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Archive for January, 2012

Planning Ahead

January 31st, 2012 at 04:39 pm

A couple of the restaurants we like have Facebook pages and often they post their specials for the night. As a joke, I have been posting what I've fixed for supper. I get some interesting comments, usually folks asking to come over!

One gal asked if I ever took a night off. I said I do because I do, but I also responded that I cook things ahead. Tonight we had lasagna. I had planned it because I wanted a filling supper as well as stuff for lunches. I had already bought the lasagna noodles on sale, had a coupon and a sale on the cheese, and hubby found a good deal on ground chicken. I used the tomato sauce I made last summer with our tomatoes, onions and basil, so it wasn't the most expensive meal either.

One couple we sometimes do things with never plan anything ahead. They have called and asked us to go out to eat and I have often had to say that I had already started supper. They act like I'm crazy. DH says they fly by the seat of their pants. I admit we do eat out, but I do cook a lot too. And, I usually plan my weekly menus to use what we have as well as utilize those items on sale. Maybe I'm anal, but it is reassuring to know I have our meals planned and some fixed and ready to heat.

I think planning goes farther than just food. We plan for vacation by saving up and reading up. We save up for most things and then check Consumer Reports to see if it is a good value. I have been trying to put a bit of money away for the past 20+ years for retirement. I can't say I'll be rich, but hopefully I won't live in poverty, either.

Is it safe to assume that if you are on Saving Advice you are a planner too?

How do you know if it is a good meal????

January 29th, 2012 at 10:55 am

I know in some cultures there are supposedly signs that it was a good meal if the folks who partook burb or belch. Kind of gross, in my book.

Usually people say it was good or rave about this or that if it really tickled their fancy. Not every meal is a gourmet feast, at least not around here. Sometimes it is just sustenance. But there are days when one wonders, how was it?

I have concluded in our house it HAD to be a good meal if I fill up the dishwasher.

OK, I'm being silly here, but we laugh about the fact the meal often is pretty good if we have enough dishes to fill up the dishwasher. I realize that really means nothing for taste. Our dishwasher is actually a source of a lot of teasing in our household.

Years ago when we bought new cabinets, I had borrowed lots of books from the library to pick out the cabinets and style I wanted. We visited some of the stores too. I didn't change the layout or anything because it worked and also because moving plumbing and electrical unless it was absolutely necessary was a huge expense. I was just thrilled to have drawers that opened correctly. The drawers on the old cabinet had been "stapled" together and as they aged, they would twist and I couldn't get them to open. I would have to take everything out of the drawer, then wedge that puppy out, take a hammer and try to straighten it. It made cooking a pain in the patootie to say the least.

When we were planning on the new cabinets, I teased my hubby that we should splurge and get two dishwashers. I was basically playing, but it has become a joke when the dishwasher is full and we have stuff left over. I won't run the dishwasher unless it is full so that means sometimes the second day we have dishes leftover.

So last night's meal must have been good because not only was the dishwasher full, we had to wash a couple things by hand.

Ah, if only life was that easy!

Marvy Meatloaf

January 28th, 2012 at 02:44 pm

My hubby is a meatloaf lover. I have tried various recipes through the years, and I think I have finally found one that he loves. I have been buying enough meat to make four one pound loaves at a time. I purchased two glass loaf pans at a garage sale last summer giving me a total of 4. So, when I want to do meatloaf, I make up four of them, and freeze three of them.

The recipe is a combination of a different ones. This is for one one pound meatloaf.

Meatloaf
1/2 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground pork sausage
1 onion chopped,
1 green bell pepper chopped.
1 cup of catsup, separated into 2 1/2 cups
1 egg
1/2 cup of instant unflavored oatmeal
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup mustard, separated into 1/4 cup portions
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Tumeric
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 teaspoon dried Basil

Topping: (from the above ingredients) 1/2 cup catsup, 1/4 cup mustard, 1/2 cup brown sugar mixed together

Brown onion and bell pepper in olive oil. Add garlic near the very end so it doesn't burn. Take off heat and cool.

Mix the hamburger and sausage with the Tumeric, Paprika, and Basil. Add egg, oatmeal, and bread crumbs and mix with 1/2 cup catsup and 1/4 cup mustard. Add the cooled onion, pepper, and garlic. If the mixture is still too wet, add more breadcrumbs. Form a loaf and put in a greased glass loaf pan. Spoon topping over and put foil on top. Bake at 400 degrees F for an hour. Take out of oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

I have served this recipe over and over and dh loves it and a friend of ours will make a special trip to our house if he knows we are having this meatloaf.

