Saturday, May 31, 2008


Tim is installing an exhaust fan in the bathroom today, so our house is covered in a light layer of sheetrock-dust and insulation. I know some people thrive on difficult tasks; I, on the other hand, just shut down the harder a project becomes. And I don't know why.

It's hard for me when I have many "small" tasks to do. Like right now, the dished need to be done, the clothes folded, the house cleaned up, and a few other random tasks. It's just hard for me to get started.

One of the random tasks was to write a blog, so that's what I'm starting with.

I have no new fun food facts. We had some friends over for dinner last night and cooked turkey burgers on the grill and corn on the cob. You can read about how we make our yummy burgers here. Today for lunch we had bacon, lettuce, and pickle sandwiches. They are tasty, but nothing to blog about.

Along with our sandwiches, we had an odd soup I like to make from time to time. I just boil some onions in chicken broth until they're tender, add a little hot sauce, and there you go. We have this soup, but with garlic in it too, whenever one of us (or both of us) has a cold. For some reason today I was just craving it.

Sorry about the random post; I plan to have a menu for you tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Gluten Free Friday, Day 7

I'm going to be switching gears a bit for Gluten Free Fridays. I'm going to move from discussing gluten free basics to discussing how to eat gluten free on a budget.

The biggest grocery money saving change that Tim and I instituted was to create a menu. We try to create our menu around store sales and coupons. This doesn't always work, as a lot of gluten free foods don't usually go on sale or have coupons.

I have a list on my fridge (that I need to update, by the way) of all of the dinners that I can cook or that I'd like to learn to cook. Tim and I'll just sit down and pick dinners off of the list, combining really cheap meals (rice noodles with tomato sauce) with slightly more expensive meals (roast in the crock pot). If I make a more expensive meal, I'll schedule another meal made out of the leftovers. For example if we have a roast in the crock pot, I'll make the leftovers into a beef stew.

We'll then create a shopping list with foods that we need to make the dinners on our menu, and add a few things to the list for breakfasts and lunchs. We shop at a few different stores and only get what's on our list.

I've found that taking these few extra steps has saved us money, and saved me the headache of figuring out what to make for dinner every evening.

Starting in June, we're going to try using only cash for groceries and consumables. We've set a tentative budget of $200/month. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tomato Soup

I've gotten a good deal on diced organic tomatoes, so I've been trying to eat tomato-y food recently. I was just aghast when I found out that Campbell's (and everyone else) puts wheat in their tomato soup! No worries, though; I have a cupboard full of organic tomatoes at home. I just decided to make my own.

I first drained most of the juice from two 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes and tossed them in the blender. After liquifying them, I blended in 1 cup of chicken broth.

I then minced about 5 cloves of garlic and sauted them in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat for about a minute. I added one tablespoon of rice flour and whisked to create a roux. I cooked the roux for a minute, and then mixed in the tomato/chicken broth puree.

As I simmered the soup over low, I added oregano, thyme, coriander, garlic powder, and some hot sauce (Frank's Red Hot, my favorite!). You could add some milk or sour cream to make it creamy; we just ate it how it was. It's definitely going to appear on our menu agian; it was so good!

Thanks to Sister Rae for her assistance with this!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Menu Update

We've made a menu change already this week! On Monday, we were going to have some friends over for dinner after Tim's parents left. Unfortunately I got a horrible migraine, which is unusual for me. I'll get a migraine every once in a while, but not this bad. So Tim just ran out and got Chinese food while I zonked out on the couch.

The Salsa Chicken Soup turned out great on Tuesday! We had our pastor and his wife over for dinner and they both liked it. We also had corn on the cob (yum!) and asparagus on the grill (also yum!).

Tonight our bean burritos were better than expected. We just used refried beans from ALDI and corn tortillas. It was simple and quite good.

Hopefully our friends will be able to come over for dinner on Friday; if they do, we'll have our hamburgers on the grill then and postpone Veggie Fajitas.

