Friday, September 4, 2009
Can anyone please post a recipe on the internet for a casserole that does not involve opening a can of "Cream of Glop" and mixing it into noodles, rice or stuffing with some chicken and vegetables?
This is what was going through my mind tonight when I was pondering what to do with some frozen chicken breasts and I hit on the idea of a casserole of some type. I challenge you to google "chicken casserole" and find me one that does not contain "cream of --- soup" in the ingredients list.
Since I do not stock Cream of --- Soup in my pantry I have learned a very tricky way to substitute for it by making an old fashioned cream sauce from natural ingredients. The beauty of this is that is does not require a long list of chemicals and it tastes good. The downside is that you have to actually do a little bit of cooking. But, trust me, it is very little and can be done by any novice.
You can make this with some basic ingredients that you should have on hand anyway:
Onion, mushrooms, butter or light olive oil, flour, chicken stock, milk or cream, salt and pepper.
You really should keep some heavy cream or half and half on hand. The ultra pasteurized stuff has a very long shelf life and if you buy a pint to use for sauces it is well worth it. DO NOT buy Fat Free Half and Half or Cream! There is no such thing in the natural world, and it should be illegal to label it that way but they do sell such a thing and it is not fit for human consumption.
So, here is what you do to make your basic sauce.
Chop up some onions and mushrooms, about 1/2 onion and 4 ounces of mushrooms. Heat a pan over medium high and add a couple tablespoons of butter to the pan. When the butter is melted add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and saute for a while until limp. Add 1/4 cup of flour to the pan and cook over medium heat until the flour is all absorbed in the vegetable/oil mixture, add a little more butter or oil if neccessary. Add 2 cups of chicken stock to the pan, stirring it in slowly, bring up to a simmer over med/high heat. It will be very thick once it comes to a boil. Add 1 cup of cream or milk. Bring to boil again to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Thats it. No can opener needed.
Monday, April 20, 2009
But I was starting from scratch for tea partyware and with a limited budget I set out to do the best I could to create the elegant tea party atmosphere that I envisioned. We were estimating about 20 guests, so my idea was to set up 4 tables with 4-6 place settings at each.
So keeping with my clever and crafty theme, I assembled the tiered platters for the food using thrift store plates, wine glasses and my trusty hot glue gun.
So here are a few tips on hot gluing dishes together to make a tiered serving plate.
Next up: Fabulous food and how to spend an entire day making 35 brownies.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Anyway, I love Rice Krispie treats and when they are dipped in chocolate and made into a cute centerpiece how can you go wrong? I mixed Easter sprinkles into the treats and then sprinkled the chocolate dipped bunnies.
This is a little more work than a vase of flowers, but edible and they were a hit with adults and kids. Carter thought they were the best thing to happen to him in his tender 13 months of living and kept coming back for more.
Friday, March 27, 2009
For the first layer dip the tortillas in sauce and line the pan. Cover this layer with one can of refried beans (1/2 if using 8X8) sprinkle a little cheese over the beans.
Here is the layout of the next layer of tortillas. I put the cut sides toward the outside of the pan and lay a row down the middle.
Next add the chicken and onion layer, top with a little more cheese.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Sunday is usually our foodie day and I started out the day searching for some recipes I had seen on the morning news by Chef Mick from Tony's Fine Meats. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was totally engrossed in reading about the No-Knead Bread recipe by Jim Lahey from Sullivan Street Bakery and decided I had to try it even though I am not really a baker. I guess this recipe has been going around for a couple of years and some serious cooks swear by it.
For Sunday though, I decided on a western theme grilled filet mignon, warm potato salad, and cowboy beans.
For an appetizer I decided to try this no-knead flatbread with a pepper jack queso fundido.
I drizzled a little olive oil and a sprinkle of jalapeno salt on the flatbread, baked it on a pizza stone at 450 degree. We got the first one a little crisp, second one turned out golden brown and crisp on the outside with a soft chewy center. The recipe seems to call for 1 1/2 Tablespoons of salt. I took that to be an error and reduced it to about 1 1/2 tsp. That was plenty. I have half of the dough in the frig and will make a couple of grilled pizzas with that later this week.
