Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Free Valentine's Day E-Book

I can't believe January 2012 is about to be history. I don't know about where you live, but here in the Ozarks we haven't had a real winter yet.

Valentine's Day is the next big event on the horizon. Unless you are a football fan. But since The Studly Muffin's favorite team (Green Bay) didn't make it to The Big Show this year I have put my pom poms up for the year.

I like to do special things for my guys on Valentine's Day. I've been browsing Pinterest for some cute ideas and this morning I get an email from one of my favorite frugal sites "Living On A Dime" offering me a free Valentine's Day E-Book. It's full of great ideas...cheap & easy & creative. Just like I like it.

Here's the link.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

I'm linking this post up to Meal Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie. This is my first time doing it. I've thought about doing it. You know how that goes.

Anyhoo. I'm always curious about what other people eat. Planning my menus helps me to at least organize my week a little better. I can keep better track of my groceries, food choices....It's just a good idea. I highly recommend it.  This week is a heavy poultry week. I found some good deals at the grocery store :<)

Here we go. I linked up to a few recipes. Please know that I am a diabetic and I'm also trying to lose weight. Any recipes I use I modify to fit my needs.

Monday: Fried Chicken Salad
Not the healthiest choice (fried chicken and all), but I found some fried chicken in the deli at the grocery store this morning and a huge bag of already prepared salad that had also been marked down. I also cleaned my oven today and this was a perfect Monday night/oven cleaning meal. I plan on eating mostly salad and just a few of the chicken bites.

Tuesday: Baked Ziti, Salad (leftover from the big ole bag of prepared salad) I found some beautiful fresh mozzarella marked down today. It is certainly a treat. I look forward to using it.

Wednesday: Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup (this is from one of my favorite lite recipe sites)

Thursday: Chopped Steak with sauteed onions, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Lemon Broccoli. Simple and will please my Carnivore Husband.

Friday: (Family night!) Chicken Burger Sliders, Oven Fries and a simple Slaw. Rachael Ray has a great Chicken Burger recipe in one of her cookbooks. It has a delicious Caesar Slaw.

Saturday: Vietnamese Chicken Salad (goi ga bap cai)...and more! Actually, we are bi vocational ministers (which means we work a job as well as work in a church) and we commute every weekend and stay with my parents. I have a lot of fun with my mom cooking a fun meal in the kitchen. This week I want to make Vietnamese Food for my family..yum! I haven't decided what else to fix with the salad.

Sunday: Leftovers or Eat Out (Josiah and I are going to volunteer at a Nursing Home in Joplin this day so The Studly Muffin will be left to his own devices)

Okay. I hope you don't hold me to this. I might get a hankering for Chinese Takeout around Thursday.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beke's Garlic Butter Spread

This guy is at his weekly Homeschool Interaction Program at the Y.

This is a picture he took himself. This must be his "gangsta rappa" look.  Problem is that this particular "gangsta rappa" looks like he has a little mustard on his mouth left over from lunch.

Meanwhile I am "interacting" with electronic media. It is always nice to have a few moments for myself on Thursdays, but I miss him when he's gone. It's a good miss.

Instead of napping (which was probably what I should have done), I whipped up a little Garlic Butter Spread for supper tonight. I plan on fixing something else with it, but I have to say that this stuff is good enough to stand up all by itself. The garlic alone might make your nose hairs come to life.

I have been making this particular spread for years. I don't make it very often...it's not necessarily on my diet. But it's a nice little treat from time to time. Plus, it is wonderful to make when you are having company. People who ooww and awww. In a good way. And that's always what we are going for.

The great thing about this garlic butter is that you can pretty much use a variety of ingredients to make it...as long as you have the basics down. I always use Parmesan cheese (just the kind from the shaker...no need to get fancy), lemon juice and of course, margarine or butter. I will say that butter is my obvious favorite, but butter is also on the list of "once in a great while" purchases right now. I don't eat enough of the margarine to worry too much about. The star of the show is obviously Garlic...more on that in just a minute.
What kind of butter or margarine you use will determine any kind of salt you might use. I am using some sort of margarine that is supposed to be a little better for you, but it doesn't need any extra salt. The other spices I am using are black pepper, Italian seasoning and paprika.... Dill is another favorite of mine and I love using fresh herbs from the garden in the summer.

Don't be afraid of the fresh garlic! It has more uses than keeping away all of your vampire friends. You may use garlic salt if you must, but then it's not going to be "Beke's Garlic Butter Spread." It will be "(fill in the blank) Garlic Butter Spread." I pressed 2 cloves through my Pampered Chef Garlic Press.  Don't you like my fancy dancy mixing bowl? It's actually a plastic Frosted Flakes cereal bowl. It was clean.

Add about 1 cup of butter. If you are using stick butter or margarine you need to soften it before you use it. If you are making alot use a food processor to whip everything together. I'm just making a little bit (some for tonight and more for later). I then add about 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and then a few dashes of lemon juice. You can add more lemon juice later. In my humble opinion the lemon juice makes it extra special...it makes it a little different (in a good way) from other Garlic Butter Spread recipes.

Mix in the spices. I used about 1 tsp. of Italian Seasoning and then 1/4 tsp. of pepper and 1/4 tsp. of paprika. We like a little extra bite at our house, but I refrained from using too much pepper. I occasionally use a little bit of crushed red pepper as well.

