Monday, January 20, 2014

Who Likes Free Stuff? THIS GIRL.

I may not be new to the blogging world, but this is my first venture in cultivating an audience wider than my city. So for that I turned to my wonderful friend Angela from Hairspray and High Heels for guidance, advice, to be a sounding board, to write code for me, to make my sidebar and buttons and the whole thing pretty much. So I owe her much more than a thank you!!

But to celebrate my launch and to say HI! to all my new readers, I stowed away on a SUPER AWESOME giveaway that she and some other bloggy blogs are hosting that you can enter, too!

The ladies are giving away a $250 gift card to Sephora (WHAT $250 THAT'S AMAZING) and the contest is running through February 4 at midnight - just in time for Valentine's Day if you want something pretty fab to give your significant other or just to pamper yourself with. I'm kind of jealous I can't enter, to be frank. Good luck!!

January Group Sephora Giveaway
One lucky winner will receive a $250 Sephora Gift Card! Good luck & be sure to visit the lovely ladies participating in the giveaway!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Feta & Spinach Stuffed Chicken

I'm a total sucker for stuffed stuffs. Stuffed chicken, stuffed fish, stuffed peppers, you name it. Last week I tried my hand at a feta and spinach stuffed chicken breast and I'm pretty sure it's going on the list of Top 10 Stuffed Chicken Recipes. It's basically spanakopita in chicken form and therefore insanely perfect. It's probably perfect because it's yet another gem from who I love and you should go check out immediately.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Meal Plan & Shopping List - Week of January 20, 2014

Oh and it's a good one.

So here's how this will work. Every weekend I'll post my meal plan for the following week and the corresponding shopping list for ALL of the ingredients. Then, I'll show you what I actually had to go out and purchase and we'll see how close I stuck to my budget of $50-$75 a week. As much as I would love to toil over every last ingredient and get you in and out of the store with a $50 bill, I would prefer that you eat better than just those weird Ramen Noodle looking things the extreme couponers always seem to get free by the cart-full.

I'll post the recipes each day (so on Monday I'll be writing about the wonderful world of tilapia) but if you want to take a sneak peek, stop by my new Pinterest page (it's a lot of work moving a few thousand pins from one account to another!), follow me and skim my boards! But, just like grocery shopping, don't going into it hungry and only carry cash so you don't buy $35 sweaters from a specialty shop in Ireland only for it to show up to your house and you think "whoa that looked way better on Polyvore." Not that I have ANY experience with that...

If you watch The Chew on ABC (or even if you don't), they actually talked a little bit today about wasting money on food that gets thrown out and suggested meal planning at the top of the show. How perfect! I keep two food lists throughout the week - one for what we are running low on and I should probably look into getting next time I go to the store and one for the ingredients I need to build recipes around and soon. That way I minimize food waste by using what I already have before it has a chance to expire and I keep my pantry well-stocked at the same time. Like I mentioned in my chicken stock post, when the veggies are looking a little sad, it's probably time to make a stock if for no other reason than to get some use out of them. (You could also make a pot roast when they look sad! I should write that down!) Eventually, the more time you spend in the kitchen the easier it will be to look at a pile of seemingly mismatched ingredients and produce something pretty decent without even thinking. It's kind of like you're on Chopped, except it's every day and no one is forcing you to use circus peanuts in your salad.

So the menu! The foods I planned around this week were primarily shallots, cream cheese and the fact that I needed to make more chicken stock. Here's my thought process behind building the meal plan:

Monday - Panko Crusted Tilapia & Sweet Potato Fries with Steamed Vegetables

I like having at least one meatless meal per week and even more importantly, one lighter meal since I tend to gravitate towards cheesy pasta dishes (not that that's necessarily a bad thing). Tilapia was on sale at my grocery store this week so that's the route I chose. I've been meaning to pick up some panko breadcrumbs since I've been out for so long. I've been a little obsessed with sweet potato fries lately and seeing as pound for pound they have more nutrients than any other potatoes I feel a little bit better about adding this as the starch to my plate. I'll be honest, I added the vegetables because I didn't want you guys to see how horrible I am at preparing side dishes for my family. Normally I'd be like "well, here's your piece of fish and some rice, have a good night!" But now that dinner is on display I need to pretend like I've been doing this all along.

Tuesday - Enchilada Pasta and Steamed Vegetables

When I ran out of chicken stock the first (giddy) thing that came to mind was that I needed to buy a roaster chicken this week! Yay! A quick Pinterest search later and I landed on this twist on the same old enchiladas that I have a habit of making almost weekly anymore. Not that anyone's complaining. I already had the bulk of the ingredients on hand, too, which made it particularly appealing.

