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One of my favorite cooking vessels is my deep dish covered baker from Pampered Chef.   The consultant at the party called it a “Magic P0t.”  I love it.  Love it. Love. It.

Last night for dinner, Olivia and I had chicken.  I used to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and still do from time to time, but I have found we all enjoy the bone in, skin on better.   I threw the chicken in mymagic p0t with some Goya Adobo seasoning with cumin generously covering both sides for about 30 minutes in the microwave.  It was a simple dinner, so I paired it with some macaroni and cheese and corn with butter sauce.  I know, double starches, but it was good.  And simple.

Chicken $2.81

Kraft Homestyle Mac & Cheese $0.50

Corn with butter sauce $0.60

Dinner totaled $3.91 and we had leftovers of everything except the corn since that’s Olivia’s favorite.

Tonight was dinner repurposed.  Olivia said she wanted something new.  When I asked her what, she wanted the ramen noodles in the yellow package. *sigh*  She got them.  Me, on the other hand, I had left overs.  I’m not counting the chicken or macaroni and cheese amounts since I counted them in last night’s dinner.

Chicken

Tossed chicken with Frank’s Wing sauce – free

Mac & Cheese

Blue cheese dressing – free

Celery $0.26

Collards – free

Olivia’s noodles $0.14

Dinner for us: $0.40

PLUS there’s still chicken left over.  Since I wasn’t thinking all the way through, I tossed all the chicken with the buffalo sauce, so I’ll freeze it for another day.

 

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So, I felt good blogging about meals I’ve cooked that were budget friendly.  I don’t know that anyone cared, but writing has been therapeutic in the past, so I thought it would be now.  Why not put two of my favorite things together: cooking and saving money.  But you know what I love more?  WORKING for said money.  This unemployment thing sucks.   One would think I would have all these magnificent projects done around the house.  No.  One would think I’d be well-rested and ready to perform at my peak.  Not even close.  One would think…One would think…I would think.

Over the past four weeks that I’ve been unemployed,  I have learned some things:

1. I have chosen to surround myself by some really awesome people.

2. These really awesome people randomly check in on me to make sure I’m still picking my head up off the pillow.

3. These people don’t judge me when I am honest about how I’m feeling.

4. My husband really does love me.  Maybe this one should have gone first, and I could have deleted it and moved it up there, but I decided to just keep it as it was because, well, it’s where it fell in my thought process.

5. Choices are so much more important than I ever thought.  I have preached it and believed it, but guess got a little complacent with it.

6. Not everyone who gives their word will keep it.

7. Everything (and -one) has a period of usefulness.  When it is outlived it is gone.  Period.

8. People still respect me.  And they always will.

9. I am beneficial to someone in some way.  I just might not know it yet.

10. People believe in me.  I only wish I did one third as much as they do.

11. My family loves me.  No one can ever take that away.  I don’t care how much of an asshole they are.  Being an asshole only reinforced it.

There are a couple of times a year I get all mushy and gushy over things and today just happens to be one of those days.  I never imagined the littlest love of my life would be born half a world away, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Five years ago today we met Yu Si Jia  for the first time.  The scared little girl who cried for HOURS when we first held her is now a happy, healthy, thriving little girl who lights up my life more than I ever imagined.  My mom was right when she told me there was no love like a parent’s love for their child.

Happy Family Day, JiaJia.  I love you.

I started couponing a little over a year ago and, boy, am I glad I did.  It started off to be fun just to see how much I could save, but, while it’s still fun, it’s more out of necessity now.

This week, one of our local grocery stores is doubling coupons up to $1.98.  I always get jealous of the people who can get a bajillion dollars worth of groceries for two pennies, but I watch it and stock up on what I can and watch our grocery budget closely.  It looks skewed with no meat or veggies some weeks (like this shopping trip) because I buy when the sale cycles are right.  This was yesterday’s trip:

Before coupons and sales, the total was $160.89.  I paid $45.39.  My freebies on this trip were: (1) cheese singles, (3) salad dressings, (3) four-pack drinkable yogurt, (3) four-pack dessert yogurt, (3) cans chili.  (4) frozen pizzas were $0.17 each.  Olivia was totally stoked by those because I never, ever buy them. I’m so glad she’s easy to please.  She thinks ramen noodles are a delicacy.  Dog treats ranged from $0.50 to $1.39.  The expensive ones are for Rosie (our new to us puppy) and obedience school (we’ve been using Bil-Jack, so her taste is pretty picky while we’re at school, so Little Caesar treats will have to do.)

