Thursday, May 29, 2008

Super Easy Spicy Chicken Stuff

I was off work yesterday and neither of us wanted a sandwich for lunch so I whipped up a concoction that turned out very well.

I skillet cooked two chicken breasts, took the meat off the bone, and chopped the chicken into bite sized pieces. Then I put it back in the skillet with a little over a cup of homemade white sauce (canned cream of whatever soup would work, too), some canned mushroom stems and pieces and a can of green chiles. I added about 1/4 cup of water and some chopped garlic, mixed it well, and heated it throughout. That's it! We had it over brown rice with a salad and some spinach and it was very tasty and light.

There's just enough left for me to take for my lunch today so that's the plan. We're trying to really cut back on expenses and taking my lunch is just one thing I can do in that department.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday Thoughts...

I was going to have today off but another cashier was needed where I work so I picked up an 8 hour shift for today. That's a long shift for me but since I'm only scheduled for 29 hours this week I can use the extra money. I didn't realize it until after I clocked out but the 5 hours and 22 minutes I worked yesterday were time and a half! Wooo, go me, more extra money!

We had our brisket and red beans and rice for supper last night and it was tasty, indeed. Since I'll be at work at dinner time tonight, the man person will more than likely have a brisket sandwich or some similar, easy to make meal. I think I'll stir fry some green pepper and onion, roll it with chopped brisket in a low carb tortilla, wrap it all in foil, and take it to work for my lunch. That and a nice big glass of tea sure sound good. It's been hot lately and the tea is refreshing and the brisket roll up should be fairly light eating.

Speaking of eating light, I noticed that yesterday Scribbit posted a great sounding lemon bar recipe. Now I'm not much of a lemon bar fan (I prefer date nut bars) but the man person likes lemon bars, the recipe sure sounds good, and the picture looks great! I think I need to bookmark that or save the recipe to try when I have an oven. In the meantime I settle for desserts that can be made in a slow cooker and I add recipes for others to my collection of dessert recipes for 'some day'...

Okay, time to make breakfast and think about getting the day started. Peace!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Menu Plan Monday

This is my third post in the Menu Plan Monday meme hosted by I'm An Organizing Junkie. This week's menu is fairly strong on brisket because we got two large briskets for $.97 a lb. One weighs 15.33 lbs. and the other 17.59 lbs. That's almost 33 pounds of brisket for less than $33!

I cut the larger one in quarters Saturday night and pressure cooked two of those quarters. The other two were pressure cooked yesterday. The meat was either chopped, shredded, or sliced, and put into quart or gallon freezer bags, some with barbecue sauce and some without, labeled with the contents and date, and frozen. The remaining whole brisket is in the freezer and I'll do the same thing with it in a few weeks.

So, without further ado, here's this week's menu in no particular order other than tonight's dinner, which is first.

Barbecued sliced brisket with leftover red beans and rice from the freezer (I'm trying to use up some things in there so I can put new stuff in)

Egg and beef pie made with chopped brisket, salad and green beans

Chicken and wild rice skillet dinner made with chopped cooked chicken from the freezer, salad and fresh wilted spinach

Slow cooked chicken wings and drums, salad, green peas, and fresh fruit

Turkey sausage, scrambled eggs, and toast

Beef and cheese quesadillas made with shredded brisket, pico de gallo, quacamole, and chips

Leftover chicken and wild rice skillet dinner with whatever leftover side dishes need to be eaten

Yum, yum!!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stretching the grocery budget dollars

According to experts, food prices are higher than they were in March of 2007. Umm, I think most of us know that, though we're not 'experts'. But do you know how much higher? A loaf of white bread has increased 16%, milk has increased 23%, and eggs have climbed 35%. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Americans spent an average of $1,926 per person on groceries in 2007, up 4.2% from 2006 and they project another 4.5% increase in 2008, to $2,013.

