Forever Disqualified

Blake and I love the show Chopped on Food Network. When Lottie was in the “she-is-cute-to-look-at-but-does-absolutely-nothing” stage, we always looked forward to cooking dinner. We had tapped out our baby staring-o-mometers and we needed something else to entertain us. We cooked every night. Soon, we became bored with that  as well. One night when we were engaged in the highlight of our week, the new episode of Chopped, it hit me! We can play our own version of the show.

For those of you who are not familiar with the show. Four chefs from around the country compete in a culinary challenge. Each of them are given a “mystery basket” filled with four ingredients. They are given a short limit of time to create a restaurant-worthy dish to present to judges. The worst dish gets “Chopped”, and the remaining chefs move to the next round until there is one winner.

“Foster Chopped” is a little different. At first, Blake and I competed. He gave me a basket, and I gave him one. We made one small plate each, and made honest judgement and against one another. This form of “Foster Chopped” was ended abruptly when I almost put my precious “cute-to-look-at-but-does-absolutely-nothing” infant in the ER.

Blake opened his basket, and I treated him with flank steak, black beans, gnocchi and grapes. He hit me with Kielbasa sausage, pineapple, peanut butter and habenero peppers. At the time, Blake and I were living in a condo on the lake. Outdoor grills were not allowed so we had an indoor grill pan. Definitely more dangerous. I envisioned myself creating an Asian grilled meal with Thai peanut sauce. I just knew I was going to win.

My plan was simple: heat up the grill pan and start grilling. I always saw the likes of Emeril and Bobby Flay grilling up pretty much anything. They always found a way to get that delightful char on the outside of their peppers. I was going for this. The sausage, coated in its Asian style marinade, went on without a hitch. I cut the pineapple into unique shapes just to show off. “Boom” they hit the grill. On to the peppers…

I decided to skewer a few of them. I knew that Habeneros were hot peppers, but I didn’t know how hot. After skewering them up, I tossed them on the hot grill pan inside our less than adeqautely ventilated condo. I immediately turned to finish my peanut sauce ensuring I make every item in the mystery box a stand out. Within 30 seconds, Blake and I were tearing up and coughing, and Lottie went from a peaceful siesta to a screaming rage. I thought for sure we had been gassed. It was the end of the world. This wasn’t just happening to me, but to everyone in the world. “What do we do? Where do we go? Hold your loved ones tightly people.”

“Meredith, are you serious?” I heard my passive and overly kind husband say to me with an unheard of brusque tone. At the time, I am still running through my memory book, and I am cupping my palms over my sweet girls air passage ways to protect her from the deadly fumes. Blake raced over to the grill pan, turns it off, takes my skewer of peppers to the deck and promptly tosses them into the receeding water levels known as Lake Lanier. He walked back in coughing and grabbed Lottie from my arms. He grabbed my hand, nearly ripped my cooking shoulder square out of the socket and guided our little family upstairs and out the front door.

In my still oblivious mind, I am picturing my neighbors racing out their doors in a panic from the world-wide gassing. I was shocked to see it was just Blake, Lottie and me. I peek over at Blake who is looking into our helpless infant’s eyes to make sure she is ok. She is calm at this point. He looks up at me. His look is abnormally unplesant. “Are you serious about grilling whole Habeneros with the seeds?” he asked me in a belittling tone. I peek behind him, then behind me hoping to see others evaucating. Still just us. “Bobby Flay grills peppers all the time,” I say as I run through my Boy Meets Grill Episode schema hoping to picture him grilling a hot pepper. All I see in my mind of memories is green pepper, red pepper and poblano….nothing hot. “Whoops” I say to my disappointed husband and zoned out infant. I knew I had really messed up. The house was a danger zone. Blake went in to turn on the fans and open the windows. I followed him in thinking for sure things would be fine by now. SIX HOURS later, we were able to return to living within the walls of the condo.

From this point on, I have stayed out of the kitchen. I opt for shopping, finding deals and creating challenging mystery baskets for Blake to prepare. I am forever disqualified from “Foster Chopped”. Blake on the other hand has made some amazing dishes. Here are the recipes from the highlights of each basket.

Last week he was given:

Trout
Brazil Nuts
Brussel Sprouts
Apple Sauce

Boom!!! He busted out Bacon Wrapped trout on jalapeno-apple grits and sauteed brussel sprouts. It was amazing!

Chopped Round 1

Bacon Fried Skin-On Trout

Ingredients:

  • 2 skin-on trout filets
  • 4 slices bacon
  • Pinch of salt, pepper, garlic powder/salt

Directions:

  1. Pat the trout dry with paper towels.
  2. Season the trout on both sides with a little salt, pepper, and garlic.
  3. Place 2 slices of bacon on each trout filet on the side without skin, covering the filet.  Bacon should be trimmed to evenly cover the trout in a single layer, let rest for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Heat a saute pan on the stove over medium-high heat.
  5. Place the trout bacon side down in the oil, it should sizzle.
  6. Cook until the bacon is cooked through and a crispy golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
  7. Flip the trout and cook skin side down in the bacon grease until crispy and golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.