Do a little taste test. If you think it needs salt add some. I added just a little bit more lemon juice. I like a little tang. Put your butter in a container with a lid and refrigerate. All of those flavors will meld wonderfully together. You can even freeze it or use butter molds to make it extra fancy.

Here is the Recipe:

1 cup of butter
1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese
a few dashes of lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 tsp. of Italian Seasoning
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/4 tsp. of paprika

Mix all together and refrigerate. Serve on bread, steak, potatoes, noodles, broccoli....You get the idea.



Monday, January 23, 2012

Random Thoughts: Housework Blues

I need to get something out of the way. I am blogging right now to avoid housework. I'm just being honest. I guess I keep hoping that if I keep putting it off The HouseCleaning Fairy will show up and at least vacuum. It is pretty bad when it is only 1:00ish pm on a Monday and you already recognize you are at least 2 days behind with the week's activities.

I did get a few things out of the way. I went to the grocery store. I picked up a prescription. I put something in the crockpot. I downloaded a Celtic Woman song to my IPod. I charged my Kindle. A girl has to have her priorities straight.

So as I sit and wait for the spirit of domestic inspiration to fall upon me, I am going to give you a few Random Thoughts. In no particular order.

1. I am itchy. And it's my own fault. I am allergic to Jalapeno Peppers. And I knowingly and gleefully partook (is that even a word?) some pretty awesome dip last night at church during Small Group. It was cheesy and had a delightful bite. I will say that I had my suspicions when I started eating it. But chose to keep those to myself when I discovered how absolutely wonderful it was. Then The Studly Muffin (who is my caretaker & knows more about my medical issues than I do) asked, "Does this have Jalapeno Peppers in it? 'Cause Rebekah is allergic to Jalapeno Peppers." Man! Why does he have to care? I continued to eat a bit around the edges of the little bits of pepper...knowing full well that it wasn't going to make a bit of difference. I'm pitiful. That's what I am. Pitiful. And itchy. It's my own fault.

2. Josiah has a dentist appointment on Wednesday. I dread it. I don't know about you, but I hate the way the dentist makes you feel if your child has a cavity. And Josiah has a tooth that has broken off. Just thinking about it makes me want to curl up into a fetal position. I know. It's not all about me. Poor baby is the one who will be subjected to the "chair of dental torture." I used to practice the "Don't Ask...Don't Tell" policy concerning dental appointments. I wouldn't tell him of his appointment until we pulled into the parking lot. I figured he's 10 now and needs to "man up." Sigh.

3.  So I did my meal planning this morning. Don't get too excited. I am way too impulsive to actually stick with it. Same thing with a schedule. At this point I have gone through countless planners (lesson planners, daily planners, monthly planners) I go for the ones that are cute...forget the functionality. I'm also trying to figure out how I made it through all those college courses. Or how I taught classes of little kids (most of who thrive on a schedule). Poor Josiah. His Momma is Free Flying and Fruity. At least we have fun. We might not eat at normal hours, but we have a good time.

4. This week is our Library's Annual Food For Fines drive. You bring in non-perishable items and they deduct .50 from your library fine for every item. All donated food items go to the Ozarks Food Harvest. I'm not even going to tell you how much I had to take in last year. It's shameful. And to think I used to want to be a librarian. This year I am pretty pleased with myself. I can hold my head high when I walk into the library with just a few things. Obviously something changed this year. I would like to think I was able to manage my time and life a little better...but I think it probably has something more to do with the fact that I got a Kindle for Christmas.

Well. I've probably wasted enough time. I will say that so far The HouseCleaning Fairy has failed to make an appearance. I am a bit miffed at her (or him). You think she (or he) would at least give my tub a good scrubbing every once in a while. Is that too much to ask?


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Flirting With 40

Okay. So this is me over 20 years ago. I don't think that girl had a clue to what the future would hold for her.
The title of my post is somewhat misleading. I am not really flirting with 40. I am engaged to 40. We've already had the wedding rehearsal and everything. In just a little over a month (sometime in March) I will be 40. Let's just say this is a marriage of necessity...I am not happy with turning 40.

Most of my discontent stems probably from having spent most of my 20's and 30's either confronting life and death, chronic illness and pain, infertility...Bummer. I haven't felt good since 1996 (and I'm not kidding about that one). It seems as if my 20's and 30's were spent just trying to survive. I thought by the time I reached 40 I would have at least "arrived." I would be wise and comfortable in my own skin.

Instead. I am just a big neurotic, highly hormonal and just a tad fruity. I will say one thing for this stage of my life (in a humble attempt to at least make friends with 40). I am not afraid of confessing my faults. Nor am I afraid of being wrong. I have also decided that what I consider to be "my rights" are mine to exercise only if they are in service to someone else. I don't have to be the best. The smartest. The prettiest. The funniest or the nicest. Oh don't get me wrong. There are parts of me that I would change in a heartbeat. I am twice the person I used to be (literally) and I struggle every single day with that part of my life. But when it is all said and done I recognize at least those parts of me that make an Eternal difference. If I can't be a blessing to those around me (especially to my hubbie and son) I need to rethink a few things. It's not all about me.

Okay. So I have learned a few things along the way. But trust me. I'm still not going into this thing a happy girl. How many days are in February? Do you think we could add a few more at least to January?

