Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween + GO VOLS!!!

In honor of my beloved Vols victory against South Carolina tonight combined with my recent discovery of polyvore, here's an example of my typical gameday look. Enjoy!

Game Day
Game Day by kmcclan1 featuring J Crew

Also, in light of the fact that I have an actual job interview on Monday I thought I'd show my interview attire via polyvore since it is my new obsession.

Friday, October 30, 2009

$5 Friday (extremely late)

Again, I have been a very VERY bad blogger. I am so sorry for being absolutely MIA this week and failing to post a $5 Friday last week. I did prepare a $5 meal but got a little sidetracked as my mom came into town this week :-)! Which meant that I spent Friday and Saturday night cleaning (my mom is the cleanest person I know so I always clean like a maniac when anticipating her arrival). Anyway, because Mom flew in on Sunday and stayed until Wednesday I was unable to post during that part of the week because I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her.

On top of the very exciting Mom visit, I also started a new part time retail job. While I love the legal work I am currently doing at a public interest firm, it doesn't pay me anything (well except for good experience) so I've had to take a part time job until I find something full time (fingers crossed -- I've got an interview on Monday).

As you can tell it has been a very very busy week so I hope y'all will forgive my terrible blogging. That said, here is the much anticipated (hopefully) $5 Friday from last week. I bought the ingredients at my local supermarket (Jewel) and it cost a whopping $10.12 so I did go a little over budget. Amy T suggested a Mexican theme and CTB wanted something with meat so I did both and made Tex Mex bowls with flour tortillas. I'll update this post with pics tomorrow sometime.

Tex-Mex Fajita Bowls
1 small can salsa ($.99 in the Mexican foods isle)
1 bag frozen chopped onions ($1.29 in freezer section)
1 bag frozen chopped green peppers ($1.59 I think in freezer section)
1 package beef for pan frying already sliced ($1.92 in meat section)
1 package flour tortillas ($1.59 I think in Mexican foods isle)
1 can black beans ($.89 in canned food section)
1-2 cups brown rice (depends on how much rice you like, $1.39 bag, which makes a whole lot more)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of the following: oregano, chili powder, granulated garlic, cumin, salt, pepper (freebies)
1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon olive oil (freebies)
1 tablespoon butter (freebies)
Drain and rinse the beans. In a large dutch oven or sauce pan, heat up the olive oil over med. heat. Add the beans and if you'd like some fresh garlic if you have it. Allow the beans to cook for a bit then add the rice and the butter. Allow the rice to brown a bit and then add the liquid according to package directions (you can use water or if you've got some on hand beef or chicken stock.) Add 1 teaspoon of the salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, chili powder and granulated garlic. Allow to cook following package directions as you prepare the steak mixture.
While the beans and rice cook, in a large skillet, heat up the remaining olive oil over med. to med. high heat. Add the frozen onions and peppers. Stir well. Add the salsa. Allow to cook for a bit. Meanwhile slice the beef into smaller pieces so that they kind of mimic the onions and peppers. Add the 1 tablespoon of the oregano, chili powder, granulated garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. There will be some liquid in the pan. At this point the rice should be almost finished. Add the rice to the steak mixture. Microwave the tortillas for around 30 seconds until they are warm and soft.
Serve with the tortillas and if you'd like sour cream, cheese and other Tex Mex toppings.
Happy Friday!

Friday, October 23, 2009

$5 Friday is going to be $5 Saturday this week

The bf and I had to go downtown today so that he could have a suit altered so we made tonight a date night. Luckily we found a graduation present restaurant gift card so we were able to go to one of our favorite places!

Have a good Friday night :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

$5 Friday is upon us

Just a reminder that tomorrow is the second helping of $5 Friday. I'd love to hear some of your meal suggestions! Don't be afraid to post something that you think can't be made for under $10, I'm pretty creative so name your meal and I'll figure it out!

Also, you can get the ingredients for a meal under $10 at places other than Dollar Tree so if there is a specific place you want me to shop at let me know as well.

Finally, if you are going to participate, please become a follower if you are not already one.

Also, if I don't get any suggestions I'm going to come up with something on my own and it will probably be from Dollar Tree again (because I need to go there anyway).

Monday, October 19, 2009

There's something about Monday

I got the official letter with tickets to my swearing in today! On November 5, 2009, I will officially be Katie, Esquire. I have to admit it is a VERY strange feeling that is almost impossible to describe -- it is something I've worked so hard for over the last 7 years and it is one of those mileposts that has finally made me realize that I'm a grown up. Weird.

On another note, I'm really excited about all of your comments about $5 Friday. Remember, I'd love to create $5 dinners based on your suggestions so up until Friday, please post your suggestions about what I should make or where I should shop. Also, remember that if you're going to make a suggestion, please become a follower if your are not one already!