The next night he was given:

Pork Chops
Potatoes
Apricots
Pimento-Jalapeno Cheese

He created Pimento Cheese scalloped potatoes with a saffron, yes real saffron, cream sauce, fried pickles and okra and grilled pork chops with apricot compote. Really dude? How awesome are you?

Foster Chopped Round 2

Fried Okra and Pickles:

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper, garlic powder/salt, cayenne, and paprika
  • 12-16 okra halves
  • 4 pickle spears
  • Oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Mix eggs and milk with a pinch of salt, garlic, cayenne, and paprika.
  2. Place okra and pickles into the egg and milk mixture and toss.
  3. Mix flour, panko, 1 tsp salt, pinch of pepper, garlic, cayenne, and paprika.
  4. Place the soaked okra and pickles into the flour mixture(let excess liquid drain), and toss.  Let sit and set up for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Heat oil to around 375 degrees, until a okra piece really bubbles and sizzles when it is dropped.
  6. Drop the okra and pickles and let fry until they are floating and are a deep golden brown.
  7. Remove the okra and pickles onto a plate or in a bowl lined with paper towels and let sit for 2-3 minutes before eating.

Apricot Balsamic Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 3 Diced Apricots
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter

Directions:

  1. Heat butter over medium-high heat in a saute pan.
  2. Add in diced apricots and brown sugar, stir.
  3. Cook mixture until it is nicely browned and set, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. When the mixture is cooked and the pan is nice and hot add in the balsamic vinegar, it should sizzle and simmer rapidly.
  5. Let the sauce cook together and reduce by about 1/3rd.  Add more balsamic if it gets too reduced or thick. 
  6. Serve over meat of choice.

For the final night I thought Blake deserves a really tough basket. I gave him:

Filet Mignon
Mushrooms
Anchovies
Nacho Cheese Doritos

He created Grilled Filets with Caesar Broccoli and zuchini stuffed mushrooms topped with crushed Doritos.

 Dorrito Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 8 mushrooms caps
  • 1 slice bacon diced
  • 1/2 zucchini and/or squash julienned (cut into thing strings like pasta)
  • 2 tbsp crushed Nacho Cheese Doritos

Directions:

  1. Hollow out mushroom caps, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, set aside in a pan lined with olive oil.
  2. Heat diced bacon over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add julienned zucchini and cook with bacon until entire mixture is browned, about 4 minutes.
  4. Spoon zucchini and bacon mixture into mushrooms.
  5. Preheat oven to 375.
  6. Place mushrooms into the oven and cook until they darken and moisten, about 6 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle crushed dorritos over the mushrooms and cook another 3-4 minutes.
  8. Serve hot.
Advertisements

Thai-ing The Knot

Blake and I honeymooned in Thailand. It was beautiful, romantic and much more than I ever imagined. It was a long trip, but we would both gladly make it again to be in such a unique place with friendly people. We had the most wonderful and extravagant cabana all to ourselves. We felt like modern-day movie stars.

We didn’t do too much touring, but we did ride elephants, play with monkeys, made curry with all ingredients from the jungle and ate many local dinners and lunches. All of the tours and excursions were fun and we felt fairly safe EXCEPT the zipline tour. Needless to say, I thought our marriage was going to be a short one. At many points on this zipline tour, I was completely sure our lives together were going to begin and end in Thailand.

When we arrived back at our hotel, we had Authentic Spicy Basil Chicken to celebrate not dying. For the whole story, continue past the recipe and keep reading. It was quite a day!

Spicy Basil Chicken

Serves 4

Spicy Basil Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 Bunch Thai Basil (at asian market, not normal basil)
  • 2 Bell peppers
  • 1 Vidalia Onion
  • 2 Jalapeno pepper
  • Small handfull of sesame seeds
  • 5-8 Cherry Tomatoes (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 lb. Chicken breasts
  • 1-2 tbsp low sodium chicken stock
  • Sesame Oil

Directions:
1. Deseed and dice jalapeno peppers or leave in seeds for more heat
2. Cut bell peppers and onions into desired size and set aside
3. Cut cherry tomatoes in half
4. Cut up chicken into desired size (1 inch long strips or so) and set aside
5. Heat 2 tbls oil in wok (1 tsp sesame oil if available)
6. Add onions, peppers to wok and saute for 5-6 minutes
7. Add cut up chicken to wok or large pan and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until white edges start to form
8. Turn up heat, add sesame seeds, and continue to stir fry, add drops of sesame oil (regular if no sesame) as needed to keep from sticking
9. Once everything is sizzling loudly and starting to get a fried color add chicken stock and soy sauce in small amounts to create moisture and steam as needed (this is not a very wet dish it should be moisturized but mostly dry)
10. Continue stir frying
11. Add pulled basil leaves, halved cherry tomatoes
12. Add lime juice, shrimp if using, cherry tomatoes if using and turn heat to low or off while continuing to stir fry with remaining heat
13. Let sit for 2-3 mins stirring ocassionally and serve over rice. We always like to add a fried egg to our meals.

