Saturday, June 30, 2007

Beans and yucky cornbread

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry and today mine sure did! I put great northern beans in the slow cooker this morning with a little turkey ham, salt, pepper, garlic, and green onion. They turned out fine, though still slightly firmer than we like. The cornbread, though, was a disaster!

Generally I make cornbread from scratch but tonight I used a mix I've never tried before (someone gave it to us and I didn't want it to go to waste) and although I followed the directions, the resulting product was less than satisfactory. It was very thin and heavy, too sweet, and had a strong and unpleasant powdered milk flavor.

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I thought that the flavor of the beans and turkey ham might overshadow it if the cornbread was broken up and put in the bowl of beans, but that didn't happen. Instead, the beans tasted like the yucky cornbread. So, my plan to have leftover cornbread to use in a later meal of chicken and cornbread dressing has to change a little.

We'll still have that meal tomorrow night but I'll get up early in the morning and make cornbread before it gets hot outside. The meal will still be good, I'm sure but I hate having to make another batch of cornbread for it. Oh well, at least I have everything to do it!

Cheese pancakes - a hit!

My other half had his normal eggs, toast, and meat breakfast but I usually don't eat until about 11 AM and even then I don't want breakfast food most of the time. This morning, though, I was hungry much earlier so I made Cheese Pancakes using a recipe from Hillbilly Housewife.

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I did change the recipe a bit. First, I made half of what was called for since I wasn't sure if I'd like the result. Second, I didn't have mustard (gasp!!) so I just left that out and added some garlic salt to it since I like garlic in almost everything. And third, I only used one egg. Next time I'll try two but one was adequate.

I wasn't sure what to expect but the result was very good. I ate my pancake (my other half scarfed one up) with a small chopped tomato, cucumber, and green onion salad drizzled with lime juice, cumin, and pepper. I'll probably have this for breakfast now and then and I imagine I'll try it as a side, too, with some other dishes. Nope, it doesn't taste like a regular pancake but it doesn't taste like cheese, either.

Since eating the cheese pancake earlier I've had thoughts of ways to change it rolling in my head. I think it would be very good with chopped green onions in it and maybe with small bits of turkey ham or turkey bacon. I can see this dish being easily adapted to use whatever I have on hand.

This may become one of my "not sure what dinner is going to be, oh let me throw this together" standbys...

Avocado, Tomato, and Bacon Salad

This is one of my favorite summer salads. It's easy and quick to make, doesn't heat the kitchen, and doesn't call for any off the wall or hard to find ingredients.

I use turkey bacon in it and if I don't have that on hand, I use small chunks of turkey ham. This makes quite a bit of salad so you might want to make half this amount the first time.

2 avocados, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 small onions, cut into strips or chopped (I use a combination of red and green onions)
4 or 5 slices of turkey bacon, fried crisp and crumbled

Mix everything together and let chill thirty minutes to an hour before serving with your favorite dressings.

Now and then I cook a small amount of tri-colored vegetable pasta, drain it and add to the salad before adding the dressing. The pasta makes this salad go farther and also gives it a little ummph!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Slow cooker garlic chicken & I heart my slow cookers!

Have I mentioned how much I like slow cookers in the warmer months?

I really appreciate slow cookers and we have several. They all get used to some degree but the ones with a removable crock get the most attention. I like the convenience of them, yes. It doesn't get much better than throwing stuff in a pot, seasoning it, turning it on and walking away to come back to cooked food a few hours later. But really, a slow cooker is just a blessing in the summer time.

Just because it's hot doesn't mean we don't want roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions. And just because it's hot doesn't mean we don't yearn for something with a Tex-Mex flair. But I really don't want to turn on the oven for hours during these Texas summers, even when it's as mild as it has been this year. Slow cookers allow us to enjoy our favorite foods even when the temperatures soar and they allow us to do it relatively inexpensively. Not only can less expensive and tougher cuts of meat be made tender and tasty, the slow cooker doesn't heat the kitchen which is a real boon when it comes to our electric bill.

In light of those reasons and the fact that just tastes good, tonight's dinner was slow cooker garlic chicken (some reserved for later in the week) served with buttered and seasoned Yukon potatoes and cabbage, both from the garden.

The chicken is so easy to make.

1 roasting chicken
Paprika (I omitted this)
5 garlic cloves, mashed (I used minced garlic)
1/4 pound sweet butter (I used less than the called for amount and added a little EVOO)
1/4 to 1/2 cup canned chicken broth (I used broth from boiling a chicken a few days ago)

Sprinkle the chicken, inside and out, with salt, pepper and paprika. Spread half of the garlic in the cavity and spread the remainder on the outside of the chicken. Place the chicken into a slow cooker and place a few pats of butter on its breast. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.

Serve the hot garlic butter sauce with the chicken.

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Here's the chicken, stewing in it's butter sauce.

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Slices of the garlic roasted chicken, potatoes with butter, garlic & chives, cabbage cooked in the wok, and carrots. The carrots weren't on the menu but I realized very late in the game that there was no color in this meal! So, I steamed some carrots to go with it.

Apparently color isn't something I consider most of the time when I plan a meal. No one here seems to care much about color (or at least they've never said anything about it) but I do need to work on appearance of meals.

At any rate, there you have it, tonight's meal. Some of the chicken will be saved and used in a few days, probably on Monday night.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fresh purple hull peas and hot water cornbread

We love gardening, especially when the garden starts producing. It's so satisfying to eat the things we've grown and the purple hull peas are no exception. Unfortunately, the rain we've had over the last six weeks has just about ruined our garden so we aren't getting much from it. However, over a period of several days we've picked enough purple hull peas to have our second small pot of them. So tonight's dinner was fresh peas and hot water cornbread.

