Monday, July 26, 2010

This Week's Menu we know how to start off a week!  Today was hectic to say the least.  We decided to round out the day with a trip to urgent care.  Whew!  We're both back at home enjoying the smell of some delicious chicken enchiladas baking away in the oven.  This week's menu is slight and includes some meals that I know will help us carry over into next week.  Without further adieu...

Sunday - Bennett Special
Monday - Chicken Enchiladas a la Wes' aunt Andrea
Tuesday - Homemade Pizza
Wednesday - Peanut Chicken Stir Fry
Thursday - Left Overs
Friday - Salmon Patties with Creamed Peas
Saturday - "Faux"tisserie Chicken a la Our Best Bites

Here's a little chicken enchilada action for you.  Wes' mom made these enchiladas one of the first times that I had dinner with his family and they were absolutley delicious.  I still haven't made them quite as good as Wes' mom, but I don't mind practicing.  The recipe actually belongs to his Aunt Andrea and it is changing even. 

(1) 28oz can of green enchilada sauce
(2) lbs of cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast
(1) can of diced green chilis
(2) cans of Rotel (I like to use the "hot").  If you don't want so many canned products, dice two tomatoes and three jalepeno peppers
(1) 8 oz tub of fat free sour cream or greek yogurt
(1) can of cream of chicken soup


Mix all ingredients except the tortillas and cheese in a bowl.  You will need to incorporate the sour cream fully.  Set aside.  Spray two 9x13 baking dishes with non-stick cooking spray.  Simply roll about 1/3 - 1/2 cup of mixture in a tortilla and wrap it up.  Place the enchiladas in the pan and pack them tightly.  You should be able to get about 8 - 10 in one pan.  Continue until you have about 1 cup of the filling mixture left.  Spread the left over filling mixture over the top of the enchiladas.  Top with cheese.  Cook these is a 400 degree for about an hour until the cheese begins to brown and gets bubbly. 

**Helpful Hints**
I always have extra filling left over.  I freeze it and use it for next time.  This makes preparation so much easier the next time that you make this dish.  Also, these things freeze really well.  I like to make an extra batch and freeze them so I have something quick and easy for dinner during those weeks when I know work or life is going to be crazy.  For more freezer meal ideas you should check out Sweet & Savory.  There are tons of great ideas on this site when it comes to freezing meals and, well just cooking in general. 

I hope you are all off to a great week!  Here's to hoping our's can only get better!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Good Life

Good Saturday morning to you!  Our weekend is starting off wonderfully.  I hope your's is too!  Here in the Dean household, we've found that we are really good planners.  It's our follow through that we need to work on.  So, we've set in motion a few things that we can do that help us on our path to the good life. 
We don't want to be rich.  In fact, neither one of us really even like money.  Our idea of being monetarily comfortable, is having enough for the things that we need, enough to save for the things that we want and the rest we can give to people or organizations who need it more than we do.  I've always thought that the less extra I have, the less complicated my life will be and so far, that theory is correct.  Here are a few things that we do that have helped us so far in our short marriage.  Also, take a look at this website when you have a chance;

First and foremost, if you're so inclined, pay a full tithing.  For those of you not familiar with tithing, it is a donation or payment of 10% of your annual increase.  There have been times where money has been tight and not paying our tithe would have given us a little extra freedom, but our theory is and will always be, that if you can't make it on 90% of your income, you definitely can't make it on 100% of your income.  This is non-negotiable in the Dean family and we have reaped the blessings of making this a hard and fast rule in our home. 

Second, budget, budget, budget.  If you've never budgeted before, start slow.  Two years ago, for three months, I tracked every penny spent.  I was amazed and a little disgusted at how much I sqandered.  Try this first.  You will get a better understanding of how much fuel you use, your grocery spend, etc.  Budgeting your fixed expenses is easy, it's budgeting everything else that can be tricky.  There are some great websites available that are completely free that help you to track your spending habits.  Some also encourage you to change some habits to loosen up money for different things.  My favorite website for this is  This is a great resource that has really helped us to understand our spending habits better.  This site has also helped me to challenge myself to a $40 grocery budget every week, while still purchasing healthy and gourmet ingredients.  Also, we bank through JP Morgan Chase bank.  Every branch has a financial advisor that you can speak to completely free of charge as a service for having an account.  Many banks offer this service.  A financial advisor is a great tool to help you to budget and to plan for your future.  If your bank offers this service, take advantage.   

