Saturday, January 31, 2009

What Is "Pittsburgh" Food?

Tomorrow is Superbowl, and if you are not from Pittsburgh or Phoenix, you are going to have to pick a team to be for and a menu to go with it. The Tattooed Mama called and asked me last week what you would plan for Pittsburgh food. (She also asked me to order her a "terrible towel" on ebay but I forgot.) I guess I didn't know. Cheese steaks are really Philly food, although they are popular in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh seems to be very ethnically diverse, I know Italian is pretty predominant, and German and Dutch.

I finally got curious enough to google it and here is what I found. Pierogies. And Keilbasa. I guess there is a large Polish influence there too, didn't know that. But here is a discussion on that is pretty interesting.

Or at least I found it pretty interesting that they have a famous restauant there that serves fried bologna and egg sandwiches with fries and coleslaw on it. And coleslaw seems to be a recurring theme there too. They put it on the keilbasa sandwiches too.

If you want to make Pierogies, here and here are some recipes for them. Be warned: the second link is about some serious Pierogie making. Or the kielbasa cooked in beer with the chili sauce and pineapple dipping sauce might be a little more manageable. Here is my version for that: one pkg Little Smokies Sausages, Bullseye Spicy BBQ Sauce, Grape Jelly. Simmer sausages in the sauce until hot.

Or if you want to be an Arizona fan that is a little easier. Enchiladas and chimichangas. Margarita's too, don't forget the margarita's. Personally I have never forgiven Pittsburgh for the utter humiliation they handed us Broncos fans in the playoffs 3 years ago, so I am going for the margarita's and the commercials.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

About Cooking and It's Frugal Friday Already

I got so wrapped up in the giveaway carnival and swapping that it was a good thing I had a menu plan for this week. It really does help to have a plan when you wake up in the morning instead of putting that off to the last minute when everyone is starving.

Tonight was chicken Parmesan and it was a really quick and easy meal to put together. While I was making it I was thinking of some frugal and time saving tips too.

First, how to do the chicken Parmesan: otherwise known as a recipe but I am recipe free so we'll just wing it ; )

Defrost 6-8 chicken breast tenderloins. Mix 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup bread crumbs together and season heavily with your favorite house seasoning. I use Tone's Garlic Pepper Blend from Sam's. Season the chicken with a little salt and pepper too. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and brown lightly in a medium hot skillet in a little olive oil. Remember: turn down the heat if it is smoking and browning too quickly. Remove the chicken to a baking dish and place a spoonful of your favorite bottled spaghetti sauce over each portion. I used Bertolli's Olive Oil and Garlic. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the sauce and bake in a hot, 400 degree, oven for 10 minutes. Serve with pasta, bread and salad. This takes about 15 minutes to prepare and we beat Rachel Ray by 15 minutes, so how good are we?

Now a couple of frugal tips.

Salad dressing: salad dressing is expensive if you buy the bottled kind. You can tell that this is a hugely profitable market because the grocery stores have entire aisles dedicated to display the great variety of salad dressings. I quit buying it years ago because I can't stand the chemical taste in most of them, and if you read the ingredients... well you just wouldn't really want to go there.

You can make your own salad dressings very easily and it does not have to involve a lot of mixing and emulsifying. I often plate my salads and dress them with a quick drizzle of olive oil, a couple of splashes of red wine or balsamic vinegar. And here is the secret ingredient: sugar. I take a tiny pinch of sugar and sprinkle over the vinegar drizzle and then a fresh grind of pepper and VOILA, salad dressing. If you like you can add a sprinkle of garlic salt or Italian seasoning too. I do make the more traditional emulsified kinds sometimes, but for a quick dinner salad this works and saves lots of time and money.

Bread: Bread can be frozen and used as needed. So if you pick up a loaf of French or Italian bread to use for one meal, and you know that you are not going to use the whole thing for one meal, just freeze the unused portion for another time. You can even slice and butter it before freezing so that it is ready to go when you need it. Wrap tightly in foil and freeze, then take it out and pop it into the oven.

Pasta: Why not cook ahead when you are cooking pasta? Save a little bit of time and electricity by cooking double the amount. The extra portion can be stored in the freezer in a ziplock bag and defrosted in the microwave when you need it. Drizzle with a little olive oil before freezing to keep it from sticking together if you want.