I had two trips today because one store didn’t have what I was looking for, but I did okay.   There is no picture because, while I was setting it up, I managed to knock over a cup of water and was too frustrated to do it again, but today I spent  $21.38.  Total before sale and coupons was $92.93.

My freebies today included: (1) rice and (2) new Philadelphia cooking cream cheese things.  So, while it wasn’t much, the biggest scores were (1) box of Multi Grain Cheerios for $0.25, (2) 34 oz. containers of Maxwell House coffee for $8.97 – shelf price of ONE was $10.97 and (3) Green Giant boxed frozen veggies for $0.40 ($0.133 each). I think everything else today was .50 or less, with the exception of laundry detergent and it was the Saturday special for $2.97.

It’s a lot of work and planning, and often times re-planning, but it’s fun in the end.  It’s teaching  Olivia a lesson in saving and watching our money, but it’s a shame a 6 y.o. has to absorb the reasoning behind it.

Somebody asked my why a lot of my items were quantities of three.  It’s because one of the stores I shop the most will only double coupons for the first three.  Anything after that is face value.  Besides, I don’t want to be greedy. There are a lot of us who are watching our budgets.

Will be a few weeks before there’s another coupon promotion – and it’s kind of a crap shoot at this point if it will be much of anything.  As it stands now, aside from milk, bread, fresh fruit, I don’t have to shop again for at least a month.  That I love.

Why didn’t I get the same giddy when I submitted my 100th resume as the kids do when they celebrate their 100th day of school?

That is as in fake lasagna.  I had the ricotta cheese I made over the weekend in the fridge that I needed to do something with, so I made, what we affectionally refer to as, fauxsagna – because I don’t use lasagna noodles.  I have about 3/4 c of the ricotta left to use in another dish.

Sauce $2.00 (left over from another night’s dinner)

Wacky mac noodles (free)

Ricotta cheese $2.66

1 egg $0.10

Mozzarella cheese $0.50

Colby Jack cheese $0.50

Frozen vegetebles $0.60

 

1.  Preheat oven to 375.

2.  Cook your noodles just until almost done.  Layer half of them in a baking dish – I used a 12×12 square dish.

3.  Mix the ricotta with one egg, salt, pepper and colby jack cheese.  Spread over noodles.  Top with half the sauce.

4.  Spread remaining noodles over cheese/sauce and add rest of sauce.

5.  Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

6.  Cover and bake for about 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Remove cover and let bake for another 5 min or until cheese is slightly browned – if you want it browned.

7.  Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving it.

 

I’ll round it up to $7.00 so I can take into account the few shakes of Parmesan cheese.  I got 7 hearty servings out of this, so it breaks it down to $1.00 per serving.  Will has lunch for tomorrow and we have enough left over for another meal.

Now, how the ricotta tasted.  I liked it a lot.  It was very creamy and held up nicely when I baked it. I am planning on making a calzone or something with the rest of it one night, so we’ll see how it does in another dish.  Even though it took a while to make, I will definitely be doing it again!  Might even try mixing in the herbs for bruschetta!

A few weeks ago, a FB friend posted about seeing Ina Garten make Ricotta Cheese on the Food Network. She blended it with some herbs and made bruschetta, I think. I became interested because I had looked at it at the grocery not too long before and thought the price seemed kind of high for it. Well, I decided to make it. With regards to cost, it’s a little cheaper because all I used was whole milk, some white vinegar and a little salt. With regards to time, we all know popping a container open is way quicker.

I did a little online research and most everything I read said fresh is better. And usually it is. So, this is what I did:

Gallon of whole white milk $3.49
1/3 c. plus 1/4 tsp. white vinegar $0.20
1/4 tsp. salt

Cheesecloth

Pour the gallon of milk in a nonreactive pot. I used what I have that’s pretty much like Calphalon…no aluminum. People recommend stainless steel. Using a thermometer (I used a candy thermometer), slowly bring up to temperature between 180-185 degrees stirring occasionally to keep from scorching. When it comes to temperature, remove from heat and pour in vinegar and stir for one minute. Add salt and stir. You will notice some curds almost immediately. Cover with a dish towel and let it rest for 2 hours. When the two hours is up, line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth and put the colander over something to catch the liquid that will drain. Using a slotted spoon, I ladled the curds into the colander and drained over a large bowl, covered with a towel, for two hours. The longer you let it drain, the drier it will be. I squeezed it to get some of the additional liquid out.

