Saturday, October 17, 2009

Smoky Potato Cheese Soup

Winter seems to have set in here in Central Ohio. Fortunately we haven't seen any snow yet. Cold weather is perfect for soups. We aren't crazy about soup at my house, but this is one that we all enjoy. I usually make this recipe a couple times a year.

The original recipe came from Allrecipes, but I lightened it up a bit. However, this is by no means lowfat between the smoked sausage and the Velveeta!

Smoky Potato Cheese Soup

1/2 c chopped onion
14-16 oz pkg light smoked sausage, diced
2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth
6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 lb Velveeta Light, cubed
2 (12 oz) cans fat free evaporated milk
black pepper, to taste

Spray a large pan with nonstick spray. Cook the onion and sausage over medium heat until the onions soften and the sausage starts to get some color. Add the broth and potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are soft.
Using a potato masher, lightly mash the potatoes, being sure not to completely mash them.
Add the Velveeta and stir until melted.
Stir in the evaporated milk and season to taste with pepper.Notes:
1. If the soup isn't as thick as you'd like, then make a slurry using equal parts cornstarch and water. Stir in about 1 tablespoon at a time to the soup until the desired thickness is reached.
2. For best results, leftovers should be reheated on the stove. Microwaving can curdle the soup.
3. Serve with some crusty bread and a salad.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Canning Jar Epiphany

I'm 32 years old and have been homecanning off and on since I graduated college. My mom did not can, so I did not have anyone to teach me how to do things. Everything I have learned has come from reading the Ball Blue Book and assorted canning cookbooks and the glorious internet. I've certainly learned a bunch by trial and error as well.

One thing has always bewildered me about canning jars. Modern canning jars have a two-piece system that comes in two sizes depending on the opening size of the jar. The small size is called "regular" and the large size is called "wide-mouth." Why not "small" and "large"?

The answer came to me today in an unexpected way.

I recently asked my in-laws if they had any spare canning jars hanging around that they wouldn't mind parting with. Today they came over with two boxes of jars that Joe's dad pulled from the attic. There were lots of different jars in there. Three of the jars were the old style with the rubber gasket and glass lids. A number of them were the old zinc one-piece lids. One jar had a wide-mouth opening, but most of the jars were regular opening size. However, a couple jars had tiny bands but no flat lid. Those puzzled me until I found this lid on one of the jars (the band is under the flat lid):

At the top it says "for narrow-mouth jars". Duh! There used to be THREE sizes! Narrow, regular and wide. I can totally understand why they no longer carry the narrow-mouth size anymore. It's hard enough to fit some foods in the regular size opening. I can't imagine trying to use the narrow-mouth for something other than jams and jellies. Then it becomes a pain stocking multiple sizes of lids. I only own regular size jars (until today) for that very reason.

As you can see below, the narrow-mouth and regular lids are noticeably different in size:
There was one other surprise in the box -- a 2-quart canning jar! I've heard about these, but had never seen one. On the left is a Ball quart jar and on the right is a Kerr 2-quart jar. The Ball jar is one that I purchased at the store. I have no idea how old the Kerr jar is. The stores no longer carry that size because it takes too long to safely process foods in a jar that large. Oh, but it will be fun to use it in the fridge.
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Monday, September 7, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: Labor Day Week

The rain is pouring down this morning. It's bad enough that Directv can't even pick up The Weather Channel, so we have to use the internet to see how bad the weather is. It's kinda humorous.

No big Labor Day plans for today. Yesterday we hit up the tractor pull at the Richwood Independent Fair. Samantha really enjoyed herself. Her favorite thing were the animals, in particular the rabbits. She also liked the tractors with the black smoke. It was a vast improvement over last year when we left early because the animals and loud tractors scared her. Unfortunately the tractor pull had to be called before all the tractors had a chance to compete due to the sled breaking. It was a bummer because we waited forever while they tried to fix it.

Monday - hopefully the rain will clear up so we can grill some steak and jalapeno poppers

Tuesday - spaghetti and meatballs

Wednesday - Pizza Casserole

Thursday - smoked sausage, sauerkraut

Friday - lunch at the Popcorn Festival; dinner will be pizza on the grill if the weather agrees or in the oven if it doesn't

Saturday - spicy honey chicken thighs - these were really good the first time we had them

Sunday - Spaghetti Pie

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Generic vs. Name Brand with Coupon

I use coupons for nearly everything I buy at the grocery store. I get this weird feeling when I buy something without one. I hate it when the generic is still cheaper even after my store doubles a manufacturer's coupon on the name brand item. I'm saving money with the generic, but I know that I can do better if only my timing were better.

I'm in one of those pickles right now. I am down to my last teaspoons of sugar. I don't even have any Splenda to substitute. So I have to suck it up and buy sugar at the going price. I can't wait for the rock bottom price. I am at my store's mercy. One of my stores has Domino 5 lb bags of sugar on sale for $2.50. I have a manufacturer's coupon for 30 cents off one. That means I'll spend $1.90 at this store that doubles. I just don't know. That doesn't sound like a good price.

I'm probably going to Aldi and/or Save a Lot this week for some of their sale items, so I'll check out their prices before buying any sugar. I could stop in Walmart to see what they charge, but that's a crapshoot. I've noticed that WM is higher than regular prices at Kroger or Meijer on half the stuff I buy. The problem is knowing exactly which half is cheaper at any given time. I really don't want to go all over town comparing prices.

We'll see. I NEED sugar, so I know I will buy it. I just don't know how willing I am to make sure I'm getting a decent price before I hand over the cash. The gasoline just isn't worth it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

August CVS $10 Challenge: Final Week

I have had tomatoes on the brain, so forgive me for the tardiness of this post. Sunday, August 30, I did my final shopping trip of my August $10 Challenge. Joe threw me a curveball when he asked for the Blink Contacts eyedrops, so I had to pay full price for those, but everything else was somehow on sale.

Over two transactions, I bought:
(2) pkgs of filler paper
(1) medium Glade soy candle
(1) store brand hand soap
(1) Softsoap bodywash
(2) folders in Ohio State colors
(1) Blink Contacts rewetting drops

Retail price including tax was $29.49.

I had an instore savings of $3.60.

I saved $2.00 using manufacturer coupons:
(1) $1.00 Softsoap bodywash
(1) $1.00 Blink Contacts rewetting drops

I used $21.63 in CVS coupons:
- $1.50 CRT coupon for the bodywash
- $1.69 coupon from my email for a free gift (I chose the hand soap)
- $1.89 ECB from 8/16
- $1.98 ECB from last week
- $7.58 ECB from last week
- $6.99 ECB earned in the first transaction from the candle

Sunday's OOP was $2.26. I started the day with $2.61, so that left $0.35 in my pocket at the end of the month.

