Wednesday, September 29, 2010


More dancing from Bubba this week. This is proof - we do dance while we cook.

(Note: the whisk in hand as he attempts to play it like a guitar)

Week 33 Meal Plan:

Monday - Crusted Fried Fish with Mango Salsa
Tuesday - Sweet Honey Chicken Salad
Wednesday - Beans & Rice with BBQ Squash
Thursday - Coconut Curry Chicken
Friday - Kusherie (Egyptian Rice and Lentils)
Saturday - Grass Fed Steak and Potatoes
Sunday - leftovers

(Another Note: You may have noticed that Beans and Rice with BBQ Squash has been on the menu for three weeks in a row. No, we are not eating this every week. For some reason this is the meal that goes uncooked each week. So tonight I will make it. I promise.)

And here's the song that gets little Bubba dancing every time. Bubba likes to ROCK!

Jason Aldean - She's Country

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Friday Night Round-Up: Week 34

This countdown is ON, friends.

I know it's just now the start of the school year. And the fall air has just become slightly crispy. And the new season of Modern Family just barely came on the air last week.

But, every night as I lay my head down on the pillow I hear, "I can't wait until this is over" playing over and over, again and again and again in my head.

After three years of this full-time work plus grad school schedule, it finally feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

A doula friend pointed out the other day that my countdown until May is similar to a forty week pregnancy countdown. We watch the weeks tick by, each one growing more tiring, yet with grand anticipation of what lies ahead. Waiting and wondering how life may be different once the product of gestation has finally arrived. We are eager friends, very eager!

And with that I tally my weekly grocery spending. Drumroll please...


Not bad. We're getting closer. I have a good feeling about next week (maybe that's because I've already done my grocery shopping ;)

In the meantime, something to dance to, my dear.

(BTW - The music is groovy, but if the video is too much for your innocent eyes, simply close them... and boogie.)

Usher - OMG feat

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nutty Granola Bars

Don't you just love spending a Friday night at home getting all domestic? I do.

It's especially great when your sweet husband is the one who suggests "getting all domestic". In those words to be exact.

Cooking. Cleaning. Dancing. I'll tell you one thing - hot fresh granola bars at 11:30pm brings out the inner slumber-party child in me.

These are so delicious it's hard not to eat the whole batch right then and there. We do our best to save some for the morning when the kids wake up.

Nutty Granola Bars

You'll need:
2 cups nut butter (peanut or almond)
1 cup honey
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup flaxseed meal
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup oats
1 cup peanuts (or any other nut)
1 cup chocolate chips

The Preparation Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring out a large mixing bowl and 9x13 pan. Grease the pan, unless it is glass at which point you don't have to do anything special.

Grab you nut butter and honey. Swirl 'em together. Enjoy the beautiful patterns created by the coming together of two of the most incredibly sticky sweet substances in the world.

Add each of the remaining ingredients.

The chocolate chips get a large sized picture because they truly are the most important ingredient here!

And stir. Stir hard, my friends. It will get very stiff - to say the least. Beware of your plastic spatulas. My first one broke right in half.

Spread in the pan. Mush it down.

Bake for 30 minutes. Don't let it get too brown.

You want it to be a bit gooey inside when you take it out. It will harden a bit more while it cools. When completely cool, go ahead and cut into bars. Seriously, don't eat them all before the kids wake up!

While making these nutty bars, the music that got us dancing was slightly different than the usual fare.

The Notorious B.I.G. - Big Poppa

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mother of All Garage Sales

Normally I would have woken up at 6:30 this morning to be first in line for the mother of all garage sales... the local Moms Club consignment sale.

Ever since I was pregnant with my firstborn child I have made it a top priority to get this sale on the calendar months in advance. Make sure no one plans any out of town trips. Confirm Mr. Main's availability to take our three munchkins on a field trip, because Lord knows I need my undisturbed focus when I'm shopping the racks. I also must have both hands free, because Lord also knows that I've got to be flinging through those racks at lightening speed to cover all the items on my list.

My alarm is set to go off before the rooster crows. I pop out of bed, admittedly a bit groggy, too eager with anticipation to sleep soundly. Fix myself a cup of chai. Sneak quietly about my business as not to disturb the little ones from their slumber. It never works.

First Bubba wakes up and promptly needs a banana. Mimi hears the commotion and joins the party in The Little White Kitchen. And of course Dash can't stand to be the last one in bed so he stumbles his way into the predawn party as well.

Now what I can't understand is why this is all happening on the weekend, while during the school week I can't get this crew to fall out of bed even if there was an earthquake rumbling beneath them.

