Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brisket rescue update

Well, slow cooking the patootie out of that tough meat worked! It cooked for about 8 hours on Low and is very tender now. We went out for Mexican food tonight, though, so I'll take some to work with me for lunch and DH will eat some while I'm gone. Whew, I'm glad I don't have to add it to the blackeye peas I'm slow cooking tomorrow as I want to use a smoked turkey leg in those. Just because I have to work on New Year's Day doesn't mean we can't have our traditional dinner of blackeye peas, fish (baked perch this year), and cornbread. Yum yum!!

Have a great beginning to a hopefully wonderful year!

Brisket rescue!

I don't have a lot of kitchen disasters but I consider last night's cooking to be just that. I've never had to rescue a brisket before but there's a first time for everything.

I put a slightly over 1 pound flat cut brisket (bought clearanced, of course!) in the convection oven and when I removed it later it was so tough we couldn't eat it. I'd cooked it on low heat for quite awhile but apparently that wasn't enough. So I wrapped it up and stuck it in the fridge, figuring I'd deal with it later. Today is later. So here's what I have to work with:

Cooked brisket

I'm not sure if this will help but I sliced the meat and put it in my smallest slow cooker with a little beef broth and some seasoning. I'm going to cook it for a few hours on low and see if that tenderizes it some.

Brisket in crock

If it still isn't edible, I'll more than likely cut it into very small pieces and use it in our blackeye peas tomorrow. If it still isn't edible, its going in the trash. Blech!

Lookie what I got!

Cup of java

Can you guess? No, it isn't the coffee cup though I did get that at Target yesterday for $1 and some change during the 75% off Christmas stuff sale.

But I got a new digital camera! It's a Canon PowerShot SX110 IS and I think I'm in love....

Prepare yourself for a glut of photos but keep in mind that I know little to nothing about photography and this is a learning experience for me.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Good news ... for a change!

If you haven't done so, tune in to Good Dirt Radio for good news, tips on living a greener life, etc.

From their website: "Good Dirt Radio™ reports inspiring stories about people helping to solve environmental challenges affecting life on Earth."

There are stories on grow domes, bats, construction recycling, phantom loads, and more.

It's a neat radio station and I admit, its nice to hear good news for a change!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Unwanted gift cards?

If you have gift cards you won't use, you might try ditching them on Gift Card Rescue. A lot of people receive cards they won't use or can't use and this seems like a good solution - a win win sort of thing.

Menu Plan Monday - thrifty as always!

Holiday MPM

I subscribe to Mary Hunt's Everyday Cheapskate newsletter and this morning's message really rang true. If you don't subscribe, you can still read the short article. I feel comforted when I look at the economy and the havoc its wreaking and remember that we have a little "money in the bank". Do you?

On to the menu...we caught a nice deal on bone in beef short ribs yesterday so those are on our menu for later this week. I love them with sauerkraut but DH isn't wild about them and absolutely refuses to eat the kraut. He'll eat the ribs broiled and barbecued, though, if they're tender.

I work tonight but most of tonight's dinner is prepared already and I'll finish making it and eat before I go. We'll have leftover boneless beef ribs, green beans, and baked potato.

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

Jewish chicken, sugar snap peas, and mixed greens

Homemade chicken pot pie with salad and steamed spinach

Scrambled eggs, homemade turkey sausage, and toast

Soup, but I'm not sure what kind yet - more than likely Beef, Barley and Vegetable with homemade whole wheat rolls

Beef short ribs, salad, and green beans

Those meals are all thrifty, easy to make and tasty and that's what we like. :)

For more great menu ideas, check out Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday and add your own meal ideas!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Nice shopping deals

On the way home from Louisiana today we stopped at the HEB in Carthage, Texas. HEB has been one of my favorite stores since I lived down by Houston but as there isn't one in our area the only time I get to shop them is when I go to Austin. So, when I saw the HEB store beckoning to me from the side of the road, I called out to my man person, "Oh look! There's HEB!" He asked if I wanted to stop and I said yes so we did. The three teens with us weren't too impressed but they were at our mercy...