Tonight we are having the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans,and homemade bread. DH thinks it is a perfect comfort meal for a wintery night.

Italian Wedding Soup...yum!

January 25th, 2012 at 04:09 pm

Since I am feeling human again, and in dh's terms, "eatified" (I think he made up that word), I'm back to fixing stuff that both sounds good and tastes good. With our weather being a bit wintry, soup sounded good.

I have a Facebook account and a few of the restaurants post what they have for specials. So, as a joke, I have been posting on Facebook what I have been fixing. Last night I had a few friends request my recipe for Italian wedding soup. I originally tried the Barefoot Contessa's soup and it was good, but decided to make some changes and make it my own recipe. This is hubby's favorite way I have made it, so I try to make it this way each time now.

Italian Wedding Soup

Meatballs:

1 lb of ground turkey or ground chicken
˝ cup or 2/3 cup of bread crumbs
1 egg
2 teaspoons of Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of Tumeric
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 teaspoons of oregano

Mix together and roll into balls. Bake at 350 degrees until browned, turning once…takes around 30-40 minutes.


For the soup:

1 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cups of chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup of beef broth
1 cup of water
1 half of a package of fresh spinach
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 cup of whole grain pasta
Parmesan cheese (shredded)

Sauté the onion, carrots, celery, and zucchini in the olive oil. Cook until soft. Pour into the broths and the water, and bring to a boil, then turn down and let it simmer. Add the tomato sauce and the pasta. Simmer for an hour or until the broth has cooked down some. Add the spinach and let it cook down. Serve hot and put some Parmesan on top, or refrigerate and heat up and serve with Parmesan. Should serve 3-4.


Hubby ate a lot of it, so the serves 3-4 wasn't true. But, we had enough to have it for lunch today as well. I fixed a salad and homemade biscuits with it.

The biscuits are from Paula Deen, except I've made a few changes:

Biscuits

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1-2 tablespoons mayonaise -- depends on how dry the mix is
1/2 cup of shredded cheese (any you choose makes it different each time)
1-2 teaspoons of spice of your choice -- oregano, basil, etc., whatever you have on hand
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon of garlic powder.

Mix together until it sort of makes a ball. I spray a muffin tin with baking spray, then spoon them into the muffin tin. Bake at 400 for about 20-25 minutes -- or until tops are starting to brown. It will depend on what kind of tin you use -- if it is a dark one it might not take as long.

I figure over all the supper wasn't all that expensive and we had biscuits left over as well as the soup. It was a hearty meal and with leftovers, I kept up the idea of cooking once and eating twice, hence saving money!

Pioneer Woman

January 22nd, 2012 at 04:42 pm

Have you seen the new Foodnetwork show called "Pioneer Woman?" I watched it this week and was interested because although I knew she blogged, I hadn't really delved into it.

I guess I thought she would be cooking on a cook stove in a long dress. What a surprise to see a very modern and large kitchen.

It was an amusing program as she cooked for 15 and had pork, augratin potatoes and a slaw. Real food that filled a plate and it wasn't a contest.

I know competition is a big deal, but to be frank, I'm tired of all the contests on television. I never cared for shows like Fear Factor and some of the cooking shows are bordering on scary when they show bizarre ingredients.

I think Foodnetwork has figured decided that everyone loves competition.

Well, I for one am tired of it. I watch the shows to learn new techniques, new recipes, and sometimes to be entertained. I'm not saying there shouldn't be shows like Chopped or Next Foodnetwork Star, but why is it almost all the programs are going for that? I can't watch most of the programs during the day because I *ahem* work. If I didn't, I couldn afford the basic cable I have.

So, on the weekend during the afternoon and evenings when I can watch, all there seems to be are those shows that compete.

So, seeing Pioneer Woman was both refreshing and interesting. Although not a true pioneer, perhaps her title is being a pioneer of being someone who cooks in a society that usually doesn't.

Out ill

January 21st, 2012 at 08:34 pm

The past seven days have been tough. We went out to eat last Saturday night. My food was cold. I sent it back and apparently it was reheated. It didn't taste right. I didn't finish it, but apparently ate enough because come Sunday I was very ill with food poisoning.

I contacted the owner who said it couldn't be. Uh huh. My body would disagree.

I was out of work three days and Monday was a holiday so I missed a lot of time.

I was thinking that restaurant owners need to realize how much faith customers have them when they walk through their doors. We trust them to be clean and fair and not put us at risk.

