Weekly Meals for March 5th, 2017

I haven’t posted one of these in a long, long time!  Back in the day I posted what our family would eat in a week and how much our grocery bill came to. Back then, with three little ones, the cost was usually around $100/week. Now those three babies are three hungry teenagers and the meals come to about $150/week.

Here’s what we’re eating for dinners this week for about $150:


This is a beer and mustard pulled turkey dish served with warm, soft tortillas and pico de gallo. The recipe can be found here.

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Pho Ga is a Vietnamese chicken noodle soup! We love it because you can top it with all kinds of healthy veggies and herbs. Make it as spicy as you want. The recipe is here.

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Cowboy chili! Served with a salad and all kinds of tasty toppings, this one is always a favorite at our house. Recipe is here.

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Kidney bean etouffee with a scoop of white rice in the middle. An inexpensive and protein-filled meal that goes well with a salad on the side. Find the recipe here.

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Bowls of spiced coconut chicken and rice. Recipe found here.

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Mmmmm. A shredded flank steak cooked in red wine sauce. It’s spicy and, to make it Cuban-style, we add lots of sliced green olives. Recipe is here.

In addition to these fabulous dinners we will have meatball subs and salad. For lunches, everyone gets leftovers from whatever we ate the night before. And breakfasts consist of homemade granola, eggs, English muffins, pancakes, waffles, or sometimes a special dish like Dutch Baby pancakes. 

Hope this inspires you to plan ahead, shop from your grocery store’s circular, and come up with a delicious menu that will save you money!




This Week’s Meals

This week we spent $149.47 at the grocery store and will be making these delicious dishes.  What’s on your menu?  

Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup Recipe

Taste of Home’s tortellini soup – I subbed beef broth and beef tortellini for the chicken & cheese called for in the recipe.  

Ina Garten’s perfect roasted chicken with roasted carrots & onions, garlicky collards, and Caesar salad.

Butternut Squash Apple Soup

Simply Recipe’s butternut squash soup, with the addition of some heavy cream. Served with kale chips

Elodia Rigante’s pasta e fagiole with sausage from this awesome cookbook.

chili nachos

Fridays during soccer season alternate with homemade pizzas and homemade chili nachos. 

homemade broth

I’m making a giant pot of chicken stock for a sick friend, for a meal for us, and to stock our freezer.

penne with sauce

And finally, I will simmer a pot of sauce (aka: gravy!) for an entire weekend day.  The house will smell like the Italian countryside and our family will look forward to our evening fall supper.









Best Ever St. Patrick’s Day Dinner

Boiled dinner.  Wikipedia describes it as follows:

New England boiled dinner is the basis of a traditional New England meal, consisting of corned beef or a smoked “picnic ham” shoulder, with cabbage and added vegetable items, often including potato, rutabaga, parsnip, carrot, white turnip and onion. When using a beef roast, this meal is often known simply as corned beef and cabbage even with the addition of other vegetables.[1] A similar Newfoundland dish is called a Jiggs dinner, named for the character in Bringing Up Father. When prepared with a ham shoulder, this meal is often referred to as smoked shoulder.

I used to be intimidated by this meal, fearing a chewy meat and mushy vegetables.  Now I have a fool proof way of preparing it & I’d love to share its simplicity.

First, I purchase 2-3 packages of corned beef from our supermarket.  We eat a lot of this stuff and leftovers make addicting, melty, gooey sandwiches piled high with sauerkraut or coleslaw, thousand island dressing, and swiss cheese.  But that’s another post.

Put the corned beef in a slow cooker with one bottle of Guiness beer.  Yup, beer.  You can use any beer here, really, but if you’re going Irish you might as well use a hefty stout like Guiness.  Let’s talk a minute about beer and cooking.  I really dislike beer.  Like really, really dislike it.  Cooking with it scared me because I didn’t want any beer flavor in my meat.  So I can testify that not only does the alcohol content cook out, but the result of this cooking process is simply a tender, never chewy, corned beef that practically falls apart when you touch it.  If you really don’t want to cook with beer, just cover with water instead.  Whichever way you go, don’t forget to add the spice packet.

To brine your own corned beef brisket, or to make your own spice packet, click HERE.

Turn your slow cooker on and simmer 6-8 hours.  About 1 hour before you’d like to eat, put a large pot of boiling water on the stove.  Add potatoes cut in large chunks, parsnips, carrots, or any vegetables you’d like to serve.  Remember to add the potatoes and larger veggies first, then add smaller veggies that take less time to cook maybe 15 minutes later.  About 5 minutes before all your vegetables are tender, add cabbage cut into large pieces.   When it’s all done, drain and keep warm.

Easy so far, right?  Dumping things in a slow cooker.  Boiling veggies.

Now you need to decide if you want to just slice your corned beef or if you want to broil a nice little crust onto it.  If you’d like the latter, smear some dijon mustard and brown sugar on the brisket and broil for a few minutes till crispy.  Keep your eye on it!  It would be a shame to burn it at this point.

