In the Bag Blog Has Moved

Thank you for reading In the Bag Blog.  I am excited to announce that we have merged with the Food on the Table Blog.  Food on the Table is a service dedicated to all the topics that In the Bag Blog has been discussing:  food costs and budgeting, meal planning, time saving tips and tricks, and quick and easy recipes ideas.   I believe this partnership will produce even more great content related to these topics.   I look forward to your continued comments and great ideas.

May 6, 2010 at 4:05 pm Leave a comment

Recipe for the Perfect Hamburger

I know you’ve seen plenty of recipes for the perfect burger before, but before you move on to the next recipe, take a few minutes to review this one. What I’ve learned over the years is that the technique for making the burger is as important, if not more so, than the ingredients. There are just a couple of must-do steps here to make everyone stand up and take notice, or more likely sit down and ask for another one.

Recipe: The Perfect Burger


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes


  • 2 lb. brisket, ground
  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp. ketchup
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • 1 c. finely shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 4 light brioche buns or other large hamburger buns, split
  • 1/4 lb. medium-sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 thin onion slices
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste


  1. Lightly shape the ground beef into four patties that are about four inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Refrigerate the patties for 1 to 2 hours.
  2. While the burgers chill, combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, cayenne, chili powder, and an pinch of salt and black pepper in a bowl and whisk. Add the lettuce and stir to coat.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a hot fire on a grill, or heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle each burger all over with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and season generously with black pepper. Sear the burgers on the grill or in skillet for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the burgers to a broiler pan and bake for four more minutes for medium-rare, 6 for medium.
  5. Remove the broiler pan from oven and position an oven rack closest to broiler element and heat the broiler to high.
  6. Toast the buns.
  7. Top the burgers with the cheese and broil until it melts, about 30 seconds. Set the burgers on bottom buns and top with the lettuce sauce mixture and the onion slices. Cover with the top bun and serve

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

  • Though packaged ground beef is easier to buy, it is worth the extra few minutes to have the butcher counter at your favorite grocery store grind up some brisket. It contains about 30% fat and the meat is from a very heavily worked area, making it far more flavorful than your typical tube of ground beef.
  • My family’s favorite sauce is very tasty, but you can certainly substitute your favorite spreads, cheeses and toppings. From fresh sliced tomatoes to pickles and beyond, it’s easy to make this burger your own.

May 5, 2010 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of May 3

Menu Plan Monday LogoHave you ever noticed how a child’s big school project inevitably turns into a family affair? I suppose in the end it’s a good thing because it’s one of the best ways for the whole family to get involved in the education process and pass along valuable life skills. Our household is in full production mode for a huge project that my daughter is working on to present at school on Thursday. It involves a tri-fold display board with a host of visual aids as well as sample dishes from Italy because the project is all about Italian food. And while we’ve tried to be diligent about working on the project regularly each week, this week is still the final push so we’re going to be very busy for the first three nights of the week. To make things easier, I’m raiding my freezer stash two nights this week so we’re still eating at home but I can focus most of my energies on helping her. The rest of the week we’ll spend as much time on our porch as possible as the weather heats up in Texas and I want to heat my kitchen less-and-less.

I hope everyone has a great and productive week – that’s the goal in our household.

  • Monday: Lemon Butter Cod Filets with Alfredo pasta and Brussels sprouts
    I’m continuing to try and get more fish into our diet. These cod filets are easy and I’ll use a high-quality jarred sauce for the pasta and frozen sprouts that will cook up quickly in the microwave to make this a simple meal.
  • Tuesday: Coffee-Marinated Steak with long grain and wild rice and steamed vegetables [freezer stash]
    My husband can grill these steaks on Tuesday night while the wild rice and vegetables cook so we can split dinner duty and still help with the project. I’ll send everyone out on Wednesday with steak sandwiches for lunch.
  • Wednesday: Mexican Style Meatballs with cilantro rice and black beans [freezer stash]
    All of the elements of this menu pretty much cook themselves with an occasional stir and a time to prevent burning, so we can focus all our energies on completing the final aspects of the project. Leftovers will be great for lunches the rest of the week.
  • Thursday: Breaded Lamb Chops with Rosemary and Garlic with roasted potatoes and asparagus
    Lamb is my daughter’s favorite meat and lamb chops are on sale this week, so we’ll celebrate her presentation success with a special dinner. Lamb cooks quickly and the potatoes and asparagus are dead simple, so while this meal will be fancy, it won’t be difficult.
  • Friday: Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with grilled vegetables
    We’ll relax a bit on Friday night with a simple dinner of shrimp tacos and grilled vegetables out on the porch. After a long week, we’ll be looking forward to some down time.
  • Saturday: Chicken Sausage, Pepper And Onion Hero Sandwiches with raw veggies and baked chips
    I’m a big fan of sandwiches on the weekend because they come together quickly and can flex around our schedules. My daughter is going out with friends on Saturday so she can have her dinner early and the adults can relax with dinner a little later in the evening without my having to make two different meals.
  • Sunday: Grilled Jamaican Pork Loin Chops with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables
    We’re having friends over on Sunday for a relaxed dinner on the porch. This chop recipes features big summer flavors and will be a great way to start the final countdown to the end of school.