For the Queso Fundido: I heated about 1 cup white wine (a sauvignon blanc is good) in a double boiler. Stir in one cup shredded natural pepper jack cheese, 1/2 cup mexican cheese blend with cheddar, monterey jack, queso, and asadero, and 1/2 cup mozzerella. You can use whatever cheeses you like, these were just what Ihad on hand. Just be sure they are natural cheese not processed. Stir over low heat until blended and smooth. Transfer to fondue pot or small ramekins and serve with warm flatbread. Serve this with the rest of the wine or any cocktail you like.
The steaks were seasoned with a heavy rub of Spicy Monterey Seasoning Blend and grilled on the Weber over very hot coals, 3 mins /side. Perfection!
My favorite potato salad is this super simple warm version. The flavors are mild and uncomplicated and it goes together quick so it is no more trouble than any average side dish.
Warm Potato Salad: Wash and cut 4 medium unpeeled red potatoes into 1 1/2" chunks. Boil in well salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and return to pan, let stand on warm burner to dry. This is important, you don't want any excess water on the potatoes to water down the dressing. Add a couple of tablespoons diced red onion, 1/4 cup chopped celery, 1 Tbl dijon mustard, about 1/3 cup mayonnaise to pan. Sprinkle a couple dashes of rice vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar, salt, pepper and a good pinch of dried herbs of choice. Stir to mix, taste for seasoning, adjust if needed.
Cowboy beans: I use almost any variety of canned beans I have on hand for my cowboy beans, but most of the time I use pinto, black bleans and butter beans. Dice and cook a couple of slices of bacon in saucepot until it is beginning to crisp. Add 1/2 cup onion and saute over med low heat. Add 3 cans drained beans, about 1/4 cup barbeque sauce and a couple tablespoons brown sugar, a dash of cayenne pepper and a few dashes of Tobasco or Franks Red Hot sauce, simmer over low for 15 to 30 mins. or until ready to serve. I also add a small handful of chopped nacho slice jalapenos sometimes because I like the extra kick.
Finally, the Irish Stew. This was just very similar to my basic stew recipe. I like to use chuck roast and cut it myself. You can buy the packaged stew meat too, but I like cutting my own so I can trim the fat as I like.
I sprinkle a good scoop of flour over the meat, and then season heavily with garlic pepper blend, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands. Then place in hot pot with heated oil to brown well over medium high heat. Use your heaviest pot, cast iron is good. Remember if it starts browning too fast or smoking remove from heat and lower the heat before continuing! The floured meat will act as a rioux when you add the liquid, so nice golden brown is good, burnt is not so good.
Friday, March 6, 2009
I know you can buy those refrigerated pasta's that you just dunk in boiling water for a minute and they are really good. I used to buy those back in the day before I was being frugal. But they are really expensive. Now, when I make a meal with pasta I cook the whole package and it makes a lot more than we need, so I take the extra and drizzle a little olive oil over it and put it in a ziplock bag in the freezer. All you have to do when you need some pasta is heat some water to boiling in the microwave and pour it over the pasta in a large bowl. Take it out of the bag before you do this! It will defrost and heat through in a minute or so and you can hold it in the water til everything else is ready.
This chicken parmesan recipe is kid friendly and good for hardworking dads too. Add a salad and some garlic bread and you can do this meal in under 30 easily.
Cook frozen breaded chicken tenders according to package directions. Top with a little bottled spaghetti sauce and mozzerella and parmesan cheese, put back in oven for a few minutes to melt cheese. Serve with pasta and extra heated sauce.
If you don't like the breaded chicken you can use raw chicken breast tenders for this too, just bake about 10 minutes and cover with sauce and cheese.
Friday, February 27, 2009
I did a search for The Great Depression foods and found that most people did not go hungry during the depression. Due to deflation, food prices were pretty low and people were very resourceful. Charity groups sprung up to take care of the truly needy and they even had "penny diners" for people who were too proud to accept charity and wanted to pay for their meals despite the fact that they had no income. You can read about it here.
I visit some foodie forums and there always seems to be a thread with a question about your foodie secrets. Mine is that I sometimes eat leftover beans for breakfast. Just a bowl of hot beans and a corn muffin with a little butter. I like it because I won't be hungry for the rest of the day and really it is probably healthier than most regular breakfast food.
