Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Turning Deals Into Meals - Pasta with Butternut Squash Cream Sauce



I bought a butternut squash the other day, on impulse. I was planning to bake it and cube it up for the baby.    But as I was getting ready to get baking, a dinner idea popped into my head. I'd never had it before, but the idea of trying the squash with pasta, sounded appealing. With the hubs out for a guys night, it was the perfect time to experiment.

Heading to Google, I found a lot of recipes for pasta filled or topped with butternut squash, but I wanted a butternut squash sauce. I happened upon a blog called Tart Reform, where I found just what I was looking for. The recipe on that site was for penne topped with a butternut squash cream sauce. I used Barilla Piccolini Rotini, which is a whole grain, kid sized pasta (Nolan friendly).

Looking at my finished product, you probably had the same thought I did. It looks an awful lot like Mac & Cheese. When I went back for a second helping (yes, it's that good), I initially felt disgusted with myself, because it looked like I was headed back for another heaping mound of Velveeta drenched noodles. I had to remind myself that I was actually eating something quasi healthy!

In my opinion, this dish was FANTASTIC and falls into the "How did I not know about this sooner?!" category. Seriously, it was THAT yummy!

Look past the Mac & Cheese-ish appearance (or don't, and try to fool your kids, they might actually be convinced). Give it a go. You shouldn't be disappointed!

*Pasta with Butternut Squash Cream Sauce (Adapted from Tart Reform)
* This recipe was made for two adults + baby (with some leftovers) - double for more servings

Ingredients:
1/3 box Piccolini Rotini
1/2 Butternut Squash
1 T butter
1/2 onion, chopped
salt and pepper (Tart Reform says - DO NOT SKIMP - I agree!)
1/2 cup half and half (I used 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup skim milk)
1/8 to 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
parsley flakes



Don't you love my "fancy" neon green baby food/prep bowl?


Directions:

  • Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Cut each half in half, quartering the squash. Add squash to a slow cooker. Add ~ 1 cup of water. Cook on high for 3-4 hours, until soft. -OR- Bake squash at 400 degreese for 45 minutes. 
  • Spoon the flesh of two pieces of squash into a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Refrigerate other pieces for another use. 
  • Cook pasta according to package directions. When draining, reserve 1/4 cup pasta cooking water.
  • In another large pot or pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper (remember, do not skimp!). Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are tender and beginning to caramelize - 6-10 minutes. 
  • Stir in the pureed squash and half and half and bring to a boil. Mix in the pasta and the reserved pasta cooking water, a little at a time until desired consistency. Stir in the parmesan cheese. 
  • Serve and top the pasta with parsley.
Like the recipe? 'Pin It' on Pinterest!          

Aldi Deals - Week of 2/29

Here is a look at this week's Aldi produce deals.

I've discovered that the produce deals are regional. The deals in Durham are very different from the deals in other states. I know that I have readers in Wisconsin, so I've included both sale ads. If you live in area other than Durham or Wisconsin, you can check out your deals by visiting the Aldi website. Be sure to check, as it's likely the deals in your area are quite different than the ones I've posted.

I'm actually pretty happy with the Durham ad, though I do wish we had those $0.49 avocados! I'm envisioning some roasted cauliflower, maybe some chicken, pasta, or pizza with mushrooms and spinach...

                        Durham Area Deals                        Wisconsin Deals
  
        









Nearly Wordless Wednesday

When we have a day that goes like this...


I like to keep in mind, times like these...


 


Because, in the words of Julie Andrews..."then I don't feel soooooooo bad!"


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Harris Teeter Deals - Week of 2/29/12

A new Harris Teeter sale ad begins tomorrow. It's a big ad, with many deals with coupon match ups. For a full list, check out Southern Savers. Also, don't forget that the Harris Teeter Pharmacy promo is still running. Each new or refilled prescription will earn a $20 shopping credit, which can be immediately applied to any order of $20 or more.

Here are a few of my favorite deals for the week. These are items I like to keep in the house, at prices perfect for stocking up.


