Tuesday, November 13, 2012

grocery bill combat + guest blog from Lara

"So my grocery bill is reeeediculous. is it because I like to cook? do we eat too much? I am about out of creative cost effective meal ideas. mmmmkay care to share? (more money needs to be directed to my coffee/chicago/boots/forever21 accounts)."

This was my facebook status last Friday and it was hilarious to listen to my phone buzz all afternoon with some pretty interesting tips but mostly a lot of commiserating- apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way. 

Definitely the best thing that came out of that thread was Lara agreeing to share some recipes over here on my blog.  :) The other great thing that came out of the thread is Lara's own blog: Yummy Easy Affordable. Definitely check it out because Lara is a great cook, super organized and really fun. 

Lara and I go way back, kind of an accidental friendship because I was friends with her sister Lisa.. (Lisa blogs at Eclectic- super fun.  She's a great writer.)

{Lisa's wedding was where we learned how to do the Virginia Reel. (Now that was fun.) (Oh my goodness, look at all of Daniel's hair!!)}

(at Lisa's wedding- Lara is on Lisa's left, I'm on Lisa's right.  Wow- we look like we weren't worried about meal planning!  Oh to be young again! )
Anyway.  This is really about Lara, who is graciously guest posting.  I will totally be trying the Maple Chicken (I have everything for it in my cupboards.  Well, not the chicken, but you know.)
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from Lara

I love to cook, but I don’t have much patience.  Have you ever spent two hours in the kitchen working on a meal that your family devoured in 20 minutes?  Me too – and unless it’s a holiday or special occasion, I find that pretty frustrating.   My idea of meal preparation is that I don’t want to spend any more time cooking than it takes to eat it!  I also don’t have a huge grocery budget.  (Am I the only one who’s noticed that food prices are quite a bit higher than they were a year or two ago?)  I get excited by recipes that are easy, yummy, AND affordable.   Oh, and I’d like them to be fairly healthy, too. 
Here are five of my recent favorites:
Easy Chicken StirFry(this can be a complete dinner all by itself)
1 boneless skinless chicken breast or 2 thighs (fresh or frozen/thawed)
~½ lb baby carrots
1 green bell pepper
Brown rice, cooked
2 tsp corn starch
Soy sauce
            Drizzle a little olive oil in two medium/large frying pans.  Slice baby carrots lengthwise (~3 slices per carrot) and place in largest frying pan over medium-high heat.  Slice bell pepper into thin strips and then cut in half (so the pieces are about the same size as the carrots); add to carrots in frying pan.  Stir occasionally.  Meanwhile slice the chicken into thin strips and cook in the other frying pan over medium heat.  After a couple of minutes, turn the chicken pieces to brown the other side.  When you have a quick break between stirring, get the rice started cooking (enough for 4 servings).  When the chicken is lightly browned on both sides, dispose of the liquid and transfer chicken pieces to the other frying pan with the veggies.  Cook (stirring occasionally) until veggies are desired tenderness.  Meanwhile whisk the cornstarch with a little bit of water in a small saucepan until smooth; add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce and cook over medium low heat just until mixture starts to thicken.  Pour over stirfry and stir to coat.  Serves 4
Avocado Chicken Salad
This was my absolute favorite all summer long!  It’s great for either lunch or dinner. I like to make it in a big pasta bowl and then eat the whole thing myself! J
Layer on individual plates in this order:
Romaine lettuce (or other salad greens)
~ 2 tablespoons finely shredded Mexican blend cheese (or colby-jack or just cheddar)
Drizzle generously with Wishbone brand “Guacamole Ranch” salad dressing (or regular Ranch)
Chicken strips, cut into bite-size pieces (you can buy the convenient packaged kind, or make your own using the same directions as the StirFry recipe above)
Chopped tomato
Half of a ripe avocado, sliced into strips
            Sprinkle very lightly with salt, and serve immediately.  So refreshing!
Chili-Cheese Burritos
Almost embarrassingly easy, these burritos are fork-food (almost like an enchilada).  This is a great go-to recipe for a hectic day when you just don’t have time to cook.
4 large or 6 medium tortillas
1 can chili with beans
½ cup queso/nacho cheese dip
1 handful shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream & salsa (optional)
            Set oven to 350.  Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.  Stir together chili and queso in a bowl.  Spoon evenly into tortillas, roll them up, and place in baking dish.  Throw some shredded cheddar over the top.  Bake until heated through (about 15 minutes).  Top with sour cream and/or salsa if desired.  Serves 3-4.
Chicken & Veggie Quesadillas
Large tortillas (1 per person)
Mexican blend shredded cheese (or colby/jack or cheddar)
Grilled/rotisserie chicken strips (buy the convenient pre-made or make your own as in the stirfry recipe)
Green bell pepper
Sour cream
Avocado or guacamole (optional)
            Drizzle olive oil in a frying pan.  Chop green pepper and onion and sauté over medium-high heat.  While that’s cooking, chop up the tomato and add to the veggie mix, cooking and stirring occasionally until tender.  Cut chicken strips down to desired size; set aside.  Spray a large frying pan with nonstick spray and turn heat to medium high.  Place a tortilla in the pan for a minute or so, then flip and layer cheese, chicken and veggies on half the tortilla.  Fold over and cook for a minute or so; then flip to other side until tortilla is lightly browned and cheese is melted. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 4 wedges. Repeat with more tortillas. Garnish as desired with sour cream, salsa, and avocado/guacamole.
Maple Dijon Chicken (adapted from a friend who adapted from Pinterest)
This recipe looks a little weird but it is SO GOOD!  (Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it...)
1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (fresh or frozen/thawed)
½ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup pancake syrup
1 ½ tablespoons white vinegar
            Line a baking pan with foil and put chicken in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Stir mustard, syrup, and vinegar together to make sauce; spoon HALF of it over the top (reserve the rest). Bake at 450 for 20 minutes; turn chicken, spoon on the rest of the sauce, and bake 15-20 minutes more.

Thank you Lara!!  {Go follow her blog and leave her some comment love!} :)


  1. Just happened to discover this and it made me smile :). I am so grateful for your friendship!!