Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recuperating from dental work....

I didn't sleep hardly at all last night, maybe 2 hours. My mouth hurt most of the night and I just couldn't get comfortable. This morning I tried to rest but had the same issue going on so I ended up calling in at work tonight. I hated to do that but if I take the pain medication I can't function and if I don't take it I can't function. Either way, I'd have been worthless at work tonight. I did manage to sleep about 4 hours this evening, though, and that helped. I'll head back to bed in a bit and will sleep well, hopefully.

This evening we had chicken pot pies from the freezer. I just wasn't up to cooking and they were so quick and easy to make. They're also way too high in carbs but ehhh, it's a rare treat. I work until 6:30 Wednesday night so I'll get dinner mostly prepared before I leave and put it in the fridge. That way the man person can easily finish his when he gets hungry and I can eat mine when I get in. I'm not sure just what we're having but I think it will be the hamburger steak meal. That sounds good and should be fairly easy for me to chew.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

This week's eats - fast and frugal

I had intentions of getting this posted and on I'm An Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday early this morning but the dentist called to let me know someone had canceled and I could come right in. So, three hours, two root canals, and two temporary crowns later, I'm back and finally completing this.

My work schedule for the coming week is pretty heavy so this week's dinners are all going to be fast and frugal.

I'm off today and will bake some chicken to be used in two dishes later in the week.

Tonight's supper will be smoked turkey sausage, tossed salad, and very tasty collard greens. The recipe for the greens is at the end of this entry.

The rest of the week we'll have, in no particular order:

Chicken fajitas made with low carb Lavash bread, with plenty of pico de gallo, and tossed salad

Cheese Pancakes, one of my favorite low carb dishes, served with beef brats

Hamburger steak and onions, served with gravy, brown rice, green beans, and steamed spinach

Chicken and noodles made with some of Monday's cooked chicken and homemade low carb soy/whole wheat noodles, with a salad and steamed baby carrots

Leftovers, when we clean the fridge of meal remainders

Okay, I love greens, any kind of greens. I prefer spinach but sometimes collard, turnip, and mustard greens are considerably less expensive so I buy them when the price is right. Whether they're canned, frozen or fresh, I generally season greens with freshly ground black pepper, a little sea salt, and just a smidge of Cook's Choice Brisket Rub. And no, I don't work for Cook's Choice. I'm just a fan of their products.

Monday night's collard greens will be cooked slightly different, though. They're so good this way and this is a fast and easy way to prepare greens.

Rinse well the fresh greens, blot them dry with a clean cloth, and lay them flat in a heavy skillet which is fairly hot on medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, 1/2 teaspoon of chicken bouillon (I use Knorr's), 1/4 teaspoon of tomato bouillon (again I use Knorr's), and about 1/8 of a teaspoon of the above Brisket Rub. If you don't have brisket rub, any good barbecue rub will work. Put a lid on the skillet and simmer the greens until they're tender, just a few minutes. Remove from heat, stir the greens a little and serve immediately.

Even people who don't like greens seem to like them this way. If you try this, let me know what you think.

Sunday eats

I worked 7:30 to 3:00 again today and since we were watching the Cowboys/Redskins game, dinner was quick and made of lasts - the last of the leftover chicken tenderloins, the last of the leftover carne picada, and the last of the leftover vegetables from Thursday's beef roast. Oh, I also had some Wholly Guacamole with mine. It's not bad for store bought guacamole and I added cilantro to it which greatly improved the flavor. Guacamole without plenty of cilantro is just mashed avocado!

All the leftovers have now been eaten, the fridge has been cleaned, and a new week is upon us.

I'm working on the week's menu this evening and will post it either tonight or in the morning.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Supper

I worked from 7:30 this morning to 3:00 this afternoon and was pooped after I got off work. Rod was hungry, though, so after we ran a couple of errands (braking for garage sales!) I cooked a few Market Pantry (Target's brand) chicken breast tenderloins we recently purchased for $5.99 a bag.

I seasoned the tenderloins generously with Cook's Choice Gourmet Steak Seasoning and baked them in the convection oven. We had them with a little bit of Country Bob's, some peas and carrots, and leftover vegetables and gravy from Thursday's beef roast.