When we walked in I grabbed a sales flier and immediately saw two things I wanted; boneless beef ribs and beef shoulder roast, both for $1.97 a pound. Before we got to the meat department, we'd found other good deals, including large bags of store brand Sucralose for $2.80 each. Yes, less than $3 a bag! They're normally $5.90 but were marked 'blow out' and I'd surely call $2.80 a blow out. We normally buy the Great Value brand for almost $6 for the same amount. Ten bags of that went in the cart. DH found store brand decaf instant coffee, which he prefers, for less than $3.50 a jar so three of those went in the cart, also.

I finally made it to the meat department and discovered they were out of the beef ribs but did have the shoulder roast so I chose two of those, both for under $5 each. While meandering around in that department, I found beef short ribs for $1.77 a lb. I haven't seen those at that low of a price for at least two years so six packages of those went into the cart. I absolutely love those boiled with a bay leaf and eaten with sauerkraut. DH isn't wild about them but will eat them broiled and barbecued. They also had large packages of turkey cotto salami for less than $3 so we got a couple of those. They even had HEB Glycemic Health Bread, something I haven't found in local stores, for $2.38 so I got a loaf of that to try. If it doesn't spike my blood sugar I might be able to have a real sandwich now and then! I'm not sure how I'll like it since its white bread (gasp!) and I haven't eaten been a white bread eater in ohhhh, over 40 years.

Anyway, we spent about $106 there, most of it on meat for the freezer. It's about 40 miles from us so we're talking about taking a trip there once a month or so in the hopes of finding more 'blow out' type deals. One of their employees said we could call weekly to find out what those blow out deals are so we might do that. It would be worth 80 miles if we can find deals like the ones we found today.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Short article and this weekend

I read this blog entry this morning and though the suggestions are standard (use cash, don't throw things out, etc) a few commonalities between today's economy and the one during the Depression are pointed out in an effective way.

I've had a busy week and I spent Thursday with my family in Dallas. My mother, stepfather, sisters, youngest son, and nieces and nephews were there. Even my oldest niece, her husband and three children from Iowa were present and it was great seeing them. We had a lot of good food and great fellowship and my son and his girl surprised us all with the lovely engagement ring on her left hand! Woohooo! :)

I'm actually off the entire weekend and this afternoon we're heading to Natchitoches, LA to hear a good band and see great fireworks at the river. If you're ever there this time of year, do catch the festivities. You won't be sorry!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - more planned overs!

We didn't eat all the chicken from last week so we'll use some of it this week. I also have two beef roasts to cook today and those will be used through the week. I really do need to find new ways to use beef and chicken, though. I'm blessed that the man person has a very simple palate and doesn't mind eating the same things over and over but I do!

Since I'm off today I'll scour the web looking for some new recipes and this week's meals could very well change. But for now, here's the plan:

Lemon Herb Beef Roast Lemon Herb Sirloin Steak with tossed salad and bread machine wheat rolls will be tonight's supper. I thought I had roasts thawing but they turned out to be two thick cut sirloin steaks. No problem, they'll be made with the Lemon Herb recipe, anyway.

Wednesday evening I'll be in Dallas at my sister's house and we'll more than likely order chinese food from Dragon Wok. By the way, if you're in that area of Dallas and like chinese food, try their Orange Chicken. It's the best I've ever eaten, bar none.

Thursday I'll be at the home of one of my nieces and we're doing a very large pot luck dinner. So that leaves only three more dinners to prepare.

They'll be, in no particular order:

Baked ocean perch fillets with spicy wild rice and greens. I just found this greens recipe today and its so close to how I prepare them I thought I'd pass it along.

Leftover beef roast with green beans and salad

Creamed chicken over dressing with broccoli and snow peas

For menu plans of other folks, check out Menu Plan Monday. While you're at it, share your menu plan with the rest of us. :)

Lemon Herb Beef Pot Roast

We eat a lot of beef roast in our household but it sure gets tiring eating it the same way. I like to find new recipes using beef roast and was very happy to find this one in my email this morning. I have two roasts thawing now and will prepare one of them this way tonight.

Lemon Herb Beef Pot Roast
Serves 6

1 boneless beef chuck pot roast (3 to 3-1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups baby carrots
1 pound small red-skinned potatoes, halved
1 medium onion, cut into 6 wedges
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon dried basil


2 teaspoons lemon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil

Combine seasoning ingredients; press onto beef pot roast. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Brown pot roast. Pour off drippings.

Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 2 hours. Add vegetables; continue cooking, covered, 30 to 45 minutes or until pot roast and vegetables are fork-tender. Remove pot roast and vegetables; keep warm.

Skim fat from cooking liquid. Stir in cornstarch mixture and 1/2 teaspoon basil. Cook and stir 1 minute or until thickened and bubbly. Carve pot roast. Serve with vegetables and sauce.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday's supper & great recession/depression information

It isn't on the menu for this week but tonight we're having red beans and brown rice. The man person has requested it so that's what supper will be. I have a lot to do today so I won't go to my mother's house and dinner needs to pretty much cook itself. Using the slow cooker will certainly make the beans almost cook themselves and preparing the rice in the microwave will finish it off. I'm going to season the beans a little differently than normal. Usually I cook them with chopped onion and some kind of meat, black pepper, garlic, and right before serving a little salt but today I'm going to use a little bit of onion soup mix. I haven't tried that before but it seems like they'd be good prepared that way.

I read about this quiz at Homemaking 4 Jesus and thought I'd take it. Here are my results:

You Are 64% Likely to Survive Another Great Depression

"Even though you may not be expecting the worst, you're the type of person who prepares for the worst. You live a relatively modest life. You don't overspend, and you aren't very materialistic.

You are also quite self sufficient and independent. You have many useful skills. You can take care of yourself and those you love... which is crucial to surviving another Great Depression."

I'd much rather be 100% likely to survive another Great Depression but 64% isn't too bad. There are things I can do to swing the odds a little more in my direction and I'll work on them.

How likely are you to survive one? And what can you do to increase your chances of survival?

If you're interested in the hows and whys of the current economic condition of the United States and things you can do now to prepare for a severe financial crisis, here are a few good resources:

How to survive the next depression

How to survive the next great depression

IOUSA, a 30 minute video about debt in the U. S. *I highly recommend this video and encourage you to pass the URL on to others*

The Issue: Recession 2008

If you know of other good articles or entries about surviving serious economic crises, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Planned overs a plenty!

Holiday MPM

Well, we did quite a bit of grocery shopping last week. We spent about $175, which is way above what we normally spend but there were some great food deals and working those deals is the main way we keep our grocery budget under control. So, we spent more last week but should only have to buy fresh produce, milk, and bread for at least three weeks, perhaps more. Gotta love that!

Right now the fridge has quite a few planned over ingredients in it so eating those is a priority. I really enjoy doing planned overs though because I like cooking a couple of things like a chicken and beef roast and using those in meals all week. It makes for quicker and easier meals and with my schedule for the coming week, that's a very good thing. So, here's this week's menu:

Tonight we'll have homemade beef pie (planned over from beef roast and vegetables last week) and we'll have it with a green salad and steamed spinach. Wednesday we'll have whatever I cook at Mom's house.

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

Chicken salad roll ups (planned over from baked chicken last week) with salad

Beef and noodle stew made with homemade noodles (planned over from beef roast last week)

Swiss Steak (using carne picada), mashed cauliflower, green beans and salad

Chicken quesadillas (planned over from store bought roasted chicken) with spicy wild rice and salad

Dinner out one night

I'm pretty sure this menu will clean the fridge of planned over items and leftover items. Oh goodie, then I get to clean the fridge well and start all over for the next week! Be still, my heart! ;)

For more tantalizing menu ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday and say howdy to Laura while you're there!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Homemade noodles, comfort food

Homemade noodles...just the thought of them brings me comfort. They're so good on wintery days, mixed with some good chicken soup or topped with goulash or stroganoff.

One of the meals we'll have this week is beef stew with homemade noodles. I'll make the noodles tomorrow morning and let them dry for a day or so before use.

If you haven't made noodles, give them a try. They're very easy to make and the recipe I use is beautifully adaptable to the additions of spices and cheese.

Homemade Noodles

1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp milk
1 cup flour (I use a combination of soy and whole wheat flours)

Mix egg, salt and milk. Add enough flour to make stiff dough. Roll thin, let stand 20 minutes. Roll up and slice 1/8 inch thick. Spread to dry for about 2 hours. Drop in boiling broth and cook 10 minutes.