I am the first to recognize I am extraordinarily blessed. I have a terrific Studly Muffin for a husband. A beautiful son (who I waited a very long time for) and some pretty great friends and family. I just wish I could enjoy all those things in a size 6.  Maybe that is what 40 holds for me. A girl can dream.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sneaky Like A Pancake Ninja

I am mother to a picky eater. And really. Who isn't. (If you are a mother...) If your child isn't feel count yourself fortunate. And (respectfully) don't assume I don't know the ins and outs of picky eaters, nutrition and the like. My mom was cooking organically and naturally before it was popular trend. We ate from the garden, raised our own chickens and pigs. She bought milk from the local farmer, made yogurt and butter. She also made crackers and other snack foods. We ate entirely from scratch. I didn't even use a cake mix until I was a teenager. I also know the uses (medicinal and otherwise) of pretty much any herb the garden. But here is the rub.  We did occasionally have cake. And pie. And homemade ice cream. It was a lesson in moderation. Something I think we all could stand to learn. My mom also was a working healthcare professional. I'm not sure where she found the time. My days don't seem to have as many hours.

Back to my picky eater. I think I have tried every trick in the book. It can pretty exhausting trying to convince him that the food I place before him isn't going to kill him or at least cause his hair to turn purple. He would live off of Mac and Cheese, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Mashed potatoes...basically anything in the yellow food category. His favorite is probably pancakes. To save time I have purchased frozen pancakes on occasion. It wasn't uncommon to find him hovered over a pancake at any time of the day. 1pm...10am...didn't make a bit of difference. Obsessed much? I should have never taught him how to operate a microwave.

If you can't beat them, join them. Instead of trying to tempt him with healthy oatmeal and fruit and yogurt for breakfast I have started sneaking things into his pancakes.

Like this.

I know. I could be all super domestic and make my own baby food...even though my baby is 10. But I found a bunch of these (and other flavors) for .50 a piece at a discount grocery.  There are popular cookbooks written who practice the same kind of sneakiness. They make their purees. I just do what I can.

You can use a box of pancake mix if that is what you have. This morning I just made up a simple recipe (an old Betty Crocker recipe) that uses limited ingredients.  Now when company is here I can bring out the multi-egg recipe, but this particular recipe just uses one. I'm sure it was written during a time that people had to use their ingredients sparingly. It calls for 2 T. of sugar. I used only half. I figured the apple sweet potato combo would have a nice sweetness. Just mix up your pancakes and dump it in!

I am not the maker of perfectly rounded little pancakes. But I am a good geography teacher. See how that one on the middle left resembles Poland? That's what I was going for.

And here we go. Not the prettiest pancakes (thanks to yours truly) but as the Studly Muffin would say, "Tasty Good."

I have another sneaky recipe I like to use. This one is for whole wheat Banana Pancakes.
It is not quite as sneaky...after all, you can't help but taste the Banana in the pancakes.

 But I cannot tell you how many times I have used this recipe in a variety of forms. Josiah doesn't like any fuss with his food. If it isn't white breadish he isn't going for it. And even though he loves bananas he doesn't like any chunks in his food.  He doesn't even like banana bread.

I like to buy bananas that are marked down by the grocery store and put into bags. I bring them home, slice them up and put them in ziplocks for the freezer. I found if I blend up the bananas pretty well he is none the wiser. They still taste like bananas minus the banana chunks. I also use 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white flour. Baby Steps. We have always had whole grain breads around the house...his preference for white bread is not one I cultivated. Go figure. He has discovered he likes these after all.

Here is the recipe for Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes (found on hillbillyhousewife.com)

• 2 small bananas, mashed

• 1 large egg

• 1 cup milk

• 1 cup whole wheat flour

• 1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

This recipe is another super way to use up ageing bananas. Begin by mashing the bananas in a large bowl. Whisk in the egg and milk. Beat the mixture until the banana is as smooth as you can reasonably get it. Measure in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk again until the batter is smooth. Drop by 1/4-cupfuls onto an oiled skillet or griddle. Cook until brown underneath and dry on top with tiny bubbles. Flip to brown the second side. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve hot with syrup or applesauce.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

I can't believe we are already 2 days gone into this week. Somewhere along the way I missed Monday. I know we had a Monday. The Studly Muffin was off because of MLK Day and Josiah had swim. I, however, didn't seem to really "experience" Monday. I even made a fancy dancy dinner of carne asada (with homemade flour tortillas). There is still a mess in my kitchen to prove it. Oh well.

Because the obvious lack of oxygen to my brain Josiah and I cut school short today and went to the $1 movie. Yay for the $1 movie! They happen on Tuesdays at one of our local movie theaters. Now that's cheap entertainment. It was wonderful to sit in a dark movie theater with a big shot of diet dp (which I have been avoiding like the plague for months now). Sadly, the mess in my kitchen was still there when we got back. I keep finding dishes. Why must everyone (and by everyone I mean Troy and Josiah) get a clean up everytime they want a drink. I found whole colonies of cups. I don't even want to tell you the rest of it...I'm ashamed.

Speaking of shame. My camera has had somewhat of an accident. That's not the shame part. It still works (though I have a warranty somewhere for wear and tear). Upon downloading the pics off of my camera tonight I found many unauthorized photos. Oh I took a few. But for the most part the memory card was filled with pics taken by my little amateur photog.

I thought I'd share. Some of them.

