The Sweetest Thing.

" I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people" ~Van Gogh

Homemade Freezer Burritos. April 1, 2015

My darling partner ate a lot more processed food before we got together. She was not the most terrible eater by any means, but often relied on convenience items for quick lunches or late night dinners. Despite an aversion to tortillas, she really liked keeping a package of frozen burritos in the freezer for these occasions. After looking at the questionable ingredient list on the package of these burritos, I decided I could make my own version at home. These are quick to make and can be customized to fit your family’s tastes, but this is a general guideline. I most often make this version, but I have also mixed in leftover taco meat (turkey, pork or ground beef), extra veggies etc.

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Homemade Freezer Burritos

makes 8 burritos

Ingredients

8 Tortillas (I try to get ones with minimal ingredients- flour, salt, water and oil is pretty much all it takes)

1.5 cups (or 1 can) refried beans

1 cup salsa

1 boneless skinless chicken breast- cooked & shredded

6 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese- shredded

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1. Make sure tortillas are at room temperature so they roll easily without tearing.

2. Mix beans, salsa, and shredded chicken together

3. Divide mixture evenly between tortillas and spread down the middle of each

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4. Divide cheese evenly between tortillas and sprinkle on bean mixture

5. Roll as pictured below.

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6. Place each burrito in individual sandwich bag & then put all burritos in gallon freezer bag. This makes them easy to just grab from the freezer and toss in a lunch bag.

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7. Place gallon bag in freezer.

8. Reheat in microwave 1-2 minutes depending on how frozen it is and how your microwave works.

9. Top with additional salsa, sour cream/greek yogurt, guacamole etc

10. Enjoy!

*if using gluten free tortillas, Aldi brand are the best I have found so far!

 

Meal Plan and Weekly Intentions. January 5, 2015

I was doing a weekly meal plan/grocery haul list, but I decided to change things up a bit. I am determined to get back on track with my once a month grocery shopping and a mid month dairy/produce trip, so a weekly grocery haul post just doesn’t make sense. Instead I plan to post a meal plan every Monday along with some small healthy living goals I have for each week. Grocery hauls will be their own posts as they happen.

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So, What’s on the menu this week? I’ll tell you.

Monday~ Lemon Almond Tilapia, Coconut Rice, Broccoli (From this cookbook)

Tuesday~ Veggie & Chicken Quesadillas w/ lettuce, tomatoe, avacadoe, greek yogurt, salsa

Wednesday~ BBQ Portabella Grilled Cheese w/ Caramelized Onion (also from that cookbook), Salad

Thursday~ 95 % Lean Burgers w/ Bacon, Alehouse Cheddar, lettuce, tomato and avacado, Waffle Cut Sweet Potato Fries

Friday~ Leftovers

Saturday~ Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup (same cookbook)

Sunday~ Rib Eye Steaks, Scallops, Salad, Baked Potato

goals

Whenever I am working on anything, I like to break it down into  little baby steps. Small actions I can take on a day to day basis that bring me toward the end goal. During my Sunday planning session I take a look at my list of current goals and choose a few small things I can do over the course of the week.

This week I will be working on the following~

~ Eat all meals from home this week

~ Focus on getting enough produce

~ Stick to my workout plan

~ Start cleaning out my closet

~ Spend 15 minutes everyday working on setting up and using a system for my paperwork mess

~ Lots of blog work!!!!

~ Go to church

~ Have an at home date night

What’s on your menu this week? How do you keep on track with your goals?

 

Meal Plan & Grocery Haul. December 8, 2014

Filed under: Meal Plan,planning — Jessica @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Hello! Sorry I have been MIA.  I really was not prepared for keeping up with blogging around the holidays. It is already a challenge with 2 jobs, a home, a relationship, friends, family, errands etc, but add on all the things that come with the holidays and I dropped the ball. I actually kind of just threw the ball entirely out of bounds. I will be more prepared next year!

On the plus side, I did get a bunch of the holiday stuff done. My shopping is 90% done and I know exactly what I have to buy to finish up. We bought our tree and got it decorated, along with the rest of the house. I figured out what I had and what I needed for wrapping. I even started the Christmas treat making! Once this post is finished, I am going to make myself a cup of candy cane lane tea and watch a Christmas movie.  So happy to finally be feeling festive instead of overwhelmed.