I don't worry about the noodles looking uniform or perfect as long as they're savory. I love these noodles with some fresh basil and ground pepper or cheese added to the dough.

Really, try this recipe, even if you aren't normally comfortable making dough recipes. It's practically fail-proof! If you try it, please let me know what you think.

Friday, December 12, 2008

And now for something completely different

Okay, not completely different but not quite cooking/recipe related. My blood sugar is giving me grief again. Yesterday before work it was 546. I checked it three times and each time it was within a few points of that number so it really was that high. What on earth?? I'd eaten a salad I prepared with a little grilled chicken and some green beans on the side. No way should that have spiked it that high. I took 61 units of regular insulin and when I checked it at work at 8:45 PM it was down to 115. At 11 PM it was 92 and at 3 AM it was 115. Things that make ya go hmmmm.....

I have to figure out what's going on. I can't keep having highs like that.

Theories, anyone? Suggestions?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A tale of two cities (and seemingly two depressions)

When I was a kid and whined, as most kids are apt to, about how hard my life was, a man I knew, DJ, would tell me about his youth in Faribault, Minnesota during the Great Depression. He was just a young boy in 1930 and lived with his parents who were farmers. But lack of rain and lack of work did their dirty deeds and after getting loans in attempts to keep the farm, his parents eventually lost the homestead and most of their possessions. His mother also lost her mind. His father turned to alcohol. DJ told stories about going to bed with the deep pangs of hunger in his belly, wearing shoes with the toes cut out of them, getting beaten for stealing corn from a neighbor's farm when he and his brother had gone without food one day too many, his wealthy aunt who committed suicide leaving behind several young children who were taken to an orphanage and never heard from again and other horrors. He had nothing positive to say about those years but again, he was just a kid and his family had fallen apart. He grew up to be a money-obsessed man who would stop at nothing to get what he saw as the elusive key to happiness and he ended up bitter and alone.

My husband's father, James, grew up in Marthaville, Louisiana and told stories, too. Percy, father of James, lost his land in 1929 and took off for Cleveland, Texas taking his two youngest sons with him. James turned 18 in 1930 and boarded in another family's home. And he and the remaining brother were industrious. There had been a cotton crop planted on the land Percy lost and James and his oldest brother slipped in and tended to the crop until it made cotton. Then they picked it and hauled it to the cotton gin where they sold it. James went to Shelby County, Texas and stayed with relatives, logging and working for chicken farmers. His oldest brother went to Sabine Parish, Louisiana and worked in the oil fields. Percy and the two youngest boys stayed gone three years and when they returned, Percy just wondered around visiting relatives and playing fiddle at dances and the two younger boys went into the logging business. At the beginning of WWII three of the boys joined the Army. James was the one who didn't. He came out of those tough years as a tough man. I'm sure his experiences influenced him but his family managed to stay intact for the most part and pulled together to survive. He raised two sons alone and never got rich but made a comfortable living and a nice home for his sons.

When my husband was in the seventh grade and studying the Depression, he asked his Dad what it was like. What James told his young son went something like this:

"Well, we didn't hear about it for two or three years. There wasn't much money around but nobody had any money before then. Jobs got a little scarce but we all logged, cut cross ties, and everybody grew their own gardens. We just traded stuff amongst each other. If we needed a horse, we'd trade corn or a plow to someone who had one. We hunted for rabbits and deer and we made out pretty good. Towards the end of it, it got hard to get shoes. If you had a pair of shoes, most of the year you didn't wear 'em unless you were on a date. We didn't even wear 'em when we worked."

James and his brothers logged for a, and walked 25 miles to

So what's the point in my telling all this? Both men experienced the same basic situation in their youth but the outcomes were different for them and their families. There were some basic differences like the ages of the two men and miscellaneous family details but the two families handled the stresses differently.

Most of us are going through some very tough financial times and things are going to get worse before they get better. But now isn't the time to panic. Instead, take action. Stay calm and use your head and if you haven't done so yet, prepare for tough economic times. And remember that it can always be worse.

First, get and keep your priorities straight. Keeping a roof over your head, food on the table, and clothes on your back are the basic priorities. Your kids might not like it but they'll survive and be appreciative of the food, even if it is just beans. They might not be appreciative until they're 25 but at some point they will be. And they'll be grateful for parents who set a good example.