I'll post tomorrow about my tomato soup adventure!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Weekly Menu

Here's our menu for this week:
  • Monday - Hamburgers on the grill
  • Tuesday - Salsa Chicken Soup (with leftovers from Sunday)
  • Wednesday - Refried bean burritos
  • Thursday - Tomato soup and grilled cheese
  • Friday - Vegetarian fajitas with black beans

We'll probably go grocery shopping on Thursday for the weekend. We went shopping last Saturday and bought food for dinners through Tuesday. Wednesday through Friday are just "eat from the cupboard" days.

Check out Org Junkies weekly Menu Roundup!

Chipper Sandwich

This one's for my Dad. When I was young, every time we'd venture off to DQ, Dad would invariably get the "Chipper Sandwich." Now, using the chocolate chip cookie recipe at Ginger Lemon Girl, I made my own!

I did use chocolate chip ice cream instead of vanilla. It was still delicious!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


We had my Dad visiting this last Sunday through Tuesday, and now we have Tim's parents coming to visit today through Memorial Day. Actually, their arrival is imminent, so I may have to finish this post in a hurry.

I wanted to talk about today's grocery shopping trip. We hit ALDI and then Wal-Mart. Between both stores, we spent $58.11. We had brought along $60, so we just made it. Nine dollars of that sixty were spent on graduation presents (White-Out), so really our grocery bill was closer to $51.

In general, here's how we do our shopping trips: we first stop at ALDI, then Wal-Mart, and then Hy-Vee if needed. We've already made up our menu and shopping list at home, so first we get everything that we can off of the list at ALDI.

At Wal-Mart, we pick up most everything else off of our list, trying to combine sales and coupons as best as we can. Then, if there's any special gluten free item that I need, we'll go to Hy-Vee. They have a wonderful health foods market that is well stocked with gluten free foods.

It usually takes us about 2 hours, but it's worth it to keep our grocery bill down.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sweet Potato Fries

I had a sweet potato just sitting around, and I had some bacon grease cooling on the stove. "Now," I thought to myself, "what should I make with this sweet potato that would be blog-worthy?"

You guessed it: I cooked up the sweet potato fries in the bacon grease. When they were cooling, I seasoned them with garlic salt. They were very nummy.

Disclaimer: This is not the norm for our household; I do at times make an effort to eat healthy, but I just didn't want to waste that bacon fat, hehe.

Gluten Free Friday, Recap

It's Friday; Gluten Free Friday, to be exact!

We're going to do a quick recap of all the ground we've covered so far on Gluten Free Fridays.

I started by discussing label reading. I pointed out a few ingredients to watch out for. Reading labels becomes a habit; it's second nature to me now.

Then I wrote about ways food can be inadvertently contaminated by gluten. It's important to keep gluten filled and gluten free items seperate in your kitchen. I'm always very conscious of crumbs and such.

The next topic I covered was a money saving tip as well as a helpful gluten free basic: cooking from scratch. It saves you money, and you know exactly what's going into your food.

The following Friday had a similar theme: baking from scratch. This is something I've grown to really enjoy. I like taking nothing but ingredients and creating something delicious. Also, I have a major sweet tooth!

Last Friday I spaced out and posted Gluten Free Friday on Saturday. Whoops! I discussed a gluten free basic that helps to save your sanity. Even though you cook gluten free, make one meal that the whole family can enjoy, not one "regular" meal and one gf meal. It also helps the gluten free-er not feel like the odd duck out.

Next Friday I'll post another money saving tip that applies to those who eat gluten free and those who don't: menu planning.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eating Out

Tenille at Gluten Free Frugal said that she uses cash for groceries, gas, and eating out. I think that going cash for eating out is a great idea. We'll have to switch to that soon.

We're going to start using cash for groceries and consumables (soap, toothpaste, etc.) in June. We're going to shoot for using cash for eating out starting July. Hopefully these changes with help with the whole budgetizing thing!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Grocery Budget

Tim and I are going to try doing cash for our groceries. That way we'll know how much we've spent and how much we have left to spend.

We're going to start with $200.00/month and see how that works. We thought about doing a weekly amount, but I think a monthly amount will work better for us right now. With random rice flour purchases, it fluctuates week by week.

