Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pantry Challenge Week Four Recap - Feb 22nd-28th

This recap will be short & sweet - and my last one.  I'm going to continue on the pantry challenge, but will not be posting the re-caps; I am on track now and will hold myself accountable though!

I totally forgot to keep my grocery receipt to share with you but I spent $120 and here is what I got:

Sweet Peppers
Feta Cheese
Chocolate raisins (for our candy jar)
2 packs of chicken thighs & 1 pack of legs (on sale for $5 each)
Protein powder
Mozzarella & Cheddar cheese blocks
Cheese strings

Although I went $20 over my budget for the week, I am still under $500 for the month (by $110, so actually under $400!!), so all is good!

Here's what we ate:

Breakfast - slept in after late night bday celebrations and ran out the out the door with no smoothie.  Not a great start to the day (insert angry face here)
Lunch - 6" egg salad sub on whole wheat @ Subway (I was starving and had to settle for something)
Dinner - oven baked ribs and antipasto cauliflower salad

Antipasto Cauliflower Salad
Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - Greek Lemon & Egg Soup
Dinner - leftover ribs and cauliflower salad

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - butternut squash soup
Dinner - Chicken with Ranchera Salsa (with rice for them and egg pancakes for me) - so good!

Chicken with Ranchera Salsa
Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - Greek lemon & egg soup
Dinner - leftovers

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - McDonalds (free - don't judge!)
Dinner - pizza (we ordered)
Needless to say Friday was a very bad day for eating!!

I made up for it by going to an awesome aerial yoga class on Saturday that my friend was teaching - if you haven't tried aerial yoga I highly recommend it!  I'm still sore today, it was amazing!!

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - pizza (from a local place by my friend's house who did the yoga - fresh ingredients and I didn't feel as guilty...)
Dinner - Hubby made a chicken and sausage biryani; he doesn't share recipes, nor does he actually use any so unfortunately I can't share them with you.  It was delicious though!

For the upcoming week, we have leftover biryani, and hubby also took out a beef roast and lamb chops from the freezer to thaw, so we should be good.  The freezer is still fairly stocked, and so is the pantry, so I am going to continue using what we have for March.  The money saving has been fantastic, and has allowed me to put an extra $100 on to our debt.

Hope you guys enjoyed this pantry challenge, and will continue on your own as well.

Have a great week!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Antipasto Cauliflower Salad (or "Anti" Pasta as the original recipe is named!)

Leave it to the brilliant Mellissa over at to come up with yet another fantastic low-carb recipe.  This cauliflower salad is wicked good.  It's a great side dish for pretty much anything, and I love making a big batch to snack on all week. 

Cauliflower is pretty bland, and it was never one of my go-to's at the grocery store.  That was before I started on my low-carb mission.  The amount of things you can transform cauliflower into is unreal!  You can rice it and eat it as is, or make yourself some chicken fried rice.  You can make it into a pizza crust or a make-shift tortilla.  You can boil & mash it and enjoy creamy mashed "potatoes", and you can use it as a vehicle to bring other flavors together, like this recipe does.  The possibilities are endless!

The only change I make when following the original recipe, is that I add chopped up daikon as well.  I like the taste, and the added crunch.

I had actually never liked radicchio before making this.  It's pretty bitter and I've never really known what to do with it.  After eating a few bowls of this yummyness, I think I get it now.  In small doses, and more as a compliment to a dish, it adds a little something something.  All this to say that if you weren't a fan of radicchio before, do me a favor and don't skip it in this recipe.  Be bold, try something new!

Head on over here for the complete recipe, and enjoy!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pantry Challenge Week Three Recap - Feb 15th - 21st

Time for week there's recap! Not a bad week at all!

My groceries this week totaled $85.64 which is $14.36 under budget for the week, and $132.64 under budget for the month, whoot whoot!