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I don't do anything special to the peas, just shell and rinse them and put them in a pot with enough water to cover them. I add some onion (one green onion, top and all, this time), a few chunks of turkey ham, a tsp of minced garlic, about 1/2 a tsp of Knorr's Chicken Bouillon, and pepper. Cook til tender and serve hot.

The hot water cornbread is something we don't eat often. It's way too high in carbohydrates and we rarely eat fried foods. But this cornbread is so good and seems made to go with fresh peas so we have it now and then.

Hot water cornbread

2 cups corn meal
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional but I recommend this)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp sugar or other sweetener (optional)
vegetable oil to fry in

Put the corn meal, salt, and sugar in a bowl that can handle boiling water. I use a medium sized glass bowl. Pour the boiling water in slowly, stirring all the while until it makes a thick paste.

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Use your hands (yes, it's hot but you get used to it) and form the paste into palm sized patties, slipping them carefully into hot oil (we use canola or EVOO) and fry to golden brown, turning once.

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Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

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Peas and hot water southern as can be, as thrifty as can be and so very simple and easy to make. I like to sprinkle a little freshly ground pepper on my hot water cornbread right as it's finished cooking. True comfort food...

Menu Archive

These are the menus we've had recently:

June 28-July 12

Bean, rice and chicken wraps

Fresh purple hull peas with hot water cornbread

Crockpot garlic roasted chicken (some reserved for later in the week), buttered parsley new Yukon potatoes and cabbage, both from the garden

Beans and cornbread (some reserved for a later meal)

Crockpot chicken and cornbread dressing made with leftover chicken and served with green beans and butternut squash

Eggs, pan fried turkey ham, and toast

Leftovers and garden veggies that need to be eaten

Beef roast with gravy, rice, turnip greens, and broccoli

Stovetop stroganoff made with ground turkey, tossed salad, and homemade bread sticks

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Eggs confetti and chicken, rice and bean tortillas

This morning I wanted something to eat but didn't want anything very heavy. So, I got a couple of eggs ready to scramble and remembered that I had just a little bit of salad leftover from last night. There was very little lettuce in the bowl but plenty of the other salad goodies so while I scrambled the eggs in a bowl, I munched on the lettuce. I sprayed the wok with some vegetable spray, dumped the eggs in, and added the remainder of the leftover salad - halved Sweet 100 tomatoes from the garden, shredded carrot, a little mozzarella cheese, and some green onion. I blended all that well and added a small amount of smoked turkey sausage, stirring it well in the wok to get it all evenly cooked. It was great! And it was so colorful I decided to call it Eggs Confetti. So here you have it, Eggs Confetti.

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And supper was something new, also. I had some leftover chicken leg quarters to use so I de-boned two of them, chopped the meat and set it aside. In a good sized casserole I put about a cup of basmati rice, 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth, a can of ranch style beans, and the chopped chicken. I added some spices to it, mainly garlic and pepper with a little gourmet steak seasoning thrown in, put the lid on it and popped it in the oven. About 45 minutes later it needed more liquid and more seasoining so I added about 1/2 cup of water, and a dab each of tomato and chicken bouillon, stirred it well and put it back in the oven. When it was done, it was served with tortillas, chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, and grated cheddar cheese. Everyone made their own bean, rice and chicken wrap/burritos and they were very good! This dish is definitely a keeper and it's easy on the pocketbook, too.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A shameless plug..

My other half has started a pro-Macintosh blog. You really should sneak a peek at it, even if you aren't into Macs. It won't take long and you might like it. No, really! It won't take long and you might find something interesting or useful or even amusing! Go on, you know you want to!

Sausage and Pasta - what a great combination!

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The oncoming deluge of rain (and the fact that we may very well be stuck in our house for a day or two and were out of a couple of necessities) drove us to the grocery today and while there, I picked up a recipe in the meat section. It's called Sausage and Pasta and it looked so easy and quick I decided to make it for dinner. The recipe called for a couple of items I didn't have but I knew I had decent substitutes for them. So, I made it for dinner and it was a hit! Well, the man person isn't wild about it but he did eat it. He isn't wild about pasta and tomato anything but he doesn't gripe about eating it as long as I don't serve it very often.

So here's the original recipe with the substitutions in parentheses.

Sausage and Pasta - a Brookshire's Best Recipe

1/2 lb pasta, such as rotini, uncooked (I used whole wheat rotini)
3/4 lb Honeysuckle Italian sausage, outer casing removed (I used sliced smoked turkey sausage)
1 onion, chopped
1 28 oz can tomato puree (I used a can of store brand roasted garlic diced tomatoes)
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 1 1/2 tsp dried
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or 1 1/2 tsp dried
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese (I didn't measure this but was close)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat a large nonstick skillet. Saute the sausage for 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly and breaking apart into bite-sized pieces, and then add onion. Allow to brown well. Drain any excess grease. Stir in tomato puree and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes and then add the cooked pasta, oregano and basil. Heat completely and then top with shredded cheese. Cover 5 minutes to melt cheese. (I didn't do this as the cheese melted almost as soon as it hit the pasta)

We had this with a tossed salad just loaded with goodies from the garden. And while this dish was good, it isn't something we'll eat weekly or even bi-weekly though I imagine it will grace our table once every few weeks.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Homemade chicken pot pie

I don't feel too good tonight. I'm not sure why but I feel queasy and kind of weak. There's a virus going around with high fever, nausea, etc. and I hope that's not what this is. If it is, I'll manage.