The length of time it will refrigerate varies from website to website. I will use it in the next couple of days.

I put it into a Rubbermaid container that holds 2.9 cups and it was pretty full.

The cost is pretty close to buying the 15 oz. container at the grocery store, but it’s more time consuming, obviously. It has a nice creamy texture to it and it tasted okay. I think it could have used a wee bit more salt.

This is where I found the recipe I used.  They said to use salt in two different steps, but I used it at the end.  They also have some instructions for using the ricotta in desserts.  There are sooo many different recipes, but I liked this one because it had very few ingredients and seemed so stinking simple.  The most time consuming thing was stirring it while it was coming to temp so it wouldn’t scorch.

Will do a follow up post when I use it.

Today I slow cooked chili. It certainly isn’t a fancy dish, but it’s one I can cook that will give us a couple of meals and Will a lunch or two.

1 2/3 lb ground chuck $2.25
1/3 of a large green pepper .33
1/2 small onion .29
1 bottle V8 juice $2.40
1 can kidney beans (rinsed and drained) .69
1 can black beans (rinsed and drained) .69
1 large can diced tomatoes $1.09
1 pkg chili mix .50
ground red pepper
chili powder

Served over rice – FREE

I cook the green peppers and onions when I brown the ground beef. Put it in the crock pot and add V8 juice, both cans of beans, tomatoes and chili mix. Stir and cook on high for 4 hours or low 6 hours or so. After it’s been cooking for a while, I taste it and add seasonings to taste.

The total comes to $8.24, but I’ll round up to $8.50 to take into account the shakes of seasonings. We will get 7 servings out of this at $1.21 per serving. Tonight we had 3 1/2 servings, so the total cost for dinner was $4.24.

*squee* NOT.

It’s a sales position and I’m REALLY not a salesperson. Not since I sold jewelry many moons ago. I love diamonds. They are pretty and it was always fun helping a guy buy the diamond that would make his girl’s dream come true. Didn’t have to be big or the best, but you know what he wanted and where he needed to be. My job was to find something and put that fit together. And I did.

Again, don’t get giddy wid it…I’m not a salesperson. Especially cold calling type sales. Just not my thing. Especially with an industry I know virtually nothing about. But you throw a couple of “inside sales” (read: people called and told me what they wanted and I told them what we had that would fit their situation) on your resume and, voila, you’re it. I flubbed the day I signed up with the staffing agency and I’ve been mock interviewing myself. So I’m taking this one as practice so, hopefully, when I get called back for another one, I’ll be better.

As an aside, I’ve applied for my dream job, but have a fear I won’t make it through the application screening process even though I think I would do a wonderful job with it, as do the friends I’ve told. No details because I don’t want to jinx it. A friend put my name out there to a friend of hers who works in that office, so we’ll see if anything comes of it.

Peace.

Tonight I made homemade corn tortillas. It was pretty simple, but my enamel coated cast iron pan just isn’t quite it. Will need to get a regular ‘ol cast iron skillet. I only made half a batch, just in case they didn’t turn out well.

1 cup masa harina (corn flour – Maseca is one brand)
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 c. water – roughly…just kept adding until it was the right consistency.

1. Put corn flour and salt in a bowl and mix up. Add water. Mix by hand until all blended. You will know it’s right when the dough doesn’t stick to your hands or the side of the bowl.
2. Make golf ball sized balls of dough (the full recipe will make 16. I had 8 )
3. Put in center of tortilla press lined with a Ziploc bag and press.
4. Cook on cast iron skillet – no oil or anything – 10-15 seconds. Turn over and cook the other side.
5. Done.

Was very simple. Like I said, I need a cast iron skillet. Lining the tortilla press with the Ziploc bag was a great idea (thanks to the You Tube video I watched) and the tortilla peeled off of it without issue, but do it carefully.

What did I do with them? Made pork tacos.