Anyhow, I proceed to slip out the front door before I can respond to the shouts of "Mommmmmm" coming from each of the four corners of the house. And I drive wistfully away into the sunrise.

I arrive at my destination fully prepared to endure the hour long wait when the doors will open to consignment sale heaven. In the meantime I stand like a lone soldier amongst the wild prairie grasses that are so gloriously golden this time of year.

If I'm lucky a horse will wander my direction and showcase it's magnificent beauty in the early morning light. I sip my chai and revel in the still and the quiet of this peaceful Saturday morning.

The serenity is broken the moment those doors open. It's a mad dash amongst the hundred or so ladies who've lined up to be the first inside today. Laundry baskets in hand, each knows where her priorities lie.
Girls 5T. Toddler shoes. Halloween costumes.

Being the first to your respective station means you get the pick of the litter. All the brands you love, for mere pennies. It's a joyous moment in a thrifty mom's life - putting together an entire season's closet with my favorite brands, all clean and neatly presented in a one stop shop.

And the best part about it is the price. For what I may have spent at Target on three items, I've outfitted all three of my offspring for the fall and winter. There's nothing better than that. Well, actually, I can think of quite a few things better than that. But anyhow, it's pretty great!

I woke up at 6:30 this fine Saturday morning. But this time, I hopped on my bike a went for an early morning ride with my girlfriend. Afterwards we sat in the backyard and drank chai and laughed. And then I moseyed my way on over to the sale, walked right in, and an hour later walked out with the loot. Perhaps my first-in-line practice has been unnecessary all these years?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mama's Beef Stew

Fall is in the air. It's time to bring out Mama's Beef Stew. There's nothing better that a warm bowl of hearty goodness on a cool crisp fall evening.

Mama's Beef Stew

You'll Need:
1 - 2 lbs beef stew meat
2 TBS worcester sauce
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
1/2 tsp dried marjoram, crushed
fresh ground pepper, to taste
salt, to taste

4 medium red potatoes, cubed
3 medium carrots, sliced
2 cups fresh (or frozen) green beans, cut
1 medium onion, chopped
diced tomatoes (one 14.5 ounce can)
2 cups beef broth (I love the "Better Than Bullion" brand)

The Preparation Method:

Heat the skillet. Plop in the beef chunks. Start browning.

Add a few squirts of worcester sauce, herbs, salt and pepper. Continue browning.

Add browned beef to the bottom of your crockpot.

Start layering the veggies. Begin with the densest item. The potatoes.

Then the carrots.

Next up... green beans.

Then the items with the most flavor to share get placed on top... the onions.

Pour on a can of diced tomatoes.

Top it all off with 3 cups of beef broth.

Turn Ol' Bessie on High Heat. Put a lid on 'er. Let her go to work for the next eight hours.

And for our dancing selection today... watch this video to catch a glimpse of what my living room looks like on any given Friday night!

Josh Turner - Why Don't We Just Dance

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spiced Chicken with Stubby Vegetables

You might think this blog is about cooking. It's not.

It's about dancing.

I finally put my finger on it this weekend. For me, dancing is my only true artistic expression. I am not able to gracefully paint, sculpt, sing or make music. I can barely knit a scarf together, sew a crafty apron, or hang pictures creatively on the wall.

But dancing... dancing taps into that deep soul space that is the essence of life. You know where that is, don't you? I find it a necessary component to living the life of "thrive". Creative expression in any form is one of the basic tenants of living well!

Cooking, on the other hand, does not necessarily feed my creative outlets in the same way. It's more of a means to an end. Cooking good food feeds my belly, which in turn feeds my body, which in turn feeds my ability to dance when the dancing music is ON.

I simply share these recipes here so that I have a visual reference of all of my favorite fast, easy and cheap recipes. Maybe if my collection gets big enough I won't have to formulate meal plans every week, instead I'll simply choose a plan from the past and execute. Which will give me more time for dancing in my living room with my kids. Which feeds my soul.

All that to say, tonight's dinner is nothing you don't already know how to cook. This is my reminder that I should make this meal more often. Let this be your reminder of truly how simple, fast and cheap it really is to throw a chicken in the oven.

Spiced Chicken with Stubby Vegetables

You'll need:
One whole chicken
a bunch of baby potatoes
a handful of carrots
a couple yellow squash
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp honey

(Remember, this is all open for artistic expression. Use the veggies you have hanging around. Use as much as you think your family will eat. There are no hard and fast rules here.)

The Rub:
1 TBS paprika
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp white pepper
3/4 tsp oregano flakes
1/4 tsp sugar
dash of cayenne pepper

The Preparation Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix Rub ingredients together. Set aside.