First off. Why would anybody in their right mind take a picture of the contents of a basket he just knocked over. Coupons. A Christmas card sent by Baby Sister. An earring. Obviously taking a picture is easier than cleaning it up! Is that shredded cheese? Eww.

Another day, another showdown. I can't tell you how many pictures like this were on the camera. This was a little unique. It is like a Blue Man Group reunion. With Spock. And Spock looks like he has a bloody nose. I don't even want to know.

Hah! At least you can tell that learning takes place in our home. This is our current project. At least one of them. We are doing a study on Great Britain. This is a salt dough map. He is supposed to paint mountains and a few rivers on this week. That is if we can keep away from the movie theatre. Don't judge.

A self-"portrait." He is pretty proud of this one.

Now here is one I obviously took. Though I wished I would have made him go put a shirt on.
 That is so Cun-tree.  Long John bottoms and peeling taters.

Peeling taters is a relatively new skill. And one he takes great pride in. He's supposed to have something under the bowl of taters. I was so intent in picture takin' that I forgot to fuss at him. I better make sure that there aren't any spare peelings flung around that particular area. 

Another one of Josiah's. I don't know why he felt he needed a picture of our entertainment center and the box of communion cups that we have needed to take to the church for at least a month now. Does anybody else do that (not specifically with communion cups :<) I mean have something you are supposed to take somewhere and it just winds up floating all over the house.  Also. Notice the road bike in the edge of the pic. The Studly Muffin rubs my feet, doesn't complain when I want to watch something Jane Austinish and I let him keep his Road Bike in the living room. I'm not sure it's an even trade. But we haven't been married 20.3 years for nothing.

Maybe he's practicing his "Surprise!" pose.

My eternal shame. You see here a Jumbo-Can of Libby's Green Beans. All my hollering about fresh food and this is what I fed my family tonight. A girl's got to do what a girl's got to do. And this girl needed to use up a Jumo-Can of Libby's Green Beans that were given to her in love. They were yummy anyway. I got me some mad canned veggie cooking skills. Comes from being poor.

I think all the pictures Josiah has seen me take of food has inspired him. This was his plate tonight. Before you go all "processed foods" scary on me I will assure you that these chicken tenders are organic and made with whole strips of chicken. No preservatives. I got them marked-down. So there.
Truth is I am on a "Healthy Eating Plan." I was so hungry tonight I would have eaten fried cardboard. Thankfully, these were much better than fried cardboard.

I am sharing another one of Josiah's pictures. Simply because this was my evening. A girl sitting at her overly crowded dining room table. Her laptop open to the Kindle site...looking for cheap or free books to download to her kindle. Hoping that she can put off the obvious. Dirty dishes, laundry and the like. My laptop screen is so large all the mess on my table can easily hide behind it. Not that anything hiding behind it is that interesting. I see a paper of spelling words (he's going to miss that in the morning), a book of guitar chords....The only problem is at this angle I have a direct picture of my kitchen sink. Not fair.

There were a few other pictures I vetoed. One was off the toilet (as if) and another of the shower (best if that little treasure is kept to ourselves). There was even a picture of  the inside of the trash can. Is he doing an investigative report?  If I find any of these pictures on some sort of Dateline episode he's in big trouble.

Sleep Tight!


P.S. Please say a prayer for some friends who are facing or right smack in the middle of some pretty serious health concerns. Some of these are life and death. And I know they would covet your prayers.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Frugal and Fancy Free: Stromboli-Woli

It snowed today. So our school looked kind of like this.

I have to admit it was a pretty sweet day. And much needed. I had the chance to read over my post from yesterday (Souper Wednesday)...Good Grief! All that blathering about potatoes and ham. Who knew that I would have so much to say on the subject. I really was tired. This weather makes me creaky and cranky. Marshmallows + Chocolate + Books = a Happy Beke.

While I have your attention I thought I would share with you a picture Josiah took today. This is our TV. It has looked like this since last February. Most of the time the stripe is white. Sometimes it is black. It started off kind of transparent. It's just plain weird. It makes it really hard to play Just Dance on the Wii.  And that my friends is a crying shame. I've sad this before, but sometimes I find myself trying to peer around the stripe...just to see what's behind it.

You ever have those days that the most energy you want to put into dinner is to call the Pizza Delivery Guy? Today was one of those days. We use Papa Murphy's quite a bit. Papa M is cheap. And I can pick it up at any time and just put it in the fridge until supper time. But Papa M wasn't in the budget this week. 

I love Pizza. My favorite pizza really has to be Shakespeare's Pizza in Columbia, MO. I haven't had it in almost 6 years. But can still recall how happy it made me. I really like pizza. Didn't I just say that?

Homemade pizza isn't hard to make. But when I looked through my fridge I found I had a bit of a problem. I had just a little bit of cheese. And pizza takes cheese. So I decided to make Stromboli. Stromboli still has cheese in it, but you can get away with less of it. And you can put a variety of ingredients. You can also make Calzones. But the Stromboli is a little less involved. It's just one big stuffed pizza...instead of a bunch of little hand held pizzas.

Here is an easy recipe for Stromboli from Allrecipes.com.

It is a good basic Stromboli recipe. But I wanted to be able to dip my stromboli in the pizza sauce - instead of having it inside. I also wanted to make my own crust. I have nothing against packaged or refrigerated crusts (you can even use thawed frozen bread dough). There is just something wonderfully awesome about homemade pizza crust. It's so awesome even Josiah thinks it's awesome. That is pretty awesome. Except he really doesn't say "awesome."