May 3, 2010 at 6:34 am 1 comment

Grilled Steaks with Bacon-Wrapped Corn

Its springtime, and you know what that means. Fire up the grill and get cooking outdoors with fire. Whether you grill over charcoal or love the convenience of your gas grill, there are thousands of different combinations of spice rubs, marinades, seasonings, salts and sauces for just about any cut of steak that is on sale during any given week. Before you head out to the back yard though, take a few minutes to consider which cuts you plan to toss on the fire. Although we all like lean meat, a bit of marbling is absolutely necessary for a truly tasty steak. You want to look for meat that has a bit of fat marbled all the way through it. A steak that has no fat or concentrated blobs of fat breaking up long stretches of pure red will be tough after it takes a turn on the grill. Be selective and ask your local grocery store butcher for advice.

In this recipe, the steak gets a simple but tasty treatment; the side dish is really the star. When you cook corn this way, people won’t feel the need to slather it with butter.

Recipe: Grilled Steaks with Bacon Wrapped Corn


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6-10 minutes for steaks; 15-20 for corn


  • 4 ears of corn, shucked and silk removed
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon (preferably not a ‘sweet’ or ‘smoky’ flavor)
  • 4 New York strip, porterhouse, or T-bone steaks, cut at least ¾ in thick
  • Salt and/or garlic salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Fire up your grill and bring it to a medium high heat (if gas) or wait until the coals are mostly white but still have a good red core (if charcoal).
  2. Wrap each ear of corn with the bacon in a spiral pattern, making sure not to overlap the bacon too much.You can either tuck the bacon into itself to secure it or use a toothpick at either end to secure it.
  3. Place the wrapped corn around the outer edge of the grill and rotate every couple of minutes. Grill for about 10 minutes before adding the steaks to the grill.
  4. Liberally season your trimmed steaks with salt and freshly ground black pepper and lay them out on the grill with at least an inch of space between them.
  5. Steaks cook relatively quickly at high heat and there are dozens of methods to tell doneness. If you need a time, the best rule of thumb for an inch thick steak is 3 minutes per side for medium rare, 4 for medium, 5 for medium well and 6 minutes on each side for well done. Only flip the steaks once during cooking.
  6. Remove the steak when it reaches its desired doneness and let it rest on a warm plate for at least 5 minutes before serving. This allows all the boiling juices inside of the steak to redistribute through the meat so they won’t escape all over your plate.
  7. Remove the corn when the bacon is done and its outside is crispy. Remove the bacon from the corn and served it alongside the corn or even chopped up and added to any salad, green beans, baked potatoes or any other dish that could benefit from it. Or, you could just eat it as the cook’s treat while the steaks rest.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

  • One the steaks it the grill, leave them alone for at least 2 minutes. Don’t mess with it. The sear time helps create the steakhouse-style crust we all like.
  • If you want those nifty grill marks on your steak, rotate the meat a quarter turn onto a section of the grill that hasn’t had anything on it. The bars that have been under your steak for two minutes aren’t going to be hot enough to sear a dark char into already partially cooked meat.
  • The corn takes on the salty goodness and the fat from the bacon, and will also absorb the ‘flavorings’ used on the bacon. So if you don’t want smoky maple corn, don’t use smoked or maple bacon.

April 28, 2010 at 8:00 am 1 comment

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of April 26

Menu Plan Monday LogoI am very happy to report that this week is a completely normal week for me. There are no out of town trips, races, or other big events. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to a few regular nights with the family. While I enjoy the occasional variation on a theme, too much of it becomes a burden instead of a respite from the usual. Because last week’s dinners were almost entirely from my freezer stash, this week I’m going to try some new recipes. This week’s menu plan looks like this:

  • Monday: Oven-Fried Buttermilk Halibut with mashed potatoes and sautéed green beans
    We haven’t been eating as much fish as I’d like so I’m making it a priority for the next few weeks to take advantage of summer fish sales. The family will enjoy this fish because it’s crunchy and reminiscent of fried chicken.
  • Tuesday: Chicken Sausage and Vegetable Roast
    Chicken sausage is always fun because it cooks quickly and is healthy. I’ll make some extra on Tuesday to use in sandwiches on Saturday.
  • Wednesday: Make your own Pizza night
    The whole family loves make your own pizza night and it’s been a while since I’ve been home for it. This will be a fun way to break up the week. We’ll probably pull out a board game or two to add to the fun.
  • Thursday: Foil-Barbequed Trout with Wine with brown rice and roasted asparagus
    I really enjoy cooking fish in foil because it’s easy and the clean-up is a snap. I’ll make extra brown rice to use in the fried rice on Sunday.
  • Friday: Red Glazed Pork Loin Chops with soba noodles and steamed broccoli
    We’ll enjoy these chops out on the porch on Friday night to celebrate a laid-back week. I’ll make extra pork for the fried rice on Sunday.
  • Saturday: Chicken sausage hero sandwiches with baked chips and raw veggies
    This dinner will come together quickly for a no-stress meal. I’ll reheat the chicken sausage in some jarred marinara sauce and serve it with some mozzarella cheese in fresh hoagie bread.
  • Sunday: Pork Fried Rice
    It’s been a while since we’ve had my fried rice stand-by. This week I’ll mix it up a little with pork as the meat and brown rice instead of white. I’m also going to use edamame instead of the usual peas and carrots.