So, right now my trust has shattered.

No more leftovers!

January 12th, 2012 at 05:04 pm

We finished supper a little while ago and that was made with some of the chicken and broth I fixed over the weekend. We had chicken and noodles on a cold, blowy, snowy evening and there was enough leftover for dh's lunch tomorrow.

I had roasted a pan of vegetables over the weekend and used that for chicken and rice during the week, and also added them to the strata we had last night. I fixed extra rice and I have been taking that for lunch with the extra vegetables. I eat the last of that tomorrow for lunch as well.

Today's lunch was the leftover salad fixins from the past few nights. My fridge is starting to look kind of empty and sad. I'm trying to eat up the fruit we bought too so that was part of my lunch as well as part of our supper -- dessert,in fact.

I think I should figure how much I spend for meals because sometimes I beat myself up on how much we spend on groceries. I bet tonight's meal was probably less than $7 total and we have leftovers for a lunch. Last night's meal of strata, sweet potatoes, salad, and toast was probably less than $7, except I did splurge and open up some black olives for the salad to make it a little different.

Fortunately dh likes eating my cooking...and as I tell him if we don't spend the money going out, we have it for other things we really want!

Sunday Strata

January 8th, 2012 at 01:12 pm

It's the weekend and it means I'm planning the menus for this week.

It actually starts before the weekend. On Thursday I make out a list for Aldi and DH nicely goes on Friday and picks up what we need. I think about what we have this week based on what the inserts show on sale and what I have in the pantry and freezer.

On Saturday we go to the other store we frequent getting the things we didn't get at Aldi. Sometimes we go to a separate meat market. Their prices aren't any higher than the grocery and it is nice I can get stuff wrapped in portions I want. DH doesn't want to go in and ask for a chicken breast, but I have no problem doing it.

Well, my menu is basically planned by then. Last night I roasted some vegetables and cooked some rice. I had put a whole chicken in the Crockpot Friday night and I pulled the meat off and then strained the broth. I froze the extra broth in small containers.

Today, I made a strata out of leftover sausage. I had bought a roll of Bob Evans that was on sale and I had coupon the previous week. I used part of it for Friday's supper when we had quiche. So, I cooked the rest of it and let it cool and then added some of the vegetables to the egg mixture with the sausage.

Egg strata

5 eggs beaten
1/2 cup milk or half and half
4-5 slices of stale or older bread, torn up
1/2 cup of shredded cheese, your choice


optional: meat or vegetables

The strata usually needs to sit overnight in the fridge so the bread soaks up the milk -- it sort of makes a bread pudding out of it.

I bake it for an hour covered at 350. Your baking time can differ based on what kind of dish you have it in. It needs to be baked solid so the knife comes out clean in the middle. If it is a deep dish it might take longer. If it a a shallower dish, it might be shorter. If you want the top to brown, take off the cover during the last 10 minutes.

I often make a strata for a quick economical dish that also uses up things in the fridge.

It's funny, the other night I made a quiche. We both like quiche, but it was also a way to use things up and have a meal at home that is economically. I figured with everything, including the toast we made, juice, coffee and dh's tea, we spent less than $7.

Now that might sound like a lot, but DH is a big eater. So, spending $7 on a meal is pretty reasonable, especially since I don't like to use things with preservatives. Someone asked him why we just didn't go out and he smiled and said, "I'd rather eat at home."

Spending Money to Save Money?

January 7th, 2012 at 06:44 am

I admit that last week we found some good deals at Walgreens on things we use and there were manufacturer's coupons besides. I spent money to hopefully save money down the road as I added some of these items to my pantry.

Yet, I am still a bit confused with some friends who claim they are saving money as they buy things on sale. One person bragged how they saved money on cereal at this one place, but then said they spent the savings and then some on some other item, but still, they saved money! This friend is the first to complain about being low in cash, yet is so excited about buying things and thinks a buy one, get one free sale is wonderful, even if that item isn't wanted or needed. Sigh.

Another friend has been participating in a program where you can buy stuff half off. What a great savings, right? Except some of these items are things this friend doesn't like or even want, but hey, they got half off! Yet another person who complains about not having enough money. Double sigh.

Maybe I'm too pragmatic. I don't buy something on sale or with a coupon just because it is on sale or I have a coupon just to save money. I figure by not buying it in the first place I'm saving money.

All this sighing is giving me a headache!

Fancy Kitchens

January 3rd, 2012 at 05:14 pm

Now that I'm back to work, I won't be watching as much television which is both good and bad, but that's not what this blog is about.

