Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's that time of the year again!

Time to start thinking about holiday baking and candy making.

This was last year's round up (which links back to previous years).

A few things to add from last year:

Reindeer Cookies using a chocolate sugar cookie recipe (recipe is on Domino Sugar site)

Rich and Dark Fudge Tassies - very chocolatey!

Drop Sugar Cookies (recipe is on Domino Sugar site)

Caramel and chocolate dipped pretzel rods and caramel covered chocolate dipped Lorna Doones using the caramel recipe from Chocolate Covered Caramels (I overcooked the caramel the year I took that lousy picture)

Candy-Cane Twists - an old, old recipe of mine that is a pain in the behind but so cute

South Seas Cookies - these were a big hit last year. I used my homemade caramel to make them

Butterhorns - another old recipe I brought out of retirement

These are recipes that I made in 2010 that might be good for the holidays too:

Lime Cooler Cookies

White Chocolate Dried Cherry (or Craisin) Cookies (SO GOOD!)

Big Soft Ginger Cookies (if you don't feel like making gingerbread men but you want something spicy)

Big Sugar Cookies - I'm definitely making these with Christmas sprinkles

Icebox Cookies - this is a great basic cookie that can be doctored up for the holidays

Cherry Chip Bars

Monday, November 22, 2010

Another short break?

Now that I've been posting more regularly again, I hate not having anything new to share with you today. I did cook this weekend but it was mainly for meals this upcoming week so I can't comment on the recipes yet. I winged a big pot of beef vegetable soup that came out pretty good. I should have taken a picture of that. I also have some recipes in the backup queue but I have to track down the actual recipes first. I am at a loss at to where some of them came from, it's been so long since I made them.

I think many blog readers will be busy getting ready for Thanksgiving so maybe I will just wait and pick up posting next week.

I don't have anything exciting planned for Thanksgiving, recipe-wise. I'm not doing a ton of pies this year. I'm taking a break. I am going to make the Deen Bros. Truffle Pie again. I love this pie.

Maybe I'll get a better picture this year.

My brother will be spending Thanksgiving with his new wife's family so I won't be making his favorite, Butterscotch Pie, which is also one of my favorites. I'm going to miss that pie but it is sort of labor intensive so I won't miss it too much.

Otherwise I am in charge of mashed potatoes and gravy but I have to do it with as little sodium as possible so I'm not too excited about that but at least I'll have the pie to look forward to!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pretty in pink

Maraschino Cherry Bars
Cookies 1,001 Mouthwatering Recipes From Around the World Copyright 2004

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon maraschino syrup (from a jar of maraschino cherries)
½ cup finely chopped maraschino cherries
Maraschino Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 13x9-inch baking pan. (I think this is better suited to a 11x7-inch baking dish). Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Beat the butter, brown sugar, and maraschino cherry syrup in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy. Mix in the dry ingredients and cherries until well blended. Spread the mixture evenly in the baking pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan. If desired, spread the frosting over, Cut into bars.

Maraschino Frosting (This will make way more than you need)
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons maraschino cherry syrup
16 maraschino cherries, finely chopped

Beat the confectioners’ sugar, butter, and milk in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until smooth. (**I wouldn't add the milk all at once. Safer to blend everything else then add the milk until you reach the right consistency. **)Beat in the cherry syrup and cherries until well blended.

I've had a jar of cherries in the cupboard for quite some time that I wanted to use in something. There are plenty of recipes that use maraschino cherries but this one was the least labor intensive and it didn't require any other special ingredients.

This is basically a shortbread, which I'm generally not crazy about. The frosting gave these a more personally pleasing texture for me (it softened the bars slightly). They are VERY sweet - don't cut them too large. They didn't blow me away right off the bat but everyone seemed to love them - they got a few 'extra' comments from the work crew and disappeared quickly. I was sorry to see the last one go since they really grew on me, but I'm still not sure if I would make them again. When it comes to sweets, I generally only remake the things that knock my socks off. As much as everyone enjoyed these, I don't think these fell into that category for me, since, like I already mentioned, I'm just not a huge shortbread fan. I could maybe see making them again if I needed a pink treat someday - I loved the color.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Meatloaf recipes

Apparently I love meatloaf (or meat loaf, if you prefer). I've made quite a few of them and I thought it would be handy to put all the meatloaf recipes together in their own post. There isn't a true stinker in the bunch - I enjoyed them all. I couldn't tell you which one was the best either. That's really impossible to say.