I have talked before about making my own pizza crust here.  Tonight I did mix some unbleached wheat flour in with my white flour. My family needs a little more fiber. Hey. I need a little more fiber. It made me feel better about the sausage and cheese. But beware...if you decide to alternate wheat flour with your white flour recipe you may not have the best results without certain percautions. Until you get used to it look up some recipes using wheat flour. I personally prefer an all white flour crust. I know. Wheat is better for me. I did compromise by using 1/2 and 1/2.

You can do a lot with flour, water and yeast. And unless you bake everyday they can stretch quite a while. Just be sure to check the expiration date on your yeast before you use it. I'm speaking from experience.

Now my olive oil is a little different. I use it sparingly. I bought it at a Discount Grocery. I have bought it at the Dollar Store before. It comes mixed with some kind of soybean oil (which is not as good for you) and it's just a little bit...but sometimes all you have is a dollar.

Did you know you don't have to cook homemade pizza sauce? And don't let anybody make you feel guilty about using a jar of Ragu or even some leftover spaghetti sauce either. You use what you have. I personally have found it more economical (and yummier) to make my own sauce. All the extra ingredients in canned or jarred sauce mess with me. And I don't like to be messed with. I also don't like sauces that have sugar. And most sauces you purchase at the store have added sugar. I did cook up this sauce a bit. I wanted to use it has a dipping sauce.

I think the internet is a great place to find all sorts of recipes for almost anything. Just google homemade pizza sauce and you will find one to fit your needs. I prefer using whole or diced tomatoes instead of the tomato sauce, but I've used it successfully. I love making a white sauce (just olive oil and garlic) and have even used BBQ sauce.

You do realize by me suggesting you Google "homemade pizza sauce" that I am getting away with not posting this recipe. I do what I can.

Here are the insides of my Stromboli. Well. At least a picture of what I plan to put on the inside of my Stromboli. That package (with the Fancy Marked Down Sticker on it) is Jimmy Dean's Maple Sausage. I got it pretty cheap. I will say that out of all the pork sausages in the world Jimmy Dean's is pretty "ungreasy." I don't use pork sausage very often. Keep in mind that I use what I find marked down. That could be all number of things. If I am purchasing ground meat that isn't marked down I go for the ground turkey.

The beauty of the Stromboli is that you can use almost anything on the insides...even lunch meat. Now cheese is a precious commodity in our house. Sometimes I have it...sometimes I don't. It isn't as budget friendly, as say, a bag of beans. And the spinach? Well, of course I need to add a veggie! Josiah wasn't as thrilled with the spinach, but he's 10. I still have some bags of greens in my freezer from the garden. Nothing compares to those little bags of greens...They are meant to be cooked up in the pan with a little bacon and onion...then splattered with a little vinegar. Not hidden in a Stromboli. I brought out my grocery store brand for tonight.

I even toyed with the idea of making a Ham and Pineapple Stromboli or a Ham and Broccoli Stromboli. Anything you put on a pizza you can put in a Stromboli.

Back to the Stromboli making! After my dough had risen I stretched it out on my pan. And had to beat Josiah off with a stick. He couldn't keep picking pieces of it and sticking them in his mouth.

And after I fried up my sausage, garlic and greens I spread it over the crust.

I wrapped it all up, brushed some olive oil on it and sprinkled it with some Parm. cheese from the shaker. Then baked it in the oven at 400 for about 20 minutes. I know. It looks like a mummy. I assure you that nothing spooky jumped out when I cut into it.

Now that is good stuff.

It was just the thing for my Pizza craving...without actually making the pizza. I went back and forth with making a salad. Nah. This Stromboli covers all the bases. And it means less time in the kitchen for me.

Tomorrow night I am cooking up a delicious Pork Tenderloin I have been keeping in my freezer. I got it marked down for 2.99. I also think I am going to make something with the canned yams hiding in the box under my bed. Ciao!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Frugal and Fancy Free: Soupy Wednesday

I should really get Josiah his own camera. He spent much of the afternoon taking pictures like this.

And a few more like this.

And let's not forget pictures of the Real Players. Josiah is a huge Indiana Jones fan. He can spend hours recreating stories from the movies.  If you are made of plastic and resemble a humanoid you can play. If you are vehicle and fit in his bedroom you can play. Mutt Jones here has a prime part to play. I'm not sure what part the golf club is playing. I hate to ask.

I don't know what you were doing say 2:30am last night. I was blogging this. 

I set myself up a nice little quiet spot. But around 4:30am I realized morning was coming quickly and I needed to try and sleep. And then I had the brilliant idea of getting my Wednesday soup in the crockpot before going back to bed. I really shouldn't pay any attention of my brilliant ideas.

Wednesdays are always a bit of a bugger. Most Wednesdays we have PE in the mornings at a local University (we are off right now on the Winter Break). Then we have swim lessons in the late afternoon and church at night. And because Troy’s schedule is so strange I have to make sure that supper is something I can manage pretty easily. I love to fix soup for my Wednesday night meals...especially in the winter.

I personally don’t care for canned soup. I never met one I liked. But canned soup might be something you need to use or (in our case) it was given to you. You can doctor canned soup if you want. If you need a quick heartier meal and the cupboards are bare serve your canned soup over rice.