I had a tough time eating since my tooth still hurts but I hadn't eaten much today so I was very hungry and managed to get enough down to stop the growling stomach. So far, so good. I hope the dentist returns my phone call early Monday morning.

Friday, September 26, 2008

When life hands you lemons, make fish sticks!

This morning I had a tooth shatter. It didn't just break - it disintegrated! I've put in calls to my dentist but I get the voice mail and although I called the emergency number he hasn't returned the call. So, I haven't eaten hardly anything all day.

DH had some of the leftover roast and vegetables from last night earlier and I finally got so hungry I had to find something, anything, to eat. What did I find? Why, fish sticks of course! I baked them until they were done but not crunchy and had them with mixed peas and carrots. Neither item is something I eat often or in quantity but I needed something fairly soft and easy to chew. Besides, fish sticks are comfort food for me and man, do I need comforting!

So remember this, folks - when life hands you lemons, make fish sticks!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ray's 3 Envelope Roast

I kinda sorta made Ray's 3 Envelope Roast today using beef rump roast and as I expected, it didn't disappoint! I didn't have the Italian salad dressing mix (and after our almost $90 shopping excursion this morning wasn't about to go buy any) so I made do with the two envelopes I had on hand. This is the third time I've made this with some variation and each time it turns out perfect, the best beef roast I've ever had. If you haven't tried this, you really should. It's easy and even the cheapest, toughest roast comes out tender and tasty.

So, here's how I made the roast:

Browned roast

First, I browned a three pound rump roast in the Cook's Essentials digital 8 quart pressure cooker. While it was browning I mixed 1 cup of water, 1 envelope of brown gravy mix, 1 envelope of ranch dressing mix and 1/2 teaspoon of Spike seasoning until smooth then poured it over the roast, put the lid on, and set the timer for 40 minutes. When the timer went off, I used quick release and added cut up red potatoes, celery, onions and whole baby carrots and a small hand full of frozen mixed broccoli and cauliflower and set the timer for another 16 minutes.

Finished beef roast and vegetables

The resulting dish was perfect. The gravy was savory, the meat very tender, and the vegetables were soft but not at all overcooked. Unfortunately, the man person beat me to the roast before I could get a picture of it so what you see above is the roast and vegetables after he got to them. I'll have to hide some of the stuff to use later this week in the beef pot pie I have planned!

Grocery shopping.. ouch!

We went grocery shopping this morning, the first time in awhile. We've been eating what we have on hand and only going for milk and bread and fresh vegetables. Wow, it hurt to see the prices! We spent $89.23 and got:

3 bags of frozen vegetables
1 pound baby carrots
3 bananas
2 containers of Wholly Guacamole (buy 1 get 1 free)
1 package of pico de gallo
1 pound of turkey pastrami
3 beef roasts
2 packages of beef brats
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground turkey
1 package turkey franks
5 turkey pot pies (the man person likes these for lunch when I'm at work)
1/2 gallon of milk
1 small package of sharp cheddar cheese
1 package of Lavash bread
1 loaf of whole wheat bread
1 large container of coffee creamer
2 containers of the man person's instant decaf (had a coupon for $1 off one)
2 cans chili with no beans (for chili dogs)
2 gallons of distilled water for drinking
4 rolls of toilet paper
2 12 packs of diet soda

At any rate, the prices were a little unsettling but we shouldn't need to do 'big shopping' again for at least three weeks. I almost fear what the prices will be then!

One of the roasts is going to be in the pressure cooker later today so that changes the menu for the rest of this week. We still have some of the browned carne picada to eat and will have that tomorrow night but tonight we'll feast on beef roast, gravy, red potatoes, onions, and baby carrots with a nice tossed salad on the side. We'll have leftovers so I'll turn those into something else, more than likely a lower carb pot pie made with Lavash bread.

I'm looking for more ideas to use the leftover roast so if you have any, please share them with me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Beef, Barley, and Vegetable Soup

Tonight's main dish is Beef, Barley and Vegetable Soup. The version we're having tonight uses browned carne picada leftover from last night. It's in the slow cooker now and already smells great! I'd love to have some homemade bread sticks or hot water cornbread with it but those are just too high in carbs, especially since the soup has barley and potato in it. Instead, we'll have it with a nice salad and freshly made dressing.