If you're experiencing financial problems or anticipate them, talk to your kids about it. You needn't give a lot of detail but don't keep kids in the dark. Even a six year old can understand money being scarce and just telling them money is tight is often enough. Give what you think they can handle but do include them, at some level, in the situation.

Do what you can to keep your home but know this: if you lose it, it isn't the end of the world. After 12 years of paying on our house and land, we lost it in late 2007 and though I wish we hadn't gone through that, we survived and have a lot less stress now. Foreclosure isn't a good thing but it isn't the worst thing, either. A house is just a house. The people inside it are more important.

Formulate a plan for a potential layoff or time of decreased income. Update your resume, figure out how much money you need monthly to get by, do a little networking, explore the possibility of a career change, take some college classes, learn a new skill or two, call in favors, etc.

If you haven't started accumulating cash, start. I mean right now, don't wait. If you can only put aside $5 a week, do it. Surely there's something you can do to get more cash or to spend less in one or more areas so you can put that amount aside - sell books online, have a garage sale, clean houses, mow yards, cut out the cable, switch to dial up (yuck, I know!!), forgo the manicure, magazine, or latte, hang clothes outside to dry, reduce or eliminate eating out, quit smoking, etc. It doesn't hurt to get your kids involved in such things, either. If they earn/save/don't spend $10 a week, thats less money they need from you and they learn valuable lessons in money management and family values.

Along with increasing cash, decrease your debt if possible. Personally, I think if you're facing a potential layoff having living expenses for a few months is more important than paying on debt but beyond the three basics listed above everyone needs to prioritize for themselves. I've been in the position of having little income and no savings and feeling I had no choice but to live on credit. At the end of a few months I still had little income and no savings but I owed several thousand dollars on one credit card. I never want to be in that position again so if I don't have cash to buy something I don't get it. Dave Ramsey's envelope system really got me going good in that department. It's simple, easy to understand and it works if making it work is a priority. On the other hand some people might feel more comfortable with paying more on debt and having less cash in hand. This is definitely a matter of preference and the only right way is the one that makes you comfortable. Find your way and follow it.

Don't incur new debt. Don't charge christmas presents or meals out for visiting family. In fact, don't charge anything. Get rid of the credit cards, put them in a bowl of water in the freezer, lock them in a safe deposit box, do whatever you have to but don't use them! For me, this is a huge priority, right up there with the basics. In fact, it is a basic in my book. We haven't observed christmas in over 13 years but even if we did, I feel so strongly about not acquiring new debt that I'd eat beans and rice and not buy a single gift before I'd charge anything.

If you have room for a garden, get your seeds (use heirloom seeds), and supplies, get the garden planned, and be ready when planting season arrives. If you don't have land enough for a garden, consider a container garden. With containers, some soil, seeds, and sunlight you can grow at least some of your food and if you're really blessed, might be able to preserve some of it for later use. If you have no means to garden, consider working out a deal with someone who does. Mow their yard or run their errands in exchange for produce. Don't be afraid to ask! If you can't garden or work out a deal to barter with someone who does, keep your eyes open for great deals on in season fruits and vegetables at the local store. Talk to the produce manager to get the best price on a case of this or a bushel of that and preserve what you get. Canning isn't hard but freezing and drying are often sufficient.

And finally, when the going gets really tough and you feel sad or depressed over the situation, remember this - you don't walk barefoot 25 miles to town. I know that doesn't help pay the bills but it really could be much worse than what it is. Just muddle through and be thankful for your friends and family and keep those priorities straight so you don't end up being used to make a point in someone's blog entry.

Dehydrating ground beef - who knows, you might need it someday!

A comment I left to a particular entry on another blog (which I absolutely love!) prompted someone to contact me about dehydrating ground beef and her email reminded me that I was going to post about it so here it is, my dehydrating ground beef post.

I get a big thrill when I catch ground beef on sale for a great price. Stocking up on it without busting my budget is a nice treat but finding freezer space for it can be a problem. I try to keep beef on one shelf, poultry on another, fish on yet another, vegetables in the bin, etc. but hitting the ground beef mother lode wreaks havoc with that system!