As you can see in many of the pictures, I often cook my meatloaf ahead of time, then I grill it on my Cuisinart Griddler. Oddly, I never seem to make meatloaf with gravy. I'll have to work on that.

I'll add any future meatloaves I make to this list.

Laura P's Grandma's Meat Loaf, submitted by a reader, this meat loaf has a touch of sage in the meat and a touch of nutmeg in the sauce

Family-Style Turkey Loaf, a gluten-free meatloaf made with ground turkey

Herbed Chicken Meatloaf, a Greek-inspired meatloaf, served in a pita

Brown Sugar Meat Loaf, a classic from the Bridges of Madison County Cookbook

Buffalo Chicken-Blue Cheese Meatloaf, from one of the Biggest Loser Cookbooks

BBQ-Bacon Meat Loaf, another Biggest Loser recipe, made with ground chicken

Tomato Meat Loaf, there are no eggs in this version

Spicy Glazed Meat Loaf, a crockpot meatloaf - watch the salt in this!

Mom’s Meatloaf, a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives recipe

Picante Meat Loaf, a diabetic recipe for meat loaf

Mom’s Meat Loaf, another slow-cooked version of meatloaf

Turkey Meatloaf with Brown Sugar-Ketchup Glaze, a Cook's Illustrated recipe, slightly fussier than your average meatloaf but not too complicated. It's from 'Best Light Recipes'.

Dutch Meat Loaf, an awful picture but this is one of my favorite meatloaf recipes

Mexican Meat Loaf, this one uses tortilla chips

Lyn's Meatloaf - this one has a ketchup-brown sugar glaze with cloves and allspice

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just what I needed

Lyn’s Meatloaf
Wal*Mart Family Cookbook Copyright 2008

2 cups soft bread crumbs
½ cup milk
½ cup Egg Beaters or 2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 lb lean ground beef
Cooking spray
½ cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground mustard
¼ tsp each allspice and ground cloves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl stir together bread crumbs, milk, egg product, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Add ground beef; mix well. Spray 2-quart rectangular baking dish with no-stick cooking spray. Shape meat into loaf and place in 9x5x4 inch pan.
2. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Meanwhile in small bowl combine ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, allspice, and cloves. Pour sauce mixture over top of loaf. Bake for 30 minutes more of until a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees F. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8.

I've been craving meatloaf. Since I cut back on using meat, meatloaf has definitely been off the table since most recipes require 1.5 to 2 pounds of meat. But I found some lean beef on sale and this recipe required no other special ingredients so it came out to $5-$6 to make this meatloaf. It went a long way. I froze individual slices and this made dinner for me and the boys, a few sandwiches for lunch and even one for breakfast. There's nothing wrong with a meatloaf sandwich for breakfast.

Since I've cut back on meat, especially since red meat has mainly left my diet, my butt has been dragging. I know that one does not need red meat to feel good but I guess I haven't been eating as well in general lately. Eating this meatloaf felt very therapeutic.

There was a time when allspice and cloves would have sent me running from this recipe but after trying this sloppy joe recipe with the cloves and loving it, these spices are what attracted me to this recipe. I loved what those spices brought to this. This recipe definitely hit the spot.

I hadn't been cooking and I really needed to cook again. Every so often I think, I'm done, I'm not cooking, I'll just grab whatever and get by, but I just can't eat like that. I need to plan, I need to cook, I need to get enjoyment out of my food.

I was going to list my other meatloaf recipes here but there are too many. I'll make a separate post.

I picked up this cookbook for 97 cents in the Goodwill store. It has a lot of great recipes, that I've seen before for the most part, but it's still nice to have so many good recipes in one place. Various brands sponsor the book but it's largely from-scratch cooking. It's from 2008 - does Wal*Mart put one of these out every year? If they do, I need to track more of these down and look for future versions. I think this originally sold for $4.96 which is a great deal.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hey, don't I know you from somewhere?