Get out a platter – a big one.  Lay your sliced corned beef in the middle and surround with all of your boiled vegetables.

This is an excellent boiled dinner.  However you can make it OVER THE TOP by whipping up the cream sauce below.  Folks will rave about the meal after they slather this delightful topping all over their meat & veggies.  To time this sauce perfectly, start it right after you get the potatoes boiling.


2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 minced cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

2/3 cup dry white wine

1-1/4 cup chicken stock

1-1/4 cup light cream or half-and-half

Salt & pepper

1)  Melt the butter in a sauce pan & saute onion till soft.  Add garlic & cook one more minute.

2) Stir in mustard & wine.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add stock and reduce by half.

3) Add cream and reduce by half.  Cook till you have a creamy consistency.  Season with salt and pepper.



Black Beans & Rice

We love this quick, simple, healthy, and inexpensive meal.

As with so many recipes, there are an infinite ways to prepare black beans to serve over rice.  Find what works best for your family.  Incidentally, this is a great protein to bring to a potluck or to serve a large group.

To begin choose either canned, rinsed black beans or dried.  If using dried, prepare them by boiling for several hours or soaking overnight, then adding to a slow cooker.  See package instructions for further details or click here.

Next saute one chopped onion and one chopped carrot till softened ~ about 5 minutes.  Then add 3 cloves of minced garlic & cook another minute.  Top this mixture with fresh tomatoes or a can of some type of tomato puree, crush, or dice.  Mix it all up.  Add beans and about 4 cups of broth.  Season the beans with salt, pepper, oregano, and cumin.

At this point you can take lots of liberties.   Open up your spice cabinet and add something funky if you’d like, such as turmeric or chili powder or a dash of curry.

If you’re happy with you have, start the rice as your beans simmer.  I like to serve these over white or brown rice, but basmati is our favorite. You can flavor your rice with adobo spices, cumin, lime, cilantro, or anything.  Cooking the rice in broth or coconut milk is an option too.

While your rice cooks prepare some toppings.   You can shred cheese or prepare diced red onion, sliced scallions, chopped red peppers, fried strips of tortilla, chopped cilantro, slices of lime, or even scramble an egg or two.

When the beans are done simmering (cook from 30 minutes to an hour or more ~ but they can be eaten sooner rather than later), I like to shmoosh mine up with a stick blender, leaving a few whole beans here and there.

To serve you can choose to either spoon beans over the rice, or place the beans in a bowl and top with a rounded scoop of rice.  Put toppings on the table along with sour cream and hot sauce.


Creamiest Homemade Mac-n-Cheese Ever

Here’s an out-of-the-pantry meal that I can make for excellent husbands who need comfort food, famished children, last-minute guests, and pot lucks.  I always have some type of cheese on hand, a box of pasta, and milk.  The other ingredients are simple.

My new favorite macaroni shape to use is shells; the medium kind.  The tiny little pastas have a pocket that fills up with gooey cheese that oozes out when you bite into them.   Always a big hit!

Shells, also known as conchiglie.

Here’s how to do it:

Add 1 pound of whatever pasta you’d like to salted, boiling water.  Cook till 2 minutes before recommended “done” time.  Drain.

In same, now empty pot, add 4 tablespoons of cornstarch, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of dry mustard, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Whisk these up.  Turn on the heat and slowly whisk in 5 cups of milk.  Cook until bubbly and thick.

Turn off heat and add 4 tablespoons of butter and 4  cups of shredded cheese.  I like cheddar &/or American.  When cheese is thoroughly incorporated, add the macaroni back in and cook on low another minute or so.  Stirring constantly.  This lets the macaroni soak up some of that creamy goodness.

Couple of options here.

After letting the dish stand a few minutes to thicken up you can just let folks dig in.  OR, you could pour the macaroni and cheese in a baking dish and top with more shredded cheese or buttered bread crumbs or bacon or whatever you can imagine up!  Then bake at 350 for about 20 minutes to brown the top.

Or you can add things like chopped ham, cooked broccoli, or MORE bacon.  The possibilities are endless!

Ingredient Round Up:

1lb Pasta, 4T cornstarch,  2t salt, 1t dry mustard, 1t pepper, 5c milk, 4T butter, 4c  cheese.

Chicken Enchiladas

These chicken enchiladas are sure to knock your socks off! Heat them up by adding chopped jalapeno peppers to your chicken or a dash of hot sauce to the enchilada sauce. This recipe is mild (green chiles add no heat).

Chicken Enchiladas

3c Enchilada Sauce (see below)

2c shredded cooked chicken

1/2c thinly sliced green onion

3/4c shredded cheddar

3/4c shredded Monterey jack

1/4c sour cream

1 4oz can diced green chiles

1/4c chopped cilantro

12 corn tortillas

Heat oven to 350 and prepare Enchilada Sauce (below).

In a bowl, combine chicken, green onions, 1/2c cheddar, 1/2c Monterey, sour cream, chiles and cilantro. Add 1/2c Enchilada Sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat enough oil or Crisco in a large pan to fry the 12 corn tortillas. Fry one at a time for about 10 seconds each – just enough to soften. Drain on paper towels.

