Menu for July 28 through August 3

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Yup, still tired of chicken. And it’s still warm out. Gonna get my pork and beef on this week:

Sunday: Cheese, hummus, crackers, and fruit (picnic lunch)
Monday: Barbecue hamburgers at grandparents – bringing fruit
Tuesday: Joe’s Special (an egg, ground beef, and veggie one-skillet meal – recipe coming soon)
Wednesday: Caprese grilled cheese, green salad, fresh fruit
Thursday: Multigrain pancakes, bacon, fruit salad
Friday: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, Caprese salad, fresh fruit
Saturday: Flex/leftovers/out

What’s on your plate this week?

Easy Beef Skillet

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My husband and I have been eating mostly chicken and turkey for our meat selections for years and years. It’s cheap, and lean, and very versatile. But lately, truthfully, I’ve gotten sick of poultry. I don’t know if it’s my older son vetoing it which has made face the facts or what, but we need more beef and vegetarian meals in our routine.

The following recipe is easy, and comforting, and incorporates leftover veggies from your fridge and freezer. We had this for dinner tonight, and there were no leftovers. We usually have leftovers, but not tonight.

Easy Beef Skillet

You need:

1 medium onion, diced
6 stalks celery, diced
olive oil
1lb ground beef
1 cup frozen potatoes (try to find additive free)
1 1/2 2 cups other veggies (I used frozen peas and carrots – also try mushrooms, mixed veggies, cabbage, anything small and finely diced)
1 tb Spike seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 can of cream of mushroom soup (I used Pacific Foods Cream of Mushroom soup – you can also make your own)
salt, to taste

You do:

Add a small amount of olive oil to a large skillet and add the onion. Saute until golden brown. Add the celery and saute for two additional minutes. Add the beef and combine. Cook until browned. Add Spike and garlic powder and combine. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, add a small amount of olive oil and add the potatoes, frying until golden brown. Add the additional vegetables. Cover and heat until additional vegetables are cooked through.
Add the potatoes and vegetables to the large skillet with the meat mixture. Add the cream of mushroom soup and combine well. Heat for five minutes, and add salt to taste.

Wine on the Cheap

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I’m a  cheap date. And I’m not saying that just because I have a low tolerance to alcohol (which I don’t)… but I like cheap wine. I do. Now, there is some really gross cheap wine out there, the stuff that tastes like someone added rubbing alcohol to some off grapes, and stuff that will leave you with a killer headache in the morning, even if you only had two glasses. But here’s what I do when I’d like a drink or three. Depending on your location and alcohol culture, your mileage may vary.

  • Two and a half Buck Chuck. Trader Joes is my number 1 place to go to get wine. Their Charles Shaw brand has won innumerable awards, and in Washington State each bottle is only $2.50. It varies state by state. (I think in California it’s only $2 – what a bargain!) I usually go either for the sauvignon blanc or cabernet sauvignon. The trick about this wine, though, is the taste is going to vary. Trader Joes buys the excess wine from large wineries and sells it at a rock bottom price – but because they source their wines from different wineries, the 2010 chardonnay is not going to taste like the 2011. That’s ok, if you’re just looking for something to drink with dinner. You are not going to get a bad glass.
    J.W. Morris is another Trader Joes wine, which goes for $3.99 in Washington State. This is their label for riesling, gewurtztraminer, and moscato, and is an excellent bargain as well.
  • Buy local. This is dangerous, as local wineries can have a tremendous price range. But typically, if you stick to the larger wineries in your area, and go for the bottom rung, you’re going to get a good, solid, reliable bottle of wine. Now again, in Washington State, I’m privileged as the state’s wine industry is booming. Chateau Ste. Michelle and Hogue are some of my favorite brands of wine, and their excellent rieslings are usually about $6 to $7. Hoodsport Winery has some excellent fruit wines at about $10. Sniff around your area and supermarket and see what you can find.
  • Buy discount wines. This is my least favorite way to buy wine, as I have tasted some nasty stuff. But definitely an adventurous way to try wine is to define a price, then shop as your budget allows.
    I tend to do this mostly at Grocery Outlet. I am currently drinking a glass of Bloom Moscato I purchased from GO, and there’s three things I like about this bottle: 1) It tastes yummy, and isn’t too cloyingly sweet. 2) It’s in a pretty pink, flowery bottle (ok, maybe not a selling point for the guys). And 3) It’s only $2.99.
    Frontera Wines also definetely fit this category. I was contacted by bzzagent to try Frontera’s Pinot Noir and Moscato. I was a bit underwhelmed by the campaign, as they are sold at Walmart and cost $5, but as I was offered a rebate I decided to try them.
    They are actually very good! I purchased them from an endcap at Fred Meyer and enjoyed them. The moscato had just the right amount of sweetness and was refreshing on a warm summer night. The pinot noir was very smooth and didn’t taste sticky, as some red wines can do. If I’m looking for an inexpensive wine at Fred Meyer, they are going to be some of my top picks.

Do you have any tips on selecting a great bottle of wine on the cheap?

Menu for July 21 through July 27

966677_10151421101706921_1140409568_oWe’re camping the first part of this week (or… well, is sleeping in a yurt still considered “camping?”), so we’ll have some campground food… and a pretty easy going week otherwise. I’m going to pull my crockpots out and make some fun stuff… and not just for dinner. Stay tuned for new recipes!

Sunday: Foil packet ground beef and vegetables, watermelon, chips
Monday: Weenie roast, applesauce, chips
Tuesday: Out
Wednesday: Either baked cod and sweet potato hash or Easy Peasy Spicy Shrimp Salad
Thursday: Something from The Indian Slow Cooker
Friday: Kitchen sink beef and veggie casserole in the slow cooker
Saturday: Canned soup night (we have a lot of canned soup)

What’s for dinner at your house?