Share-The-Recipe Coffee Cake
Mary Engelbreit’s Fan Fare Cookbook Copyright 2010

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon melted butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
4 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch baking dish. In a medium bowl, mix the cake mix, pudding, melted butter, vanilla, oil and water until blended.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix for 4 to 6 minutes. Pour the batter into the baking dish. In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon and sugar together and swirl it through the top of the cake until it's no longer visible. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the topping. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter, vanilla, confectioners' sugar and milk together.

When the cake is out of the oven, pour the topping over the cake while it's still warm.

This recipe caught my eye and I was excited to make it. The recipe author bragged about how everyone always asked for the recipe and how they served it as a groom's cake at a family wedding (in the shape of Texas). It was intriguing. And of course, I seem to love anything with a box of pudding in it.

But I ran into some problems. First, I wasn't sure how to swirl in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. I'm not sure I did it right. Some got in the cake but much of it settled on top. I need to work on that.

Then the 'glaze' was awfully liquid. I almost didn't add all of the milk but then I thought maybe this was more of a soaking glaze, like a tres leche cake or like my mother's rum cake.

HEY! Wait a minute. I think this is my mother's rum cake recipe!

Yes, this looks a lot like the typical popular Bacardi rum cake recipe (that my mother uses) except it's not in a Bundt pan, this cake has cinnamon sugar and this cake has no rum. I knew there were other versions of this cake but most that I have seen have been other alcoholic versions (like a Kaluha version made with chocolate cake and a Harvey Wallbanger version made with Galliano). This non-alcoholic version is better for any event where kids will be eating or maybe your next AA meeting.

This kept tasting better and better to me. It reminded me of a really fresh packaged coffee cake, like a Tastykake Junior, but without the crumb topping. I love crumb topping but I didn't miss it here. You really can't add it since the glaze would make it soggy. This cake does walk that fine line between sogginess and moistness from the glaze. Make sure you distribute that glaze evenly.

Other recipe where pudding works it's magic:
Amish Friendship Chocolate Bread
Big Sugar Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Creamier and Chewier Oat Cookies
Easy Cream Puff Cake
Gingerbread Men
Strawberry Cake

Another excellent brussels sprout recipe

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower with Orange

The Bon Appétit Cookbook Copyright 2006

1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into 1-inch florets
1 pound fresh brussels sprouts or frozen, thawed and patted dry, halved if large I am not a fan of frozen brussels sprouts so try those at your own risk if you can't get fresh
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallot (about 1 large) I used some sweet onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley I skipped this
Orange slices I skipped this
Additional chopped fresh Italian parsley I skipped this

Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine first 6 ingredients in large bowl; toss to coat. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Spread vegetables on large rimmed baking sheet. (I put parchment paper down first.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven until lightly browned and almost tender, stirring once, about 12 minutes. Pour orange juice over. Roast until vegetables are tender and juices evaporate, about 8 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup chopped parsley. Transfer to serving dish; garnish with orange slices and chopped parsley.

I had some brussels sprouts that I bought cheap at the farmer's market and I really needed to cook them soon. I've made some great brussels sprout recipes but I'm always looking for another great one. I am almost positive my sister made this same recipe for a holiday dinner in the past and I loved it. I just had to make this even though I had to go out and buy cauliflower and an orange. I drew the line at buying the shallots and the parsley. The only shallots I can usually find are expensive and not that great so I used some sweet onion instead. I just skipped the parsley - I didn't miss it.

I don't think this recipe will convert brussels sprout or cauliflower haters. This doesn't disguise these vegetables but this quick roasting leaves them just the way I like them - cooked but still crisp. The touch of orange flavor really works. The orange juice adds just enough sweetness. This was a real winner, in my opinion.