Regardless, I still had hungry folks to feed so I made homemade chicken pot pie.

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Ehhh, it isn't the prettiest pot pie to come from our kitchen but apparently it was good - there isn't much left! My other half made up the dough for the crust and rolled and placed it. He's very good with biscuit dough which is pretty much what the recipe uses.

Anyway, here's the recipe.

In a bowl, mix:

2-3 cups mixed vegetables (I use whatever's on hand - leftovers, garden stuff, canned, frozen, etc)
1 cup cut up chicken, raw (I use a boiled chicken leg quarter)
2 cans cream of whatever soup (I make a homemade white sauce instead and use mushroom, onion, chicken broth, whatever I have on hand)
Liquid (I use a little milk or chicken broth)

The soup/sauce mixture should be pretty wet but not soppy. It's going to be sandwiched between dough (or at least under or over dough) that will absorb some of the liquid so while you don't want it to be runny, you definitely do want it to be moist. If it turns out too moist, enjoy it with a spoon like we've done and if it turns out too dry, serve it with big glasses of milk. ;)

I use Rod's biscuit recipe (1.5 to 2 cups flour, 1/3 cup oil, 1 cup milk, 2 heaping tsp baking powder, 1/3 tsp salt - add a bit more flour if you need to) to make the crust. If you like the crust thick and fluffy like biscuits or if you just want fluffy biscuit like topping and no bottom crust, use the 2 tsp baking powder. If you want it flatter like a pie crust, leave it out or just use 1/2 a tsp. He used less than a teaspoon of baking powder tonight and said he should have reduced that further as it was still a tad too fluffy for his taste.

If you're making a pie type crust, just mix the ingredients and pat or roll the dough out to roughly the size of the pan you're going to use. Put it in the pan and gently stretch/pull it so it covers (or almost covers) the bottom of the pan. We usually make a double batch of all this and put it in a 9 x 13. Put the soup/sauce mixture on top of the crust and put another crust on top of that if you like.

Or you can put the soup/sauce mixture in first and then top with the fluffy biscuit recipe or you can dump the soup/sauce mix in an ungreased 9" pie plate and put the biscuit dough on top.

Bake 30 minutes at 400 or until golden brown.

If you try this chicken pot pie recipe, please let me know how you like it.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I have smoked turkey...

running out my ears! My other half's ex came over last night with the kids and they brought with them a smoked turkey they'd cooked and salad makings. The ex didn't think they'd eat it all and they wanted to share with us. She's a very nice ex, by the way! So, we all had turkey and then I de-boned the monster and put the meat in bags in the fridge. She didn't want to take any home with her, though, so we kept it all.

I really enjoy smoked turkey but we don't have a smoker and the price of pre-smoked birds is too high for us so I haven't bought one in years. Now I have a goodly amount of the stuff.

What do you do with smoked turkey leftovers? It's great in beans but I'd love some more ideas on how to use this bird.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Magic meat loaf and way too much rain

It's raining again! This is really getting to be ridiculous! The plants simply can't handle anymore but here it comes. My sister who lives in Dallas lost the tomato plants we'd given her. Too much water for them, we think.

Well, we did get a few goodies from the garden today. We got two large and fat cucumbers, a very small purple bell pepper that's been this size for weeks, two stunted ears of corn and a few small tomatoes. I'm thankful for those, though I'd like more and larger fruit!

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Dinner tonight was an adapted version of Magic Meatloaf, green beans, and corn. I didn't have the dry soup mix so I used some powdered chicken boullion, garlic, and chopped onion. I made it with 1 lb of ground turkey and 1 lb of ground beef and made sure it was wet enough. Rather than cook it in the slow cooker, I popped it into a 350 oven for about 45 minutes. It was tasty and there's plenty left for lunch tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cheese enchilada stack and ranch style beans

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Dinner tonight was Cheese Enchilada Stack served with Ranch Style Beans. We're very fond of Tex Mex food and we really liked this dish and decided it's a keeper in our home. I added fresh Sweet 100 tomatoes from the garden to the top of it about 5 minutes before it was done and the tomatoes are a tasty addition. I noticed that ours didn't look quite like the picture featured with the recipe but that's just fine. It tasted great and we'll have it again.

Do you have a favorite Tex Mex recipe? If so, would you share it with me? I'm always on the lookout for new ones.

It's raining again and we're likely to get a lot of rain tonight. The poor garden is just about to float away! I really don't think it can take much more of this and we might not get much more at all from it. But we've planted more squash and we're going to try more tomatoes from seed. Here's hoping we get a good crop!

Beef tips and basmati, carrots, and green beans

Dinner was simple;beef tips and brown basmati rice, carrots, and green beans. It was quite tasty! At 7 PM we left to pick up my son in a town about an hour and a half away and on the way the car overheated! What a blessing, though, that a young man with plenty of water and a container to hold more water stopped and helped us. We finally picked up my son and made it back home. We're all tired and I'm about to head to bed. It's been a long day and a longer night. Hopefully I'll be more inclined to post tomorrow.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday's Musings & garden stuff

Today was a pretty slow day. We ran some errands, including taking the 16 year old to the high school for testing. He's been home schooled for two years after a short stint in public school and since he's going back into public school they need to know in what grade to place him. He says the test was easy but we don't know yet just how he did so we'll see.

Dinner tonight wasn't anything particularly exciting. I took a late nap and woke up at 6:30 so we had chili dogs with onions and mozzarella cheese for dinner. It wasn't fancy but it sure was tasty and thrifty. The 16 year old had never eaten a chili dog! How he's made it this far without eating one I don't know but he had his first one tonight. And his second one..then he ate what was left of the chili. Ahh, the joys of bottomless pit teen boys!

