Veggie Soup Recipe- 2/4/2020 is National Soup Day!

cooking--3.jpgI received an email from Olive Garden this morning telling me tomorrow is National Soup Day. WOOO! In the mood for their Zuppa Toscana? Here is my copycat recipe.

I had planned to make veggie soup this week, it’s a perfect way to use up all the bits and bobs of veggies you have hanging around your kitchen.

Here is my No Fail, Easy Peasy Vegetable Soup Recipe. It’s Vegan and Vegetarian as is.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts Veggie Stock
  • 2 c. onions, diced
  • 1 c. celery, chopped
  • 1 c. carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 Bell peppers, chopped (your choice of color)
  • 2 T. grapeseed oil or your favorite cooking oil
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 large can (approx. 28 ounce) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2T. Mural of Flavor
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 1-2 yellow crookneck squash or zucchini with skin on, cut into bite-size pieces

 

Directions:

  1. In a large stockpot, saute onion, carrots, bell peppers, and celery until veggies are soft and onions are clear (about 20 minutes).
  2. Add garlic, cook 5-10 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Add Veggie Stock, Tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, herbs, and simmer on medium/low for 30-45 minutes.
  4. Add squash/zucchini and continue to simmer for 10-20 minutes.
  5. Serve with bread (I like Beer Bread). Top with Nutritional Yeast or cheese of your choice.

Feel free to substitute in veggies in the amounts that you have. This recipe is just a guide! Other veggies that go great in soup: potatoes, cabbage, green beans, turnips (cook just like potatoes), kale, and spinach.

Leafy greens are added to the soup about 10-15 minutes before serving. Potatoes and turnips should be peeled, chopped and added during step 3.

Tips to Reign In An Out Of Control Family Budget: Let’s Start in the Kitchen!

707538835876fc5c438018d57701bc2f.jpgUntil the end of the year, I’ll be posting some articles with realistic tips and methods to save money and reign in spending. None of these are going to the same old “Clip coupons, grow your own garden, etc.” that’s all over the internet- and honestly, here in Southern California, the old, standby advice isn’t going to help you. Grow a garden to save money? Water is so expensive here!

Clipping coupons and shopping grocery store sales/circulars will save you a fraction of the amount that it used to. In years past, I was saving 60-80% with coupons and store sales. Now, I’m lucky to save 50%.  With all of the restrictions on coupons (example: limit one like coupon per day- LAME), stockpiling to save money isn’t always possible without a lot of work/trips to different stores (and that’s not saving time). We’re moving past that, and delving into other ways to save money and take advantage of opportunities that are out there.

Today we are going to start with my pet project: Saving in the kitchen! If you feel like you’re spending too much money on food and groceries, here are my recommendations for getting the grocery spending under control:

  1. Go through your refrigerator/freezer and pantry. Make a note of the food that you have on hand. I like using the kitchen inventories here. This will also give you an opportunity to clean out food from the kitchen that has expired or that you won’t eat. Unexpired food that you won’t eat, can be donated to a local charity.
  2. Now that you have a handle on what you have in your kitchen, take a look at the list and come up with some recipes or meals that can be created with what you have on hand. You’d be surprised by how many meals you have in your kitchen! Make a list of the meals that you can make with what you have. And plan on having one or two of those per week. This will help keep grocery spending down. Make a list of meals that you can make but require one or two ingredients (like fresh vegetables), and add those ingredients to your next few shopping lists. By relying on what you already have in your home, you will be keeping your out of pocket down.
  3. Before you head to the store, take a look at the sale flyer which is available online, and see what is on sale. Plan meals around food that is in season and on sale. Continue to use coupons, but don’t go out of your way to subscribe to multiple newspapers per week to get a hold of lots of the same coupons.  Don’t forget rebate apps! Use of these apps gets us $10-$20/month cashback, sometimes double that, depending on what bonus offers are available- Fetch Rewards and Ibotta often have Bonus offers.
  4. Track your spending over a few weeks to see how much you are spending, and what you are buying. If you still find that you’re spending a lot of money on food, I would try shopping at a different store. I find that even with club card sales, and rebate apps like Fetch Rewards, some grocery stores (like Vons) are just too expensive to do my weekly shopping. I love starting my shopping at $.99 only. I am able to get a lot of snacks, name-brand treats, and fresh fruits and veggies there, and I am still able to stay on budget. Another fun place where I save money is Grocery Outlet. They have great prices on cheese, fruit juice, coffee, and frozen meat. They also have an interesting selection that changes weekly: snack food, protein bars/cookies, and cereal. If you are in the military, a military family, or a veteran, consider shopping at the commissary. Here is my article about saving money at the commissary. 
  5. Consider cooking more from scratch. It is healthier, and pantry stables are generally pretty cheap (the ingredients for a batch of chocolate chip cookies runs about $3.00 and yields 4-5 dozen cookies, while a package of chocolate chip cookies from the grocery store is about $4.00+ and is usually 3 dozen or so).  I buy fruits and veggies whole and break them down and pack them into serving size bags. You can learn more about that and Batch Cooking here.