Ocean Spray Craisins (Breakfast, baking, salads, pork recipes...endless possibilities) (5 oz) - $1.00
- $1.00 coupon in March Parents Magazine 
Final Price = FREE

Colgate Toothpaste - $1.50
- $0.75/1 coupon (2/26 Smart Source insert) x 2 (doubled)
Final Price = FREE


Oscar Mayer Bacon (freeze it if you bought some during super doubles) - BOGO (rings up half price) - $3.49 (regularly $6.99)
- $3.00 e-vic coupon (link it to your store card, can only be used once)
Final Price = $0.49


Mission Flour Tortillas (quesadillas, tacos, fajitas, enchiladas...do you need more reasons?) - $1.99
- $0.75/1 coupon (2/5 Smart Source insert) x 2 (doubled) 
Final Price = $0.49


Blue Diamond Almonds (healthy snacking) - BOGO (rings up half price) - $1.69 ($3.38)
- $1.00/1 coupon (1/29 Smart Source insert)
Final Price = $0.69


Nasoya Tofu - $2.19
Final Price = $0.69


Bird's Eye Voila - BOGO (rings up half price)  - $2.79 (regularly $5.58)
- $1.85/1 printable coupon
Final Price = $0.94

Monday, February 27, 2012

Turning Deals Into Meals - Black Bean Chili

Tonight's dinner was perfect for a cold and rainy night. Black Bean Chili is a quick meal to throw together, using common pantry staples, like beans and canned tomatoes. 


Whenever I make chili, the recipe changes a bit. I don't follow strict measurements. Rather, I taste and adjust by throwing in more spices until I satisfied. The recipe that follows is an approximation of what I did tonight, but adjust to suit your tastes. Too spicy? Try adding a little more sugar. Too sweet? Add a bit more vinegar. 






Ingredients:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion - diced
  • 2 cloves garlic - minced or pressed
  • 1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
  • 2 cans black beans, undrained
  • 1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes (I used Hunt's Spicy Cayenne Pepper)
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 T dried basil
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • hot sauce to taste

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Stir frequently to avoid burning garlic.
  2. Add meat and cook, stirring, until meat is brown. Drain fat. 
  3. Stir in beans, tomatoes, chili powder, oregano, basil, vinegar, and brown sugar. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 60 minutes or more, until flavors are well blended. Stir occasionally while chili simmers.

Meal Plan Monday - Week of 2/26

This week's meal plan feels like a complete mess. I set out to grocery shop this morning. It was cold. It was raining, and Nolan has started a phase where he likes to scream about everything. Everything.

diaper changes = screaming
putting on clothes = screaming
car seat = screaming
high chair = screaming
taking a toy away = screaming
giving him the wrong toy = screaming
picking him up = screaming
putting him down = screaming

I was a wet, stressed mess while I did my shopping, trying to quiet my banshee baby, who also figured out how wiggle out of the cart restraints and stand up in the cart. I thought I had a meal plan, but I didn't seem to come home with what I actually set out to buy. So...with what I did manage to bring home, here's a rough plan, one that will probably involve a phone call to the hubs, requesting he bring home take out tonight.

Sunday's Meal - Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Bacon Quiche - I made a quick quiche out of leftover fridge remnants. Success. Check it out!

Black Bean Chili - I need something nice and warm to put me in a better mood on this gloomy day. I picked up some ground beef and have beans and canned tomatoes in the house. If I can resist the urge to order in tonight, this will be our Monday meal.

Tofu Tacos - To take a break from meat, I'll be making these vegetarian, using tofu, which you can buy for $0.69 at Harris Teeter, using this printable coupon.

Curried Tilapia with Mango - I didn't get around to making this last week. I'm still using the same bag of tilapia I picked up a few weeks ago at Aldi. I also have a mango in the house (taking FOREVER to ripen). If you're searching for mango, they'll be $0.49 a piece at Aldi, beginning Wednesday.

Honey Ginger Pan Grilled Pork Tenderloin - I've had a pork tenderloin in the freezer for quite some time. It seems like it's high time I did something with it. Pan grilling, rather than grilling or baking, intrigued me. Somehow, I actually remembered to pick up the ginger I'll need for this dish. I did not, however, remember to buy more honey. Looks like this meal will be moved later in the week.

Spicy Chicken with Peanut Sauce in the Crock Pot - I've had some chicken thighs in the freezer for a while, which I'll use in this dish. I'm looking forward to a make ahead meal. Hoping this is a stress reducer.


Reader Response: What's for dinner at your house this week?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Turning Deals Into Meals - Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, & Bacon Quiche



I love when last minute dinner inspiration turns into total success!

