This summer, I have been focusing on building meal with ingredients that are:

1. In-season
2. Locally grown
3. Affordable

So far, this has resulted in an bevy of new recipes for me - some of which have stayed in my rotation rather frequently. With each week or so, I'm trying to add another new in-season produce pick to my meals. So far, DH & I are loving it. From summer fruit based salsas to light-as-air desserts options, we've been tasting all the season has to offer. Right now, peaches and berries are taking a primetime spot on our meal plan rotation.

Over the weekend, I'm planning to grill some lovely peaches, toss plump, ripe strawberries into a mixed green salad, and whip up a sweet fruit salad to go along side some light and lowfat bars, to balance out some of the heartier fare on offer. Barbeques don't have to be all about the heavy potato salad, piles of meat, and chips and dip. With all the fruits and veggies in season, it's a shame not to put them to use! Here are some of my favorite creations with all the yummy in-season produce we have to pick from:

Some of my favorite recipes so far this summer:
Peach Salsa
Boston Spinach Salad
10 Minute Fruit Salad
Summer Peach and Almond Bars
Sweet Nectarine Lemonade

Tell me: Does your family change their eating habits in the summer? What are your go-to recipes on a sultry summer day? I'd love some delicious inspiration!
Nothing makes me feel on track on a Monday morning like getting my meal plan together. After a quick inventory of the freezer and pantry yesterday, our meals are full of possibility!

Monday: Chicken, mushroom, and gnocchi soup, french bread, salad
Tuesday: Tostadas with all the fixin's
Wednesday: Garlic Chicken and Pepper stirfry, brown rice
Thursday: French bread pizzas with marinara dipping sauce and salad
Friday: Taste of Chicago (or if the weather is miserable - grilled cheese with fruit salad)
Saturday: TBD
Sunday - Happy 4th of July!! Going to BBQ!
I've got quite a few Weber $1/2 coupons left from the tearpads I found in the store, and finally got a chance to use some of them today. My local Jewel won't allow me to use a coupon on a BOGOFree item, which the marinades happen to be - until sometime next month. The regular price is $.99 each, with the BOGOF and coupon - they are free for me!

14 packets Weber marinade seasonings ($.99 each)
Total: $14.28
Cost: $.35

I still have more than a dozen of those coupons left, so I'll have to keep looking for chances to stop at different Jewel stores in the area.
It's been a crazy few weeks for my little household. First we spent al ong weekend in Minnesota for a good friend's wedding and last weekend we were off to Atlanta for brother-in-law's college graduation. After seeing my somewhat barren fridge, I went out shopping for some produce and basics to build some light meals with. Here's what's eating me this week:

Tuesday: Tomato soup and grilled cheese (milk is about to expire, so this is an easy way to make it disappear!), fresh fruit

Wednesday: Chicken bacon ranch tostadas, salsa and chips

Thursday: Build Your Own Sub Night, fresh berries, chips

Friday: DH's grilling up a storm - Grilled chicken teriyaki, hotdogs, and Mole-Rubbed Pork Ribs (instead of chops), grilled peppers, fruit salad, garden salad, mashed potatoes

Saturday: Date night!!

Sunday: Leftovers from Friday, dessert will be fruit smoothies

Breakfast of the week: fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal
Lunch of the week: Chicken tacos, soup, or sammies
Dessert of the week: Vanilla Spiced White Chocolate Cheesecake
Wow - the trip to Minnesota was amazing! The night before the trip, DaMama and I loaded 2 huge reusable bags full of fresh ingredients and treats to bring to my sister and her family, and that was a huge hit!

With the crazy prices of produce (when you have to import so much of it year-round up there), the bags I brought were bursting with limes, blueberries, peaches, peppers, cilantro, etc. etc. etc. not to mention a few pounds of amazing deli meat (all for under $3.00 a lb.) - everyone was thrilled! And all of that for less than $25, my sister was speechless!

A few of the nights, my sis and I were in the kitchen making dinner together. It was great! Never having lived close enough in my adult life to do these normal, everyday things with Amy, I had so much fun just doing those simple tasks.

On Saturday, I watched one of my oldest and dearest friends get married. Nothing can compare to that. Nothing. I'm so excited and happy for her, it was just a perfect weekend all round....except the weather. It has rained everyday for the last week and a half. I'm so ready for the rain to end.

On to this week's meal plan - it's another short week as DH & I head to Atlanta for my brother-in-law's college graduation. By next week, I'll be screaming to get back in to the rhythm of things at home, but for another straight week, I'm a traveling gal! Not a lot of fresh ingredients on hand, so this week I"m trying to use up what I have left. No point in going shopping for perishables except yogurt - I got to have it for my breakfast. For now, here's the plan:

Monday: Spaghetti with Italian sausage and roasted pepper marinara

Tuesday: Garlic bread pizza (homemade), garden salad

Wednesday: Breakfast burritos with peppers and sausage, apple slices, juice

Thursday-Sunday: In Atlanta for the graduation celebration!
Wow - this is the first time in months that I'm not creating a meal plan. This week, DH & I are heading to a wedding out-of-state and will be gone most of the week. I can't wait to see a dear friend of mine get married - I'm so excited. It's worth the 500+ mile trip!

While I'm there visiting, I'll be staying with my sister, the organic farmer and chef. I will get a chance to help in her (huge) garden, see my nephews, and unwind. I've been looking forward to this trip for months. Typically, DH & I take long weekends each season (except winter) and get out of town, but this year is the first year that we haven't. And boy, does it show! I don't think I've ever been so antsy to get out of town as I am right now.