So, here's how I make Denise's Slow Cooked Beef, Barley, and Vegetable Soup:

1 cup beef (ground beef, stew beef, and carne picada all work well), browned
1/4 cup barley (I normally use regular but am using quick cooking in this)
1 cup beef stock or beef bouillon dissolved in hot water
2 cups Ro-tel tomatoes or other tomatoes (V8 juice is great, too)
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 or 5 carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
red potatoes, chopped (turnips can be used, too)
1 or 2 seasonal squash, chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen green beans
chopped garlic to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
juice of one large lemon (this is a great salt substitute in soups/stews but use salt if you prefer)
Any other vegetables languishing in the fridge

Put all ingredients** in the slow cooker and cook on Low for about 8 hours or on High for 5 hours.

**Since I'm using quick cooking barley it won't go in until about an hour before the cooking time is up but if I use regular barley, it goes in at the beginning.

This is a very hearty, stick-to-your-ribs soup and the leftovers are great for lunch the next day. If you don't care to eat the leftover soup as is, thicken it with a little corn starch or flour for a great pot pie filling or just top the thickened soup with cheese and garlic mashed potatoes. Yumm!

Monday, September 22, 2008

This week's eats - thrifty is the name of the game

I didn't get this week's menu posted last night like I'd hoped but here it is. It's a thrifty week for us (like most weeks) and we're making the most of leftovers and what we have on hand. None of the meals will be exciting but they'll all be frugal, easy, fairly nutritious, and hearty. So, here's this week's menu:

We had Cheese Steak Roll Ups tonight and they were very good. Since we didn't use all the browned carne picada I'll use it in a couple more meals this week.

Tomorrow night we're having Beef, Barley and Vegetable Soup (made with some of the carne picada) with tossed salad and fresh dressing.

The rest of the week, in no particular order, we'll have:

Homemade chicken pot pie made with low carb tortillas and what's left of the baked and broiled chicken and vegetables (mostly vegetables now) from last week, served with a salad and green beans or spinach

The last of the carne picada with low carb gravy, wild rice, spinach, and steamed baby carrots

Cheese pancakes using some of those nice yard eggs we got last week

Either leftovers that need to be eaten or Chili Pie made with tortilla chips rather than corn chips

So there you have it, our menu for this week. I doubt that it will change much but it might.

Easy Cheese Steak Roll Ups, Carne Picada Style

Tonight's main dish was one of my favorites, Cheese Steak Roll Ups. I like the combination of beef and cheese and this dish is one of those "I'm tired and don't want to cook but need to" dishes. Part of what makes it so quick and easy is the use of carne picada, very thin, shredded or almost shredded, beef. From beginning to end, it takes about 15 minutes to prepare. As a plus, this dish lends itself well to a variety of spices and cheeses. Using different ones helps me create a great dish every time.

Here's the basic recipe. Make it your own.

1 cup or so of raw carne picada
1 green onion, chopped (stalk and all)
chopped garlic
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheese, whatever you have on hand

Cook the carne picada in a skillet on medium heat with the chopped green onion and chopped garlic. When the meat is no longer pink, add the black pepper. Stir well and push the meat into a mound in the skillet. Turn heat to low and top meat with cheese. Don't stir - just let the skillet sit on low heat until the cheese is melted.

Once the cheese has melted, spoon some into a tortilla, roll, and eat!

I buy carne picada at Wal-Mart but don't know if the company sells it nationwide or only in certain areas. A Google Image search for it turns up pictures of what looks like ground beef but what I buy isn't ground beef. Again, it's very thin shredded or almost shredded beef. Not ground. While it isn't cheap here (almost $3 a lb) it's less expensive than most beef and the versatility makes it a great meat to have on hand.

I often add dried cumin while the meat cooks and diced green chiles and jalapenos are delicious, too. Mozzarella and Asiago cheeses, some sliced black olives, and a little red sauce give the basic recipe an Italian flair.