Third, save!  Even if you are living paycheck to paycheck as so many of us do, try to save.  I am a firm believer in the famous quote from Benjamin Franklin, "A penny saved is a penny earned."  Saving isn't easy.  In fact, saving is really hard in a world where instant gratification is king.  Even if all you have to save at the end of every two weeks is $0.50, it will add up.  It feels good to save.  Wes and I have different savings accounts for different things.  We will save separately for things like vacations, emergencies, church clothes, etc.  On top of these, we have just our general savings that we are looking to build up to about 6 months worth of our monthly expenses.  Once we have accomplished that savings, we will be able to breathe a little bit easier when life throws us a wrench as she so often does. 

These are the things that we try to think about daily and weekly as we budget and spend.  We're far from perfect, and as I mentioned above, we are really good at planning and only sort of mediocre on the follow through, but we're getting there.  Habits change slowly and it definitely takes work in order to increase your savings, but I promise you that life can be good, when you've got one less thing to worry about. 

Next week, I'll discuss some tips for staying in shape.  This is a challenge for me, so you're helpful hints and motivations will be much appreciated! 

In the mean time, start living the good life!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Recipe du Jour!

I love Thursdays!  They're victorious.  You've made it through the bulk of your week, one day left until the weekend.  Ahhhh...sweet Thursdays!  In honor of Thursday, I'm going to give you a recipe, that is actually not on this week's menu, but one that Wes and I enjoy every now and again (or just the one time that I've made it, but we keep talking about enjoying it again). 

Chicken Pesto Pizza
(1) pre-made pizza crust (I'll provide a great crust recipe soon)
12oz - 16oz pesto (I have a great pesto recipe too...think smoky almonds instead of pine nuts, mmmmm!)
12oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded
(2) Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
(1) can of black beans, drained (optional.  Wes is a bean-hater.  I'm a bean-lover.).
Fresh Mozzarella, Chevre, Pepper-Jack, Parmesan (whatever you have on hand)
Fresh ground white pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Spread pesto over pizza crust.  Next, spread chicken, black beans, cheese and tomato (in that order) over crust.  Throw that sucker in the oven and let it warm through until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.  Let it settle for about 5 minutes before slicing.  Put this pizza on your prettiest plate and enjoy! 

**Helfpul Hint**If you choose to boil your chicken breasts for this recipe, throw about 2 heaping tablespoonfuls into the water (this is going to seem like a lot of garlic, but trust me here).  Your chicken will come out more flavorful than you've ever imagined.  That's right, it will blow your mind. 

Until next time! 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This Week's Grocery Adventures

