Monday, February 6, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Meal planning is the only way I will effectively use what I have on hand and stay within the limited budget I have set for February.  For those just joining me here, I am trying to bring our grocery budget back under control, and our grocery budget for February is $200.  My plan is to use the money for fresh dairy and produce and to supplement the items I have in the freezer and pantry. 

Here is our week:
Monday - quinoa salad with cranberries, cucumbers and walnuts (recipe coming soon!)
Tuesday - meatloaf, perfect baked brown rice, roasted carrots (in the crock pot!) and kale salad
Wednesday - Chicken & vegetable stir fry served over brown rice
Thursday -  leftover meatloaf with baked sweet potatoes and kale salad
Friday - Pork chops with sauteed greens

For many more great menu plans check out OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Perfect Baked Brown Rice

This is Alton Brown's technique for brown rice, and I think it's the only way to make brown rice! I make a batch every Sunday to keep on hand for the week. 


  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice,  medium or short grain
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the rice into an 8-inch square glass baking dish.
Bring the water, butter, and salt just to a boil. Once the water boils, pour it over the rice, stir to combine, and cover the dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, remove cover and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve immediately.

Note: I marked the salt and butter as optional because I don't use them.  The rice tastes fine to me without them, but I know some people will want to add one or both. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February - Time for a Budget Challenge!

As I mentioned in my last update, my family moved towards a more real and less processed way of eating late last year.  This did amazing things for our health and well-being, but, unfortunately, translated into an enormous increase in our grocery budget.  In the last 3 months of 2011 we spent over $700 on groceries each month, approximately double what we had been spending!

I admit, I did nothing to try and keep the budget down.  I did not do much meal planning, I didn't specifically shop the sales, and I purchased whatever I needed or wanted at whatever time I wanted it.  I think it worked out OK for us that way.  In a sense it was a bit of a grace period to learn what worked for us.  Learning a new way of shopping, cooking and eating was enough to tackle, it would have been harder if I had added in strict budget limitations. 

I started 2012 with a few intentions, one of which was to do more meal planning, give more thought to my shopping list, and get the grocery budget back under control.  In January we spent $550 on groceries, definitely an improvement, but still not where I would like us to be. 

Which brings us to February.  For the month of February I've decided to scale back, eat what we have on hand, and spend only $200.  I started the month with close to $100 in gift cards to a local grocery store, a $50 prepaid Visa debit card and about $50 cash.  This is all I will be able to spend this month. 

I stopped by a few stores yesterday, and soon I'll work on a post about what I purchased, and what we will be eating this week!  I can already tell this really will be a challenge, but I'm determined!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Keeping it real

A few months ago I started participating in a fitness challenge at a local gym.  Through the challenge I was paired with a personal trainer, and heard weekly informative talks by nutritionists and dietitians.  The nutritionist in particular got through to me in a way nothing else ever has.  Every time I heard her speak I re-evaluated my eating habits and the contents of my kitchen. 
About three weeks into the challenge my personal trainer suggested I give up processed foods.  At the time I was down to only eating one processed food a day, so giving them up entirely didn't seem like much of a stretch.  It also coincided with the start of October Unprocessed at Eating Rules.  I took the challenge and went an entire month without eating processed foods.  I lost weight, I looked better, I felt better, and I'm not going back. 
There is some debate about what foods are "processed".  I have my own definition that I am comfortable with.  I am stricter than some people on some things, but I also allow things other people avoid.  As with many things, it is a balancing act. 
I eat oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain couscous, vegetables, fruit, fish, poultry, beef, beans, cheese, yogurt, milk and butter.  I try to avoid bread, crackers, tortillas, etc.  If I do eat those things I aim for the least processed options with the fewest ingredients.  I avoid artificial sweeteners and preservatives.  I also, for the most part, don't eat sugar, or sweeteners of any kind.
This blog will reflect this new focus.  I hope you will join me as I keep it real and unprocessed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Yes, it's Tuesday again.  :) 

Last week we tried two new recipes which were big hits!  My plan fell apart by the end of the week though.  On Thursday I was too tired to cook, so no chicken fried rice for dinner.  I did end up making it for lunch on Friday though.  I think I need to plan on on leftovers for every Thursday.  Thursday is the day I am most likely to be burnt out from the week, and then I am re-energized on Friday because it's practically the weekend.

This week's plan is shaping up like this:
Monday - Rotini pasta with Chicken Al Fresco Sausage (The same recipe as last week, with rotini pasta instead of bowties)  This recipe was so good I have been craving it, so I decided to make it again.  It's still good, but I think I prefer it with the bowtie shaped pasta.
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Crockpot Beef Stew served over rice
Thursday - Leftovers
Friday - Black bean and cheese quesadillas

You can find many more menu plans and ideas at OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Recipe Review - Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

We tried another new recipe this week, Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce.  I initially chose this recipe because my husband likes mustard, and always appreciates sauce or gravy.  This is a great recipe, and we'll have this again.  There are two things I will do differently in the future.  1 - Make more sauce.  2 - Pound the chicken as called for in the recipe.  I skipped that step because I was in a hurry - don't skip this step!  It took a long time to cook the chicken, and I had to turn the pieces in strange ways to get every side cooked.  I had a package of very large chicken breasts that I cut in half for this.  I think that worked out well, half a breast was just enough, and a whole one would have been too much.
The best part of this recipe is the Mustard Cream Sauce.  Yummy!  I served the chicken and sauce over brown rice and it was delicious.  Next time I will make more sauce - we finished off the sauce with the first 2 pieces of chicken, leaving no wonderful sauce for the remaining pieces.  I rounded the meal out with my favorite frozen broccoli and cheese.  :)  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Recipe Review - Bow Tie Pasta with Chicken Al Fresco Sausage

Last night I made Bow Tie Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage.  It turned out to be one of the best new recipes I've tried in a while.

It was easy to prepare, and the flavors were perfect together.  The major test for any pasta dish is my husband's reaction, as he doesn't care for pasta most of the time.  He loved this and proclaimed it "As good as a restaurant".

Give this one a try, I think you'll love it too!

1/2 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14 ounce) cans italian diced tomatoes (with basil, garlic & oregano), drained
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons parmesan
1 (12 ounce) package bow tie pasta 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian chicken (or turkey) sausage, casings removed and crumbled or slice
Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.  Meanwhile heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Saute garlic and onion until transparent.  Add sausage and cook until sausage is lightly browned.  Stir in drained tomatoes and cream, simmer until thickened, about 8-10 minutes. 
Stir cooked pasta into sauce and heat through.  Top with parmesan.
Update 1/7/16: This recipe is still a part of my regular recipe rotation.  I've made it with sweet italian turkey sausage, and I've used gluten free pasta at times, and it's still always a hit!