Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Homemade Vegetable Broth - YUMMY!

This week, I ventured into making "Homemade Vegetable Broth."  I can't take credit for the original recipe.  I did find it off of Pinterest, and I made a few adjustments to fit my taste.  I have included the link to the original recipe at the bottom of this page.

Making the Vegetable Broth wasn't a random idea that I had.  I have actually been planning it for a bit, I just never got around to it.  I even had in my freezer, a freezer bag full of random vegetable pieces (you know the stalk of the broccoli, ends of the onion, tougher part of the celery, etc...) - anytime I would make something with vegetables I would just throw the ends into this bag.  One day, Jordan and I want a compost for our backyard to use on our vegetable garden, until then, I was trying to utilize and save scraps for a broth "one day."

So, when I decided to make my super easy crock pot Roast (Wedge 1-2 onions, peel and chunk up some carrots, chunk up some celery and wedge some red/new potatoes. Put all veggies on bottom of crock pot.  Place 1.5-2lb roast on top.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add 1 can beef broth and 1 can of cream of mushroom soup.  Cook for 8-10 hours), I decided that the broth would be easy to pull together that day as well.  I knew that I would have more veggie peelings and I also knew that I wouldn't have to do much with the roast.  

Side Note: Miss Julia didn't nap after her first feeding (usually we eat, play hard and then nap), but she was literally falling asleep as I was doing her second feeding.  All of that being said, I had a good 2.5+ hours to do all of the above.  Yes, it can be done w/o a sleeping child, but boy it helps when she is out :)

So back to the recipe...

In a stockpot bring 2TB extra virgin olive oil to heat. Add 2 sliced onions, 2 roughly chopped carrots, & 2 ribs of celery roughly chopped. Saute 3-5 minutes until the onions just start to become transparent.

Cover and reduce heat to medium-low and sweat for 30 minutes or until onions caramelize and turn a nice golden brown.  I actually would stir this occasionally...

Add 3 quarts of water (12 cups) and all of the random vegetable pieces/peelings that you have accumulated. Cover lower the heat and simmer for 1.5-2 hours.  I was stirring this occasionally as well... mainly, I was scraping the bottom of the stockpot to get all of browned pieces to loosen and combine.

Turn off the heat and then add your herbs.  I added some spicy oregano and bay leaves.  AND, for me MOST IMPORTANTLY.... SALT!!  I know, crazy, but the recipe didn't call for any and I tasted and tasted this and I wasn't happy.  I added salt and WOW what a difference.

Once cooled, strain the stock from the vegetables, making sure to compress the vegetables to get every ounce of stock out of them.

I then divided it among some freezer containers.  I was able to get 3 portions of 3 cups each out of this

What do you like to do with broth/stock?  Jordan and I use it in soups, risotto, in replace of water when making rice, etc...

Here is the link to the original recipe.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Frugal Finds and a Fabulous Recipe...

As you can tell from previous posts, I really love a great deal.  So today, Miss Julia and I went to Wal-Mart on search for some great deals.  One important rule that I always follow, "If I am not going to use it, then no matter if it is even FREE, then it isn't a great deal."  That being said, I purchased a few things that were not on sale because they were items that I was out of.  Some of my hot deals are below...

2 Simply Lemonades ($2.00 each)
2 Coupons for $0.75 each
Total $2.50

4 packs Kraft 3-pack String Cheese ($1.00 each)
2 Coupons for $0.75 off of 2
Total $2.50

2 pkgs Pull-Ups Big-Kid Flushable Wipes ($1.64 each)
1 Coupon for $1.00 off
1 Coupon for $1.25 off
Total $1.03

2 lbs Strawberries ($1.98 per lb)
Price matched with Aldi's for $0.99 per lb

I am thinking that will be making some strawberry muffins with 1 lb  and then dehydrating the other 1 lb for a quick snack.

Julia had fun on this trip.  This was her first time to ride in a cart.

Now, the below is a frequented recipe in my house.  "Country Chicken Pot Pie" is one of those recipes that even tastes better the next day microwaved.  What I love about this recipe is the fact that one batch makes two pot pies, and I frequently double it (just as simple to double as to make one batch), which makes enough for four pot pies.  Tonight we will have one pot pie for dinner but there will be three other bagged pot pie fillings in the freezer.  I will say that this recipe does take a little prep work but it is sooo worth the effort.  I did most of the prep work while Julia was napping.  The below recipe is for one batch.  The pictures that I will be showing you are of the double batch.

Country Chicken Pot Pie

1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1/3 cup butter/margarine, melted
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup evaporated milk
4 cups cooked and chopped chicken
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (we use green beans)
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 total pie crusts; folded type like Pillsbury (You will only need 2 per pie)

Assembly Directions:
Saute onions, celery and carrots in butter in a large skillet over medium heat until tender.  Add flour and stir until smooth (really it is a little lumpy).  Cook one minute, stirring constantly.  Add chicken broth, and evaporated milk.  Cook stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly.  Stir in chicken, peas, salt and pepper.

