Monday, October 31, 2011

Orange You Glad for Oranges!!!

I have been up to my elbows in oranges today.  Last week, I went to the ASL Club Halloween party.  One of the activities was orange carving, we ended up with a lot of oranges that were about to go to waste. So I took them home with me.
I made many different orange-y things!

I juiced a lot of oranges, by hand, while watching TV.  I got over 2 quarts of juice.
With the juice, I made a double batch of muffins.
I used a recipe from Family Circle Magazine.

Orange Muffins 
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
I added cranberries to half and chocolate chips to the other half.
The only thing I changed was the oil, I don't keep vegetable oil,
so I used my coconut oil instead.
I looked at the piles of orange peel, thought it was a waste. 
I found a few uses for orange peels online, so I cleaned my peels and set them aside.
One of the things I found was candied orange peels.
I figured I would give it a try.  It was a fairly simple process.
I followed the process, boil in water, simmer in syrup, roll in sugar, allow to dry.
These are slightly bitter, slightly sweet, and gummy.
They are quite good!

This is orange simple syrup, the syrup the peels simmer in.
I will use it to sweeten my herbal tea.
The peels were dried for later uses, they will be ground up,
for bath salts and for later use in cooking.
Some of the peels before drying went into olive oil with some anise.
In a couple weeks this should be delicious flavorful oil.

Homemade Breakfast Sandwiches

I love breakfast foods, but I don't eat breakfast often.  I prefer sleep to breakfast ;)  This breakfast was something to try out an idea from Pinterest. Baking eggs in muffin cups for breakfast sandwiches, the post says they are easy to freeze for quick defrost, but I have not done that yet.
The eggs cooked quickly and deliciously.
(Quicky pop and fresh biscuits)
 The easiest way to cook bacon is on the silpat in the oven, the second best way is in my Cuisinart Griddler.  (I hate spending money on bacon, expensive fat, instead I buy bacon bits and pieces and freeze in bags.)
The final product! YUMMY!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Freezing Foods, My latest obsession!

I think I may have talked about freezing food when I posted about budgeting and coupons before.  I have done a lot more freezing since then that I wanted to share.

CHICKEN - I eat a lot of chicken, I like that you can flavor it easily and it is used in lots of ethnic cooking. It is honestly much cheaper than beef, and that is the biggest reason I use it a lot.  I recently bought roughly 9 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast.  The following are the three ways I prepared and froze my chicken.
Breasts - I usually wrap my breasts individually then bag them for freezing.  I have been thinking of how much waste this creates.  So this time I cut the chicken into my portioned sizes, and placed them on my Silpat to freeze for a bit, then I just placed them in two bags.  The pre-bagging freezing prevents major sticking to each other in the freezer.  I defrost these by dropping in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes, the 4 oz portions thaw quickly.
Chopped - Some of the chicken I chopped into bite size chunks. These I sauteed and portioned into freezer bags.  These I will use when I am throwing together something healthy, but don;t have a lot of time, salad, pasta, curry.
Restaurant Shredded -I just started freezing the cooked shredded chicken and it is AWESOME!  For this batch I threw some chicken in the crock pot on low with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a few bay leaves, then covered with water.  The next morning I woke up to a delicious smell.  The first time I did this I took the chicken out and attacked it with two forks, this time I used a post from Pinterest.  I took the piping hot chicken and put all 5 large breasts in the bowl of the Kitchen Aid, added the paddle attachment, and turned it on medium-low for 10 seconds.  This is not an exaggeration, in 10 seconds my chicken was shredded, a little over-shredded to be truthful, should have gone slower.  But this is what it looked like.
I have frozen some of this in my muffin tray, with a touch of water.  It is great for quick easy portions for lunch.  I have thawed and mixed up a lunch serving of chicken salad, BBQ chicken, and buffalo chicken.  This is also easy to add to a fast soup.  LOVE IT!!!