Honeymooning in Thailand was like being on a bipolar vacation. Within the walls of the resort, it was magical. The staff, dressed in their pristine uniforms, stopped and bowed at us as we walked by. After walking through a lobby of luxury, we passed several pools overlooking a crystal blue ocean. The property was lined with lush green plants, orchids and simple trickling natural streams of water which enhanced the sounds of paradise. After meandering down the most beautiful path, we engaged on our personal gate which enclosed the most romantic and private cabana steps away from the gently crashing waves.

We arrived to a bottle of delicious champagne on the lip of our own personal pool whose surface was covered in local flowers. I literally felt like I was in a story book. I opened my 10 foot glass french doors and walked across the mahogany hardwood floors and fell face first onto a pile of rose petals on my four-posted king sized bed wrapped in the freshest, 1000 thread count white sheets my body has every made contact with. Blake brought a special bottle of wine for me, but I didn’t have a glass. He pressed “0” on the phone, mentioned a wine glass and before he hung up, a polite gentleman was at our gate with a crystal wine glass on a tray waiting for my arrival. Story book…I know.

We settled into our cabana with a dip in the pool, a few chapters in my easy-to-read Nicholas Sparks’ book and a midday nap in the previously mentioned extravagant sheets. After a well worth it 26 hour travel day, we were pretty tired. Unfortunately when we woke up it was 4:30 am Thailand time. Hmmmm…. we had to figure out how to kill an hour and a half before the obnoxious breakfast buffet opened.

I could get used to this.

We decided to walk in the ocean as at low tide in front of our resort you could walk a mile toward the horizon and only become knee-deep in water. It was a wonderful time in our memory book. When we returned, the buffet was opened. We walked up the stairs to the open air octagonal dining room surrounded with ocean views. Before entering, we were greeted by the staff. We were presented with every fresh fruit on the island upon a bed of crushed ice, waiting to be chosen to be our juice of choice for the morning. I typically chose watermelon and lychee and Blake opted for kiwi and mango. We waited briefly while our fruit was transformed from one state of matter to another. 

The juice bar

Needless to say, we were living a dream. If people hadn’t noticed my abundant freckles, 5 foot 3 frame and bushy eyebrows, and people hadn’t noticed Blake’s asymmetrical face, narrow backside and knob knees, one may have mistaken us for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Wait….I just got a little caught up in the dream.

Anyway, the bipolar begins when we stepped outside the front door of our resort. This doesn’t mean that Thailand was not nice outside the doors, it was just a different world. A world of Muy Thai boxing where boys aged 10-18 beat the ‘you know what’ out of each other on a homemade wrestling ring, with a non-educated referees who were more into  a good fight than keeping the children safe. The likes of blood, saliva and teeth were flying everywhere. My vision of a honeymoon night: looking at stars and having Chardonnay on the shoreline. Blake leaned more towards Muy Thai and Red Bull and Vodka. I guess he won 1/14th of the time. This was a night to remember. Romantic….not so much.

Date night under the not-so-romantic lights of Muy Thai Boxing

One afternoon, we decided to go for a walk around the island. It was scary but memorable for sure. Along the way, we were convinced by a nice local fella to book a tree top zipline tour. “This seems fun” we thought. He told us he would pick us up at 8:00 in front of our resort. Since we were rising at 6:00 most days, 8:00 seemed perfect, plenty of time for a pre zipline nap and consumption of local fruit juice.

7:30 am hit, and we had finished our overly extravagant breakfast, walked passed several bowing staff members who knew us by name at this point, jumped over the flowing waters that encompassed the lobby and waited on the bamboo chairs by the breezeway where guests were picked up for such tours.

Blake and I watched as several European couples were whisked away for their jungle tours, beach tours and waterfall trips. Each couple being picked up in a white vans or buses with very authentic logos decorating the sides. 8:10 rolls around and all of the other parties have been picked up. Blake and I begin to think we booked the wrong day. In the distance, we see a small 1990 Suzuki Sidekick ripping down the gravel drive. The vehicle is so small that the dust from the gravel covers the windshield.

“Beep, beep, beep!” Blake and I look behind us thinking for sure the 15-year-old driver is coming to pick his girlfriend up from the night shift on duty at the resort. We continue to sit, waiting on our white van with an authentic logo. “Beep, Beep, Beep!” Blake and I both instantly look behind us to see who this local teen was honking at. Said teen approaches with his hand out saying “you Mr. Bake? Bake? Mista Bake?” I turn to my new husband and make the “there-is-zero-percent-chance-I-am-getting-in-the-Suzuki-with-this-child” look at him. He looks at me and passively says to the teen, “Yes, that’s me.” My feet concrete themselves into the luxurious lobby floor as I grip onto the bamboo chair. The whiteness in my knuckles tells Blake that I am not on board, but he and his non-confrontational ways grabs my hand and pulls me towards the two-door, logoless Suzuki. “Get in” the local teen says as he pushes the front seat forward for us to load up. Blake jubilantly jumps in the back, reaches for my newly blinged left hand and looks me in the eye for what I thought was going to be the last time.

Twelve miles of careless, bumpy, off-road driving later, we arrive at anything but a licensed and insured zipline tour. The teen straps on our harnesses and pulls out his Nokia flip phone. After exiting the home screen which was decorated with a naked woman with blonde hair and delicious fake breasts, he began to give us the ziplining “demo”.