I'll let you know how it works!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ice Cream Pizza!

So, our Sunday School party on Friday was pizza-themed. We had pizza appetizers, pizza entrees, and pizza dessert. Since I very much like dessert, I thought I'd bring along something I could eat. Here's what I came up with:

It's an Ice Cream Pizza. I got the idea while I was trying to fall asleep one night. It couldn't be simpler, and it was oh-so-good!

I started with my chocolate cookie crust that I use for cheese cakes. After freezing the crust, I spread on slightly soften vanilla ice cream. I froze that for just a few minutes, and then spread on mint chocolate chip. I drizzled it with chocolate sauce to top off the decadence.

It was loved by one and all!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

I brought along a Barbecue Chicken Pizza to our Sunday School party on Friday. It was pretty small, so I ate most of it myself. A few of my friends tried it, and they said that they liked it even though the crust was a little bit unusual.

Here's what it looked it:

I put barbecue sauce on the crust instead of tomato sauce. I topped it with caramelized onions, cooked chicken, and Mozzarella cheese. I really liked it; I'm definitely going to make it agani!

Check out my post here to read about what crust I use.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Gluten Free Friday, Day 5

(You know that you're having a busy week when you don't even realize that you missed your weekly post until the next day! Sorry about that!)

Well, continuing with my weekly Gluten Free Basics series, today I'm going to talk about an aspect of eating gluten free that helps you maintain some normalcy in your life.

I don't know your situation, but in my family, I eat gf and my hubby doesn't. But, rarely do I make two seperate meals. It helps me to stay gluten free, and keeps my stress levels down, when I can make a gluten free meal that my whole family can enjoy.

Check out our menu and you'll see that I make "normal" food. I try to not make eating gluten free too complicated. I make foods that are naturally gluten free and foods that we can both enjoy.

There is one gluten-filled meal that Tim still wants to have from time to time: Mac'n'Cheese. So on occasion, I'll make Mac'n'Cheese for Tim and rice noodles for myself. But besides that, I cook one breakfast and one dinner (we pack our lunches). It helps me to not go crazy to just make one meal for the both of us.

What gluten free meals do you make that are so good, your gluten-eating friends and family can't tell the diiference?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Weekly Menu

Well, here's the menu; better late than never, I guess.
  • Wednesday - Patient Appreciation Day at our chiropractor: free dinner
  • Thursday - Breakfast
  • Friday - Pizza party with Sunday school class. I'll bring barbecue chicken pizza
  • Saturday lunch - Grad open house: hamburgers
  • Saturday dinner - Chicken on the grill
  • Sunday lunch - Taco salad
  • Sunday dinner - Beefaroni
  • Monday - Split pea chowder (again, since we loved it so much!)
  • Tuesday - Spanish rice and beans

I just found out yesterday that my Dad is coming to visit Sunday through Tuesday. Hopefully he likes split pea chowder! I'd set the menu before I knew when he was coming, so we're sticking with it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Desperate Times

Yes, we're entering desperate times in our household. Well, that might be a bit of an overstatement, but we are running quite low on food stuffs!

I'm going to set the menu and head to the store tonight, but the question came up about what to have for dinner before we go shopping. Tim sweetly suggested having breakfast food since we have bacon, potatoes, and eggs. Unfortunately we had crepes (that had 4 eggs in them) for breakfast, and we each had 2 hard boiled eggs for lunch. So, we've both had 4 eggs today! I'm just not really in the mood for eggs again for dinner!

Also, we're completely out of cheese. I just can't have a bacon egg sandwich without cheese; that would be unheard of! Luckily, we have a $10 off coupon for Lone Star Steakhouse. If we split something cheap, we'll just have to pay tax and tip. That's do-able at this time, so that's what we're going to do!

I'll post a menu later today, or tomorrow perhaps.

Fruit Salad

My friend Jess bought a butter braid bread loaf from our church youth fundraiser. It was Strawberry and Cream Cheese flavored. That sparked my imagination: I had strawberries and cream cheese in my fridge at home. What fun and tasty concoction could I come up with?