Obviously, food prices are an issue here as in many other places around the world. Food shortages are a worrisome possibility (probability?) and many U.S. food banks are struggling with rising costs and plummeting donations. But is it time for those of us in the U.S. to panic? I think not. I do think, however, we need to take stock of what we have, what we need, and what we might need in the near future, and maximize our purchases.

I already do those things but am in the process of creating a plan to enable us to stretch our grocery dollars even more. I'll hammer out my thoughts on that here and will post the final plan.

As a side note, I peruse the USDA's food plans regularly and for April of this year, their "Thrifty Plan" figure for a household of two adults the ages of DH and I is $300. We spent less than $200 on food in April and the only times we've gone over their "Thrifty Plan" amount is when we did huge stocking up two or three weeks in one month. The figures in the USDA charts aren't representative of our household but they seem to be a good average for the typical American family.

Where does your family fall in those averages? If you're above the average, why do you think that's so and what could you do to change it? And if you're below, what things do you do or not do that put you there?

On college graduations and white sauce

My oldest son graduated from the University of Texas at Austin this last week and for a couple of weeks prior to the big event I didn't do much but work and fret over miscellaneous things. The deed is done, though, and I'm much less stressed now. If I could explain just how proud I am of my son, I would. But I can't. In the last few years he's overcome personal hardships that would have flattened most of us. He persevered, though, and got his bachelor's degree in Philosophy. He plans to work for a year or so then pursue his Ph.D. What a guy! And he's getting married in August to a wonderful young woman I can't wait to call daughter in love! Anyway, that's the main reason I haven't posted in the last couple of weeks.

Now on to cooking thangs. A friend of mine recently complained about the high cost and high sodium content of canned cream of whatever soups. I suggested she try the ones at Dollar General as they're much cheaper than the name brand versions and just as tasty when mixed with other items, though I don't like the taste of them on their own. She's something of a food snob, though, and doesn't want to try that brand so I told her she could simply make her own. Oh my, you'd have thought I told her to kick her dog in the rear! She just couldn't imagine making her own and told me she wouldn't know where to begin.

Well, since I do know where to begin I sent her an email with the instructions. I also posted it to a Yahoo Group I'm in and thought I'd share it here, too. It really isn't difficult at all. The key is to keep the heat low and to stir, stir, stir!

This sauce is great for meat pies and the addition of cheese turns it into a very tasty sauce for macaroni and cheese. Add a few vegetables and you have a great creamed vegetable dish. You can increase or decrease the salt and other spices as you see fit. It's so versatile and easy and there's just no reason I can think of to not try it! So, in all it's glory(ehem)here it is.

In a small heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of flour and add salt to taste. I use about 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt. If I want the sauce to have pepper or garlic, I add these, too. Now and then I add a few drops of Louisiana hot sauce if the white sauce is to be used in a spicy dish.

Cook over low heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Cooking it this long helps eliminate the flour flavor that some white sauces have.

Keep stirring and slowly add 1 cup of milk. Continue cooking over low heat until the sauce is smooth and thickened. If you want to add cheese or sauteed vegetables, add them here and keep stirring for awhile until everything is smooth and well blended.

For thin white sauce I use 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of flour. I use the thin white sauce in cream soups that will be eaten individually.

For thick white sauce I use 3 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of flour. I use the thick sauce when making sauce to be used with pasta.

For heavy white sauce, I use 4 tablespoons of butter and 4 tablespoons of flour. I rarely use the heavy sauce but now and then it's great as a binder. A little leftover heavy sauce is also good to thicken a soupy dish.

If you try this recipe, please let me know how it turned out. It's just so easy to make and use and I'd love to know what you did with it!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wednesday Wanderings...

It's about 2 AM and I'm wide awake. I got to sleep at about 11 but had a nightmare and was awakened by it a bit ago. So here I am, checking email and such and hoping to get back to sleep soon.

Last night I cooked two more beef roasts in the pressure cooker. This time I dumped one package of brown gravy mix, a package of onion soup mix, and about 3/4 cup of Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce into a 4 cup measuring cup and added enough water to make 2 cups of liquid.