Herbs - Cilantro sometimes goes bad in my fridge.  It shouldn't because I love it in lots of dishes, but sometimes I buy too much or forget I have it.  I have made cilantro cubes!  Cilantro chopped or pureed with a bit of water or olive oil, then frozen.  I have dropped this in beans as they cook up for refried beans, thaw and drop in the blender in salsas, or add to a curry for a bright finish.  This would be great for fresh basil in your winter pasta sauces, or for freezing pesto.
Lemons - Freeze your lemons after squeezing for zest later, just toss in the microwave for a few seconds and zest away! Also can add to sauces, especially a braise, so good subtle citrus!
Tomatillos - Do you use tomatillos?!  I love these little guys!  But I don't always use them fast enough, or need that much salsa.  So I have started peeling and washing these gems when I get home, toss them in a bag in the freezer.  I pull them out as I need them, defrost in the microwave, and toss in the blender with a couple cilantro cubes, add a half can of diced tomatoes and chiles, and you have a fast easy homemade salsa!
Coconut Milk - I love to make Indian inspired dishes, but cooking for one, I do not need a whole can of coconut milk.  I normally can get three uses out of a can, one in the pan, and two in bags in the freezer.
Canned Beans - Same as above, but I usually do half a can in a bag.  A warning is that beans lose some texture in the freezer, so I tend to use the frozen ones in soups or to make re fried beans.
Tomatoes - Toss diced tomatoes in a freezer bag for soups or pasta.  I also love this method for tomato paste, when frozen flat in bags, I just pull out and toss in warm pasta sauce and it thickens it right up.
Broth/Stock -  A tip for homemade broth and stock, after cooking chicken in a crock pot you can add a mirepoix mix to the broth and cook it a few more hours.  Strain out everything for stock, or puree the veggies to make a gravy.  I then pour this in muffin trays and freeze (you could use ice cube trays).  Less waste and easy to add to homemade soups.

Lastly, I am trying to do some premade smoothie mixes, I will update how it goes.

I hope some of this was helpful!

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Laurie has been very busy this semester, and struggling to eat decent food when she is just too tired to cook when she gets home.  We go the idea to make Mini Chicken Pot Pies.  So one Saturday morning we mixed up a quick batch of Easy Flaky Pie Crust (This really was easy.  Flour, oil, milk, salt. Not sure I would use it for an actual pie, but it was fast and easy for our purpose.)  On the stove we made up a gravy packet using broth, added frozen peas and carrots, then some shredded chicken.
Cutting circles out with a bowl, we pressed them into the muffin pan, filled the cup, and just folded over the top to make a lazy top crust. 

Obviously we didn't make enough to fill the whole pan.
 Then into the oven at 425' until golden brown.
Pull them out, let them cool.

 Once they were completely cooled, we placed them into freezer bags. and tossed them into the freezer.  Laurie defrosted two at a time, and had quick, homemade, healthy, portion controlled dinner.  I am so glad we tried this!

Monday, October 3, 2011

NOT Cooking.... But crafty and homemade chalkboard!

So... I have recently become addicted to Pinterest.  I love that I can stack my recipes, crafts, and thoughts, etc. Aaaaanywaaaaayyyyy..... I found a recipe for chalkboard paint.  So I gathered products and mixed the recipe, one cup of paint and two tablespoons of non-sanded grout.

Isn't it cool?! and oh so easy!!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stir Crazy, the Robotic Stirrer

My mom got this for me last Christmas.  I giggled and thought it was cute, then left it in my kitchen cabinet for months and months.  A little while ago I thought maybe I'll try it out.  So I used it while prepping a roux for something, IT WORKED!  I have used it for stirring a reducing pot of tomatoes, gravy, cheese sauce, and I love it!  Granted, it isn't a complete replacement for a human hand.  While making Alfredo sauce one night I did notice I had to stir it until the cheese melted into the sauce, but then the Stir Crazy kept it moving while it thickened up.  Yay for useful and clever kitchen gadgets!!!

Gone with the Wind Viewing Party - Southern Comfort Food!!!

I have two dear friends that had never seen Gone With the Wind.  So I got the brilliant idea to invite them over for a viewing party, which naturally would involve food.  In order to get some ideas, I went to the queen of Southern comfort cooking for recipes, the estimable Ms. Paula Deen.

So I built a menu:
"Fried" Chicken
Crab Hush Puppies
Steamed Green Beans
Rosemary Buttermilk Mashed Taters
Buttermilk Biscuits
Milk Gravy
Berry Dumplings

I will go through them one by one.

Fried Chicken:
I wanted to do a Baked "Fried" Chicken, since we were deep frying the hush puppies.
If you use the foil and a wire rack you will get a better crisp on the bottom, but turning them over in the last five minutes would make it even crispier.

Pound the breasts thin so they will cook quickly, about 1/2" thickness.  Dip in milk then dredge in a mix of panko, Parmesan, and seasoning. Bake at 400' for about 30 minutes.

Crab Hush Puppies:

Last two times I attempted deep frying I had explosions, and one friend still bears the scars.  So here we are three or more years later, and I have invested in a fry thermometer.  I figured this would help me at least try to follow directions, which I figure is important for 350' oil staying in the pot and not on my skin.

When I found Paula's recipe I fell in love.  I used surimi instead of real crab (I don't have that kind of money), added some Old Bay seasoning, and went for it.  I used her suggestion of dipping the spoon in water before scooping the dumplings, so easy and no build up on the spoon.