After surveying the fridge this afternoon, my brain worked up the idea of a quiche, using ingredients leftover from this week's meals. I had eggs, freebies from a Harris Teeter meal deal a few weeks back. I had heavy cream, leftover from Cajun Chicken Pasta. There was bacon, bought during HT Super Doubles, assorted veggies, Aldi produce steals, and cheeses.

I decided to concoct my own recipe for a crustless Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, & Bacon Quiche. Though I made things up as I went, I did head to Google to double check on cooking time and temp. The result was A-MAZING!

Pair with a lightly dressed salad, and this meal could be served for brunch, lunch, or dinner.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe.



Crustless Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, & Bacon Quiche

  • Ingredients:
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 1-2 T butter
  • 1 medium onion thinly sliced onion
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced baby bella mushrooms 
  • thyme to taste
  • 1 large clove minced or pressed garlic
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (could substitute milk with some fat content)
  • 5 large eggs
  • a few handfuls of shredded cheese of your choice (I used HT Italian blend)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place bacon on a foil lined pan. Cook bacon for ~ 15 minutes, until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Chop or crumble bacon.

  • Reduce oven temp to 375 degrees F.
  • Grease a 9 inch pie plate with a light layer of butter or cooking spray. Set pan aside.
While Bacon is cooking...
  • Warm a skillet over medium heat. Add butter or oil. Add the onions to the pan and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted, and lightly caramelized.

  • Add the mushrooms, thyme, and garlic to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in chopped bacon. Add the mixture to the greased pie pan. Spread evenly.

  • In a medium bowl, combine the heavy cream and eggs. Whisk until frothy. Pour the cream mixture over the onion mixture, and sprinkle the cheese over top.
 
  • Place the pie tin on a sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake until golden brown and the quiche has set, 35 to 40 minutes. Rotate the sheet pan after 15 to 20 minutes to ensure even browning.












    I Know Where I'm Going

    For the past three months or so, our Sunday mornings have been a struggle. We wake up, have breakfast, play, Nolan takes a nap. Then, it's time for church...

    Predictably, we hike up stairs to the nursery, sign in, grab our "call me if he's crying" pager, drop him off, turn to leave, and the flood gates open. Nolan begins crying. Not just tiny sobs. Hysterical, red faced, my world is ending screams. Some weeks, after fifteen or twenty minutes of wailing, he calms down enough to let one of the nursery workers distract him into playing. Others, he's beyond the point of consoling, and I'm paged out of the service to rescue the poor volunteers.

    This morning was different.

    We woke up, had breakfast, played, Nolan napped, we drove to church. This morning, though, the flood gates opened sooner than expected. As we walked into the church entryway, Nolan busted out his hysterics, usually reserved for the nursery. It became quickly and painfully clear. He was aware of where he was. He recognized his surroundings and connected the place with what would take place inside, and he wasn't happy about the pieces he'd put together.

    As a first time parent, I was probably naive in thinking that a ten month old baby didn't really grasp the concept of place. While Nolan shows memory of spaces and things within our house, I had never seen him show such a strong recognition of and reaction to an outside place.

    Being a stay at home mom, I know that Nolan has spent very little of his short life without his momma nearby, and though we try to get out and about during the week, there are few places we consistently venture, except church (ok, and maybe Harris Teeter). When he was ready to recognize a place other than home, it makes sense that it was church.

    I know that many babies hit a "not the momma" phase, and the old phrase, "this too shall pass," keeps playing in my head. Really, I am not distraught over the situation, but I do feel badly that a place of calm and reflection, has become a stressor for more than one member of the Feix family (really, his freak out place HAD to be church??).

    But Nolan baby, we'll get through it. :)




    Saturday, February 25, 2012

    A Little Pintereality - Broiled Grapefruit Style

    I found the idea for broiled caramelized grapefruit on For the Love of Cooking, but later in the same day, it also popped up on Pinterest, so we'll be filing this post under "Pintereality."

    The idea seemed simple. It seemed pretty delicious.

    Grape fruit. Sugar. Broil. Eat.

    Simple, yes. Delicious, ehh. 

    I set out preheating the oven to broil, cut the grapefruit, and added a bit of sugar. The grapefruit was put under the broiler for 3-4 minutes...no caramelizing going on. I left it for a minute or two longer. Browning edges, no caramelizing. 



    I decided I was sick of waiting. Baby napping. Clock ticking. It was time to eat. 