What I've noticed is that in many of the food commercials, the folks have pretty fancy kitchens. For example, the new KFC commercial has a stainless stove that looks like a professional type. Hmmm...a chef who regularly gets KFC?

Some of the heat and eat snacks show pretty luxurious kitchens too...pretty darn fancy for heating stuff up in the microwave.

I wonder if the folks who make these commercials think we all have fancy kitchens or if they think we all want fancy kitchens. Very few have laminate countertops. Most have granite.

I don't have granite...part of it the cost, but part of it is also if we did spring for it, it would overimprove the kitchen for the neighborhood we live in.

Am I the only one who is noticing these commercials? Are these subliminal messages to the consumer?

Cook Once, Eat Twice

January 2nd, 2012 at 11:51 am

Remember the adage, measure twice and cut once? The purpose was to make sure the measurement was correct before cutting something and possibly making a mistake.

Well, I like the idea of cooking once and eating twice or more. Yesterday I fixed a slice of ham. It was a thick slice bought at Aldi. I had made scalloped potatoes and cornbread and green beans to go with our New Year's meal.

Today, my last day of vacation, we had some errands to run, including running dh's vehicle in for a recall. We got home and I suggested we have a rerun of yesterday's lunch. DH was fine with that and we had a hearty meal on a windy, cold day. I still have some ham and potatoes left as well. Part of the ham will be a lunch this week with the leftover potatoes. The rest of the ham will be cut up and I'll make ham and beans for dh. I don't particulary care for ham and beans, but he likes it and apparently I've found a simple recipe to make a lunch size portion of them for him. I have to admit I use a can of navy beans, but I have been lucky and found them on sale.

I cut up the ham in small pieces and saute' it with onion and celery, then I add a little chicken broth. I then drain some of the liquid off the beans, but keep enough so the beans don't get dry. I add a half of a teaspoon of cumin and tumeric and let them simmer for about an hour, adding broth as needed. I put them in a dish he can heat up in the microwave and he's a happy boy.

I really think the idea of cooking once and eating twice saves money. I know I prefer cooking a whole chicken in the Crockpot and although we usually don't eat an intial meal off of it, I do make 2-3 dishes from the chicken and broth, depending on the size of the chicken.

On New Year's Eve we did go out to eat and we had some vegetables we couldn't eat on our plates. I asked to have a box with the skin from my baked potato. We got home and I added a couple of vegetables that were sitting around here with some herbs, and made a very rich vegetable broth. It has been strained and is in the freezer awaiting my next soup adventure.

Tonight we are having chicken and sweet potatoes. The chicken breasts were reasonable at Aldi when we went and I think there are more than two. Two will be used for us tonight, but the others will be made in a casserole with rice and vegetables for another meal this week. I'll just cook them all so I have them.

I did that the other day with sweet potatoes. I baked the 5 small ones we had. We had two for a meal and the other three I used to make a small sweet potato casserole for another meal. Sure saved time.

Well, the kitchen is calling, so I guess I better heed the call. Please share if you have some ideas on cooking once and eating twice.

Do Some Folks Have Too Much Money?

January 1st, 2012 at 10:37 am

I know there's a cliche' that you can never be too thin or too rich...

I won't even go on about the slender part, but the money part, I have an opinion.

We turned on the television to watch something while we ate our lunch. I don't care for football so dh turned on HGTV and they are having a series or programs of Million Dollar Room or Outdoor Spaces or...

Anyway, they were showing a kitchen. Now, I'm kind of partial at looking at kitchens because I like to cook. The island stone alone was $50,000. There are folks who don't spend that much on a house.

In other house they showed a bedroom with his and hers and hers closets. She had two different rooms that each held 500 shoes. How many shoes can someone wear? Plus, there was a craft room with a wrapping station. The hostess said on some of these rooms, they actually cost millions.

In another episode (yeah, it's like seeing a train wreck, we couldn't stop watching), this guy had an outdoor space where he brought in sand from the Bahamas that cost him between $75,000 and $100,000. Just for the sand and the barge travel.

I don't want this to sound like sour grapes, but geeze, doesn't this seem like a bit overwhelming? And, where does one go from here after all that?

After seeing the luxurious kitchens, I commented, I bet they don't even cook in these fancy dancy places.

As for a wrapping station, if they have that kind of money, why not just pay to have these items wrapped in the first place. Wouldn't want to break a nail or get a paper cut!

So, I'm glad dh has turned on football, because the glamour was just getting to be a little much.