Geez, I am sorry, no pics on this post cause I was just too busy today to remember to take any cooking pics. But scroll down and look at my green bloggy
giveaway bag if you missed it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bloggy Giveaway Carnival! All About Green

Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival Button

In celebration of my new blog template (don't you love it?) The Rainbow Creek Kitchen is joining the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival today!

Here is what I am offering: one of my favorite Go Green Rainbow Creek Creations Cloth Grocery Bags. I just love this batik print with the sunflowers. I have this in orange too, but the green is most definitely my favorite.

Can't you just see yourself carrying this cute bag to the farmers market and loading it with goodies? Or to the supermarket, where all the other shoppers will surely be green with envy.

This green bag is fully lined with a natural quilters cotton fabric and very sturdy. It has doubled handles and an added bonus of a nice sized pocket inside to stick your debit card, checkbook and keys in there. Heck, you could even put my business card in there so when everyone asks you "where did you get that awesome bag?" you can remember me and tell them to check out my store.

This is my first carnival so I am a little green about rules, but you must enter to win so here are the guidelines:

Leave a comment by 12:00 am January 31, 2009.

Live in the US, Canada, UK, Australia. I am not too picky about where I ship to as long as it is not difficult. So consider yourself in if your country in not so prohibitive that it is impossible to ship to you.

Tweet my giveaway on Twitter for an extra entry, leave me a comment with your tweet.

Follow my blog or twitter for another entry chance.

Make sure that your email address is valid so I can contact you if you are the winner.

Winner will be drawn on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2009 and announced on Monday.

I have more giveaways at
Up The Rainbow Creek, so click on over there to enter.

Don't forget to go back to the
Bloggy Giveaway Carnival to check out all the giveaways!

Do You Love It?

How about this blog makeover from DesignsBySheila? Isn't this wonderful and so much easier to read?

Thanks Sheila! I love it! This will inspire me to spend more time on this blog.

I have a Bloggy Giveaway to post here later this afternoon, be sure to check it out!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I missed a week here somewhere. I got off to a slow start in getting back to work on my online sales, but now I am up and running again. So time to get back to some of my resolutions for organizing and saving money this year.

I am not planning on shopping this week, as I have a lot of food stocked up from my last trip to sam's club.

I am planning on challenging myself to use what I have on hand and come up with as many creative meals as I can before I go shopping again.

Here is what I came up with for this week.

Monday: Mexican Pork Chops and Rice, black beans, chopped romaine

Tuesday: Grilled ham and cheese sandwich, chips

Wednesday: Three Bean Soup, corn muffins

Thursday: Chicken Parmesan, noodles, salad, bread

Friday: Homemade Pizza

Saturday: Asian Spinach Salad with Chicken Strips

Sunday: Thin NY Strip Steaks, Grilled Shrimp, baked sweet potato, salad, Wine!

Recipe: Mexican Pork Chops and Rice

I just made this up tonight and it turned out very well, so thought I would share it.

In large skillet heat a little cooking oil, brown 4 seasoned (salt, pepper) pork chops in oil on medium heat. Add one can roasted diced green chiles, 1/4 cup diced onion, one rough chopped garlic clove, 2 cups chicken broth, 1 cup canned crushed tomotoes, and one cup of uncooked rice to pan. Stir well and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover pan tightly. Simmer for 20 minutes before uncovering. Check to see if rice is tender, it may take another 5 minutes or so. When rice is done set aside to stand for about 5 minutes. Serve with black beans.

If you like more heat you can add a tablespoon of jalapenos or other hot roasted chiles to taste. We buy our chiles by the bushel from the chile roasters in the fall and freeze them for the winter, so I used serrano's which were pretty hot.

Don't forget to check out more great menu plans over at Organizing Junkie's! I am number 496 this week, WOW!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Frugal Friday, I missed a deadline?

Not really. I was planning on doing a Frugal Friday post to link to A Cowboy's Wife's post but she was a no show til today and her Mr. Linky was not working.

With the economy on everyone's mind it seems that everyone is all about being frugal. I guess it's the new black.

Now you can't get more frugal than FREE can you? If you google free samples you can find tons of websites with offers for free product samples. There are some good ones out there, but a word of caution is in order here too. Remember that many of these offers are solicitations for your email and home address info so the samples may come with some consequences. I saw some that required joining book clubs etc. so sampler beware.