If you are still having a hard time keeping your grocery budget in check, or if you are finding that the ends don’t meet, consider the San Diego Food Bank Neighborhood Distribution Program. No documentation is needed to receive food assistance from a
Neighborhood Distribution site where people can receive fresh fruits, vegetables, and bread, based on availability. Families are encouraged to bring reusable bags or
a cart with them to carry the food items.

There are programs out there to help those struggling to feed their families here in San Diego County. Here is my list of San Diego County Food Resources.

I work very hard to keep my family on a budget, I work very hard to make sure that we are saving money and taking advantage of as many deals and opportunities that present themself. I know that this is not something that everyone wants to do or something that everyone can do. There are so many programs and discounts out there available for various groups of individuals.

Tomorrow, we’re tackling saving money on the entertainment budget.

4 Fresh, Healthy Smoothie Recipes Kids will Love!

37f39aabb6da4ee265e271d175c59991.jpgWe have smoothies a lot. It’s a good way to get fruit and/or veggies into the kids without any fuss.

It’s important to have a good blender that can handle fruits/veggies and ice. I love our new Calphalon Blender. I received it through one of my review programs.

We also have reusable shake straws– they are perfect for thick smoothies.

Here are the four recipes that my kids love!

Copycat Strawberries Gone Bananas (from Jamba): 1 cup apple juice (or milk), 1 frozen banana, 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup ice (or more, depending on how thick you like your smoothies). Blend all ingredients- makes 1 BIG smoothie or 2 kid-sized.

The Big Orange Smoothie: This one is the big kids’ favorite and is a version of one of his Jamba Juice favorites that is no longer on the menu. 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup frozen peaches, 1/2 c. frozen mango pulp, 1/2 cup chopped carrots, 1/2 cup ice (or more, depending on how thick you like your smoothies). Blend all ingredients- makes 1 BIG smoothie or 2 kid-sized.

Green Berry Surprise: The surprise is the spinach. You can’t see it or taste it! 1 cup water & a scoop of protein powder (Or milk of your choice), 1 cup frozen berries, 1 frozen banana, 2 large handfuls of fresh spinach, 1/2 cup ice (or more, depending on how thick you like your smoothies). Blend all ingredients- makes 1 BIG smoothie or 2 kid-sized.

Tropical Freeze: 1 cup juice (I like to mix orange and the pineapple juice from the can if you used canned pineapples until it’s 1 cup), 1 frozen banana, 1/2 c. frozen mango pulp, 1/2 cup pineapple,  1/2 c. frozen peaches, 1/2 cup ice (or more, depending on how thick you like your smoothies). Blend all ingredients- makes 1 BIG smoothie or 2 kid-sized.

The nice thing about smoothies is that you can use fresh or frozen fruit or veggies, any kind of juice, it’s all up to you!

Liquids:

  • Milk: Dairy, Oat, Hemp, Soy, Almond, or other nut milk. Your Choice.
  • Juice (Apple, Orange, and Carrot are popular)
  • Water and a scoop of protein powder
  • Water

Some of our favorite fruits include:

  • Bananas (I peel and slice overripe bananas and put them in ziploc bags, so they are ready to use!)
  • Strawberries- 99 Cents Only and Dollar Tree both stock 12 oz bags of strawberries. If you can’t find them in season, this is a great alternative.
  • Peaches- I usually buy them frozen.
  • Mangoes- 99 Cents Only sells Mango pulp, which is just the good parts of mango formed into a brick and frozen. I love mangoes, but I hate peeling and slicing them.
  • Mixed berries- 99 Cents Only sells mixed berries, which is usually strawberries, blueberries, blackberries.
  • Pineapple- Either canned in its own juice or frozen chunks. Frozen Pineapple is good straight out of the bag. Fresh pineapple is a lot of work to process just to turn into smoothies.

