The good, the bad and the cheap.

I hate spending money on food. In truth I just hate spending money. Well, no I don’t hate spending money, actually I love it, because I like to buy stuff, but alas I have debt. What I truly hate, being in debt. So, really I hate spending money on anything that is not a loan payment. We’re down to one loan (besides mortgage) but it’s a doozy of a payment each month, I’ve been sick of paying on it for the past three years, what is even more madding for me about this loan not only the size of it but the fact that by the time it’s gone we will have paid double the principle. All for a student loan, and this is why it is important to teach children about compounding interest and how it effects real life situations. 

In reality there is no way possible to knock out this loan in this or even next year but brining that payoff date closer is still a great goal to have even if it is still a few years out. So, then how am I going to wring water from a stone (so to speak), with beans and cutting cable! I was finally successful in getting Husband to cede to cutting our cable TV. I’ve been trying to ditch it for years. I don’t watch TV and the shows I do watch even with a DVR I still end up watching on the computer, for me personally I see very little value in cable TV. Husband on the other hand watches it. If he’s not actually watching it the TV it’s still on anyway (personally this drives me nuts but I have to have a fan on at just about any given time). 

We got a Wii U from Christmas from my mom, which is making cutting the cable possible because now we have a device that we can stream to easily. We had an Xbox but I’ve never been a fan of Xbox live, especially if the only thing I’m going to use it for is Netflex. As soon as my antenna gets delivered cable TV is getting the boot. We’ll still be keeping the internet, obviously, because I need that to work. 

Next is the beans…how can you save money with beans. Easy, they are cheep, filling and full of everything one needs to survive. I decreed that we were going to start eating more bean meals. This fulfills two goals, one spend less on food, two eat less meat. Yes, I decreed it. Sometimes with Husband I have given up asking for his input, if he doesn’t like the idea then it just it never happens, hence the decrees. I tried years ago to get us to eat more meatless meals, just one a week, he was not about it… like he NEEDED to have meat at every meal, amusing since he doesn’t really like meat to begin with. I made the decree at least one meatless meal a week. Now it’s just common place and he’ll asks for various meatless meals that don’t even fall in the category of our one meatless meal a week. 

Speaking of decreeing we had to have the house financial talk last night. In a fit of semi-frustration in discussing our yearly budget I said “I should just give you an allowance and that’s all you get,” He responds with “That would be easier, can we just do that,” and goes back to playing with the cat. I said no, I was not shouldering all the responsibility of the house budget even if he was the one that went to work. 

But back to beans…

I only have a few bean recipes that I like the go-to recipe has always been Falafel Pitas with Cucumber-Yogurt Dressing, but that and bean enchiladas can only go so far, off to the internets. Good ‘ol Pinterest helped me out with that. In the past week we have tried two new bean recipes one was a terrible disaster that ended with me dumping in large amounts of chicken bullion and cumin. It was a Cuban black bean and rice recipe. I like black beans, I like Cuban food and I like rice and beans should be a winner right! Wrong. Even when I was making it I was looking at the recipe and thinking this is missing a bunch of traditional spices for Cuban-esq food. It tasted like bean water. I started throwing in spices galore and chicken bullion. Eventually making it not so bad. Topped with avocado, cheese, tomato and cilantro it wasn’t bad. I will be looking for a better recipe. Really want I want is a rip off of Zatarain’s Black Beans and Rice that I can make in crock pot. 

However, the second recipe was a hit! Smooth Garbanzo Bean Soup, I doubled the recipe and used a touch of chicken bullion. I would have used vegetable bullion but my house is currently lacking in vegetable bullion. My immersion blender is an attachment to my hand mixer and it’s a sad excuse that it even dares call itself an immersion blender, I had to blend it up in the kids food puree system. My blender leaks so I won’t use it – why I haven’t thrown it out yet is beyond me. Margaritas, I guess. Image

My soup turned out much more orange than the photos of the original. I also let it cook too long before pureeing, so it was extra thick. 

The response to the soup was positive. Husband liked it, said it tasted yummy and was very filling, but a bit too thick. Baby ate a whole bowl and Little Miss played in it and ate the croutons I topped the soup with (typical). Eventually the soup bowl ended up upside down on top to the baby and whatever was left dripping down into their hair. Typical dinner at our house. 

This recipe will be on the short list for go-to bean meals in the future. 

