Monday, February 7, 2011

Meatless Monday, extra cheese edition

We love cheese here. It's one of those things that I never get tired of, and I've got years of evidence that my hubs doesn't either. And of course, Junior Pete is just like every other cheese loving kid, and would happily eat nothing else if given the choice. So this super easy recipe will surely be in my repertoire for like, ever.

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese (roughly equivalent to a 15oz container, I usually buy the bulk tubs at Sam's)
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 1 cup grated parmesan, divided (I often use Asiago, it's comparable to good parm, but cheaper)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I process leftover bread in the cuisinart and then freeze it to use here, in meatloaf, etc. Dried breadcrumbs would work just fine)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tsp dried parsley (or 4 TBSP fresh chopped)
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce of your choice
  • 1 box manicotti noodles
Put a big pot of water on to boil while you make the filling, and preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 cups of the mozz, 3/4 cup of the parm, the bread crumbs, egg and parsley. Stir to mix well. Cook the pasta per instructions, drain well, and then lay out flat to cool a bit so they're easier to work with. Prepare a 9X13 pan by spreading about 1 cup of the spaghetti sauce on the bottom. To fill each piece of pasta use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut them open so they lay flat, and then place 1/4 cup of filling in each. Roll up and place seam side down in prepared pan. Once all shells are stuffed and in the pan, pour the remaining pasta sauce over the top, and then sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

Sorry I didn't get a post-oven, melty cheese beautiful shot after it had baked, we had been smelling it for long enough that I wasn't really thinking along those lines.

Printer friendly copy

  • A couple of thoughts. First of all, the filling picture isn't great, doesn't it look like crab spread? That made me think that crab manicotti would be beyond scrumptious, but that's big money talk too. Hmm.
  • This freezes perfectly, and I have part of this batch tucked safely away already for the next time it shows up on my menu. I love 2 for 1 cooking.

Menu Plan, 2/6-2/12

I don't know why I didn't post this yesterday, I actually had it written on Saturday, look at me on top of things!
  • Sunday; Super Bowl disappointment was accompanied by the potato skins that I brought to the party, not sure they helped my PA born hubs, I think he's in mourning today. I only stayed for an hour or so, you can get by with that when you're pregnant!
  • Monday; Manicotti and Italian broccoli
  • Tuesday; Fry bread tacos and corn
  • Wednesday; Crock pot beef stew and homemade rolls (they're in the freezer from a huge batch I made :) )
  • Thursday; Mac and cheese with ham, roasted asparagus
  • Friday; Chicken tortilla soup (leftovers from the freezer, made roughly like this recipe, my verdict is not spicy enough, but then I would say that), quesadillas (my son's vocab includes the word "dunk", as in you must have something to dunk in soup!)
  • Saturday; Chicken fried rice

Sweets of the week are lemon cookies, and I plan to make pbj cookies today. I have big goals to post several of these recipes over the course of the week, hold me to it! I'm listing more vegetables this week as part of the menu because I'm more focused on what I have on hand, thanks to the grocery project I have going on. I think I will have enough fruits and veggies to make it until next Monday, but I expect to have the crisper drawers empty by then. I'm hoping for good sales!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Shopping trip, 2/6

Safeway during the Super Bowl is a nice place to be. I spent $1.73 on the pictured items (I am including tax in all my transactions by the way, it's easier for me, plus you gotta pay it, so you might as well count it). The creamer was $1.69, so I figure everything else was free! A couple of tips for Safeway maximization;

  • Safeway is (sometimes) generous with free items coupons that dispense from the Catalina machines. They are the machines that print separately from your receipt when you check out, and it's up to you to watch them, because they spit out some good stuff. I always scope out the machines at self checkout, because people tend to ignore them, and both the cleaning spray and the soda were free thanks to coupons that I grabbed from self checkout. I have no idea what prompts them to print for certain people and not for others, but I can tell you that I grabbed another free item coupon from the one I used tonight, which the previous person had overlooked. This is like the cheap person's lottery! I won't get rich playing, but it's fun!

  • The taco shells and beans are part of an Old El Paso deal that is going on right now, and My Frugal Adventures hooked me up with some coupons that made this a great deal. The taco shells are .99/box, and the beans are $1/can, and when you buy 5, you get a $3 catalina for your next purchase. I got a slip advertising this cat a few weeks ago, and it said the $3 would be for beef or chicken, but it proved to be good for any purchase, which is more convenient for me. I paid for this transaction with a $3 cat from a few weeks ago, and that's always part of my strategy; if you pay for items that produce a catalina WITH a catalina, you reduce your out of pocket cost. I know catalina's are super confusing, so questions?