April 26, 2010 at 6:50 am 2 comments

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of April 19

Menu Plan Monday LogoI’ll be brutally honest, last week kicked my butt. Four days of travel hot on the heels of running my first 10k in five years just about did me in. I spent a good amount of this weekend just recovering. I enjoyed time with family and friends, and did some fun shopping with my daughter. I have two goals this week:

  • Prep for another 10k (yup – another one): I’ve discovered that signing up for races helps me stay motivated in my training, so I have another race this weekend and one the weekend after. I’ll be enjoying those carbs once again but am already more relaxed for this race than the last one.
  • Continue to restore my energy: If I’m not careful, I’ll end up wiped out again next weekend because I tried to do too much this week, but it’s not like any of my responsibilities are magically reduced, so I’ll be working hard all week to take care of me while I take care of everything else. To that end, I’ll be raiding my freezer stash pretty heavily this week so my time in the evenings can be largely devoted to family and relaxation.

With all that said, this week’s menu plan is shaping up nicely to help me prep for the coming race and to keep my sanity.

  • Monday: Tilapia Soft Tacos with Chipotle Cream Sauce with black beans
    A healthy fish dinner is a great way to start the week for everyone in my family. This recipe comes together quickly so I won’t be stressing dinner on a Monday night.
  • Tuesday: Lemon-Lime Soda Marinated Chicken Breasts
    with white rice and sautéed broccoli [freezer stash]
    This recipe continues to be a family favorite, and all I’ll have to do is toss the chicken breasts on the grill while the rice and broccoli cook.
  • Wednesday: Orange-Glazed Pork Chops with baked potatoes and green beans
    Let the carb loading begin with a big ol’ baked potato. Leftovers will be great in lunches for the rest of the week
  • Thursday: Mexican Style Meatballs with cilantro rice and black beans [freezer stash]
  • Friday: White Chili with Ground Turkey with cornbread [freezer stash]
    The chili is nutrient dense with lean proteins, making it a great pre-race meal that everyone enjoys. I’ll keep some Fritos around for impromptu Frito pie making over the weekend.
  • Saturday: Greek Pasta with Bison with cucumber and tomato salad [freezer stash]
    This race is on Saturday so I’ll want to end the day with a dish that’s easy to make and will replenish what my body used that day. This casserole from my freezer has high-protein but lean bison along with pasta, and the fresh vegetable salad will be an easy side to put together while the casserole reheats.
  • Sunday: Bacon-Wrapped Barbeque Shrimp
    with grilled vegetables and roasted potatoes
    Everyone can get into the fun of wrapping shrimp for the grill, and the vegetables and potatoes almost cook themselves. We’ll have a casual al fresco dinner to celebrate the successes of the week.

April 19, 2010 at 6:54 am 1 comment

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of April 12

Menu Plan Monday LogoThis week is another travel week for me so the family will be on their own for the better part of the week. I had a great race yesterday but was a little tired so menu planning and packing for my trip almost got the better of me. I’m happy to report that I manage to get everything together, but I relied on some easy filler like tacos and hot dogs because they were easy to plan and are easy for my family to make. When we used to have them every week they dropped off of our favorites list, but now that they only show up every once in a while, they are fun treats when mom is out of town. I’m short on time, so without further adieu, here is this week’s menu plan:

  • Monday: Tacos with fixin’s, rice, and beans
    Tacos are easy to make and everyone can build their own at the “taco bar”. This communal dinner is a great way to get the family together on the first night of the week.
  • Tuesday: Lemon Thyme Chicken Tenders with pasta and steamed Brussels sprouts
    While there’s a bit of chopping and marinating involved, this recipe is very simple and they can manage well while I’m gone. Leftovers will be great for lunches during the week.
  • Wednesday: Hot Dogs and fries
    Who does love a good hot dog dinner now and again? I’ve suggested that the family eat on the porch or throw a picnic on the living room floor to make the evening even more fun.
  • Thursday: Make your own pizza night
    Yet another favorite for everyone involved, pizza night is easy and everyone can have just what they want on their own personal crusts.
  • Friday: Blue Cheese Strip Steaks With Seasoned Grilled Potatoes and artichokes
    To celebrate my first night back in town, we’ll have a lovely steak dinner with some beautiful artichokes I picked up at the farmers market this past weekend.
  • Saturday: Lamb Chops with Balsamic Reduction with asparagus and long grain and wild rice
    Lamb is a family favorite and I always put it on the menu when it’s on sale. This Saturday evening we’ll share our meal with friends and celebrate the continued coming of spring.
  • Sunday: Honey Pork Tenderloin Kabobs with soba noodles and sautéed green beans
    I’m bringing back the ever-popular food on a stick to end the week. I’ll make extra and we can have it for lunch next week as I settle back into the grove of work.

April 12, 2010 at 3:06 pm Leave a comment

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