Soup in itself is a pretty cheap and easy way to feed your family. I have my personal favorites that take a little more time and money. My Chicken Noodle soup is involved. I roast a chicken, eat off that for a while then boil the bones for hours to make my stock. I can tell you, though, that it is well worth the effort.

When I was little a favorite Sunday night after church meal was Oyster Stew. A little bit of milk, a can of Oysters, a little salt and pepper and some butter. Sometimes my Mom would make it with a can of salmon. We’d pass around the saltines and there you go! Add a potato to that stew and you have chowder. It was almost like being at the seashore. Not really. But you get my point.

 I hope that all my Food Snob friends will give this little Oyster Stew a break. We didn’t have seafood markets in the hills and hollers of North Central Arkansas. And I certainly can’t afford to be buying high priced seafood nowadays. The point is to use what you have and what is available to you. I might have a hot dog and ramen noodle budget, but that doesn't mean I have to live off of hot dogs and ramen noodles.

We also had big pots of French Onion soup (something which I still make) a lot when I was growing up (onions are a great garden crop!) and crusty homemade bread. More often there would be hearty helpings of Vegetable Soup or a creamy potato soup. Mmm.

Tonight's meal is also a good example about how forgiving soup can be. Unless you scorch it or add something rotten you really can't mess it up. You also don't have to completely follow a particular recipe. You just need a "formula."
Back to tonight's soup. I want to use a protein, a starch and veggies for my soup tonight. I also need to decide what kind of soup base I will use. You can make your own soup stock pretty easily, but I don't have any at the moment. I also could use tomato juice. When parents canned tomatoes they also canned a few jars of tomato juice. I am guarding them with my life. My precious. Most likely I will use up the last of my tomato chicken bullion. It is easy to use and gives my soups a bit of a tanginess.

I am about to share with you the secret of  the extra good smackiness that comes when you taste my soup. 

Just a jar of Knorr's Caldo de Tomate. Knorr also makes just plain Chicken Bullion. But this "Tomato Bullion with Chicken is something special. I even use this when I make my homemade stock. (one of these days I'll share with you my Rubber Chicken Recipe...code words for "taking a chicken and making something out of every part")

After looking over the list of available ingredients I have I decided I wanted to make a chowder. The Studly Muffin needs something hearty to get him through the cold night.  I have a few potatoes...white and sweet...So I found a recipe that contains both.  I also plan on making some easy little butter muffins for Troy to take to work.

The soup recipe contains:

• Bacon (about 1/2 a pound)

• 1-1/2 pounds of red potatoes

• 1 medium onion

• Bay leaves

• 1 large sweet potato

• 4-5 cups of chicken stock

• ¼ cup of brown sugar

• 3 cups of fresh or frozen corn

• 1 T chopped fresh parsley

• Scallions

• 1 cup heavy cream

I can see right away I have a few problems. I don't have that many white potatoes. My corn is also of the canned cream kind along with a few small ears leftover from Monday night I can cut off the cob. I have bacon in the freezer. I bought a box of ends and pieces sometime back for just a few dollars. I divided it up and put it in the freezer. As for the heavy cream...Hah! I laugh! It sounds wonderful, but I seldom have room in the budget for "heavy cream."  I don't have scallions, either. I love scallions, but they haven't made an appearance in the crisper for a few weeks. The chopped onion will be fine...I just plan on using a quarter of an onion.

Here is what I came up with.

Because I was lacking in potatoes I decided to use a few carrots to bulk up my dish. I have some canned carrots (which would be handier), but I decided to use my moldy bag of carrots from the fridge. They are organic and I got them for .79 marked down. The fresh (well..freshish) carrots will also take longer to cook..it makes them a good crockpot choice. Both carrots and celery have a good life in the fridge. I can use a little here and there for weeks. .

I made a boo-boo when taking my "bacon" out of the freezer. I grabbed out a little package of ham instead. Bummer. I love cooking with ham, but a midweek crockpot soup is hardly special enough to use the little bit of ham I am hoarding in the freezer. Oh well. You can certainly leave the meat out of this soup (or any soup).  I miserly cut a little bit off the ham and stuck the rest back in the freezer.

I also decide to look for an alternative to the "heavy cream"...I only paid .25 for the soy milk...but I found a can of evaporated milk later I used. I am not going to waste any of my milk in the fridge if I have another alternative. You almost need to take out a loan to buy a gallon of milk at the store nowadays.

Because I used cream corn I didn't use as much brown sugar as the recipe called for. Besides...I am diabetic and really don't need to add the extra sugar. The cream corn will be plenty sweet...as well as the sweet potato and carrots.

Into the pot it goes. I grabbed what I thought was a little dried parsley. It wound up being cumin. Hmm. This is why I don't need to be cooking at 4:30am. Cumin looks nothing like parsley.  I wound up not having any parsley. So I added some oregano to keep the cumin company.

I did have another bump on the soup cooking road. I started to get out the ingredients for my easy little muffins. 3 ingredients. Butter, baking mix, sour cream. Not the healthiest I agree. I only found a cup or so of baking mix (no problem...I'll just make half the recipe...I could make my own baking mix, but I don't have the time). I also don't have any sour cream, but I do have plain yogurt. Except that when I get it out it is way past it's prime. In fact, it looks like a science experiment. I might be cheap, but I'm not that cheap. So what to do?  I just mixed up the baking mix with a few tablespoons of milk and made dumplings instead!