There were a couple of pricey items that I had to pick up, like raw almonds, chocolate almonds, and chocolate chips, but I only have to purchase them every couple of months so no big deal.  Here is what I bought:

Chocolate chips @ 8.99
Cooking spray @ 5.29
Chocolate almonds @ 12.99
Cheddar cheese @ 5.79
Jalapeno Monterey jack @ 5.79
Eggs (18) @ 5.29
Milk @ 3.97
Raw almonds @ 11.99
2 bags of kale (to freeze for my smoothies) @ 50% off, so 2.50 each
Romaine lettuce @ 4.69
Tomatoes @ 2.92
Apples @ 3.67
Bacon (2 packs, great sale) @ 3.99 each

Here's what I ate for the week:

Monday (this was Family Day, a holiday for us)
Breakfast - Stuffed French toast (French toast with cream cheese and jam)
Lunch - skipped, breakfast was a late one for all of us
Dinner - grilled cheese and butternut squash soup

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - butternut squash soup
Dinner - leftover chicken from Sunday

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - lobster bisque (I had one portion left in the freezer from a big batch I made a while back)
Dinner - sweet & spicy pork tenderloin with pasta and broccoli on the side (for them) and egg pancakes and broccoli for me
Sweet & Spicy Pork Roast
Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - McDonalds (don't judge)
Dinner - leftovers

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - pepperoni sticks, slice of cheese
Dinner - leftovers

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - skipped
Dinner - hubby made a fantastic pork belly dish with oyster mushrooms and rice (he doesn't really work off of recipes otherwise I would share it here)

Sunday (My Birthday!)
Breakfast - hubby made waffles with whipped cream and syrup
Lunch - leftovers, whatever we could find in the fridge
Dinner - Bday dinner at Barra Fion (review to come) - amazing bday dinner!

That's all for this week!  How are you doing with your pantry challenge?!?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sweet & Spicy Pork Roast

Here's another great recipe to help me use up all of the pork roasts (shoulder) I have in my freezer.  I used more of a tenderloin type of piece for this recipe, but it was cut from the huge shoulder wee purchased a few weeks back, if that makes any sense.

Needless to say, it was delicious, and the recipe was pretty hands off.  Preheat your oven, pour on your homemade marinade, and stick it in.  An hour and a half later you have a beautifully seasoned pork roast with a ton of gravy for your mashed potatoes or rice.  So good.

Sweet & Spicy Pork Roast
1 pork roast (about 3lbs)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 c soy sauce
3 T sriracha sauce
1/4 c maple syrup
1 T lime juice
3 T orange juice
1 Tseasoning salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 c EVOO

Preheat oven to 350.  Place your roast in a baking pan, make slits all over and put your sliced garlic in the slits.  Mix the remaining ingredients well, in a bowl.  Pour over your pork.  Place in the oven, uncovered, for an hour and a half.  Baste every 20-25 minutes.  I served this with pasta & broccoli (for the family) and an egg pancake and broccoli for myself.  Delicious.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Greek Lemon & Egg Soup (My Version of Avgolemeno)

If you've been following me for a while you know how much I love my soups.  I also love this website.  So when Mellissa posted this soup recipe I knew I had to try it out. 

I made a few tweaks though, because I'm staying true to my pantry challenge and wanted to use what I had on hand. I know I've mentioned this before, but one way I save (and use everything I can) is by making my own soup stocks.  I save all vegetable scraps in a Ziploc bag in the freezer, as well as bones and meat scraps in a separate bag (one for veggie broth one for meat broth).  When the bag gets full, I make some stock.  For this recipe, I emptied my veggie scraps into a large soup pot and boiled them for about 2 hours, adding water as needed to keep the pot full.  When done, I strained off the veggies and threw them in the garbage. I was left with a flavorful stock chock full of vitamins.  For free!

I also had a large pork shoulder bone with meat on it from our pork deal a few weeks back, so I wanted to use that as the meat instead of the shredded chicken that the original recipe calls for. I also added feta cheese for a nice tang. You can check out the link above for the original, or try mine out below - either way, this soup is delicious!

Greek Soup
Veggie or Chicken Stock (I'd say I had about 20 cups, in a huge soup pot)
Pork shoulder bone with some meat on it
1 spaghetti squash
3 eggs
1/3 c lemon juice
1/4 c crumbled feta
parsley for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut your squash in half and remove the seeds.  Roast, flesh facing down, for an hour.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Meanwhile, boil your bone in the stock on high for at least an hour.  I did this for about an hour and a half.  Remove from heat.  Remove the bone, and tear the meat off.  Chop into pieces (or tear with your hands) and add it back to the soup.  Whisk the 3 eggs in a bowl with the lemon juice until frothy.  Slowly add about a cup of hot soup, while whisking, to temper the eggs (be careful here, you don't want scrambled eggs).  Once combined, add mixture to the pot.  Scrape out the spaghetti squash and add to pot.  Add crumbled feta.  Stir to combine.  That's it, all done.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Pantry Challenge Week Two Recap - Feb 8th - 14th

I'm going to try and keep this recap short and sweet - last week's was way to long...