Truthfully, you guys didn’t miss much in last weeks absent meal plan/grocery haul post. I am pretty sure all I bought was some wine and bananas. Our meals were mostly leftovers from the freezer, snacky meals and take out. We both worked a ton last week and there was very little cooking and we really needed to make a trip to the store…

Anyways, we are back on track this week! I made it to the grocery store and carefully planned our meals based on our schedules for the week. Eating crappy last week really took a toll on my energy level and my general mood. I also seemed to have gained a couple of pounds. I am not freaking out about it or anything, and I know this is a terrible time to try to cut back a little on calories, but I am going to try to keep our normal daily meals healthy and enjoy the parties and treats that come with the season.

 

Here it is~

Monday~ Mustard glazed pork loin chops, roasted fingerling potatoes and brussel sprouts

Tuesday~  Honey soy salmon, baked sweet potatoes, roasted broccoli

Wednesday~ Chicken with brown rice and artichoke heart casserole, salad

Thursday~ Outside In bacon mushroom swiss burgers, baked salt & vinegar fries

Friday~ Date Night

Saturday~ Leftovers

Sunday~ Chicken and broccoli alfredo

 

Our freezer and cupboards are still pretty full so I focused on produce,  dairy, restocking some basics and the holiday baking while I was shopping.

 

And the groceries~

 

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Fruit

~ oranges

~ lemons

~ bananas

~ blackberries

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Vegetables

~ red onion

~ sweet potatoes

~ fingerling potatoes

~ red potatoes

~ sliced portabella mushrooms

~ celery

~ cauliflower

~ broccoli

~ spinach

~ 2 tubs spring mix

~ 4 green peppers

 

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Dairy

~ whole milk

~ soy milk

~ half & half

~ parmesan cheese

~ 2 feta cheese

~ cottage cheese

~ greek yogirt

~ cheese sticks

 

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Meat/Protien

~ bacon (2)

~ breakfast sausage

~ eggs (2)

~ center cut pork chops (2 packs)

We have a lot of meat in the freezer right now, so I didn’t buy much.

 

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Bread Products

~gluten free tortilla

~ gluten free whole grain bread

~ italian bread

~ sourdough bread

 

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Freezer

~ OJ

~ blueberries

~ strawberries

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Pantry/Snack/Misc

~ canned pineapple

~ taco shells

~ sea salt

~ gingerbread coffee

~ chopped walnuts

~ roasted almonds

~ ketchup

~ mustard

~ blue corn tortilla chips

~ gluten free crackers

~ granola

~ salsa

~ baking mix

 

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Christmas Baking

~ confectioners sugar (2)

~ brown sugar (2)

~ sugar

~ white chocolate chips (5)

~ milk chocolate chips (3)

~ Andes baking chips

~ Bittersweet chocolate chips

~ yellow cake mix

~ baking soda

~ baking powder

~ cocoa powder

~ heavy whipping cream

~ sweetened condensed milk

~ peanut butter (2)

~ strawberry jam

~ butter (3- salted & unsalted)

~ cream cheese (4)

Unpictured~ 2 bags of flour

* My holiday baking list will be on the blog tomorrow!

 

Do you plan all of your meals or just dinners? I plan to talk about how I plan for the other meals of the day in the coming weeks and I am interested in knowing how you do it too.

 

Monday Meal Plan and Grocery Haul. November 3, 2014

I think I may start making this a weekly post. I am always fascinated by other peoples grocery hauls and meal plans. I figure I can’t be the only one since there are hundreds of videos of them on youtube.

My grocery planning and shopping methods have been talked about before in this post and this post. This is actually maybe not the best time to start sharing since I  broke the normal routine/budget, but it happens. I usually make two detailed  lists- one for Aldi and on for Wegmans. I did that this month too, but then we ended up at a different grocery store with a friend and accidentally spent $100. I do not do well with breaking the routine when it comes to staying on a budget. This is why I like to do the once a month shopping and stay out of stores as much as possible besides that.  I still made it to Aldi and picked up most of what was on the list but there will definitely be another major haul this month, instead of the usual one big haul and weekly produce trips. I spent about $200 (+ $30 in beer) on this trip and will likely spend another $150-$200 finishing up at Aldi and getting meat and a few other staples at Wegmans in a couple of weeks.