That said, the bf's aunt and uncle came over for dinner on Saturday night and I created the best recipe for a raspberry and apple crostata (we also had Julia Child's beef bourguignon which is amazing). Anyway, the crostata actually started out as an apple pie, BUT I couldn't find my pie plate so my pie turned into a crostata at the last minute. I'm really excited about how well it turned out.

Raspberry and Apple Crostata
1 premade pie crust (not the kind that comes in the pie plate, the kind that comes in a box)
2 medium size apples chopped (or 3 small apples)
1 cup frozen raspberries (thawed)
juice and zest of 1 lime
2-4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons butter melted
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat oven according to pie package directions. In a mixing bowl, mix the apples, raspberries, lime juice and zest, cinnamon, sugar and 1 tablespoon butter together. Set aside, unwrap the pie crust. Sprinkle with flour and roll out with a rolling pin until the crust looks like a med. pizza. Place the crust on a cookie sheet or pizza pan that has been greased with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the apple/raspberry mixture in the middle of the crust. Fold the edges of the crust on top of the apple/raspberry mixture. Pinch together the crust so that none of the fruit oozes out. Brush the crust with the melted butter. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the sugar.
Bake until the crust is golden brown and the apple/raspberry mixture is bubbly.


Friday, October 16, 2009

$5 Friday is Here

Mission accomplished, I created dinner consisting of ingredients from the Dollar Tree for $6. From what was available, I purchased the ingredients for a Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Bisque with Garlic Cheese Croutons. That's $6 for 4 people, not $6 per person. I actually could have done it for $5 but I decided at the last minute to use chicken stock rather than water. Below is a pic of my basket at Dollar Tree.

Here are the ingredients for tonight's dinner on my counter so that you can get an idea of what I used. As you can see I used chicken stock, roasted red peppers, evaporated milk, pasta sauce, mozzarella cheese and Texas toast. For the first time I've posed pictures of the cooking process so that you can follow along with me. Remember, spices and oil are freebies b/c most of us have those on hand.
Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Bisque with Garlic Cheese Croutons
1 can roasted red peppers in liquid ($1)
0.5 box of chicken stock ($1)
1 can traditional tomato pasta sauce ($1)
1 can evaporated milk ($1)
2 teaspoons salt, crushed red pepper flakes, basil and granulated garlic (freebies)
2 tablespoons olive oil (freebies)
2 cloves garlic minced (OPTIONAL - this adds another $1 to the dish unless you have them on hand which I did so $0 - $1)
Garlic Cheese Croutons:
1 box frozen Texas Toast ($1)
1 small bag shredded cheese (I used Mozzarella) ($1)

Start by removing the red peppers from the liquid they came in and placing the peppers in a food processor. Process the peppers until they look like a sauce (like crushed tomatoes) See below.
As you can see below, Paddy likes to watch me in the kitchen, the pic was too cute not to include.
In a large dutch oven over med. low heat add the olive oil. If you are using fresh garlic add the fresh garlic and the crushed red pepper flakes. Add the processed red peppers. Stir very well then add the pasta sauce. At this point start whisking the ingredients. Now add the liquid from the roasted red peppers and 1/2 a box of chicken stock. Add the salt, pepper, granulated garlic and basil. Stir well, see below for pic.

Continue to whisk the sauce well to make sure all ingredients combine.

Cover the soup and simmer for 20-30 minutes over med. low to low heat. While the soup simmers, preheat the oven for the Texas toast. Place 4 pieces (or the whole box) on a cookie sheet. Bake until the toast is almost done. Remove from oven and top with the cheese (see below). Place back in the oven and allow the cheese to melt.
Just prior to serving, add the can of evaporated milk. Whisk well to make sure the soup is evenly mixed and creamy.

Remove the toast from the oven. It should look like this.

Now place the soup in bowls and serve with one piece of the soup as shown below. OR you can skip melting the cheese on the toast and you can put the soup in the bowls and top with the cooked toast then top with cheese. Place the bowls in the oven and allow the cheese to melt (like French Onion Soup).
Enjoy! This would be great to entertain with, call it grown up tomato soup and a grilled cheese! To keep with the $5 theme, have friends bring various bottles of 2 buck chuck from Trader Joes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Something new I'm trying

So after a couple of years of reading Everyday with Rachael Ray and looking at the $10 dinner feature in the magazine, I have felt the need to comment. I find this section really annoying because the amounts listed in the $10 section aren't really available to purchase. How can you buy $.10 worth of olive oil and $.07 worth of parsley anyway?

