Monday, January 30, 2012

Final Pantry Challenge Update

Heading into the last few days of the Pantry Challenge,  my pantry and freezer are lighter, but still with plenty, so even though the challenge ends on Tuesday, we are going to continue the challenge through the end of the week and possibly into next.

Looking back over the whole month, we ate some great food, while focusing on using what we had. 

Goals for the January Pantry Challenge -

1.  Spend Less - we usually spend about $100/week or $400 for the month.  This month I didn't shop some weeks, but also stocked up on some good sales.  Overall we averaged $50/week or $200 for the month, cutting our grocery bill by 50%.  Not bad!

2.  Clean out pantry and freezer - my pantry is clean and organized, my kitchen freezer is cleaned out and refilled with homemade breakfast items.  The 2 freezers in the garage are emptier, but still need organization.  Hopefully I will get that done in the next few days.

3.  Add some new recipes to our menu rotation and revisit some old favorites - I tried several new recipes from my Southern Living Cookbook collection and my Pinterest boards.  We loved the following recipes -
I also revisited some recipes I hadn't made in awhile. 
When some think of doing a Pantry Challenge, they think you eat rice and beans alot and go without.  That was certainly not the case in our house this month.  In fact, if you asked my family they probably didn't notice a difference from any other month.  I'll certainly be doing this again in the future.

Linking up to
Good Cheap Eats Pantry Challenge

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Meal Plan Monday - Jan. 30

We tried several new recipes last week inspired by my Pinterest Boards.  We enjoyed most of them and will be adding several to our menu rotation.  Check out my Pantry Challenge post this week to see which recipes we loved.

Although the Pantry Challenge officially is over on Tuesday 1/31, I will be continuing through this week and possibly next.  It has been nice to save some money this month and clean out the freezer and pantry. 

Sunday -  Omelets, Hashbrowns, Fruit Salad
Monday Buffalo Chicken Casserole, Fruit Salad
Tuesday - Grilled Chicken Salad
Wednesday - French Dip Sandwiches, Chips and Fruit
Thursday - Cube Steak, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Peas, Fruit
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday -

For more great menu planning ideas, visit I'm An Organized Junkie

Saturday, January 28, 2012

French Dip Sandwiches

There's nothing better than coming home from a late winter/ early spring lacrosse practice to a delicious hot meal in the crockpot.  These French Dip Sandwiches appear many times on our menu during winter/spring sports season.  Everytime chuck roasts are on sale, I pick up two.  One to make these sandwiches immediately and one for the freezer so we can have these before chuck roasts go on sale again. 

French Dip Sandwiches

1 3 - 4 pound chuck roast
1/2 package Lipton French Onion Soup Mix
1 T yellow mustard

Put chuck roast in slow cooker.  Sprinkle with onion soup mix.  Squirt mustard on top of roast.  Cook on LOW for 8 hours.  Shred meat and let cook for another hour.  Top with provolone cheese and serve on your favorite sandwich rolls.

Linking up to
Sunday Scoop
Made By You Monday
Tasty Tuesday
It's A Blog Party
Melt in Your Mouth Monday
Show me What You Got
Make It Yourself Monday
Your Cozy Home
Full Plate Thursday
Tatertots and Jello
I'm Lovin' It
Super Bowl Eats and Treats
Weekend Wanderer

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cajun Spiced Nuts

I posted about these delicious cajun spiced nuts on another blog and received some requests to post the recipe.  I can't believe I haven't posted this yet!  These nuts get rave reviews everytime I serve them.  They are perfect by themselves as a snack, but pair them with some romaine lettuce, pepper jack cheese and a light vinaigrette and your guest will beg to take some home. 

Cajun Spiced Nuts

1 pound pecan halves
1/4 c melted butter
1 T chili powder
1 t salt
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
1 t thyme
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t ground cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 15 minutes.  Turn to LOW and continue to cook, UNCOVERED, stirring occasionally for 2 hours.  Transfer nuts to a baking sheet and cool completely. 

These keep well for about a month, if they last that long.

*** I have had this recipe for years, but do not know where it orginated, so can't give credit.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cheddar Cheese Ring with Pepper Jelly

I love a good cheese appetizer, ya know everything is better with cheese.  One of my favorites is a traditional Southern Cheese Ring.  The traditional version marries a cheddar cheese and pecan mixture with Strawberry Preserves.  It really is the most interesting flavor combination and quite refreshing during the summer time, especially with homemade preserves.  By the way, this is a favorite of native Georgian, President Jimmy Carter. 