Wednesday - Onion Chowder with Cheesy Onion Popovers and Side Salad

My cousin made this the other day and sent me the recipe. I have a bag of onions waiting to be used up and I'll have the chicken stock once I break down the roaster for last night's enchiladas so this is perfect! My husband isn't the biggest soup person and I don't really know how well Maddie is going to take it, but it looked amazing and he's willing to give it a try. Hopefully I'll be able to say the same for Maddie.

Thursday - Feta-Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf with Tzatziki Sauce and Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes

The enchilada pasta recipe calls for heavy cream, but I decided I was going to swap that out for plain greek yogurt. So now that I have a tub of yogurt left it only seems appropriate that I make tzatziki! I already have the turkey in the freezer along with a ton of rosemary. The potatoes specifically call for shallots, of which I have many, and I already have bags upon bags of frozen spinach on hand that I can use in the meatloaf. This was definitely a good pin to have stumbled upon seeing as all I really had to buy was feta, a cucumber, and two potatoes.

Friday - Tuscan Macaroni & Cheese with Side Salad

SPOILER ALERT! (And confession) - I totally made this tonight and it was SO GOOD. Anyway I did have to buy a few things to make this but they were inexpensive and once I saw the recipe online I knew there was no going back. Seriously, so good. Also, I figured it was appropriate for the other meatless meal to be featured on Friday with Lent coming up and all. I may get off easy having been a pregnant and/or nursing mom for the past three Lent seasons, but meatless Friday's are a cinch and this recipe will not leave you feeling like you're missing out on anything!

Now as you can see I only planned five meals for a seven-day week. My husband has a 24-hour shift every fourth day which I usually reserve for "breakfast for dinner" or "just eat the leftovers I don't care that we had them last night" type dinners when I'm left alone with the girls. So in reality I really am only cooking five nights a week. But for normal people with normal schedules and lives, maybe you pick one day for leftovers and another for take-out or going out to eat (ah, memories).

As for the shopping lists, for the five recipes above I needed to purchase 20 items totaling $49.81. Everything else I had on hand. Here is what I had to buy:

Black Beans  $0.75
Broccoli Crowns  $2.71
Cage Free Brown Eggs (18-Count)  $4.39
Cannellini Beans  $0.77
Cheddar Cheese  $1.67
Chives  $2.19
Cucumber  $0.79
Feta Cheese  $2.99
Greek Yogurt (Plain)  $4.45
Kale  $0.22
Organic Salad Mix  $2.69
Panko Breadcrumb  $1.09
Rotisserie Chicken  $6.99
Salsa  $3.99
Shredded Provolone  $1.67
Shredded Tex Mex Cheese  $1.67
Sweet Potatoes  $2.61
Tilapia Filets  $4.29
Tomato Paste (Organic)  $1.19
Vegetable Medley (for Steaming)  $2.69
Total  $49.81

Now I would be lying if I said that's all I spent at the store today. I had to get a few household items and I did find a couple packages on meat that were marked down so I took advantage and got them to freeze for a rainy day. My real grand total today was $112.30 but I had to restock a couple things in my pantry and as I just mentioned, I grabbed some marked-down meat. The biggest "splurges" this week? More juice for Princess Pickle Puss (V8 Fusion, $4.99), bread flour (King Arthur brand, $5.19), toothpaste for Maddie ($3.99), organic milk ($5.77), organic half and half ($3.99), a new hamper ($8.99) and the meat (two packs of sausage and a bottom round roast, $12.14). If I kept my total budget to $50 a week, we would be subsisting on paper towels and the tears of my forefathers.

So here is your list of everything you'll need to prepare next week's meals. Print it out, bust out some highlighters or just cross stuff off, whatever helps you get your own personal Monica Geller on, and cook along! Don't worry about leftover ingredients, either. We'll use them up, I promise!

All-Purpose Flour 4 cups
Bacon 1 pound
Black Beans 1 15 oz can
Brocolli Crowns 1 pound
Brown Sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons
Butter 2 sticks
Cannellini Beans 1 15 oz can
Cayenne Pepper
Cheddar Cheese (Block( 2 oz
Chicken Stock 38 oz
Chive 1/4 cup
Coconut Flour (or substitue 1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs 1/4 cup
Coconut Oil (Olive Oil Is OK!) 1/2 cup
Cream Cheese 4 oz
Cucumber 1 medium
Dried Parsley
Eggs One dozen +1
Elbow Pasta 18 oz
Enchilada Sauce 16 oz
Plain Greek Yogurt 3 cups
Feta Cheese 1 cup
Fresh Dill 1 teaspoon
Fresh Rosemary 2 tablespoons
Frozen Spinach 14 oz
Garlic Cloves 5 medium
Garlic Powder
Ground Turkey 2 pouds
Kale 4 leaves
Lemon Juice 1 tablespoons
Milk 3 1/2 cups
Vegetable Medley (For Steaming) 1 bag
Olive Oil 10 1/2 tablespoons
Onions 7 medium
Onion Powder
Panko Breading 1/2 cup
Parsley 1/4 cup
Shredded Provolone 4 oz
Red Pepper Flakes to taste
Rotisserie Chicken 1 bird
Salad Mix 1 tub
Salsa 1 tub
Salt to taste
Sea Salt to taste
Shallots 2 medium
Sweet Potatoes 5 medium
Tex Mex Shredded Cheese 1 cup
Tilapia Filet 4 large
Worcestershire Sauce 2 tablespoons