I usually cook pinto beans instead of white beans and I add a little ham or bacon and onion for seasoning. And I cook them down until they are really thick, then I add some water if I want to make a bean soup, or I can smash them to make refried beans for burrittos or heuvos rancheros.
Here is a quick Heuvos Rancheros recipe that makes a great breakfast or a fast dinner. If you don't have leftover beans to smash you can use canned refried beans.
Heat the beans.
Melt 1 Tbl. butter in large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium heat, break the eggs in the pan and cook until whites begins to turn opaque. Add 2 Tbl. water to pan and cover pan for a minute until the eggs are done on top.
Plate the beans and eggs.
Add about 1/4 cup per serving of salsa verde or tomatillo salsa to hot skillet and heat through quickly. Pour hot salsa over eggs and beans and sprinkle a little grated cheddar cheese on top. Serve with warm tortillas.
If you prefer, use scrambled eggs instead of the basted eggs.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I changed up my menu a little last week, but I think we did pretty well on budget and getting things used that we have on hand. I am seeing a big decrease in food waste and have space in my frig to put things since it is not crammed full of unused leftovers. So I have to say that joining Menu Plan Monday has been a great success for me. And it keeps me motivated to tweak my menus and try to get even better at budget cooking.
I have also gotten better at going through my freezer and noting what I have on hand to incorporate in my plans. I have stopped buying new items and shoving the old to the back to be forgotten. I remembered I have some ham that I froze after Christmas and pulled that out to use for the Crockpot Scalloped Potatoes and Ham.
Monday: Leftover Manicotti
Tuesday: Crockpot Scalloped Potatoes and Ham from Snow White (I am excited to try this recipe, it looks so good!)
Wednesday: Pinto Beans and cornbread (didn't get to this last week)
Thursday: Grilled Teriyaki Chicken, grilled veggies, rice pilaf
Friday: Bean and cheese burritos, green chile sauce, chopped lettuce
Saturday: Hot ham and cheese sandwiches on onion rolls, chips
Sunday: Grilled Pork Tenderloin, black beans, yellow rice
I am going to get my green chile sauce with pork recipe posted this week, and my no boil manicotti recipe too. Hope you will visit me again soon! Enjoy all the menu plans at orgjunkie.com too!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Rice is a good inexpensive side dish and is perfect for quick and easy 30 minute meals. What I like about rice is that you can start it first and then turn off the heat and let stand while you finish up the rest of your cooking. It stays hot for quite a while and when everything else is ready you just fluff it with a fork.
You don't have to pay extra money for seasoned rice mixes, just use plain white rice and add your own seasonings.
Use one can of chicken broth or two cups of water with a teaspoon of chicken boullion, 1 cup of white rice and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 20 minutes.
Use the above recipe and add whatever else you like to match your main dish.
Here are some ideas:
Saute 1 Tbl of fine chopped onion, 1 Tbl fine chopped red pepper, 1 tsp dried parsley and a Tbl of slivered almonds in a Tbl of butter for about one minute, add rice and chicken broth, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Carrots, onion, bell pepper and cajun seasoning.
Onion, 1-2 Tablespoons salsa, cilantro.
Curry powder, onion, carrots.
Soy sauce, onion, garlic, carrots, almonds.
I try to keep the seasonings on the light side, and remember that the chicken broth may have salt, so you might not want to add any additional salt.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I was planning on grilling all this tonight, but it was getting late and I was starving so I checked out the baked teriyaki chicken recipe I saw on orgjunkie's menu a couple weeks ago and decided to adapt it for a quick fix meal.
When I met Mr. Rainbowcreek he only ate one vegetable. Corn. And occasionally a salad, with Italian dressing. He was not an adventurous eater and I just blindly stuck to the rules of serving meat and potatoes, or noodles and sauce stuff.
Eventually I discovered that his mom was just an awful cook and after he learned that I knew what I was doing in the kitchen he would try something new and be surprised to find that he liked it. Or maybe he just got sick of me feeding him corn every night, because I believed that every meal should have a protein, a starch and a veggie. And I know that corn is actually a starch but it was the principle that mattered.