The only grocery shopping I did this week was a large pack of boneless skinless chicken thighs that I needed for a stir fry that I made Friday night.  I used 4 thighs and froze the remaining 5 for another meal. I spent a whopping $12.50.  That brings my 2 week total to $81.72, which is $118.28 under budget, whoot whoot!

Here's what I ate...

Breakfast -  smoothie
Lunch - skipped (with the new job, I've been busy!)
Dinner - seared steaks with the most amazing biscuits ever and incredible gravy

Best Biscuits Ever

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - butternut squash soup (easiest recipe ever - I'll post it soon)
Dinner - leftovers (cabbage roll casserole, steak - we all had a little of something)

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - leftover cabbage roll casserole
Dinner - Sausage with white beans and tomatoes over spaghetti noodles (for them) and egg pancakes for me (2 eggs mixed with 1/4c cream cheese, bake like a pancake, it makes about 6.  I eat them as low carb side dishes as a sub for pasta or bread)

Sausage with White Beans and Tomatoes

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - salad with leftover steak cut up in it and feta cheese
Dinner - leftovers (sausage and white beans)

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - greek soup (I'll post the recipe next week)
Dinner - Simply Asia Chicken Stir Fry

Chicken Stir Fry
Breakfast - bacon, lettuce, tomato and egg sandwich
Lunch - leftover cabbage roll casserole (almost done, I promise)
Dinner - same as lunch (now it's done, no more left!)

Breakfast - we went out for brunch as a family, Happy Valentines Day!
Lunch - brunch was late in the day, no need for more food yet
Dinner - the hubby took care of this one - he made Amazing Chicken and a pork belly dish with oyster mushrooms (and he isn't sharing the recipe!) - it was delicious!

So all in all, it was a good week, with lots of savings! 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Chicken Stir Fry with Simply Asia Manadarin Orange Stir Fry Sauce - Recipe & Review

Thanks to my fantastic new job, I get to try new products that I hadn't previously tasted.  I scored a Mandarin Orange Stir Fry Sauce from Simply Asia this week, and knew I had to try it asap.  I had frozen mixed veggies and a can of mandarin orange segments already, so I just had to pick up a pack of chicken thighs.  The recipe on the back of the packet calls for chicken breasts, but thighs are cheaper and have more flavor (in my opinion).

This meal was so quick and easy to throw together, and it came out great.  It's the perfect option for a weeknight meal, and I can't wait to try all of the other flavors that Simply Asia offers!

Chicken Stir Fry w/Simply Asia Mandarin Orange Stir Fry Sauce
4 skinless boneless chicken thighs
Vegetable oil
1 bag of Asian mixed veggies
1 packet of Simply Asia Mandarin Orange Stir Fry Sauce
1 can mandarin orange segments
Rice for serving

Cut your chicken into strips, and brown in a bit of oil in a pan over medium.  Add veggies (mine were still partially frozen), sauce, and drained mandarin oranges.  Stir and cook for a few minutes, until chicken is cooked through and sauce is nice and thick.  As pictured above, I served this over rice.  That's it!  So simple!!

Everyone loved this, and I will definitely be grabbing some more of these sauces to keep on hand for future meals.  Go grab a flavor and try it out!

This was not a sponsored post, and all opinions are that of my own, I promise!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Best Beef Dishes of 2015!

Ok folks, another addition to the 'Best of 2015" series. 

I love beef, and in my house it makes an appearance on the dinner table several times a week.  Ground beef is a magical ingredient that can be turned into anything, and steaks can be thrown on the grill in a pinch.

I especially love when Wag Jag has beef sales (particularly from the Butcher Shoppe - best supplier of beef in Toronto!!) because I am able to stock my freezer up at a killer price.

So here are my favorite beef recipes from 2015.  Try a few out and let me know what you think!

Let's start with this Homemade Hamburger Helper from A Southern Mom.  Huge hit with the kids and the wallet, and super simple.  Try this recipe and you will never buy the boxed variety again, I promise.  To amp up the health factor, I throw in chopped tomatoes and sometimes spinach.  It really depends on what I have on hand.  I've also blended up steamed cauliflower and added it to the sauce - have to get the veggies in!

