Cooking Day

When planning out a menu, a lot of time and attention tends to be focused on the main dish as opposed to the side dishes.  I personally love side dishes as much (if not more!) than any meat-driven main dish.

With all the fresh produce options available in the summertime, I thrive on cooking with fresh ingredients, especially a variety of vegetables.  One of my absolute favorite dishes is roasted vegetables.

Depending on your personal preferences, the options for this dish are virtually endless.  It’s a dish that pairs nicely with marinated chicken, a pork roast, or even burgers fresh off the grill.

Fresh Roasted Vegetables

1-1/2 lbs. zucchini
1-1/2 lbs. yellow squash
1 lb. asparagus
1 lb. fresh green beans
1 medium onion
1 sweet bell pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

Rinse and drain all veggies.  Cut zucchini and squash into thin slices.  Trim ends of asparagus and green beans.  Chop onion and bell pepper into medium-sized chunks.

Place all veggies into a 9×13 pan.  Drizzle olive oil over the veggies and sprinkle with Italian seasoning.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until tender crisp.

And the cost breakdown?

zucchini – $0.88/lb. at Meijer (total cost of $1.32)
yellow squash – $0.88/lb. at Meijer (total cost of $1.32)
asparagus – $1.99/lb. at Meijer
green beans – $0.88/lb. at Meijer
onion – $0.50 at Meijer
bell pepper – $1 at Meijer
olive oil – $0.24 at Aldi
Italian seasoning – $0.10 at Kroger

The total cost of this dish is $7.35 and it serves 8 people – for a cost of $0.92 per serving.

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I love chili…maybe almost to an obsession!  There are so many different varieties of chili recipes, and each one has it’s own great line-up of ingredients.  And it’s an easy way to breathe new life into leftovers and create a unique dish.

I also love that most chili recipes can be made in a crockpot which is perfect for hectic evenings.  Plus, many chili recipes include some type of beans, which not only lends added protein to the meal, but it’s an inexpensive ingredient to add to a meal as well.

One of our family’s favorite chili recipes is white chicken chili.  It has a little bit of a kick to it, and can be paired nicely with a fresh spinach salad.

White Chicken Chili

4 boneless chicken breasts
3 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 can reduced fat cream of chicken soup
1 can mild chilies
1 can reduced sodium chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning mix

Put chicken in the bottom of the crockpot.  Pour beans on top of chicken.  Mix cream of chicken, chilies, chicken broth, and taco seasoning together in a medium-sized bowl.  Pour mixture over beans.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  During the last hour of cooking, shred the chicken and add it back into the crockpot mixture.  Serve with lowfat cheese and/or sour cream.

And the cost breakdown?

chicken breasts – $1.98/lb. at Meijer (total cost of $6.71)
white beans – $0.59 each at Aldi (total cost of $1.77)
cream of chicken – $0.79 at Aldi
chilies – $0.85 at Meijer
chicken broth – $1.39 for a carton at Aldi (used half the carton, so total cost of $0.70)
taco seasoning mix – $0.35 at Aldi

The total cost of the meal is $11.14, and it easily serves 8 – for just $1.39 per serving.

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Good, Healthy, & Cheap….Can It Be Done?

by Katie on July 13, 2015

It’s often argued that meal choices present an impossible dilemma that forces consumers to choose only two of three elements…..good, healthy, and/or cheap.  However, having been on a fairly stringent diet for the past two years, I’ve become convinced that the perfect triad can be achieved for most meals.

This past week, I came up with the idea of posting our family’s meals on a routine basis with not only the “how-to” behind the meal, but a cost breakdown as well.  Since I love to cook and enjoy trying new flavor combinations, I’m hopeful that this series will push me to break out of my comfort zone even more to come up with new meals for our family.

The majority of the meals that I cook feature fresh meats, produce, and a variety of spices.  That being said, the meals are typically easy to prepare with ingredients that you definitely don’t have to buy at a specialty store!  And unlike many recipes, they don’t serve a family of 4….they’re based on a larger scale to feed a family of 6-8 (including several hungry teenage boys!).

So, I’d love it if you follow along as I try out new ingredients and put together recipes that hit all three benchmarks…good, healthy, and cheap!  And if you have an ingredient or two that you’d like to see highlighted in a recipe, leave me a message or send me and e-mail, and I’ll see what I can come up with.

Bon appetit!

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Lemon Rosemary Chicken Recipe

by Katie on May 12, 2015

Now that spring has officially arrived, I’m more than ready to start diving into fresh ingredients to complement our family’s meals.  While I still use processed foods from time to time, I love calling upon the flavors of fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits to add depth and character to our foods.

At the store last week, I picked up a variety of fresh herbs without having an exact menu plan in mind.  Instead, I wanted to let my creative side come into play, and try out a variety of different flavor combinations .

I especially love the aroma of rosemary, so I decided to start my culinary experimentation with that herb first.  Since we had a particularly crazy day last week where 3 different kids needed to be at 3 different locations at the exact same time, I decided that the crockpot was destined to be my mode of operation.