Other great brussels sprouts recipes:
Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Honey
Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Shredded Brussels Sprouts

Friday, November 12, 2010

The disaster that wasn't a disaster

Cola Cake
Mama’s Tea Cakes 101 Soul Food Desserts Copyright 1998

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups mini marshmallows I used cut up mini marshmallows because that's what I had

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the butter and sugar in a medium mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Add the eggs and buttermilk, mixing until the batter is smooth. In a separate medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder together. Add the flour mixture and vanilla to the batter. Fold in the marshmallows. Pour the batter into a 10-inch non-stick Bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

To decorate, spread incing on top of cake and let it drizzle down the sides.

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ cup cola I used Coke Zero
4 cups powdered sugar

Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Mix well with an electric mixer on low speed for 2 minutes or until icing is smooth and spreadable. Makes about 2 ½ cups. This is waaayyyy too much for a Bundt cake but probably perfect for a 9x13-inch cake.

This started out very promising. It rose beautifully in the oven. At first. Then it collapsed. I'm not sure if it was the fact that I used cut-up marshmallows instead of mini-marshmallows (I dusted them in corn starch so they weren't sticking together) or maybe I used too many marshmallows? From the beginning, I was leery of using the Bundt pan for this. I've always seen this recipe in a 9x13-inch pan. Next time I will use a 9x13-inch pan.

Yes, there will be a next time. Despite the fact that this was basically a sticky gooey mess, between the cake collapsing and the icing being quite soft (which would be fine for a 9x13-inch I think, but not for this Bundt cake), not one crumb of this went to waste. Between home and work, every last bit of this disappeared and people loved it. The marshmallows turned into chewy tasty bits in the cake which was my personal favorite part.

I will say that this did not stick to my new Bundt pan. I've always had a Bundt-type pan but it was flimsy and there was one spot where cakes ALWAYS stuck, ALWAYS. It really turned me off from using that pan. So when I saw a heavy, trademarked official Bundt pan in Goodwill for a couple of dollars, I grabbed it up. Cakes fly out of there, no sticking at all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An inexpensive recipe from an expensive cookbook

Not Your Momma’s Tuna
Mary Engelbreit’s Fan Fare Cookbook Copyright 2010

2 cups uncooked rotini pasta
½ teaspoon olive oil
¼ cup butter or margarine
¼ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
¼ cup seeded and chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth I used all milk
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
½ cup shredded Colby Jack cheese I used sharp cheddar
1 (12-ounce) can tuna, drained

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Toss the pasta with the olive oil to separate and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery, and green pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the flour and cook until blended. Add the broth and milk, stirring until it thickens. Add the dry mustard, poultry seasoning, and half of the cheese; heat until the cheese melts. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the tuna and pasta.

Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the mixture into the dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for 15 to 25 minute, or until heated through. Serve hot.

This is another case of making something since I had all the ingredients on hand. You don't need canned soup to make tuna casserole. I was worried the green pepper might be overpowering but I had it so I used it. I'm funny about green pepper - I love it in some things, but I just tolerate it in others. It wasn't overpowering here and it didn't ruin the dish for me at all but I wouldn't go out of my way to use it in this recipe again. I like carrots in tuna salad and I think carrots or mushrooms would be good here too. Oh, and peas would be a nice addition.

I was going to use sodium-free chicken bouillon for the broth but I was all out of it. I decided to use another cup of milk since I typically make white sauces with all milk anyway. This makes a smaller casserole, not a 13x9 casserole, so consider that if you are making it to feed a family. You could add more pasta. The sauce was very creamy so I think it could handle more pasta without getting too dry.

I made the pasta and chopped the vegetables (very finely, using my mini-chopper) ahead of time but I didn't put this together until the last minute. I've made casseroles like this ahead of time and they are fine but they are best (the sauce is creamiest) if you put them together at the last minute. With that minimal prep work, this took no time at all to put together.

It was very good and relatively healthy. I used Smart Taste pasta, water-packed tuna and lowfat milk. I like that I got at least a cup of veggies in there (I didn't really measure them). I used regular cheese. There wasn't so much cheese in this that this tasted like another version of macaroni and cheese but that little bit of cheese really rounded out the sauce.