 

First, the meal plan~

Monday- crockpot sweet and sticky ribs, a new butternut squash experiment I hope to share soon, sauteed zuchinni

Tuesday- (my partner  is cooking) baked chicken with sazon, yellow rice & red beans, pan fried plantains

Wednesday- homemade chicken pot pie (previously made and frozen)

Thursday-  My salmon patties, baked sweet potato fries, roasted broccolli

Friday- Leftovers ( I am getting drinks with friends and my partner is working until 9)

Saturday- Leftovers again

Sunday- Spaghetti with meat and veggie sauce

 

*Friday and Saturday are often leftovers  due to our schedules and the need to eat up all the food we have cooked

 

On to the groceries-

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Meat- ( I buy most of our meat at Wegmans and did not get there this trip, We have a lot of meat  in our freezers already)

~ chicken sausage

~ pepperoni (for pizza)

~ turkey breakfast sausage

~ whiting filets

~ a giant pack of ribs (got a great deal on this)

~ bacon

 

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Cheese/Dairy – (We have a bit of a cheese problem.)

~ cream cheese- for some dessert recipes I have been dreaming up

~ cottage cheese (we eat this in lunches a lot)

~ plain greek yogurt

~ feta, blue and gorgonzola cheese crumbles

~ freshly grated Parmesan

~ lots of sharp cheddar cheese

~ honey goat cheese

~ apple cinnamon goat cheese (this was really cheap so I thought I’d try it)

~ fontina

~ mozzarella

~ cheesesticks

~ butter

~ desserts (this was something new that I picked up because it was a really good deal, not the most “real food” but sometimes it is nice to have a quick dessert on hand)

~ empanada shells (not dairy but made it in this picture for some reason)

~ frozen sushi (not sure how this will be, but it was relatively inexpensive and I love sushi, so I wanted to try it- also not dairy)

 

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Snacks-

~ gluten free cake mix (for a recipe experiment)

~ gluten free brownie mix & regular brownie mix

~ sugary cereal (for the honey)

~ pb granola

~ gluten free pretzels

~ gluten free crackers

~ blue corn tortilla chips

~ gf pizza crust mix

~ pretzel chips

~ dry roasted peanuts

 

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Produce/Bread-

~ sourdough bread

~ gluten free whole grain bread

~ green peppers

~ asparagus

~ 2 bags of red onions

~ mushrooms

~ artichokes

~ brussel sprouts

~ pomegranate

~ lemons

~ 2 avacados

~ grapefruit

~ celery

~ carrots

~ plantains

~ bananas

~ clementines

~ broccoli

 

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Pantry items~

~ black olives

~ coconut butter

~ maple syrup and a couple of flavored syrups (I am going to have a pancake brunch for friends soon)

~ canellini beans

~ Goya rice

~ olive oil

~ honey

~ parsley

~ basil

~ sea salt

~ taco seasoning

~ sofrito

~ hot sauce

~ ranch

~ canned peaches

~ canned corn

 

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Beverages-

~ Pumking and Warlock (YAY!!!!)

~ Red Stripe

~ grape ginger ale

~ seltzer

 

So, that’s it. Some of this stuff was definitely outside the normal for us but a lot of the usual. I will be posting weekly meal plans so you can see how I use some of the items. Most of my weekly hauls will not be so huge and will likely be shared in one picture.

What tips and tricks do you use for grocery shopping?

 

Eating Healthy on a Budget. October 1, 2014

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Eating healthy is important to me. Like, really important. It is pretty much my #1 priority after paying all the fixed expenses. I will gladly go without a new dress or a night out in order to spend more money on good, healthy food for us to eat at home. That being said, we still have a budget and I can not just go to the store and pick up whatever strikes my fancy at the moment (although this happens on occasion at Wegmans -especially if I stop after an afternoon at the brewery). We spend about $300  a month on groceries for 2 adults. This includes all breakfasts, lunches and 95% of our dinners.

 

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I guess a good place to start would be to let you know what I consider healthy eating. Healthy eating to me involves eating mostly real food. Meat, produce, dairy, beans, grains and some minimally processed convenience foods such as pasta, bread and crackers. I really like Kath’s (paraphrased) idea of considering something real food if it is made with recognizable ingredients and could be made at home if one had the time and basic kitchen tools.

Some other healthy eating guidelines I follow-

– no “low fat, reduced fat or fat free” anything, unless it comes that way naturally. I used to be all about low fat dairy etc, but the more I learned, the more I understood that it is not natural or healthy by my definition. I like food that is as close to its natural state as possible before I start cooking it. I switched over to full fat dairy products a couple of years ago and you know what happened? Nothing. I did not gain a single pound from it. It is so much more satisfying and filling and had absolutely no ill effects.