We got our second ear of corn from the garden today. It's a beautiful white sweet corn but this one ear at a time thing isn't working well. But oh well, we can share it tomorrow at lunch! And the man person ate the first homestead tomato from the garden, too. He says it had very little flavor and was kind of mealy and waxy tasting, like a store tomato. Since most of the tomato plants are just dying from too much rain we're going to start some more from seed and see how that goes. I'm just so disappointed in the tomatoes this year! I had high hopes of canning some and eating plenty of fresh ones but that just isn't going to happen unless we can get more going from seed and they do better later this summer. But then we have the heat to contend with! And unless something really bizarre happens, there won't be much rain at all so regular watering will be an absolute must.

So that's about it on the garden news for now. The rest of it seems to be plugging along, managing pretty well and trying not to drown in all this rain!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Friday & Saturday dinners & the Food Stamp Diet

Friday night we ate leftover lasagna. It was good and filling.

Tonight it's just the man person and me here so we went to Becky's Diner, a local cafe, for burgers and onion rings. Ehhh, not healthy, way too many carbs, and not too frugal at a little over $19 for the two of us, but it was a nice treat.

Right now I'm listening to Miss Maggie, founder of, on the radio. She was interviewed by Christopher Lydon in a segment about the Food Stamp Diet (the latest bandwagon the politicos are hopping on) and did a great job of expressing her opinions on both food and this attention getting, PR oriented "challenge" going around. I really hesitate to use the word "challenge" as living on food stamps for a week or even a month isn't much of a challenge in my opinion. But maybe this little experiment will encourage lawmakers to re-think the whole food stamp thing.

**Mini rant coming***

Actually, I think the distributing offices of the benefits need to offer, perhaps require, more education in exchange for food stamps. I'm not sure about other places but from what I've seen in our area of Texas there's no education about nutrition or wise food purchases involved with food stamps as there is with WIC. Certainly it can't hurt to teach parents that letting Little Billy or Tiny Susie (who happen to weigh 180 lbs at the age of 8 and are well on the road to a myriad of health problems) eat a package of Ding Dongs and a 2 liter of Dr Pepper as a snack isn't good. Along with education, how about more restrictions? Again, I don't know about other places but here one can't buy hot deli items, alcohol, or non-food items with food stamps but those are the only restrictions on what a recipient can purchase. It seems to me that restricting (note, I didn't say eliminating but what would be wrong with that?) sweets, soft drinks, chips and other empty calorie and non-nutritive items might be wise. At least then the kids stand a chance of getting healthier food and taxpayers won't find themselves standing in line behind someone with a basket loaded with garbage, knowing their money is buying it..not to mention helping to pay for the health care required later. Come on.. Pop Tarts, Cocoa Puffs, Ice Cream, and Kool Aid with food stamps? Shame, shame! On both the government for allowing it and parents for buying it!

By the way, sometime I'll write about my personal experience with the food stamp program. I'm thankful I qualified for food stamps for a period of time and I learned through self education more about smart shopping. By the time I wasn't qualified to receive them anymore, I didn't need them anymore! If I could do it, others can do it.

**Mini rant finished***

Miss Maggie talks about the importance of children being taught to cook properly and how it isn't necessary to eat unhealthy, bad carb laden foods to save money. Her $45 a week menu is also briefly discussed. It's a great interview and if you're interested in cutting your grocery expenses, give Miss Maggie and her website a try. I think you'll be happy you did.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

No boil meat lasagna

We got some more goodies from the garden last night and this morning. We got a zucchini, another cucumber, and another hand full of Sweet 100 tomatoes. The tops of some of the Early Girl tomatoes were mushy and since they were almost ripe, we picked them. Unfortunately, they were all mushy inside, too, so we threw them out. I'm so disappointed in the tomatoes and wish I knew what the problem was. I haven't heard back from the extension office about what might be the problem with the tomatoes but my other half was reading one of the forums and it was suggested to use fish emulsion on tomato plants such as ours. We did that a couple of days ago and then it rained so we might put a little more on them. I don't know if it will help but it's worth a try.

While out in the garden this evening we noticed a banana squash that we hadn't seen before. How we missed it, we don't know, as it's quite large! We also counted the Sugar Baby watermelons and there are 10 of them. Some of the corn is starting to look almost ready...but not quite. Tomorrow I'll get pictures of some of the goodies growing out there and will post them here.

Tonight's dinner was lasagna. I had other things planned to go with it but due to my other half's truck overheating and having to run water to him the other things didn't get prepared so we just ate lasagna. Fortunately we like it a lot but I change the ingredients every time so it's always just a little different. This time I added the leftover caramelized vegetables I made a few nights ago. That was a great addition and added a few more nutrients to the dish. Okay, not many but it used up some leftovers!

Here's the recipe I use, from the R&F Reduced Carb Lasagna Noodle box. I didn't use that brand of noodles but it's such an easy recipe and works with any kind of lasagna noodle so it's the only recipe I use.

No Boil Meat Lasagna

12 oz lasagna, uncooked
15 oz ricotta cheese (I used cottage cheese with liquid pressed out through a colander)
1/2 c parmesan cheese, grated
1 lb bulk sausage (I used ground beef and often use turkey)
52 oz pasta sauce
2 c mozzarella cheese, grated (I used 1 cup mozzarella and 1 cup swiss)
2 eggs
parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350. In medium bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan and eggs and mix well. In a 9 x 13 baking dish, spread 1 cup pasta sauce. Layer with half each of the uncooked lasagna noodles, ricotta mixture, meat, pasta sauce and mozzarella. Repeat layering. Top with parsley. Cover tightly with foil and bake covered for 1 hour. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 9

Source: R&F Lasagna box

This makes a goodly amount of lasagna and we had half the 9 x 13 pan remaining. I put it in the freezer and we'll have it in a week or two on a hectic night when I really don't feel like cooking.