Cut up vegetables into stubby little squares, triangles or any other shapes that come naturally to you and your knife.

In a large bowl, toss veggies with olive oil and garlic salt.

Lay down in the bottom of a baking dish. Add a tablespoon of water so the veggies stay moist until the juices from the chicken start flowing.

Jump, twirl, pirouette.

Wash chicken. Pat dry. Place on top of veggies in baking dish, breast side up.

Prepare the chicken by massaging some olive oil over the skin. Then massage the spice rub all around the tender skin of the young chicken. (Gross, I know. But this is what it said on the package. Tender Young Chicken.) Now sprinkle all the leftover spice rub over the veggies.

Drizzle the teaspoon of honey over the veggies. (But don't put it on top of the chicken. It'll make the skin burn to a dark crisp. Trust me. I know from experience.)

Place baking dish in preheated oven. Bake for approximately 1.5 hours (for a 4 lb bird) or until a meat thermometer reads 180-185 degrees.

When finished cooking, allow to sit for ten minutes so the juices absorb back into the meat. Cut and serve. Don't forget to spoon the juice over your plate. The spices and chicken drippings make an awesome 'gravy'.

And of course, our favorite dancing song of the day...

The Wood Brothers - Luckiest Man

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I dedicate this week's meal plan to Bubba. My dancing inspiration.

Monday - Red Lentil Soup
Tuesday - Fish Tacos on the Grill
Wednesday - Spiced Chicken with Stubby Vegetables
Thursday - Lunchbox Green Salad
Friday - Mama's Beef Stew
Saturday - BBQ Beans & Rice with Grilled Squash
Sunday - leftovers/ out to eat

Monday, September 20, 2010

Friday Night Round-Up: Week 35


The Zac Brown Band
Does winning tickets on the radio to my favorite band's sold out concert work as a deduction? It should. Last night people were trying to sell those tickets for $100 each. If you factor this in to the weekly spendature, clearly we were well under budget. Clearly.

It seems we're headed in the wrong direction with this project lately. Each week the $150 goal is slipping further and further. Clearly this is due to the cabinets becoming emptier and emptier.

But I'll tell you one thing friends, sitting center stage in the second row for my favorite dancing band does a marvelous job at helping this mama forget all her grocery budget woes.

Did I say sitting? I meant dancing. And oh how we danced. Hours and hours of dancing. And no cooking. I like cooking and all, but I like dancing without an apron even more. You should try it sometime.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Simple Lentil Soup

This is what my notes look like when I cook.

Random scribbles. Mine and Bubba's.

I've deciphered my notes so this lentil soup recipe will be simple and easy for you.

And by the way, this dinner was intended to be made by ol' Bessie (the crockpot) but things didn't go as smoothly as I had anticipated on this weekday morning when the kids had the day off from school.

So at 4pm, when there were seven little kids in my backyard and there was no dinner in the pot and I needed to be out the door in two hours to teach my class, I improvised.

Simple Lentil Soup

2 Tbs olive oil
3 med carrots, sliced
1 med red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
6 small potatoes, cubed
2 Cups green lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 tsp dried summer savory
fresh ground pepper to taste
3 tsp Better Than Bouillon chicken/vegetable base (organic)
6 cups water
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot.

Dump in carrots, potato, onion, celery, lentils, summer savory and pepper. Twirl it all around. Mix the flavors up.

Then add the water and bouillon.

Bring to a rolling boil. Cover. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for approximately one hour until everything is soft and mushy to your liking.

Add balsamic vinegar. Mix it in. Top with sliced avocado if you like the creamy fatty goodness as much as I do.

And dance.

We danced to my new favorite band today. Close your eyes and listen to the sweetness of this song, friends.

The Zac Brown Band - Whatever It Is

Thursday, September 16, 2010


We have 35 more weeks until that glorious day in mid-May, otherwise known as commencement. Seeing as today is Thursday, I suppose it's more like 34.5 weeks, but who's counting?

The meal plan came together sporadically this time around. A long chain of events made it nearly impossible for me to get a grip on my meal planning until yesterday morning. Delayed flight. Walking in the door at 4am. Couple hours of sleep. Sleepwalking through the day. Off to teach class that night. Wake up early the next morning. Repeat.

