Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mexican Crockpot Chicken

I picked this recipe up from a friend on a online "mom" community that I am part of. It's sort of a no brainer, but I hadn't heard of it before! Incidentally, my family LOVED it. My half pint nearly 5 year old ate this whole burrito, and my 2 year old ate THREE bowls with tortilla chips crushed up in it. Hubby loved it as well, so that means it will be a staple around here. (Of course, I don't eat chicken, so next time I need to remember to save some beans for a bean and cheese quesadilla for myself! I was jealous they were having yummy Mexican food, and I had an apple. It's hard being the mommy!)

Here is the recipe:

4 -5 FROZEN boneless chicken breasts
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can black beans (I used 2.)
1 (15 ounce) can corn (I omitted.)
1 (15 ounce) jar salsa, any kind (I used two 1/3 full jars from my fridge.)
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese (can use low fat/fat free)

Add all ingredients except cream cheese into crock pot.  High for about 4-5 hours or until chicken is cooked. Shred the chicken and add cream cheese (just throw it on top!) and let sit for about 1/2 hour.  Mix it up and enjoy.

It can be served over rice, in a tortilla, over tortilla chips, etc. So yummy!

Stretching the Tight Budget...

Since we're on a biweekly pay period, we're still working with the other half of last week's tight grocery budget. Surprisingly, we still have a pretty good stock of stuff in our fridge. I'm not quite sure how we did it, but I'm not complaining!

Last night, we stopped at Hy-Vee. I was really happy because I had re-discovered a fundraising coupon book I had bought for Hy-Vee, and I had a $6 catalina. Since we're still in all right shape around the pantry, I knew we could squeeze a few extra things that we don't usually buy in to the mix to help make our Halloween special. Here is what we got:

1 Bic Soleil bonus pack (happy mommy)
1 16 oz Roberts cottage cheese
1 box of chopped frozen spinach
1 bag of Lays potato chips
1 box of Ritz crackers
1can of generic black beans
1 can of generic chicken broth
128 oz bottle of generic apple juice
1 box of Ritz whole wheat (I guess these weren't on sale. Oops.)
1 package of Sara Lee bagels
1 loaf of 100% whole wheat Sara Lee bread
2 pints of Belfonte ice cream
2 AE french onion dips
2 Coffeemate creamers
1 Activia yogurt
1 bottle of generic bleach
2 bricks of generic cheese
2 12 packs of Dr. Pepper
4.82 lbs of apples
1 green pepper
1 container of Marzetti's caramel dip
1.14 lbs of bananas

My pre-tax total was about $35.00. I left a little room due to going over budget last week. I also am going to have to pick up milk today or tomorrow. I'm going to try to check the regular prices at CVS and Walgreens to see what their rates are looking like. Hy-Vee is just seeming so high to me right now!

AS usual, I don't have a super elaborate meal plan for the next week. I'm going to try my new Mexican chicken recipe for dinner tonight. Tomorrow, we're having pizza and caramel apples at my mom's house before we go to our Halloween festival at church. On Monday or Tuesday night, I plan on having confetti chicken casserole with spinach and green peppers. Other than those things, we'll be eating as simply as possible like we usually do -- PB&J, cheese and crackers, frozen pizza, chili from the freezer stash, quesadillas, etc. The good news is that we won't be in a terrible situation come next pay period as my husband worked 7/8 anticipated shifts rather than the 6/8 I was planning for. Thankfully, this week should come and go quickly with plenty of food to go around. We're going to be alright after all! ; )

Saturday, October 23, 2010

$50/week grocery budget the cost of groceries going up???