What's your favorite pasta dish and why? Share the recipe with me!

Okay, time for me to go sit outside and enjoy the company of the dog. Until tomorrow....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer Pasta Salad and today's garden pickins

I found this recipe at Anita's Tried & True Low Fat Recipes and I really like it for light summer eating. It's not only thrifty, it's very low in fat. I make it with whole wheat or soy pasta so it's easier on the blood sugar. I've made it with less chicken, too, and it's still very good. I've also made it with fajita beef and that's excellent.

Summer Pasta Salad

1/2 c fat-free mayonnaise
4 oz elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
1/4 c parmesan cheese (Asiago is wonderful)
1 c onion, chopped
3 Tbsp fat-free milk (powdered milk and a little water work fine)
1/2 tsp salt
9 oz chicken breast cubes, cooked

In a mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, milk, chicken,
macaroni, onions, and salt. Mix well and chill several hours before serving.

If I have tomatoes and other goodies from the garden, they're quite likely to end up in this salad so it's a little different every time I make it.

Speaking of the garden, here's what we picked this morning.

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We got two cabbages, a small handful of beans, a couple of tiny potatoes and a cucumber to go with the ones in the fridge! But look at that mound of tomatoes! They're so sweet and juicy! I just love 'em but my throat is still too raw to eat them. Hopefully soon I'll be able to dive into them. Until then I'll just have to admire them from afar.

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And here's the most recent photo of the one butternut squash that's growing. I hope it continues to grow well since I have plans for it. I love the stuff and it's been many years since I've eaten it. I'm not sure which way to prepare it so if you know of a good recipe for it, please share it with me!

The garden isn't doing as well as we'd hoped. Every one of the 17 tomato plants has something going on. They're producing but not as well as they should be and the plants are getting sickly. I'm not sure they'll survive long enough for the fruit to ripen. I emailed pictures of the plants and the fruit to the local extension office and hopefully they'll be able to give me an idea of what's going on. I'm going to get some fish emulsion today, though, and dose them with that to see if it helps.

The beets we planted produced but the roots were small. Tasty but small! We've picked them all and they're in the fridge. I'm the only one who eats them so they'll last me awhile. We're going to try another variety in the Fall garden.

The cucurbits are all doing well, though, and the corn, beans, and peas are growing nicely. We pulled the onions and they did pretty well but are a bit on the smallish side.

There's always another chance to plant in the fall, though, so we'll do it again and see what happens.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Not a stew or soup but not just a roast either

I feel much better but not quite up to par. Dinner was good, though. I had a very small boneless arm roast (purchased at $1.09 lb) I cut into bite sized pieces, seasoned with gourmet steak seasoning, and put in the slow cooker. With it, I put raw potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and green beans and let it cook on low about 8 hours. I added a can of corn to it 15 minutes before we were ready to eat and let that warm up. We had it with homemade corn bread Rachel made and it was quite good! Not quite soup but not just a plain roast, either. There's one bowl of it left but it will be gone by bedtime tonight, I think.

I really wanted to make my grandmother's apple cake but just didn't feel up to it. Maybe tomorrow. That's the perfect tasty use of the apples I have sitting around. If I do make it, I'll take some pictures and post an entry about it. It's really fantastic and everyone should try it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Meatballs in gravy with caramelized vegetables

I still feel pretty rough so I've recruited Rachel, my 14 year old stepdaughter, to help cook dinner. She did a great job, too!

Tonight's dinner is meatballs in gravy, noodles, caramelized vegetables made with vegetables pulled this morning from the garden, and salad left from Friday night.

Honestly, other than Swedish meatballs, which we love, and one disastrous attempt at spaghetti & meatballs over 20 years ago, I haven't made the things. These turned out pretty well but were a little dry. They were served in a bowl of gravy (after all, this IS east Texas!) but still, they really needed to be more moist.

To make them I just used eight crushed saltine crackers, an egg, green onion, and some spices and mixed it all up. Then I formed it into balls, placed them on the broiler pan and baked them at 350 until they were done. Two eggs might have been better or maybe I should have added some milk.

I made some gravy and put the meatballs in the gravy and we had them over the noodles. Even though they weren't fantastic, they went over well.

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The caramelized vegetables are so easy to make.

Thinly slice about 3 lbs of vegetables (we like onion, yellow squash, zucchini and mushroom) and put them in the slow cooker. Add up to 1/4 cup oil/butter/margarine (the original recipe said 1/2 cup but to me that is way too much). I add about 2 Tbsp maximum of oil but the amount of oil will depend on the vegetables you use and how much oil you want to use. Add seasoning if you want but trust me, it isn't necessary. For tonight's dish, I added garlic powder and Cook's Choice Gourmet Steak Seasoning.

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Cook on low from 12 to 24 hours keeping 1/2 an eye on it after 12 hours, keeping in mind that temperature and time vary from cooker to cooker.

These come out tasting terrific. They aren't crispy but they possess a terrific flavor and texture.

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And here's the finished product. I know, not as pretty but oh, they're scrumptious! Some of the family likes to put gravy over the vegetables, other members just like them plain. Either way, they're fantastic and even kids who don't like vegetables will often eat these.