I paid $16.99 (plus tax) for this cookbook! Ridiculous. I bought it at the school book fair when I was volunteering last week. It was 'for a good cause' right? Last year I bought two or three cookbooks there so I was being more frugal. This is collection of recipes submitted by Mary Engelbreit fans. People naturally submit their best recipes in these situations so this type of cookbook (like any Taste of Home cookbook for example) tends to have plenty of appealing recipes. I've bookmarked quite a few from this book. I plan on getting my $16.99 (plus tax) worth out of it. I have another morning scheduled at the book fair later this week - I'd better leave my wallet at home.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Yep, another post

Beef Taco Bake
Ground Beef Recipes Copyright 2009

1 pound ground beef
1 can (10 3/4 ounce) tomato soup
1 cup chunky salsa or picante sauce
1/2 cup water
6 flour tortillas (8 inch) or 8 corn tortillas (6 inch) cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Cook beef in skillet until browned. Pour off fat.

Add soup, salsa, water, tortillas and half the cheese. Spoon into 2-quart shallow baking dish. Cover.

Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Makes 4 servings

Okay, first of all, catch your breath. I know, posts from me two days in a row? Craziness.

This recipe is from one of those small paperback cookbooks that taunt you in the checkout line. The recipes are usually good but the price tag is usually a bit steep - around $4.99 for one of these little guys. I'm pretty good at resisting these for the most part but I do give in occasionally. I may have picked this up somewhere where an additional discount is taken (Costco?) but I still consider it a splurge. Even though I have a few other ground beef cookbooks, I'm always looking for more ideas.

I think that I only needed to pick up the can of soup to make this. I had all the other ingredients on hand already. I happen to like tomato soup - I like the smooth, sweet tomato flavor it has - but you could use more salsa or something else to make this. This isn't the kind of recipe that needs to be followed to the letter.

This reminded me of Jamie’s Mexican Chicken and Tortilla Casserole which uses tortilla chips and I debated using tortilla chips which I also had on hand. I think those would work well too but they would add fat and calories. This recipe isn't too bad if you use the lower sodium version of the tomato soup and lean ground beef. You could use a lower-fat cheese too but there's only 1 cup of cheese in the recipe, about half what you usually see in a recipe like this (Jamie Deen's recipe calls for 3 cups!) You could even use a healthier tortilla.

For me though, this recipe was about using up what was in the house. That is how I operate these days. I think I used the last of a $1 30-pack of corn tortillas in this recipe, the lean beef was probably picked up on clearance, and there is almost always cheese and salsa in our fridge.

Similar recipes I've made:
Beef and Tortilla Casserole (Chilaquiles)
Beef Tamale Skillet Meal
Jamie’s Mexican Chicken and Tortilla Casserole
Quick Tamale Casserole

Monday, November 08, 2010

Loved It!

Russian Cabbage
I Can Cook, You Can Cook Copyright 2003

2 cup of chicken stock or 2 cups of water with 2 teaspoons of chicken bouillon granules
2 cup of beef stock or 2 cups of water with 2 teaspoons of beef bouillon granules
1 cup onion, chopped fine
½ cup of brown sugar
2 tsp of Tabasco
4 cups of cabbage, shredded, very fine (not red)
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1/ 2 cup white vinegar

1. Bring stock to a boil.
2. Add onions, brown sugar, vinegar and Tabasco.
3. When onions are soft add cabbage and tomatoes
4. Simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until cabbage is tender.
5. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

This recipe was labeled the author's all-time number one, so I couldn't resist making it. It reminded me of the juice my husband's grandmother cooks her stuffed cabbage in, which is as good as the stuffed cabbage itself. This is a quicker and easier way to get that flavor.

This is something I will definitely be making again and again. It's cheap - the whole pot of soup probably only cost me about $3.00 to make. It's healthy - I used sodium-free bouillon granules and didn't need to add too much salt to this. It's fast compared to many other soups - I'm not even sure I had to cook this 45 minutes.

