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menu planning

We’ve been eating a lot of take out recently. A lot. A disturbing amount even. Little B eats well. He still gets real cooking. In an attempt to get back on track, I’m going to attempt menu planning again! Maybe I will occasionally get to take some pictures and post some food too! My love of Pinterest is helping this effort as well. I’m sure I’ll be making my own version of plenty of these dishes.

So here is what we have for this week:

Saturday Chicken Paprikash
Sunday Sunday Sauce Rigatoni
Monday Quinoa Salad
Tuesday Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
Wednesday Leftovers
Thursday Celery Soup
Friday Leftovers
Saturday Tiffin with friends!

Today our grocery bill was ~$140. Chicken was on sale, so we got a lot. Most will go in the freezer. Since I’m hoping to avoid getting takeout 7 nights, I consider that breaking even. I’d much rather make the food. Most of the time.

::events:: Food Network Book Signing with Jeff Mauro


I have the greatest husband. Ever. It’s true.

Things I have never been into:

  1. Reality television
  2. Books about a reality television show
  3. Book signings

Well. Time for all that to change. I got into Food Network Star. Way into it. We had to set up a recording for it. I think I bought into it so quickly because the standout players (Jeff Mauro, Vic Moea, and Suzie Jimenez) were just awesome. I was excited for any of them to win. I had already bought into their show. Maybe I was more into it because PTB was watching and enjoying the show with me. He was all for Jeff winning. As he mentions on My Latest Distraction, he can get behind the idea of “every meal in a sandwich, every sandwich into a meal.” If only I would let him eat like that.

Anyway… We were so invested in the show, that when we found out on Monday that there would be a local book signing Tuesday night, we had to make it happen. It wasn’t a book I really thought I needed, but come on…you can’t go to a book signing and not get the book signed. I wasn’t able to make it to the event due to prior commitments, so PTB stepped up and like I said…greatest husband ever.

In all honesty, I think he was looking forward to it. He had the book personalized for me, and while he may never look at the book, I think he wanted to go. I told him beforehand, that he and Jeff could be best friends. Within seconds of meeting him, they were both laughing it up, so I guess I was right.

Based on the pictures, they had an amazing time, but for more on the experience, check out Pete’s post on MLD.

The book is actually a show guide for all seven seasons of Food Network Star. It’s a behind the scenes look at the show’s creation, the contestants, the judges. It seems pretty interesting so far. Throughout the book there are kitchen tips, camera tips, and recipes. Look for a review in the near future. Ok…in the future…I have a baby, when do I read?! If you are that impatient, buy it now on Amazon!

The incredibly short book tour wraps up next week in Chicago, IL.

::garden:: Regrowth


It’s hard to believe another week has passed. This Summer just began and it already feels like it is flying by. Maybe that’s just a lack of sleep talking though…This week I cleaned out the fridge. It was sad. What felt like tons of food wasted. While I was getting back into the swing of things cooking, I wasn’t taking the time to create my weekly menu for my shopping trip. I tried to wing it. I failed miserably. If I didn’t have a specific meal planned, I ended up asking PTB to pick up something on his way home as I was exhausted.

We had some rain this week and I am learning my lesson to pay more attention to the weather before I water the plants.

My tomato plant is getting taller! I got to see some tomato plants last weekend that came from my brother as well. I was ashamed… They were planted in the ground and are at least 5 times the size of mine. They were only about 4 inches tall when mine was already well over a foot. Ahh… potted plants. But I am getting a ton of flowers and more and more little fruits. It looks like it is going to be a nice tomato-y summer. Next summer, I’m hoping we will have a grill. Maybe I can fire-roast some of my tomatoes and learn to can? Baby steps, people…I’ve never even kept plants alive this long in the past!

The flowers on my lemon tree didn’t hold up to a storm. I can’t tell what is going to happen to them. The tree is branching out a bit. I am debating whether to trim it or not. Apparently you can treat it like a bonsai?

The herb pots are doing about the same. The basil won’t slow down, and the mint is trying to take over the world! I used quite a bit of the cilantro this week so it is looking a bit bare, but luckily it has a ton of new leaves up top. As for the tarragon…I’m wondering if I just need to start using it quicker? Or maybe picking it and freezing some?

The grape tomato plant is out of control! I’ve hd to spread everything out before it started hanging out in all my other pots. It was trying to crush my okra (no pictures, but it is growing quite nicely). Soooo many flowers on the grape tomato, and one fruit! A few little buds have appeared on the jalapeño just yesterday.

You can see all my garden updates here. If you are in the Lehigh Valley area and want some amazing plants or a farm share, contact my brother!