So, a few years ago I found a great way around that - I dehydrate a good deal of the ground beef I buy. Yes Virginia, you can dehydrate ground meats! Dehydrated ground meat works very well for soups, stews, spaghetti sauce and such but don't count on it for burgers or loaves. You might or might not be able to shape it. Once the meat is rehydrated, it doesn't like to stay together well.

Five pounds of dehydrated ground beef can be stored for about a year in a one quart bag or container. Talk about saving space and money!

A lot of people use a dehydrator but I only have two of them and it takes so long to do it that way so I use another method. I don't remember where I read this method but I've used it for at least five years and it works beautifully. The first time I used this method a small amount of the meat went rancid but that's the only time that's happened. The key is to follow the process to remove the grease and to cook the meat enough that it reaches the "rock" stage. By the way, there are several methods of dehydrating ground meat so if this one doesn't suit your fancy, there are others that might.

I generally dehydrate 5 lbs at a time but you can do it with any quantity. I think I did just 1 lb the first time to see if we'd like it. We did like it and I've dehydrated much larger quantities since.

So, here's how I do it:

Put lean ground beef (the leaner the better since the fat is what makes it go bad) in a skillet and fry it until its cooked well. Drain the grease off, put the meat in a colander and rinse it under very hot water, stirring it with a fork or spoon to get the grease out. Rinse well. Shake the water out of the colander then put the meat on a paper or cloth towel and blot it dry.

After blotting, put the meat back into the skillet, which has since been cleaned well, and cook for about five more minutes. Drain any grease, rinse it in hot water, shake well, and blot it again. Cook it one more time, again in a clean skillet, drain, rinse, shake, and blot dry. Usually by this time the meat looks like tiny rocks and is very hard. If it isn't at that point yet, put the meat on cookie sheets and put in a 150 degree oven, stirring now and then, until it gets to that rock stage, usually a few hours. Once it's got that tiny rock look to it, it's finished.

Some people like to put seasonings and dried onions or peppers in the meat and you can add those after the last cooking, draining, rinsing, and drying. You can also add a little flour during the dehydrating process so that when you rehydrate the meat, it has gravy with it. I just add seasonings as I use the meat but you might want to try adding them before storing the meat in glass jars or containers with tight fitting lids. The meat should be stored in a fairly cool and dark place. I just keep it in the pantry but you can store it in the freezer if you like.

To use, just put the ground meat in hot water and let it sit for an hour or two. Once its softened I just use it as I normally would for soups and stews and such.

You can also dehydrate poultry, fish and other meats and I'll post more about those in the future.

It might sound complicated to dehydrate ground beef but it really isn't. It's a little time consuming but many preparedness activities are. The peace of mind in having 50 lbs. of preserved meat is worth it...

No Menu Plan Monday for me this week!

I've had a crazy busy week and haven't gotten around to making a menu for the week and didn't post on Menu Plan Monday. But I baked a 6.5 lb. hen, bought at .67 a lb, to be used throughout the week so I knew we'd have a lot of chicken. What I didn't count on was the hen being tough! It isn't just a little tough - it's very tough! But I don't want to throw away still edible meat so some went in the freezer and the rest will be used in a couple of meals this week. The cooler weather is here and I'm in the mood for comfort food.

Tonight we're having chicken salad roll ups made with the more tender meat, served with salad and steamed spinach.

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

Chicken enchilada stacks with red beans and salad

Chili and cornbread

Lima beans with salad

Chicken and homemade noodles with green beans

And that's it. All the meals are easy, thrifty, and tasty and most don't require much time or attention. That works for me. :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Slow Cooked Steak and Gravy over Rice

I worked from 4:00 to 10:30 last night but since my sister came into town from Dallas and I planned to spend most of the time before work with her and my mom I prepared the man person's main dish of Slow Cooked Steak and Gravy over Rice in the morning.

Steak and gravy is one of our favorite dishes and I've made it with round steak, chuck steak, and many other cuts of beef. Carne Picada isn't steak but it's a good substitute in certain dishes and the man person was quite happy with the results which is good enough for me.

I've used carne picada in various recipes for quite awhile and am still thrilled with the versatility of this beef cut. If you haven't tried it, you really should. The cost is usually substantially less than other beef and it's always tender.