Paula's dumplings are perfectly round balls of batter.  To do this you just roll the spoonful in your hands.  I preferred the odd blobs, more crispy surfaces.


 Steamed Dill Green Bean and Rosemary Buttermilk Mashed Taters:
 You can see the steamed beans in the DeMarle in the foreground of this picture.  I steamed them with a bit of dill and butter.  I used red potatoes, boiled with a bouquet garni of rosemary and a bit of thyme.  I left the skins on and small chop, after boiling I did a rough mash and added some butter milk for creaminess.  The taters are in the middle of the picture, in another DeMarle Round.

Buttermilk Biscuits:
 Laurie was in charge of making these since I rarely bake.  All those precise measurements bug me.  ;)  These biscuits were so yummy with some of Laurie's mom's homemade raspberry jam!

Milk Gravy:
Drippin's... the key to any good milk gravy is drippin's.  I cooked the bacon for the hush puppies in this pot and left the drippin's here.  Making a milk gravy is a simple process, I have made it with sausage and chipped beef before... so yummy!

Berry Dumplings:
I love a dumpling!  The soft biscuit that soaks up the flavors of whatever you steam it in, *licks lips*.  I did not follow Paula's recipe, just took guidelines from it.  I tossed some frozen mixed berries in a pan with some honey and water.  I allowed them to make a decent syrup. 
Using Paula's measurements halved, dropped the biscuit batter and put a lid on the pot.  The dumplings puffed up and steamed beautifully!  I made some fresh whipped cream for on top.
This is Laurie and I with our Southern meal!!!
(We look dumb with our hands in the air, but we are doing the sign for "South")

P.S. Laurie and Ginny liked the meal and the movie!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Food Quotes!!! Yummy and Funny!

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”
- Luciano Pavarotti

“Desserts are like mistresses. They are bad for you. So if you are having one, you might as well have two.”
- Chef Alain Ducasse

“Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn.”
- Garrison Keillor

“I’ve long said that if I were about to be executed and were given a choice of my last meal, it would be bacon and eggs. There are few sights that appeal to me more than the streaks of lean and fat in a good side of bacon, or the lovely round of pinkish meat framed in delicate white fat that is Canadian bacon. Nothing is quite as intoxicating as the smell of bacon frying in the morning, save perhaps the smell of coffee brewing.”
- James Beard

“Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.”
- Marcel Boulestin

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
- Virginia Woolf

“You know how I feel about tacos. It’s the only food shaped like a smile. A beef smile.”
- Earl Hickey, My Name is Earl

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.”
- John Gunther

“Ingredients are not sacred. The art of cuisine is sacred. It is at that altar I worship, and I shall go to sacrifice the fat geese and tender cattle to serve its ends. The holy icons of the chef’s faith—fragrant truffles, rich foie gras, well-marbled meats and other luxurious ingredients – these are not God. Their synthesis and their miraculous transformation into a sum greater than its parts is creation, and this is what I find most worthy of reverence.”
- Tanith Tyrr

“I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.”
- James Beard

“Plain fresh bread, its crust shatteringly crisp. Sweet cold butter. There is magic in the way they come together in your mouth to make a single perfect bite.
- Ruth Reichl

“Truffle isn’t exactly aphrodisiac but under certain circumstances it tends to make women more tender and men more likable”
- J.A. Brillat-Savarin

“When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender, of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.”
- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

“Life is so brief that we should not glance either too far backwards or forwards…therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and in our plate.”
- Grimod de la Reynière

“Scallops are expensive, so they should be treated with some class. But then, I suppose that every creature that gives his life for our table should be treated with class.”
- Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet

“Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.”
- Chef Marcel Boulestin

“I’ll bet what motivated the British to colonize so much of the world is that they were just looking for a decent meal.”
- Martha Harrison

“Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea.”
- Pythagoras

“Great restaurants are, of course, nothing but mouth-brothels. There is no point in going to them if one intends to keep one’s belt buckled.”
- Frederic Raphael

“There is a communication of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine is drunk. And that is my answer when people ask me: Why do you write about hunger, and not wars or love.”
- MFK Fisher

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in it’s evocation of innocence and delight.”
- MFK Fisher

“I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman: subtle, a little bittersweet, not blowsy and extrovert. Delicately made up, not highly rouged. Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course, with a flavor that lasts.”
- Graham Kerr

“A man taking basil from a woman will love her always.”
- Sir Thomas Moore

“Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
-  Harriet Van Horne, Vogue 10/1956

“To give life to beauty, the painter uses a whole range of colours, musicians of sounds, the cook of tastes — and it is indeed remarkable that there are seven colours, seven musical notes and seven tastes.”
- Lucien Tendret (1825-1896) ‘La Table au pays de Brillat-Savarin’