All in all it was a good dinner and Rachel was a great help. I'm exhausted now, though, so it's off to bed to rest. But if you have a good meatball recipe, I'd love to know it!

Chicken and Pasta Salad

Here's another tasty pasta salad for hot days when you really don't want to heat the kitchen. This one is light and easily adaptable to your family's preferences. I vary the pasta in it and often make it with leftover plain spaghetti noodles or even broken lasagna noodles. I also vary the dressing, sometimes using honey mustard and omitting the honey from the recipe or using italian, omitting the poppy seeds, and adding celery seeds.

Chicken and Pasta Salad

1 package pasta, uncooked
1 to 1 1/2 c buttermilk dressing
1/4 c honey
1/4 to 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
2 c chicken, cooked and chopped (I use leftover chicken or turkey and canned even works and creates no extra heat)
1 c grapes, quartered
1/3 c red onions, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup raw snow peas
chopped nuts or seeds (sunflower seeds are excellent)

Cook pasta as directed on package and drain. Stir together salad dressing, honey, and poppy seeds in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, combine pasta, chicken, grapes, onion, and snow peas. Sometimes I add in roasted red pepper at this point, also. Add the dressing from the small bowl and blend well. Salt and Pepper if desired. I also add garlic powder to mine. Cover and chill several hours. Sprinkle with nuts or seeds before serving. This is great with crusty rolls and butter.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Jewish chicken with basmati, vegetables, and biscuits

Tonight's dinner was great. We had Jewish Chicken, brown basmati rice, Normandy vegetables, and baking powder biscuits. The caramelized onions I wanted to make are done in a slow cooker and I didn't get them started in time so we'll have those another night. And no one wanted salad so we passed on that, too.

Jewish Chicken is a favorite in our house and it's thrifty if made with ingredients purchased on sale. No, I didn't name it and yes, I know no Orthodox Jew worth his or her salt would eat it! But it's magnificent all the same and here's the recipe:

Jewish Chicken

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Chicken pieces (I used breasts tonight)
2 to 4 cans cream whatever of soup, or homemade version
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk (powdered or canned work fine)
5 to 6 onion slices
1/2 cup grated cheddar or other cheese (I left this out tonight)
salt and pepper and other spices you like

Rinse chicken pieces and pat them dry. Place chicken in a shallow baking pan and bake at 350 until almost done, about 30 minutes. Remove chicken and drain grease. Mix soup and milk in a bowl until smooth and creamy, using more milk if necessary. Pour the soup mixture over chicken, add onion slices to the top, and bake another 15 to 20 minutes. If desired, sprinkle shredded cheese on it before the second baking time. The more soup you use, the more gravy you get and that's the best part of this dish for my family.


Golden nuggets from 'Living More With Less'

I bought my 'More With Less' cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre back when my boys were still very young, maybe 7 and 6. They're now almost 24 and almost 23 and it's still my favorite cookbook. It was also the book that got me started on the long and often arduous journey to a simpler life. So when 'Living More With Less' by the same author became available through PaperBack Swap I snagged it in a hurry. It's an amazing book, loaded with information on saving money, responsibly using resources, and caring for others and what we've been given. Mrs. Longacre weaves the words of others into her pages and although the book has been out for over 25 years, so much of it still stands true. Here are a few of the tidbits that impress me and marked by '**' are my thoughts on the concept and how I can put it to use in my own life.

I challenge all of you who read this entry to honestly look at your own life, your own priorities, and see if there are changes to be made that would improve your life or the life of another. Even small changes can make a big difference.

"Fremont always drinks his tea without sugar, remembering those who work unjustly for our abundance. Little acts of worship and sacrifice are a beginning." - Sara Regler

**That a person would make even think to make such a small change in remembrance of others strikes something deep within me. I already drink my tea without sugar as a matter of preference, but I think it can't hurt for all of us to give up something, be it small or large, in support or remembrance of others who have less.

"Most Americans don't live very simply. The money they waste by buying a dishwasher can better be sent to developing countries where people perish with hunger. The use of dishwashers and other electric things is much lower in Holland." - Ellen Orthmann, Netherlands

**I don't know if Holland is still well behind the U.S. in electric appliance useage but even if they aren't, many countries are. So many of us whine and act like spoiled children if something goes wrong with our dishwasher, food processor, air conditioner, etc. and really, in the scheme of things, how important are they? I don't use my dishwasher and I don't own a food processor, either. I hand wash dishes, hand chop vegetables, and hand mix batters and doughs. I do love my air conditioner but I've lived without air conditioning before and although the humidity and heat here in Texas are horrid, I can live without it again. Now that's something I can do - go without the air conditioner one day a week or set the thermostat higher and be a little less cool. Yes, it's just a small thing and yes, it will be unpleasant but it can't be pleasant to live without running water, electricity, and ample food, either. I need to remind myself of that daily.

"North Americans have to work more in order to buy things. For that reason they spend less time with their families, thinking that to be comfortable is more important for the family than to give them love and time together." - Inez Morales de Rake, Bolivia

**This is another one that rings true today! It's all about 'things' for most of us, and the pursuit of those things takes us away from family, friends, community, and Yah. My life is simple compared to most people I know but I'd like it to be even simpler. Sure, I'd like to have more money so that bills could be paid on time and so I could get some much needed repairs to my home but all in all, money isn't a big issue for me. I don't have much of it and don't need much of it so I don't chase it aggressively. I have little debt, no payments on cars, trucks, boats, or other toys, I pay cash for almost everything I buy, and I buy little. I could buy still less, though, and spend more time with my family. I'm going to cut down on my computer time and spend that time doing things with and for my family.