Anyway, in an attempt to show that you can actually make dinner for less than $10, I'm starting a new feature on my blog called $5 Fridays. Here's what I'm going to do -- every Friday I'm going to post a recipe for a $5 dinner (or a dinner between $5 and $10). This dinner will serve 4 people and you'll get to follow me from store to table. I've decided that I'm going to show that you can do this anywhere, not just the discount store. The ingredients (all of them) will be listed in amounts that can actually be purchased (no $.04 worth of carrots here). Also, spices, salt, pepper, and oil will be freebies since most people I know have these on hand anyway.

So here is where you, my awesome readers, come in (this is an interactive feature by the way), I want you to suggest what I make OR you can suggest where I shop. In order to show that you really can throw something together for $5 I'm going to either shop where you want me to or make what you want me too. Here are the rules: (1) in order to suggest I'd like for you to become a follower if you are not already one; and (2) you can only suggest one thing -- either a dish or a store. I like a challenge but keep it reasonable -- remember I've only got $5 to spend.

I was also thinking that this could be a fun competition among you and your friends, like a $5 Top Chef challenge or something. You and a group of friends could plan a month where once a week someone different hosts a dinner party with a $5-$10 budget and after dinner everyone rates a dish and at the end of the month you look at the score cards and pick a winner.

This week's $5 dinner is coming from my favorite money saving spot -- Dollar Tree. Next week will be up to you!

Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

There's a chill in the air

Which usually means soup for me, but the bf talked me into buying some pork chops at the supermarket last week and his cousin gave us a ton of apples this past weekend (which needed to be eaten). The picture shows what I made for dinner..

Before I state the obvious (that I make smothered pork chops with apples and garlic parmesan mashed potatoes), I have a confession - I'm an Aldi shopper and I love it. So what nothing in my pantry is name brand, who cares, the quality is excellent and the prices are low. Aldi is where I purchased the pork chops, I got a large package for $3.99 and they were great. Now that I've shared my love of Aldi onto the recipe.

Smothered Pork Chops
Pork Chop Marinade
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon bbq sauce
1 tablespoon each: steak seasoning, sage, pepper, chili powder
1 teaspoon each: cayenne pepper, salt
1 package pork chops (any kind you like)

Mix all of the ingredients together. Add the pork chops to the marinade. Keep in the refrigerator for an hour or two before cooking.

4 medium size apples chopped
1 onion chopped
3 ribs of celery chopped
1 hard apple cider (like Woodchuck)
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon each -- sage, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup evaporated milk
flour for dredging

Preheat oven to 300. In a large skillet heat some olive oil. Remove the pork chops from the marinade allowing excess to drip off. Dredge the pork chops in some flour and cook in the olive oil 1 minute per side so that the outsides have browned. Remove from pan. Add some more olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the celery, onions and apples. Cook until the onions are soft. Add the flour and the last tablespoon of the butter. Stir well. Add the hard cider and stir well. Add the pork chops back to the pan. Cover with the apple mixture. Cook for another minute on the stove top. Cover the skillet and transfer to the oven for an hour, stirring once.

Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
1 lb red potatoes cut into big pieces
1 tablespoon salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 handful fresh parsley minced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
splash evaporated milk
2 tablespoons butter
Boil the potatoes until fork tender. Drain and return to pot. Add the salt, pepper, garlic, granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon butter and milk. Mash using either a hand mixer or a masher. Taste to check seasonings.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Random Question

Here's a good question -- has anyone ever inquired about the free stuff listed on Craigs List? I've had luck purchasing stuff (I got a used LV on Craigs List for a good price) as well as selling stuff (I sold my old washer and dryer), but I have never inquired about the free stuff.

Anyway, the reason I'm asking is that I found a posting for a Victorian Eastlake parlor set for free. It's in awful condition BUT I'm adept at fixing stuff up (I can refinish and do basic upholstery). I'm not really sure where I'd put it or how I'd get it home (today is one of those days I REALLY miss the Jeep), but it seems like it could be a great project, especially when the bf and I move into a bigger place.

The posting has pics of the set and it includes a settee and 4 parlor chairs, which would be awesome in a more formal dining room. I've got some leftover fabric from previous projects (black and white polka dot + black and white harlequin print) that I could use to replace the fabric, and I've got plenty of black satin paint. All I'd need to buy would be trim and maybe some additional fabric.

So here's my question -- does this seem like a poor decision?

UPDATE -- I inquired about picking up the set and it had already found a new home :-(
Hopefully there will be other similar finds!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Who loves to cut calories?

Well I certainly do, and last night I was able to make one of my favorite dishes minus several hundred calories! The bf actually liked the low fat version better. I'm also a bit obsessed with this recipe because it contains several of the foods that Dr. Oz considers "super foods."

I hope you all enjoy my healthier version of Chicken Parmesan.

