Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

2 for 1 meal – Roast beef

March 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Times are tough and food is expensive. It’s even more expensive when you have a large family. Then you add a teenage boy to the mix, and oh my! I like to find meals that center around a main dish, but cooking two back to back with the same main ingredient, because it saves money when I only have to buy that item once.

This time, I did Italian Roast Beef. It was delicious. I served it on buns with fries on the side. It was extra simple and even used the crockpot! The second day, I made a roast beef hash with eggs.

Day 1: Italian Beef Sandwiches

1 decent sized beef roast – boneless is best but get what’s on sale
1 jar pepperoncinis (located in the pickle aisle)
1 packet Good Seasons salad dressing mix
hoagie buns
Place roast in slow cooker. Pour spice packet and peppers over. Cover with the lid and cook on low for 8 hours. Shred meat with two forks, then serve on toasted buns.


Day 2: Roast beef hash

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
leftover roast beef, diced
1-2 eggs per person

Heat oil over medium heat and add potatoes; cook until tender. Add roast beef and stir. When the meat is heated through, divide onto plates. Using the same pan, add more oil and fry eggs to desired doneness. Top hash mixture with an egg.

Categories: Food, Frugal Living

Harry Potter 11th birthday party

November 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Kid 3 turned 11 last weekend and she is a Harry Potter nut. I was going to do a candy themed party but I thought she would like Harry Potter instead. So last weekend, I spent a day online on pinterest and google, planning for her party.¬†There were a lot of things that I didn’t get to do once the time came, but I think the party ended up being great anyway.

We invited the entire class but she forgot to get the invites out before this Monday so we only had three guests. One was a boy and had to go home at eight but the two girls are upstairs with my kiddo now, having a nail polish and makeup fest.

Here is the doorway from my kitchen to my dining room. I wanted this to be in front of the back door but hubby didn’t do the bricks in the right direction and I wasn’t going to complain because hey, he drew bricks on a tablecloth for 45 minutes. He made the sign afterward and I think it came out cute! (Pardon the ipod picture. I didn’t think to get one with the camera.)


Here is the dessert table. We had Sorting hat cookies, Butterbeer cupcakes, a Harry Potter Hagrid cake, and ice cream sundae bar. If you aren’t familiar with the story, I spelled happy birthday wrong on purpose.


For drinks, we used regular cream soda and just made a sign calling it butterbeer. The jar has “potion punch” which is just green berry Hawaiian punch, gingerale, and raspberry sherbet. I poured the gingerale in last to get the fizz like this. I wanted to make up jars of colored water for extra decoration, to look like potions, but I didn’t have time.

I know I’m displaying these a bit backwards because we ate food before dessert, and we drank the drinks with our meal, but the next photo is of our pizza making station. The kids really seemed to like this. It fit well with the Harry Potter theme and it was cheap. I changed my mind on the foods I wanted several times but I’m glad I finally settled on this. We have plenty left over for omelets too! (SOS pads and fire extinguisher optional… oops.)


We didn’t have enough kids to do the sorting ceremony, so we skipped that. I didn’t get the pencils to make pencil wands. We did do two games, though. We did a balloon stomp, and we did a dragon egg hunt. The balloon stomp was loads of fun. I even played.


We made ice cream sundaes after this but I didn’t get any photos of that. The kids loved it. Then came the cake.

And presents… she really loves pickles.


Finally, we handed out the broom loot bags, which had assorted candy, a slinkie (because slinkies magically walk down the stairs), and a balloon. Then we took photos of the birthday girl with each guest and the group.


There was really nothing I missed out on doing that would have made it more fun for them. In the end, she doesn’t care if there’s streamers behind her gift table or a sign in the dining room indicating it’s the great hall, so I think it was a success. With the way she looks in that last picture, I think she agrees.

Also, that concludes birthday season. She’s the last one of the kids to have a birthday through the year. I am SO glad it’s over. Now onto the holidays!