    The grapefruit was warm, which I expected, but honestly, I now know that I prefer it cold. Broiling it also caused the fruit to stick to the skin. It was incredibly hard to remove with a spoon.


    So while in the world of Pinterest, this seemed like a tasty, new breakfast treat, in the reality of my kitchen, not so much.

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    Harris Teeter Super Doubles - Final Trips

    Harris Teeter Super Doubles ended on Tuesday, but before it was over, I made two more small trips to take advantage of those high value coupons.

    On my first trip, I bought two packages of HT Shredded cheese, an e-vic special priced at $1.47/package. I also bought three 16 oz. Coffee-mate creamers for a total of $1.85, using a coupon for $1.85 off 3, which doubled. And...I took advantage of the General Mills promo, buy four participating items, save $2 instantly. Using printable coupons, an e-vic coupon, and the $2 savings, I bought four boxes of Fiber One bars for just $3.60. After tax, I spent a total $8.64, but as a bonus, I received a catalina coupon for $2.00 off my next purchase, courtesy of General Mills.


    I returned to HT the same day...yes, I'm that lame. The printer ran out of ink (oh no!), so after a quick trip to Target, I printed a few more coupons, grabbed my $2.00 off catalina coupon, and headed out the door. Using coupons and my catalina, I was able to spend just $0.17 (sales tax) on the items pictured below. I scored free Country Crock and Crunchmaster Crackers, Nasoya Tofu for $0.19/pack, Activia Yogurt for $0.59, and a pack of Avent pacifiers for just $0.99!


    For the day, I spent $8.81 on $45.66 worth of products, an 81% savings.

    Share your weekly shopping success stories by leaving a comment or linking up!

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Turning Deals Into Meals - Carnitas Tacos

    Tonight's, dinner, carnitas tacos, featured a pork roast I picked up on super special the other day at Harris Teeter. We did have a Mexican-ish dinner last night (Chicken Enchilada Soup), but having two dinners of the same cuisine, back to back, gave me a chance to use up ingredients, like cilantro and the rest of an avocado, before they went bad. For those interested in making this meal, tomatoes and onions are both on sale this week at Aldi.

    After the picture, you'll find an extremely easy recipe for cooking carnitas, "little meats," in the crock pot. The meat can be used for taco filling, like in my meal, or in a number of other ways - sandwich filling, main dish, etc. I served our tacos with a side of baked sweet potato.



    Ingredients:

    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 boneless pork shoulder roast - 1 1/2 - 2 lbs will feed at least 4
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 cups chicken broth (2 cups if using a 4 pound roast)
    • corn tortillas
    • optional toppings: cilantro, chopped onion, tomato, lime, salsa, *guacamole 


    * Mix avocado, pressed/minced garlic, salt, and lime to taste

    Directions:
    • In a small bowl, mix together spices. Coat pork with the spice mixture. Place the bay leaves in the bottom of the slow cooker and place the pork on top. Pour the chicken broth around the sides of the roast. Do not to rinse off the spice mixture.
    • Cover and cook on LOW until the pork shreds easily with a fork, about 10 hours (less for smaller roasts to prevent meat becoming dry). Turn the meat halfway through cooking. When the pork is tender, remove from crock pot and shred. Use cooking liquid as needed to moisten the meat.
    • Add pork to warmed corn tortillas. Top as desired. 


      To taste the full flavor of the meat, I think the more simple, the better. My tacos were topped with the ingredients pictured above.







      Aldi Deals - Week of 2/22 + My Aldi Trip

      If I haven't made my opinions about Aldi clear over the past few weeks, let me share again...

      They are the ones to beat when it comes to produce prices, and if you have one close to home and have time for more than one grocery store stop, start including an Aldi stop in your weekly routine. If buying produce, especially sale items, you WILL save money.


      The produce pictured was purchased on Tuesday, the final day of the sale week (at least in Durham). I spent less than $10, and that includes a "splurge" of $1.99 for a bag of dried apricots. I feel like I've been struggling with getting enough fruits and veggies lately, and I remembered from my time being preggo, that just 6 of those dried little pieces of sweetness = one serving of fruit.