I have $22.18 left for the month, and I don't plan to do any shopping until the 14th. If you stop in Safeway in the meantime, look for a fresh supply of the Joy of Football coupon books, the $2 Rancher's Reserve coupon is awesome!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My first purchase of the month, and I didn't even have to leave the house!

My darling husband picked up some milk today for me while it was still on sale at Wags, thanks babe! I have $23.91 left to spend for the month, and I have a catalina for Safeway that expires tomorrow, so I'm going to be planning a way to use that baby up. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, January 31, 2011

This item will not be in my gift registry.

OMG, I had to share this one. Before you click on the link, what do you think that thing is??!?!

Holy lactose intolerance!

I had an urge to buy enough food to last through Armageddon, but I reined myself in, and kept things reasonable for my final normal shopping day before I head into my little challenge. I spent about $50 today, which is a little more than usual, but over $10 of that was cheese, including some Tillamook that I had a rain check for at Safeway. Cheese is important. I did want to point out a couple of good deals around town that are still going on.

  • Not unusual, lots of my produce came from them this week. They have grapes at $1.88/lb through tomorrow only, which saved my a trip into FTC where they are a bit cheaper at $1.49/lb, but there are pretty much no other reasons to stop there. Worth the extra .50 or so to me to skip another stop!
  • I needed to load up on our favorite cheap snack, popcorn, and Haggar's had an unexpected bonus for me, the 2lb bags are only $1.50 on sale (this wasn't in the ad, so I don't know when the sale ends). I hesitate to admit this, but I have tracked popcorn before to figure out the actual cost per batch, and I can tell you that a 2lb bag yields around 11 batches of popcorn, so about .14 cents per batch at this price. What other snack is that cheap, and loaded with fiber? By the way, I don't have any special equipment, like an air popper to make popcorn. I use the enamel covered cast iron pot that I make soup in, add 2-3 TBSP oil, and 1/3 cup popcorn, and then cook it over medium-high with the lid on, shaking it periodically.


  • Thanks for the free meat Safeway! The $2 beef coupon that I mentioned in the Joy of Football coupon book is available to load to your Safeway card if you haven't found it in the store. I actually used the loaded e-coupon, in addition to a paper coupon, and they both worked just fine on the 2 packages of beef that I bought today. I wanted cube steak, and the only pack they had in the store was $2, so free after the coupon, and then the other steak is Top Sirloin, probably for our date night this month, and it was $2.13 after coupon.
  • The asparagus that is $1.88/lb through tomorrow only is beautiful, I can't wait to eat it! Asparagus means spring too, and God knows we could use some of that considering how flippin' cold it is right now.
  • Bell peppers (red, orange, yellow) are $1, and the frozen bagged pepper strips are .99 with the coupon from the ad, or you can load it to your card. This one is through tomorrow only also. And apparently we really love bell peppers round here.


  • Milk on sale for $1.99/gallon, which is a good omen for me. I am loaded up now with about 3 gallons in the fridge, plus 3 in the freezer. I usually keep 2-3 in the freezer for those spells when I can't get a better price on it, and we go through about 2 gallons/week, so I think we can get halfway through the month on what we have. If you've never frozen milk before, don't be scared. It takes up a lot of room of course, but just pour some out so it has head room in the container, and it will freeze fine. I don't notice any change in the taste, though it may get a little bit of sediment in the bottom. One thing to know is that it takes roughly 12 lunar cycles to thaw, so you gotta plan ahead (just kidding, but easily 4 days to thaw, think of it like a turkey).
  • Pudding mix is probably not an item I have purchased in the current millennium, but I was thinking how much my little guy would dig pudding pops, so the Walgreens in ad coupon to make each box .59, combined with the manufacturer's coupon here for .55 off 3 was enough to convince me. Why did they quit making pudding pops anyway?