For New Year's Eve, I really wanted to make a Cheese Ring for one of our appetizer selections, but I only had ONE jar of my homemade strawberry preserves left and June is a LONG way off.  I really didn't want to share my VERY LAST jar, so I went looking for alternatives.  I saw many references to using pepper jelly in place of strawberry preserves.  Since I had an abundance of homemade pepper jelly in my pantry, I decided to give it a try.   This simple substitution took a somewhat summery, sweet appetizer and morphed it into a spicy, cool weather treat that was a hit at our New Year's Eve party.  I will certainly be making this one again and I might just add a touch of cayenne pepper to the cheese mixture to up the heat just a bit.

Pepper Jelly Cheese Ring

16 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 c mayonaisse
4 green onions, chopped
1 c chopped pecans
1/2 t garlic powder
1 c pepper jelly
Club Crackers

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl using you hands or a hand mixer.  Mold mixture into a ring on serving platter.  Cover and chill 2 - 3 hours.  Before serving, fill center of ring with pepper jelly.  Serve with Club crackers. 

I've already made a note to make at least one extra batch of Pepper Jelly this summer to make sure I have enough to make this recipe a few times during the year. 

Linking up to-

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pinterest and a Pantry Challenge

Week Three of the Pantry Challenge has me getting a bit creative as I am using up certain ingredients that have been lying around my kitchen for far too long.  Last week I used my extensive Southern Living Cookbook collection for inspiration.  This week, I turned to my Pinterest Boards to jump start my menu plan. 

I matched up what I had in the freezer and pantry with some of the recipes I had pinned to my Recipes to Try board.  The following made the cut and I will be reviewing them later on.

There were many other recipes I could have made, but I decided I probably shouldn't experiment on my family too many times this week.  

How's my pantry/freezer looking at Week 3?  Well, the inside freezer was empty until last weekend when I cooked up a variety of items for the freezer from what I had on hand.  Now, it is almost full of yummy, quick, nutritious breakfast items. 

The small freezer in the garage is quickly emptying out.  With the exception of a Key Lime Pie (leftover from a catering job) and a turkey breast, it is mostly cheese, tortillas, butter and creamer.  

The upright freezer in the garage is beginning to look a bit bare, but there is still a lot of food in there! 

I did do some shopping this week.  Publix was having a great sale on many of the items we use all the time and many things we were out of or dangerously low on.  Between Publix and Walmart, I spend $122.00.  Add this to the $50.00 I already spend this month and we are still on a path to saving over $250.00 this  month.  For the rest of the month, I should only have to buy milk and fresh fruits and veggies, totaling about $25.00. 

Linking Up to 
Good Cheap Eats Pantry Challenge

Meal Plan Monday - January 23rd

We are still chugging along with the Pantry Challenge.  Well, I'm still chugging along, the rest of the family isn't even aware we are doing it.  I have just been telling them I've been too busy to stop at the grocery store! 

We did run into a few snags last week.  I forgot I had a meeting at school on Tuesday and someone used all my eggs on Wednesday and didn't tell me, so we hit the drive thru twice.  Both times was due to my lack of planning, so guess we know what I need to work on this week. 

We did however use up a great deal of items from my pantry and freezer. 

This week I'm using my Pinterest Boards as inspiration for my meal plan.  It's time to try out some of those pins I've been collecting and see if they taste as good as they look.   Check out my Pantry Challenge Post to see which recipes I'm trying this week.

Sunday - Brat Burgers, Twice Baked Potato Casserole, Lima Beans
Monday - Mozz. Stuffed Sausage Meatballs with Tomato Pesto Sauce, Parmesan Pasta, Salad
Tuesday - White Chicken Enchiladas, Mexican Chopped Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing
Wednesday - Chicken Nachos,Texas Beans, Mexican Chopped Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing
Thursday - Buffalo Chicken Casserole, Peas, Fruit
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - 

Breakfasts - Yogurt and Granola, Muffins, Fruit

Lunches - Italian White Bean Soup (didn't make last week), Dinner leftovers

Baking - Chocolate Chip Cookies, Almond Butter Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

For more great menu ideas, visit I'm An Organized Junkie

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Chicken, Corn and Potato Chowder

Participating in the Pantry Challenge this month has made me be a bit more creative in my recipe choices.  I have turned to my Southern Living Cookbook collection several times this month for inspiration.  Some recipes have been OK, while some have been home runs.  This Chicken Corn and Pototo Chowder is an adaptation of Cheesy Chicken Corn Soup from July 1997.  The original recipe called for cream of chicken soup and did not include potatoes.  Here is my new and improved version.  I have added this recipe to our family favorite cookbook.