Just dropping in!

November 12, 2012 Leave a comment

First, a recipe. I can’t take credit for this one but I can promise you that it’s delicious. I made it for myself last week, then used the remainder of the salsa on a hamburger patty the following night because I got home late and missed dinner. I made it again on pork chops for the entire family a couple of nights later, just doubling the salsa recipe. I served it over rice both times I made pork chops and I thought it was amazing.

I haven’t been doing much cooking at night lately because I’ve been leaving it up to my oldest daughter. She mentioned in passing a couple of weeks back that she doesn’t know how to cook. My parenting philosophy has always been that I am training children to be adults, somewhat like a job trainer. I’m teaching them to live without me. It occurred to me that I failed miserably in this case, so I have been teaching her all of those recipes that I would want her to know if I suddenly passed away. I don’t expect that to happen for many years and I hope I’ll be there for her to call on when she has a question, but that’s how I’m going about it. She has a friend that is her age that has no clue how to even boil water because her mother does it for her. I’m sorry, but I think you’re doing your children a great disservice if, by sixteen, they can’t even cook basic foods. You’re not going to live forever. You don’t want your kids living with you forever (or I wouldn’t think you would, anyway). They need to know how to survive. This applies to boys and girls, by the way. Food is a basic need and fast food every night is bad for you. It’s nice to want to do things for your children but you have to let them go off on their own eventually.

Thankfully, my daughter could always boil water. Now she can also cook French toast, spaghetti with homemade sauce, pulled pork, mashed potatoes, and chicken pieces. We’re still working on the rest.

Since I have all of this free time (ha!) on my hands, I’ve been building up my etsy shop. I have enough inventory in there that I can go live and hopefully make a little money before Christmas. Another quilt will be going up some time today. I have a Black Friday sale in the works and I’ll announce that anywhere I can (including here) when I get that together. I also plan to do a giveaway soon to get the word out, and all customers will get a 10% off coupon for their next purchase when they receive their first order. There’s not much I can do other than that, except to watch and wait (and sew). So stop on by and if you find something you like, feel free to buy it. Even if you don’t, remember to support small businesses this holiday season.

Categories: crafts, Food, teenagers

I saw Jesus (or Caramel Apple Salad)

October 19, 2012 2 comments

I served this tonight at a birthday party for my daughter. Upon tasting it, one of my dearest friends announced “I saw Jesus.” This is a variation of the popular snickers salad. This is what happens when you live in a rural area and the store you drove 10 miles to get to doesn’t have the right flavor of pudding mix. Apparently it was meant to be, because it was a religious experience.
1/2 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups milk
2 tbsp vanilla
15 miniature snickers, diced
6 taffy apples with nuts, sticks removed, cored, and diced
1/2 c miniature marshmallows

In heavy saucepan, whisk together sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Slowly add in milk while whisking and turn stove on to medium heat. Whisk often until pudding thickens and coats the back of a spoon. You don’t want it to be really runny but it won’t get as thick as packaged pudding either. Cool for a few minutes so that the snickers bars don’t melt when they hit the sauce.

Place snickers, apples, and marshmallows in a large bowl and stir in pudding mixture. Chill at least two hours, covered.
This was part of a My Little Pony party. We also served fruit arranged in a rainbow (Strawberries, peaches, pineapple chunks, green grapes, blueberries, purple grapes), white cheese cubes to signify sugar cubes, carrots and dip, and hot dogs. Then of course there was cake and cupcakes. We had lemonade with orange slices floating in it and coffee to drink.


October 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Following the pattern of inexpensive meals, I have another tasty recipe that costs very little to make. (Can you tell it’s a slim week here?)

This recipe is adapted from one I found on and the original can be found here. Here is my version, which is flavorful and almost addicting. If you have rolls, or the time to make rolls, it makes a very filling meal.