It's not a main dish soup since it lacks protein but it's light enough to leave enough room for a sandwich or something else to round out the meal.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Easy, fast, and cheap

Pizza Quesadillas
Better Homes and Gardens Pizzas Cooking For Today Copyright 1994

½ cup pizza sauce
6 7-inch flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers or Monterey Jack cheese (8 ounces) I used less
1/3 cup finely chopped pepperoni
3 tablespoons sliced pitted ripe olives I didn't use these

Spread some of the pizza sauce on half of each tortilla. Sprinkle Monterey Jack cheese atop pizza sauce on each tortilla. Top with pepperoni and olives. Fold tortillas in half; press down edges gently.

In a large skillet or griddle cook tortillas, 2 or 3 at a time, over medium heat about 4 minutes or till cheese melts, turning once. I used my Griddler.

Cut each tortilla into three triangles. Makes 9 appetizer servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 194 calories, 9 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat, 27 mg chol, 427 mg sodium, 109 mg potassium

I had pepperoni and I had pizza sauce so this recipe caught my eye. I served it for dinner, not as an appetizer. Why not?

I used turkey pepperoni which wasn't on sale and isn't exactly inexpensive but it goes a long way. I think a package costs about $4 and I used some in a pasta dish like this, some in this recipe and I probably used the rest for snacking.

You can pretty much throw anything in a tortilla with a bit of cheese and call it dinner. It's a great way to stretch a small amount of meat and/or to use up leftovers. Tortillas are cheap and they make many varieties of them. It looks like I used basic flour tortillas here but I most often get the whole wheat ones for $1.99 (for 8 of them). They have a decent amount of fiber but they don't break the bank like some of the fancier 'healthier' varieties.

I made these a while ago. Since then I have started folding tortillas up burrito-style. I can get more filling in them that way (without it oozing out) and I can fit more of them on my Griddler at once. I use a bit of cooking spray on them to get the tortillas extra crispy.

I found this cookbook at the Goodwill store. It is part of a series put out by Better Homes and Gardens. Many of my favorite cookbooks were published by Better Homes and Gardens. I have the chicken version and I've made several good recipes from it and this pizza version has a lot of potential in it too.

I paid $2.97 which is kind of a lot, IMO, for a book from Goodwill. This book isn't very large either (but there was a big $12.99 retail price sticker on it). Their cookbooks were topping out at $1.97 but they seemed to have raised their prices on cookbooks at some point. Probably a good thing since it makes me pickier about which cookbooks, if any, come home with me.

Oh, the Goodwill store. I am finding so many treasures there. Many are cooking related so expect to read about those in future posts.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

It ain't over, I promise

There was a time a few months ago when I thought my blogging days were over. I had no interest in picking up a cookbook. I didn't think I'd buy another one. I even thought, what the heck am I doing with all of these cookbooks????

Well I'm glad I didn't box them all up and get rid of them because I didn't stay in that state for very long. I've acquired quite a few cookbooks since that time, mostly from yard sales and Goodwill. I read them longingly but unfortunately I can't actually cook and blog like I would like to right now. My blog is in limbo, as is my life in many respects.

So please, bear with me. This blog will be back in full force eventually.

It's not like I'm not cooking. We need to eat. But we also can't really afford to eat right now. Divorce is expensive. It's all about stretching a buck around here. It's not always pretty - last night's dinner was hot dogs and boxed macaroni and cheese. Mostly it isn't that bad though. I buy meat on sale (although marked down meat is usually the best deal) and stretch it out.

One small piece of steak (less than a pound) can be frozen, thawed partially and sliced very thinly, marinated in a bit of worcestershire and seasonings (I like to add a bit of cornstarch to the marinade too), sautéed and added to mushrooms and onions that have been sautéed and seasoned with a bit of steak sauce (or Country Bob's All-Purpose Sauce if you're lucky enough to have some) and that small piece of meat will feed all of us. Two bigs cans of mushrooms at about $1/each stretches that out cheaply without adding a lot of calories. I serve this over egg noodles or, occasionally, mashed potatoes (but I seem to be the only mashed potato eater in this house).