Chicken, Corn and Potato Chowder

6 T butter
6 T flour
1 1/2  c milk
2 1/2  c chicken broth (divided)
1 16 oz pkg. frozen whole kernel corn
2 c chopped cooked chicken
3 c shredded, frozen hash browns
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilis (I used Rotel)
1 8.5 oz. can cream style corn
1 8 oz. loaf Velveeta
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 t pepper
4 T chopped cooked bacon

In a large dutch oven, melt butter.  Sprinkle flour over it and stir to incorporate.  Cook over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Slowly whisk in 1 1/2 c milk and 1 1/2 cup chicken broth.  Simmer over low heat until thick. 

Add 1 c chicken broth, stir until blended.  Add all remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer; uncovered, 30 minutes or until smooth, stirring often.  Serve topped with chopped, cooked bacon.

Original recipe stated this froze and reheated very well, but we didn't have any leftover to try it out!

Linking to

Monday, January 16, 2012

Freezer Cooking from the Pantry and Freezer

Part of the reason for doing a Pantry Challenge is to use up what you have.  Looking through my freezer and pantry over the past couple of weeks I realized I had somethings that needed to be used up pretty quickly and there were also some freezer staples I was either out of or extremely low on.  Thus I began putting together a freezer cooking session based on what I had on hand. 
I like to keep homemade muffins and breakfast bars in the freezer for quick breakfasts on the go, but the rush of the holidays had depleted my supply.  I had fresh cranberries in the refrigerator as well as some over ripe bananas that needed to be used quickly.  I also have an abundance of oatmeal hanging out in my pantry thanks to some really good sales.  Those cranberries, bananas and oatmeal quickly became Pineapple Muffins, Cranberry Muffins, Banana Oat Muffins and Oatmeal Breakfast Bars.  Leftover cranberries made their way into the freezer to make more muffins at a later date.  The only item I had to purchase was a container of vanilla yogurt for the muffins. 

Total - 48 muffins, 16 oatmeal bars

I always keep pre-cooked hamburger in the freezer for really quick weekday meals.  My DH purchased (3) 5 pound portions of ground beef before the holidays and I didn't have time to do anything with it then, so I threw it in the freezer.  I thawed 10 pounds worth and made 5 pounds into WW Sloppy Joes and the other 5 pounds I cooked up with onions and garlic for spaghetti and tacos.  I purchased a red onion and fresh garlic for this.

Total - 3 meals Sloppy Joes, 4 meals cooked, seasoned ground beef

I had some buttermilk to use before the expiration date, so Boo Boo made her first batch of pancakes all by herself.

Total - 26 pancakes

Bubba gets himself up and off to school each day after I am already at work, so I like to keep quick breakfast items in the freezer for him.  One of his favorites -- breakfast burritos.  I had cheese, ham, sausage, tortillas and a few eggs already on hand.  I just purchased another dozen eggs to make it worth the mess.

Total - 12 breakfast burritos

We love mac and cheese at our house and we used the last of it over the holidays, so I quicky whipped up a batch for the freezer from the pantry and refrigerator. 

Total - 3 side dishes of Macaroni and Cheese

Christmas 2010 my DH brought home a HUGE, ENORMOUS bag of chocolate chips from the restaurant supply store.  That bag has been sitting in my freezer for over a year because I was too busy to portion out the chips into smaller bags.  I finally took the plunge and opened the bag, making a double batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies (freezing most of them to cook later) and portioned out rest of the chips into smaller bags for easier use. 

Total - 8 dozen chocolate chip cookies

One of the things I HATE about cereral is the bits and pieces you have left when everyone tires of their "favorite" cereal.  I took all those this and that cereals as well as crackers, pretzels and peanuts from the holidays and made Chex Mix for the kids to snack on over the next couple of weeks. 

Total - 14 cups Chex Mix

This took just a few hours on Saturday afternoon, cost me less than $10.00 and give us quick items for breakfasts and snacks for a couple of months.  It's a win, win, win in my book.