I would say that most of the big name brand companies really do want you to just try the product in hopes that you will purchase more, so some of those can be a great way to save a few cents or even dollars. It all adds up!

This one from Dove sounds pretty good.

And did you know that Wal Mart has a free sample category on their website? you can order coupons for free stuff

This week I will try harder to write down my frugal ideas and have a proper Frugal Friday post ready.

Here is an idea for cutting back on the temptation to order pizza or go out when you have a tough day or too much going on and can't get a meal prepared. I keep a couple of those ready made pizza crusts on hand, a jar of pizza sauce, a pack of pepperoni and a bag of grated mozzerella cheese. You can throw one of these pizzas together in less than 5 mins and bake in 10 minutes for a fraction of the cost of delivery pizza.

If you have a little extra time you can do more toppings, like peppers, onions and mushrooms. And I like to drizzle a little olive oil on the crust and then rub it with some rough chopped garlic. I also cook extra Italian sausage when I am making something that calls for it, then keep the extra in the freezer to use for pizza topping. My favorite is Johnsonville Sweet Italian Sausage, I buy it when it is on sale and cook the whole package at one time and freeze it to use as needed.

Sorry no pics of the pizza, we ate the whole thing before I remembered!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Planned-Over Dinners

Many people will say that they hate leftovers or that their family won't eat leftovers. And of course one of the most hated things about leftovers is the dreaded day of reckoning when you have to face the fact that you can't cram another thing into your frig until you dig out the hazmat suit and remove the biohazards that have taken up residence in there. YUCK!

I especially hate when I have to make the decision to dispose of the objects bowl and all, or face the task of opening them and flushing them down the disposal and washing the bowl. I have chosen the former option on more than one occasion, and who hasn't?

Which brings me to the idea of Planned-Overs. There are many dishes that fit the bill perfectly for transforming from one meal into another. And you can take advantage of the fact that half the preparation is already done and use these on your menu plan for the nights that you need a quickie meal.

Like this yummy Cheese Steak Sandwich made from thin sliced leftover pot roast on a deli roll.

First I sauteed some onions, red peppers and mushroom in a small skillet. Add some seasonings.

Add the meat, and stir to heat it through. Next I covered the meat and veggies with a sprinkle of grated cheese. Remove from heat and cover to let the cheese melt through.
Toast the rolls, I did that in the toaster oven, and they were ready to go once the cheese melted.

You could also use this same dish for Steak Fajitas, just squeeze a little lime juice over the top of the meat and veggies, serve on flour tortillas with cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream.

Pot Roast Report

That Sweet and Tangy Pot Roast was definitely a keeper.

Of course I didn't exactly follow the recipe. I just can't follow recipes. But my adaptation turned out melt in your mouth delicious, and we were happy to have the leftovers again for dinner tonight.

First, I don't get up early enough to do anything in the slow cooker. So a slow oven was my next best option and I started the roast by about 2:30 pm at 325 degrees so it would have plenty of time to get nice and tender, about 4 hours. I didn't have brown gravy mix so I added a package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, and I used 2 cups of water and 1 cup of beef broth, plus a good dash of red wine vinegar since I didn't have a box of wine handy and didn't want to open a bottle of red wine at 2:30 in the afternoon. About one hour before the roast was done I added 4 medium potatoes quartered, one onion cut in large chunks, and two whole garlic cloves.

I made a flour and water slurry to thicken the gravy and poured that in about 10 minutes before I took it out of the oven. Perfection.

I was also thinking that this recipe would work pretty well with a can of stewed tomatoes or petite diced tomatoes instead of the ketchup. It might not be quite as sweet, but with the red wine vinegar added it would be pretty good and maybe a few less calories, if you are counting those.

I am working on my Frugal Friday, check back for a few money saving hints and a link to more participants!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I really want to get a new design for this blog as soon as possible so I will feel more inspired to post here. That was my intention when I went to look at some blog designs tonight on Designs by Sheila's website. Then I started following links from one of her client's blogs and came across I'm An Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

So I think I will give this a try. Menu planning is really a good idea and can be especially helpful if you are trying to stick to a budget because you can make a shopping list and get everything at once. Avoiding those quick trips to the supermarket to pick up something for dinner can save you a lot of money because it is almost inevitable that you will pick up extras. Those add up fast and can really blow the budget fast.