 

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Stuffed Pasta Shells

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We eat large amounts of pasta, all kinds. I think noodles is my go-to food group (if noodles could be considered a food group). One of those pasta dishes that we like to eat are stuffed shells, because they are SO EASY! Most of the time we just buy them frozen from Schawn’s, add a jar of sauce bake and DONE. Love it. It’s also meatless so it fulfills the eat less meat quota.

However, there is one problem with this delicious dish, one of the kids doesn’t like it. As in it makes her gag. Since she loves cheese and eat ricotta in other foods I guessed that it was a texture issue and not a taste issue. I decided to try and make my own stuffed shells that had enough other stuff in them to negate the texture off an all cheese ricotta stuffed shell. Experiment was a success.

It’s meatless, not dairy-less, obviously since it’s mostly cheese.

Recipe:

1 box jumbo shells – cooked to al dente
Prepared pasta sauce of your choice

Stuffing Mixture:
1 tbls butter
1 – 8oz package fresh mushrooms – chopped
1/2 red pepper – chopped
1/2 onion
1/2 onion – chopped
1 box frozen spinach – thawed, drained and remaining liquid pressed out
16 oz container of ricotta
1 cup mozzarella shredded cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese – shredded or grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Heat butter in sauté pan until melted, grate 1/2 onion using a box grater right into the hot butter. Let coot for a minute, then add mushrooms, chopped onions and red pepper. Why the grated and chopped. I wanted the grated onion to cook down, add moisture and flavor the ricotta. The chopped I wanted simply for creating a more corse texture.

Let the vegetables cook until just tender and then remove from heat.

2. In a large bowl combine the cheeses and add the spinach flaking it apart as you incorporate into the cheese. This does not need to be mixed well, the idea of adding the spinach now is just to make it a bit easier to combine when adding the other vegetables.

3. Let the vegetables cool for a bit, as you do not want them so hot that they cause the cheese to start melting. Add that to the cheese/spinach mixture and mix well to get an even distribution of ingredients.

4. Put a think coating of the sauce of your choice on the bottom of a baking pan. Then begin stuffing shells. A regular table spoon does the trick nicely. The ends of the pasta should be able to touch, you don’t want the shells so stuffed that the filling leaks out but a bit of a gab isn’t an issue. (see photo above) Place the finished shells seam side down into the baking pan. Once the pan is full top the shells with sauce and bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.

Since I made this for just the girls and I, I only made a small pan, giving me ample amount of extra. I froze them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once frozen solid I tossed them in a gallon sized freezer bag. Now I have a meal at the ready.

This is an easy meal to make but since there is a vegetable cooking step, a stuffing set and then a baking step it does require a bit of time before hand. It’s a great on hand meal for the freezer that could easily go from freezer to table in 30 minutes if the shells are already prepared. It took me about an hour to prep the shells, and that was including two screaming children and having to stop every five minutes to get kool-aid, a snack or just carry one of them around for five minutes to get them to settle down. It’s a do-able week night meal for sure but I think I’ll just try to keep them on hand in the freezer for the future fast fix meals.

Chickpea Pita

This recipe is a lie, I didn’t use a pita!

We only had taco shells in the house, so I used those and wrapped it up as a sandwich, however, a pita would have made it way more awesome.

Bean filling
1 15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – rinsed and drained
2 Table Spoons olive oil
2 Table Spoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Cucumber-Yogurt sauce
1/2 cucumber chopped
1 teaspoon dried dill
8 oz plain greek yogurt

Pitas
Lettuce
tomato
cucumber
and other toppings as desired

1) Heat oil in a pain, add chickpeas (beans). Then add chili powder and cumin. Stir around pan so the chic peas are evenly coated with the spice mixture.
2) Cook for 10-15 minutes until the beans start to soften a bit and get start to get a nice browned outer layer or crust.

As the beans cook whip up the Cucumber-Yogurt sauce. Mix together all ingredients and add salt to taste. I like just a pinch of sea salt added.

Place beans, yogurt sauce and any toppings you would like in the pita and mow down. My toddler enjoyed this meal, eating almost a half of her wrap, or her that’s a major feat. Even the baby liked the beans if I cut them in half so she could gum them up.

This was a super easy and quick lunch to make in under 20 minutes and I was able to make it before one of the kids had a major melt down all while scooting around them as they played on the kitchen floor. The only down side was that the spice mixture really did a number on my pan and I had to soak the pan before scrubbing it out.