He flipped up the screen and began to play a self-made video of himself and his friends doing this zipline tour. This was our safety video/training. Then he let us strap into a non-name brand harness and “practice” ziplining on a 6 foot wire where our feet still hit the ground. Training complete. “Let’s go” he said.

Notice our ride in the background

Hesitantly,Blake and I climb up a tree 75 feet on a homemade ladder to a homemade platform to stand and overlook Thailand before we delve into what I think it my adventurous honeymoon death. I pictured Monica Kauffman on Channel 2 Action News saying “Two newlyweds from Atlanta ziplined to their death yesterday in Thailand. The company was a group of teenagers who were attempting make a few extra dollars. The fled the scene. One was found with a local prostitute in a pub and the other three are still on the loose.”

If I had only known how to slow down

Pretty far fall

Blake commits and follows our non-english speaking, adolescent leader who gives us hand signals to instruct us. He makes it safely to the next platform. I am so in love with my husband that I drop as well. I did not understand the sign language instruction which told me to use my hand to slow down. Instead I went full speed into an off brand spare tire which was attached to the tree for”cushioning”. Yeah, that’s going to be a bruise. Aside from the direct danger we were in, the views were to die for. We did snap a photo hoping those who found our bodies would see that we were happy in the moment.

A moment where to pros outweighed the cons

We got the hang of it and went from platform to platform. We landed in the middle of the course when I noticed that there were no ladders along the way. It was zipline to the end or jump 150 feet to the bottom of the jungle. Miraculously, but we made it to the end. ‘Teenage ring leader’s mother’ was waiting for our arrival with juice boxes and fresh lychee-esque fruit to curb our appetites. We ate, spoke different languages, smiled and I gripped Blake’s hand until my knuckles where white as we drove back to our little “Yuppie Paradise”. I took a deep breath as I arrived back at my cabana. Needless to say, the staff knew to follow me with a wine glass and a bottle of the finest chardonnay. For the next two hours, I relaxed by my personal pool (vacation bipolar at it’s best).

I told Blake that for dinner I wanted a classic. Spicy Thai Basil Chicken. We went to the city and had ourselves some local cuisine. Every month or so, I ask Blake to recreate this meal for me. It always reminds me how precious life is. For this reason, we always grow our own Thai Basil. Life is good and Thailand is my favorite place on Earth. Enjoy a recipe from our memory book and celebrate the fact that Monica Kauffman is still not familiar with our names.

Life is Sweet

Saucey Pants

I am on a constant search for the perfect sauce. My definition of perfect, as it relates to a sauce, is something that doesn’t have a lot of ingredients, isn’t fancy, doesn’t cost too much and can be used on several different meats or vegetables. I am pretty sure I have found it.

When I make pork tenderloin, my” go-to” flavors are BBQ sauce or Paul Newman’s Olive Oil and Vinegar salad dressing. As a pulled the tenderloin out of the freezer the other morning, I knew neither of the above were going to cut it. I wanted something bold, clean, and slightly citrusy. I found a similar recipe and browsed my pantry.

The result of what I created is PERFECT! We had it on pork, but I think it would add a great spin on fish, beef or chicken. It would be delightful on grilled shrimp thrown into a salad.

The PERFECT Marinade

The PERFECT sauce

Ingredients

– 1 can (8 oz.) pineapple juice

– 1/3 cup fresh lime juice

– 1 tbsp lime zest

– ¼ cup orange marmalade

– 3 tbsp Hoisin sauce

– 2 tsp minced garlic

– 1 tsp Dijon mustard

– ¾ tsp ground ginger

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Boil 5-6 minutes or until mixture is thickened.
  2. Coat meat or veggies of your choice in marinade and prepare.

*We used ½ on our grilled pork tenderloin and used the other half as the sauce on the plate*

Dress Me Up and Take Me Out

Anyone else in the grilled meat, fresh vegetable, no creativity, summer cooking slump? I absolutely love summer food, but the meat choices are becoming boring to me. I was looking for a way to dress up my steak, without losing it’s flavor.

Until recently, I have been a salad-dressing -mariander. The idea of making my own marinade had never crossed my mind. Blake headed out to work the other day and took some filets out of the freezer. As he was walking out the door he said, “steaks on the grill OK, babe?” “Sure” I replied dropping my shoulders and thinking about the monotony of another grilled steak dinner.

Right then, I knew it was time to give my steak a boost, and I got to work.  I have always liked the flavors in a Chimichurri Marinade, but I never knew how easy it could be. I got the meat marinating, threw a little cilantro spin on our potatoes and took the corn off the cob and added black beans. Soon, we had a transformed dinner packed with flavor and ready to hit the grill.

Chimichurri Marinade

(We used on Filet Mignon, but would also be delicious and tenderizing on skirt steak, flank steak, hangar steak, London broil, lamb blade or lamb chop)

Makes 2 cups- MUST use fresh herbs, not dried!