Not bad for some of this and that. The only ingredient I purchased in the soup during my trip to the grocery store was the onion.

Be courageous! Make a pot of soup! Use what you have! (use the exclamation point any?)

Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow here in the Ozarks. I have a little bit of sausage ready to go. Sounds like a good night for Italian!


Late Night Musings: When The Dog Bites

Okay. So the title of this post is a little misleading. No one has been bit by a dog lately. At least not to my knowledge. I'll explain in a minute.

It's one of "those" nights. All 23 little pins and screws located in the lower half of my body must be throwing a party. I ache. And I've ached for a few days now.

 Winter can be a stinker for those of us who suffer with chronic illness. Life looks gloomier when you don't feel well. But God showed me something along time ago. I have to make a beautiful life for myself despite how I feel on the inside and out.  A beautiful life doesn't have to be filled with grand moments or fancy things or even easy times.

Do you know the song "A Few Of My Favorite Things." Julie Andrews. Sound of Music. The Hills Are Alive. Austria. Well you should.

Anyhoo. The song talks about "when the dog bites, when the bee stings...I simply remember My Favorite Things....and then I don't feel soooo baaa-aaa-ddd." (See. I told you I was going somewhere with the title).

What a great movie. What a great song. And what a great thing to do when life looks a little gloomy or sad or filled with one kind of stressor or another.

It is always good to count your blessings. I do that. And I also like to surround myself with a few things that make me happy. So because I can't sleep and I need to think on something else tonight besides my achy bones...Here are a few of my favorite things. In no particular order.

1. Tea in a pretty cup. I have a bunch of mismatched vintage china tea cups. I have many more in our storage unit (but I won't dwell on that mess...I'm trying to think happy thoughts). I bought these particular little cups from thrift stores for next to nothing. There is nothing like drinking hot tea from a pretty cup to make a moment special.

2. Sweet smelling lotions. One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was a big box full of lotions and the like from Bath and Body Works. My Mom-in-law did it. I don't like the stuff that smells like flowers. I'm allergic to a lot of flowers and those scents make me want to seize. She got me scents like Twilight Woods, Be Enchanted, Sweet Pea (which does not smell like flowers). Tonight The Studly Muffin rubbed my legs with Sweet Pea because they hurt so bad. I don't call him The Studly Muffin for nothing.

3. Books. Pretty much any kind of book. I don't like reading books that don't have Happy Endings. I love books about dragons and lovely meadows and true love and hobbits and wizards and wardrobes. I love Fairy Tales and mysteries and even the occasional book about aliens. You can't beat a good alien story. Books transport me somewhere else. And sometimes 'somewhere else' makes me forget some of the not so pleasant things.

4. Candles. I don't have a fireplace. And there is something about a candle burning that makes me feel at home. And feeling at home makes me feel safe. When I was a lot healthier and could do marathon house cleaning days I would always light a candle in each room as I would finish cleaning it. Maybe lighting candles now is my way of pretending that my bathroom doesn't need a HazMat Team intervention.

5. Bubble Baths. I really sound like a girl now. But there is something about soaking in a warm soapy bath. Maybe it's allowing yourself a minute just to let your body rest. All the cares of the day seem to float away with each little dissolving bubble. Bubbles are magic.

6. Pedicures. Now I can tell you that these are few and far between. The old budget doesn't allow for pedicures. Last year around my birthday, Troy treated me to a pedicure. My hair lady (whom I dearly love) is one of those who takes her time. She scraps and buffs and polishes. One time she even put tiny little sparkles on my toes. I have a friend who has given me a pedicure. I love her. She painted my toes red. I spent the summer with beautiful red toes. Both my Mom and my Baby sister have given me pedicures. When I had a car accident and couldn't walk for months and months my Baby Sister made sure I had pretty feet. And an organized closet. I wish she would come live with me... But her husband would miss her.

7. Old Musicals. I'm not going to start singing at you again. There is something about bursting out in song that is very happy. I love the old Hollywood Musicals. They were happy. They could be sad. There was always love. And the music! My personal fav's? The Music Man. Singing In The Rain. The Sound of Music. White Christmas. Fiddler on the Roof. West Side Story has some great music. I just could never get over all that dying at the end.

8. The entire chapter of Psalm 91. It makes me feel courageous. And when things look a little gloomy it reminds me that I am not alone. And that He has covered me with "His wings." I also love to read this scripture verse.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. Psalm 30:11
It happens to be the tag on all my emails. I can't dance really. All those pins and screws keep me awkward. I lost some of my natural rhythm along with a few other things in that car wreck. It doesn't matter though. I have gained so much more. I will admit this. I have been known to shake my groove thing in the privacy of my living room. You will never see it. Josiah and I frequently bust a move. Though not as much since we've lived in our apartment. I don't want to cause my downstairs neighbors any distress. All that stomping about.
That's enough for tonight. I have more favorite things. My family for one. That is a whole another post and a half (at least). 

Night All...Sweet Dreams...And don't let the bed bugs (or dogs) bite! :<)


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Frugal and Fancy Free: Tuesday Night Asian Cravings

I had to compete with Josiah for the usage of my camera this evening.

He likes to take pictures of all of his little guys in action. Notice the rubber band sashes that some of them are wearing? Priceless. I don't even accessorize that well.

We interrupt the creative flow of this blogger to bring you an update: Josiah was reading over my shoulder while I was typing and informed me that those rubber bands are straps. Who knew?