Linked to- 
Good Cheap Eats Pantry Challenge
Tasty Tuesday
It's A Blog Party
Melt in Your Mouth Monday
Tidy Mom

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Meal Plan Monday - January 16

Continuing with the Pantry Challenge this week with great success.  For the past two weeks I have kept my grocery shopping to a minimun and used what we had on hand to create wonderful meals.  I was even able to put together a Freezer Cooking Session over the weekend using what I had in the freezer and pantry.  We probably have enough food that I could continue the Pantry Challenge on into February.  That would be great for my bank account!

Sunday -  Chili and Hot Dogs, Chips, Brownies
Monday - Tomato Basil Pasta with Italian Sausage, Salad, Cookies
Wednesday - Crockpot Baked Potatoes, Salad
Thursday - Trader Joe's Chinese Buffet, Fruit
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday -

Lunches - Chicken Salad, Italian White Bean Soup
Breakfasts - Muffins, Vanilla Yogurt with Granola, Ham Biscuits

For more great menu ideas visit I'm An Organized Junkie

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pennant Bunting

I have  been in the process of redecorating Boo Boo's room for several months.  We have done it in stages, as money and time have allowed.  This has actually been beneficial as we did not have everything planned out and going slowly has allowed us to pick and choose items we wanted to add to the decor and figure out what will work in her room.

Several months ago we painted it her walls a lovely shade of lime green and purchased a comforter set in lime, blue and purple.  One of the decor items we decided upon was a pennant banner, similar to the one we made for the 4th of July.   We selected several fabrics in her decor colors and got to work.  Once again, I followed the wonderful tutorial I found at My Homebased Mom

I cut all the pieces

Stitched them together

Sewed them to the bias tape

And hung them in her room.  It added just the right pop of color and interest to her new decor.

Linking up to - 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Meal Plan Monday - Jan. 9

I'm still participating in the Pantry Challenge and so far I have used a variety of items from my pantry.  Not stopping at the grocery store for a forgotten item made the first week back to school after the holiday a bit easier.  It also kept me from grabbing the phone and a take out menu when dinner time rolled around.  Check out my post on Making A Pantry Challenge Work For Me to see how I do it. 

Here's the plan for using what's in the freezer and pantry this week.

Some things I have in my refrigerator and pantry that need to be used -

fresh cranberries
sour cream
vanilla yogurt
cheddar cheese
Beef tenderloin
dirty rice mix
lots of pasta

Sunday - Lunch leftovers
Monday - Beef Tenderloin, mashed potatoes, creamed corn
Tuesday - Dirty Rice with ground beef, salad
Wednesday - Meatball Subs, Chips, Fruit
Thursday - Buffalo Chicken Wraps, Chips, Fruit
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday -

Baking - Cranberry Muffins
Lunch - Chicken Salad

Linked to I'm an Organized Junkie

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Counterfeit Kit - January 2012

Fall was soooo busy around here and then the holidays happened and one of my favorite things went by the wayside-- counterfeiting scrapbook kits with the Counterfeit Kit Challenge.  I was glad to find some time this weekend to pull together not one, but two of the Cocoa Daisy Kits selected for this month.   There were 5 kits to choose from.  Most were snow related, which I don't have much use for here in Atlanta, but one was Christmas inspired, so I pulled together two kits based on the Christmas colors and the shapes of the papers. 

Peppermint Holiday

 Kit includes -
3 shades of red cardstock
2 shades of green cardstock
white cardstock
black cardstock
11 patterned papers from a Christmas stack
2 ribbons
candy cane stamp
6 Christmas foam stickers
black, green and 2 red letter sticker sets
2 sets cardstock stickers
red and green brads

Kentucky Christmas

Kit includes -
1 red cardstock
1 white cardstock
1 blue cardstock
3 red, white, green and blue patterned pappers
green ribbon
winter letter stamp set
Calendar Cricut Cartridge
red and blue large brads
blue sequin stickers
grey tag

Visit the Counterfeit Kit Challenge Blog to see other interpretations of this month's kits.

How I Make a Pantry Challenge Work For Me

The idea behind a pantry challenge is to use what you have on hand first.  My 3 freezers, while not full, have plenty of variety to keep us happy for the month of January.  For some, the idea of a pantry challenge is overwhelming  Here is how I make it work of us.

