2 disasters, 1 success.

In the interest of saving money (our first mortgage payment is due July 1st, hooray) and being vaguely healthy again, I made a structured meal plan for this week that unfortunately had two giant failures and both can be attributed to Rachael Ray.  I loathe her voice, I detest her show, yet I still am intrigued by her mish-mashy concoctions and can’t resist trying them.  I believe this week has been the universe’s intervention between us and I.AM.DONE.

Recipe #1: Crispy Oven-Fried Turkey Patties with Bourbon BBQ Sauce.

We have bourbon in the house that nobody drinks, and the organic extra lean ground beef (I don’t typically do ground turkey) was half off at the grocery store so this seemed to be a perfect place to start.  I don’t know if my taste buds were just accustomed to the bottled barbecue sugar bombs, but this sauce was just disgusting and I made it exactly how the recipe called for.  It was pointless and ridiculous to egg wash and bread the patties because they didn’t end up crispy at all.  This meal was overly superfluous, but cost us next to nothing, so the sauce went in the garbage and the leftover patties were had traditionally with cheese and on plain buns.

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Cheap Enchiladas

Do you ever look at the amount you’ve spent on groceries at the end of the month and wonder WHERE THE HECK it all went to?  This happens to me all the time.  I have laxed my previous $70/week budget and not sticking to ANYTHING can really do a damper when you are evaluating monthly expenditures.  Anyway, this month was a big one with both eating out AND groceries- I don’t know how that happened.

My first thought for this week was to go vegetarian of course.  Easiest way to be cheap in my mind.

I needed something tasty but filling AND a dish that would leave us with lots of leftovers.  I did this and managed to get away with only making two meals this whole week.

Just call me superwife.

As much disdain as I have for the other Rachael that spells her name normally, I am NOT MAD at her magazine and especially can’t hate it when it contains money conscious recipes.  I am all about cheap, all of the time.  The magazine claims that each serving cost $2.63, which is pretty accurate in my experience.  Rachael Ray’s recipes are usually restaurant level fattening, so I tend to have to do a little work on them.

Example: Frying the corn tortillas before rolling the enchiladas.  You will live if you just spray the pan – in fact, you will live longer if you do that instead.  I also used the below tortillas instead of corn to add extra fiber and some protein. Staying full is my number one mission in life.

 I swapped black beans for pintos, I just like them better.  I changed a lot of things in this recipe, so my version is below (with absolutely no taste compromise).  If you want the full fat, full calorie version, you can find it here.  My new recipe is as follows, and no picture because it looks disgusting but tastes OH SO GOOD.  Sorry, I break good blogger rules everyday, but trust me on this one.

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Beer-Braised Sriracha Chicken

Let’s talk recipe sharing – I don’t do that enough anymore.  I realized I love to pick recipes from internet/cookbooks and dissect everything as I am going about cooking it.  I rarely ever am satisfied with a recipe the exact way it is supposed to be made, and that is when we can have the most fun while cooking 🙂

Background: When I make meals during the week it’s usually something I’m not very excited about.  I try new recipes that are safe and healthy and I generally just eat it because I already have most of the ingredients and don’t have to spend too much money on groceries.

New project (because buying a house just isn’t enough)- I am building my pantry and purging my recipe binder of recipes that are just “meh” to my husband and I.  We eat at home every single night of the week most of the time, so it’s easy to get bored and I’m done with NOT ENJOYING my dinners because I was so focused on something easy and familiar. 

This week the new recipe I decided to try was another Asian dish after basking in the success of the Thai food I made last week.  It required beer that we happened to have on hand and chicken thighs or drumsticks (I used boneless/skinless thighs).  I am so sick of chicken breast that I am willing to have a little extra fat in my meal than more repulsive chewy tasteless-ness.  You could easily use chicken breast if you’d like, but you know my disdain for it- I have been cooking it for years and still haven’t found the magic touch to make it appetizing to me.

I had to buy the hoisin sauce and sesame oil- neither were over $5.00.  I have also never tried Sriracha, even though we’ve had it in the house for as long as I’ve been married.  My tastebuds are pleased with it.

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Changing habits.