Indian Spiced Slow Cooker Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes

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I am officially in love with The Indian Slow Cooker. I’ve cooked a couple of recipes out of here for my family, and my lentil hating hubby, meat despising preschooler, and toothless infant all love them.

Here’s an incredibly delicious (like, I’m still enthusiastic about it a few days later) meal I adapted from the book:

Indian Spiced Slow Cooker Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes

You need:

1 large cauliflower, cut into roughly bite sized chunks
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
2 tb powdered ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1 tb ground cumin
1 tb chili powder
1 tb garam masala
scant 1 tb salt
3 tb olive or coconut oil

You do:

Place all ingredient in a 4 qt slow cooker. Combine.
Heat on low for 3 hours, mixing once an hour.

Serve with rice or naan, with whole yogurt on the side to mix in if it’s a little too spicy.

Meal Planning 101

486465_10151334402036921_176978986_nIf you’re into cheap, healthy, easy, yummy food (and I know you are, because why else would you be reading a blog called cheap.healthy.easy.yummy.?), it is essential that you plan what you’re having for dinner during the week. Doing this makes dinner time a lot easier, allows you to choose more efficiently from sales and your stockpile, and eliminates the need to run out for pizza. Unless, of course, you want to run out for pizza. We all need to do that sometimes.

I love meal planning. I really do. I think it’s also because I love to cook, and I love problem solving. I get to plan different recipes to try, and create family pleasing meals at the same time.

Some people do a monthly or 2 week plan. I prefer to create a meal plan for a week only, so I have a better idea of what’s at the grocery store and what’s currently in my pantry. I meal plan on Saturday evenings, after the circular for my favorite store comes out.

Here’s some things to take into consideration:

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  • What you have planned right before dinnertime. This may be a weekday/weekend dichotomy, when you need five quick and easy meals, and two meals that can be prepared more luxuriously. Or the difference between quick and really quick – do you have a soccer game that takes you all the way up to dinnertime? That would be a great day for a crock pot stew!
    How this usually looks for me: I scan the weekdays to see if we have any plans right before dinner. If so, that is an automatic slow cooker meal or salad night. If not, I cook something that is quick, so my baby doesn’t scream too much. On the weekend, hubby is home, so I can make something with more preparation since he can keep an eye on the baby.
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  • What’s on sale. Always meal plan with the current grocery store circular in your hand (or loaded on the computer). You can easily get ideas for simple meals by glancing at the sales. Pasta on sale? Have a spaghetti night. Basil and mozzarella? Have a Caprese salad on the side. You get the idea.
    How this looks for me:
    I usually plan one meal a week by looking at the ad. I tend to stockpile meats (in my freezer) and non-perishables (in my pantry) when they go on sale, so this isn’t quite as big a deal for me.
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  • What sounds good. Simple as that. What do you want to cook? What do you want to eat?
    How this looks for me: I ask hubby and my older son what they would like for dinner every week. Some of the time their suggestions are not doable (I’m not turning on the oven when it’s hot outside, and no, we’re not having yogurt for dinner), but it keeps everyone happy when they can eat what they want. Also, I tend to pin a lot of recipes on Pinterest (follow me here) so I look at my recipe boards as well for something that looks fun and easy.
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  • The weather. The weather affects what you might want to eat – make sure to look at the weather forecast and plan appropriately.
    How this looks for me: If it’s warm outside, I plan salads, sandwiches, light slow cooker meals, and things for the barbecue. If it’s cold, I plan casseroles and hearty slow cooker meals. If it’s just raining? I don’t worry so much about the weather then (except we obviously can’t pull out the grill).
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  • Themes. Some people find it’s easiest to set a meal for each night of the week. Sunday roast, Monday spaghetti, Tuesday tacos, and so on. This works best when you have some tried and trues, and don’t particularly like cooking or variety. Others work with themes: Mexican Mondays, Casserole Tuesdays, Out to dinner Saturdays, what have you. What kinds of foods does your family consistently like? Work them into your schedule on a regular basis.
    How this looks for me:  The biggest theme I use is Meatless Monday. Meatless Monday is a national movement to remove meat from your diet one day a week, for nutritional, financial, and environmental reasons. As my older son has stopped liking meat so much, I’ve started celebrating Meatless Monday on other days of the week as well.
    Fun Food Friday consists of comfort foods that are simple to make. Santa Fe Chicken is one of our favorites, as are chicken strips. And Saturday’s usually reserved as a flex day, in case we have leftovers that I haven’t planned for or if hubby wants to go out.
    We formerly had fish at least once a week for dinner, but I’ve stopped scheduling it so much. I’m not sure why – maybe had to do with all the complaining, haha. I do need to put this back on our schedule.Growing up, we had Pizza Friday. My brother and I loved Pizza Friday.

What about you? Do you meal plan?

Easy Peasy Spicy Shrimp Salad

032Remember how I said that I never ever follow a recipe correctly? Here’s another example of that. Inspired by this recipe, I started making a shrimp salad. However, I quickly realized that I forgot to buy onions, and I had grape tomatoes, not large tomatoes, and I just didn’t want to chop a jalapeno… so I made this instead. And it was sunshiny and perfect for a gross, cloudy, muggy day.

Easy Peasy Spicy Shrimp Salad

You need:

1lb small salad shrimp
The juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, diced
1 1/2 cups mild salsa

You do:

Place the shrimp in a medium sized bowl. Pour the juice over the shrimp and mix to combine. Add the avocado and salsa, and mix until thoroughly blended. Serve. Yuuummm.