I brought it to pressure and cooked it for 15 minutes, then used the quick release and added a bag of frozen green beans, some carrots and potatoes, and set the PC for another 12 minutes. When it was finished, I used slow release and the resulting beef roast is so very tender and very delicious!

The meat, vegetables, and juice were divided into 2 large freezer bags and I got a small freezer bag of just sauce and vegetables. All of it went into the freezer to be used in the future. I'll use part of it for stew, part to be served over rice, some will be used in a crockpot beef pie, etc. Those two roasts should provide us with at least 12 meals.

Tuesday night dinner was a #9 from Long John Silver's. I didn't get off until 6 and Rod wanted to go out for fish so we did. Ehh, it wasn't frugal or healthy but it sure was good!

Today is a day off for and I got the laundry done yesterday so today I'm going to rest. Dinner will be leftover cheesy chicken pulled from the freezer and used to make chicken and rice that we'll have with a salad and green beans. Yum!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Terrific Tuesday & tonight's dinner

So far this has been a great Tuesday. Since I don't have to go to work until 2, I slept in until a little after 8. That's rare for me and it was sooo nice! I got up, did a little cleaning, checked email, set the beef roast out to defrost, and am going to head out in just a few minutes to do laundry before going to work. While I'm out I might pick up a few fresh vegetables since we're running very low.

We don't have a garden this year, unfortunately. There's not really space for one but we are going to put three or four tomato plants in pots. If all we can grow is those wonderful tasty tomatoes that will work, though we would prefer to grow much more. As they say, though...if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Anyway, tonight's dinner is Beef Quesadillas made from last week's leftover beef roast, low carb tortillas, a mix of several grated cheeses, roma tomatoes, and some plain yogurt mixed with sour cream. We'll have them with a salad if I get the vegetables while I'm out. I get off work at 6 so it might be a late dinner but it should be great.

Okay, I'm off to do laundry then head to work...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Menu Plan Monday and menu for the week

Continued thanks to Laura at I'm An Organizing Junkie for her Menu Plan Monday. Participating in the memes really seems to help me keep on track so I'm in for the duration!

Here's our menu for the week with the first meal being tonight's dinner. The rest will just kind of happen when the time seems right for them.

Chicken and brown rice, green beans, and salad (I'll make enough rice for the other two rice containing meals and put that in the fridge)

Slow cooker bean enchilada casserole

'Beef tips', rice, gravy, spinach, and salad (made with leftover beef roast from last week)

Slow cooker Swiss Steak, green beans, and salad

Cheesy Beef, buttered new potatoes, and mixed greens

Leftover Red Beans and brown rice with salad

Beef salad sandwiches (made with leftover beef roast from last week) with kettle cooked chips

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday dinner - Beef and Cheese Rollups

I didn't get off work until 2 hours past my scheduled time and am tired this afternoon. I really didn't feel like cooking a lot but was hungry and came up with something quick and very tasty.

I used some of the Carne Picada from Wal-Mart in tonight's dinner. I dumped it all into the electric skillet in about 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, added some sliced onion, salt, pepper, and chopped garlic, and browned it well. When the meat was cooked, I removed half of it to the freezer for later this week. The other half still in the skillet I topped with shredded Mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheeses, a small hand full of each. Then I turned off the skillet, no stirring of the meat and cheese, and let it sit until the cheese melted, about four minutes. I put some on a low carb tortilla, added a little chopped tomato and picante sauce, rolled that puppy up and ate it! It's very good that way - tasty and filling. Black olives and green onions would have made it better but since I'm out of green onions I settled for what I had and was happy to have it. As my sister said earlier today during a phone conversation about her breakfast, "I'll just shut my mouth and eat it and be grateful to have it". Uh huh, that's it!

Anyway, if you come across Carne Picada in your local store, give it a try. It's good stuff!