Chimichurri Marinated Steak

Ingredients

– ½ cup red wine vinegar

– 1 tsp coarse sea salt

– 4 cloves of garlic sliced thin (if you don’t have a mandolin, try using the long side of a cheese grater)

– 1 shallot chopped finely

– 1 red jalapeno, finely chopped

– 2 cups of minced fresh cilantro (use a food processor if you have one)

– 1 cup of minced flat leaf parsley

– 1/3 cup chopped oregano

– ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Combine vinegar, shallots, garlic and jalapeno in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in FRESH herbs.
  4. Whisk in olive oil using a fork.
  5. Remove ½ cup of marinade and put aside as a sauce.
  6. Put meat in a glass dish and cover with remaining marinade.
  7. Allow to sit in refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight for more tenderness.
  8. Remove meat, pat dry and grill as usual.
  9. Top meat with reserved sauce.

Curry in a Hurry

I rarely cook. Typically, I buy the groceries and bring them home for Blake to use. He is just a million times better than me at cooking. He is the “a little of this a little of that” type of chef. I am the OCD type that reads the entire recipe, measures everything out and puts in into little bowls, prechops everything and THEN I start cooking. It’s definitely an ordeal.

The other night I was flipping through Cooking Light when I found a healthy and fast Indian Curry dish. It said 20 minutes. I begged to differ knowing my cooking style. I made a few changes to suit our tastes, and believe it or not, had it done in 27 minutes flat!

Be warned, it is pretty spicy, but you can alter the amount of crushed red pepper that you choose to add. Blake loves it miserable-hot, so I took one for the team. Happy Eating!

Bombay Indian Curry with Shrimp and Filet Mignon

Serves 4
Total Cost- $8.80
Total Cost per person- $2.20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sales used in this recipe-

Spices from Big Lots, Filet at Costco, frozen shrimp from Costco, Frozen veggies $0.50 off

Ingredients

–  1/4 cup Canola oil

–  1/2 lb peeled a deveined shrimp

–  1/2 lb steak- cubed

–  3/4 tsp salt

–  1/4 tsp black pepper

–  1 1/2 small onion chopped (buy prechopped to save time)

–  1 1/2 tbsp curry powder

–  1 tbsp mustard seed

– 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (don’t overdo this)

– 1/8 tsp ground red pepper (more or less to heat liking)

– 1 1/3 cup hot water

– 1 cup frozen mixed veggies

Directions:

1. Heat 2 tsp canola oil in Dutch at medium high heat.

2. Salt and pepper shrimp and cook on both sides until just underdone.

3. Remove from pan and repeat process with steak. Remove from pan.

4. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining oil.

5. Add onion and cook until translucent.

6. Add remaining salt, curry powder, cinnamon, mustard seeds and red pepper. Cook one minute. Stir constantly.

7. Add hot water and frozen veggies and bring to a boil.

8. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 4 minutes.

9. Add shrimp and steak back to pan and cook one minute.

10. Enjoy!

*** Serve with rice***

FUN TIP: When you cook your rice, replace some of the liquid with light coconut milk for a more authentic Indian flavor.

A Pleasant SOUPrise

I love to pack a hearty lunch in my lunch box everyday. The OCD in me has a hard time when my lunch box has too much empty space in it. A bowl of taco soup, a small sandwich, a fruit and a perfectly folded napkin fill it up ideally.  This recipe makes enough soup for about 10-12 servings leaving a family of four with lunch the next day.

So we all have those nights where we don’t want to spend a lot of time making dinner or doing the dishes. This soup is one of those dishes that allows you to have a quick and delicious home made meal that leaves little to no mess.  Taco soup is a something that I grew up eating. I am not sure where my mom got the recipe, but we cook it a few times a month in the winter. Enjoy!

Taco Soup

Serves 10-12

Total Amount- $13.01

Total price per person- $1.09

Average Retail price- $22.88

Total Savings- $9.87


 

–          2 lbs of ground beef, turkey or bison

–          1 onion, chopped

–          3 cans pinto beans

–          3 cans corn

–          2 cans diced tomatoes

–          1 can Rotel tomatoes with chilies

–          2-3 cans of low sodium chicken broth

–          1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dry seasoning

–          1 packet of taco seasoning

–          1 tsp Lawry’s Seasoning Salt

–          1 tsp garlic salt

–          2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  1. Brown 2 lbs ground beef and 1 chopped onion in pot with a little olive oil
  2. Season beef with Lawry seasoning salt, garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce and packet of taco seasoning.
  3. Add 3 cans Pinto beans (slightly drained)
  4. Add 3 cans corn (slightly drained)
  5. Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  6. Add 1 can rotel tomatoes with chilies
  7. Add 2-3 cans chicken broth
  8. Add dry hidden ranch dressing packet
  9. Cook until warm (medium heat for 30 minutes)
  10. Top with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese, olives, ect.

Sometimes I adjust flavor with more tomatoes or chicken broth….depends on your taste!

Sales used in this recipe:

Patton’s Meat Market- 5lb package of lean ground beef $11.99

Kroger BOGO –  Delmonte Diced Tomatoes

Kroger BOGO – Rotel Tomatoes

Costco $2.25 off Swanson Low Sodium Chicken Broth

Finger Lickin’ French Dippin’

French Dip: Brilliant.