Things here are going great! I'm feeling pretty good for being 24 weeks pregnant. We're enjoying our girls and the beautiful fall weather, and we can't wait for our new little addition. Only one problem -- my husband has started not receiving full-time hours at work again. UGH. It's so "feast or famine" around here. It could definitely be worse, but it sure isn't fun! Anyway, I try to make our $50 budget count EVERY week, but this week I REALLY needed to make it count because there is just no flexibility in the budget for a quick $1 cheeseburger drive-thru, run to the store for milk, etc. We don't do a whole lot of that anyway, but with our busy schedule it does happen sometimes! This week, we'll probably go out to eat for a cheap lunch after church on Sunday, and that will be about it! Everything else we'll have to come from the fridge or pantry!

I made two trips to the store this week. The first was to Hy-Vee (pictured above.) It was a really good trip, but I was really unimpressed (and have been for a few weeks) with the price of staples like bread and milk. I couldn't get a decent loaf of bread for much under $3 on sale (forget about full price,) or a gallon of 2% milk for much under $4. Not such great prices, especially since I'm still trying to stomach our tax hike in KS! I typically think that Hy-Vee has the lowest full-price prices, but that was not my experience this week. Here is a list of what I got:

2 tubs of generic cottage cheese
1 Palermo's pizza
6 boxes of GM cereal (Free after coupon and catalina)
4 cans of generic tomato sauce
3 jars of unsweetened generic applesauce
1 5lb bg of generic flour
1 can of beef broth
4 boxes of Kraft mac and cheese
1 tub of Planter's cashew halves
2 boxes of Rice A Roni
1 pint of Belfonte ice cream
1 bag of Tyson frozen chicken breasts
1 package of 8 tortillas
2.14 lbs of Cortland apples
1 package of Hormel pork chops

My total at Hy-Vee was about $37.00 pre-tax.

I made a second trip to Price Chopper. I got a much better deal on "whole" foods at PC. This is definitely not the usual case, so I'm going to have to start watching for a trend. It may be that we need to do less shopping at Hy-Vee for awhile. Anyway, I went a little bit over budget, but I figured going over budget would go further at the grocery store than anywhere else, so it's not that huge of a deal. I will borrow the extra few dollars from somewhere else this week. At Price Chopper, I got:

2 dozen generic eggs ($.79/dozen)
1 gallon of hormone free 2% milk (Full price at $3.55)
1 Nature's Pantry loaf of 100% whole wheat bread ($1.99)
2 bottles of Old Orchard apple juice ($.99/bottle)
1 small package of blackberries ($2.00)
1 lb of strawberries ($1.50)
2.5 lbs of Anjou pears ($.99/lb)

I spent $15.05 pre-tax, and I saved $8.99. The milk will kill me every time. Ha!

Since I know we have to eat at home this week, I did some meal planning accordingly. I already tried a new recipe for caramel apple pork chops (not that great,)  and I have a new recipe for chicken burrito filling that you make in the crock pot. I'll also probably make a big pan of cavatini and an extra big batch of tuna noodle salad. My family has also been WAY in to Red Hot Jello lately, so I'll stock the fridge. : ) Later in the week, we will probably have breakfast for dinner, and we'll fill in the gaps with leftovers, sandwiches, cottage cheese, baby's favorite, fresh fruit, frozen veggies and cereal. I always feel a little overwhelmed at the beginning of a tight budget week, but it usually flies right on by!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Easy Calzones

(Who spilled the basil ON the calzones??? Yes, yes, that would be me!)

This is one of my favorite quick dinner recipes! It's so easy! The only thing you HAVE to have is pizza crust. I buy the Pillsbury refrigerated tubes (when they go on sale of course) and cut it in to 5 big triangles. Then, you place your filling (cheese, pepperoni, salami, sausage, black olives, whatever) on the biggest end of the triangle and fold it over. You can tuck the open corners under and roll the rest of the way. To dress them up a little, I spray PAM on top and sprinkle on garlic, oregano and basil. Bake as directed for the pizza crust. The only important part is to make sure it's well sealed so any cheese doesn't leak out in the oven. See, told you it was easy!

This post was linked to:
Tasty Tuesday Beauty and Bedlam, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace, Tuesday at the Table with All the Small Stuff,  Hearth N' Soul with the Girl Chef.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What real food tastes like...