I am actually the type that does a big shopping trip once or twice a month. I usually have everything on hand for a large variety of meals and make things up as I go. But that doesn't always work out, because I forget that I have mushrooms or fresh green beans and don't get around to using them before they spoil. With menu planning I am hoping to do better and cut down on wasted food and excessive leftovers that don't get used.

So here goes: this is my first try at this so I won't have links to all my recipes this time, but will plan on that in the future.

Monday: Sweet n Tangy Pot Roast (as seen on Organizing Junkie's blog) Potatoes and Carrots, Salad

Tuesday: Leftover Pot Roast

Wednesday: Homemade Mushroom, Onion and Red Pepper Pizza, made with premade pizza crust, sauce, mozzerella and parmesan

Thursday: Ham and Potato Gratin, fresh green beans seasoned with bacon and onion

Friday: Panini's (turkey, salami, red pepper, onion, lettuce) with chips and pickles

Saturday: Leftover Ham and Potato Gratin

Sunday: Cheese Enchilada's with Refried Beans, lettuce

In the future I think I will try to include a shopping list and price range for the menu too.

Here is how to make the Ham and Potato Gratin:

Slice 4 medium potatoes thin. I leave skins on but you can peel if you like. Slice one half onion thin. Dice ham into bite size pieces.

Layer potatoes, ham, onion and sprinkle grated white cheddar cheese or any other cheese you like over each layer, ending with the cheese in a large casserole dish, . Pour one cup half and half and enough milk to cover the potatoes just to the top layer. Bake in 375 degree oven for about one hour until top is beginning to brown and the potatoes are tender.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Low Down On Aunt Ruby's Pork Chops

When my kids were babies we lived next door to Mr. RainbowCreek's Aunt Ruby. We were poor. Not like dirt poor, but like when you have 3 kids and one of them outgrows their shoes suddenly and there goes the grocery budget poor.

So sometimes I used to go next door and literally "borrow" dinner from Ruby. She was just one of those kind of Aunt's, so when I would mention that I just didn't know what to do for dinner she would pull out a few things from the cupboard and 'frig and rattle off some instructions for how to make a certain dish and send me on my way. She raised 7 kids and she knew how to make all those good comfort foods. And she made pork chops that I craved but could not quite accomplish.

It took me a while to figure out how those pork chops always were so tender and delicious, but finally it came to me that she just cooked them for a very long time on low heat in a heavy skillet. Some things can't be done in a hurry and I guess pork chops are one of them. If you cook them that way all they need is a little salt and pepper. I prefer mine pretty peppery, but just pepper to taste and they will be good. Start them on medium and as soon as you get them brown on one side turn the heat down. Cover the pan and turn them every so often, for about 45 mins. or even a little longer if you want. When you remove them from the pan you will have the perfect makings for an excellent cream gravy.

How to make a gravy: You will need a little bit of fat in the pan for making a proper gravy so if your pork chops were too lean (yes, there is such a thing as too lean) you may need to add a tablespoon of vegetable oil or butter.

You will want to turn the heat up a little bit but not too much, and add 3-4 tablespoons of all purpose flour to the pan. Stir this around with the oil for a while to get it mixed in and slightly bubbly and brown. This should look smooth with no lumps before proceeding to the next step.

Add about a quarter cup of water or chicken broth to the flour mixture and stir this until it is mixed and smooth. Now you can turn your heat up a little more to medium high, and add some milk, probably about a cup and bring this to a boil so it starts to thicken. If it is too thick add a little more milk until it is the right consistency. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

This basic technique of making a roux for thickening a sauce may take a little practice. The most important thing is to control the heat, start slow so things don't go crazy on you all at once and remember to taste and re-season before serving your final product.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Simple Sauce

Many foods demand a good sauce or gravy. All of which are based on one of the five "mother sauces" of cuisine. Luckily for you and me, we do not have to know how to create these mother's because they are almost all readily available in the local supermarket, with the exception maybe of the cream sauce, which is milk and flour and butter. That is pretty easy and I will get around to some recipes with that later, like a good macaroni and cheese, and chicken pot pie that you could be proud to serve even to adults.