I walked out the door with $8.00 in ECB's:
1X $3.00 from last week
1X $2.00 from the bodywash
1X $1.00 from the folders (raincheck)
1X $2.00 from the filler paper (raincheck)

For $9.65 OOP, in August I purchased:
(2) book covers
(2) one-subject notebooks
(2) 5" scissors
(1) 3-pack glue sticks
(1) compass
(1) protractor
(2) 20-ct pens
(2) 10-ct pens
(2) rulers
(1) sticky note pad
(2) recycled plastic pencil boxes
(2) 1" vinyl binders
(2) mini composition books
(2) composition books
(2) pkgs of filler paper
(2) folders
(1) 36-ct aspirin
(1) Blink Contacts rewetting drops
(1) 10-ct box of store brand tampons
(4) Carefree ultra pantiliners
(1) set of earhook headphones
(2) Reese's peanut butter cups
(1) Glade candle holder for the scented oil candles
(1) Glade scented oil candles
(1) Glade Sense and Spray starter kit
(2) small Glade soy candles
(1) medium Glade soy candle
(1) store brand hand soap
(1) Softsoap bodywash

All-in-all I don't think I did too badly for the whole month. There are people who would have picked up each and every freebie and every ECB-earner in order to boost their numbers. I didn't do that. I stuck to items that my family will use or that I can donate.

I will be starting a new personal $10 challenge for September. Don't expect any blogging about it though. The blog provided the accountability and proof that it could be done. Besides, there are no coupons in next Sunday's paper, so I put in my vacation stop. No paper means no CVS ad, so I'm taking a holiday from CVS for a couple weeks.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Last week's MPM post should I put it?...absent. I made up my menu and fully intended to type it up for all the world to see. Monday came and went, but no MPM for me. It seemed silly to post it on Tuesday, so I skipped it altogether.

Today's weather felt like fall, but the summer crops haven't gotten the message yet. Between my garden and the CSA veggies we get every Thursday, we are overloaded with vegetables. One day I may have them under control and then the next I can't find a spot for another zucchini in the fridge. A family of three can only eat so many veggies a week, so the freezer, dehydrator and canner are my friends this time of year.

This week's menu only covers the main dish so that I can feel free to use up whatever veggies are overflowing that day:

Monday - Spaghetti Pie

Tuesday - Pepperoncini Beef

Wednesday - Cajun Buffalo Wings

Thursday - Turkey Enchilada Casserole

Friday - pizza night - redeem coupon for a free cheese pizza from Papa Murphy's and top it with frozen homemade meatballs. If only I had some feta...mmm.

Saturday - grill night - burgers stuffed with pepperjack cheese and hot dogs wrapped in bacon

Sunday - CSA potluck/hog roast - I always enjoy potlucks at the farm, but Joe isn't crazy about them with all the funky vegetables dishes that the vegans bring. Something tells me that the vegans will be staying home, so that they don't have to witness the mass consumption of animal flesh by all the meat eaters. Ah, pork is so yummy.

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

August CVS $10 Challenge: Week 4

I had a great time shopping at CVS today. I used the $5/$25 coupon that I got for the ReadyFill quiz. I didn't even have to try very hard to make it work. Just got lucky with my coupons.

Over two transactions, I bought:
(2) Reese's peanut butter cups
(1) Glade candle holder for the scented oil candles
(1) Glade scented oil candles
(1) Glade Sense and Spray starter kit
(2) Glade soy candles
(2) composition books
(4) Carefree ultra pantiliners

Retail price including tax was $50.86.

I had an instore savings of $14.25.

I saved $15.08 using manufacturer coupons:
(2) $0.55 Reese's (they were on sale at 2/$1, so the coupons were capped at 50 cents each)
(1) $1.00 Carefree that I got in the mail from a sample
(1) Buy Glade candle holder Get candles Free (they were on sale for $2.50)
(2) FREE Glade soy candles (they were $3.29 each)
(1) $4.00 Glade Sense and Spray starter kit

I used $19.57 in CVS coupons:
- $5.00 coupon for doing the ReadyFill Survey and purchasing at least $25 in merchandise
- $6.99 ECB that I earned 8/16
- $7.58 ECB earned today from 2 Carefree

Today's OOP was $1.96. I started the day with $4.57, so that leaves a balance of $2.61 for the rest of August.

In addition to a $1.89 ECB from last week that I didn't use today, I walked out the door with $12.56 in new ECB's for next time:
1X $1.98 from the composition books
1X $3.00 from the Glade Sense and Spray, candle holder and scented oil candles
1X $7.58 from 2 Carefree

For $7.39 OOP, I have purchased month to date:
(2) book covers
(2) one-subject notebooks
(2) 5" scissors
(1) 3-pack glue sticks
(1) compass
(1) protractor
(2) 20-ct pens
(2) 10-ct pens
(2) rulers
(1) sticky note pad
(2) recycled plastic pencil boxes
(2) 1" vinyl binders
(2) mini composition books
(2) composition books
(1) 36-ct aspirin
(1) 10-ct box of store brand tampons
(4) Carefree ultra pantiliners
(1) set of earhook headphones
(2) Reese's peanut butter cups
(1) Glade candle holder for the scented oil candles
(1) Glade scented oil candles
(1) Glade Sense and Spray starter kit
(2) Glade soy candles

Stay tuned for next week to see the final results of my August CVS $10 Challenge. What will I be able to bring home with just $2.61 cash and $14.45 ECB's?
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

August CVS $10 Challenge: Week 3

This week's sale at CVS was better than last week. The freebie school supplies were back. Unfortunately I was unable to use the $5/$25 coupon that I received in my email last week that expired today. I couldn't find enough to meet the $25 purchase requirement yet still stay under my Challenge budget regarding the OOP.

I broke up my order into 4 transactions. I bought:
(2) 10-ct pens
(2) recycled plastic pencil boxes
(2) 1" vinyl binders (I redeemed a raincheck to get these free after ECB's)
(2) mini composition books
(1) 10-ct box of store brand tampons
(1) set of earhook headphones

Retail price including tax was $35.13.

I had an instore savings of $9.08.

I used $21.88 in ECB's:
- 4X $0.99 ECB from 8/2
- 1X $1.98 ECB from 8/2
- 1X $1.98 ECB earned today
- 2X $3.98 ECB earned today
- 2X $3.00 ECB earned today from the binder raincheck

Today's OOP was $4.17. I started the day with $8.74, so that leaves a balance of $4.57 for the rest of August.

I walked out the door with $8.88 in ECB's for next time:
1X $6.99
1X $1.89

My store was out of the free filler paper, so I got a raincheck.

For $5.43 OOP, I have purchased month to date:
(2) book covers
(2) one-subject notebooks
(2) 5" scissors
(1) 3-pack glue sticks
(1) compass
(1) protractor
(1) 36-ct aspirin
(2) 20-ct pens
(2) rulers
(1) sticky note pad
(2) 10-ct pens
(2) recycled plastic pencil boxes
(2) 1" vinyl binders
(2) mini composition books
(1) 10-ct box of store brand tampons
(1) set of earhook headphones
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Twin Birthday Cakes

Joe's nieces Erica and Elizabeth turned 10 this week. Joe's sister decided not to have a birthday party. Instead, she said I could make a cake for them and take it to the family reunion, which was today. I volunteered to make the cake because I haven't had a reason to make one all summer long. I wanted to play around with my cake decorating supplies again.