Pantry meals

The business has been a little slow lately and since most weeks I work less than 30 hours, money is a little tight. Bills are paid and we have gas in the truck and plenty of food stored up so we're trying to eat from the pantry. We spent about $58 on groceries last week and I'd like to keep it under $15 this week with that $15 beingly mainly for bread and milk. We're pretty well stocked on everything else, I think, so eating from the pantry shouldn't be difficult.

The menu for the coming week is comprised of things we have on hand already. There's always the chance that my man person will decide he wants to go out at least once but we've found a pretty reasonable way to do that. There's a Chinese restaurant near us that charges $10.80 for two lunch take outs from their very large and good buffet. They don't mind if we really stuff our containers full so we can get 2 meals for each of us for $10.80 total. Not bad at all! If we do decide to go out, we'll more than likely do that. It's better than spending $20 or more for one meal and gives us a little diversion.

Hopefully business will pick up again soon but it's so nice to know that we have enough food to keep us fed for quite awhile.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

What if your next meal was also your last?

What would you request for your last meal?

I read Dead Man Eating regularly and find the entries to be oddly and gruesomely fascinating, very much akin to the books and sites I read about medical anomalies. Reading what people about to be put to death ask to eat before they depart from this world is a little unsettling and sad. I can't seem to stop myself from peeking, though!

I checked it today to see if there was a new entry. Alas, there isn't. But each time I look at that site, I wonder what I'd order for my last meal. Oh my, what a tough choice that would be!

Diabetes be damned! Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, and corn on the cob with chocolate cream pie for dessert?

Porterhouse steak, 2 inches thick and barely cooked, with a sour cream, cheese, and green onion topped baked potato, and pineapple lemon cheesecake?

Crispy turkey bacon, eggs scrambled with cheese and bell pepper, and grits?

I might ask for my granny's apple cake, the aforementioned cheesecake, and a bag of fig newtons!

Honestly, I haven't a clue what I'd request.

What would you request for your last meal on this earth?

And would you actually be able to eat it? That's the real question.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Freezer Food Friday

Thanks to What a Crock! for hosting Freezer Food Friday. This is my first time participating but it won't be my last. Participating in the memes seems to help me stay on track.

Tonight's menu is Red Beans and Wild Rice. I don't freeze the rice but the beans freeze beautifully and tonight they're going to contain some of the leftover 'smoked' chicken a la crock, chopped. Yum!!

We love to eat red beans and rice with hot water cornbread but that's really a carb-a-rific meal so we'll not have the cornbread tonight.

There are a lot of great recipes for Red Beans but we don't like ours too hot and spicy. Savory, yes, flavorful, yes, but not so hot we can't eat them. So here's how we prepare them.

1 pound dry red kidney beans, rinsed, sorted, and soaked for at least 6 hours
2 green onions, stalk and all
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup meat(I use turkey ham or chicken, ground beef, homemade turkey sausage, etc.)
1 to 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
Additional seasonings such as pepper, etc.

Pour the water off the beans, put the beans in a soup pot or slow cooker, and add water to two inches above the beans. Add the chopped onion, garlic, and meat and bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes then reduce heat to simmer and let simmer (or cook on low if using a slow cooker) until done. Add the chicken bouillon and creole seasoning and let cook another 30 minutes or so.

To prepare the rice, use two cups of water to each cup of rice. Boil the water then reduce to a simmer and add the rice and any seasonings you like. I add just a little chopped green onion and garlic. Bring to a boil again, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook about 45 minutes. Wild rice has a crunchier texture than white rice so if you haven't eaten it before, don't expect it to cook up as soft as white rice.

Put some of the rice into a bowl and top with the beans, including the pot liquor, which should be fairly thick and rich. I like to garnish mine with a little cilantro and chopped fresh tomato.