So, if you tried the smothered chicken recipe then you know how to make a simple "pan sauce" which is nothing more than deglazing the pan in which a meat was cooked, with a flavorful liquid and perhaps adding a bit of flavorful fat, such as butter, cream or oil.

That is a technique that you can really use and build on. For example, the chicken can be replaced with steak and rather than chicken broth you can use beef broth or red wine. You can also do the same with pork chops or pork tenderloin medallions, I would leave off the cheese, and for adults you could use a fortified wine like Marsala for the pan sauce.

So now I would like to say a few words about heavy cream and butter. You should buy a pint of ultra pasteurized heavy cream and keep it in your refrig. The date on the ultra stuff is pretty long, about 6 weeks. And if you divide this up over a 4-6 week period among the number of family members this is not going to kill you. Nor is REAL butter. These ingredients are just indespenable when it comes to cooking flavorful dishes.

I don't care how much propaganda you hear about the evils of fat, you have got to get over it and understand that in moderation you can use real foods such as butter and cream and cook fresh foods in a healthy way. My grandparents did not used processed foods and spreads and packaged sauce mixes that came from a chemistry lab. They lived to 90+ years because they worked hard and ate well. So tell the food police to F off and buy fresh, buy organic, but eat real food and you will be just fine.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Recipe? What Recipe?

I think it is about time some of you learn to cook.

Why? Because you have to eat and if you have a family they do too.

And I find it very disturbing when I hear people (well, especially mom people) who say they just don't cook. I worry about your babies, those chicken globule thingies and that watery powdered cheese and slimy pasta from the blue box is scary stuff. Is that what they are eating? While you choke down a Lean definitely not Cuisine with exactly one chunk of some processed chicken product in a glistening puddle of sauce made from substances you cannot pronounce the name of? You know that just is so not right.

I know how to cook. Recipes are plentiful on the internet, and there are probably thousands of beginner cookbooks. But I would like to encourage you to learn to cook without recipes. Cooking is really about learning techniques and using them to prepare fresh foods that you and your family enjoy.

30 minute meals sound like a great idea until you buy the book and find out that they are suggesting that you serve your kids or your hard working partner kale soup and roasted cauliflower. Well that just isn't going to fly now, is it?

So here is a quick and easy dinner that involves a few simple techniques.

Smothered Chicken: I buy the bags of frozen chicken breast tenders because they are better sized for portion control than the full size chicken breasts, and they are quick to cook.

Defrost a number of chicken breast portions to serve your family. Season them with salt and pepper or your favorite grill seasoning. I use a Tone's garlic pepper blend that I get at Sam's Club, it is my staple seasoning for almost everything.

Sear the Chicken in a hot skillet. To sear meat you should heat the pan on medium high, then add the oil just before you add the meat. Use a combination of olive oil and butter, the olive oil will prevent the butter from scorching when you add it to the hot pan, and the butter adds flavor. I do not use "spreads" they are not suitable for cooking. If the skillet seems too hot and the meat is smoking when added to the pan, turn the heat down. (duh!) Turn the chicken so it is browned on both sides. Remove it from the pan to a baking dish.

Turn down the heat to medium if you haven't already done that. Add some sliced onions and sliced fresh mushrooms to the pan and stir them around to begin to caramelize them. That means they will be getting slightly browned. If you hate onions or one of your family members won't touch them with a ten foot pole, leave them out. The same goes for the mushrooms. Remember this is not a recipe, you are cooking for yourself and can do whatever you like.

De-glaze the pan with some chicken broth from a can or a box. Turn up the heat a little if needed and stir well with a wooden spoon to get all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan mixed into the sauce. Add a tablespoon of butter or heavy cream to give the sauce a little thickness and added flavor. Add pepper to taste and if you are using unsalted chicken broth taste to see if it needs salt.

Place a slice of Swiss cheese over each chicken portion, pour sauce over top. Put the baking dish in a 375 degree oven until the cheese is melted and starts to bubble a bit. If using the chicken tenders this will take about 10 minutes, if full size chicken breasts it will be about 15 or more depending on size. The cheese acts kind of as a meat thermometer and won't start bubbling until the chicken is done.

Serve this with mashed potatoes, rice or noodles and a salad or steamed vegetables.