3 tbsp oil
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
4 ounces frozen green beans
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cups beef stock (the original recipe calls for veggie stock and would make it vegetarian but this is what I have on hand)
4 chopped tomatoes, or 1 can diced tomatoes with liquid
2 cups white beans, cooked and drained, or 1 can, drained
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 c elbow macaroni

Saute the onion and carrot in oil over medium heat until onion is translucent and carrot begins to soften. Add zucchini, green beans, and celery. Continue to saute but be careful not to scorch the onions, for a total of about 10 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes, beans*, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low, simmering 30 minutes or so. Add macaroni and cook, uncovered until tender.

*If you use canned beans, add them with the macaroni.

This makes a decent sized pot of soup and is very inexpensive to make. I made it last night and ate four bowls. I couldn’t stop.


Categories: Food

Budget-friendly meals for a family

October 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Sometimes we find ourselves scraping by for the week or the month or just in general. A person can only stomach so many Ramen noodles, and honestly I can’t stand them at all. I think they smell awful. In place of that, I’m sharing a couple of recipes here for you to adopt into your meal plan that don’t break the bank. If you have a discount store such as Aldi, the foods should be available there. These recipes are intended to feed my family of 7, including one hungry teenage boy, so you may be able to use the leftovers for another meal.

1 pound ground turkey (or any ground meat but this is what’s cheapest here typically)
1 small onion, diced
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic

Brown ground turkey over medium heat. Add onion when meat is nearly cooked. Cook until onion is tender. Meanwhile, boil elbow macaroni per box instructions. Remove meat from heat for a while if more time is needed to cook pasta.

When the macaroni is done, drain and put back into pot. Add meat, tomatoes, beans, salt, and garlic. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning. When beans are hot, meal is ready to serve.

Total cost in my area: Less than $6



1 pound ground turkey
1 onion, diced
2 cans kidney beans, drained
2 cans chili beans in gravy, undrained
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried cilantro
1 tsp salt

Brown meat. Add onion and saute until tender. Add in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes to allow flavors to blend. You can add macaroni to this to make a second meal or serve over hot dogs or baked potatoes.

You can also add all ingredients to the crock pot after browning the meat on the stovetop and cook on low for at least four hours. Chili is pretty forgiving and will slow cook for a long time without scorching.

Total cost in my area: under $6, assuming you already have the seasoning on hand

Some other tips:

  • Add a can of black beans, drained, to a pound of taco meat to make the meat go further.
  • Cut meat in casseroles or soups in half and increase the amount of veggies when possible.
  • Make a basic chicken dinner (Here’s a recipe if you need it) and serve the leftovers in a casserole the next night. Then use the bones as a base for broth and make chicken soup the third night. We’re at a point in my house where we need two chickens to do this but when my older kids were little, one was plenty.
  • Plan meals that can use the leftovers with a simple addition, such as the chili above. For just a couple of dollars more, you are making a completely separate meal the second night and it won’t seem so much like leftovers.
  • Serve soup as an appetizer. It’ll fill you up and you’ll eat less of your main dish.
  • Shop sales and discount grocers. Even if you don’t use coupons, you’ll save quite a bit.


Categories: Food

How to throw a kid’s birthday party for under $75

September 16, 2012 3 comments

First of all, get a pinterest account. Learn how to use it. My parties have gotten a million times better since I did. If you don’t want to do that, then google image is your best friend. Heck, it is even if you do use pinterest. Do research and plan ahead. You can come up with so many ideas using things you already have at home and this will not only save you a fortune but your party will look better for it.

My son turned three today. The party was yesterday. The theme was Sesame Street, mostly because I found invitations that were still in the package for a quarter in June. Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of those but it’s not like I did anything to create them. However, you can go online to a site like this one, where I printed almost all of my printables from, and they also have invitations. As long as you or a close friend has a printer with ink in it, and you have printer paper, you have free invitations.

The first thing we do when I throw a party is eat.

