn't go over well last week (you should have seen her face!).  I'm going to restock peas, applesauce, peaches/mango/pears (which ever is cheapest), Zucchini, Broccoli, and I'm going to try a couple new things: chicken & cantaloupe

I did my first round of grocery shopping today and have the breakdown of what I purchased: Grocery List 8/29/11.  I have spent $43.42 for the week so far and have just a few items left to get.

      And here's my loot =) 
      From Sprouts
      From HEB

      Monday, August 29, 2011

      Saturday Dinner - Tomato, Pasta, and Potato Bake

      This was another recommendation from a friend!  I'd classify this one as good, but not great.  It has the potential to be great, but needs a little something.  It also takes about 30 minutes to prep and 1 1/2 hours to cook!  That's a LOT of time!  I will say it makes for a SERIOUS quantity of leftovers which is a plus, and I actually liked it better the second day...another serious plus for me!

      This is the picture from the original website...our dinner was ready at 9:30 and I forgot to take a picture of the final product!
      I'll definitely try again with some tweeks...I'm sharing the recipe with the tweeks I would make.

      The Ingredients:
      • 1 lb Rigatoni noodles
      • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
      • 1 & 1/4 - 1 & 1/2 tsp dried oregano...mix this in with the tomatoes
      • 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes - peeled & sliced 1/8" thick, then cut in halves or quarters
      • 1/2 medium onion - diced
      • Grated parmesan
      • S&P
      • 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce
      First peel & slice the potatoes and onion - I used this mandolin, but you could also use a cheese slicer.  doing it by hand would be.a.pain!

      Now start's the order:
      1/2 of Noodles
      1/3rd of tomatoes + oregano mixture
      1/2 of Potatoes
      All of the onion
      1/2 cup Parmesan
      rest of pasta
      1/3rd of tomatoes + oregano mixture
      rest of potatoes
      remaining tomatoes plus a little spaghetti sauce for some more flavor.

      Like I mentioned, I'm giving you this recipe with the tweeks I would make, so below are pictures from how it was made according to the original recipe.

      Definitely will mix the oregano in next was too distinct this way

      The potato slices were really big!  That's why I suggest halving them at least!

      Once you've layered everything in the pan, add about 2 cups of boiling water...basically till the water reaches the top of the potatoes

      Then cover the dish with foil, place it on a rimmed baking sheet (because it will drip).  Bake at 400 degrees until liquid is absorbed and potatoes are tender...approximately 1 hour.

      When all the liquid is absorbed, take off the foil and top with the last 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and cook for another 20 minutes.

      That's it (I know "that's it" is a bit sarcastic!)  But it is yummy and I think if you prepare it in advance it won't seem so overwhelming.


      I'm 29!

      Saturday was my 29th birthday - 

      Am I really ONE year away from 30?!  What?!!!!

      I'm getting to the point where I love/hate birthdays...anyone with me?!  On one hand, I'm not gonna lie, I love the attention and sweet words from friends all smooshed into one day, but on the other hand I feel like the older I get 1) I shouldn't want so much hype on my birthday and 2) birthdays just can't live up to the hype!

      My husband was so sweet to organize a fun low-key birthday celebration where we invited several friends over for a PJ party!  We had donuts, coffee, and fruit...along with lots of friends and LOTS of kids!  I didn't manage to take pictures with all our friends, but here are a couple we took while setting up!

      Anyone hungry for a donut now?!

      Thanks friends for all the calls/texts/Facebook messages (don't you just love the MASS quantity of wall posts on your birthday?!).  You all really did make me feel very loved!

      Thursday, August 25, 2011

      Wednesday dinner - Taco's and refried black beans

      So this is another meal that doesn't need much explanation.  But I did make homemade refried beans.  Still debatable if I'll do this again, because it is a LOT of work!  The final product was yummy and I've got lots of frozen leftovers so that's a plus!

      Here's the meal

      I'll let you get the instructions and ingredients for the black beans from this site

      A friend told me another friend makes this a lot and uses the extra beans for enchilada filling, bean dip, or just reheats as a side!  They are definitely more tasty than your average refried beans out of a can!

      Here's some pics from my first attempt:

      The ingredients: (I actually doubled the recipe - I highly recommend doing this because it's nice to have a larger quantity to show for all the work!

      Someone brought home-grown peppers to Trent's office, I actually had to ask my neighbor who's a gardening expert what all the different types were!  The red is a spicier jalapeno so I made sure to get ALL the seeds out! 

      My helper!  She's pulling up on everything...including me while I try to cook

      So I got out pots and utensils so she could cook too!

      The jalapenos and garlic ready to be minced 

      Diced onion going in to the pan

      Stirring in the jalapenos and garlic

      Next come the seasoning.  I added more chili powder than the recipe calls for to give it more kick

       This is what it looks like once the seasonings are stirred in (my lense is foggy from the steam -hah!).  The recipe says to stir till aromatic...let me just tell you, it's VERY aromatic!  (in a good way)

      Adding in the beans and liquid.  This is where the tedious-ness of the process began. 

      It calls for a potato smasher to break up the beans...of course I don't have one of at first I tried this kind of spoon

      It was NOT successful.  Then I moved to a metal pasta straining spoon which worked better...until I bent it out of shape!  I had worked up a serious sweat and toned all my shoulder muscles by the time the beans were finished.

      Our final meal

      Doubling the recipe made enough for our dinner, about a cup of leftovers in the fridge and 4 cups stocked in the freezer!  Worth it if you have the time, patience, and muscles...

      Oh and a potato masher!