-pick and choose when it comes to organics. I am sure you have all heard about the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15”. I buy everything on the first list organic and I never buy anything on the second organic unless, it is on sale and the same price as conventional produce. Items on neither list are organic if the price is comparable to the nonorganic price.

-no fake sugars. None. Ever.

-organic meat is a priority for us. It is most definitely more expensive and I rarely find any super great deals on it, but I compensate by eating less meat. I pretty much never have meat for breakfast or lunch during the week, unless it is dinner leftovers. I eat a lot of beans, nuts, greek yogurt, eggs and cheese for protein with those meals. I would actually eat much less meat for dinner, but my partner is much more the “meat and potatoes” type than I am (although she has come a long way since we have been together)

– local is more important than organic to me in many cases. There are so many benefits to buying local (which I may get into in another post), but it comes down to supporting things that I believe in wholeheartedly.

-convenience foods are few and far between in our house.  Boxes of pasta and crackers are about as convenient as it gets. I do spend a lot of time making my own convenience foods- granola bars, frozen burritos, meals to take out of the freezer and pop in the oven, but you have to give some where- time or money.

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So, given those guidelines of healthy eating, here are some tips on how I save money doing it-

-I do a lot of planning, as detailed in this post.

-I keep a well stocked pantry

– As I mentioned in both of the posts linked above, we don’t go to the grocery store a lot. We do one big shop a month and then just pick up produce and dairy products at small stores close to the house as necessary.

– I shop at Aldi. Not exclusively, but it is always my first stop. Their product line has definitely expanded and improved over the years and I am quite impressed with many of the things they offer. Their new gluten free line in a bonus! They do offer organic produce and even some organic meat! Most of what I buy there are pantry items and dairy products.  After I pick up what I can from my list there, I head across the street to Wegmans and finish up.

– Prep cooking. There is no point in buying a bunch of healthy food if you are just going to let it rot in your crisper drawers. This takes some work. I spend Sunday afternoons preparing food for  the week ahead. I cut up veggies, whip up a batch of hummus, make granola bars, get some homemade burritos in the freezer etc. Once the meal plan is done, I do whatever I can in advance so meals are quick and easy during the week. I often work 12-13 hr days during the school year and I know that  I am going to be hungry and tired when I get home. Ordering in is easy, but not healthy or cheap! Having food prepared makes it easier to eat healthy.

– Don’t waste food. Seems like a no brainer, but people waste so much food. I do my best not to waste anything. I certainly do still waste food, but much less than I would if I didn’t try. Most food can be frozen with minimal prep. Our deep freezer comes in handy here. Keep track of what you have in the freezer and plan to use it in a meal soon.

-Use what you have. Always start with what you already have on hand and build from that instead of having to buy everything for a recipe.

– I make a lot of “leftover salads” and “use it up soup”. I like to pile whatever leftovers I have on top of spring mix and call it lunch. Part of Sunday food prep is making soup out of whatever produce needs to be used up. I will also add any grains and usually some leftover chicken as well. Just put it all in a stock pot with some stock and you are good to go. Obviously some things do not make a good combinations but you’d really be surprised by how good this usually turns out.

– Grow a  garden. We don’t grow a lot of our own food, but we do what we can and are sure to freeze/can anything we can’t use up before it is bad.

– We don’t buy many drinks. Coffee, tea, alcohol (not included in the grocery budget), and some orange juice for Sunday brunches. Besides that we just drink water. We buy milk but we use it more for cooking than we do drinking.

*I pretty much never use coupons. They don’t have a lot of coupons for the food that we eat regularly and the time and effort involved in couponing is something I just don’t have to give.