After you've eaten your fill, freeze the remainder of the beans in air tight containers. When you're ready to eat some more, let them thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in a sauce pan or microwave.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pantry update

Well, it was time to update my pantry contents list so I did part of that this afternoon. So far I've only gone through the main closet. I have to head to work soon so I'll probably do the freezer tomorrow. Here's what's in the main closet, though. You know, looking at this list, it looks like all we eat is convenience food but most of this is kept for emergency use and times when I can't cook for some reason. It's nice to have this stuff on hand just in case!

1 13 ounce box instant potatoes
3 Jiffy corn muffin mixes
3 Keto Mac & Cheese
1 box Ronzoni spaghetti
25 pounds of varyious legumes
2 pounds wild rice
1 pound white rice
10 pkg popcorn
7 boxes store brand pasta dishes like hamburger helper
2 boxes Taco Bell taco dinner
2 boxes tostado shells
2 cans chili
2 jars peanut butter
1 box saltine crackers

1 jar mayo
3 bottles Dorothy Lynch dressing
1 jar Classico sauce
1 gallon barbecue sauce
1 jar Ortega taco sauce
1 jar Archer Farms mild red enchilada sauce
1 28 ounce can red enchilada sauce
2 10 ounce cans red enchilada sauce
1 bottle mustard

9 cans salmon
10 cans tuna

3 jars instant coffee
2 cans regular coffee
1 box Swiss Miss cocoa
1 can vegetable juice

42 cans of stewed or whole tomatoes
16 8 ounce cans tomato sauce
1 27 ounce can spinach
4 cans spinach
5 cans potatoes
4 cans carrots
2 cans corn
12 cans green beans
4 cans mixed greens
5 cans mixed vegetables
7 cans of vegetarian beans
12 cans ranch style beans
2 cans refried beans
7 cans green chiles
2 cans artichoke hearts
3 cans mushrooms
12 cans chicken broth
9 cans cream of soup
2 cans pepper jack soup

large quantity of varying spices and baking items

"Smoked" Chicken A la Crock!

**Note to self - get batteries for the digital camera. The blog just isn't the same without pictures!**

Tonight's dinner is "Smoked" Chicken A la Crock, baked sweet potatoes, and salad.

I love the flavor of smoked chicken but without a smoker (heck, I don't even have an oven or stove right now!) I have to get creative to get that flavor. After a little experimentation I hit on the right combination of things to get a decent smoky flavor in my slow cooker. This is very simple but tasty and the leftover chicken makes delicious chicken salad.

Wash and rinse chicken pieces or a whole chicken. I prefer to use the whole chicken. Pat it dry and season with a little pepper, salt, and garlic. Put the chicken in the crock of your slow cooker and add 2 Tablespoons of Liquid Smoke. Add sliced onions, bell peppers, squash or any other vegetable you like, put the lid on the crock, set it to low and let cook about 6 hours. Because I don't like the boiled chicken thing that often happens in slow cookers, I drain the broth a few times during the cooking process, freezing it for later use.

When the chicken is cooked, carefully remove it from the crock. It will more than likely fall apart so you might want to put the chicken and vegetables in some netting before you put it in the crock. I don't do that normally but do it sometimes if I think I won't want to mess with fishing out pieces of chicken.

We usually have this with a salad and although it isn't exactly like smoked chicken, it's awfully tasty and is as close as I can get without paying $5 for one from the store! Try it and let me know what you think.

Confessions of a late night foodie...

It's 12:40 AM and I can't sleep. Rather than watch television, which would be difficult since I don't have one right now, I'm eating leftover spaghetti pulled from the freezer and nuked and perusing food blogs. I'm also drooling over some of the recipes I've found. Some are for sweets and others are for just good sounding dishes but a few have definitely gotten my attention. One that has is Copycat Macaroni Grill Reese’s Peanut Butter Cake. Reading this recipe gave me chills! And I'm trying to figure out if there's any way I can make it or a good facsimile in a slow cooker. I don't think it would work out well but I might try it soon just to see if I can do it. Now, back to my blog blunderings...