Next up is Taco Pie!  Full disclosure - there is nothing healthy about this recipe.  But it's super fast to pull together, and there isn't a kid out there who doesn't love it, so you can't win every battle, mmk?  I was a little hesitant about how the 'pie crust' would come out, I thought it might be soggy, but I was wrong, it was terrific.  Try it on your cheat night...or when you just need a quick meal that everyone will love!

Moving along, we have my slow cooked Teriyaki Beef.  Although some planning ahead is required to get this meal on the table, the ingredient list is extremely short and uses pantry staples.  I usually serve this with rice and broccoli - and the gravy it makes in the slow cooker is phenomenal.  Enjoy!

Another pasta selection, and a huge hit with the family is this Creamy Beef Noodles recipe.  I wasn't sure how well this would come together the first time I made it but wow was it ever good.  I usually double the recipe (with the exception of the noodles) and eat the 'sauce' in a bowl for days.  This is another recipe with a short ingredient list that most people already have on hand.

Last up is this Beef and Squash Stew from  If this doesn't warm you up on a cold winter night, nothing will.  It's hearty and delicious, and cooks in your slow cooker all day.  The smell of it lovingly greets you when you come home from work.  It's divine!  In fact I'll be making a big batch this week - Canada is cold; but it's so much fun to make comfort food like this for dinner that warms you from the inside out.  I actually think I would dislike a warmer climate, because I wouldn't crave stews and soups - and who can live without stews and soups??

Hope you enjoyed this edition of 'Best of..." and I hope you try some (or all!) of the recipes!  Let me know what you think!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Haitian Pork (Griot)

We have a ton of pork shoulder in our deep freezer, thanks to an incredible deal ($1.49/lb!!!) so I've been looking up different recipes and experimenting to see what I can come up with.  We can only eat pulled pork so many times, right?

I came across this recipe for Haitian Griot and just had to try it.  The recipe was super simple, used ingredients I already had on hand (staying true to my pantry challenge, whoot whoot!) and was incredibly delicious.  I'm guessing the acidity in the marinade played a major hand in breaking the meat down, so the dish was perfectly seasoned and nice and moist.

The only changes I made were the juices (I used bottled, I'm sure it would have been that much better with fresh though!) and I didn't have any scotch bonnet peppers on hand so I used an insanely hot pepper sauce that we have.  It did the trick.  I also added a few more onions and extra garlic, because we like them.

I have posted the recipe below with my changes, but please feel free to head over to for the original!

Haitian Griot
A couple dashes of very hot sauce
3 onions diced
1 sweet pepper, diced
1 T kosher salt
1 T ground black pepper
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 T concentrated orange juice
2 T lemon juice
2 T lime juice
1 T Worcestershire sauce
Pork shoulder (3-4lbs) cut in 2" chunks
Cooked rice for serving
Throw all ingredients except the EVOO in a dutch oven or heavy pot with lid and mix well.  Marinate in the fridge over night.  Remove from the fridge about 2 hours before ready to cook.  Preheat oven to 325.  On the stovetop, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, and then transfer in to the oven for 90 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and remove the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon.  Cook the liquid over med-hi heat, simmering for about 15 minutes, or until it is reduced and thick.  Meanwhile, heat your broiler, and place the meat on a cookie sheet in one layer.  Toss with kosher salt & EVOO.  Broil for about 5 minutes, until crispy and brown but not dried out.  Serve with rice!
I also served mine with an amazing bean salad that I had thrown together the previous day, and I had zoodles (zucchini noodles) instead of rice since I'm doing the low(ish) carb thing.
So good!!!

I've Landed My Dream Job!!!

Super quick post -

I started today as a Territory Manager at my dream job with my dream company.  I am completely over the moon and can't believe how blessed I am to have been given this opportunity.  The company stands for everything I believe in, they participate in the community as well as give to the less fortunate world-wide, and they are the most amazing people to be surrounded by.

What does this mean for you??  Well, the company is a specialty food distributor offering 'good for you' options - and they distribute everything.  Like literally.  Their (my?) lineup is extremely vast and covers everything for everyone.  A dream.  Pinch me.