Lately I have been thinking about changing up my environment every once in a while.  Working from home, I find myself feeling stifled often and while I do have an office I have the option to go into, it is 50 minutes away and full of transient consultants.  My HR colleagues are never in the office, so that defeats the purpose of going in to socialize.  I need to start going to coffee shops, and since a CERTAIN MONOPOLISTIC BRAND has taken over every small coffee shop in this area, I have one choice and one choice only.

image from starbucks.com

We do have a really nice Starbucks just 5 minutes away from me so I wonder why I am not taking advantage of that- probably because I am the cheapest person on the planet and can’t bear to pay for a coffee drink when I can make a perfectly good one at home.  A Vanilla Rooibos tea would be delightful though.  I need to start a new routine where I pack up and get out once a week because while I’m not going stir crazy (take note I am essentially a recluse so I love being home for work), my weekday routine is precisely this: work at home all day, take  run outside, make dinner, sit on the couch all night either watching the DVR or reading blogs.  I don’t even want to know what I will turn into once I have babies.

I found that I was dreading my scheduled interval run yesterday afternoon so I thought that instead of doing my usual route that I am quickly becoming tired of, I would run on the treadmill.  It helped that it was 86 degrees outside so 78 in the gym was sounding mighty cool.  I came to the conclusion that I certainly need to find a new running route because I usually avoid the treadmill at absolutely all costs.

It was actually a great run, usually I am much slower on the treadmill, but I think that I kept the same interval paces as I would have run if I were outside in perfect weather, though I was embarrassingly DRIPPING in sweat while I was leaving.  It was disgusting, and I swear people were staring.

I also created a new recipe last night out of necessity and it came out really delicious and was the perfect balance I needed after my workout.  I was planning to make THIS chicken dish, but realized I had bought tenderloins instead of breast, so I re-worked it into something new.  I of all people know how hard it is to have cheap nutritious meals but depending on the price of feta and tomatoes in your area, I think this could be a great option to fit in your healthy food budget!

I know you can’t tell, but I feel obligated to bring to your attention that I am not a professional photographer

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My husband, the sous chef

We are all well aware of the hectic stress that comes with the holiday season.  We are scurrying all around cleaning for family, travelling for family, going broke buying presents, getting fat from baking, and et cetera.  While I am scared for my bank account, I’m feeling alright about the scale since I’m making time to keep exercising this holiday.  It’s really not that hard if you force yourself into a routine, I promise.

Because of my commitments, I achieved a very fabulous record I made for myself on Saturday despite all of the odds working against me.  I ran 5 miles (furthest ever) in 56 minutes.  My (very easy, I’ll admit) goal was to keep it under an hour and while I had to have a few walking “intervals” due to the fact that it felt like it was 1,000 degrees outside, I still made it with a pace that was reasonable to me.  The factors going against were a list a mile long, including the unexpected heat and sun beating on my head, having sliders and onion rings with long islands on Friday night and drinking coffee instead of water in the morning before the run.  My favorite part was that I picked a completely absurd route that I had never even driven let alone run before, leading to an adventurous “trail” run due to lack of sidewalks and scary cars driving fast.

With all of that being said, I am reversing all the good that run did to my body by having Buffalo Mac and Cheese.  My husband’s favorite thing is grating cheese from a block, but I wanted to cut things short and made him slice into blocks.  He had such a blast doing this… it’s the little things.

I used all reduced fat of course, since we don’t want to get too crazy up in here.  I really had the hardest time with this recipe.  It pissed me off because it took too long and used too many plates/pots/utensils and I probably should have just used my favorite cheese sauce for mac and cheese and added buffalo chicken to it. If you’d like the original recipe, I got it from the food network website.  I modified it a lot and it still wasn’t my favorite… I think it didn’t taste cheesy enough, it just tasted like saucy wings.  But perhaps that’s the purpose of having buffalo mac and cheese?  Help me out, have you had this before?

These are all of the substitutions I made that may have kept this dish from being REALLY delicious :

  • I didn’t bake it because a. I don’t like blue cheese and b. we didn’t want to wait that long to eat it
  • I used mustard the condiment instead of dry mustard powder
  • Realized my half and half was non-fat, so I did 1 cup of my non-fat half and half and 1.5 cups 1% milk
  • Like I said before, I used reduced fat cheese

If you have one, please send me your favorite Buffalo Mac & Cheese recipe!