 

So, that’s about it. Everyone has different rules for healthy eating, ideas of eating on “a budget” etc. This is what works for us. I hope I have inspired some good ideas in you. Please share your ideas for eating healthy on a budget.

healthy food heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giving Up Gluten. September 27, 2014

Filed under: planning,random,Uncategorized — Jessica @ 5:00 am
Tags: , ,

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Giving up gluten has become quite the trend these days. There have been many studies done and articles written claiming that unless you have Celiac disease, gluten intolerance isn’t real, but I assure you, I would not give it up unless I had to. About 2 years ago, I started feeling just generally sick. I had almost constant headaches, I was tired all the time, I had a lot of issues with gas and indigestion, repeated yeast infections and just general discomfort. I also had a really hard time focusing on things and staying on task, which is totally unlike me. I went to the Dr. 5 times in a year and a half and she kept giving me prescriptions to treat the symptoms instead of trying to figure out what the problem was. I finally decided I needed a new Dr. After describing my symptoms to my new Dr., the first thing she asked was if I had tried to give up gluten. Having done some reading on my own, I both expected and feared she might ask that. Once the Dr. suggested it, I knew I was going to have to give it a try.

 

Going gluten-free was pretty easy at first. Most of the foods I eat on a regular basis are naturally gluten free- vegetables, meat, fruit, nuts, dairy, many ancient grains.We don’t eat a lot of processed food in our household, so that was not an issue.  I felt so much better after just a couple of days that it was easy to keep the momentum going. I made it about a month without feeling deprived or bored with my  naturally gluten free food choices. It was actually after going grocery shopping and seeing the plethora of gluten free specialty foods and buying a few gluten free substitutes that the cravings came.  Gluten free substitutes are expensive and  the money in the grocery budget for them is limited. I tend to buy a loaf of bread, crackers, pasta and maybe a brownie or cornbread mix when we go shopping twice a month, but beyond that, I just have to do without. (I did spend a ton of money on gluten free flours at first too, but have not used them all that much yet). Gluten free alternatives are nice and I am really happy I can still enjoy things like avacadoe toast with eggs or a plate of pasta, but I definitely think it makes it harder to say no to regular bread and pasta when gluten free options are not available- but maybe that is just me.

 

I have found that I can have limited amounts of gluten without any major side effects but I also find it hard to know where that line is and very easy to just keep pushing it until I am sick again. It is best for me to just avoid it in my everyday home life and not stress too much about it if I am going to a friend’s house for dinner or eating at a restaurant. I still try to stick with generally gluten free options in those situations, but I don’t have to worry about every ingredient.

 

The hardest things to give up have been fresh from the bakery bread and beer. I really love both of those things. Luckily wine is gluten free and I have developed a real love for hard cider since giving up gluten. Now that the weather has cooled down a bit, I am looking forward to experimenting with some gluten free baking so I can still enjoy one of my favorite hobbies. Overall, giving up gluten is definitely worth it for me and I even enjoy having to branch out a little bit (more) in my cooking to find delicious alternatives that leave both my non gluten-free partner and I satisfied.

 

What is your favorite gluten-free meal?

 

Gardening. July 2, 2013

Gardening is something I have always been kind of interested in. My immediate family members are not gardeners,(they aren’t even really vegetable eaters), so I didn’t have much opportunity to learn first hand growing up. Over the years, I have read many books on gardening, but I still didn’t really know what I was doing until I actually just got my hands in the dirt and learned through trial, error and the wisdom of other gardeners I spoke with. Last year was the first year that I successfully grew anything besides herbs and it was one of the best feelings in the world. I was hooked. It just feels so “right” to grow food, pick it, clean it, prepare it and feed it to the people you love. It is how food is supposed to work. With just two 12×4 foot raised beds at one of our community garden sites and some containers in the backyard, we grew enough vegetables to feed us all summer and did quite a bit of canning and freezing. We just recently used up the last of what was in the freezer.

Needless to say, I could not wait to get started this year. I ordered my seeds from Seed Savers without any real plan or layout in mind. I may have ordered a bit too much, but as long as I store them properly, I can save some for next year. Between the 2 raised beds at the garden and an expanded collection of containers, we have a pretty good selection of vegetables this year. Kale, rainbow chard, beets, carrots, a variety of lettuces, spinach, green beans, a variety of peppers both sweet and hot, several kinds of tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, basil, dill, mint, chives and even watermelon have all been planted. I am also hoping to get some peas since they don’t take too long to mature. I was hoping to get butternut squash, cantaloupe, cucumbers and potatoes planted but it just didn’t happen.

Despite uncooperative weather (lots of rain and gloom), things seem to be going okay. They are not all growing as quickly as they would under ideal conditions, but they are still healthy and slowly growing. Hopefully the sunshine comes and sticks around for awhile soon!

Here is one of the beds in bloom last year-

I will post updates and pictures as things start producing more.

Did you plant a garden? What did you plant?