My big girl's Silver Dollar City snack of choice. She makes it looks so good!

Halloween Muffins

Welcome to the second edition of my preschool snacks series. (See my no-brainer first edition idea here.) I am writing this as I grow increasingly frustrated with the complete junk that moms send for snacks to my girl's school. Last week, someone sent Gummy Lifesavers! Are you kidding me?!?!?! My kid has NEVER had those in her whole life, and it really bothers me that someone else thinks they can feed those to her. I have a hard enough time getting my 36 lb almost 5 year old to eat, but when she does eat I really encourage her to eat something healthy. She is well aware of the difference between healthy and not healthy, and I love that. She likes her sweets as much as any kid, but she also loves beans, whole grains, veggies, ALMONDS, and tons of fruits. She knows that "real" food comes from the ground, and that anything else is more or less "special." (Score 1 for mommy!)

So yes, I'm writing a preschool snacks series. I don't think I'm an award winning mom, but I DO think I have some good, easy ideas. I'm always trying to think of creative and fun snacks that they kids will like and actually eat. For my oldest's October snack day, I decided to send an adapted version of my mom's pumpkin muffins.I will admit sending snacks for 4 and 5 year old does post a particular problem! It takes a little bit of backbone ("No, you can't take Gummy Lifesavers,") and a little bit of consideration for your kid! If it were MY way, I'd send broccoli and green beans, but no one wants to be that kid that brought something weird for snack, right? The pumpkin muffins are a snack Evangeline can be proud of because they're delicious, and she helped make them. We also dressed them up a little with some sprinkles. (In spite of my better judgement!)

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

Mix together -
2.5 cups sugar
5 eggs
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup canola oil
1 small can (2 cups) pumpkin

Add -
2 tsps cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
3 tsps baking soda
1 1/4 tsps salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup of raisins (I omitted due to 4 year old's request.)
1 cup of walnuts (I omitted due to 4 yer old's request.)

Beat well.

Makes 36 muffins. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.


Easy enough, right?!?! I promise your kids and their classmates will enjoy!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


This was somewhat of a tricky grocery week. We came back from vacation completely cleaned out of groceries. I also came back exhausted and sick. To top things off, there was a death in the family. I spent the better part of the week trying just told hold the basics together. Thankfully, my husband was able to take some time off work to make things a little bit easier for me.

The sales weren't great this week. Ideally, I would have saved some or all of my money for a better sale week or for the holidays, but we just honestly had an empty fridge.(I had $60 this week as I only spent $40 on groceries on our trip. ) I made two quick trips this week. My first trip was to Price Chopper on Wednesday morning where I grabbed 4 bottles of various Minute Maid juices, a green pepper for chili, some Dr. Pepper and some tortillas. I spent about $10. My husband also picked up a gallon of milk out of pocket. I was aiming to be able to make a dinner with leftovers and have enough things in the fridge to get us through until I could make it to the store over the weekend. Mission accomplished.

Pictured is my trip to Hy-Vee. I was really lucky to only take one kid with me! Even though the sales weren't great, I think we did pretty good! I spent right at $50 after tax. The best part was just having some food in the fridge again!

Stay tuned because this week I plan to share a healthier version of my mom's pumpkin muffins in my preschool snacks series, and I'm also going to share one of our favorite and super, SUPER easy calzone recipes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vegetarian Chili

(Pictured is the non-vegetarian version.)

Several years back, we had a chili cook off on Christmas Day. My husband made this recipe, and I reallllllllllly liked it. However, I'm not a big meat eater, so I adapted it to a meat-free version that I make when my husband isn't home. : )

The recipe is as follows -


  • 1 (46 fluid ounce) can tomato juice
  • 1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 (ounce) can of corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup chili powder


  1. In a large pot over high heat combine tomato juice, tomato sauce, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, corn, onions, bell pepper, cayenne pepper, sugar, oregano, ground black pepper, salt, cumin and chili powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. (Note: If using a slow cooker, set on low, add ingredients, and cook for 8 to 10 hours.) 