Obviously the things you have in storage are going to vary from what I had but here is what I did. The plates and napkins came from Wal-mart. Grand total for that was (I believe) $2. The forks were in my stored party supplies. We didn’t need spoons or knives. The glass the forks were in came from my cabinet. The tablecover was left from last year’s Wizard of Oz party. I already owned all of the dishes. The picks in the sandwiches were leftover from my daughter’s sweet 16. So were the cups. If I had it to do over with these trays, I would have used shorter cups and left bowls of extra dip on the side but it made the house full of toddlers happy so that’s what matters.

The food was:

A veggie tray designed like oscar the grouch with broccoli, carrots, black olives, and a red pepper slice; The eyes were homemade dill dip (sour cream, fresh dill, seasoned salt).

A fruit tray designed like Elmo with strawberries, blackberries, pineapple, and goldfish crackers in a cupcake wrapper for the nose; the eyes were vanilla yogurt.

Tea sandwiches made from regular white bread (I normally use whole wheat at home but one white bread sandwich won’t hurt anyone), deli ham, and mozzarella; there were no condiments on them because it was easier than pleasing everyone.

I don’t think I spent more than $50 on food, total.

The pasta salad came from a recipe at and was called Mediterranean orzo pasta salad. As a side note, if you’re looking for a menu planning site, this one is awesome and free. I’m not getting anything to say that. I truly do feel that way. I haven’t cooked anything yet from her site that I didn’t like.

Here is another photo up close of the veggie and fruit trays.

Of course you have to have something to drink when you throw a party so we had Rubber Ducky punch. The container was one I already had but I bought it fairly recently for $10. It’s a worthwhile investment but I think one with a stand would have been better. At any rate, the punch is half of a gallon of blue hawaiian punch, one liter of gingerale, and half of a quart of pineapple sherbet. The rubber ducky was in the toy box. I cleaned it up and floated it on top. You will want to make sure you use one that has never been in water, though. Those little plastic toys are a breeding ground for black mold once they’ve been in the tub. You can buy a new one for a dollar at any store with a toy section.

Next we played games.

First we played a guess-how-many game. I used one and a half boxes of dots, partly because of the rainbow color and partly because they were cheap. The jar doubled as a centerpiece for the cake table. The fabric and ribbon were in my craft room and the jar was left from a jar of something-or-other that my mom gave me.

My adorable niece won the candy and I used the candle later for the cake.

The next game was Oscar’s trash toss. It involved construction paper, a box, and pieces of paper. It was completely free since I had everything already. Pardon this really crappy photo. I didn’t intend to show this one here but I didn’t get any others.

Our sweet little friend won this one. She won a package of tootsie pop candies that I found for 89 cents.

Then we did Stick The Nose On Elmo. Again, completely free!

Big sister won this one and she also got tootsie candies.

Next up was the cake. Learn how to decorate cakes. Seriously. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Even if you buy a cupcake decorating kit and learn how to make frosting swirls, you will save so much money. The price the stores charge for cakes is ridiculous when you find out how much it costs to make one. The cost of labor doesn’t have to be factored in when you do it yourself.

I explained the cakes more in depth at my other blog, but the cost is figured in to what I mentioned earlier about the expense of food. The plate that the cupcakes are on is something I already owned and the tablecloth is a cloth one I have that I use during the holidays.

Then we opened presents. This didn’t really involve anything I had to make. Big boy got lots of cool presents and it really made his day. His favorite thing was a firefighter costume that he still hasn’t taken off.

We handed out treat bags with an Elmo theme. The bags have been in my cabinet longer than he’s been alive, and the labels all came from the website I mentioned above. I split one box of crayons that I had bought with school supplies between all eight kids, and split one package of goldfish crackers. Everything was wrapped in tissue paper and either taped or tied with ribbon from my stored party supplies. So… maybe $2 was put out for this?

If I had it to do over, I would have used plastic bags or something for the crackers because the grease soaked through, but I don’t think the kids cared.