"When we first walked into a North American church, my friend from Indonesia said, "The cost of this carpet alone would build a beautiful church in Indonesia." - Sammy Sacapano, Phillipines

**And this was long before mega-churches sprang up! Imagine now, with churches that literally cost millions to build, how much good could be done with just a portion of that money. I've been in churches with first class audio and video equipment, sprawling buildings, brand new mini-vans and shuttles, and I often wonder if all that is necessary. Yes, it might be nice to look at and nice to brag about but is it necessary? And is it good? That depends on how those things are used but looking at the big picture, I think the money spent on some of those things would be better spent on helping the widows and the fatherless. James 1:27 tells us "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." That's what pure and undefiled religion is and if that's what you're looking for, why are you contributing to a church that does nothing or very little to help those in need? Do you even know where the money received by your church goes? Do you have any say at all in that process? Don't you think you should? Surely we can build and manage simpler church facilities and put the excess where it really should be.

Okay, I've rambled enough and I need to rest. I'm not over my throat infection yet and the medication I'm on is doing a number on me. I'll be back later to discuss tonight's dinner which will be Jewish Chicken, salad, basmati rice, and caramelized onions.

Is there something you can give up in an effort to be more resourceful or share with others? Are you willing to give it up?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Corn-Squash Bake

I still don't feel well but needed to make the Corn-Squash Bake I started last night so I did that. I also made stir fried garlic green beans with beans from the garden and baked new Yukon Gold potatoes, also from the garden. Rarely do I eat potatoes and even more rarely do I eat them two days in a row but since my throat feels like it's on fire and eating is very difficult, I'm happy to be able to choke anything down and soft food is all I can eat.

We're not big on casseroles, in general, but this one is very easy, tasty and frugal, especially if you have a garden with squash, corn and onion. The recipe is from the More With Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre.

Corn-Squash Bake

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut in 1 inch rounds:
3-4 medium zucchini squash or other summer squash, unpeeled.
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Cook in small amount of water until tender. (This time I
cooked the onion with the zucchini)

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Drain and mash with a fork.

1 T butter
1 small onion, chopped

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mashed squash
sauteed onion
2 cups corn (Tonight I used canned, though I normally use fresh or frozen)
1 cup shredded Swiss Cheese (I used Colby Jack cheese tonight)
1/2 t. salt
2 beaten eggs

Turn into 1 qt greased casserole.

Combine and sprinkle on top:
1/4 c dry bread crumbs (I used cracker crumbs tonight)
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 T melted butter

Place casserole on baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes.

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When cooked, let stand 5-10 minutes before serving. Normally, it comes out a little prettier, but one of the kids checked it while it was cooking and stirred it around then patted it back down, thinking I wouldn't be able to tell. Kids! ;)

There's just enough of it left for one or two of us to have it for lunch tomorrow. And this dish freezes very well, so if your family likes it, make a double or triple batch and freeze the remainder for a future meal or two.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Greens with Parmesan Cheese...

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Our garden fresh dinner tonight turned out to be scrumptious! We had corn on the cob (bought on sale at the local grocery), salad made with leaf lettuce and carrot from the grocery and tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper and onion from the garden, boiled new Yukon Gold potatoes from the garden with butter, garlic, pepper and parsley, and kale and beet leaves from the garden. Rather than eat the salad I just had some cucumber and green pepper and a leftover beet from the garden. It was a frugal and healthy meat-free dinner and we all enjoyed it.

For those of you who haven't grown kale because you weren't sure what to do with it or for those who have seen it at the market but didn't buy it because you weren't sure what to do with it, we eat it as a salad green and cooked. We like it both ways but my favorite is cooked. I found a hand full of beet leaves in the fridge tonight and cooked those with the kale-don't be afraid to mix greens!

To cook kale or beet greens or swiss chard, I just wash and trim the leaves, leaving the stems but cutting the excess off from the bottom of the leaves. I put it into a skillet with a little bit of water, some onion, garlic or garlic powder, salt, pepper, whatever seasoning I'm in the mood for, and cook it lightly until it's not crunchy but not totally limp either, about 10 minutes.

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Then I drain the liquid and add some Parmesan cheese, fresh if I have it, dried if I don't. I've also used other cheeses with it and they're all good!

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I let it sit just a few minutes until the cheese is good and melted and then serve. It's a very tasty dish and beet leaves, chard, and other greens are excellent cooked this way, too.

If you haven't tried greens cooked this way, give it a shot! Even those who don't like greens might enjoy this dish.

This morning's garden goodies

This morning we got a nice little haul from the garden. We got several new Yukon Gold potatoes, some zucchini, some cucumbers, a few Sweet 100 tomatoes, two Homestead tomatoes, one Roma tomato, and a hand full of green beans.

Since I'm not feeling well (strep and all that) dinner tonight is something simple and easy;salad, corn on the cob, boiled new potatoes with butter and parsley, and green beans. Hopefully I'll be able to enjoy it, thanks to Vicodin from the physician!

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Light and slightly fruity summer pasta

Back in the early '80s a friend in Germany shared this recipe with me and it's been one of my favorites over the years.