I didn't measure anything out, just flew by the seat of my pants. While I pureed about 4 large strawberries, milk, and a little sugar in the blender, I soaked my package of Neufchatel, still in its foil, in some warm water. I then beat the strawberry mixture and cream cheese together with my hand mixer.

After adding in some fruit, I got this wonderful fruit salad!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I'm listening to a piece that I played with my local symphony yesterday. It was only for 3 string players, 2 woodwind players, 1 brass player, 1 piano player, and 4 percussionists (one was me!).

That's a pretty small group. Normally I'm on stage with about 50 people, not only 10 others. The composer was actually at the concert, and our rehearsals, too, so that really added to the pressure.

I like the piece; it grew on me. It's quiet modern and has a lot of time signatures switches. That makes it really hard to follow, so you have to be glued to your sheet of music the whole time. You practically can't even take a breath for the whole piece, which is over ten minutes long.

Needless to say, it was very difficult, taxing, and fun. Then I came home and made baked potatoes and had friends over for dinner. We played Settlers of Catan after dinner. Tim won. Sorry, this was kind of a random post. I appreciate randomness from time to time; I hope you do too.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Last night my hubby planned us a date to Applebee's. We hadn't been there for over a year. Boy, did their prices go up or what?!

Tim called the manager of our local store yesterday. He was helpful, albeit a bit put out. He gave Tim the number for their Guest Relations hotline. Tim called the hotline today, and she was a bit vague, but Tim did get out of her a few gluten free entrees.

I choose the Bourbon Street Steak. I'm not sure why I choose that, since I don't care for cajun seasoning that much, but I still enjoyed it. I order a side salad ("No croutons, please.") and a baked potato to go with my steak.

I had a very nice evening out with my favorite guy!

Friday, May 9, 2008

My Bread

Carrie and Anonymous both asked about the bread recipe that I posted. In the post, there is a link, but I'll give it to you here as well. It's called Imporoved Basic Bread from Mike Jones.

Since it gives an option of which flours to use, Carrie wanted to know what I used. In my photos I used 3 cups of Gourmet Blend (2 cups white rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch, and 1/3 cup tapioca four). I've also tried Mike's Mixture C: 2 cups white rice flour and 1 cup brown rice flour.

This last time I made my bread I used an altered Gourmet Blend. Instead of 2 cups white rice flour I used 1 cup white rice flour and 1 cup brown rice flour. This last loaf turned out really great. I make just have to always make it that way.

Thanks for the good questions!

Gluten Free Friday, Day 4

If you missed last Friday, check out my post on cooking from scratch here.

Today I'm going to discuss a big money saver for me: Baking from Scratch.

I used to buy Ener-G Foods Light Tapioca Loaf. While it's sort of tasty (when toasted), it's quite spendy. My Hy-Vee sold it for $3.99, and I could eat through at least one a week. After a year, I decided it was time for a change. I now make my own bread in the Breadman TR875, which has a gluten free setting. It's much cheaper, and I actually like it quite a bit better. Here's the bread recipe that I use.

Baking gluten free can be a challenge, though. It requires a lot of different ingredients. I haven't branched out into the various beans flours yet; I mostly use rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and quinoa flour. Xanthan gum adds the stickiness that the gluten free flours need. It's a necessity, but quite expensive. Luckily recipes call for it in small amounts.

Making bread taking a while since there are so many ingredients. I've found that measuring out two sets of the dry ingredients (one for using right away and one for storing for later) really is a time saver. Also, I usually remove my dough from the bread machine and have it rise on the stove. Then I just bake it in the oven in a regular loaf pan. Otherwise, the loaf ends up being pretty small and has a hole in the middle from the kneading paddle.

I've set up my kitchen to facilitate ease of access to all of my ingredients. I've found that I'm much more motivated to bake when I can get to everything I need with reasonable speed. If I know I'll have to dig in my cupboards for hours just to get all the stuff out, I'm not going to do it.

