Limiting myself trips to the grocery store is really helping our budget and my creativity 🙂 Life still happens when you’re on a budget however and I love to play hostess, so when we had a couple of evenings in one week where I was hosting a group of people for dinner, it was a challenge to stay in budget and still make good food, but I think I pulled it off! I based my menu around what was on sale.
One night I had the girls from my book club over and we wanted to enjoy the backyard, so I made grilled pizzas. I bought a veggie tray from Trader Joe’s as the appetizer so the girls could nibble while I grilled the pizzas. Here is the link to my blog about how to grill a pizza. First pizza was a caesar salad pizza, with chicken (marinated in caesar dressing and cooked in advance). Dough is topped with a thin layer of caesar dressing, light covering of mozzarella + chicken while on the grill. When you take it off of the grill, add the caesar salad and some shredded parmesan. Second pizza was a traditional magherita with fresh mozzarella tomatoes and basil. Third pizza was a caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza. Dough was topped with caramelized onions (made in advance) and goat cheese. This was the favorite!
Dessert was simple. 1 package sugar free white chocolate pudding, 1 package sugar free chocolate fudge pudding, chocolate chips, and sliced strawberries. Just layer ingredients and you have a trifle!
Another night we had a friends from PEPS over. I made a quinoa salad (thanks Jodi for the idea!!) and baked lemon chicken. I also was feeling very domestic and made oatmeal white chocolate chip craisin cookies. Cook the quinoa like you would rice. I used chicken stock in stead of water (you could also use veggie stock or water). Let the quinoa cool and prepare a vinagrette or use a salad dressing you like and have on hand and pour over quinoa (once cool). I used Paul Newman’s olive oil vinagrette and mixed in some pepper and lemon juice. Then add whatever you usually add to pasta salad. I used cubed colby jack, roasted zucchini and diced tomatoes. Chill and serve. [Another twist on pasta salad can be found at Family friendly food, a blog I follow.]
Baked Lemon chicken is something I have made for years and varies depending on what I have on hand. I cut the boneless chicken breasts into smaller pieces so they would cook faster and marinated them in lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt, pepper, lemon zest and honey. Put the chicken into a baking pan, drizzle with honey, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Then take the foil off and bake for another 30-45 minutes (depending on size of chicken pieces).
Some weekend mornings I actually have the urge to make a big breakfast. I really wanted eggs benedict but have never made hollandaise sauce and didn’t have the time or energy to look it up at 8:30 in the morning (it was my morning to sleep in. Tim and I switch off each weekend day). I decided to make a cheese sauce (which I just learned from all of my mac n cheese experiments). I made a lighter cheese sauce (2 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp flour, 1 ½ – 2 cups of milk, 3-4 sprigs thyme, salt, pepper, yellow mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder and 1 ½ cups skim mozzarella) and put that over the poached egg and tomatoes (diced and mixed with garlic, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar) on wheat toast. It was soooo good. I had enough cheese sauce leftover that I boiled some water while we were eating our breakfast and made pasta, mixed pureed pumpkin in with the cheese sauce, poured the cheese sauce over the pasta and baked it for 20 minutes. We spent the morning at home and then after Karina’s nap were able to go out for the rest of the afternoon and enjoy ourselves. We came home just before dinner. I reheated the mac-n-cheese and dinner was served in 10 minutes!
Luckily these meals provided leftovers again for lunch and dinners on the nights in between when I didn’t cook. Making cooking easier by giving yourself nights off is important. Those nights off don’t have to be about takeout (unless you want them to be). If you are trying to save money, make enough of one dish to have leftovers. If you don’t want to eat the same thing all week, freeze the food and then you can take different items out of the freezer and reheat on nights you don’t want to cook. But, like I have said from the beginning with this blog, everything in moderation. Not everyone is organized to cook every night and have freezer foods on hand, etc all the time. I know I’m not. Don’t beat yourself up about ordering pizza or going through the drivethru every once in a while. Taking the time to read this blog and other cooking sites shows you care about what you and your kids eat, even if you just think about trying the recipes. It’s the thought that counts J On that rogue day that you have some time and are in the mood to cook, you have an arsenal of recipes and methods in this blog, cookbooks (and more cookbooks)I mentioned and just by Googling. (Yes I think that is a verb now).
Happy cooking! Coming up…hopefully some recipes with food from my garden. My zucchini is not looking happy…
Sorry there are no pictures this week. The hard drive of our laptop died and our photos are on it! Luckily the Geeksquad was able to retrieve the info, but the computer I am working on now doesn’t have a dvd drive to read the info. Couple more weeks and the computer will be back and pictures of my garden will be up!