So he does like a variety of things now and I get to enjoy cooking for someone who is not picky. Sometimes I crack up when I am talking to his mom and mention something that I fixed and she says "does he know that there is squash in it?" I am like, "yeah, it was squash" and she says, "did he know there were mushrooms?" umm, yes.
This was super fast and was really good.
The teriyaki sauce was quick and I think I might have doubled the recipe. I used brown sugar and red wine vinegar, just tasted 'til it was sweet enough so I cut back the sugar a lot, and I also added a 1/2 tsp of 6 pepper blend spice. I only used part of it and put the rest in a jar in the frig for later. I might use it to brush on the grilled mahi mahi later this week. I used chicken breast tenderloins, and brushed them with the sauce, baked about 10 minutes, at 375 degrees, turned and baked for a few minutes more.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
I am really trying to lighten up on the calories too. Winter foods are so tempting and yummy, but by this time of year it starts to weigh ya down. So some of my menu depends on the absolutely gorgeous but fickle Colorado weather cooperating on said days of the week. If not I can always adjust.
Monday: Grilled chicken tenderloins, zuchinni, yellow squash, onion, baby bella mushrooms and red peppers, rice pilaf, mixed greens with sesame dressing.
Tuesday: Jambalaya, red beans
My easy Jambalaya recipe: In large skillet heat one TBL vegetable oil, saute 1/2 onion large diced, 1 bell pepper large diced, one clove garlic smashed. Add 1 lb diced raw chicken, 1/2 lb smoked sausage sliced thin, stir fry over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups chicken broth, one can petite diced tomatoes, 1-2 tsp Emeril's Cajun Essence seasoning, a few dashes of Tabasco Sauce and 1 cup uncooked rice. Cover tightly and cook for 20 minutes over low heat without removing lid. Serve with seasoned red beans on the side. I use canned red beans and season with Essence, simmer on low for 5-10 mins.
Wednesday: Black Bean Taco Salad
Mixed greens topped with black beans, corn, onion, red pepper, black olives, shredded cheese, tortilla chips. Cilantro Ranch Dressing: 1/2 cup ranch dressing, 1/4 cup salsa, 2 Tbl chopped cilantro, squeeze of fresh lime.
Friday: Grilled bacon and blue cheese burgers, oven fries
Saturday: Grilled Mahi Mahi seasoned with lemon and dill, grilled veggies, steamed broccoli
Sunday: Grilled Pizza (weather permitting)
Saturday, February 14, 2009
When we were in Massachussetts someone in the state legislature introduced a bill to ban "fluffernutter" sandwiches from school lunch menus. GASP! The Boston TV stations were all over that! It was like an attack on the American way of life. They grew up on peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches and they were damned if they would allow some politically correct lawmaker deprive the children of the Commonwealth of their God given right to fluffernutter sandwiches. Oh My! It was really in good humor, but I love the way New Englanders cling to their traditions.
I am not sure if the kids were helping or just making funny faces for the camera. They probably ate all the scraps from the cutouts. I wish I could have been there to help too!
Monday, February 9, 2009
We kind of splurged on our 30th anniversary over the weekend to put it mildly. It was a nice time, and planned for, but I feel like we better cut back a little to make up for it. And Matty the Daddy is still not able to work since his accident 8 weeks ago, so we have been stretching our budget to feed two families for the past couple months. After 4 weeks of calling and waiting for a WIC appointment I finally found a number for them to call and get a live person, so on Wed. I am taking Krissy and baby David for an appointment to get WIC checks I hope. That will be some relief anyway. Little David is chunking up pretty good, so a little help with formula will be nice!
Another no shopping week, picked up milk and eggs and some hamburger last week and I have lots of freezer stores to work with.
Monday: Steak fajita's, refried beans, rice, tortillas, salsa, cheese, shredded lettuce
How to: I used a couple of small strip steaks, they were thin, sirloin or chicken tenders work well too. In medium/hot skillet, heat a little oil, add 1/2 onion sliced, one red or green pepper sliced, saute for 2-3 minutes. Season steak with grill seasoning or S&P, move veggies to one side and add steaks, turn down heat if it is smoking. Cook steaks 2-3 mins on each side, stir the veggies around occasionally. Add a squeeze of lime juice over all just before the steaks are done. (I was out of fresh limes, used Real Lime juice) Remove the steaks and let stand one minute, slice into strips. Plate the veggies on platter and lay the steak strips on top.