There is just something about the simplicity and infrequency of the consumption of these sandwiches that inspires me. Blake has always been a huge French Dip fan. He loves the one at J. Alexanders, but he rarely gets it because it’s darn near $30 a bite. After watching him enjoy one at the restaurant, I knew it was something that needed to be included on the Foster menu at home.

We both decided that we could recreate this simple and timeless masterpiece. We know that there are very few ingredients in this sandwich which indicates to us that each element much be spectacular. We started with the bread. The best match we found was a sub roll from Publix. They are hard (but not crumbly or flaky) on the outside and soft on the inside.

The major element is the meat. We all know that. We have found two different methods that we love. The first method, and the one we use most frequently is purchasing roast beef at the deli. I must have Boar’s Head roast beef because all of the other kinds are over cooked (in my opinion). Luckily, we found it on sale this week for $7.99/lb from $10.99/lb.

The other way we do the meat is to cook a rib roast and slice it thin. The great thing about this is that most grocers put rib roast on sale a few times a year. We purchase it when it is $5.99/lb and freeze it for a dinner party. We always have the butcher cut the ribs off but tie them back on for cooking. Then we have prime rib for one dinner, french dips (with natural au jus) for another and beef ribs for a third. Talk about eating for cheap!

French Dip Sandwiches and French Fries

Serves 4

Total Price $9.23

Price per Person $2.30

Average Retail Price $15.97

Total savings $6.74

French Dip

-1 lb of Roast Beef

-1 packet of AuJus mix (if not making the whole rib roast)

– 4 sub rolls

– caramelized onions (optional)

1. Make the AuJus according to the directions on the packet.

2. Butter and lightly toast the buns.

3. Top the buns with dipped mean and optional onions.

4. Serve piping hot with a side of AuJus.

5. Enjoy!!

Savings on this recipe:

*Buy day old sub rolls from your local super market or bakery. Generally they are 1/2 off

*Get rib roast when they are on sale and freeze them

*If you are lucky, catch Boar’s Head Roast beef on sale in the deli

Live Wellington

We are rednecks; not “T-top rednecks” or the rednecks that use the Confederate Flag in the back of a pick-up truck to make a statement, but just country-classy rednecks. You know the boiled peanut, front porch swing, sweet tea, meat and three type redneck? Well, tonight, we shoved the redneck in us to the side and decided to go upscale.

We love to find coupons and save money on cooking great meals, but that doesn’t always mean we eat cheap food.  This recipe uses a great cut of Filet Mignon, which is costly, but can be found on sale often and is worth every penny.  This is a take on the classic Beef Wellington dropping the liver pate, and replacing it with thinly sliced ham or prosciutto.  It is one of Blake’s favorite and only alterations of tenderloin.  Blake prefers this with no sides so it sits beautifully on a plate or wide bowl all alone, and it gives him an excuse to pig out on appetizers and dessert!

Eating this dish makes you feel like royalty or dining at a 5-star restaurant, and it does take a decent amount of preparation, but it sounds and reads much harder than it is.  It is actually a good deal of fun and a great time in the kitchen.  It is not that hard at all, and once you do it one time you will see how easy it is to cook it for 2 or 8 people with almost no added effort increasing the size and it can be a real crowd pleaser.  Enjoy!!

BEEF WELLINGTON

Serves 4

Total Price- $21.96

Total Price per Person- $5.49

Average Retail Price- $51.60

Total Savings- $29.64

Precut Beef Wellington

1 puff pastry (Phyllo Dough)

4-6” section of tenderloin

7 thin slices of ham or prosciutto

1 ½ cups mushrooms

½ vidalia onion

pinch of salt, pepper

1 tsp coarse salt

4 tbsp butter

1 tsp oil

2 beat eggs

1 can beef stock

3 tbsp red wine

The picture doesn't do it justice

1)      Take out one puff pastry and let it begin thawing, and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2)      Mince up the mushrooms and Vidalia onion as fine as possible.  A food processor works perfectly.  This will be the consistency of paste so if you lack a food processor feel free to smash it, bash it, and do whatever you can to get it to a paste.  Cooking it and then crushing it up with a blunt object will work fine.

3)      Heat 1 ½ tbsp butter in a medium sauté pan, and add the mushroom and onion mixture with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Saute for 10-12 minutes until a fine paste forms and set aside.

4)      Heat a sauté pan up on high heat with a very thin layer of oil or butter spray.  Add ½ tbsp of butter when the pan is hot and place the tenderloin section into the pan.  Brown on all sides, roughly 1 minute per side.  Add ½ tbsp butter each time you turn it.  Set aside the tenderloin, and set aside the pan off of the heat, but keep the pan drippings in the pan.  DO NOT wash the pan.

5)      Let the beef and mushroom mixture cool to room temperature.

6)      Lay out a portion of plastic wrap on the counter.  Layer it with the thinly sliced ham starting at the left side.  It needs to be a big enough layer to complete surround the meat.

7)      Spread the mushroom and onion mixture thinly on the ham.  It should be roughly 1 cm thick and just a nice spread.  Imagine spreading jelly on a piece of toast.