I just had a complete post written praising the buying power of Wal-Mart and their ability to keep prices low and then it disappeared.  The whole thing! 
My grocery list this week was about average.  I had a few staples that needed to be replenished and I needed to purchase almost everything for this week's menu.  Here's where I can get back into praising Wal-Mart and their low prices.  My budget this week was $40.  I spent $28.  This includes all produce (not purchased at Wal-Mart) and yes, meat was on the menu. 
One lesson I've learned recently is that block cheese is definitely the way to go.  I needed to pick up some cheese for this week's menu and really, because cheese is essential in the Dean household.  One large block of the Wal-Mart GreatValue brand was $2.50.  That's it!  For the same amount of pre-shredded cheese from the same brand, I would have paid $4.26.  A mere penny cheaper than the name brand.  Now that's what I call savings.  Invest in a cheese grater or even better, a food processor and shredding cheese is a breeze. 
What's that?  You want to hear more?  Ok...Whole Wheat Pasta!  One 12oz box of whole wheat pasta (penne, angel hair, spagetti, farfalle, rigatoni, shells and small elbows) is $0.88.  The last time I bought a box of name brand whole wheat pasta, it cost $3.99 for 16oz.  Now if you're math whiz, you'll recognize a $0.17 savings per oz over the name brand when you purchase the Great Value brand.  That adds up fast, even if you just eat pasta once a week or once every other week.  And the best thing is, there's not a bit of a difference in taste.  Afterall, dry pasta is pretty hard to mess up. 
Do you have time for one more example?  Frozen vegetables.  I will not by fresh produce from Wal-Mart, it goes bad quickly, the selection is nothing to write home about and well, to be honest, the department is never stocked well (at my Wal-Mart at least).  However, if a vegetable is not in season, rather than buying a mediocre fresh version of the vegetable, I'll look for a frozen alternative.  Eating frozen vegetables is almost as healthy as eating fresh vegetables.  Just stay away from those sodium-packed cans...ew!  So, Wal-Mart offers "steam-in-the-bag" varieties of several vegetables, including broccoli, green beans, corn off the cob, peas, carrots, and several stir-fry blends all for $0.88.  The best thing about this price is that you're getting the same quantity of vegetables as you do in the more expensive name brands.  That's right, a typical savings over the name brand "steam-in-the-bag" frozen vegetable averages about $1.00 per bag.  That's definitely something to write home about.
Now, you just have to be able to brave the crowds, or shop at 11:00pm on Saturdays, like we do!
So, there you have it!  I will fill you in on my produce adventures next week.  Sprouts was the market to go to this week, Sunflower won out the week before.  Let's see who has the best produce prices next week.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

This Week's Dinner Menu

Hello's another scorcher here in Denver this weekend.  102 degrees!  Even without humidity, 102 is H-O-T!  This week's dinner menu is pretty simple and has a carryover meal that I didn't make last week. 

Sunday : BLT Pasta
Monday : Chicken Taco Salad
Tuesday : Chicken & Broccoli Casserole
Wednesday : Catfish with Brown Rice and Mixed Vegetables
Thursday : Grown Up Grilled Cheese and Broccoli
Friday : Bennett Special
Saturday : BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Sweet Potato Fries

The cable that connects my camera to my computer is damaged, so I won't have any photos up quite yet, but am working on being able to take some very amateur photos of the meals I prepare.  Hopefully, I will be able to share pictures soon. 

BLT Pasta
12oz Whole Wheat Penne Pasta
6 pcs of Bacon cooked to crispy, delicious bacon-y goodness
1 Medium Tomato (I used a Beefsteak tomato, but a Roma would be good, too)
1 Handful of Spinach
1 Jar of Prepared Alfredo Sauce or make your own (recipe to come)
Parmesan or Asiago Cheese if your heart desires

Boil pasta according to package directions, ommitting salt and fat (usually 10 - 12 minutes).  While pasta is boiling cook bacon in non-stick pan until crisp.  Drain bacon and remove as much fat as possible.  Reserve a tsp of the bacon fat in the pan and throw in your handful of spinach.  Let it wilt slightly.  When the pasta is done, drain and return to pan.  Add Alfredo sauce and let warn through on a burner turned to low heat.  Add spinach and bacon and let continue to warm.  Dice the tomato and fold into pasta.  Voila - BLT Pasta!  If you're so inclined, garnish with a bit of parmesan cheese or shaved asiago. 

I dreamed up this recipe after Wes' mom suggested BLT's last weekend. is how I think this blog is going to work. 

I will try to post the week's menu on Sunday or Monday along with at least one recipe from the menu.  On Tuesday, I will focus on the shopping and budget for the week.  PS - this week's menu only cost $28 and no, I didn't have most of the items at home already.  I'll give you the tips that I use for shopping smart (or at least as smart as I can) and if there were any amazing deals at the local grocery chains for those of you in the Denver area.  I do typically buy my groceries at two different places : Wal-Mart (I know I know, but whole wheat pasta for $0.88 a box and 16oz blocks of cheese for $2.50 cannot be beat...anywhere and these are regular prices) and Sprouts or Sunflower Market (depending on who has the better produce prices).  Wednesday or Thursday, I will try to give you more recipes and Friday or Saturday will include budgeting tips, planning tips, food storage tips and tips for living a good life, which is what this is all about!