Healthier Chicken Parmesan
For the Sauce:
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 small onion minced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of each: Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, granulated garlic
1 teaspoon each: Emeril's Essence, Crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 handful fresh parsley finely chopped

Preheat oven to 300. In a large dutch oven heat the olive oil over med. low heat. Add the onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until the onions are soft. Add the tomato paste and allow to melt a bit. Do not throw away the tomato paste can yet. Add the diced tomatoes. Fill the tomato paste can with water and add to the pot. Stir well. Add another can of water. Add the salt, pepper, granulated garlic, Italian seasoning, oregano, basil and essence. Cover and allow to cook for 10 minutes or so. Stir and add the parmesan cheese. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer as you prepare the chicken.

For the Chicken:
1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs with Italian seasoning
2 eggs
splash of milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of the following: Emeril's essence, granulated garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

While the sauce is simmering prepare the chicken. First, with a meat mallet, pound out the chicken breasts so that they are thin (they should look like a chicken cutlet). Next in three separate dishes prepare the breading. In one dish add the flour and 1 tablespoon of the essence and garlic plus salt and pepper to taste. In the next dish as the eggs and milk, with salt and pepper to taste, whisk well. In the final dish add the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and the additional seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. I like to take Rachael Ray's advice and make an assembly line. First bread the chicken in the flour mixture. Dust off excess and dip in the egg mixture. Finally dip in the bread crumbs and transfer to a cookie sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Once you have coated all of the chicken breasts spray the top of each with nonstick cooking spray.

Bake at 400 for 20 to 30 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Putting it together:
While the chicken bakes and the sauce simmers prepare some pasta. Once the chicken is done, mix the pasta sauce with the pasta. Place on a plate and top with the chicken. Top the chicken with some additional sauce and a bit of cheese (Italian blend works well). The sauce will melt the cheese.

I served this with salad.

This is a really pretty meal, I wish I had taken pics of it to show with the post. Enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ready for brunch

I love a good brunch, it is one of my favorite meals to cook and to create recipes for! This weekend while making eggs for the bf and I, one of my new favorites was created. I've always loved breakfast burritos (esp. the ones from McDonald's) so I finally came up with my own version.

Breakfast Burritos
4 eggs
splash of milk
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies drained very well
1 onion minced
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 green or red pepper minced (optional)
1/2 to 1 cup of American cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsp. Emeril's Essence, Italian seasoning
3-4 slices of bacon chopped (OR you could add some ham or sausage)
1 package of tortillas

You will need two (2) nonstick skillets for this recipe. In the first one add the chopped bacon, ham or sausage and allow to cook. In the second one heat some butter mixed with olive oil. Add the onion and allow to soften. Add the diced tomatoes with green chilies, garlic, and green pepper. Cook for a bit and then reduce the heat to low. In a bowl crack the eggs add the seasonings and a splash of milk. Whisk well and add the egg mixture to the skillet. Scramble the eggs with the veggies. Add the cheese and allow to melt and cook with the eggs.

Meanwhile, warm the tortillas in the microwave. When the eggs are almost cooked, add the bacon, ham or sausage. Mix into the egg mixture.

Fill the warmed tortillas with the egg mixture and roll up like a burrito. Serve with sour cream, salsa, additional cheese, hash browns and guacamole if you'd like.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

It's definately fall!

It is finally fall here in Chicago! This was definitely a shock coming back after 5 days in sunny San Francisco! I have to admit I'm loving the fall weather, mostly because it means I can wear my cute boots and blazers and not look like an idiot. I'm also loving this weather because it means I can create new soup recipes.

This week's creation was Black Bean Soup, and it is super easy and cheap to make!

Black Bean Soup
2 cans black beans and liquid
1 can corn and liquid
1 can diced green chilies
1 med. size tomato diced
1 onion chopped
2-3 cloves garlic minced
2 carrots chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
1 tablespoon each: cumin, chili pepper, Italian seasoning, essence, granulated garlic, sage, salt, and pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 beef bone (or 1 can beef broth)
1 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large dutch oven melt the butter into the olive oil over med. low heat. Add the carrots, onion, garlic, and celery. Allow to cook until soft. Add the tomatoes and green chilies (you can substitute the fresh tomatoes and canned green chilies for 1 can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, I used fresh tomatoes because they were about to go bad). Cook for a bit. Add the black beans. Fill each can of black beans with water and add to the pot. Add the beef bone (if using beef broth omit one of the cans of water) and the corn. Stir well. Add the salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and other spices. Stir well.

Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until you are ready to eat. This soup is ready after 30 minutes but gets even better the longer it cooks!

Happy October everyone! Also.. GO VOLS!! And thanks to everyone for the sweet comments about the bf and I passing the bar exam! We're still super excited about the news ourselves!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Super Awesome News!!!

I PASSED THE IL BAR EXAM!!! I'm now officially an attorney!! I get sworn in on Nov. 6!!

On a side note, the bf also passed the bar exam, but this is my blog so damnit I get all of the glory!!