With a limited amount of time at my disposal, I quickly pulled together ingredients that I thought would play off of each other nicely – rosemary, lemon, and fresh garlic.  By using the crockpot, the flavors of the dish had ample time to fuse together and the result was a delicious chicken dish that even my youngest son liked (and trust me….that’s a monumental accomplishment!).

The best part about this dish is that it’s as healthy as it is simple… my favorite combination!

Lemon Rosemary Chicken

2.5 lbs. boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper for seasoning
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lemon, sliced
4-5 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Place chicken in crockpot.  Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Sprinkle minced garlic evenly over the chicken.  Layer the lemon slices on top of the chicken, and top with the rosemary sprigs.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Since I’m part rabbit and eat a salad nearly every evening, I added my chicken to fresh spinach with apple slices and an avocado.  You could also serve the chicken with rice and steamed broccoli which would complement the dish quite well.

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Lamb Cupcakes Recipe

by Katie on April 9, 2015

As I mentioned earlier this week, I was on the dessert team for Easter dinner for my extended family.  Since my husband had to work the whole weekend, I decided to throw my energies into making several fun desserts, including these lamb cupcakes.

While they took a little time to make, they were actually really easy to put together.  Plus, since everyone loved how cute they turned out, they were definitely worth the effort.

Lamb Cupcakes

Almond White Cupcakes

2-1/4 cups flour
1-2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup shortening
1-1/4 cups milk
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
5 large egg whites

Beat flour, sugar, shortening, milk, baking powder, salt, and almond extract for 2 minutes until batter is smooth.  Add egg whites and beat for an additional 2 minutes.

Pour batter in cupcake pan with liners, and bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Almond Buttercream Icing

3-3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 stick butter, softened
3-4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon almond extract

Mix sugar, butter, and almond extract until combined.  Add milk until icing reaches desired consistency.  (I typically beat the icing on medium speed for 8-10 minutes to create a light, fluffy icing).


black gumballs
black licorice
candy eyes
candy flowers
miniature marshmallows

Once cupcakes have completely cooled, frost them with the almond buttercream icing.

Place a black gumball at the front of the cupcake, leaving just enough room for a row of marshmallows under the gumball.

Cover the cupcake with miniature marshmallows, laying some on their side and some on their ends to create a “fluffy” lamb.

Using icing, affix two candy eyes to the front of the gumball.

Using a pizza cutter, cut the black licorice into small, fat rectangles for the ears and longer, skinny ropes for the tail.

Attach ears with icing.  Place tails towards the back of the cupcake in between the marshmallows.

For girl sheep, use icing to affix a candy flower next to one of the ears.

If you’re looking for more springtime recipes, be sure to check out my spring dirt cups recipe as well.

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Spring Dirt Cups Recipe

by Katie on April 7, 2015

Since I was on the dessert committee for Easter this year, I tried to make several kid-friendly springtime desserts.  One of our kids’ favorite desserts is the dirt cake that I often make at Halloween time.

Using the same basic recipe, I made a few modifications to change it from a ghostly cake to a springtime surprise.  Instead of using a 9×13 pan, I spooned the dessert in individual plastic cups.  I also traded out the ghosts and pumpkins for fun gummy worms in a variety of different colors.

I actually doubled the recipe below which made 20 individual servings….all of which were gone within five minutes of sounding the dessert bell on Easter!

Dirt Cups Recipe

1 package Jell-O instant chocolate pudding (3.9 oz. each)
2 cups milk
1 tub of thawed Cool Whip (8 oz.)
1/2 package of Oreo Cookies, finely crushed
Gummy worms

Beat pudding and milk in a large bowl with a hand mixer for 2 minutes.  Let mixture stand for five minutes.  Stir in Cool Whip and half of the cookies.

Spoon mixture evenly into 10 plastic cups.  Top with remaining cookies and refrigerate.  Before serving, add a gummy worm (or two!) on top.

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Boston Cream Pie Cake Recipe

by Katie on March 26, 2015

While I’ve cut most sources of refined sugar out of my diet, I have to admit I did splurge and try this Boston Cream Pie Cake.  My mom brought the cake over a few weeks back, and it was an instant hit with our whole family.

As an added bonus, this recipe is incredibly simple to make even though it tastes like you’ve spent hours in the kitchen preparing it.  Of course, you can always let people think you spent hours making dessert!

The recipe calls for a 9×13 pan which works fine for this dessert.  However, if you want to dress the cake up a little bit, you could also prepare it in two 9-inch rounds instead.

In addition to the ingredients I’ve listed below, you’ll also need eggs, vegetable oil, water, and milk to make the cake mix and pudding according to package directions.  The amounts will vary based on the brand you’ve purchased.

Boston Cream Pie Cake

1 yellow cake mix
2 small boxes of vanilla pudding
1 container of chocolate icing

Prepare yellow cake mix according to package directions.  Bake in 9×13 pan.  Allow cake to cool.  Once cooled, poke holes in the cake.

Prepare vanilla pudding according to package directions.  Spread pudding over the cake and refrigerate for one hour.

Microwave the chocolate icing for 15-20 seconds or until of pouring consistency.  Pour icing over the cake.  Refrigerate until ready to be served.


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