In the morning, I'll use some of the browned carne picada in a slow cooker soup and will post that recipe.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Menu planning saves money & time & lends variety

I've received several emails recently asking why and how I make our menu plans. Everyone has their own reasons for meal planning but most of us do it to save money and time. Those things are certainly factors for us but another factor is monotony. Planning meals keeps us from eating the same dishes over and over.

For a lot of people, coupons are a real boon but since most food coupons are for items we don't eat or rarely eat, we don't use a lot of them. We've had much better results buying food items when they're on sale at a great price and planning around those inexpensively purchased items.

It's not unusual for us to buy 6 whole chickens when they're on sale. We do the same with beef roasts, ground beef, brisket, chicken pieces, frozen vegetables, etc. Having a freezer full of several kinds of meats and vegetables makes menu planning fairly simple.

Here's a run down of how I buy our groceries and make our menus:

I have a freezer and cupboard inventory and when we run low on an item, it's put on 'the list'. 'The list' isn't necessarily a list of what items will be bought this week - it's just a list of things we're going to need soon and things to watch for on sale.

Each week I scan the grocery sale fliers or peruse the store's website to see what's on sale at our price. The items that are on 'the list' and are also on sale at our price get listed to be purchased during that sale. Once that's done I look through the fliers or sites again, paying particular attention to the front and back pages of fliers since that's where most loss leaders are featured. If there's an item on one of those pages that is a real deal, it goes on the list to be purchased during that sale.

I take the list to the store and buy the items on it. And I don't just buy one of each item. If the price is a real bargain, I buy as much/many as I can afford and store. I don't hold to the "buy only what's on the list" theory, either. If I run into an unadvertised special on boneless, skinless chicken breasts and the price is right, I'll buy several packages. Why wouldn't I, even if it isn't on the list to buy? Spending a little more money now enables us to eat well later at a much lower price. Rarely do we pay full price for food and when the price of beef takes it's next hike, we'll have several months worth, purchased at a lower price, in the freezer.

Once the shopping is completed, I decide what we'll eat for the coming week using the items that we have. I don't normally determine that we'll have this meal on Monday and this one on Tuesday. Rather, I make a list of the meals for the week and generally decide the night before what we'll have the next night. If I need recipes for some of the items on the week's menu, I gather them from cookbooks, magazines, and the web and put them in a folder in a kitchen drawer. When I need them they're ready and waiting.

This way of meal planning works for us and it allows room for unexpected company, eating out, or simply having a change of food mood.

That's it in a nutshell, folks. I like to keep things simple and menu planning is no exception.

A change in tonight's dinner

The man person wanted to eat at El Sombrero in Longview tonight so we did. He had two beef enchiladas, a taco, and rice and beans and I had Pollo a la Ranchera, which is a boneless chicken breast topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions in a wonderfully light spicy sauce, served with refried beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, avocado, and tortillas. It was marvelous and we each brought home about half our dinner. So, tomorrow's lunch will be leftovers from El Sombrero and it doesn't get much better than that!

I love the Pollo a la Ranchera so much I've been looking for a recipe for it. I haven't found one yet but I'm pretty sure I can duplicate the dish at home without too much work. The sauce is the one thing that might give me trouble. I believe it to be a cheese sauce of some sort but it doesn't have much of a cheese flavor to it. I think butter, chicken broth, some spices (but which ones?) and a small amount of white cheese would do the trick but experimentation will tell. I'll chronicle that little adventure here.

The rest of this week's menu

Tonight we're having chicken salad roll ups made with some of last night's leftover baked and broiled chicken. We'll have the roll ups with a tossed salad and green beans.

Friday night we're heading to Marthaville, LA for Good Ole Days, a two day celebration of the town's past, and we'll more than likely grab something on the way. We'll be back Sunday and that night we'll have chicken fajitas made with low carb tortillas, onion, tomato, and the remainder of the leftover baked and broiled chicken.

I have a new cookbook or two and I'll take them with me so I can peruse them on the drive to Marthaville and back. Maybe they'll give me some ideas for "new and exciting" dinners! ;)

I'll write a new menu Sunday evening and post that here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Glimpses of Baked and Broiled Chicken and Vegetables

I posted earlier today about our dinner tonight. It turned out very well, juicy and flavorful, and here are some pictures of it.