Every person has a birthday and I know that the twins were born August 12, but I didn't know for sure whether Dawn wanted me to make their birthday cake until two days ago. For some reason I put the design on a mental hold until I received the word that it was a go. I feel a little bad because the twins' cake did not have as many hours of thought put into it as their brother Zach's tractor cake. Not much I can do about it now.

My starting point in the design was two 8" petal pans that I picked up at a yard sale in May. I've been wanting to use them ever since. Girls and flowers go well together.

Dawn said that the flower design was fine and that the girls like pink and purple.

I like two-layer cakes better than single-layer ones. Can anybody say filling? However, family reunions lend themselves towards single-layer cakes. That worked well because I was able to make each girl her own cake from one cake mix.

The next design consideration was how to put their names on the cakes. I wanted to outline the flower petals in icing on the top of the cake and give it a daisy-ish center. That wouldn't work with writing the name on top. However, I still had some fondant left from my Wilton class back in April (double bag the fondant in freezer bags and it keeps a long, long time at room temperature). I decided to cover a 12" cake circle with fondant and write their names on the fondant instead of the cake itself. As far as the fondant colors used, well, those were colors I had made up already that I knew I had enough to cover the 12" circle AND would match the main colors of pink and purple.

I tried to make both cakes as identical as I could, but just like the identical twins Erica and Elizabeth, their cakes have their own distinct personalities.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

August CVS $10 Challenge: Week 2

Sunday I received my CVS weekly circular in my newspaper. After finishing my OAMC cooking, I read my paper. I don't actually "read" the paper. I just clip my coupons and read the store ads. When I got to the CVS ad, there wasn't a single thing that I wanted. N O T H I N G.

I could have posted on Sunday that I wasn't going to stop by my local CVS this week, but I waited. Why? Some weeks CVS will send an email on Thursday that has a printable coupon which is good through Sunday. Often they will be "save $5 off your $25 purchase", but sometimes I get "save $3 off your $15 purchase." I was hoping for the $3/$15, so I waited. I guess I thought a miracle would take place and suddenly the ad would have something that I wanted. The great thing about these is that the $15 or $25 or whatever purchase is BEFORE coupons.

Today is Thursday. Yes, I received an email from CVS. It had the $5/$25 as I expected it to which is good through Sunday. Please, please, please let there be an awesome sale on Sunday that I can use the $5/$25 on without blowing my $10 challenge.

The CVS email did have an added bonus coupon. CVS has this new ReadyFill prescription program. If you go here and take the quiz, then they'll give you a coupon for $5 off your in-store purchase of $25. Okay, so it sounds like the same deal as above, but the bonus is that it doesn't expire right away. I took the quiz today and the coupon doesn't expire until August 27. That allows me a couple weeks to plan an awesome shopping trip.

CVS will only allow a customer to use one of these purchase based coupons per transaction. I cringe when I hear bloggers use two of them at one time. There are "boyfriend" coupons (some stores have a price scanner/coupon printer) and there are email coupons and there are CRT coupons (cash register tape ones that come out after your receipt). Please only one of these. I would have to buy $25 of stuff twice in order to use both the regular email and the ReadyFill coupons.

So to recap:

This week's OOP: $0.00.

I still have $5.94 in ECB's for next time:
- 4X $0.99
- 1X $1.98

I have spent $1.26 cash out-of-pocket (OOP) this month, which leaves $8.74 left for the rest of August.

I have purchased:
(2) book covers
(2) one-subject notebooks
(2) 5" scissors
(1) 3-pack glue sticks
(1) compass
(1) protractor
(1) 36-ct aspirin
(2) 20-ct pens
(2) rulers
(1) sticky note pad

Pizza Casserole

Back in college I had a roommate named Danette who had a boyfriend named Robby. Pizza Casserole was a staple in his house. Danette really liked it so she introduced us to it. Just five simple ingredients that didn't put a huge dent on our college student budget. Needless to say, we ate it quite frequently.

Pizza Casserole

12 oz package egg noodles, cooked
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 lb ground beef, crumbled, browned and drained
28 oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
2 c shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350. In a 9x13x2 baking dish, layer HALF of the noodles, soup, ground beef, spaghetti sauce and cheese. Repeat. Cover with foil and bake for 30-45 minutes until hot and cheese is bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Note: if you want to spice this up a bit, feel free to add fresh garlic and red pepper flakes or perhaps some Italian seasoning to the meat.

OAMC: Prepare this in two deep 8x8 baking pans instead of the 9x13. Freeze. Thaw completely and bake as directed.

Microwave Barbecued Round Steak

My parents bought their first microwave from Monkey Wards when my sister was a baby. I have fond memories of watching the time count down and trying to stop it at "0" (zero, not oh) by pressing the button to open the door. Here's a great recipe from back then with some of my own twists:

Barbecued Round Steak

Yields 8 servings

1/2 c minced celery OR 1 t celery seed
10.5 oz can tomato soup, undiluted
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 t prepared mustard
1/2 c minced onion OR 2 T dried onion flakes
2 t garlic powder
2 T brown sugar
2 T lemon juice
1 t Tabasco sauce
2 lb round steak, cut into bite-sized pieces

In a 3-quart microwavable bowl, mix everything except the meat until combined. Stir in the meat. Cover and refrigerate several hours.

Microwave, covered, on 50% powder for 20 minutes. Stir and recover. Continue cooking at 50% for another 20 minutes or so until meat is tender, stirring every 5 minutes. If edges start to dry up, stir in a little bit of water.

Note: the fresh celery and onion usually provide enough moisture for a 2-lb batch. If you use the dried versions, you'll definitely need the water. Also, if you're feeding a smaller family and cut the recipe in half, then you'll also need some water.

OAMC: I am trying this out for the first time, but I don't see why it wouldn't work. Put 2 lb meat in a gallon bag (or 1 lb meat and 1 cup sauce in each of two quart baggies) and pour sauce over and freeze. Thaw in fridge. Pour into bowl and microwave as directed.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Last week's menu didn't go exactly as planned. I felt like cooking Friday instead of stopping by Papa Murphy's, so Samantha's free pizza coupon will probably get used next week. Saturday and Sunday were spent doing a lot of OAMC cooking. I'll have to post about that later when I pull the photos off the camera.

My favorite meal of the past week was from my OAMC session. Generally I will reserve two dishes and stick them in the fridge rather than freezing them. This time was no different. Last night we had Ground Beef Casserole II that I found on OAMM's July Menu. I thought it was quite tasty. Joe said it reminded him of Hamburger Helper. Eek! I wouldn't touch HH with a 10 foot pole, but this stuff was good. Samantha liked it, but picked out the meat.