Slow Cooked Steak and Gravy

beef (I used 1 lb of carne picada)
onion (I used dried)
salt, pepper, garlic and any other seasonings desired
cream of mushroom soup (I used 1 can but prefer homemade equivalent)
small can chopped green chiles

Put the beef in a slow cooker, add the onion and spices, and cook on high for about an hour until the meat shows little or no pink. After the meat is cooked, drain enough liquid that there's only 1/4 cup or so in the crock. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on low for at least three hours. Serve over rice, noodles, potatoes or vegetables.

That's all there is to it! We usually like this over broccoli or mashed cauliflower with a nice salad on the side. It's a tasty and hearty meal that doesn't break the bank.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Looked horrible, tasted great!

Glenna's post about Hot Chicken Salad Stuffed Pastry inspired me to try something new last night. Appearance wise it was a disaster but taste wise, it was great!

I wanted to make something akin to Double Dave's Cheese Steak Stromboli but knowing that the bread of the Stromboli is ridiculously high in carbohydrates I decided to use something other than regular bread dough. When I went to the store I looked at the puff pastry Glenna mentions in her entry and since it was a little on the pricey side I bought phyllo dough, which was about $2 less per package. I think that was mistake number one.

Mistake number two was that I didn't butter or oil the phyllo sheets but instead just put the cooked carne picada on them, added the cheese, and attempted to roll them. I say attempted because the pastry stuck to the surface and made rolling very difficult. I did manage to get them sort of rolled and placed on a cookie sheet for the oven. But the ends weren't sealed in any way since nothing I did in the attempt to seal them worked.

Mistake number three was that I baked them a little too long...I think. When they came out of the oven, the things were a little too brown and not flaky or moist at all. (note to self - again, butter or oil pastry!) Cutting into them with a fork caused the pastry to fly all over the place so eating them was very messy. I needed to vacuum the carpet this morning because there were pastry pieces everywhere!

The poor little buggers were just downright ugly! Not appetizing at all so I didn't bother with a picture. You'll have to just trust me on this point.

At any rate, the experiments tasted good. The meat was tender, the cheeses were tasty, and the pastry was edible. But barely. DH wasn't too impressed so I don't know if I'll attempt this again. I'd like to though so if any of you have suggestions, please share them with me even if the suggestion is that I stay out of the kitchen. ;)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Baked Cabbage

In my Wednesday entry I mentioned baking cabbage and got a comment and four emails asking how I make that. It's very simple but tasty and here's how I do it.

Baked Cabbage

1 head cabbage
olive oil
garlic powder
other seasonings to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wash and quarter the cabbage. Put whatever amount you're going to bake (I used a whole head when there were four or five of us, now I use 1/4 to 1/2 head) in a pan that has a little olive oil and melted butter in it. Roll the cabbage around so that it's well coated in the oil and butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and any other seasonings you desire. Place in oven and bake at 300 for about 30 minutes, turning a few times to keep the cabbage well coated in the butter and oil. When the cabbage is soft, remove and eat or cover with foil and cook a little longer if you prefer it very soft.

That's all there is to it! We like it fairly done so I often turn the heat up to 350 or so the last 15 minutes and let the cabbage leaves actually brown a little.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out and if you like it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

If money wasn't even a factor....

meaning you had plenty of it and didn't mind spending it on things to make your cooking life easier, what's the one kitchen item/appliance you'd buy?

Mine is an Aga Four Oven Cooker more than likely in red. But since the cost is somewhere around $18,000 I don't think it will happen anytime soon. My second choice is an Aga Six Four Series Range, also in red. This range costs $8500 to $9500 so it's a little more affordable. Pffft!

Both of these appliances are simply way out of my price range but hey, a girl can dream!!

I peruse the Aga site and printed literature, practically drooling over the ranges and the cookware is enough to make my heart leap in my chest.


So tell me, what do you dream of for your kitchen?

Wednesday dinner & a request for prayer

Tonight's dinner was a departure from the week's menu. My day didn't go as planned (see below) but this morning I realized that was happening and threw some black eyed peas in the slow cooker. I chopped some smoked turkey sausage and turkey ham and added those, garlic, dried onion and freshly ground black pepper. I'd hoped to bake some cabbage to go with it but that didn't happen. That's okay, though. Tomorrow we'll have more peas and baked cabbage for lunch or dinner.