Spray a 9×13 with non-stick spray & spread a small amount of sauce on bottom of pan.

Spread 2 heaping tablespoons of chicken mixture on a tortilla & roll up. Place seam-side down, side by side in the prepared dish.

Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas, top with remaining cheeses & bake till bubbling, 15-20 minutes.

Garnish with extra sour cream, sliced green onions & chopped cilantro.

Enchilada Sauce

2T Crisco
2T flour
2T chili powder
1t ground cumin
1 14oz can chicken broth
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1t salt
1/4t garlic powder

Heat oil in large saucepan, stir in flour & chili powder. Cook for 1 minute.
Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil & simmer for 10 minutes.

Some tips:

  • Triple the recipe and freeze the enchiladas! You might as well since you’re at it!
  • We like ours with extra sauce. Also, make extra sauce by easily doubling (or more) the recipe. Freeze the sauce & you’re one step closer next time you make enchiladas.
  • Most of the chicken mixture ingredients are optional. Try variations: cooked, shredded beef; corn, etc.
  • Grill the chicken, bake it, poach it. It’s a great way to use up leftover meats (try pork or beef too!).
  • You can buy canned enchilada sauce at the grocery market. It is expensive and contains MSG, but it is quicker if you’re in a hurry.
  • For quick sides: serve with a can of refried beans (or make your own – they’re so easy!) and a can of corn. We love homemade corn bread with them.

Cake for Dinner on April Fool’s Day!

Dessert for dinner?

My family loves when I mess with their meals on April Fool’s Day.  One year I served cake for dinner and we all had a blast!  The cake, it turns out, was made of meatloaf, filled with a layer of cheese, and finished with a mashed potato frosting that had a beautifully dyed lavender border!

Here’s how I did it!

Start with your regular meatloaf recipe, but bake it in three 9″ cake pans.

When baked, melt some cheese on top of two of the layers.

Stack the layers.  {Ewwww! It’s not very pretty yet!}

Mash up some potatoes ’til they are super creamy!

Set some “frosting mashed potatoes” aside and dye them the color of your choice.  Frost the cakes & pipe the colored frosting decoratively around the cake.  I saved some plastic flowers from a birthday cake to use as garnish.

Serve on a lovely cake plate and tell everyone that as a special occasion you are having dessert for dinner!


Chicken Thigh Recipes {4} Country Captain’s Chicken


2 3/4 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups white and wild rice, basmati, or long grain rice
2/3 cup flour, eyeball it
1 rounded tablespoon sweet paprika
4 pieces, 6 ounces each, boneless, skinless chicken breast
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
2 tablespoons butter
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 or 3 large cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon curry powder or mild curry paste
1 cup chicken stock
1 can diced tomatoes in puree or chunky style crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup golden raisins or currants, a couple of handfuls
2 ounces, 1 small pouch, sliced almonds, lightly toasted
3 scallions, chopped, for garnish

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add butter and rice and return water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Cook rice 20 minutes or until tender. Turn off heat and fluff rice with a fork.

Combine flour and paprika in a shallow dish. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cut each chicken breast and thigh in 1/2 on an angle. Coat chicken pieces in paprika seasoned flour. Wash your hands and chicken work surfaces thoroughly.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to the pan. Brown chicken pieces, 3 minutes on each side, and remove from the skillet. Add butter to the pan, then stir in peppers, onions and garlic. Season the veggies with salt and pepper and saute them 5 to 7 minutes to soften.

Add curry, stock, tomatoes and raisins. Slide chicken back into the skillet and simmer over moderate heat for 5 minutes to combine flavors and finish cooking the chicken through.

Place skillet on a trivet and serve the chicken from the pan. Garnish the Country Captain’s chicken with sliced almonds. Transfer rice to a serving dish and garnish with chopped scallions.

Chicken Thigh Recipes {3} – Garlic Chicken and Fruit Ragu

This isn’t a 10-minute recipe, but it’s not that difficult or time consuming either.  If needed, substitute or omit any ingredients that you can’t locate.


3 tablespoons olive oil
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 can (14-ounce) chicken stock
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup dried Mediterranean apricots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sweetened dried cranberries
1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Cointreau)
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Heat a large frying pan to medium high heat, then add olive oil. When oil is hot, add the chicken thighs and cook, turning, about 12 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown on all sides and fork can be easily inserted. Remove chicken from pan and drain off any excess oil.

Place onion in pan and saute over medium heat for 2 minutes; add garlic and saute for an additional minute. Slowly add chicken stock, scraping pan to dissolve bits clinging to the bottom.

When chicken stock begins to bubble, add ginger, allspice, cloves, salt, black pepper, chipotle chili, lemon juice, mustard, apricots, raisins, and cranberries. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, then add chicken; continue to simmer until chicken is cooked and the liquid reduced to a light syrup, about 15 minutes.

Add the liqueur to the frying pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and add chopped walnuts. Serve over rice.