Contents of my kitchen refrigerator

1/2 bag shredded hashbrowns
3 breaded tilapia filets
grilled chicken strips - 1 buffalo, 2 asian sesame
1 bag corn
1 frozen pizza
2 boxes chopped spinach
1/2 bag frozen peas
waffles and pancakes
cooked rice - 3 (1 cup) portions
bread crumbs
3 bags uncooked chicken breasts
pecans, chocolate chips, toffee bits

Here's what's might be on our weekly menu based on the above list -

Tilapia Sandwiches and Cheesy Hashbrowns
Italian Bean Soup
Corn, Bacon and Potato Chowder (add chopped cook bacon before serving)
Rice Bowls
Grilled Chicken Salad or Wraps
Spinach Rice Casserole (sub spinach for broccoli in my favorite broccoli casserole)
Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breasts 
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Toffee Pecan Bars

I can make all of the above by simply purchasing milk, lettuce, onion and buns at the store.  This would be enough for a week's worth of dinners with leftovers for lunch in addition to two desserts.  I will round out each meal with either salad or frozen vegetables, fruit and with the soups I will make cornbread or beer bread.  

How do you make the best use of what's in your freezer and pantry?

Linked to
Good Cheap Eats Pantry Challenge
Sundae Scoop
It's A Blog Party
Made By You Monday
Your Cozy Home
Beauty and Bedlam
Link It Up
Delighful Order
Somewhat Simple
Fireflies and Jelly Beans
Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms

Monday, January 2, 2012

Meal Plan Monday - January 2

The first meal plan of the year!  When I look back on all the resolutions/goals I have set over the years, making meal planninga priority in 2010 was one of the most successful and has had the most positive impact on my family.

Sunday - Traditional Southern New Year's Day Meal -- Pork Loin, Black Eyed Peas, Collard Greens, Scallped Potatoes, Cornbread, Orange Slice Cake and Cream Cheese Pie
Monday - Pork Loin, Scalloped Potatoes, Lima Beans, Cupcakes
Tuesday - Kids eat at Nanny's house
Wednesday - Broccoli Cheese Soup, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Fruit
Thursday - Tilapia Filet Sandwiches, Cheesy Hashbrowns, Pineapple Waldorf Salad
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - Corn, Bacon and Potato Chowder, Beer Bread

For more wonderful menu ideas, head over to I'm An Organized Junkie

Pantry Challenge 2012

For the third year in a row I am participating in the Pantry Challenge hosted by Jessica at Good Cheap Eats

A pantry challenge is NOT an abstinance from grocery shopping or eating beans and rice 3 meals a day for a week. 

It IS using what you have on hand FIRST, before running to the grocery store. 

It IS making the most of what you have. 

It IS leanring to be creative in the kitchen.  

My goals for the pantry challenge this year are -

1.  Spend less.

2.  Clean out my freezer and pantry.

3.  Add some new recipes to our menu rotation and revisit some old ones.

Visit Good Cheap Eats to share your pantry goals and be inspired by others.

2012 Kitchen Goals

It's that time, time for me to commit to 12 goals to accomplish in my kitchen this year.  Instead of resolutions, I set goals, one/month to better my skills, organization, variety and healthiness in the kitchen.  Take a look at my 2010 goals and my 2011 goals to see what I have accomplished. 

Here we go....

Goal 1 - Pantry Challenge in January (3rd year in a row participating)
Goal 2 - Clean out utensil drawers
Goal 3 - Limit dining out/take out/deliver to 2-3 times/month
Goal 4 - More vegetables in our menu plan
Goal 5 - Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (3rd year to try this one....)
Goal 6 - Better utiliziation of garden produce - less waste
Goal 7 - Dehydrate and freeze more
Goal 8 - Update Family Favorites and Freezer Cookbook
Goal 9 - Learn to make and freeze creamed corn
Goal 10 - Create a list of family favorite salads
Goal 11 -  Eat at the table and not in front of the TV
Goal 12 - Let my kids cook more

I will select one or two goals per month to work on.  They say it takes 30 days to develop a new habit, so by the end of the year, I should develop several new habits to make my time in the kitchen easier.   Let's see how well I do this year!

Linking up to
Made By You Monday
It's A Blog Party
Sundae Scoop
Make It Yourself Monday
Beauty and Bedlam
Link It Up
Somewhat Simple
Delighful Order
Fireflies and Jelly Beans
Tatertots and Jello
Tidy Mom