      I bought:
      2 lbs of red grapes = $1.78, $0.89/lb
      1 pack of lettuce = $0.99 - Much less than similar products at other chains. 
      1 bag of 6 grapefruits = $1.19 - One grapefruit, not one bag, costs $0.99 at Harris Teeter.
      1 bag of 12 oranges = $1.39 - One orange is $0.89 at HT. I could buy one for the cost the Aldi bag.
      1 mango = $0.99 - These are $1.00 at Kroger this week. Not much difference.
      1 pack baby bella mushrooms = $1.29 - It appears these are down to $0.69 starting today.
      1 bag of dried apricots = $1.99 - Can't say that I've price compared dried apricots. I know they're less than what I used to spend at Trader Joe's.


      Now onto this week's produce steals (keep in mind, your local store ad might have started on Monday). When looking at the produce deals, consider meal planning around them. This week's deals would fit well into an Italian dinner (whip up a pasta sauce, throw together a big salad) or a Mexican meal (veggie fajitas, perhaps). Keep your out of pocket expense low by making meals that include on sale ingredients.

      Aldi Produce Deals 2/22 - 2/27

      Roma Tomatoes $.079/pack (20 oz)
      Baby Bella Mushrooms $0.69/pack
      Red Onions - 2 lb bag $0.69, $0.35/lb
      Romaine Hearts $0.99/pack
      Tomatoes on the Vine, 16 oz, $0.99/pack
      Green Peppers $0.99/pack


         


      Share your weekly shopping trip successes by leaving comment or linking up!


      The Coupon Comeback

      Last night, I received an e-mail from an outreach employee from Coupons.org. She shared a very interesting graphic about coupon use, that I thought I'd pass along.

      Did you know that consumers take advantage about 0.6% of available coupon savings, or that Raleigh is the 10th "most frugal" city in the country??

      Check it out and share you thoughts in the comments. Did anything surprise you? What did you find most interesting?

      CrushingOnCoupons
      Source: coupons.org

      Tuesday, February 21, 2012

      Nearly Wordless Wednesday - A Lesson in Water Play


      UH OH!

         

       

      Momma has a better idea!

       





        





      UH OH!

        



      By the way, socks + diaper = a totally cool look. He wanted them on. As you can see, I needed to pick my battles. :)


      Turning Deals Into Meals - Chicken Enchilada Soup

      We had Chicken Enchilada Soup for dinner tonight, using the leftover rotisserie chicken from yesterday's dinner (Cajun Chicken Pasta). I originally came across the recipe on Pinterest, but I've adapted it a bit - adding and omitting ingredients, using homemade enchilada sauce instead of store bought. You'll find my altered recipe below. 

      Chicken Enchilada Soup



      Enchilada Sauce (will use some in soup, freeze the rest - great for real enchiladas)


      Ingredients:
      1/4 cup vegetable oil
      1/4 cup chili powder
      • 2 tablespoons self-rising flour
      • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
      • 1 1/2 cups water
      • 1/4 t cumin (more to taste)
      • 1/4 t garlic powder (more to taste)
      • 1/4 t onion powder
      • salt to taste

      • Directions:
        • Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and chili powder, reduce heat to medium, and cook until lightly brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning flour.
        • Stir in tomato sauce, water, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder until smooth.
        • Continue cooking over medium heat approximately 10 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt.

      Chicken Enchilada Soup


      Ingredients:
      3 T butter
      3 T flour
      ½ cup chicken broth
      2 cups milk
      1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
      1 can diced tomatoes with jalapeƱos or 1 can diced tomatoes
      1 package frozen corn (10 oz)
      ½ cup onion, chopped
      ~ 10 ounces of enchilada sauce (can use can or see recipe above)
      2 cups chopped 
      rotisserie chicken
      Optional Toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, cilantro, avocado, tortilla chips


      Directions:

      • In a crockpot - combine drained beans, tomatoes, corn, and onion. Place chicken on top of the mixture. 



      • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and continue to stir until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the chicken broth and ½ cup milk, stirring to keep smooth. Return to heat. Bring sauce to a gentle boil, stirring constantly until it thickens. 
      • In a large bowl, whisk together enchilada sauce and chicken broth mixture. Whisk in remaining milk until smooth and pour sauce mixture over ingredients in crock pot.
      •  Cover and cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. 


      • Stir soup before serving. The soup can also be topped with cheese, avocado, sour cream, or crushed tortilla chips.



      After this picture, I slopped on the toppings. :)

      Even the baby enjoyed the meal. 

      Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored byKitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset

      This recipe is linked up at Dishing It Up Recipe Hop.