I think the menu-planning gods are shining down on me. Ordinarily I like to pull a freezer meal out 36 hours in advance and set it in the fridge to thaw. For some reason, I had not yet done that with tomorrow's meal which was supposed to be Turkey Enchilada Casserole. Just now, as I was typing up this post, my neighbor John stopped by with a bag of banana and jalapeno peppers. Hot dog! I know what's for dinner tomorrow -- Chorizo-stuffed banana peppers. If I make it to the grocery store for bacon and cream cheese, then I might also have poppers, but that's up in the air right now.

Monday - Mexican Noodle Bake from the book Frozen Assets by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Tuesday - Chorizo-stuffed banana peppers and maybe jalapeno poppers

Wednesday - Carolina BBQ

Thursday - Pizza Casserole - a recipe from my college roommate Danette

Friday - Maple Mustard Chicken Thighs

Saturday - lunch: family reunion potluck; supper: ravioli

Sunday - BBQ Round Steak with rice - a microwave recipe that Mom made often when I was little

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Italian Beef Sandwiches

I have been eating Italian Beef Sandwiches all my life. I think I heard someone say that the recipe entered our family through my dad's Aunt Jane (please correct me if I'm wrong.) While the recipe is essentially the same, I have tweaked it to make it suitable for the crockpot.

First, I gather all the ingredients. You'll notice the Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. Ordinarily I'd use Lawry's Seasoned Salt, but I'm out, so I've been using Tony Chachere's instead lately because it's also a seasoned salt just with different spices.

Put the roast in the crockpot and sprinkle on the seasonings. Add 1 cup of water to help cook the roast, but not more since this is a crockpot and the moisture can't escape like in the oven.
Let it cook on low all day. When it's tender, remove the meat and thinly slice or shred.

Put the meat back in the crockpot with the juices. Add only enough water to not quite cover the meat and let it cook some more.

When you're tired of waiting, serve the meat on some good buns, being sure to add some juice to each sandwich.
Tonight I tried these 40-Minute Hamburger Buns that I heard about on Love to Pinch Pennies. Casey's were prettier than mine, but that's no surprise considering I screwed them up. I am out of active dry yeast, so I used rapid rise, but mixed the dry ingredients first rather than proofing the yeast in the water like you do with active dry. That shouldn't be a huge deal, but I added more than I needed to. I dumped in 3 packets without thinking and each one has 2.25 teaspoons for a total of 6.75 teaspoons, but the recipe called for 2 tablespoons or 6 teaspoons. Then I forgot the salt. They were good, but definitely needed salt. They were fast because they only require one short rise instead of two rises which made them great for a weeknight. I will hold onto this recipe.

Italian Beef Sandwiches (100% Crockpot method)

3 lb boneless beef roast such as rump
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
1/2 t seasoned salt
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t rosemary
1 t Italian seasoning
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water for roasting plus more later

Place meat in a crockpot. Add seasonings and 1 cup of water. Cook on LOW all day.

Remove meat from crockpot. Slice thinly or shred and return to crockpot with juices. Add a little bit more water, but not quite enough to cover the meat. Continue cooking a couple more hours to let the flavors mingle.

Serve meat and juices on a good bun that won't get soggy and fall apart from the juices.

50% crockpot/50% stove option:

To speed up dinner, after the meat has cooked in the crockpot until tender, you can simmer the sliced/shredded meat and juices in a covered skillet on the stovetop for 45 minutes. Just don't add any more water than you need to!

If you know you'll be exercising the stove option and you don't have the time/energy to measure out a bunch of spices in the morning, then don't worry. Just put the meat in the crockpot and season it with the salt and pepper and add the water. You can add the remaining seasonings to the skillet in the evening.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Staycation

Joe is taking a golf staycation this week. He has a membership to a local golf course, so in the mornings he will be golfing. In the afternoons he will be putting down gravel underneath the deck for weed and erosion prevention. Yesterday he laid down the fabric. Today he went with his dad to get about 3 tons of pea gravel at a local quarry. He spread out some of the gravel, but the rest should be done by tomorrow. I have no idea what he'll do the rest of the week. Must come up with a honey-do list.

With the staycation in mind, I planned out this week's menu to be pretty simple.

Monday - red BBQ sandwiches, Betty Crocker Creamy Italian pasta salad with some salami, swiss cheese and black olives

Tuesday - crockpot Italian beef sandwiches, frozen french fries, Velveeta Shells and Cheese (I know that there are 2 starches, but the box expired last week, so we need to use it soon and fries just "go" with sandwiches.)

Wednesday - Southwestern Turkey Casserole

Thursday - jar o' Ragu, box o' pasta, frozen garlic bread, and salad

Friday - redeem another coupon for free Papa Murphy's pizza

Saturday - grill night - maple honey pork chops

Sunday - OAMC Day, so one of those meals

If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out this week's Menu Plan Monday guest hosted by The Happy Housewife to see what others are having!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August CVS $10 Challenge: Week 1

Last month I happened upon a blog where a woman had challenged herself to spend no more than $10 at CVS for the whole month. She got tons of stuff.

I thought it sounded like fun to see what I could get for just ten bucks in the month of August at CVS. There are 5 Sundays in August which means $2 per week, so this could get tricky if I spend too much cash in any one week.

I started the month of August with $3.87 in Extra Bucks (ECB's) in my pocket:
-- 1X $1.89
-- 2X $1.98

This week CVS is again running another three-day sale with free school supplies after ECB's. Woo-hoo. Too bad Samantha is only 2 years old. So this morning I went to CVS and bought over the course of 4 transactions:
(2) book covers
(2) one-subject notebooks
(2) 5" scissors
(1) 3-pack glue sticks
(1) compass
(1) protractor
(1) 36-ct aspirin
(2) 20-ct pens
(2) rulers
(1) sticky note pad

If nothing were on sale, I would have spent $33.47. Ha! I only buy things on sale.

I had an instore savings of $11.48.

I then used:
- 1.89 ECB carried over from last month
- 2X 1.98 ECB carried over from last month
- 4X 0.99 ECB earned today
- 2.94 ECB earned today
- 2.99 ECB earned today
- 3.00 ECB earned today
- 1.99 August Free Gift (mine was the aspirin)

I spent $1.26 cash out-of-pocket (OOP) today, which leaves $8.74 left for the rest of August.

I walked out the door with $5.94 in ECB's for next time:
- 4X $0.99
- 1X $1.98

My store didn't receive their shipment of folders, so I got a raincheck. Rainchecks are great, but it won't do me any good if my store never gets the item in stock. I will keep looking for the folders as well as the 24-ct pencils and 1" binders that I have rainchecks for. I really want the binders to help organize all my OAMC recipes!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Of all the meals we ate last week, the Curry Chicken was probably my favorite. Very surprising considering that I did not grow up eating those flavors. Joe and Samantha also liked it. She knows that it's called curry, but she even called the currants "curry", so there's still a little confusion there. This was a freezer meal, but just as good as the first time around.

I'm at a point where I want to actively cook more meals each week. Part of me doesn't want the summer to slip away with casseroles cooking in a hot oven. Heck, I'd be happy if it were always summer. So more grilling and new ways to use up the fresh CSA veggies while they're in season.

Monday - mexican un-stuffed shells, fritos and ro-tel dip, cucumbers

Tuesday - escarole, beans and italian sausage over pasta -- not sure how the greens are gonna fly with Joe, but I have a whole head of escarole to use up, so here goes.

Wednesday - turkey dressing casserole

Thursday - beef in a leaf -- now that we have beef again I can make this asian-inspired dish

Friday - pizza night, salad -- I froze half the dough last week, so the hard part will be deciding what toppings to use this week!

Saturday - spicy honey chicken thighs on the grill, starchy side, green veg

Sunday - brats on the grill, buffalo chicken spaghetti, green veg

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Homemade Cake Release

My sister will be attempting to decorate her first cake this week for her oldest daughter's birthday party. (Laura likes stargazer lilies, so I took this picture of mine in bloom for her.) Baking the cake itself isn't hard, but wondering whether it will come out of the pan in one piece can be scary.

Typically a cake mix will tell you to grease the pan with shortening and then dust it with flour. Sometimes it's hard to grease the pan evenly if the pan has a lot of nooks and crannies. Another option these days is to buy a can of nonstick spray that already includes the flour. I know that Pam, Crisco and Wilton carry such a spray, but who really wants to have to buy another product that you will only use occasionally?

My Wilton Method instructor gave me a recipe to make it easier. The best part is that most bakers are likely to have all the ingredients already in their kitchen. I divided the original recipe by four, so if you make a lot of cakes feel free to quadruple my quantities. It works great as long as you line the bottom of the pan with wax paper and then brush the sides with cake release. I've only had it fail once, but that was a banana bread recipe that I've found to be particularly difficult and I didn't line the pan with wax paper.

Homemade Cake Release

1 /4 cup + 2 tablespoons Crisco
1 tablespoon Oil
1 tablespoon Flour

Mix until creamy. Brush onto sides and bottom of pan with a basting brush. Store leftovers in refrigerator. It keeps a long time.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

We finally got the beef quarter from the Sippels! I am very excited to be able to eat something besides the chicken and turkey that have been dominating the menus lately, so I slipped in beef a couple times this week.

Monday - chicken curry, rice, peas

Tuesday - turkey spaghetti, green veg

Wednesday - cheeseburger skillet, french fries, green veg

Thursday - chicken enchiladas, crockpot refried beans, green veg

Friday - pizza night

Saturday - CSA potluck

Sunday - grill night - STEAK!!!

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Using up the veggies: Chard Tartlets

Every Thursday in the summer, we receive our CSA share from the Sippels. I get excited about some veggies and dread others. The ones we like are gobbled up in a day or two. The ones we dislike stick around the fridge until they are mushy, moldy or otherwise inedible and get tossed in the compost bin.

To keep on top of what's left in the crisper drawers, I have a list on the fridge of all the herbs and veggies. When we use up something, then I cross it off. When we pick up that week's share, I add the names. It's a lot easier than rummaging through the crisper drawers to see what I still have.

Before last week's pickup we still had and their status before tonight's dinner:
- lettuce -- took to a cookout
- garlic scapes (they're the stem and flowerhead that garlic plants get)
- swiss chard (a colorful green)
- beets
- sage leaves -- dehydrated for more sage-y weather
- kale

Last week in our share we got and their status before tonight's dinner:
- more lettuce -- took to a cookout
- more beets
- cabbage
- collard greens
- zucchini -- made pickles
- yellow squash -- cooked
- kohlrabi
- tomatoes -- gone

Today is Tuesday so that means only tonight and tomorrow before the fridge is inundated with more veggies. I had to take action now.

I decided to use up some of the greens. When we were on vacation last month I made Sharna's Chard Tart. The original recipe uses a pie crust, but I didn't have one, so I decided to make a crustless tart instead. Joe isn't crazy about greens, so I baked them in muffin tins for individual portions and froze the rest. I used up the swiss chard and the kale leaves that were still green. Even without a crust, I thought these were really good.

While those were baking, I tackled the beets. One of the blogs I read, Once a Month Mom, had a post recently about making freezer pickled beets. I usually can my beets, but that's a lot of work for only a jar or two of beet pickles. I will try anything once, so there's now a container of pickled beets in my freezer.

If my list is correct, I still have left:
- garlic scapes (they'll keep, so I'm not worried)
- collards
- kohlrabi
- cabbage
- half a hot pepper from my garden

Maybe tomorrow will be coleslaw using the kohlrabi and cabbage as well as some carrots and onions from the garden. Or not. Tuna casserole is on the menu. In my experience greens make a better side for tuna casserole, so maybe it'll be the collards. Probably not.

Here's my version of the chard tart:

Chard Tartlets

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 bunch swiss chard, coarsely chopped and stalks sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tablespoons dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 pinch ground red pepper
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Line a muffin tin with (roughly) 10 cupcake papers. Lightly spray the papers with cooking spray.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cook until onions are soft. Add swiss chard stalks and garlic to the skillet and continue cooking until tender. Add the leaves and cook until tender. Season with basil, salt, pepper and red pepper.
In a bowl, combine the eggs, yogurt and cheese. Stir in the chard mixture. Scrape into the prepared cupcake papers, filling 3/4 or more full. These don't rise very much, but they do bubble.
Bake at 375 until filling is golden and firm, 25-35 minutes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pork Fat Rules

Yesterday we cooked a 7.46 pound bone-in pork shoulder.
Joe liberally coated the meat with a blend of salt, pepper and garlic.
Joe put it on the grill with an aluminum pan of cider vinegar and water underneath.
He put charcoal and applewood chips in the sidebox. He also put some charcoal in the main compartment.After several agonizing hours of smoking, the butt was finally done.
In one cast iron skillet, I added the pulled pork, salt, hot pepper flakes, cider vinegar and water.
After simmering and stirring, the lovely carolina barbecue looked like this:
For some variety, I put pulled pork in another skillet and topped it with bottled barbecue sauce.
With some nudging from some cider vinegar, the alternate barbecue eventually looked like this:

Menu Plan Monday

Yesterday Joe smoked a pork shoulder. Yum. I'll post about that later. This week:

Monday - turkey dressing casserole

Tuesday - mexican un-stuffed shells

Wednesday - tuna casserole

Thursday - turkey enchilada casserole

Friday - redeem Samantha's Papa Murphy's coupon for a free medium cheese pizza from the library's summer reading program

Saturday - Samantha will be spending the night with Joe's parents while we go to Shamrock Vineyard's Twilight Dinner. Last year we went and had a good time.

Sunday - grill night -- maple honey pork chops

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Last week I was late posting my menu, so this week I'm going to get it done early.

Sunday - Chicken Curry, rice - I was taking a risk by serving Joe an entree with curry powder, onions and dried fruit, but he liked it and I thought it was delicious.

Monday - Turkey Spaghetti, green veg

Tuesday - Maple Honey Mustard Pork Chops, green veg, starchy side

Wednesday - Chicken Enchiladas, refried beans, green veg

Thursday - burgers stuffed with pepperjack cheese, Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti, green veg

Friday - pizza night, salad

Saturday - cookout at Clinger's house - will have to think of something to take

Sunday - Smoke the Pork Shoulder - carolina barbecue, pasta salad, green veg

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

OAMC Big Day

Yesterday morning Joe cooked a 14 lb turkey on the grill for me. Grilling a turkey is great any time of year. On Thanksgiving Day, it frees up precious oven space. In the summer, it doesn't heat up the kitchen. It always tastes great with the hint of smokiness that grilling adds.

I especially liked the cost of buying it in November. Super cheap. They were such a bargain that I bought two turkeys even though we were flying out of state for Thanksgiving. I shudder to think what they go for this time of year.

Yesterday afternoon while Samantha and Joe were napping, I chopped and measured all the turkey meat. I still had an hour to spare before I needed to get ready to leave for a July 4th party, so I made the decision to assemble a couple easy dishes right away rather than waiting. Both dishes were no-cook, mix and layer casseroles. I made up 2 pans each of Turkey Enchilada Casserole and Southwestern Turkey Casserole. I assembled them in less time than it took to chop all the meat off the bird, which saved me 45 minutes today. Another bonus was that the food was frozen this morning and ready to be wrapped, bagged and stacked. That freed up 4 baking dishes and freezer space.

This morning I resumed in the kitchen. I had my game plan written up, but with the first two dishes knocked out already, I wasn't sure where to start. I had selected those recipes because they were so fast that they would give me that jump start to my motivation. It's great to be able to say "I've only been working an hour, but already I've completed two recipes." It really helps get the momentum rolling.

Eventually I re-tweaked the game plan and got started. I finished cooking by 1 pm with a lunch break included. Today I made:
- 3 dishes of Turkey Dressing Casserole
- 2 dishes of Mexican Un-Stuffed Shells
- 2 dishes of Turkey Spaghetti
- 2 dishes of Chicken Curry
- 3 mini-loaves of Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
- 12 Mocha Chip Muffins
- 12 Turkey and Muenster Roll-ups
- 12 Pepperoni and Provolone Roll-ups using same dough recipe as the turkey ones

Between yesterday and today, I made 13 supper entrees and a few breakfast and lunch items. That won't last us a month on its own, but I still have frozen meals from my last cooking session as well as extras that I've stashed away here and there. Plus, Joe will be smoking a pork shoulder next weekend. Lots of yummy Carolina Barbecue and other pork dishes to add to the freezer. We'll be set until the end of the month.

I was so pooped after cooking that I took a 2-hour nap this afternoon. Maybe it wasn't the cooking. Maybe it was not getting to bed until midnight after an evening of drinking some Buckeye Red and then waking with the sun to cook the next day.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I wrote this up last night and then forgot to publish it!

's pretty easy to plan out my meals when I do it ahead of time, but pretty difficult if I wait until Sunday or Monday. This week's menu I wrote out middle of last week some time when I was thinking about my upcoming OAMC day. My freezer is about half empty right now, but after a day of OAM cooking this weekend and a new quarter of beef next weekend space is going to be tight. My single largest space hog is a frozen turkey from last Thanksgiving's turkey sale. It's on the OAMC menu to make room for more beef.

Monday - tuna casserole, salad, fruit

Tuesday - chicken and corn quesadillas, green veg

Wednesday - firecracker chicken, green veg, pasta/rice side from a box

Thursday - taco joes, green veg, pierogies and cheese

Friday - grill night - ranch chicken kabob salad, garlic bread, fruit

Saturday - 4th of July cookout - Take the awesome
FLO'S ROASTED POTATO SALAD. Roasted garlic, bacon...need I say more? (Btw, I've made the brats and cabbage recipe too, but they're only so-so whereas the potato salad was a keeper).

Sunday - OAMC Day - Joe will grill the whole turkey for me to use

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Zucchini Pineapple Cake

Sunday was the first CSA potluck of the year at the Sippel Family Farm. The potlucks are open to CSA members and their families. Members are supposed to bring a large enough dish along to feed everyone in their party (Grumble grumble vanload of rude people who don't) as well as table service for their party.

Typically the agenda is like this:

3 pm people start arriving
4 pm eat
5 pm farm tour
6 pm leave

The time's aren't set in stone or anything, but that's the general idea. Some months there will be something available for picking. Some members pick before the meal and others pick afterwards.

This month there were sugar snap peas. Peas are not my favorite veggie, but Joe likes them a lot. They're ok as a side dish, but a must in tuna casserole. Canned are gross. Fresh or frozen are fine. I don't care for the pods.

After we finished eating, Joe and I skipped out on the tour and headed off to the pea field with Samantha and reusable grocery bags in hand. I found a row and started picking away, not discriminating against any pod size. Joe carried Samantha until she whined and wanted down. Samantha happened to pick a good spot that wasn't picked-over yet. He also did not discriminate against small pods until he discovered that some pods were very full with large peas. I grew tired of stooping over the low-lying plants and headed over to see his bounty. He wasn't ready to stop, so I kept picking large pods as I headed back to the beginning of the row. We headed back to the house. We each had our bags half full of pea pods. That's a lot of peas.

We stood around talking and didn't leave the farm until 7. By 8, Samantha was in her jammies and we were out on the deck shelling peas. Around 9:30 it was too dark to see, so we came inside and put the girl to bed. Shelling was finished at 11. There were 4 Tupperware Thatsa Bowls of pods that hit the compost bin and just 5 lb 7 oz of peas for eating. Joe went to bed and I continued with blanching the peas for freezing. I was in the bed at midnight with 7 pint bags of peas in the freezer.

Thursday night I decided what to make for the potluck during a power outage. I try to take a dish using fresh produce and/or dessert. In our share that day we got lettuce, garlic scapes, yellow and green summer squash, beets and carrots. In my garden I also have new potatoes that I could use. I wasn't expecting the squash yet (it's nearly July but feels too early), so that was a pleasant surprise. I thought about it a while in the dark and remembered Pineapple Zucchini Cake. I dug out the recipe and was happy that I had all the ingredients on hand.

My mom has been making this recipe for as long as I can remember. This was our standard zucchini bread recipe for me growing up rather than the typical spiced version. I only remember Mom making one other zucchini bread recipe and it wasn't as good. It was a Weight Watcher recipe that made a single 8"x8" pan. The following recipe is far too point-y to be WW-friendly.

For the potluck I used my 9"x13"x1" pan plus a mini loaf pan. I took the 9x13 and stashed the loaf in the freezer. Good thing, too, because there were no leftovers to take home.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was when Joe tried it and liked it. He ate 3 pieces!

Zucchini Pineapple Cake

Makes: two 9x5 loaves OR two 8x8 pans OR one 9x13x2 pan OR one 9x13x1 pan plus one mini loaf OR 30 muffins

3 eggs
2 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1 c oil
2 c grated and drained zucchini, unpeeled (or yellow squash)
3 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 c raisins
1 c chopped nuts (my favorite is pecans, but I used almonds for the potluck and toasted them)
1 c crushed pineapple, drained (from a 20 oz can)

Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour (or use non-stick spray) baking pans.

Beat eggs until fluffy. Add sugar, vanilla, oil and zucchini.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir into wet mixture until just blended. Stir in raisins, nuts and pineapple.

Pour into prepared pan(s). Bake until nicely browned and toothpick in center comes out clean. For 9x5 loaves, 8x8 pans, 9x13x2 pan that's about an hour with pyrex dishes. Metal 9x13x1 pans and mini loaf pans take about 50 minutes. Muffins take about 35 minutes.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

If desired, loaves can be frozen. Wrap loaves in plastic wrap first before wrapping in foil. The acidity of the pineapple will eat through aluminum foil and that's not a good thing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It was a busy weekend around here.

We had a yard sale, my first as an adult. Profit of $130 after buying price stickers. It was a neighborhood sale, so I didn't bother placing an ad in the paper. I could have made a killing if I had sold Samantha's baby clothes and toys, but I'm holding on to those just in case we should need them again in the future. I cringe thinking about having to pay full retail for baby related items. I did sell her bathtub, but it was a gift and not the one we would have asked for.

Yesterday I made four batches of strawberry jam for a total of 38 jars. I only make jams from locally grown produce. To do otherwise would just be wrong. I'd rather buy a jar of Smucker's (a fine product I admit) than use store-bought berries. Homemade jams made with sugar will keep forever even though most recipes say they only keep 12 months. I don't care for low-sugar and no-sugar homemade jams because they turn gray and ugly quickly and keep no more than 12 months. On a good year I jam a lot. On a bad year I miss the harvest window and don't jam anything. Strawberry season is only 2-3 weeks and it started last week. Next week I will be on vacation. We ran out of 2005 jam about six months ago, I couldn't take any chances. The time to jam was here, so jamming I did. I expect this year's strawberry jam to keep me until the 2011 or 2012 season depending on how many jars I give away.

As I mentioned last week, I already had this week's menu planned out. As predicted, last week's version had to be modified.

Monday - we had baked ziti, garlic bread and strawberry radish spinach salads. The ziti was supposed to be yesterday. The garlic bread was a deal from Kroger's triple coupon sale over the weekend. The strawberries, radishes and spinach were all picked from the garden today.

Tuesday - taco joes, french fries, spinach something

Wednesday - chicken taco wraps, green veg

Thursday - ranch chicken kabob salad (maybe, depends on the CSA share this week)

Friday - pizza night, green veg, clean out the fridge

Saturday - Vacation!

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday again so that means it's time to plan out the week's menu. I actually did this yesterday afternoon when Samantha was sleeping. I laid out a menu for this week and next right up until we leave for vacation, but I'll leave you hanging on next week's food. Besides nothing works out exactly as planned, so I bet I'll revise the menu before we eat.

Monday - tuna casserole, spinach, jell-o

Tuesday - farmer's casserole, something from the CSA share, biscuits

Wednesday - Velveeta taco mac and cheese using grilled turkey, green veg

Thursday - buffalo chicken spaghetti, salad

Friday - pizza night (BBQ chicken filling was supposed to be for pitas, but I haven't bought any yet), salad

Saturday - grilled firecracker chicken, hash brown casserole, green veg

Sunday - baked ziti, garlic bread, green veg

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bzzzz Bzzzz

Tonight we are having cheese stuffed shells for dinner. Cheese, pasta, homemade marinara, what isn't there to love? For starters, it is not a low-calorie dish, but I ignore that most of the time.

Stuffed shells scream for a green vegetable side dish. This week I got a bag of mesclun and a head of lettuce in my CSA share. As much as I despise salads, I know that they go well alongside pasta. It would be a waste to not use the lettuce. Lettuce is healthy. The cards are stacked against me.

So, I tore up the lettuce, washed it and ran it through the salad spinner to dry. Now what? I swear that the best part of the salad is the crouton and I'm all out, so I must find something to top tonight's salad. A bare lettuce salad will not be served. That would just be wrong.

I decided that a few radishes would be nice. So I gathered Samantha and we headed to the garden. She loves strawberries, so we took a detour to pick today's red, juicy berries. My little berry thief ate them as quickly as I could pick them.

With the strawberries eaten, I proceeded to the small row of radishes. However, I couldn't get very close without hearing a very distinctive sound - the buzz of bees. I've never been stung and I'd like to keep it that way. I backed away and observed half a dozen bees flitting about the chive blossoms. Can you imagine chive honey? Ick. It probably tastes like onions, but is sweet like honey.

This spring I divided and transplanted one clump of chives. They have a new home in my garden as four clumps with lovely purple blossoms. The problem is that I planted a row of radishes adjacent to the chives. At the time I figured that the radishes would grow quickly and be harvested before their neighbors, the chives and carrots, got very big. I didn't realize that the chives would be in flower during the radishes' harvest.

No radishes for my salad. I hope there's some shredded cheese in the fridge.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Don’t Panic: More dinner’s in the freezer cookbook giveaway

Tricia and Cortney over at Once a Month Mom are giving away a copy of "Don’t Panic: More dinner’s in the freezer" by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell and Bonnie Garcia. Check out their blog to find out how to win it.

I have not yet read this new cookbook, but I expect it to have lots of yummy recipes if it's anything like the original. I borrowed the original book "Don’t Panic: dinner’s in the freezer" from my library. I wish I could have kept it longer than a month! I tried three recipes on my May 3rd cooking day. The Quick Mix Pizza Dough was a thin crust (I like thin, but Joe prefers thick) and the dough wasn't sticky on serving day. Farmer's Casserole was very good and will definitely be put into my OAMC rotation. It was nice to have a frozen side dish on hand for Mother's Day at the campground and Hash Brown Casserole was well received.

I have way too many cookbooks, but either Don't Panic book is welcome in my kitchen.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I hope everyone had a good holiday weekend. We went to a cookout Saturday. When we got home, one of the neighbors invited us over to a bonfire. We stayed out until 1 am. I am getting too old to do that. There just isn't enough coffee to keep me going. I'm still feeling sluggish two days later. Ugh.