Baked and broiled chicken

Baked and broiled


There's enough left for lunch tomorrow and at least one more meal and in the morning I'll post my ideas on what I'll do with the remaining chicken.

Yard eggs comin' up!

My man person loves fresh eggs and would rather eat those than store bought eggs any day. That's why we raised chickens for awhile and that went over well until one of the dogs ate every chick and killed most of the hens and roosters. Bad dog, very bad dog!

Since then we've tried to find a local source of fresh eggs that weren't outrageously expensive and haven't had much luck...until today.

While at my chiropractor's office I saw an egg carton on the front desk and heard Doc and a patient talking about fresh eggs. I eavesdropped a little and figured out the patient had just sold Doc Dominecker eggs so I talked to the other patient and asked him if he would take those eggs next door to my man person so he could see them. The patient did and he's delivering two dozen fresh Dominecker eggs Friday for $1 a dozen. That's much cheaper than the store bought eggs and the man should be a happy man, indeed!

So, here's to fresh eggs, especially cheap fresh eggs!

Baked and Broiled Chicken and Vegetables

I have a day off work today and have some things I must do. One is to see my chiropractor in about an hour and another is to do laundry but the best is to cook a whole chicken to feed us for a few days. I'm going to use the counter top convection oven to bake/broil it. Using our little Black & Decker convection oven and a combination of bake and broil settings keeps the bird moist and gives the skin that crunchiness we like so well.

Here's how I cook chicken this way:

I rub the bird lightly inside and out with olive oil then season it with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, chopped garlic, and onion powder. Into the cavity I put chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, chopped turnips or potatoes, and baby carrots. I pour a little bit of water or broth into the pan, maybe a quarter cup, and set the oven on 400 broil. After the chicken has broiled for about 30 minutes, I change the setting to bake and let it bake until it's almost done, about another 20 minutes. Then I change the setting to 400 broil again and let it broil 10 minutes. The resulting bird is so juicy, tender, and savory, and the skin is just perfect.

We'll have some of the chicken tonight with the vegetables and what doesn't get eaten will be taken off the bone and used to make chicken fajitas and chicken salad, two of our favorite dishes using leftover baked chicken. We'll get at least three meals from the chicken and that's a pretty thrifty thing!

Monday, September 15, 2008

We like (?) Ike

Actually, I think most of us didn't like Ike at all.

Somewhere around Henderson, Texas Hurricane Ike was downgraded to a tropical storm. I don't recall hearing of a hurricane actually making it that far north before but Ike did.

I was at work Saturday when the weather started deteriorating but I managed to get a few short videos with my digital camera. By the time these vids were taken a good portion of Longview had no power and the store where I work was on back-up power, which means some of the lights worked and the registers worked but most of my equipment didn't. I couldn't make any emergency lattes but did serve what was left of the coffee I'd brewed before the power went out.

Amazingly, in the middle of this horrible weather, people were coming into the store, many with their little children. I have to admit to wondering whether or not those parents should even have kids. Who in their right mind goes shopping and takes their kids in wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour? Truly, I wonder about people at times and Saturday was definitely one of those times.

The winds start in, not too bad but gusting at high speeds now and then.

Now the wind is blowing like this all the time.

The wind and rain got worse than this but I could take only so many videos.

Our office was without power for only about 18 hours and the store where I work was without for less than that. As of this morning, 60,000 East Texas residents were still electricity-free but crews are hard at work trying to restore power.

If you'd like to read more about damage done in our area and see some great photos and videos, go to the Tyler Morning Telegraph's site.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A quickie windy video

We still aren't seeing much but radar shows that the bad weather is just now almost on us. Here's a little video, taken outside the shop, showing what the minor wind is doing right now. So far, so good. I have to head to work soon because even in horrific weather someone might need an emergency Latte!!

The clouds are rolling in

The clouds roll in

We woke up to a very overcast morning. The clouds from what's left of Hurricane Ike are really rolling in and they're moving incredibly fast. We've had a little rain but not much and if it continues at this speed we won't have a lot of rain, I don't think.