(My baking drawer)

I haven't done much baking experimentation yet; I usually just follow the recipe. I hope to one day branch out and try things on my own. When I do, I'll be sure to share the (good) recipes with you!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Baked Potatoes with Yummy Toppings

Seamaiden at Book of Yum was wondering what the "yummy toppings" are that I put on my baked potato. Well, here's a few:
  • Butter
  • Sour Cream
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese (of course)
  • Turkey Bacon
  • Caramelized Onions
  • Corn, Peas, Broccoli, any other Frozen Veg I have in the freezer
  • S & P

I always rub the potato skin with a little shortening and sprinkle it with sea salt before I bake it. It doesn't get "yummier" than that!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Unusual Cream Cheese Puffs

Okay, I was craving a sort of sweet and sugary cream cheese wonton. (Check out my other sweet craving here.) Luckily, that craving is now behind me.

I blended some sugar into cream cheese, filled some rice paper, and deep fried. I then dipped the warm finished product into cinnamon sugar. They were actually pretty good, but I think I'll shoot for a more "normal" wonton next time I have rice paper on hand.

Crepes for Breakfast!

I stumbled upon this great crepe recipe, and I'm sure glad I did (thanks for the link Karina)! I had all three of the igredients in my kitchen, so I whipped up some for breakfast this morning. I am definitely having these again.

They were eggy and light. And they were easy to flip. They cooked up nice and quick. I really couldn't complain about any aspect of my breakfast experience (how's that for a Minnesotan-ism?).

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Split Pea Chowder

I know, I know. This picture does not look all that edible. But, I dare you to find a really yummy-looking picture of split pea soup! There may be one out there, but with my rudimentary photography skills, I could not put it off.

I'm still sharing this with you because this soup is so delicious, it doesn't matter what it looks like! Tim and I had it for dinner last night, and then again for breakfast this morning because we liked it so much.

Split Pea Chowder

16 oz. dried Split Peas
2 medium Potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 medium Onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced Garlic
4 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Water
1 cup Milk (skim works fine)
S & P to taste

Soak the dried peas overnight. Drain and rinse peas. In a large pot, combine all ingredients except the milk. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low for 1 hour. Add the milk and bring back up to serving temperature. Enjoy!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Spaghetti Pie

You might remember that last week's menu included Spaghetti Pie. Since my oven is on the fritz (major disappointment!), I prepared the pie and then brought it to our friends' house to bake and share. (Beth made the salad. Isn't it pretty?) Here's my recipe:

Spaghetti Pie

8-10 oz. rice noodles, cooked
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese
Parmesan cheese, optional
1/2 lb. ground turkey/hamburger
chopped onion
12 oz. spaghetti sauce
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brown meat and onions. Set aside.
Mix the cooked noodles, butter, and eggs together and spread in the bottom of a pie plate.
Spread the ricotta over the noodle "crust" and sprinkle parmesan over it.
Mix spaghetti sauce with the meat and onions and spread over the ricotta and parmesan.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
Top with mozzarella cheese and bake 5 more minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Let me know if you've made spaghetti pie before and how your recipe differs from mine. We can learn from each other!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Weekly Menu - Leftovers

I've decided not to go grocery shopping this week. Well, at least not for dinner stuff. I think I will pick up some fruit and a few things for lunch, but this week's grocery bill should hopefully be small.

Tim helped me put together a dinner menu with whatever was left in our cupboards. Here's what we came up with:
  • Sunday dinner - Baked potatoes with yummy toppings
  • Monday - Split pea soup
  • Tuesday - Burritos with homemade refried beans
  • Wednesday - Breakfast (pancakes, eggs, turkey bacon)
  • Thursday - Chicken soup
  • Friday - Pizza

On Saturday we'll go grocery shopping after breakfast so we'll be set for next week. Yeah for saving almost a week's worth of grocery money!

Check out OrgJunkie for more menu ideas.

Hey, also check out Cooking, Illustrated for more gluten free menus!

