Build a Meal

I teach middle school. I am spoiled with being able to give instructions like ” go put the glue on the supply table,” and though my kiddos my be a little defiant, they do understand what I am telling them to do. I will never forget the day I went to visit my best friend, Jenny, in her kindergarten class. It was hilarious! During nap time, at least three of the students approached Jenny’s desk with a piece of “trash” from the floor. The funny thing about the “trash” is that it was either a pencil shaving or a piece of paper that measured 1mm in diameter. It absolutely cracked me up. Jenny was so appreciative. “Thank you Ariel. Wow! Great job cleaning Juan.”

After nap time, I began to play blocks with one of her students. I felt like he was finding the smallest block possible and putting it on the bottom and then stacking biggest ones on top. Needless to say, the block towers were repeated failures. No matter how many times I showed or told him how to build a base for block success, he continued to start with the smallest block.
This was the point that I developed a whole new appreciation for elementary, especially Kindergarten teachers, for teaching middle schoolers the basics. I would lose my mind!
Anyway, this meal started off as something plain, but with the ability to stack successfully became quite a knockout meal.
Meatloaf and Scalloped Potato Stack
(serves 8)

3 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced crosswise in 1/8 inch slices
1/2 stick of butter
1 large onion
2 tbsp flour
2.5 cups half and half
6 oz. shredded Swiss cheese
3 carrots, peeled and chunked
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup Marinara sauce
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb ground beef (not super lean kind)
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Boil presliced potatoes for 4 minutes in lightly salted water.
3. Drain potatoes and lay out on paper towels to dry.
4. In a large sauce pan, melt butter on medium heat and add 1/4 onion (chopped)
5. Cook onion for three minutes then add flour whisking constantly. Whisk for two minutes until there are no clumps. Add half and half while still whisking constantly and bring to a boil.
6. Once mixture is boiling, whisk one more minutes, then remove from heat and add cheese. Stir until melted. Season with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.
7. In a food processor, add remainder (3/4) onion, carrots and garlic and chop. Place in a large bowl. Add any other seasoning you like (paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, onion powder)
8. Add eggs, marinara sauce and bread crumbs and mix well.
9. Crumble in meat and mix until everything is evenly blended and formable.
10. Smush into an oval 9×13 casserole pan or divide into two smaller casserole dishes if you want to share with friends or neighbors.
11. Top meatloaf with potatoes and then coat with cheese sauce.
12. Be sure to add salt and pepper along the way.
13. Bake until outsides are bubbly and top is lightly browned. (about 40 minutes)
14. Cover with foil and bake for 22 more minutes. Allow to sit for 25 minutes and enjoy!
* If you have a favorite meatloaf, use that recipe and simply top with the potatoes and cheese sauce. Follow same directions.
Optional Basil Pesto
Purée basil, olive oil and lemon juice in food processor and serve on side or on top.

Key No What???


64 oz. ORGANIC QUINOA (Kee-noh-ah)

Total Price- $9.99

Average Retail Price- $37.05

Total Savings- $27.06

In my late teens and early 20’s, I was quite nomadic. I loved going to the University of Tennessee, but in the middle of my time there, I decided to pack it up and head out west. At times I regret that decision, but I know that it was that decision that ultimately made each event in my life unfold and lead me to Blake.

I had a great time living in Vail, CO. After leaving Vail, I headed back to NC where I got my degree from UNC Wilmington. My new found love for surfing led me to Sunny San Diego, CA where I found a job at The Marine Room
( that will forever be marked as one of the greatest experiences I have ever had.

When I moved to San Diego, it was clear that working in a restaurant was what I wanted to do. I wanted my days to be spent on a 10 foot long, freshly waxed, red, Allison surfboard, made specifically for me by one of the greatest surfboard designers of all times. It quickly became clear that I wasn’t the only one with this idea. Restaurant jobs were hard to come by.

I heard from a friend that there was this wonderful restaurant called The Marine Room that practically sat in the ocean. I was told not to apply because they rarely hire. Well, stubborn ole’ me went anyway. I am so glad I did because I landed the job, created amazing memories, met wonderful, life-long friends and learned more than I could have ever imagined from two of the best chefs in the world: Bernard Guillas and Ron Oliver.

I will never forget the stuff I learned there about food and wine. There was this fabulous dish that had a red quinoa in it. I had never seen or heard of quinoa, so I asked Chef Ron what it was. He explained to me all of it’s nutritional benefits and it’s history. Quinoa is a South American grain that is full of protein and essential amino acids. On top of that, it is gluten-free.

Since leaving the Marine Room, the popularity of quinoa has greatly increased. It is even finding it’s way to the grocery store aisles. The main problem with quinoa is that it is expensive. A small bag of it runs anywhere from $2.99-$8.99 for a 12 oz. portion. YIKES! This is why I am sharing this amazing deal I found. At Costco you can get 64 oz. of Organic Quinoa for $9.99, and it is delicious!!


Everything Tastes Better with Fresh HERB!

I had the coolest experience last night. For those of you who follow my blog, you know that The Stars on Food Network are some of my favorite people. They are my pop stars! I would love to meet any or all of them in real life. Well, last night, I was invited to a dinner in Highlands with Herb Mesa, one of the finalists in this season’s Next Food Network Star.

It was such a fun night. It is so cool to meet the people you cheer for on TV in real life, and I will tell you this, HERB is hilarious! He has the best personality and would make such an amazing host for his own show. He really worked the room and made sure everyone was having fun at all times.

After dinner, we all went downstairs to watch the show together with Herb. That was cool too! And he made us the flan he made on last night’s show.

I got several photos with him and he took a lot of time to explain to me how the entire process worked for The Next Food Network Star, and for that I was very appreciative. I made him blush a few times when I smashed on his biceps and took every chance I could to roll up his sleeves (Sorry Herb), but for those of you who know me, you know that’s the way I roll!

Herb Mesa (and his muscles)

Herb watching Herb- Pretty Cool

Cheesy with a Cherry on Top

My best friend Jenny and I love to watch the Food Network. One of our favorite texts to send is informing each other that Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) just made a classic fake phone call to set up an exquisite dinner party on her patio in The Hamptons. For some reason, we think the fake phone calls are so fun!

Jenny texted me a few days after we both realized how much we loved Ina Garten, and asked me what I was up to. I told her that I was clipping coupons for some food to use on dinner that night and planned to go and redeem them and get back to the kitchen. A few minutes later, she texted me with the most wonderful idea of a Food Network show. Cook with Coupons: Because full flavor should never be full price. I would clip coupons, Blake or I would cook and we would call Jenny over to eat with us. The perfect recipe to the perfect show.

When I saw that The Next Food Network Star was accepting audition videos for season 7, I went for it and auditioned. Wish me luck! I hope they will pick me!

Eat Your Heart Out

Welcome to our blog!

Feel free to follow us on a journey of saving money and eating great food. We believe in the price of presentation because it takes all of your senses to enjoy a meal. We cook wonderful dishes and present them in a way that invites you to dig in! Every ingredient that we use in my meals MUST be either on sale or we have to have a coupon. It’s a fun way to keep the meals creative and ever-changing. Our menu changes with what’s on sale.

One of our main principals is that we will never sacrifice flavor in our dishes to save money. If something that we want in our dish is not on sale, we put our head’s together to find a great substitute for it. We are all about fun and healthy. Happy COOKING, EATING AND SAVING!