One of the things I love most about the recipe (other than that my kids will eat it) is that it's SUPER healthy, and it makes A LOT. I usually have enough for everyone to eat until their stuffed for dinner dinner + lunch leftovers the next day. I usually freeze a second big container which is enough for me and the girls for dinner.

Also, I plugged it in to a recipe analyzer, and it got an A! Pretty awesome! Where else can you get 31 grams of fiber and 42.8 grams of protein???

For another family favorite that freezes well, see my cranberry orange scone recipe!

Fore more vegetarian recipes, see Vegetarian Foodie Friday!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Vanilla Dutch Baby

I saw this recipe on $10 Dinners several weeks back and finally got around to trying it. Here is the recipe, from

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk, heated 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt


"Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the butter in a large saute pan and place in the oven to melt.

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the eggs, flour, hot milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, vanilla extract, and pinch of salt, and blend on medium-high speed until uniform. Cook's Note: If mixing by hand, combine the eggs with the milk until the mixture is light yellow and no longer stringy, about 1 minute. Add the flour, sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt, and whisk vigorously to remove the lumps, about 30 seconds.

Carefully, remove the hot pan from the oven. The butter should be melted. Swirl the butter around the pan to coat completely, and then pour the remaining butter into the batter and whisk to blend. Pour the batter into the hot pan and return the pan to the oven. Cook the pancake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pancake is puffed in the center, and golden brown along the edges.

Using a spatula, remove the entire Dutch baby from the pan and place on a cooling rack for a few minutes to allow the steam to escape without condensing along the bottom and rendering the pancake soggy. Slice the pancake into wedges on a serving platter or cutting board and sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar through a sieve."

 I zapped some apricot jam and spread it over each piece individually. It was REALLY good. It taste like a crepe but of pancake thickeness. I really liked the jam touch too. It reminded me of the crepes we got in France when we were at Epcot. Even still, there are probably about 1000 great ways to dress a Dutch Baby up -- Nutella, fresh strawberries, country store fried apples, and tons more! It will be a fun recipe to have in our repertoire.

Hope you enjoy this recipe!

For more recipes, see

Grocery Blunders...

I had a bad week of grocery mistakes this week. First, I accidentally bought organic apples for $1 a piece. Then, I hit up Hy-Vee a day early for their 1 day sale. I supposed we'll go back today to pick up a few things we'll use. So far, this is what we grabbed -

Hen House -

This was actually a SUPER great trip except for the apple debacle. I spent $25.00 pretax and saved $28.01. If I had bought the apples for $.69/lb we would have done so much better. Plus, they charged me kind of funny for the dried plums, so that savings didn't show up either. I strongly considered taking the apples back since the cost 10% of my grocery budget this week, but I just didn't have the time or the energy.

This was my trip to Hy Vee (where we missed the 1 day sale, as mentioned.) My pre-tax total was about $17.50. I was really happy with my savings, but goodness the milk was $3.85. I try to only buy brands that I know are hormone free, but it is so expensive when I don't have a coupon or there isn't a sale! Is the price of milk going up???

I still have a few recipes I'm going to try to share this week -- my meatless chili and an apple crostada. I also tested out a recipe this morning for a Dutch Baby that is really fun and delicious. It's a good recipe because it's REALLY cheap! The cost for making it comes in easily at under $1.

Also, we'll be out of town next week. Our grocery budget will be coming with us for groceries at our destination. I'm also going to be taking some things from our pantry to help with our vacation expenditures. I'll share some easy ideas for things to pack and take along.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Aveda Birthday Gift - $25 value...

Have you joined the Aveda Birthday Club yet? I don't buy many Aveda things these days, but I have been a birthday club member for YEARS. Every year, we pick out either a Personal Blends™ Pure-Fume™ or body care product offer (worth up to $24) in fragrance #9. It's so great! To join, you can click on the following link: