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?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Oops, how to make chicken pot pie

I was gettting too tired last night when I posted my menu and forgot to add the Chicken Pot Pie directions. Here you go, and I also added the Beef Stoganoff, recipe free of course!

Chicken Pot Pie:

What you will need: 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts OR 6-8 chicken breast tenderloins cut in bite size pieces, 2 cups chicken broth, 1/2 bag frozen mixed vegetables, 1 medium potato small diced, one can large biscuits, flour, milk, vegetable oil, seasoning.

Put it together:

Parcook the diced potatoes in a small microwave dish with a little salted water, about 4-5 mins. Drain.

Season chicken with your favorite seasoning blend or salt and pepper. Heat 2 TBl cooking oil in large skillet, add meat, stir until cooked on medium heat.

Add 1/4 cup flour to pan with meat, stir to mix with the oil and coat the chicken about one minute. Add the chicken broth, raise heat to med/high and bring to boil, this should be a very thick gravy. Add a little milk at a time to thin a little to consistency you want. Taste and season if needed with salt and pepper. Keep the heat up! Add the parcooked potatoes and the frozen veggies. Bring it up to a good simmer.

Pour the pot pie mixture into a 13"X9" baking pan. Seperate the biscuits and roll lightly with a rolling pin to flatten them a bit. Lay the flattened biscuits on top of the pot pie mixture. Bake in hot 400 degree oven until biscuits are golden brown on top.

Easy Beef Stoganoff:

What you will need: 1 lb. sirloin steak or leftover pot roast, sliced thin, 1/2 onion sliced thin, 4 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms, 2 cups beef broth, cooking oil, 3-4 Tbl flour, 2 Tbl ketchup, 1 cup sour cream, cooked noodles or rice.

How to make it:

Heat cooking oil in large skillet on medium high, season meat and cook in hot skillet until browned, add onions and mushrooms cook for about 2-3 minutes until soft and slightly carmelized. Add flour stir to mix with oil and coat meat about 1 minute, add broth and ketchup and bring up to a boil to thicken. Taste and reseason if needed. Turn down heat to low, stir in the sour cream and gently heat. Serve over rice or noodles.

Another version: If you want to do a more "high end" stroganoff for company or a special occasion dinner, use beef tenderloin or sliced ribeye steak, before adding the beef broth add 1/2 cup red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon or melot. Reduce on medium heat until all the liquid is evaporated. This will concentrate the flavors and cook off all the alcohol. Add 1-2 Tbl butter to pan and then add the flour. Proceed with recipe above.

This Week at Rainbow Creek

Elliot with his Superbowl brownie.

I found my menu plan last week was extremely helpful. I was pretty busy with the bloggy giveaway carnival and had pretty good sales in my online stores too so was spending most of my time in the batcave working. There were a couple of days that we skipped because Mr. Rainbowcreek was working late and we did fend for yourself, leftovers or whatever.

We had an impromptu Superbowl Party yesterday. It was fun and I didn't have a menu for it but we managed to throw some stuff together. Just chicken tenders, popcorn shrimp, and artichoke dip with crackers, olive etc. I made some brownies for the kids but they were a big hit with adults too so got wiped out pretty fast, I sprinkled some Heath Toffee and Chocolate Bits and pecans on top before baking, yummmeee.
I still have enough supplies on hand for most of the week so my shopping will be limited to picking up a few items that I am out of, bread, milk, eggs and lunch meat. Marcia is out of bread too so we are planning a trip to the bread outlet store for Tuesday to stock up. I love the bread store, fill your freezer with a month's worth of bread for less than half the price. You can't beat that.

Menu for this week:

Monday: Cheese and onion enchiladas, refried beans, lettuce

Tuesday: Beef Stroganoff, noodles, salad

Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie (recipe)

Thursday: Leftover pot pie or stroganoff

Friday: mini BBQ meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes, salad

Saturday: Pizza

Sunday: Fondue Dinner at the Melting Pot for our 30th Anniversary!

Don't forget to check out organizing junkies blog for more menu plan monday !

Bloggy Giveaway Carnival Winner!

Winner of the Rainbow Creek Go Green Grocery Bag is Julie!