Tag Archives: eating on a budget

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Taco Bake

4 Nov

This little “cookbook” is handmade from my college roommate, Karen, circa May 1993. I still cook from it!


Last week during one of my posts I mentioned a cookbook that my college roommate, Karen had made me before we graduated URI back in 1993. Despite all our moves from state to state, apartments to house, that little booklet has traveled with me and several of our regular recipes have come from it. However, there’s so many in there that I haven’t made in years. Recently I pulled it out again, as I was specifically looking for a recipe for dinner that we hadn’t made in years, probably since before we had kids. It was a huge hit, so I thought I should share it here.

My family all likes Mexican food but I was getting a little tired of our alternating meals: tacos and quesadillas (even though they weren’t at all tired of them and could probably eat tacos and quesadillas day after day, I could not.) I decided to give Karen’s Taco Bake a try. It got four thumbs up. (And a thumbs down from Alex who said, “But I really liked the tomatoes Mom.”)

You don’t need a ton of ingredients for this recipe and I had everything on hand even though I hadn’t planned it in advance.

This recipe is all the things I like: quick and easy, one pan, and budget friendly. I had a pack of ground turkey in the fridge and everything else on hand in the house already.


1 lb. Grd. Turkey or Beef

1 12 oz. jar of salsa (I had a 24 oz. jar, with about half left so I just dumped it all in.)

1 cup corn (drained if canned, mine is frozen)

1/2 cup mayo

1 Tbl. Chili Powder

2 cups crushed tortilla chips (I didn’t measure, but I put about half a bag into a ziploc and crushed them.)

2 cups Montery Jack Cheese (I used a block of cheddar)

I love how it first looks when you throw it all together.


Brown and drain meat.

Stir in salsa, corn, mayo and chili powder.

Layer 1/2 meat, cheese and chips in a 2 qt casserole (I used a 11×7 baking dish)

Repeat so that cheese is on top of chips.

Bake 20-25 minutes until cheese is lightly crisp.

Top with shredded lettuce, tomato and sour cream.

My kids were so excited for this new meal, they couldn’t wait to try it out.

Now you could serve it on a plate as is, or as my kids like to do, you could throw it into a soft taco and wrap it up, with all the fixins’ and eat it that way. We had a little of both at our house; some on a plate and some in wraps. Either way….delicious.

So there you have it….another one of Karen’s famous recipes from my college years.


What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals…almost

30 Sep

Last week I saw the funniest post on Facebook, shared by a friend but originally from Modern Mommy Madness, and it reminded me of our weekly scrambles to get our meals planned and prepped. It made me laugh out loud, literally, and I instantly shared it on Facebook myself. We try very hard to stick to a budget and we try very hard to make a meal plan for two weeks at a time so that we can stick to that budget, but some weeks it is just so hard, and we’re just barely pulling some sort of meal together.  This graphic put the reality check right out there, and I loved it.

I'm pretty sure we all can relate. Don't you think so? My personal favorite is Friday's meal.

I’m pretty sure we all can relate. Don’t you think so? My personal favorite is Friday’s meal. Thanks to Modern Mommy Madness for keeping it real.

So this week, instead of two weeks of meal ideas for you, I’ve got ten. By the time we got our meal plan together and shopped for it, we were down to ten days instead of 14. I’d say I’d share with you the other four, but I barely remember what we ate last night, nevermind ten days ago. I think I do remember a lasagna and a shepherd’s pie in there somewhere, a chicken pot pie made an appearance as well, but for now, we have ten meals. The kids have been helping with the meal planning, putting in their favorite meal requests, which has helped us come up with two weeks of meals every time. Hopefully this list will help to jump-start your own meal planning for the next couple of weeks!

  1. Oven roasted chicken dinner, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce
  2. Fajitas
  3. California chicken (chicken sandwiches with melted cheese, avocado, and sprouts if desired)
  4. Homemade pizzas (we did Hawaiian, plain cheese with sauce, and BBQ chicken this time)
  5. Ravioli
  6. Sloppy Joes
  7. Chicken and Broccoli quiche (recipe here)
  8. Chicken and Mushrooms in white wine sauce (recipe here)
  9. Sweet and Sour Meatballs with egg noodles (recipe here)
  10. Pastene “soup” and Meatball sandwiches

#crosscountryadventure2015: What we’re eating and how we’re cooking it

21 Jul

20150711_192859Traveling in an RV is ultra-convenient for eating in because you have everything you need right at your fingertips, as long as you’ve stocked it beforehand with all of the things you use on a day-to-day basis. Over the three months before we took our trip, I kept a specific list of kitchen supplies we’d need to make any meals we cooked in the camper go off without a hitch. We made sure we had our go-to pots and pans, cast iron skillets, a toaster, and our counter-top griddle, which can be used inside or out. With those items, the needed utensils like spatulas, whisks, wooden spoons, and serving utensils, we were in good shape and able to make most of our favorites. We had a full kitchen setup, including a stove-top, oven, and microwave; just in a smaller space. We could do whatever we needed to do.

20150630_103212Although we have eaten out a number of times over the three weeks, we make an effort to eat in if there is nothing special going on, or if we’re not in any unusual place where we’d want to try out a local eatery or food item. Our goal was to not have to eat out every single meal, every single day and we are doing a good job of keeping to that goal. We can even eat out of the camper at a rest stop on driving days, although we alternate between doing that and grabbing something to go, depending on what we have in stock in the camper. We also try very hard to utilize all our leftovers, whether we have cooked them ourselves or eaten out and taken something home. Our very first night’s meal back at Pohick Campground in Va., was leftovers that we’d taken right out of our fridge at home and taken with us so we’d be prepared that first night with something to eat.
20150720_201702This post contains some photos I’ve taken along the way, and a modified version of my usual “Two weeks of meals” post that I often do for you when we’re home. These meals were either cooked indoors or if we had outdoor cooking facilities, on a campfire.

Dinners we’ve enjoyed:
Pulled pork sandwiches, with tomato/cucumber salad
Macaroni and Meatballs
Tacos and quesadillas
Hamburgers, hot dogs (see my previous post about our BBQ bacon, cheddar, turkey burgers) and Caesar Salad
Chicken breast with BBQ, bacon, tomato and cheddar with sautéed vegetables
Grilled cheese with soup
Chicken Parmesan and pasta


20150712_095837Breakfasts we’ve enjoyed:
Eggs and bagels or English muffins (grilled or toasted)
Pancakes (plain, chocolate chip, banana)
French toast
Cereal, instant oatmeal, grits
Yogurt and fruit
Sides of ham, bacon, sausage


Two weeks of meal planning

1 Jun
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

It’s June 1!
We’re in the home stretch for the end of the school year; a busy time for us adults with our work in the schools and as parents of school aged kids, but also a busy time for the kids at school and in all their after school activities.

We can do it though, we’re almost there.

For us school ends on June 17 and for my husband’s district, it ends an entire week later, but at least the bulk of our family will be done with a lot of our stress by June 17.

I have not had a ton of extra typing time to devote to my blog, which is typical for this time of year, but to make up for it I’m going to share with you two weeks of meal planning ideas, just in case you’re as stressed in May and June as we are.

I hope that it gives you some inspiration for what to have for dinner over the coming two weeks.


Day 1: Eggplant Parm with pasta and salad

Day 2: BBQ Ribs and Chicken with cole slaw, baked beans, and rice pilaf

Day 3: Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

Day 4: Baked stuffed fish with red potatoes

Day 5: California Chicken sandwiches (grilled chicken with avocado and melted cheese)

Day 6: BBQ Pulled Pork in the crock pot

Day 7: Dinner out (Friday night)

Day 8: Baked Chicken Dinner with stuffing, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes

Day 9: Homemade Soup (we always offer sandwiches on the side, like grilled cheese, but it’s not often that anyone wants anything besides the soup.)

Day 10: Breakfast for Dinner: French Toast

Day 11: Pasta with Sauce

Day 12: Marinated steak tips

Day 13: Pork Chops with homemade apple sauce

Day 14: Quesadillas and Burritos

Easter Sweet Bread

3 Apr

This recipe makes three “small” loaves of sweet bread for Easter. It’s wonderful when you grill it!

Originally posted April 4, 2012

This recipe is one that takes a while from start to finish- nine hours to be exact- but if you’re game, it’s SO worth it! It is, of course, from my mom. She received it from a woman she worked with. It’s dated April 1992.

My mom makes it every year and I have made it once or twice myself. Don’t let the number of steps scare you off. If you go step-by-step it’s not hard.

Colleen DeMoranville’s Sweet Bread


1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 and 1/4 cups hot milk

1 pkg. dry yeast (Fleishman’s Active Dry or Rapid Rise or Red Star)

1 egg- well beaten

1 tsp. vanilla extract (can also use almond if desired)

7 cups flour (start with between five and six and add more if needed)

one 15 ounce can sliced peaches, drained and sliced thinner


1) Mix butter, sugar, salt an d hot milk in a large bowl.

2) Let cool to lukewarm.

3) Stir yeast into 1/4 cup warm water and let stand 5 minutes. (If using a thermometer it’s 110-115 degrees. Add 1/4 tsp sugar or whatever the package of yeast says to add.