So I'm ready to stop shopping for the next month, and I have a few projects that I'm cooking up, since I won't be spending much time at the stores! I know there will be hard moments when I have to pass a deal up, but I'm looking forward to getting my pantry overflow contained. Maybe I'll even share some pictures of the progress in that area, if I'm brave enough...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Menu Plan 1/30-2/5

I'm feeling good about menu planning lately, it probably helps that January is almost over, and my January calendar has every square filled out with something I actually cooked, hurray! I currently use a very vanilla (and nearly free, just the cost of paper, ink, Internet service, the computer, blah, blah, blah) calendar from here to plan my menus, and I just post it on the fridge for quick reference. BUT, I have big plans for a cuter (and freer, if you can believe it, and if that's a word...) menu planner. I'll let you know when that's more of a reality and less of an abstract project floating around my brain. Anyway, here's the plan for this week!

Today we had grilled cheese and chicken soup, I definitely keep it really easy on Sundays, because we go swimming at 6pm, and I'm not up to a whole lot of excitement other than that.

Monday; Spanish rice in the rice cooker, this will be a first attempt for me so we'll see how it goes!

Tuesday; Greek salad, Feta cheese muffins. Anyone make a Greek salad dressing that rocks?

Wednesday; my nephew's turning 11 (this totally blows my mind), so we'll be having pizza at his house. I am under instructions not to bring anything, which I'm sure I can handle.

Thursday; Steak Cesar salad, Parmesan crisps, maybe some homemade bread.

Friday; Soft pretzels and cheese soup. I have tried making these 2 items together before, because it just seems like a great, fun, meat free supper for a casual Friday night (by which I mean we all come to the table in our jammies). I struggled with timing in a big way, because I didn't fully anticipate what a pain in the butt it can be to boil the pretzels and then bake them. The two steps are necessary in order to get that nice chewy thing going on, but this time I am prepared, and I will master this meal, for sure!

Saturday; pizza night, probably a Calzone for a change.

Last week's menu had a few highlights I wanted to share. I already mentioned the awesomeness of the lineup change in the form of steak sandwiches, make them already! The TVP thing was okay, I think I messed up a bit in that we wouldn't normally have any meat in the rice and beans, so it was like I was substituting for something that shouldn't be there anyway. My next TVP project will be meatloaf I'm thinking. My pizza night was great, the chicken/broccoli/Alfredo sauce was a hit, and I threw on some crumbled, cooked bacon that I had leftover, which I think will be a must in the future. At some point in the week, I made some Momma crack, and my hubs ate all but the one serving that I inhaled, so I am renaming it Daddy crack.

The meal that we may have enjoyed more than I expected was the chili topped baked potatoes, and let me tell you, it had many things to recommend it for sure. I had a small portion of leftover chili in the freezer, not enough that I could serve it as the main again, but enough worth saving, so I view that as a freebie. I bake my potatoes in the most low maintenance way imaginable; I scrub them, and put them in a preheated 475 degree oven, directly on the rack, no oil, no foil. Yes that is blazin' hot baby, and you can believe we don't eat baked potatoes in the summer. The method produces some awesome baked potatoes, the skin kind of blisters away from the flesh (without actually coming off), and the inside is moist and fabulous. This coming from a woman who really had no use for baked potatoes, for many years. The other awesome thing is that it produces no waste and no dishes! How often can you say that about anything you make?! I threw shredded cheddar and sour cream on top of the chili, and they were so tasty, sometimes the easiest things are the best.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

For the boys.

Just a heads up, and sorry for the late notice, but there's a fun event going on this weekend at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn to benefit SD Youth Hunting Adventures. It runs from 9-4pm tomorrow, Sunday, and is an exhibit of exotic, dead animals (I'm sorry, but how else should I say it!). Apparently they have some live ones too, a red-tailed hawk I believe my husband said?! Anyway, you'll have to contend with the stock show traffic if you go check it out, so I would recommend that DAD take the kids, you'll be glad to drop them off, and then you can go shopping! Worked out great for me today! It's $5 for adults, kids are free. Have fun!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Changing the meal plan with wild and reckless abandon, cause that's how I do.

Sometimes I like to rap, which never fails to give my husband lots of ammo against me. So I'll never speak (or rap) the above title out loud, but thanks for letting me share it with you. I just wanted to throw out to the universe that I made an impulsive and fabulous change to my menu this week, and I would love to encourage you to taste the item that made me throw caution to the wind. Actually what it did is cause my pregnant body to say "FEEEED MEEE", which was pretty scary, I can't lie.