Freezing Directions:
Cool and divide filling in half.  Place in one-gallon freezer bags.  Seal, label and freeze.  Keep frozen pie crusts on hand in their original packaging.

Serving Directions:
Thaw filling.  Bring pie crusts to room temperature.  Shape bottom pie crusts.  Add filling.  Cover with top crust.  Pinch edges of the two crusts together and then flute or crimp.  Make a few slits in the top crust for the steam to escape.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Then bake covered with foil for 30 more minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Yes, those are onion goggles that you see.  I purchased them awhile back from Sur la Table.

What is it about melted butter and veggies that makes you go "YUM!"

Complete! Now all that is left is to bag it up, cool it down and freeze it.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fun Weekend & Taking Inventory

I hope that everyone had a blessed Father's Day weekend.  I had the privilege of getting to celebrate Father's Day twice.  On Saturday, Jordan and I went to his parents and celebrated with some fabulous BBQ and then on Sunday we made steaks, grilled potatoes and a Caesar salad.  For dessert we split a red velvet cupcake from Central Market - YUM!

So the title of this post is "Fun Weekend & Taking Inventory."  The "Taking Inventory" is the part that I want to really write about today.  What I am talking about when I say "taking inventory" refers back to number 3 in my previous post.  When I decided to really focus on "shopping from my pantry and freezer," I literally took inventory.  Below are some of the items that I found and I added to the stockpile over the weekend...

1. Thin Spaghetti
2. 1 full box Orzo
3. 1 whole bag Egg Noodles
4. 2 new boxes Whole Grain Penne
5. Half box Whole Wheat Rotini
6. Box of Ranch and Bacon Pasta Salad
7. Whole new container of Arborio Rice (used for risotto)
8. White Rice
9. Macaroni Shaped Noodles
10. 4 BBQ Sauces
11. Large jar of Chunky Salsa
12. New bag of Strawberry Granola
13. Chocolate Family-Sized Brownie Mix
14. 2 Holiday Funfetti  Cake/Cupcake Mixes
15. 9 packets of Pancake Mix (each makes about 3 pancakes)
16. Bin of onions (pulled from garden)
17. Bin of red potatoes (pulled from garden)
18. 1 bag frozen Cranberries
19. 1 loaf of frozen Honey Wheat Bread
20. 11 frozen meat pies
21. 4 servings of frozen Tamales
22. 2 bags frozen pasta sauce
23. 10 lbs frozen chicken breasts
24. 1 bag frozen green beans
25. 1 bag frozen blackberries
26. Half bag of frozen peach slices
27. Garlic Cheddar Biscuits frozen
28. Frozen Pumpkin Pie Drop Cookies
29. 1 lb frozen Ground Beef
30. Half a bag of frozen Pitted Cherries
31. Frozen Chopped onions
32. 1 can Frozen Apple Juice
Added over the weekend (We received for our 9 year anniversary a gift card to Central Market as well as a new cookbook by Curtis Stone, and we decided to stock up on some beef - usually something that I skimp on because of cost.):
33. 5 lbs frozen Ground Sirloin
34. 3/4 lbs Ground Bison
35. 2 lbs frozen Rump Roast

So you might be sitting there thinking "Gosh, she must hoard food!"  I really don't there are pictures below to prove it.  Sometimes I will buy things in bulk when there is a really great deal (like the chicken) because I know that we will use it.  The meat pies and tamales are left over from me filling our freezer before we had our baby.  Just to prove that the above doesn't "look like" as crazy amount, I have the below pictures as proof.

As you can see, things don't look too overly cluttered.  After I had the list of food items that are in my pantry/freezer, I created a list of food ideas that I could make for meals.  Some of the ideas were pretty obvious.  Below is the list that that I came up with.

Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chili Sauce (thank you Miranda Johnston)
Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken (thank you Miranda Johnston)
Yogurt with Granola for Breakfast
Pancakes with blackberry or peach sauce
Homemade potato chips for a snack
Tamales with Cilantro Lime Rice or Spanish Rice
Homemade Mac 'N Cheese
Homemade Pot Pie
Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
Garlic Lime Chicken
Cranberry Muffins
Honey BBQ Meatloaf (thank you Miranda Johnston)
Pasta with homemade sauce

The above are just a few ideas that I came up with.  My main goal is to really try to clear out the fridge/pantry so that I am not wasting.  Yes, I will still have to go shopping for side dishes for meals and for some of the ingredients needed to make the recipes (example: I don't have the pretzels for the Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken).  And, if there is a great deal on something that is a staple around our house, then I will be purchasing it as well.  The goal is to spend less when I do go grocery shopping.  Knowing what is in your freezer/pantry/fridge can really help you reduce your grocery bill.  Are you doing anything to reduce your bill or do you do something similar to this?  I will post my recipe for Chicken Pot Pie later this week.  It is on the menu for Friday...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Saving on Groceries...