4) Add dissolved yeast, egg, the extract and three cups of flour to the butter, sugar, salt and milk. Mix vigorously with flat wooden spoon.

5) Add three more cups of flour and then mix well.

6) If too sticky, add more flour. It almost always needs more, but not more than 7 cups. Too much flour will make the bread tough.

7) Turn out onto floured surface and knead it for one or two minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes. Add remaining flour only if sticky.

8) Knead more until elastic.

9) Put into large buttered bowl . Turn over once so it doesn’t dry out. Cover with a dishtowel or two and let it rise in a warm place until doubled. (Takes a few hours.)

10) Punch down and knead for another minute or two. Cut in half for two long loaves or in thirds for smaller loaves and divide each of those portions into three pieces (for a total of six or nine pieces.)

11) Stretch and roll each piece until long and uniform, about 12-18 inches if divided into two portions. Shorter if divided into three.

12) Use the three pieces to make a braid with each portion.

13) Pinch ends together.

14) Insert peach slices between braids.

15) Place each loaf on a buttered cookie sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise until doubled in bulk. (Takes about 2 hours.)

16) Brush each with one egg yolk that is mixed with 1 tsp. cold water.

17) Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes (check at about 20 minutes) if making 2 large loaves or less if making three smaller loaves (usually between 17 and 18 minutes)

18) Remove loaves to cooling racks.

19) Cool and then glaze with mixture of:

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla

5-6 tablespoons milk

Sprinkle with colored sprinkles or non-pareils.

This photo was taken a couple of years back when Elizabeth helped me make the bread. She was probably in first grade at the time. My point is: there’s lots of opportunity for kids to help out here. There’s measuring, kneading, braiding and more, that they can help out with.

NOTE: The whole process takes about nine hours. Start in the morning, end in the evening. Mixing and kneading takes about one hour. First rising takes about two hours. Braiding takes about a half hour. Second rising takes about two hours. Baking takes about a half for each loaf, then cool and glaze.

My mom stores hers in gift boxes (like from a department store) on waxed paper.

Happy Birthday Don and Alexandra!

23 Mar

So what’s the best birthday gift *you* ever gave someone?


Today is a very special day.

Today is Alexandra’s birthday.

Today is also Don’s birthday.

That makes me the best wife ever because seven years ago for Don’s birthday at 1:22 am I gave him our third daughter.

I know, I know, best gift ever, right?! It’s hard to top that one though, so I don’t really try. I’m back to t-shirts, pajama pants and stuff like that for his birthday gifts.

Alexandra’s First Birthday 2006

Since sharing his birthday with his daughter, Don has been blessed with getting to have a Snoopy party, a My Little Pony party, a Dora party, a Purple party and this year…Hello Kitty. Technically they’re not his parties obviously, but you see what I mean.

Birthday crowns all around on Alex’s second birthday.

Thankfully, my parents have this neat tradition that they started with us where we celebrate the adult birthday parties at their house each year and we “kids” get to choose our meal and our cake. I choose….well I won’t tell you what I choose until it’s my birthday this summer. But Don chooses a totally opposite type of meal and cake than I would choose, so I guess it’s good that we each get a chance to choose our own, to choose what we like. Don chooses meatball sandwiches (made with my mom’s homemade meatballs and gravy) with lemon cake for dessert. It’s probably the only time all year we have it and he really enjoys it.

Therefore, today I thought I’d share with you the recipe for Don’s birthday cake of choice each year, the lemon cake. It’s really yummy, I particularly love the corners.



A cake *just* for Daddy!


1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup water

2 beaten eggs

Duncan Hines Lemon Cake Mix

1 can lemon pie filling (divided)


In bowl by hand, mix together oil, water, eggs, cake mix.

Add 1/4 can of lemon pie filling into the mix.

Put into greased 9×13 dish.

On top, distribute the rest of the pie filling.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

When cool, glaze with:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Add a little hot water if necessary.

Happy St. Patty’s Day: Irish Soda Bread

17 Mar

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 16, 2012: Everyone loves a good Irish Soda Bread with their St. Patrick’s Day meal! This one was passed along to me by my father-in-law last winter and it was wonderful. I can’t wait to make it again this year. It’s probably the one and only recipe where I don’t think about subbing out the raisins for chocolate chips!!


4 c  flour

1 c white sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs

1 pint sour cream

1 cup  raisins


Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Grease two 8×4″ loaf pans

Mix first five ingredients

Add eggs, sour cream and raisins

Mix until just combined

Distribute batter evenly between the two pans

Bake loaves 1 hour at 325 degrees


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