So going forward, I'll write some reviews on products, and give you ideas on how to use them.  I can't wait, and I hope you can't either.

It's been a long time since I've been excited to get up in the morning and go to work...a very long time.  I feel very lucky.


Pantry Challenge Week One Recap - Jan 31st to Feb 6th

Ok, I've made it through week one unscathed, and I'm pumped for week two...
Here's my very first summary, that will likely change and evolve, or disappear altogether because it takes a lot of time.  I hope it gives you some great ideas for your own money saving menu!

A few things to note, I'm only documenting what I ate because I can't keep track of everyone.  The truth is the hubby generally eats lunch out during the week because of his job, or he skips it all together.  That come out of his personal budget though, and he's able to write things off at the end of the year, so I don't get involved. 

My daughter usually takes leftovers, or wraps (stuffed with leftovers) or sometimes nothing at all so I'm not listing her meals either.  (Don't judge until you have to live with a teenager.)

Dinners are eaten together, for the most part, so they are the only "family meal" listed here.

Also, I generally do groceries near the end of the week, so this week's groceries will be used towards next week's meals.  Unfortunately I wasn't organized enough to get you last week's list, so you'll have to use your imagination.  Moving forward you'll see what I bought & how much I paid for groceries, to be used the following week.  Make sense?

One last thing - for the sake of simplicity below, "the others" are my family members

Here's what we ate for dinner (and what I ate for other meals) this week:

Haitian Griot, Mixed Bean & Feta Salad, Rice

Sunday Jan 31st
Breakfast - scrambled eggs with tomato & red onion,  2 slices of bacon (the others ate toast as well)
Lunch - skipped
Dinner - Haitian Pork Griot (I ate this with bean salad and zoodles, the family ate it with bean salad & rice)

Monday Feb 1st
Breakfast - my usual week day smoothie (kale, coffee, almond milk, vanilla protein powder, pb2, cocoa powder, cinnamon)
Lunch - KFC paid for by a co-worker (look, we drove 600km today; don't judge)
Dinner - leftovers from Sunday, yum!

Tuesday Feb 2nd
Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - Butternut squash soup (I make a huge batch of soup on the weekends and portion it out in the freezer for quick lunches)
Dinner - Cabbage Roll Casserole

Cabbage Roll Casserole

Wednesday Feb 3rd
Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - leftover cabbage roll casserole
Dinner - went out with co-workers because it was my last day at my current job (they paid) - more on that soon!

Thursday Feb 4th
Breakfast/Lunch - leftover cabbage casserole (don't judge)
Dinner - Montana's (another ex-coworker meal.  I'm starting a new job on Monday, my dream job, so I'm getting together with friends now, while I can)

I also made a batch of cookies on Sunday and they were incredible.  You can find the recipe here.

Friday Feb 5th
Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - went out with great friends (who also paid...I love my girls, and besides, they can expense it!)
Dinner - Roasted Chicken with rice (for the others) and leftover bean salad for me

Roasted Chicken

Saturday Feb 6th
Breakfast - Eggs, toast (for them), bacon
Lunch - leftover Cabbage Casserole (listen - it's good, and I have ALOT left so I'll be eating this for while!)
Dinner - Went out to dinner with friends for a birthday celebration (and yes, I paid this time boohoo)
Sunday Feb 7th
Breakfast - leftover pizza from a very late night on Saturday
Lunch - breakfast was eaten at 1:30pm so...
Dinner - I can't believe I'm admitting this again - cabbage casserole...

My grocery shopping was done at No Frills on Thursday, and the total was $69.22.  I found some pretty amazing meat deals.  See below for what I picked up:

Gatorade 24 pack @ $15.98 (this is one of those non-negotiable items that my athlete of a husband cannot live without)
Red Wine Vinegar @ $1.29 (a pantry item we were out of)
Rice Vinegar @ $2.99 (a pantry item we were out of)
2% Milk @ $4.27
Jalapeno Peppers (5) @ $2.47
Green onions (2 bunches) @ $1.76
Red onions (2) @ $2.56
Bacon @ $3.99 (price matched down from $4.97)
Beef roast @ $8.61 (this was a huge score - the regular price was $20.22, marked down to $12.30 with an additional 30% off)
Sirloin steaks (4) @ $6.62 (another great deal - the regular price was $12.50, marked down to $9.46 with an additional 30% off)
2 bags of chicken back attach with 4 each in the bag - one was $5.72 and one was $4.91

I came in at $30.78 under my budget!  In addition, I got 5400 Pc plus points to go towards groceries (I now have a total of $66.77 worth of groceries saved on my card to redeem).  Not bad for my first week if I do say so myself!