We have a customer in our waiting room right now from Bridge City in Orange County. He says his home there has 9 feet of water in it! He isn't sure when they'll be able to go back home but it will be at least a couple of days. 9 feet of water! I can't imagine going through flooding like that and I hope I never find out just what that's like.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pssst, got any D batteries on ya?

We went to Wing Stop for dinner tonight and decided to get some batteries while we were out and about. The traffic was horrible! We passed a Wal-Mart Supercenter and decided not to stop there because the entire parking lot was packed. So we went to several stores looking for D batteries but every store had none! Most of the stores didn't even have any flashlights left, much less the batteries for them. Finally, we went to Target and there we found the D batteries we wanted. We also picked up some 'emergency chips' and 'crisis salsa'. Yeah, it's just an excuse to get chips and salsa but it works. ;)

It rained earlier and we have a lot of clouds. This isn't part of Ike but it's gulf coast moisture that Ike is pushing out of that area and into ours. Very bad weather is predicted for tomorrow and Sunday and I heard that Jacksonville, Texas is without power tonight. Apparently their power is from Houston.

My man person's brother and his family decided to ride out the storm at their home in Pearland. We're a little nervous about that but he felt it was the thing to do. When Hurricane Rita threatened their area they spent close to 20 hours in traffic during evacuation and they don't want to go through that again. I can't say that I blame them but years ago I rode out a Cat 2 hurricane that wasn't nearly as large as Ike and that was enough to make me say "Never again".

I'm not sure what to expect from all this Ike business. We hear contradictory reports ranging from we'll get a little rain and a little wind to we'll be slammed with flooding, 75 mph winds, and power outages. Of course, we hope its the former and we're prepared for the latter.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday drivel

My man person's brother and his family live in Pearland, which is on Ike's projected path. The brother is working up North right now but is flying in this afternoon to gather his family and leave. Earlier this morning he said they were going to head west but now he isn't sure about that since it's the evacuation path and driving it might very well be nightmarish. They might go north, ending up in our area, or they might go east to Louisiana where more of the family is. So, say a prayer for Ed and his family as they decide where to go.

We went out looking for garage sales this morning and found none but we did find an estate sale. They had a few things we could use but like most estate sales here the prices were just too high so we didn't buy a thing.

Since the garage sale hunt didn't take much of our time and I had no new pretties to play with, I worked on the candy project this morning but my camera is giving me fits so no pictures yet. The stuff looks and tastes great, though, and maybe I'll get that camera to cooperate tonight.

In work related news, I close tonight and open in the morning so I won't get a lot of sleep. I don't like shifts so close together but it happens sometimes and right now we're so short handed there isn't much else to do. So I'll suck it up and take it.

At any rate, it's almost time for me to get ready for work so here's to a good Thursday!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The rain finally left and...

soon we'll have more from Hurricane Ike. I hope he weakens out there in the gulf rather than strengthens but time will tell.

Tonight's dinner was a chicken I baked in the convection oven and potatoes, carrots, and onions that were baked in the bird's juices. It was quite good and there's enough left for the man person to have for lunch...or for me to take to work, assuming I beat him to the punch. Mwaahahaha!

After our dinner I worked on a candy making project I've undertaken. I'll get a few pictures of the candy and post them. It's turning out very well and so far the people who've eaten it have raved about it.

I work Thursday from 1 PM to about 10 PM so I'll prepare dinner before I go. I'm not sure yet what it will be but it's more than likely going to be chicken of some variety, a nice vegetable, and a salad.

Now if I can just think of some new and exciting (or at least different) way to prepare chicken. Ideas, anyone?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rain, rain, and more rain!

So, we're getting a lot of rain from the now petered out Gustav. It started last night and predictions are for heavy rain and wind gusts today, a little less rain tomorrow, and a little less the next day. Rain like this usually means fewer customers at the store and quite a bit of boredom but there's always cleaning to do. At any rate, I'm thankful Gustav didn't turn out to be as bad as so many thought he would be. I really don't know how much New Orleans could have taken.

On a side note, tonight's dinner will be broiled lemon pepper chicken tenderloins, green beans, and spinach. I work until 6 tonight so we'll have a late dinner but it should be a good one.