Summer Fruit Pasta
Yield - 6 servings

1 20 oz can pineapple chunks
8 oz Spiral pasta
1 Tbsp sugar or other sweetener
1 small red pepper, cut in chunks
1 ½ cups slivered ham or cheese
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup thawed frozen peas
handful of cashews or other nuts
juice of one orange
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp crumbled sweet basil
¼ tsp black pepper
1 dash nutmeg (I usually exclude this)

Drain pineapple reserving 1/2 cup of the juice. Cook pasta according to package directions. Combine pasta, pineapple, bell pepper, ham, carrot, peas, and cashews in large bowl. For dressing, combine reserved 1/2 cup pineapple juice with 1 tablespoon orange zest, 1/2 cup orange juice, and remaining ingredients. Pour over salad and toss well. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Summer and pasta salads - they go together

With summer upon us, it's time for meals that require minimal cooking and are light and easy. Although I don't eat a lot of pasta, I really like it and enjoy it now and then. I've found that whole wheat and soy pastas spike my blood sugar less so that's what I generally use.

Over the next few days I'll post some of my favorite pasta recipes for Spring and Summer, starting with my all time favorite pasta salad, Perpetual Pasta.

The key to this being a great pasta salad is to keep the sauce refrigerated in a container with a lid and just add more cooked pasta. I use the same sauce for my garden vegetables, adding zucchini, bell peppers, cucumber, onions and tomatoes as they come from the garden. Now and then I add to the salad or to the marinated vegetable container some sliced black olives, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, or whatever else I can get at a good price. This is such a versatile recipe..make it your own!

Perpetual Pasta

3/4 c. vinegar
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c. sugar or other sweetener (I use Splenda and use much less than what's listed)
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. celery seed

Boil pasta to your liking, drain it, rinse it if you like and add the sauce to it. Mix well and eat warm or cold. Store in closed container in fridge.

Happy Bottom's Apple Cake

This is a simple, frugal and scrumptious Apple Cake recipe. I got it from my mother who got it from my paternal grandmother, Gladys. Granny made this cake whenever we visited her in the Ozark foothills of Arkansas and each time I make this cake, it brings me happy memories of my grandparents. I don't know where Granny got the recipe but it's quite similar to many of the Amish apple cake recipes I've seen and she visited an Amish community quite often. I've made this with pears and it's great that way, too.

As a side note, one of my sisters and I recently talked about making this in the Bowl Maker. I'm not sure that can be done but I think it can be. If I do it, I'll blog about it.


Happy Bottom's Apple Cake

4 cooking apples, cut up
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
4 Tbsp oil
Dash of salt

Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl and put in a greased pan. The batter will be thick and might look a bit on the dry side but if the apples are good and juicy, it will be fine. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Not too long ago I was in the mood for this cake and had only 2 apples. I used them and added about 1/4 cup water. It was dry but was fantastic with freshly whipped cream on it. It's best when made with apples that are lightly bruised or too ripe.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Pick Texas

Speaking of fresh fruit and vegetables, Pick Texas is the only site you need to help you know what produce to buy, when to buy it, and how to find the freshest of it. If you live in Texas, that is...

Brought to you by the Texas Department of Agriculture, this is one handy reference list!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

What's in YOUR pantry? to save money on food

Recently someone emailed me wondering how much I spend on food per month and what frugal meals I prepare. What ensued was a lengthy email conversation about food and frugality and how a person can reduce their grocery spending. I told the enquirer that I generally spend less than $200 a month for three or four people full time and two teens on weekends. She wanted to know how I managed that and here's my response:

"Besides the fact that I live in an area of the country that has a lower cost of living in some things, there are quite a few things I do to spend less and feed my family. Here are a couple of major concepts I put to use. One is buying items when they're on sale for what I call "Denise's price" and the other is buying a lot of those items at Denise's price.

We all have different food likes and dislikes, dietary needs and quirks but here are some of the things that are staples for our household:

white flour, whole wheat flour, and soy flour
corn meal, grits and oats
white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, and splenda
yeast, baking powder, and baking soda
salt, pepper, and other basic spices like garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemon pepper, cinnamon, ginger and way too many to list here
extracts like vanilla, almond, and orange
white and apple cider vinegars
dried beans, peas, and legumes
white rice, brown rice, and wild rice
dried fruits
a variety of canned tomato products such as stewed, sauce, paste, sundried, and whole
several kinds of pasta, mostly whole wheat or soy
broths, barbecue sauce, steak sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, nut butters, soy sauce, lemon juice, mustard, mayo, salad dressings, and Teriyaki sauce
extra virgin olive oil and canola oil
canned milk, regular milk, sweetened condensed milk, and powdered milk
canned fruits and vegetables
canned meats and fishes
coffee, tea, and other beverages
fresh fruits and vegetables
frozen meats, vegetables, and fruits

There are many things I haven't listed but that should give a good idea of what we keep in our pantry."

The reader responded to the list with an admission of not keeping a good pantry and wanting to learn more about that so I thought I'd post about this and ask...what's in YOUR pantry and what are the two most important things you do to save money on food? Or do you not try to save money on food?

As a side note, tonight's dinner was beef roast with vegetables and Buttery Bread Sticks. The bread sticks were made with ingredients that were all on sale and cost less than $.75 for a very large pan of them.

The beef roast was purchased on sale at $1.29 a lb and while the carrots and potatoes were also purchased on sale at the local grocery, the onions, zucchini, and green beans were picked from the garden this evening. I cut the roast into good sized chunks before cooking it and seasoned it pretty heavily with this Gourmet Steak Seasoning.

The meal was delicious, very frugal at less than $1.25 per serving, and fed three adults and two teens.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Friday morning garden pickins..

We're leaving in awhile for a family reunion in Marthaville, Louisiana and won't be back until Sunday so I leave you all with this photo of what came from our garden this morning;one cucumber, quite a few onions, a few Sweet 100 tomatoes, and a few beets. Hopefully when we return Sunday there will be a lot more to pick.

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My vegetables usually come from my own garden but sometimes they come from the local farmer's market, too. Support your local farmer's market!