Now, as to why my day didn't go as planned. I received a phone call this morning from my mother letting me know she was about to take my stepfather to the hospital because she thought he was having a stroke. Hours later he was released and sent home and she was cautioned to keep a very close eye on him and take him back if he exhibited any behaviors like this morning or anything out of the ordinary. Apparently the medical professionals think he had a small stroke but test results were good.

Please pray for my mother and stepfather. They're getting up there in age and he was recently diagnosed with dementia. Today's experience really has my mother understandably upset. She needs peace and Pop needs healing.

She's going to call me in the morning and let me know if she needs me to go over there to help. I'm off again so the plans for the day depend on her. I have a lot to do that didn't get done today but will be there for her if she needs me. Always.

LIFE with Google

I used to jokingly say Wal-Mart was the new world order. When eBay came along, I said they were the new world order. And about three years ago I started referring to Google as the new world order. I think I'll stick with Google.

They've brought us some amazingly easy to use apps and have simplified searching so that we actually find. Whether its pictures or text, Google is the first place I go. And now they've started digitizing the photos of LIFE magazine's photo archive. Most of the photos were never published but now we can see them, thanks to LIFE and Google.

Being a great fan of LIFE, this thrills me. I've spent a lot of time perusing the photos online, especially the 1930s photos and those of Vietnam. Just for fun, I did a search using the term "cooking procedures source:life" and got 43 images of cooking procedures.

To find photos from LIFE magazine, just add "source:life" to any Google image search.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ho hum...

I worked 7:30 to 2:30 today and after work had to run to the post office to mail two things. Goodness, the line was long! There were 27 people ahead of me! I thought of leaving and returning in the morning but with the holiday season upon us, it will be crowded again so I stayed, mailed my two items and picked up some stamps so I don't have to go back there until February or so.

DH is gone to church for music practice. I didn't go because I don't play or sing and although I love to listen to them I don't necessarily want to listen to a two hour practice. So, I checked my email, took a little walk, wrote a list of things I need to do tomorrow, and visited Proverbs 32, a new online community. The owners are people I know from another online community and it looks like they might have a nice thing going there. Stop by if you get a chance and say hi!

I'm off work tomorrow but don't know if I'm going to my mother's house as she has a lot of errand running to do tomorrow and might not need me. So, I'm not sure what all tomorrow holds. We'll find out soon enough.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - not many leftovers!

Holiday MPM

Since we had Thanksgiving dinner with friends and didn't bring home much in the way of leftovers, this week's menu won't have a lot of them. I'm not sure if that's good or bad but I think it's a little of both. I like having the leftovers for easy meals but after awhile I sure get tired of them.

I have several days off this week, also, which means I'll be home to cook a little more. However, we're still trying to eat out of the pantry and freezer quite a bit so the meals are thrifty.

If you need some new meal ideas, take a look at Laura's popular Menu Plan Monday and join in!

Tonight we'll have Slow Cooked Beef Stew, recipe below, with salad and homemade whole wheat bread.

Wednesday night we'll have whatever I cook at Mom's house.

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

Scrambled eggs, thick sliced turkey ham, and toast or cheese pancakes

Beef tips and rice with salad and broccoli

Wraps made with low carb tortillas, broiled chicken breast tenderloin, grilled onions, garlic, and cheese

Salad with plenty of leafy greens and fresh vegetables

We have everything on hand for the above meals so they'll all be low cost. And they're all fairly quick and easy, too. I might use the slow cooker for the beef tips rather than the pressure cooker but I'm not sure about that yet.

Here's the basic recipe I use for most of my stews. I change it to suit my mood, adding different vegetables and spices but this is an excellent basic recipe for stew.

Slow Cooked Beef Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes (I use less expensive beef roast cut into cubes)
1/4 cup flour (I usually use arrowroot rather than flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups beef broth (I often use chicken or turkey broth - this time its turkey)
3 potatoes, diced (Canned potatoes work well for this)
4 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped

Place meat in slow cooker. In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt, and pepper. Pour this over the meat and stir to coat meat with flour mixture. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion, broth, potatoes, carrots, and celery.

Cover, and cook on Low setting for 10 to 12 hours, or on High setting for 4 to 6 hours.

So there you have it, our meals for the week. None are exciting but they're all hearty and tasty!