I can't wait to get in the kitchen next week! And the week after, and the week after...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Black Bean Burgers with Sriracha Mayo

I just want to eat this picture.

My first meal plan will be posted tomorrow, but I'm itching to share this recipe with you guys now. I made them last weekend for my family and my husband said they were the "best veggie burgers he's ever had."

I didn't even have to pay him to say that!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kitchen 101 - Easy Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

If you really want to knock someone's socks off when they come to eat at your home, give them homemade bread. Not from a box mix, not from a terrifying can that pops open, not "take-and-bake," but real, honest to goodness bread. People go NUTS over it. Probably because they don't know how easy it actually is.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Kitchen 101 - Stocking up on Stock

Every now and again I'm drawn to the mouth-watering smell of the roasted chickens spinning away behind the deli counter at the grocery store. I tell myself that I'm buying them so that I can shred the meat for enchiladas or make a chicken salad but I'm a big fat liar and I really just want to sit and eat the whole thing and not share it with anyone. Emphasis on big and fat.

No matter how I choose to worship the blessed roaster, I always save the carcass (is that not the worst word ever? It's up there with "moist." The food blogger apologizes for ruining all of your appetites.) to make a stock. If I don't have time that day or I already have a batch on hand, I bag it up and throw it in the freezer for later.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tour My Kitchen: Product Edition

Before I get on with the cooking I want to wrap up my kitchen tour by showing you which tools and products I can't live without. I may sell Pampered Chef but most of my "must-haves" aren't from their product line. Don't get me wrong, I think their stuff is pretty fabulous, and I have way more in my stash then just what I'm going to show you today, but if you're a newbie in the kitchen or you have a budget to adhere to or you don't have a lot of space, this is everything I think you'll need to succeed.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Tour My Kitchen: Pantry Edition

Before I start sharing meal plans and shopping lists and gripes about my failures at picking the correct sippy cup for Princess Pickle Puss Maddie, I thought it would be fitting to take a quick tour of my kitchen. I'll do this in two parts - one so you can see what's in my pantry and another so you can take a peek at the products I can't live without. So just for you, I organized my cabinets and cleaned out my freezer so it would be slightly less embarrassing to put my pantry on display. Just. For. You.

The floors are not usually this shiny.
Pretzel dust, spilled orange juice and my tears usually coat it.

Friday, January 10, 2014


For someone that loves to talk about herself I've never been very good at introductions but I suppose I'll give it the old college try.

Actually, maybe I should try a little harder than I did in college.

My name is Michelle and I've been traipsing about the blogosphere for a few years now. Once upon a time I was writing about baseball, which took a back seat to parenting, which has evolved into a passion for food and a need for all the wine. See how quickly I tied in the name of the blog? BLOGGING.

Originally from the Delaware Valley I now reside in Virginia Beach with my husband and two daughters. I would like to refer to my oldest as Princess Pickle Puss but one day she'll be old enough to Google me and that seems rude. Maddie just turned two last week and Amelia is five months old today. Hence the wine. And the whine.

Well deliver me from L.L. Bean.
I've worked for a major automobile insurance company for the better part of a decade and am also a Pampered Chef independent consultant in the rare fleeting moments I have between the rest of my life. Why direct sales? Beats me; I wasn't very good at indirect sales at my day job so your guess is as good as mine. I just like to cook. Shrug.

My relationship with food has always been complicated. I've struggled with weight my entire life and I'm one of those people that can't finish her breakfast without thinking about what she's going to eat for lunch. When I was pregnant with Maddie I wasn't very careful about my diet. I craved Coca Cola like it was my job and I indulged. Oh boy did I indulge. It wasn't until we started her on solids when she was six months old that it finally dawned on me that I was responsible for another human being's nutrition. I knew that what I ate she ate all throughout my pregnancy and while I exclusively breast fed her, but it wasn't until I physically handed her food from my plate that I felt the high five to the face that I needed. That's when things changed.