2011 Deck Garden Week Three
Total Spent: $200  Weekly Savings: $4

::garden:: Week Two


I have not officially killed anything yet! In fact, I might venture to say things are going quite well so far. I have a gardening buddy now. Don’t tell anyone since Sammy (the cat) and I are meant to be mortal enemies. The cat who was once scared of being outside at all now loves to go out of the deck so much that he has started sneaking out the front door and running down the street!

We have had a few rainfalls this past week and the garden is loving it. I would say the basil has doubled in size? It then quickly recovered when I trimmed it down nice and small to make a creamy pesto sauce for lunch the other day. The okra plant has definitely doubled, but no signs of fruit yet. My cherry grape tomato is doing great. Spreading out like wildfire and a few blossoms.

My pride and joy! My lemon tree!! Can I tell you how FREAKING EXCITED I am that there are blossoms on my lemon tree?! Blossoms=Fruit right? Five have bloomed already. I cannot wait to see what happens! This is an ‘improved Meyer’ I really have no idea what that means, but I can’t wait to use a homegrown, sort of organic lemon 🙂

In the other corner is my giant tomato plant. This thing seems unstoppable. It keeps getting taller and has too many blossoms to count. Quite a few baby tomatoes are in progress at this point. The biggest one is probably about 2″ in diameter now? When should I make some Fried Green Tomatoes?

While I haven’t killed anything yet, one herb planter doesn’t seem to be doing that spectacularly. The rain helped the parsley grow a bit, but that and the cilantro just seem…I don’t know.. meh? Any suggestions? Should i be trimming off the pieces that start to wilt? Where do I trim it from? The tarragon is just hanging out in the middle there hoping I pay some attention to it eventually.

This past week I made a creamy pesto sauce using a huge chunk of my basil. We had homemade guacamole with the fresh cilantro, and a couple of dishes used parsley. Even though I only used a bit of parsley and cilantro, it saved me from buying an entire bunch of each, which usually goes to waste. I’m going with a $6 savings this week! YAY!

2011 Deck Garden Week Two
Total Spent: $200  Weekly Savings: $6

::garden:: Just the Beginning

Gardening Week Two

This past Fall we escaped the city to expand our family beyond just husband, wife, dog, cat. Not quite ready to take the plunge into having all the responsibility of owning a home and learning to raise a baby, we went with a townhouse with a tiny front yard that someone else is in charge of taking care of. It suits me just fine as I was never really one to want to be in the garden with my mom. But I have looked forward to having some space to grow some herbs for quite some time, and our deck was the perfect place for that.

This is officially my first adventure into “container gardening”. Thanks to my brother Mark, I was able to expand a bit beyond a basil plant. He helped get me started with a few healthy plants and took me shopping for soil, pots, and anything else I might need. If you are local to the Lehigh Valley area and have some garden space, I believe he may still have some plants left if you want to support a local farmer and know where your food is coming from. He also has some farm shares available.

And so it begins. The staple in so much of my cooking was a must have for my garden. Basil. I can’t survive without it. My hope is that in my basil purchasing alone, I should save enough to pay for all my gardening adventures.

Next I have (clockwise) cherry tomatoes, lemon thyme and mint, and parsley. I tend to use grape tomatoes more often than cherry in my cooking, but I think I can adjust to have some home grown. I bought this plant at Lowe’s and it has a few flowers so far. The thyme isn’t something I purchase quite as often as basil, but I feel like it ends up in quite a few recipes, so I thought it might be worth a try. I am sure I will use the parsley quite a bit. This was one that was never in short supply in my mom’s garden, and I am sure I will work it into even more now that I have some readily available. And…mint. I see some homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream and mojitos in my future.

I’m super excited about the next three. Our very own lemon tree! In the green pot, some okra, and in the red pot a jalapeno plant. We go through lemons like nobody’s business. I always have a pitcher of water in the fridge with lemon slices and I love to add fresh lemon juice to just about anything. I have no idea when we should have some lemons, but I am excited none-the-less. This one will come inside and be our kitchen tree in the winter and hopefully we will have it for many years to come. I’m looking forward to making some gumbo with our very own okra and salsa and guac all summer with the jalapenos!

The last plant on the deck garden is the pride and joy. It will probably be the most successful since the majority of the work was already done for me. Mark raised this tomato until it was about 18″ tall. It already had a couple flowers on it when he gave it to me, but now we already have one baby tomato and a ton of flowers! Here’s hoping I don’t kill it!

2011 Deck Garden Week One
Total Spent: $200  Weekly Savings: $5