I have been making a steak sandwich for a long time, and it was fine, but nowhere near as good as this baby. Pioneer Woman has a way with food, particularly butter and beef, and I think she's a good resource if you're looking for new recipes that will have broad appeal, do not require exotic ingredients, and have reasonable prep times. Check her out! And make this sandwich! I noticed that Safeway has Cube Steak at $3.49/lb, and they also have a coupon in the Joy of Football (holy oxymoron alert) coupon book, which they seem to continue to have at customer service, for $2 off any Rancher's Reserve beef. That was a really long sentence...

Another random stranger's shopping list...

I found another list, and embarrassingly, I've been holding on to this one for a while, knowing that I wanted to share it with you.
So I found this one at Haggar's, right around New Year's. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this woman (gotta be a woman, look at the paper and the handwriting), and would really like to talk shop with her. Not only did she definitely look at the ad, she wrote down the sale prices as a reference for herself! Plus I think she was making a yummy chip dip for New Year's.
Does anyone else look for lists? I actually passed one up at Safeway, the checker was looking at me weird. The real reason I didn't grab it is that it was boring, I would have let the checker think whatever she wanted if it had been a good one!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Final tally for next month's grocery challenge...

So I have mentioned before that I want to emphasize how important it is to check your receipts for accuracy, and that to prove the point, I will be feeding my family for one month, just on the money that I've been overcharged in the past year. I am super excited to do this, I really think it will be great fun. I'll be honest, the last few months I really haven't been as diligent as I could have been, and I definitely let some amounts go. However, I do have $28.27 collected and ready to go, and I am totally confident that I can do it! February is my chosen month, so I'm gearing up. A few of the "rules" if you will;
  • All food that we ingest has to be paid for out of this money, including everything during my husband's working day. He has a habit of picking things up, even though I pack his lunch for him everyday, so we'll be working on that.
  • We go on a date once a month, and of course Valentine's Day falls during Feb, so it will be interesting (to me at least) exactly how I handle that...
  • I have been shopping strategically, within my budget, to prep for this, and I definitely want to point out that my existing supply of groceries is what allows me to even consider doing this. I'm not into deprivation, and I expect that pretty much everything I spend will be on fresh produce and milk.
  • I plan to give you regular updates on how we're doing, what our menus are, and whether I'm dying to get takeout pizza!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Does anyone work here?

It's been a long time. I could apologize (and make excuses), but it wouldn't change the fact that I haven't posted for over a month, so instead I'll just suck it up and write something already!

The "Yes, I do still feed the people I live with Menu Plan"

Today; I made meatball sandwiches and some sort of fried potato pancakes, only round instead of pancake shaped. Don't turn your computer off yet please. The potatoes have potential, if they develop further I'll let you know.
Monday; God willing, my hubs doesn't read this. I got some TVP for super cheap, so I'm going to make beans and rice with it. This could be interesting, I'll be making corn muffins too, just to take the edge off.
Tuesday; Turkey Tettrazini! No one can say it like this woman...
Wednesday; Tilapia with rice pilaf.
Thursday; Roast Chicken, probably roast potatoes if I remember to get some lard (yeah, you read that right, lard is the bomb!)
Friday; Chili cheese topped baked potatoes.
Saturday; Pizza night, I'm thinking chicken/broccoli/alfredo for toppings so I can use up some of my roast from Thurs.

I don't usually plan my sides in great detail, unless they are a bit more complicated. Suffice it to say that we always have a veg on the side, and when we're done eating, we always have some fruit, or "Fute, Fute!!" as my son says. I hope he doesn't learn to say his r's any time soon...

For sweet fixes this week, there is mint chip ice cream in the freezer, and I just made some oatmeal/chocolate/peanut butter/butterscotch bars. I'm not sure why they had so many ingredients, but they better be good. The ice cream, however, has only 5 ingredients, and rocks my world. Combine 1 cup whole milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 cups heavy cream and a pretty generous teaspoon of peppermint extract, and stir until the sugar dissolved. Pour it into your ice cream maker, and follow the dang manufacturer's instructions for how long to leave it in there. About 2 minutes before it's done, add whatever random quantity of whatever random semisweet or bittersweet chocolate you have knocking around in the pantry, really well chopped (even pulverized I would say). Soo flippin' good. I just ate some in fact. And I'd like a bit more. If you don't own an ice cream maker and you're interested, I like this one. However, I would not, not, not pay that much for it, I think I maybe paid twenty some bucks? Shop around.