The only other thing I didn’t get a photo of was the sidewalk. I had one of my older kids write the letter P and the number 3 all over it with sidewalk chalk for a cute entrance.

Disclaimer: Not only am I not a photographer by any means but my camera battery is dead and I can’t find the charger. These crappy photos are only meant to show you what I’m talking about and are not, by any means, intended to look professional.

My father-in-law’s picadillo

August 21, 2012 Leave a comment

My father-in-law is of Cuban descent. He came to the US in the 70’s after escaping and climbing a fence into gitmo. He was granted immunity and first came to Florida with the help of the US government, then Chicago, and eventually to Rockford, IL where he has been ever since. He married the lady who is now my mother-in-law in 1975 and together they created two children. One being my amazing, wonderful husband.

The whole story is long and complicated and fascinating but very little of it pertains to food. Suffice it to say, he came here with very little. The clothes on his back, the shoes on his feet, and the recipes in his mind. He became a US citizen in 2008, after something like 35 years here, at age 72 and now at 76, he is starting to lose those precious recipes he came here with but I’ve managed to get some of them from him before they’re lost for good. Now, mind you, I don’t know how much of the recipes that I have have been Americanized for ease and taste, but they’re the most authentic Cuban food this woman-of-European-descent has eaten so to me, they’re like precious gold that needs to be preserved as much as possible because we don’t know how long we have left with dear Abuelo.
I will say that I’m not good at rice and beans. I can make rice and beans, yes, but mine is always more moist than his and never quite right. It’s close enough though if you add other things to it, like this picadillo.

3 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 packet sazon
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
salt, to taste
roughly 8-10 green olives

Brown beef until most of the way cooked. Add onions, garlic, sazon, and tomatoes. Cook until onions are just translucent. Add salt and olives and allow to simmer another five minutes or so. If the dish is dry, without a bit of juice, add a quarter cup or so of water and allow to flavor through.

Serve over rice and beans.

Categories: Food

Beef Stew in the slow cooker

August 10, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve always tried to “wing it” with beef stew, and it always ends up like soup with flour clumps. This time I found a recipe online and tweaked it just a bit, only because I didn’t have everything it called for in the seasoning department, and it was excellent. I decided to have an early taste of Autumn, as you’ll see by the menu I list below, and this was perfect.

2 pounds beef stew meat cubes
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp paprika
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth (next time I’ll use beef just because, but this is what I had)
splash of red wine
5 red potatoes, cut into chunks
4 carrots, cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup fresh green beans

Place meat in slow cooker. Pour flour over and stir well with a spoon to coat meat on all sides. Add remaining ingredients, and cook on low for 8 hours.

Had I not had rolls, apple pie, ice cream, and hot cocoa to go with the stew, this would have fed 4 people, give or take. Since I had so much other stuff, it fed 8.

Categories: Food

Zucchini season

Any day now, the rabbits are going to stop biting my zucchini flowers off and we’re going to have an overabundance of the vegetable. I have 3 plants that are going crazy and two that almost seem to be like one of those twins that loses all of its nutrients to the stronger twin. What are those called? Anyway, I think I’m going to have to get rid of those two because they’re not doing enough to waste water on in this Midwestern drought.

Once they do take off and I get more than one zucchini, which is all I’ve had so far, I have this recipe in mind. I haven’t actually tried it but in case you get zucchini sooner than I do, especially in more southern states, I thought I’d pass it along.

Zucchini Fritters

2 tbsp flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups grated zucchini
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
vegetable oil
sour cream

Ina  medium bowl, combine the flour, eggs, salt, and pepper. Add the zucchini, shallots, and parsley and mix well. Heat 1/8 of a cup of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Drop the mixture, by tablespoons, into the hot oil. Cook until each side is golden brown and drain on paper towels. Makes about 30 fritters. Serve hot with sour cream.

Credit: Life’s Little Zucchini Cookbook: 101 Zucchini Recipes by Joan Bestwick

Categories: Food, gardening