So if you are like me, and cook most of your meals, you will have noticed that the price of groceries over the past few years has gone up.  Jordan and I try to eat at home (meaning he or I or the both of us cook) at least 5 nights a week.  We tend to splurge a little on the weekend.
Jordan and I try hard to stay in budget and we personally allocate $80 per week for groceries (this includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks).  We get this amount for the whole month at the beginning of the month in cash and then once it is gone, it is gone.
It is so hard these days to do what is considered to be "best" for your family.  You hear so much about how organic is sooo much better.  Or you hear about which diet is best - no carbs, paleo, weight watchers, etc... Now that I have a little one at home, I am becoming more conscious about the things that I am eating.  I want her to have a well rounded diet and not be addicted to snacking all the time.  So what am I willing to do and what am I not willing to do at this point? Jordan and I purchase some organic, however the majority of our diet is not organic.  I am trying to limit red meat intake to once a week, except with special occasions (i.e. Father's Day and our Anniversary fall in the same week - we love steak...).   I am also trying to get away from so many processed foods.
All of that being said, I wanted to write down in one place the steps that I am taking to try to cut our grocery budget.

Here are the things I try to take into account when planning a menu:
1. Meal plan around circulars and personal schedule
-Check the weekly grocery adds for the best deals.  Compare sale items across grocery stores and pick one or two stores that work for you and shop for them for the week.  Also, think about your personal schedule - if certain nights are busier than others, you may need to have something for the crockpot for those times.
2. Eat seasonally.  Know what vegetables are in season for your area and eat those things during those seasons (i.e. you think of butternut squash  and pumpkin during the fall, whereas right now corn is at its cheapest).
3. Shop your pantry, fridge and freezer first!
-Look at what you have and try to get creative.  Lots of leftover vegetables?  Make a pot of soup or stir fry with some noodles or rice.  Canned green beans and corn?  Add a meat and call it a meal.
4. Set a monthly budget instead of a weekly budget.
-Jordan and I allocate $80 per week.  So, a the end of the month, we count up the number of Sundays in the following month and multiply that times $80 and that is what we take out in cash for the month.  Why a month instead of a week?  Some things go on sale that are a really great deal and you don't necessarily buy them each week so some weeks are going to be more costly and some weeks will be very cheap.  If you do this, then it all balances out.  For example, it seems that I always run out of paper goods at the same time (toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels... same goes for cleaning supplies) and if I see a great deal on these products, I will stock up on them for the month.
5. Not every meal needs to have a meat.
-Some things that I love that have no meat this includes pastas and homemade pizzas.  We love to grill pizza this time of year.
6. Be willing to shop at two places.
- For some, this one is tough.  You are busy and you want to get in and out and be done with it.  I get that, but there are places that just have better deals.  For instance, you can go to Aldi's and get a bunch of your grocery list taken care of for cheap but you aren't going to find everything there.
7. Buy ONLY what is on your grocery list.
- This is tough but if you are trying to save some "dough" then you have to do it.
8. Consider designating certain nights with a theme.
- Examples could be baked potato bar, pizza night, breakfast for dinner night, etc... This makes planning easy.  Maybe there is something that your family really loves to eat, throw it in the mix once a month.
9. Cook larger batches of some items and freeze half.  This is huge.  There are just certain recipes that it is so much easier to make a double batch of and then freeze half.  So nice to have a few nights a month in which cooking dinner involves NO PREP WORK!  Casseroles and soups freeze great.  I have a chicken pot pie recipe that I make in batches - it is one of Jordan's favorite recipes.
10. Consider investing in a Seal-A-Meal.  When meats go on sale, I really stock up and you want to make sure that your meats that you freeze don't go bad due to improper freezing.
11. Shop without your children.  Right now, this isn't a big one for us.  Julia is little right now and really doesn't have an opinion on what I should or shouldn't be purchasing.  Give it a bit, and I bet that will change.

Okay, so that was a long post.  I am going to try to post frequently on what steps we are really focusing on and what is isn't working.  What do you do to save money at the grocery store?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

So, a LOT has changed...

I always admire those who actually keep up their blogs, and I really enjoy reading the blogs.  So often with a busy life, reading blogs is one of the quickest ways to feel somewhat connected to people.  All of that being said, I thought that I would try again to work on a blog.  As you can see, my last blog post on June 11th, 2009.  Would you believe that date is exactly 4 years ago yesterday!
So, a LOT has changed since that post.  Jordan and I are still the owners of two furry friends - Mollee & Buddy.  However, they are no longer hold the center stage around our house.  Nope, in January of this year, we welcomed into the world Miss Julia Anne.  She was born on January 20th at 12:26pm at the Allen Birthing Center, and since then our lives as we knew them, have never been the same.
Now, I am in the process of doing what many of my friends already seem to do quite expert-like.  I am a full-time stay-at-home mom.  I still do cooking shows a couple nights/days a week and run my Pampered Chef business from home.  But now, I work when Miss Julia allows me the time.  I try to cook at least five nights a week;  I would like to do better on the weekends...  I am hoping to blog more about money saving tips as far as eating goes, and I hope that blogging helps to keep me accountable to theses principles.
So this blog post is a little mish-mashed;  the posts in the future should be a bit better...  So for fun, below are some pics of our little girl from the past few months.