In the meantime, we improvised:

Monday - taco nachos with guacamole (15-min stovetop/beef)

Tuesday - downhome tuna salad and egg salad sandwiches with homemade sweet potato fries (fish)

Wednesday - melt in your mouth chicken and caramelized butternut squash on the grill (grill/chicken/squash)

Thursday - simple lentil soup (crockpot/lentils)

Friday - BBQ beans and rice with slaw (beans and rice)

Saturday - salad (raw) and leftovers

Sunday - leftovers or out to eat

Here's a the song that got me dancing this morning...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ten-Second Taco Seasoning

I find something very satisfying about buying a small pack of pre-made spices to pour into my skillet on the night of my 15-minute stove-top dinner.

But I was saddened as I made my way down the aisle looking at the ingredients of every brand of taco seasoning on the shelves. I found that all of these lovely prepackaged, make my life easier, just dump it in the ground beef, spice mixes had one of two problems. Either they contained dairy, or they had a long list of twenty syllable words that are impossible to pronounce. Neither of these options works for me.

So I came home and created my own taco seasoning mix. No dairy. Only the ingredients I can pronounce allowed through the door. It's so simple, you can mix it up in ten seconds flat. (That's cookbook talk. When a recipe tells you how long it will take, always triple that time. Mind you, I don't have an assistant working behind the scenes handing me all of ingredients nicely chopped in pretty little bowls. And I like to dance between each step in the recipe.)

2 TBS chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregono
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic salt
dash red pepper flakes (to taste)

Shake it, shake it, shake it!

This makes enough to season 2 lbs of ground beef.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Friday Night Round-Up: Week 36

There are a few things wrong with this picture.

First and foremost, my Friday night round-up is occurring on a Tuesday afternoon. I could try to explain myself, but I'd rather focus my energies on remembering my weekend away to the big city. No kids. No husbands. Just me and my girlfriend, free as we'll ever be.

Trust me, for mom's like me, these times are a necessary rejuvenation of the soul. No dishes. No cooking. No wiping butts - except my own. 72 hours and I'm a new woman. Refreshed and revitalized. And yes, my sweet husband was The Dancing Cook in my stead. He fared well.

Secondly, the grand total for last week's food expenditures came out of left field. $189.92. Not sure how that happened.

But like I say, I'd rather focus my energies on those long walks across the greenway, the lengthy chats over dinner, the wind-through-my-hair bike taxi rides under the stars and the ungodly number of band-aids required to cover the injuries sustained on my toes after a long night of dancing. And so I will.

Here's the song that inspired all the band-aids!

Taio Cruz - Dynamite

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Let's Get Our Priorities Straight - Bread Comes First

We had the talk. Oh yes, the talk. I'll be completely honest with you, we've had some low points in the $150/week grocery budget challenge. As a whole, looking back on the last three weeks, we've likely had more low points than not.

But we're reorganizing, restructuring the way we do things. This is a work in progress and it's taken us some blood, a lot of sweat and a few lonely tears to navigate our way through this challenge.

This week, #36 counting down, we set our priorities straight on a few items that have made a big difference here on the homestead.

#1 - Bread is the first priority. My sweet husband nailed this one. He told me mid-week that the answer to a happy household is bread. I completely agree. We love bread. We all love bread. When there is bread in the house people are fulfilled, they smile, we enjoy our tuna fish sandwiches, and Bubba eats pb&j to his heart's content. So the first thing in the grocery cart this week will be bread. Four loaves to be exact. Mind you they are frightfully small little loaves. We will have our bread and eat it too!

#2 - Doesn't matter because we will have bread.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Red Lentil Soup

On the menu for Tuesday's dinner was gazpacho. Turns out I forgot an ingredient at the store.

Well, I didn't actually forget it. I just didn't want to pay the price they were asking for a few cups of mushed tomatoes.

I told myself I'd get the tomato juice on my Walmart run. The juice didn't make it on my list, therefore it didn't make it into my cart.

I've got more things to worry about when I'm in that store - like keeping my toddler from using the cart as some kind of high wire circus act. All that to say, I needed to switch the dinner items around a bit.

No worries. This Red Lentil Soup is super easy and the ingredients can always be used at the beginning of the week or at the end. Perfect to fill a place in the menu whenever necessary.

You'll need:

2 Tbs olive oil
2 onions, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, shredded
1 1/3 C red lentils
1 C orange juice
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
ground black pepper to taste
5 C chicken or vegetable broth

Find yourself a nice soup pot.

Heat the olive oil a bit, then add the diced onions.

Cook until soft and transparent.

Drop in the load of lentils, celery, carrot, thyme, pepper and bay leaves. Swirl around.

Add the orange juice and 3 cups of the chicken or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.