Anyhoo. I am continuing my nightly posts on cooking Frugally (and Fancy Free) by using what you have and recreating what you want to eat.

I have a confession. I am almost a Food Snob. In my perfect world I shop at the Health Food Markets or Locally Grown Food Marts. I keep chickens (well...maybe not) and grow my own herbs. I am not afraid of using the best ingredients...I love to cook and like to look at pretty, well prepared food. Well..and I'm obviously fond of eating it.

But, my world is seldom perfect. More frequently, I have a tight, tight, tight grocery budget. There have been times when the food in my house came from a food pantry. Food pantry food is a lot of canned goods, maybe a box of pasta and some peanut butter. I was always so grateful, but at the same time a little ashamed and humbled. You never know what life is going to dish out. It's up to you how well you flavor it.

Back to the subject at hand. Supper tonight. I had originally planned on using a piece of steak I had picked up in the Marked Down Meat Bin. I wanted to make my favorite Beef And Broccoli Stir Fry. It's simple and meets the Asian Cravings I have. But I discovered I am out of Oyster Sauce. And not wanting to waste a completely good piece of steak I decided to address my Asian Cravings another way.

The Egg. I really don't like the egg by itself. I don't mind it with some cheese. And maybe a little onion. Or potato. And maybe a tomato. But the eggs are good for you. And cheap. And they can be used in so many different ways. It seems as if every cuisine has a special egg dish.

If I am really in a pinch I will make Egg Drop Soup and Fried Rice. You can make Egg Drop soup with 2 eggs. That's it. And Fried Rice is a good way to use bits and pieces of leftover veggies and meat. My mom used to make the most beautiful and light Egg Drop Soup when I was growing up. It was clear and cornless.

Another Egg dish popular in Asian cuisine is Egg Foo Yung. While it takes more prep work it is so easy. The best thing about this dish is that you can also use bits and pieces of leftovers to make it. My vegetable crisper was looking a little moldy so I thought tonight needed to be the night I used some of my veggies up.

I also have a really good recipe for an Oven Baked Tempura. I love tempura. It is also a dish my mom used to make when I was growing up. The Oven Baked Tempura recipe is obviously more healthy.

You can  use any vegetables for Tempura. I used the rest of the bag of baby carrots (that were long past their prime), a sweet potato straight from my Dad's garden and a little bit of broccoli that was on sale this week. I love broccoli. I love it on a train. I love it in the rain. I love it a boat. I love it in a moat.

 This particular recipe has you make up a little batter, dip your veggies in the batter and then crust with Panko. Panko is great to keep around. This particular box came from a discount grocery. I got it for .25. You can use any type of flour. I try and eat at least a low gluten diet. I have issues. Some of them are medical. :<)

After I prepared all of my veggies for the Tempura, I started getting my veggies ready for the Egg Foo Yung. The best thing about Egg Foo Yung is that you can use anything. Shredded carrots, water chestnuts, spinach, bok choy. I am using a little bit of this and that. Cabbage, onions, bambo shoots, celery, mushrooms. Everything here was either under my bed in my "pantry" or molding in the crisper. By the Way...Cabbage is a wonderful "cheap" food. 

Of course, any respectable Egg Foo Yung needs a sauce. A lot of Egg Foo Yung 'gravy" recipes don't use Five Spice Powder. I love Five Spice Powder. I can't tell you how long I've had this particular Five Spice Powder. You might turn me in to the Old and Moldy Spice Police.

So after I cut up my veggies I throw them in my big skillet to saute. Somewhere. In the dark recesses of my storage unit I have a Wok. I have had to make my big skillet work. Which it has. The Studly Muffin got me this big skillet last year for Christmas.  This is why he is Studly. And why I love him. He knows what makes me happy.

After I sauteed my veggies I just added them to some eggs I had whisked up. I threw in some soy sauce and pepper.

Fry it in the Pan! Like little pancakes. Easy Peasy. It looks like I used more oil than I actually did. I promise.

While the Egg Foo was cooking I made a simple sauce to dip my Tempura in. Just a little mustard and soy sauce (or tamari). Josiah ate it on his rice.

Here is my plate. I added some rice to Troy's and Josiah. I just saw a picture of myself from Christmas and decided to lighten my simple carbs for a while. Overall, though, a healthy and easy meal.  And a cheap meal! The only thing I used in this meal that I bought this week at the grocery store was a little broccoli, a little bit of onion and a few eggs.

My recipe for Egg Foo Yung

A couple of cups of chopped veggies (I used mushrooms, cabbage, onion, bamboo shoots, celery)
6-8 eggs
soy sauce and pepper

2 cups of chicken broth (I used some chicken bullion + water)
2 T. soy sauce
a dash of sherry
1 t.  of five spice powder (leave it out if you wish)
2 T. cornstarch
1/4 cup of water
pepper to taste

Chop up your veggies and saute in a little oil. Whisk up the eggs and add the veggie mixture to the eggs. Ladle out the mixture (I used a 1/4 measuring cup) onto hot skillet or griddle.

In the meantime, heat the chicken broth and soy sauce to boiling. Add the sherry if you are using and then the five spice powder. Mix the cornstarch in a separate bowl with the (cold) water and add it to your boiling chicken broth. It was thicken instantly. Just let it boil just a few seconds and remove from the heat. Add the pepper to taste.
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