Tasty Veggies we enjoy in our smoothies:

  • Carrots- I usually chop them up small so they are easily incorporated.
  • Spinach- It blends in well and isn’t noticeable.

 

Talk Back: I’d love to hear what your favorite smoothie flavors are!

 

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10/21/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

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This week is going to be busy with appointments and running around, so I’ll be leaning on stuff in our freezer. This week batch cooking will be saving our bacon!

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done, so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian, but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with heavy cream for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. I did a lot of prep for the coming week over the weekend. I cut up the produce, bagged it for meals, made up some smoothie kits, and cut up cantaloupe to have this week. Thanks to some frugal shopping over the weekend, I’ve only spent half the grocery budget for the week. I will probably use it all.

  • Monday: Spaghetti or zoodles with Veggie Loaded Pasta Sauce 
  • Tuesday: Omelets with cheese, bacon, veggies. And Dave’s Killer Bread 
  • Wednesday: Chinese Chicken Salad, garlic bread
  • Thursday:  Taco Salad (Taco meat from the freezer)
  • Friday:   Date Night!
  • Saturday:  Breakfast for dinner: Smoothies and Bagels with cream cheese
  • Sunday:   Leftover night

 

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

Quick & Easy Meal: Ravioli Soup

cooking-1.jpgThis recipe is super easy, you can add meat (like in the picture) if you like, or keep it meat-free and add some extra vegetables.

I try to have the ingredients for this soup on-hand. It’s quick and perfect for when you want a hearty bowl of soup in a hurry.

Ravioli Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 c. each: chopped carrots, celery
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 14.5 ounces (or so) fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1-quart vegetable stock
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 T. Mural of Flavor
  • 1 9oz. package of Ravioli (I Like 4 cheese)
  • 1/2 c. good quality parmesan cheese, divided

Directions:

  1. In a stockpot, heat olive oil and saute all of the veggies for about 5-10 minutes.
  2. Lower the heat to medium/low, add tomatoes, tomato paste, and veggie stock.
  3. Simmer on medium/low for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Add ravioli and cook 8-10 minutes, until ravioli are cooked.
  5. Ladle into 4 bowls, top with cheese and serve with a green salad.

It’s that easy!

Substitutions-

  • Add 1/2 lb. of protein- your choice. I like cooked, crumbled Italian sausage. Meatballs or  Italian sausage sliced into rounds work great too. Add into the soup after step 2.
  • Use ravioli with meat if you prefer.
  • Use Gluten-free ravioli if you need to.
  • If you want more veggies in your soup, add 3-4 cups of fresh spinach when you add in the ravioli.

 

 

Houseparty by Ripple Street: Host a Kikkoman® Holiday Party

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Houseparty by Ripple Street has a great new party!

Host a Kikkoman® Holiday Party
This holiday season, invite your friends over and show them how Kikkoman can help you create easy, amazing side dishes and lets you brine a juicy bird to bring great flavor to your holiday meals for great entertaining all season long.

This event is only open to residents of the USA. Party Date: 11/9/19

If you’re selected and confirmed as a host, your exclusive Party Pack will contain:

  • Gift Card
  • Kikkoman T-shirts
  • Kikkoman recipe booklets
  • And more

To apply for the party, click here.

Top 10 Herbs and Spices needed for a Well-Stocked Kitchen!

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I get a lot of people who ask about my spice rack- what do I keep in my kitchen, since we cook at home so much. I made a list of what I use, then I polled my Facebook friends. Below is a reflection of what we use most at home, plus what most of my foodie friends use too all combined into a handy dandy top ten list!

I prefer spices and herbs from Penzey’s– They have the best quality and a wide variety. They tend to be a little more expensive, but they are very high-quality herbs and spices, and you will use much less than their cheaper counterparts. If you have a Penzey’s store near you, it’s worth checking out. Join their mailing list- they frequently have coupons for freebies and really good deals (and free shipping sometimes too if you don’t live close to a store). Penzey’s also sells their spices on Amazon!

  1. Mural of Flavor
  2. Cinnamon
  3. Cumin
  4. Chili Powder
  5. Italian Seasoning
  6. Oregano
  7. Ginger
  8. Bay Leaves
  9. Paprika
  10. Turkish Seasoning

These are of course in addition to Table Salt, Kosher Salt, a pepper mill for freshly cracked pepper, roasted garlic, granulated garlic, toasted onions, onion powder, and air-dried shallots. For me, these are pantry staples and every kitchen should have them, as they are used in so many recipes, in addition to the 10 above.

 

Talk Back: What are some of your favorite seasonings?