1 lb. pork (I used pork chops and just cut it away from the bone) ($3.02)
2 TB Goya Sofrito (.25)
1 small onion – sliced into rings (.29)
1 can tomatoes with chiles (.60)
Goya Adobo with cumin – a few shakes
Chili powder – a few shakes

Serve with:
homemade tortillas (.30 for 8 )
rice (free)
corn with butter sauce (.60)

1. Put pork and onions in skillet to brown. (I left a little fat on the pork chops so I didn’t add extra oil)
2. When about half way done, add Sofrito and mix. Add in tomatoes and seasonings.
3. Cook until done – I let it simmer for about 35 minutes or so while I made the tortillas.

It was good and definitely something I’ll make again. Will and I are the only two who ate it – was a little spicier than Olivia likes, so she had a substitute main dish, but had corn and rice with it.

Total cost of dinner: $5.06 and Will is going to take left overs for lunch tomorrow.

That’s what I fed the dwellers of Chateau L today. No cooking – aside from the quick melting of the cheese in the quesadillas for lunch. We had dinner with some friends and they treated us to steak with baked potatoes. Was nice to hang out with them and just relax for a little bit. Thanks!!

Oh, wait. I lied. I made brownies to take with us. From a box.

I didn’t go to bed last night, well this morning, until after I dropped Olivia off at school…I’d say probably 7:45-8:00. I slept until about 11 and had to get up because I was the special guest today talking about Chinese New Year in her class. I was so proud of my girl for being proud of her culture. It’s slowly evolving and letting it happen in her time seems to be working well for us.

After that, we went to the grocery store to pick up some of our Friday e-VIC specials from Harris Teeter. Then it was time to come up with something for supper. There are a couple of new things I want to make, but I don’t have time for one of them and am missing a tool for the other, which I’ll be borrowing this weekend, so hopefully Sunday will reveal that one.

Tonight’s dinner was easy-peasy. Hamburger Helper with green beans and potatoes and corn bread for a grand total of $3.79

Ground beef: $1.90
Hamburger helper: $0.25
Green beans and poatoes: $1.15
Corn bread: $0.49

Hoping to sleep tonight because insomnia sucks.

Tonight’s dinner entree was chicken with left over baked beans and cole slaw from last night and I made a corn pudding.

I skinned and marinated the chicken in Goya Mojo Criollo.  We first had this marinade when we went to a cookout over Halloween.  The host marinated a pork loin in it and slow cooked it on the grill.  Was delish.  So, I bought some today at the grocery store and chicken was good.  I couldn’t find my tenderizer so I could tenderize before marinating.  Well, it was more of an I-looked-for-it-but-got-distracted-and-forgot-to-keep-looking kind of thing.  It was pretty tasty, though.

I also made a corn pudding recipe:

Box of Jiffy muffin mix
1 can of whole kernel corn
1 can of cream style corn
8 oz. sour cream
2 eggs

Mix the corns, eggs and sour cream until well blended.  Add Jiffy and stir.  Bake at 350* for about 50-60 minutes.  Done.  The original recipe calls for some butter to be put on top in pats, but I found that doesn’t melt evenly and you end up with butter pat places, so I don’t use it.  I also don’t use the eggs.  Turns out fine.

All in all, dinner was simple and good and got two thumbs up from the crew at Chateau L, so I’m calling it a success.

Chicken ($3.25)
Goya marinade ($2.00) – have half a bottle left for another night
Baked beans ($.0.75)
Cole slaw ($0.50)
Corn pudding (1.60)

Tonight’s total was $8.10 and Will has plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  So that breaks down to $2.025 per serving.

Not sure what’s on the horizon for tomorrow. We’ll have to see, I guess.

Today’s culinary base was pork chops. One of the many things I love about Costco is their thick cut pork chops. I usually stock up when there is a $4.00 off coupon and I package them into three meals per pack and freeze. I buy the package that keeps me as close to $10 as I can…don’t know why. Just a weird habit, I guess.

Tonight’s fare was:

Pork chops with a dijon mustard sauce ($3.33 – AND Will has lunch for tomorrow. )

Cole slaw ($0.75)

Baked beans ($0.75)

Croissants ($1.00)

I’m rounding up to $6.50 to take in account all the seasonings, etc.

Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce

  • 4 (3/4-inch-thick) pork chops (I actually had 5 – sliced the thick ones from Costco in half)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (1 to 2) (I didn’t have a shallot, so I used shallot salt from Penzey’s)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup country-style Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (I used 2% milk because I didn’t have cream)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

Heat a dry 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot. Pat pork dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add oil to hot skillet, swirling to coat, then brown chops, turning over once, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to a shallow baking pan, reserving skillet, and bake, uncovered, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Let stand, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour off fat from skillet, then cook shallots in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add broth and any juices from baking pan and boil, scraping up any brown bits, 2 minutes. Add mustard and cream and return to a boil, then add lemon juice and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

This was yummy. I didn’t take into consideration that 1. I didn’t have low sodium chicken broth and 2. I used shallot salt, so the sauce turned out a bit on the salty side, but it was still good. We just ate less of it than we would probably have. I eyeballed the salt and pepper when I seasoned the chops.
I’m not sure what possessed me to make cole slaw, but I did. Supa simple.

Easy Cole Slaw

1 small head of cabbage
3/4 c. mayonnaise
1/8 c. Splenda
couple splashes of apple cider vinegar
salt
pepper

I love my Kitchen Aid food processor…makes it so simple to shred a head of cabbage in no time. BTW, I’m not an overly huge fan of carrots in my slaw, so when I make it I never use them. I put measurements, but, honestly, I don’t really follow them. I don’t like runny slaw, so I don’t use that much vinegar. I like a nice, creamy slaw that’s just sweet enough with just the right tang, so I start off kind of light and add if I need it. Put it in the fridge to hang out for a while and, voila. Done.

The croissants may have been store bought, but the butter melted on them was homemade. Shanny posted about making butter on her blog last summer and I immediately had to try it. Oh, my. This is the recipe I used (and I think maybe the same one she did) . I left mine unsalted. It is to.die.for. on a fresh loaf of homemade bread piping hot from the oven, but I settled for store bought refrigerated croissants tonight. I put a towel over my stand mixer because it will start to sling the buttermilk all over the place…she wasn’t kidding when she said it goes from not there to there in less than a blink of an eye. I store mine in a butter boat.

It is really, really simple to make and I absolutely love the taste of the fresh butter.

Think chicken is on tomorrow’s menu…

Aside from the fact I have virtually no income coming in, there is an upside to being unemployed.  I’m able to meet Olivia when she gets off the bus every day and since Will has been getting home about 4:30ish, we have dinner by 5 and there is actually time to rest some and spend some time as a family, which has been much needed.

I’ve been couponing for over a year and have gotten pretty good at it.  I started reading a blog sometime last year, 5 Dollar Dinners, and have been inspired to make dinners that are $5 or less.  I’ve done pretty well with it.

Last night’s dinner was a spin on a recipe I saw in the coupon circular over the weekend for Picante-Glazed Chicken Wings.

Picante Glazed Chicken Wings (Original Recipe)

From: Campbell’s Kitchen
Prep: 45 minutes
Bake: 40 minutes
Serves: 12

Ingredients:

12 chicken wings (about 2 pounds)
1 jar (16 ounces) Pace® Picante Sauce
1/3 cup orange marmalade
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon sesame seed, toasted

Directions:

Heat the oven to 425°F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Cut off the chicken wing tips and discard.  Cut the chicken wings in half at the joint.

Heat 1 1/2 cups picante sauce, marmalade and mustard in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook for 40 minutes or until the mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, stirring occasionally.

Place the chicken into a large bowl.  Add the remaining picante sauce and toss to coat.  Place the chicken onto the baking sheet.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through, turning the chicken over once halfway through the bake time.  Baste the chicken with the picante-mustard mixture during the last 10 minutes of the bake time.  Sprinkle with the sesame seed, if desired.

This is how I did it…

1 lb. chicken tenders ($3.00)

1 1/2 cup salsa (I cooked with a cup and reserved 1/2 cup for later) (.50)

1/4 c. apple jelly (didn’t have marmalade) (.20)

1 tsp. dijon mustard

I cooked it pretty much per the instructions, but since I was cooking tenders, it didn’t take nearly as long.

We made burritos with a side of corn.

Mahatma spicy saffron rice (free)

Tortillas ($1)

Can of corn (.55)

Sour cream

Shredded cheese (.50)

It went over the $5, but it was yummy and a very filling dinner.  I didn’t calculate the per seving cost of sour cream or the dijon mainly because I had them on hand and have been using them in other recipes, but I think it’s pretty negligible so I’ll round it up to a $6 dinner.

The chicken has a nice sweet/spicy/tang to it and it made a great glaze.  I actually marinated mine in the fridge for most of the afternoon.  Will definitely be something I make again.

It’s What Day?!?

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