Tuesday: Chicken Alfredo, salad, garlic toast
How to make easy Alfredo sauce: Heat one cup half & half slowly with one smashed garlic clove, add 1/2 pkg cream cheese (low fat is ok) whisk until blended. Add 1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, cook gently on low heat until cheese is melted, taste for seasoning if needed and slightly reduce while noodles cook. Serve with angel hair pasta, sauteed chicken tenders.
Wednesday: Grilled cheese sandwiches, chips, pickles
Thursday: Grilled hamburgers, oven roasted fries, lettuce
Friday: Bean and cheese burrittos, lettuce
Saturday: Homemade pizza
Sunday: Valentines Dinner a day late because Mr. Rainbow Creek works late on Saturday.
Grilled Marinated Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin, rice pilaf, black beans, asian salad, red wine and Molten Chocolate Lava Cake with a glass of champagne maybe?
Saturday, February 7, 2009
1. Keep a budget diary for at least 2 weeks. Ask everyone in the family to participate and insist that they keep track of every dime they spend. Finding places where money is being wasted can help, but it is also helpful just to have a realistic idea of what items you need to budget for.
2. Menu planning and making a grocery list cuts down on trips to the store.
3. Be careful with couponing. Most coupons seem to be for processed and convenience foods. If it is not something you would normally buy then it might not be such a good deal to use that coupon.
4. When you have leftovers package up some frozen dinners to take for lunch or use on nights when your schedule is too busy to cook.
5. Be sure to label everything you put in your freezer so you will remember what you have in there. Mystery packages never seem to get used.
6. Unless you know that you will be using it right away, freeze the leftover portion of canned ingredients, such as tomatoe sauce or chicken broth, immediately, instead of putting it in the frig. That way you know it won't go bad before you need it.
7. If you shop at "bulk club" stores be sure that you know the prices of items so you know if the you are getting the best deal. Sometimes stocking up on sale price items is cheaper than the bulk price.
8. I got this one from my single mom sis 'n law. If you shop with kids let them pick out a coupon for their favorite cereal or snack ahead of time so they know that they are "getting something" and you won't have to argue with them asking for everything they see that they want.
9. Go halfsies on bulk items with a friend or family member.
10. Make your own snack foods, a 90 cent package of chocolate chip muffins will make 8 small muffins or a couple dozen mini muffins and can be wrapped up individually for lunches or after school snacks. Homemade cereal bars can be healthier and cheaper than the store bought ones. Be creative!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
But I have been seriously stressed out by the price of bread since the prices started creeping up last year. When it hit $4/loaf I just couldn't stand it. Mr. Rainbow Creek eats a lot of sandwiches. PB&J to be specific. He likes them for breakfast, and for his midmorning snack, and he takes another one or two to work with him for the evening when they have a truck to unload at 5 or 6 pm. He is not a fast food kind of guy and won't leave the office usually to go grab something. So bread is not an option in our house.
I have never been to the bread store myself before. Last time M went for me I just asked her to get me about $20 worth and she showed up with a big load and I was happy for a good 6 weeks with my freezer full of bread. And when it was gone I was sad.
So today she called to see if I wanted to go with her to load up again. When we got there Channel 4 News had a camera man there taping the frugal shoppers for the evening news. He was leaving before we checked out. The ladies at the store said they sure wished we had showed up earlier, since we had driven up from Castle Rock to Denver to buy all this cheap bread.
I grabbed a couple of coffee cakes and cookies too.
Ok here is what I didn't know, that for every $5 you spend they make you take another free loaf of bread or package of rolls, and if you spend $30 (which I did) you have to get another free loaf of bread and a free cake.
Now I have a pretty big freezer but I figure I am going to have to share some of this with the kids. It won't go to waste anyway, and I am happy again because I have two big jars of peanut butter from Sams, and a couple of cases of my homemade jams downstairs. So Mr. Rainbow Creek won't be going hungry even if I get lost in the batcave and don't show up to feed him for a while.