Going forward, I may take the money I save and put it in a separate savings account, maybe a vacation fund, or something of that nature.  I haven't quite decided yet.  Another idea is to just tack it on to our debt repayment each month.  For now, I'll keep in mind I have an extra $30.78 to add to another budgeted item.  I'll keep you posted.

Wow...this was a long post.  I'll have to figure out how to shorten it.  Enjoy your week!

The Easiest Juiciest Roasted Chicken Ever!!!

This meal is seriously the easiest thing to throw together, and the chicken comes out perfectly juicy and roasted every time.  I swear.  Thank you for yet again another fantastically delicious and simple recipe.  Love it!!

4 bone-in, skin on chicken legs (with the thighs still attached)
2 T butter
Some of your favorite seasonings (I used David's Spicy Rub - so good!)

Pat your legs dry, and place them in an oven dish.  Rub pats of butter under the skin, and season the top generously with whatever you choose to use.  Place them in a 300 degree oven for an hour, tightly covered with foil; baste after 30 minutes.  When the hour is up, remove them and turn your oven up to 425.  Baste the chicken again, and put them back in the oven uncovered for about 25 minutes.

Oh my word these were SO good.  Best chicken ever!!!

Cabbage Roll Casserole - New and Improved

I love cabbage rolls, but hate the tediousness of making them.  It's not the ideal weeknight meal.  I also am off carbs, so the rice in the rolls doesn't interest me.  Enter the cabbage roll casserole.  Now I know I posted a similar recipe a while back (it can be found here) and although that one was tasty, I found it a little dry.  So here is my new and improved version of the original (in my opinion).

This fits in perfectly with my pantry challenge which is awesome.  Cabbage is super cheap, I had ground beef in the freezer, and I always have pasta sauce and diced tomatoes in the pantry.  With only a few ingredients, we ended up with a huge casserole that we will likely be eating for days.  Score!

Cabbage Casserole
2 lbs ground beef
3 small onions chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
garlic powder
seasoning salt
chili flakes
1 can pasta sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 head of cabbage roughly chopped
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a combo of old cheddar and jalapeno Monterey jack but you can use anything)

Heat your oven to 350.  Brown the ground beef over medium heat, then add onions, garlic, and seasoning.  Add sauce & tomatoes, and fill each can with about a 1/4 c of water and dump that in with the meat as well.  Let cook at a simmer for about 20 minutes.  While that is cooking, get your chopped up cabbage in a pot with a bit of water, cover and let steam over high for 20 minutes.  When both are done, assemble your casserole.  Using a 9x13 baking dish, layer half of the cabbage, then half of the meat, the remaining cabbage and the remaining meat.  Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven, top with the cheese, and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.  That's it, that's all, dinner is ready!

For the carb eaters of the family, I served this with rice.  For myself, I ate it as is.  Delicious!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Mixed Bean & Feta Salad - Perfect Pantry Challenge Side Dish!

I threw together an amazing mixed bean salad the other day, and I was damn proud!  I used up a couple cans of beans I had in the pantry, some feta in the fridge, and a bit of seasoning, and voila!  We have been eating it with every meal for the last three days, and honestly, I don't want it to end!

Check out the recipe below!

The yummy bean salad is pictured here with the Haitian Griot I made on Sunday (recipe coming soon) 
Bean & Feta Salad
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
2 T lime juice
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T sugar
1 can mixed beans
1 can black beans
1 can chickpeas
1 sweet pepper, diced
Chopped cilantro (I used the tubed variety since it keeps well for longer periods in the fridge)
3/4 c crumbled feta cheese
Mix the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.  Mix the salad ingredients together (after draining and rinsing beans) in a large bowl.  Add dressing, combine well, and eat!
Just a note - any beans would work with this salad.  Use what you have, it'll be just as fabulous.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe - Foolproof and Delicious

In the spirit of saving money, and doing more home cooking/baking rather than buying packaged goods, I baked a batch of cookies this week.  Truth be told, the baking is usually left to the hubby since he's amazing at it, but I took it on this time, and these babies are epic.  Chewy in the right places, perfectly speckled with chocolate chips - just amazing.  Try them for yourself and let me know what you think!

