Friday, September 4, 2009

Cream of Mushroom Soup, Just Say NO!

Come, let us harken back to a time when Cream of "anything" soup did not exist.

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

The Tea Party Chronicles Homemade Tiered Plates

Are you a tea party rookie? I am too.

When the tattooed mama and me decided to have a bridal shower for the College Boy's lovely Bride to Be a tea party sprang to my mind. Miss Bride is so sweet and we wanted to do something very special for her. Thus I came upon the idea of a "real" formal tea party and we began planning. I was pretty sure we could pull it off since we are so crafty and clever, and I figured I would find all the "How To" I needed online.

I did find a lot of good information and especially quite a few recipes to choose from.

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 off to the Goodwill I went.
I discovered that there are plenty of pretty dishes to be had for 49 cents each. Since I was planning on a "mismatched" place setting for each person that would work. It would take several trips to several different thrift stores and I added in the cups and plates from Mr. Rainbow Creek's grandma's china set which I had stashed in the basement for years.
Oh yeah, and I also thought it was totally worth all the trouble to have to peel off all the price stickers and handwash all those dishes before and after the party.

Teapots are somewhat more difficult. I managed to find 2 for $3 each and then purchased a new one from the Corningware outlet store for $7. The little tea light candleholders were from the dollar store. They were cute and matched our "spa theme." But I forgot to light them. DUH!

I found some pretty napkins at Tuesday Morning.

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.

I had this well planned out, but it was a little scary because you have to get the dishes centered while handling a hot glue gun and, as I soon learned, the hot glue sets as soon as it meets the cold plate. So, you have one shot at getting it right or you get to start over again.

So here are a few tips on hot gluing dishes together to make a tiered serving plate.

1. Use small dots of glue around the edge of the glass, not a thick bead.
2. If you get the plate off center DO NOT use a razor blade to try to unstick it while holding the plate with your other hand and pointing the razor blade at your hand! Ask me how I know.
3. If you need to unstick the plates run some hot water over the glue beads and gently wiggle the plate until it pops off. The glue can then be removed by rubbing it with your fingers, no razor blade required.

The plates turned out really pretty.

Next up: Fabulous food and how to spend an entire day making 35 brownies.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rice Krispie Treat Easter Bouquet

I meant to post this last weekend, but goodness I have been so busy.

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

3 Layer Red Chile Enchiladas

Since I have been slacking on menu plan Monday's for the past few weeks I find myself coming up from my sewing studio at whatever hour hunger strikes me and scrounging around for what to make.

Tonight I opened the frig and found: an open can of refried beans with a small scoop missing that I assume Mr. Rainbow Creek used for bean dip, a package of corn tortillas that were on the verge of expiration, 2 thighs and one leg leftover from the roasted chicken we had earlier this week, a package of Sargento 4 Cheese Mexican blend left from the queso fundido. My heart leapt at the thought that I might have a can of enchilada sauce in the lazy susan. And indeed I did had not one but two cans! One last thing, an onion.
I make my enchiladas lasagna style because it a lot less work and not as messy as the rolled up kind. And just as tasty.
Once you grab all your ingredients it is a good idea to prep everything and line it up. I am all about mise en place, everything in place before assembling and cooking. It dirties a few extra dishes but at least you aren't running to the frig or struggling to open a package of cheese with sauce dripping down your arm. Ask me how I know.
First cut your tortillas in half, I find that this makes it easy to line the whole pan nicely. You can do an 8X8 or 13X9 pan. But you might as well do the big pan because the leftovers are so good for lunch tomorrow or can be frozen for another meal.

I chopped the chicken into small cubes and mixed in one small diced onion. Put the sauce in a wide bowl for dipping the tortillas, pour your cheese into a bowl, I heated the beans a little so they would spread easily. I also sprayed the pan with Pam to prevent sticking, baked on cheese can be hell to clean up.

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.

Add the last layer of tortillas and cover with the rest of the sauce. I use the large can of sauce that I get at Sam's. If you live somewhere like the east coast where you can only get those tiny cans of sauce you will need at least 3 cans, maybe 4.

Cover the top with the rest of the cheese. Cover pan tightly with foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, uncover and cook 10 minutes more until cheese is bubbly.

I keep it simple and serve this with a side of salad greens with a little cilantro mixed in, and diced tomatoes. A little sour cream is good for topping too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Just Discovered No-Knead Bread - WOW!

I have really been in a cooking mood (or maybe I should say eating mood?) since I got back from my trip.

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.

Now, to the no-knead bread. Definitely, I will be playing with this recipe alot more. All I can say it is everything I expected and not nearly as fussy as you might think. I substituted active dry yeast for the instant and used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for part of the bread flour. I also had to leave for an appointment and got back later than expected so let the second rise go for a little over 4 hours. No problem, it turned out just perfect.

I didn't wait until it was all the way cooled, cut into it after I had waited as long as I could. The outside is so crunchy and the inside soft and a bit chewy. Try this even if you are not a baker! I might try it with a little more yeast for flavor next time. Mark Bittman does it with more yeast and less rising time so you can actually get it done in one day. But I do like the long and not so precise nature of this recipe and see no reason to hurry it.

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 don't peel the potatoes. I quarter them and quarter a couple of small onions. I use peeled baby carrots and baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced.

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.

This recipe called for a dark black beer. I used Sam Adams Black Lager because that is what I had on hand. Guinness is good too.