Stir fries (served over cheap ramen noodles) and fried rice are two of the best ways to stretch out a small bit of meat. Partially frozen meat can be cut super-thin and it will seem like you have a lot more meat. I add a couple of eggs to my fried rice too. The vegetables vary according to what I have. If I don't have any vegetables for a stir-fry, I like to buy a bag of broccoli slaw. It might be a bit more expensive per pound than other vegetables but it has a variety of vegetables in there (broccoli, cabbage and carrots), it can go right in the pan, no chopping necessary, and cooks up quickly.

Speaking of eggs, they get overlooked for dinner and they really shouldn't. One day I had nothing planned for dinner and an expensive stop at the grocery store on the way home from work appeared to be in my future. Then I remembered I had most of a package of bacon left that I had bought to make baked beans. So I thought, we'll have bacon, scrambled eggs and toast and it was a nice dinner. Grocery store trip averted!

Enchiladas, quesadillas, etc, are great for stretching meat (or eggs) too. Tortillas are cheap (recently they had packs of 30 corn tortillas on sale for $1), so is cheese, especially when you realize you don't need to use a ton of it. There is plenty of room for improvising with what you have on hand too. I made a version of Enchiladas Suizas without the cream, instead using some lite sour cream I had. I mixed that into the sauce. It was even better and lighter than using the whipping cream.

Why are Jell-O cups so expensive? Is there a monopoly on gelatin? There are plenty of pudding cups brands and even though you would think pudding ingredients are more expensive, you can buy pudding cups for 99 cents for a 4-pack but Jell-O seems to be the only one selling gelatin cups in the 6-packs and they are about $2.50??? for 6???? Ridiculous.(I think there are some off-brands selling in larger packages but they are usually crappy flavors like lemon and lime.) I've started buying packages of Jell-O for under a $1 and using small plastic jello molds I already owned to make Jell-O cups. I get 5 out of one small package of Jell-O. I get a better selection of flavors that way too. My son always eats these at home so I don't worry about him losing my molds. Sugar-free Jell-O with a dab of Cabot's whipped cream is a nice bedtime snack for me too.

My husband bought a lot (I mean a LOT) of tuna at one point when he was taking tuna for lunch but then I guess he discovered I wasn't stocking everything else he needed to make tuna salad or he just got lazy and it sat in the cupboard. I've been taking advantage of this bounty and making something with tuna just about every week. Even Dan enjoys tuna noodle casserole so I don't know why I rarely used this cheap protein over the years.

I was buying frozen entrees for lunch and they do go on sale rather cheaply compared to buying lunch out. 5 for $10 is a common sale price, occasionally you will see 6 for $10, the lowest price but that only comes up every once and while. I started making my own frozen entrees and typically will use a box of high fiber pasta (under $2), cheap veggies from the farmer's market (eggplant, mushrooms, whatever) and add some cheese (low-fat ricotta is good, only about $2) and I can get 7-8 lunches out of that one box of pasta and each meal works out to under $1. Or I microwave some potatoes and vegetables and then I make up a cheese sauce and I make up stuffed potatoes. I end up eating the same thing for lunch practically everyday for a while but I mix up my snacks and other foods so it doesn't get boring.

I try not to overpack my sons' lunches. My older son doesn't get a very long lunch period so I try to realistically think of how many baby carrots, crackers, etc he can eat in that time before I pack his lunch. It is deceiving how much food can fit in those baggies and small containers. It's almost comical when you watch the children in the daycare center sit down to their lunches since all their food is emptied out onto plates. You will see a mountain of goldfish crackers and piles of other food sitting in front of these very small children. The small snack-size baggies only need to be about half full.

Overall, while I'm not placing healthiness in the forefront of planning meals, I am doing what I can in that respect. I still buy the high-fiber pastas for the most part. They are more expensive than regular pasta but still a cheap food source. I use Uncle Ben's rice which I've always understood to be the best white rice, maybe even the best rice overall, in terms of the glycemic index, that you can buy. I try to add vegetables, not carbs to meals to stretch them. Cutting back on meat and cheese is healthier. And I simply just try to eat smaller portions and less food.

Sorry - I went off on a tangent there. See, I really miss blogging.