Next week is another crazy one because for Father's Day weekend, we're heading south (out-of-state again) for my brother-in-law's college graduation. Whew - I'm on the road again....(channeling that Willie Nelson song in my head and imagining the beautiful countryside spilling out before me). Good thing you can't hear me singing!!

This year, we skipped our usual weekends away with the idea of going out-of-country for our 5th wedding anniversary. We had been planning on the Caribbean - which the locations (the cheaper places to visit) have experienced a rise in crime, drop in economy, etc. that make them unsafe to visit currently. Which totally sucks. Really, it does.

I've been looking forward to this anniversary for some time, and having to change our plans really makes me frustrated. Especially since I haven't left the Chicago area since October of last year. I love my area, but sometimes I need distance to make the heart grow fonder, or whatever that nonsense is about.

Back to the meal plan (or lack thereof): this week, we're working on eating the perishables in our fridge, I'll probably buy milk (DH will finish it no problem) and some yogurt with good expiration dates to have waiting for me when we get back, and grab a few fresh items to bring to my sis. To help clear out the fridge, last night, I made an Italian sausage bolognese over capellini.

Tonight, I think it's going to be provolone or havarti paninis with herb-crusted chicken and bell pepper strips, and some fresh fruit. Tomorrow - if all the leftover are gone, it's a can of soup, loaf of french bread and rotisserie chicken, or I'll grab a premade sub from Caputos. We grabbed a small one over the weekend and it was fabulous. I've already crafted my version of it, Basil Pesto Chicken Sammie on Foccacia. It's seriously divine. A sandwich worth worshipping. Not cheap, but packed with so much flavor, my mouth waters just remembering it.
I love eating fruits and veggies that are in-season. Not only is it easier on my wallet, but the taste difference is incredible. Nothing can quite match it.

So, each week this summer, I've challenged myself to try one in-season produce item I've never worked with before. Trying to slowly expand my repertoire, and reawlly learn each ingredients, I think this one-at-a-time apporach is a great way to start. So far, this week has been a peach. Literally!

I bought 6 lovely white peaches, and have begun my experiment. Almost giddy with excitement, I decided to try my hand at a summer fruit salsa. This was such a hit, I am still grinning!! Even my FIL (born in Mexico) loved it. That was truly a shocker. Super kid friendly, too - this isn't very spicy but packs tons of flavor (and vitamins, too).

That only used half the bag of peaches I had bought, so with another three lovely peaches to create with, I made a batch of bars last night, since it was finally cool enough for me to bake.

The bars are filled with diced peaches and topped with sliced, toasted almonds. It appears I have a new favorite, Summer Peach and Almond Bars. And I bought a few more peaches today, since I had done so well with the first batch. And the price of the peaches is plummeting (down to $.50 per lb.). At that rate, I'll have a plethora of peach presentations to pass along.

Next stop on my peachy-path: Ginger Poached Peaches. All of 4 ingredients will go into this creation - I'm modelling this creation on the cinnamon apples recipe a couponing friend shared with me.

All I have to do is figured out how to properly freeze them - then I'll be enjoying luscious peaches all year long. Bellini, anyone?
I love doing small lunches in the office - there are only 4 of us, 6 if we include the office suite next door - which we usually do. Life at the office has been a little dull, though rather busy lately, so I've organized another lunch at the office.

Rather than doing the tried and true Italian feast, we're going Mexican this time. With tons of fresh produce in season, this is the best time to set up a taco bar. Complete with fresh, fragrant limes, creamy Munster cheese, crisp lettuce, piles of tostadas and tortillas and a lovely peach salsa - this is a quick, cheap, easy, and fun way to have lunch - and everybody can build their own! What's not to love?

Here's how it comes together:

Ground beef ($1.39)
Ground turkey ($.79)
Cheese ($1.00)
Sour Cream ($.44)
Avocados ($.50)
Fresh Limes ($.20)
Salsa (peach salsa) ($.89)
Refried beans ($.29)
Tomatoes ($.67)
Lettuce ($.48)
Onions ($.20)
Corn ($.39)
Cilantro - ($.33)
Tostadas - ($2.35)
Tortillas - ($.50)
Lemonade - ($.25)

A simple, summer time lunch that feeds 6 to 8 people for only $10.57!!
That averages out to $1.33 to $1.77 per person. Much cheaper and healthier than ordering pizza - not to mention, you get exactly what you want on your tacos. Where can you get a deal like that? And, it includes a drink...
It was such a busy weekend, I forgot about the meal plan until today. But, that's okay - with loads of yummy leftovers from a small BBQ we had at our home for our parents, we have plenty of quick and easy meals out of some of my favorite basics. Here's what cookin'!

Tuesday: Harvarti & deli-sliced pork grilled cheese sammies, simple salad
Wednesday: French Bread Pizza topped with provolone, bell pepper, mushroom, and parmesan, served with compote of fresh peaches, raspberries, and a hint of sweet coconut
Thursday: DH's buttery chicken nuggets, chicken rice, fruit salad
Friday: Taco's with all the fixin's, tortilla chips, peach salsa
Saturday: Leftovers or sammies - DH's choice
Sunday: Grillin'! If the weather permits

Lunch of the week: leftover hotdogs, burgers, BBQ chicken drummies, red rice, mashed potatoes

Snack of the week: Whole grain tortilla chips with peach salsa

Breakfast of the week: Cereal, yogurt, fruit

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