8)      Place the tenderloin in the center of the ham, and fold the ham all around the filet.  Wrap it in the plastic wrap so that it is nice and tight and place into the refrigerator for 20-25 minutes.

9)      While it is cooling take the sauté pan from earlier and place over high heat.  Add the can of beef broth, and the red wine.  If there was any meat trimmings or some spare onions laying around throw them in there as well.  Thyme sprigs also go well in this.

10)  Bring to a boil and keep at a high simmer until it reduces down about 80% to a nice syrup texture.  If it gets too evaporated and stuff is sticking to the pan add another splash of wine or water and scrape up all the goodies from the bottom of the pan.  Set the sauce aside.

11)  On a floured surface place the puff pastry and roll it out until it is enough to wrap around the tenderloin and about half as thick as it is out of the box.

12)  Take the wrapped tenderloin out of the fridge and remove the plastic wrap.  Place it onto the rolled out pastry in the center.

13)  Brush the pastry all over with the beaten egg yolks, and then wrap it around the tenderloin.

14)  Trim pastry so that there is as little overlap as possible.

15)  Place the pastry wrapped tenderloin seam side down in a pan and brush thoroughly with the beaten eggs.

16)  Sprinkle the coarse salt over the top if you have it.

17)  Score the top of the pastry with a sharp nice, but do not cut all the way through to the meat.

18)  Place in the oven and cook for 25-27 minutes for rare-medium rare, 27-30 minutes for medium rare, etc.  This is based on a 4” portion.  If you have a meat thermometer 125-130 degrees is a good medium rare.

19)  Remove from the oven and let set for 5-10 minutes.

20)  Slice as you would slice the tenderloin, into 1-2” portions depending on size you want.

21)  Drizzle with the beef and red wine sauce and serve immediately.

SALES used in this recipe

Prime Beef Tenderloin- Patton’s Meat Market $8.99/lb for whole loin

Average Retail- $19.99/lb when purchase pound per pound

Pillsbury Puff Pastry- Publix 3/$5.00 plus Manufacturers Coupon for $0.40 doubles

Average Retail- $2.49 each

Mushrooms- Super H Mart $0.38/ container

Average Retail- $2.49/conatiner

Onions- Super H 3lb bag for $0.98

Average Retail- $3.99/3 lb bag

Boar’s Head prosciutto- Publix $11.29/lb

Average Retail- $24.99/lb

Mixed Up Meatloaf and “Sufferin’ Succotash”

One of my friends at work asked me for a good tomato gravy recipe and it had us stumped for a little while. When I think of tomato gravy, I think of big buttery home made biscuits. Blake and I wanted to make something more creative to eat with the tomato gravy. As much as I want to claim the idea, it was all Blake. He wanted meatloaf and mashed potatoes, so why not mix them together? I will claim the Succotash because I love veggies and so many were on sale this week!

We replaced the traditional meatloaf topping of syrup/honey mixed with ketchup with plain honey and let the tomato gravy take the ketchup’s place.  We plated the meatloaf on top of the tomato gravy so the crispy sweet top of the meatloaf was intact and it made for really different bites on the top vs. the bottom of the meatloaf.  It ended up being an amazing combination that Blake loved.  The crisp, sweet honey topping with the more savory tomato gravy really created some great textures and flavors.  The tomato gravy went really well with the succotash also.  This dish went from being a few random ideas to one of the best dishes we have made in a long time.  We will definitely be making this again!

Inside Out Shepherd’s Pie Meatloaf

Serves 4

Total Price- $4.84

Total Price per Person- $1.21

Average Retail Price- $11.70

Total Savings- $6.86

Inside Out Shepherd's Pie

MEATLOAF

-1 lb ground chuck (Kroger $1.98/lb Average Retail $3.99/lb)

-¼ onion chopped (Super H $0.98/3 lb Average Retail $1.99/lb)

-1 tbsp Worcesterschire sauce (Manufacturers coupon $0.75 off Heinz product Average Retail $2.49)

-2 tsp minced garlic (Costco 48 oz/ $3.99 Average Retail 6 oz $2.99)

-1 egg (Costco 36 eggs for $1.18 $0.06/egg Average Retail $2.99/12 $0.25each)

-½ cup breadcrumbs (Kroger $1.00 off from Average Retail $3.99)

-1 tsp salt (BOGO Publix $0.73/2)

-1 tsp pepper (Big Lots)

-1 tsp garlic powder (Big Lots $1.00 Average Retail $3.49)

-½ tsp paprika (Big Lots $1.00 Average Retail $3.49)

-½ tsp cayenne pepper (Big Lots $1.00 Average Retail $3.49)

-1 ½ tbsp honey (Kroger $0.50 off doubled to $1.00 Average Retail $3.99)

1)      Combine ground chuck, onion, Worcestershire, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.

2)      Place 2/3 of the mixture into a greased 3 x 9 loaf baking pan. (Just over halfway full)

3)      Place a 2/3-1 inch layer of the mashed potatoes into the baking pan.

4)      Place the remaining meat mixture on the top of the baking pan.

5)      Cook in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

6)      Drizzle the honey over the top of the meatloaf and return to the oven for 45 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 155 degrees.