Then I added about 3 cups beef broth, 1 small can tomatoe paste, 1 bay leaf and some dried herbs. Bake in 325 - 350 oven for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours until meat is tender. If liquid gets too low after 1 1/2 hours add a little more broth or water. This makes a really rich and tender stew. I served some boiled cabbage with it since it was St. Patricks day, and the homemade bread with soft butter.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Frozen Pasta Chicken Parmesan 15 minute meal

Tonight Mr. Rainbow Creek got home late and I was in the middle doing battle with a quilt I wanted to finish by this weekend. (That is another story for another time!) But I knew he was hungry and so was I since I had been down in the batcave all day working. I decided to offer to cook him some breaded chicken tenders and that was fine with him, but sounded pretty crappy to me. Then I remembered that I had some precooked angel hair pasta in the freezer so I threw together a big plate of chicken parmesan, it took about 15 minutes after the oven was heated and I was happy not to have a big mess to clean up.

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

Beans for Breakfast - Frugal Friday

I like almost all kinds of beans. Especially beans and cornbread like my mom used to make when I was a kid. It was one of my dad's favorite meals because he grew up during the depression and they never went hungry because they always had a pot of beans to feed him and his four brothers and 1 sister. Some people who grew up during the depression had bad memories of "poor" food and when times got better they never wanted to eat beans or meatloaf again. But my dad always said that when he was in the Navy during the war his favorite day aboard ship was when they had Navy beans, I guess it reminded him of home.

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

No Boil Spinach and Cheese Manicotti

I wanted to make manicotti on Sunday night and Mr. Rainbow Creek suggested that it could be done "no boil" like you do the lasagna. I wasn't so sure of that, even though I do use regular lasagna noodles without boiling rather than buying the no boil kind. I googled for a no boil manicotti recipe and found a few, but then some of them started out with directions for boiling the pasta first. So I decided to wing it and I was really happy with how easy it was and it turned out fantastic.
The thing I hate about making manicotti is that the boiled pasta usually splits open when you stuff them with the cheese mixture, not to mention that you have to dirty a pan to cook them, then drain them and keep them from sticking together.

For the no boil method I used a large pastry bag with a large straight tip and just squeezed the filling in, no muss, no fuss. If you don't have a pastry bag you can try putting the filling in a large zip lock bag and cutting off the corner to make a large enough hole to pipe the filling through.

This recipe makes a 13 X 9 pan size. I always spray my pan with non-stick spray for easier cleaning.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.


4 ounces white mushroom or baby bella mushrooms chopped

6 ounces fresh baby spinach chopped

1 clove garlic
olive oil

1 package manicotti pasta shells

8 ounces riccotta cheese

1 cup grated mozzerella cheese + extra for topping

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs

2 jars spaghetti sauce

Saute the mushrooms and smashed garlic clove on medium heat in large skillet with a Tbl of olive oil. Add the spinach and saute until wilted.

Cover the bottom of pan with about 1 cup of the sauce.

Mix cheeses, eggs and the spinach mixture. Fill uncooked shells with filling mixture. Pour sauce over the top to completely cover. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of water over the top. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 50 minutes. Uncover and top with additional cheese. Bake 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.
This is a good make ahead dish too. If you are going to make ahead I wouldn't add the water before refrigerating. If your family doesn't enjoy spinach and mushroom you can do this with just cheese and maybe a little fresh chopped basil for the filling.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

February 23 Menu Plan Monday

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 too!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How to Cook Seasoned Rice

I had a craving for chicken fajitas today but decided to do a chicken fajita rice bowl instead of tortillas. I sauteed onion, red and green peppers, and mushrooms and then cooked the chicken tenderloins in the same pan. I seasoned with grill seasoning, chili powder and lime. I heated a can of black beans with a little diced jalapeno, a spoonful of petite diced tomatoes and chopped cilantro. We spooned the veggies and beans over rice and sprinkled a little cheese on top. I found avacodos on sale today so sliced that on the side. It was so good we didn't have as much left for lunches as I thought we would.

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

Teriyaki Stir Fry

Looking at all those flashback to the past pictures has gotten to me. So Rainbow Creek is going to have to go healthier on the menu plans.
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.

I sauted the veggies in a hot skillet medium high heat, with a Tbl. vegetable oil for about 3-4 minutes. Spooned a little of the sauce over them and turned off the heat.

I had some leftover rice from last week which I heated in the microwave.

This was really low fat. Maybe not so good on the sugar, but the sauce was good and I didn't use much of it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Wow, last week went fast. And Mr. Rainbowcreek had a rough week due to weather delays and late trucks, so I had to play it by ear on my menus according to his schedule. This week looks about the same, so late nite and easy is on the menu for most of the week.

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.
Thursday: Pinto beans and cornbread

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)

Thanks to for hosting this. I love Menu Plan Monday!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Party Rice Krispie Pops

I sent K a link for these Rice Krispie Pops. So cute! She ended up making 70 of them for the kids school party. Luckily they aren't in one of those school districts that only allow carrot sticks and celery for class parties!

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!

I love them! Now I want to make some too. I bought some Easter cookie cutters at Wal-Mart today but I don't know when Easter is.

These would make perfect birthday party favors or a bouquet of them decorated with curly ribbon in a tall coffee mug would make a nice gift too.
Make the basic Rice Krispie Treat recipe, cut out shapes with medium to large cookies cutters. Insert lollipop sticks, dip in melted chocolate, dip in sprinkles. Set aside to dry before wrapping in cellophane and tie with ribbons.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009

Menu Monday LOW BUDGET Week

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?

Visit orgjunkie too, for more Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

10 Frugal Ideas

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

Frugal Bread Makes Me Happy

Our trip to the bread outlet store today was a HUGE success. I mean HUGE, really. OK, maybe I went a little crazy.

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.

Can I fix you a sandwich?