Epic Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
1 c butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 c chocolate chips                                                                                                 
Preheat your oven to 375.  Mix the first 6 ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add the flour and baking soda and mix well.  Stir in your chocolate chips.  Using a tablespoon to scoop up the dough, roll into balls and place on a non-stick cookie sheet.  They don't spread too much in the oven so you can place them fairly close together.  Bake for 11 minutes.  Eat!  Fall in love!                             

Monday, February 1, 2016

Join Me For a Pantry Challenge and Saving Money!

Have you heard of the pantry challenge?  If not, please go to asap.  Jessica Fisher, the author of this ingenious website, has come up with the pantry challenge, which she and her very large family participate in several times a year.  It started out of necessity several years ago, and now has become something she does every once in a while to clean up her freezer and pantry, and to of course, save money!

I'm gearing up for something like this myself, and my start date is Feb 1st.  I've always wanted to do one, and I've always wanted to blog about it, but there's a huge fear of being held accountable.  Yes, I said it.  I do not want to let my readers down, or worse, be judged, or much worse, fail! 

I do however want to save money, lower my grocery bill, and use up things that we already have.  I currently spend about $600/month on groceries.  I live with my hubby and daughter full time, and my step-daughter is with us every other weekend and occasionally during the week depending on her mother's schedule.  Both girls are teenagers, both are very active, and both have big appetites.  Hubby is an enthusiastic carnivore who often asks 'where's the meat??' if (god-forbid) he's served a vegetarian dinner.

We eat a lot of meat, veggies, and carbs (for them - I stay away from carbs).  I love to cook (as you know) and we get bored very easily with repetitive meals.  I generally shop the 50% off meat at my local grocery store, and throw it in the freezer.  Last week I scored a huge pork shoulder for $1.49/lb.  This week it was .99/lb!!  I should have waited.  Oh well.

So for February I'm going to ease into this without too many rules.  I want to use what I have, I want to shop smarter, and I'd like to come in under $500 for the month's grocery bill.  If that works out, I'd like to try for $400 in March.  As the warmer months come, it should be easier to reduce the bill thanks to our epic Farmer's Market...but lets see how long I last on this, shall we? 

Just a note - I'm not going to include non-food items that I purchase at the grocery store, like toothpaste, bathroom tissue, paper towel, etc.

If you'd like to join me in this challenge, I suggest you check out a few more amazing websites to prepare; and are both incredible sites to help get you started on your own money saving journey.  Along with Good Cheap Eats, these sites offer simple recipes, DYI projects, and so many money saving tips.  They have completely inspired and motivated me, and now it's time to do something about it!

To prepare myself for my start date, I have taken stock of everything I have in both my kitchen freezer and deep freezer, as well as all 3 of my pantries.  I have one pantry in the kitchen that mainly holds seasoning, flour, current cookies and cereal being eaten, etc, and I have 2 in the basement that hold the overflow.

I have browsed endlessly on Pinterest planning meals that can be made with my stock pile, and will continue to do so throughout the challenge.  I'm not sure that "challenge" is an appropriate word since I'd like this to be a new way of life for me and my family, but the word adds some competitiveness and fun to the situation so I'll keep it.

There are some things I already do to save money.  I used to be very big into couponing, but just don't have the time for it anymore.  I still take advantage of an amazing app on my phone to price match though.  If you don't have flipp, I suggest you download it now.  Trust me.  I also wash out my Ziploc bags (both freezer and sandwich) as long as there wasn't any raw meat in them.  And as I mentioned above, most of my meat (and cheese, and bread, and anything else I can find) has a beautiful pink 50% off sticker on the packaging.

With the rising cost of food, I think a challenge like this will help reign in the spending and make me more conscious of what I am spending my money on.  I have always used to keep me on track, so it will be nice to see the grocery fund go down in number, and I'll be using the savings to put towards our debt.

I'll still post recipes throughout the week, like always, but I'll also post a weekly recap showing you what we ate for the week, and what I spent just so you can see how I'm doing (and so that I can remain accountable. The horror).  My hope is to give you some ideas on how to save money, perhaps inspire you to do the same, and of course to fatten my wallet.  Wish me luck...we'll be in touch!