7)      Remove from the oven and let set for 15 minutes.

8)      Serve with succotash and tomato gravy.


MASHED POTATOES

-1 lb Idaho Potatoes peeled and cubed (Super H $0.98/ 10lb bag Average Retail $4.99/10lb bag)

-½ stick salted butter (Costco 5lbs $5.19 Average Retail $2.99/lb)

-½ cup sour cream (Publix Buy one get one free2/$1.99)

-¾ cup whole milk (Costco $1.89/gallon Average Retail $3.49/gallon)

-salt and pepper (BIG LOTS)

  1. Boil potatoes until fork tender.
  2. Add butter and mash.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mash
  4. Salt and pepper to taste

TOMATO GRAVY

-1 can tomato paste or 6 oz. home made tomato paste (Walmart $0.50/can Average Retail $1.19/ can)

-4 slices bacon (Kroger Meat Mania $2.99 from $4.99)

-3 tbsp flour (Publix BOGO $1.99/2)

-2 tbsp butter (Costco 5lbs $5.19 Average Retail $2.99/lb)

-2 cups water

1)      Cook the bacon over medium high heat until ¼ cup of bacon grease is rendered and set bacon aside.

2)      Add 3 tbsp flour to the hot bacon grease and whisk.

3)      Cook flour until lightly browned into a rue.

4)      Slowly whisk in the water and tomato paste.

5)      Continue to simmer and stir until nicely thickened.  (roughly 10 minutes)

6)      Add 2 tbsp butter and stir, keep hot until ready to serve.

SUCCOTASH

-½ cup shelled edamame beans (Super H $0.78/bag Average Retail $3.99/bag)

-1 tomato diced (Garden FREE Average Retail $2.99/lb)

-2 ears of corn, cut from the cob (Publix 10/$1.00 Average Retail 2/$1.00)

-1 zucchini (Super H $0.38/lb Average Retail $1.99/lb)

-2/3 tbsp olive oil

-1 tsp ground ginger (Big Lots $1.00 Average Retail $3.49)

1)      Heat a sauté pan on medium-high heat with the olive oil.

2)      Add edamame beans, tomato, corn, zucchini, and ground ginger and stir.

3)      Sauté until tender.  Roughly 10 minutes.

Surprise Me and Appetize Me!

Until I met my husband, I was not very ethnically diverse in my food choices. I often ate steak and potatoes and threw a twist on them with a flavored butter or a different method to preparing the potatoes. Sometimes I would get a wild hair and throw some unique spices on my steak for a blackening. Whoop-de-do!

Blake’s best friend is named Yasuaki. We call him Yas. His family is from Japan. They lived in Norcross when Yas was a young kid. At the end of middle school, Yas’ parents decided to move back to Japan, and Yas moved in with Blake and his mom. Through all of this, Blake learned to cook the most amazing Asian food, and interestingly enough Yas’ favorite food is anything from Paula Deen’s cookbook. Ironic, right?

The appetizer that we made tonight is very easy to make, it just has an intimidating name. Call it Beef Roll-Ups if it scares you too much. This is always a crowd pleaser, and it is easy on the wallet.

GRILLED BEEF NEGIMAKI

Serves 4

Total Price- $2.52

Total Price per Person- $0.68

Average Retail Price- $5.08

Total Savings- $2.56

Beef Negimaki

Beef

– 1/2 lb of thinly sliced ribeye beef (Super H $3.99/lb Average Retail $7.99/lb) 

*Most Asian markets sell this presliced, but if you can’t get it that way, place ribeye in the freezer for one hour and then thinly slice *

– 3 stalks of green onion (Super H 5/$0.99 Average Retail 2/$0.99)
– 2 tsp oil
– 1 tsp pepper (BIG LOTS)
– 1/2 tsp garlic powder (BIG LOTS)

Sauce

– 3 tbsn soy sauce (Costco $3.99 for 64 oz Average Retail $2.99/ 10oz)
– 2 tbsn mirin (Super H $2.00 off coupon. Average Retail $5.49 1 Liter)
– 1 tbsn sugar (Publix Buy one Get one free 2/$3.98)
– 2 tbsn beef/chicken/vegetable stock (Costco 12 cans for $6.99 Average Retail $1.19/can)

Directions

1. Slice the green onion stalks in 1-inch portions.
2. Wrap 2-3 of the 1 inch green onion portions in a rib-eye slice and set aside.
3. Repeat until all of the ribeye slices are rolled.
4. Drizzle with oil, and season with pepper and garlic.
5. Combine all sauce ingredients in a saucepan on high heat.
6. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer until the sauce thickens, roughly 10 minutes. (It should leave a residue on the pan when you tilt it, and be close to a syrup consistency.)
7. Place the rolled ribeye slices onto a high heat grill or sauté pan.
8. Cook until nicely browned/charred, turning often, roughly 1-2 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the rib-eye slices.
9. Drizzle the sauce over the ribeye slices and place the remaining into a small dipping bowl, and serve immediately.

*Money Saving Coupon Tip of the Day:

Want $4.00 free from CVS?

Go to www.cvs.com/email and sign up for Extra Care email and you will get an instand $4.00 coupon for CVS.