Today was a big OAMC day. I got lots done. We have enough frozen meals to get us through until after we get back from vacation next month. I was exhausted last night before bed, so I failed to set out all the needed items. Let me say that things go a lot smoother when I have a chance to think through each recipe and lay out the needed ingredients, bowls, utensils, pots, baking dishes, baggies, wraps, etc. in advance. Every recipe I felt like I was stepping all across my kitchen to find something that wasn't out on the table yet.

A new batch of OAMC meals means that I have new options to choose from for this week's menu, but it looks like I'm mostly trying to use up older meals. Fortunately I wrote up the menu Saturday afternoon before we left the house or else it would probably not be done yet. Here it is:

Monday - the chicken and corn quesadillas that we didn't eat on Sunday, refried beans and a spanish rice mix

Tuesday - chicken enchiladas, green vegetable

Wednesday - quiche in a bag, green vegetable, frozen biscuits if I can find them in my freezer

Thursday - first CSA pickup of the year! lasagna (I couldn't find it last week, so I had ravioli instead) and probably a salad since Ben likes to grow yucky lettuce :p (He grows beautiful lettuce, but I really don't like lettuce, that's all.)

Friday - pizza night, salad, bake cookies for Joe's golf outing

Saturday - Joe will be eating steak at his golf outing; Samantha and I are having chicken tacos, velveeta mac and cheese, green veg

Sunday - Stuffed shells

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Seven Layer Bars

Tomorrow we're going to a cookout and I knew that I wanted to take a cookie or other dessert-type item, but I just wasn't sure what. So tonight I'm just sitting there and seven layer bars pops into my head. It's been ages since I've eaten one and even longer since I've made them. Have I ever even made them in my adult life? Maybe in college.

I looked through my recipe box of clipped dessert recipes (desserts get their very own box and everything else goes in another), but alas, no seven layer bar recipe. I moved on to the cookbooks. I could have gone straight to the internet, but I knew my umpteen cookbooks would not let me down and they didn't.

I started with the plastic ring-bound cookbooks that are typical of the church fundraiser. The first book had nothing, but I struck gold with the next book, "Roaring Good Cookbook" by the Witt Lioness Club in Witt, Illinois. There on page 64 was the following recipe for submitted by Kathryn Walcher for Seven Layer Bars:

Seven Layer Bars

1 stick oleo

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs

1 small or large pkg. chocolate bits

1 small or large pkg. butterscotch bits

1 c. coconut

1 c. chopped nuts

1 can Eagle Brand milk

Put in layers in order. Cover all with Eagle Brand. Bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

That's it. I love how Kathryn assumed that her readers were familiar with the desired outcome of the dish. If you had never eaten a seven layer bar would you know to make this in a 9x13-inch baking dish? Would you know to melt the oleo (butter would be yummy) in the baking dish while the oven preheats? How big is a small or large bag of chocolate bits? What do they look like when they're done? How many servings does it make?

All of the ingredients I had on hand. Six of the seven were purchased back during "baking season" before Thanksgiving and Christmas. The seventh item, graham crackers, I picked up this week for no particular reason other than the fact that "s'mores season" is kicking off at all my stores. All of the stores had marshmallows, graham crackers and milk chocolate bars on sale. They would have you believe that no Memorial Day party would be complete without a few ooey-gooey s'mores.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It was a cold morning today. We had a light frost, so I covered the tender plants in the garden last night before bed. I don't recall needing to cover anything in the spring since planting my first garden in 2003. That means that either this is a later frost than usual or that I am not waiting long to enough to set particular plants out. Probably a combination of the two. My neighbor gave me one extra tomato plant and I planted it last week, so I had to cover it. Usually Memorial Day weekend is the time when most people around here set out tomatoes, so I admit that it's early for tomatoes. I also covered the potato plants, but they still got a slight burn where the blanket came in contact with some of the leaves. The damage would have been much worse, possibly fatal, without the blankets.

I will be doing my OAMC cooking on Memorial Day Monday, but I still have lots of food in my freezer, so I haven't completely decided what we'll be eating this week. We must either free up a bunch of freezer space or else I'll postpone the Big Day for the following weekend. Here's what we might be eating:

Monday - 3 Step Jambalaya, broccoli, corn, strawberry and banana sorbets

Tuesday - tuna casserole

Wednesday - lasagna, garlic bread, green veg

Thursday - pizza night -- one with cheesy chicken taco topping and the other with vidalia onions a la Vidalia Onion Pie Casserole

Friday - microwave BBQ round steak, rice, green veg

Saturday - cookout at Max and Amy's house, pasta salad, dessert

Sunday - chicken and corn quesadillas, refried beans

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I hope everyone had a good Mother's Day. We spent the day at the campground with Joe's parents and his sister's family. I played a game of corn hole with my twin nieces. Samantha was our fourth. She doesn't quite understand the concept, but neither do the twins and they're 8.

I laid out this menu on Saturday so that I could take it easy yesterday. Here's what we're having this week:

Monday - quiche, green veg

Tuesday - lasagna, green veg

Wednesday - tuna casserole, applesauce

Thursday - farmer's casserole

Friday - pizza night

Saturday - grill night (I hope the weather agrees), steak, mac and cheese, green veg

Sunday - baked ziti

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Corn Pizza

Whenever I make pizza I tend to make two pizzas. "Joe's pizza" will have toppings commonly found at a pizza place. "Amy's pizza" either has unusual toppings or toppings that Joe doesn't like such as onions or pineapple. I always eat some of both pizzas. Joe will only try my pizza if it is onion-free. He doesn't like half-and-half pizzas because the onions on one side somehow contaminate the non-onion side.

Last week was no different. I knew I would be making pepperoni for Joe, but I didn't really know what the other would be until I started cooking. The $0.19 ears of corn in my crisper drawer called out to me. I don't recall ever using corn on pizza, but the other veggies (carrots, celery, super old daikon) just didn't inspire me like the corn did.

That night I baked the pepperoni pizza first. Joe and Samantha ate the pepperoni pizza while I worked on the corn pizza. When the corn pizza was done, we all had some. Joe was skeptical about putting corn on a pizza, but he went back for a second slice which meant he liked it. Samantha is an unpredictable toddler whose eating habits are typical for her age. Yet she ate more of the corn pizza than she did of the pepperoni. That spells success in this house.

I can't personally vouch for the reheatability of it because Joe took all the leftovers to work. He said his coworkers laughed at him for eating corn on pizza, but he didn't mind because it microwaved well without the warmed-over flavor that pizza often gets.

Corn Pizza

1/2 lb of your favorite pizza dough
1 T or so of EVOO
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 ears of corn, kernels cut off
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 450. Spray a cookie sheet or pizza pan with non-stick spray. Press out the dough to desired size in the pan. Drizzle the olive oil onto the dough and brush to coat evenly. Lightly rub the garlic all over the dough. Sprinkle the corn over the garlic; cover with cheese. Season with Italian seasoning, to taste. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is browned and the cheese is beautifully melted.

Now listening to The Laurie Berkner Band - Five Days Old on iTunes
via FoxyTunes