Oh, Yummm

Yesterday, I took my own advise and we made this for dinner:

We cooked all naturally gluten free foods: chicken, corn, and potatoes. Tim cooked the chicken and the tater-tots (in foil) on the grill. Half way through grilling, he added barbecue sauce to the chicken breasts. Oh, yes; it was bar-be-licious!

A "simple" dinner like this is easy to prepare and is so delicious, there's no need to complicate it!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

CVS Trip, again, with the Month of May Deals, WooHoo!

I know I just posted about CVS, but I'm so PUMPED about the May deals that I got last night!

Here's how it went down:

Transaction #1
2 Tums QuikPaks - $9.38
1 Adidas deodorant - $4.99
1 Chapstick Naturals - $2.99

$3/$15 CVS coupon
$4.49 off of Adidas
$7.98 in Extra Care Bucks (ECBs)

Total out of pocket = $2.34
Total ECBs earned = $15.37

Transaction #2
2 Post-It Flags - $4.00
2 Adidas deodorant - $9.98
1 Chapstick Naturals - $2.99

$3/$15 CVS coupon
2 $4.49 off of Adidas
$4.00 in ECBs

Total out of pocket = $1.90
Total ECBs earned = $10.98

Transaction #3
2 Colgate 360 toothbrushes - 7.98
3 Colgate toothbrushes on clearance - $2.00
1 Orapik Traveler - $2.79
2 Aquafresh Advance toothpastes - $5.98
2 Duracell 4 packs - $9.58

$3/$15 CVS coupon
2 $1.00 off Aquafresh
1 $1.00 off Colgate
2 $0.75 off Duracell
$17.99 in ECBs

Total out of pocket = $3.35
Total ECBs earned = $16.75

So I walked in with $22.98 total in ECBs, walked out with $41.11 in ECBs, and paid $7.59 out of pocket. Not too shabby, if I say so myself! I should say that I rarely do multiple transactions, but with the coupons I had, it just worked better that way. I luckily had a very helpful and obliging cashier.

As usual, a big "Thanks" to Crystal at Money Saving Mom for putting together such great deals!

Seriously, I will get back to talking about eating gluten free, but this blog is about eating gluten free cheaply, so I think this post can slide by :)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Gluten Free Friday, Day 3

Continuing with my Gluten Free Basics series, today I'm going to post about Cooking from Scratch.

Eating gluten free is simple if you can cook some things from scratch. Of course, many of us do not feel entirely proficient in the kitchen (myself included). Don't let that stop you from being adventurous! Don't be afraid to try new things. When you make something from scratch, you know exactly what's in it and you can be sure that it truly is gluten free.

You can read here about my first experience cooking with dried beans. I was a little nervous about trying it, but since it turned out fine, I'm much more confident now when I use dried beans. I feel a good sense of accomplishment that comes only from tackling something that's "scary," and realizing it's really easy! And, I have a renewed zeal for experimenting in the kitchen!

Use foods that are naturally gluten free; there are a ton of them. Cook with rice, beans, meats, fruits, and veggies. When you combine these foods, you've got a meal so great, you won't even notice it's gluten free. It's just a "normal" meal.

Rice noodles are a staple in our house. We have "spaghetti" usually at least every other week, and we have rice noodles for breakfast every Thursday morning. We buy our rice noodles at the local Oriental foods store called Nana's Oriental Market. It's much cheaper than the rice noodles at our grocery store (Hy-Vee). We'll sometimes get rice pasta from the health food section of Hy-Vee for a macaroni hotdish or something, but we generally stick with oriental rice noodles.

So don't be timid in the kitchen; try new things in your gluten-free-cooking-from-scratch journey!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

CVS Trip

I stopped by CVS on my way home from work today. Here's what I got:

The Post-It's were on sale for $2.00 each and the tooth brushes were on sale for $3.99 each.

I used a few coupons:
  • $3 off of $15 CVS purchase
  • $1 off Colgate tooth brush
  • 2 $3 off of 2 Post-It products

I then used $4 in Extra Care Bucks.

I ended up paying $4.75 out of pocket, but I got $12.98 in Extra Care Bucks back to use next time I go to CVS.

Check out Money Saving Mom for CVS deals and other great deals.