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Saturday, March 21, 2009

help sales help you

does anyone feel like a boring cook once in a while? i definitely do. i find myself cooking the same kinds of things all the time with very little variation.

that's where sales come in. when fun things come up on sale i try and seize the moment and get creative while fun things are cheap! stop throwing away your sale ads and add some variation to your meals.

here's my most recent "varied" creation. this isn't terribly uncommon in the normal world, but it is in my house! the stars aligned and the right ingredients came on sale and viola! the combination of flavors was soooo wow!!

chicken avocado pitas

large, thin whole wheat pitas (i got a bag of 6 for $1! - that was my fun sale item!)
shredded/chunked chicken (sliced turkey would be good too!)
sliced avocado, lightly salted
1/3 less fat cream cheese
any other veggies you want (my husband wanted tomatoes too!)

1. slice pita in half and open carefully.
2. spread a thin layer of cream cheese inside. layer sprouts on top of cream cheese so they don't fall out, then stuff with avocado and chicken.
3. mmm... enjoy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

recipe of the week: zesty italian dressing mix

i have an amazing find to share with you tonight. yesterday i was going to make crockpot chicken and rice for dinner but realized i had used the rest of my zesty italian dressing mix. this stuff is great for a million recipes, but i get irritated when i run out because it isn't the cheapest ingredient. so, i decided to wing it and search the internet for something close. let me tell you, this was just like the real thing! soooo good and crazy easy! i love eliminating an expensive ingredient! yahoo!

zesty italian dressing mix
from: mrs. t's christmas kitchen

1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each: pepper, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, sweet red pepper flakes (i used a handful of my frozen red and orange bell peppers, defrosted and minced)
Pinch of paprika

mix together. makes equivalent of 1 packet.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

your price points

i recently got into couponing. it is great and i save lots of money and get lots of fun free stuff!

the reason i bring it up is because the couponing guru in my area has a term i love - the price point. the price point is the most you are willing to pay for any given food item. it is important to set price points on things you buy because if you have no limits, suddenly your budget means nothing. here are a few of my price points - so this is the absolute most i will pay for these items:

boneless, skinless chicken breast - $1.67
green bell peppers - $0.33 each
100% whole wheat bread - $1.88
butter - $1.67/lb
whole milk - $1.67 (gallon)
avocado - $0.33/each
yogurt - $0.33/8 oz or $0.25/6 oz

those are just a few. i have a price point for nearly everthing i buy on a regular basis. even for things i really love and really can't afford. for example, one of my favorite foods is chicken pesto pizza, but i never make it unless my mother-in-law kindly donates a few tablespoons of her pesto or my mom is buying the ingredients when i'm in town over christmas. no longer is that the case - i found classico brand pesto at wal-mart for $2.08. i have made pizza once and the recipe below and still have plently left. i can work with $2.08 if i still use it sparingly.

so push yourself and see how cheap you can go. find price points for your regulars... and some of your favorites too. and enjoy the new pesto recipe below.

parmesan pesto stuffed chicken
4 servings

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 tablespoons pesto sauce
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (i buy a ginormous bag from costco and it lasts me 6 months!)
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs (i ran a piece of bread through the blender and used fresh)
spices of your choice (i used garlic salt, coriander, black pepper, etc.)

1. combine pesto and parmesan. slice the chicken almost through, creating a pocket in the middle. stuff 1/2 of the mixture into each chicken breast.
2. beat egg in shallow bowl. mix bread crumbs with spices in shallow bowl. pull stuffed chicken through the egg and then through the bread crumb mixture, coating chicken completely.
3. bake at 350 in greased baking pan until juices in chicken run clear. half a chicken breast is 1 serving.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

recipe of the week: engagement chicken

i know - i'm already married. but believe me, when my husband laid his taste buds on this he definitely would have proposed all over again. it was seriously soooo yummy! wait for whole chicken to go on sale at your local grocer and buy one. mmmm....

just google it - the recipes are pretty much all the same. this one is from

engagement chicken
(i used a 5 lb chicken and adjusted ingredients and cook time accordingly)

3 lbs whole chicken
2 medium lemons
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (i used part fresh part real lemon)
sea salt (to taste)
ground black pepper (to taste)
optional: i also added 6 cloves of garlic to the inside of the chicken
  1. place rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
  2. wash chicken inside and out with cold water, remove the giblets, then let the chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander until it reaches room temperature (about 15 min). pat dry with paper towels.
  3. pour lemon juice all over the chicken (inside and outside) season with salt and pepper.
  4. prick the whole lemons three times with a fork and place deep inside the cavity (i cut them 1/2 way through). (tip: if lemons are hard, roll on the countertop with your palm to get juices flowing.)
  5. place the chicken breast-side down on a rack in a roasting pan, lower heat to 350 and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
  6. remove from oven and turn it breast-side up (use wooden spoons!); return it to oven for 35 minutes more. (i reversed these - i cooked it breast-up for 20ish and then breast-down for the remainder.)
  7. test for doneness - a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh should read 180, or juices should run clear when chicken is pricked with a fork.
  8. continue baking if necessary.
  9. let chicken cool for a few minutes before carving.
  10. serve with juices.
  11. serve with boiled new potatoes tossed with olive oil and fresh chopped parsley and/or steamed asparagus with butter.
  12. enjoy.

Friday, March 6, 2009

being resourceful

i love granola bars. unfortunately, they can be kind of an expensive snack for someone on a tight budget. luckily, someone resourceful out there made up their own recipe and gave it to my mom many moons ago. moral of the story - if there is something you love and it's out of your budget - see if you can make it yourself!

not the world's most healthy snack (or the world's unhealthiest either), but they're way better (and way cheaper) than store bought. and... i've been totally craving them and wanted to share.

homemade chewy granola bars

picture from (different recipe, but they look kind of like these!)

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

½ cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1 cup flour (try whole wheat and just use a little less)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ cup rolled oats

1 ¼ cup rice crispies

1 cup chopped almonds (i prefer less)

½ cup wheat germ

1 cup chocolate chips or raisins, optional (i use less!)

1. grease 9 x 13 pan. cream brown sugar, sugar and butter until fluffy. add honey, vanilla

2. and egg, mix well. add flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt at low speed. stir in remaining ingredients.

3. press firmly into botton of prepared dish. bake @ 350 for 12 minutes in conventional oven (or microwave on medium for 7-9 minutes rotating dish ½ turn every 3 minutes)

healthy cooking on a budget

disclaimer: i don't claim to be an expert on cooking, weight loss or even healthy eating, but i do love to cook, find healthy, taste bud-friendly tricks and most of all, i love to eat!

qualifications: what qualifies me to blog on cooking healthy on a small budget? well, as my husband is still a student, my budget is not what you'd call large. and as for the healthy part, when i was 10 i was diagnosed with pancreatitus - a disease that doesn't effect me much anymore unless i eat food that is too greasy or has too much fat (in which case, well, let's just say i get really sick). this had steered my experience and limited cooking expertise in a health-conscious direction.

please feel free to comment, criticise, rate recipes, try ideas and make requests for future posts!