Cook for 40 minutes or so until the lentils are tender, stirring once or twice.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. If you don't have an immersion blender you can use your regular blender. But you should have an immersion blender. Put it on the list for Walmart.

Add remaining 2 cups of broth, stir it up and heat through.

Serve immediately to your eagerly awaiting loved ones and offspring.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fish Tacos on the Grill

I'm thinking a little break from the kitchen on Labor Day sounds about right. Everyone else is taking the day off, why not the Dancing Cook too?

Fish Tacos on the Grill is just what was in order on such a fine late summer day. Less cooking always means more dancing, right?

Here's what you'll need:

1 1/2 lbs white fish of any variety (I used Mahi Mahi thanks to the super sale at the store)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garlic salt
butter or your favorite butter substitute

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
2 Tbs mayonnaise
juice from 1/2 of a lime

corn tortillas

(Side dishes - corn on the cob, refried beans)


Start by getting the grill going. Make it nice 'n' hot in there.

Prepare the cabbage salsa. Shred 1/2 head of green cabbage by finely slicing the cross section. Add 2 Tbs mayonnaise and juice from 1/2 of a lime. Mix wildly.

Cover and place in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to meld while you prepare the fish.

Since the fish will be cooked on the grill, grab a hearty ol' metal baking dish and lightly grease the bottom.

Place fish fillets (skin side down, of course) in the pan.

Mix together the cumin and garlic salt. Sprinkle on top of little fishy. Place small bits of butter down the center of each fillet.

Find another ol' metal baking dish and grab your corn tortillas. Place the whole stack of them in the pan, place a touch of water in there and cover with tin foil.

Make your way out to the grill (just don't trip over the plastic dinosaur village in the middle of your kitchen floor) and place the two pans containing fish and tortillas directly on the grill. Close the lid.

Cook approximately 10 minutes or so, until fish flakes easily. Check often as not to overcook the fish, which can be easy to do when you're taking turns with your six year old jumping on the trampoline.

When the fish is done, so will be your refried beans and corn on the cob that are on the stovetop inside.

Bring fish and tortillas back inside and assemble tacos.

First place salsa down, then chunks of fish.

Tada! It's done. And it's tasty, folks.

Monday, September 6, 2010


36 more weeks until that glorious spring day arrives. When that commencement song starts to play I imagine I'll be dancing wildly in the bleachers with my three babies. One on my shoulders and one on each hip. Keep your eyes on the prize lady. Eyes on the prize.

This week's meal plan started with a bang!

Loud applause were heard all around the table tonight.

My girl was so excited about dinner that she couldn't pack another bite into her overstuffed cheeks.

For twenty minutes straight.

She asked that I make this EVERY night.

Here's to a week filled with more goodness and laughter and full bellies all around!

Mon - Fish Tacos with Cabbage Salsa and Refried Beans
Tues - Gazpacho with Garlic Toast
Wed - Orange Lentil Soup with Leafy Salad
Thurs - Spaghetti Squash Saute with Chicken
Fri - Chickpea Tagine with Brown Rice
Sat - Taco Stew with Cornbread
Sun - leftovers

Egg Salad
Tuna Salad
Potato Salad
Granola Bars

Homemade Chai

Friday Night Round-Up: 37th week counting down

Time for the Friday Night Round-Up. But it's actually Sunday night, well actually very early Monday morning, just past the stroke of midnight. This is my first opportunity to take a look back at the week gone by to see how things measured up in the grocery budgeting department.

I had all good intentions of posting some of the recipes from the later half of the week. But instead of spending quality time with you, I was called out of my kitchen into prompt action. Babies don't wait.

Three days ago it was my good fortune to put on my doula hat and support a sweet little family in their VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). Being in the room with new parents as they birth their babies is nothing short of a miracle. Every time.

While I was away for this 24-hour journey through laborland, my dear family fended for themselves. This usually means nothing short of Burger King. And so it was. Certain meal items didn't get prepared. Certain moneys were spent for the sake of convenience.

Back from the birth with only two hours of precious sleep early Friday morning, I was greeted with an enthusiastic voicemail message. We're packing up to go camping for the weekend. Since this wasn't accounted for in the meal plan either, more moneys were spent on the requisite camp food.

I must say, we were easily on track to meet our $150 goal until those few unexpected occurrences came into the mix.

Here's the breakdown:
$48.72 Whole Foods
$66.96 Natural Foods Market
$14.16 Walmart
$18.03 Sit-down Restaurant
$9.00 Burger King
$18.00 Camping Food
$20 Peaches from school fundraiser
$15 Liquor Store

Total: $210

But today, I say that the spontaneity of this past week was well worth the price!
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