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,’ said Piglet at last, ‘what’s the first thing you say to yourself?’ ‘What’s for breakfast?’ said Pooh. ‘What do you say, Piglet?’ ‘I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?’ said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. ‘It’s the same thing,’ he said.”
- A. A. Milne, ‘The House at Pooh Corner’

“How do they taste? They taste like more.”
- H.L. Mencken

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”
- George Bernard Shaw

“There are many miracles in the world to be celebrated and, for me, garlic is the most deserving.”
- Leo Buscaglia

“Leave the gun. Take the cannolis.”
- Clemenza, in The Godfather

“A jazz musician can improvise based on his knowledge of music. He understands how things go together. For a chef, once you have that basis, that’s when cuisine is truly exciting.”
- Charlie Trotter

“He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath already committed breakfast in his heart.”
- C. S. Lewis

“To be tempted and indulged by the city’s most brilliant chefs. It’s the dream of every one of us in love with food.”
- Gael Greene

“Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want.”
- Gael Greene

“To eat is a necessity, to eat intelligently is an art.” La Rochefoucauld

“The tradition of Italian cooking is that of the matriarch. This is the cooking of grandma. She didn’t waste time thinking too much about the celery. She got the best celery she could and then she dealt with it.”
- Mario Batali

“The Italians were eating with forks when the French were still eating each other.”
- Mario Batali

“Pounding fragrant things — particularly garlic, basil, parsley — is a tremendous antidote to depression. But it applies also to juniper berries, coriander seeds and the grilled fruits of the chili pepper. Pounding these things produces an alteration in one’s being — from sighing with fatigue to inhaling with pleasure. The cheering effects of herbs and alliums cannot be too often reiterated. Virgil’s appetite was probably improved equally by pounding garlic as by eating it.”
- Patience Gray, author

“There is nothing like a plate or a bowl of hot soup, it’s wisp of aromatic steam making the nostrils quiver with anticipation, to dispel the depressing effects of a grueling day at the office or the shop, rain or snow in the streets, or bad news in the papers.”
- Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book (1949)

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.”
- Oscar Wilde

“Life is too short for self-hatred and celery sticks.”
- Marilyn Wann

“Two words to improve any dish. Ba, Con”
- Ted Allen, The Iron Chef

“For the first time I know what it is to eat. I have gained four pounds. I get frantically hungry, and the food I eat gives me a lingering pleasure. I never ate before in this deep carnal way… I want to bite into life and to be torn by it.”
- Anaïs Nin

“The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me and I to them.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”
- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

“I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.”
- Steven Wright

“You can never have enough garlic. With enough garlic, you can eat The New York Times.”
- Morley Safer

“Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress.”
- Charles Pierre Monselet,French journalist

“A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch”
- James Beard

“Grilling, broiling, barbecuing – whatever you want to call it – is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach.”
- James Beard

“All sorrows are less with bread.”
- Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

“I pray for the neck of a crane, that I might linger long over my pleasures.” – Melanthius, Ancient Greek Gourmand

“Chicken-fried steak is indefensible to anyone who didn’t grow up with it.”

“Hunger the need…appetite the desire.”

“Never eat more than you can lift” –Miss Piggy

“If I am ever stranded on a desert island with only 3 ingredients, I pray they are prosciutto, butter & baguette.” –Nancy Silverton

“If you’re afraid of butter, as many people are nowadays, just put in cream!” Julia Child

“I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman: subtle, a little bittersweet, not blowsy and extrovert. Delicately made up, not highly rouged. Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course, with a flavor that lasts.”
- Graham Kerr

And the drumroll please…for Julia Child!

“You have to eat to cook. You can’t be a good cook and be a noneater. I think eating is the secret to good cooking.”

“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal,”

“In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal.”

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”

“Always remember:  If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up.  Who’s going to know?”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fireworks in My Mouth or New Mexican Spiced Pork Sandwich

Okay, I had one of those moments again today!

You know the kind, when you realize you may have outdone yourself, and only WISH this was an original recipe of your own because it is so DIVINELY YUMMY!!!

The background is this, L and I went to Las Vegas last summer.  We knew food was going to be delicious but expensive on the strip, but we really wanted to experience that level of dining.  So we budgeted to do one really good meal a day.  Upon arriving we found out that many "celebrity" restaurants have great lunch menus.  We had especially looked forward to eating at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill.  I ordered the Grilled Swordfish Club, which was absolutely delicious, L ordered the New Mexican Spiced Pork Tenderloin Sandwich.  She loved it so much that she has literally been bringing it up for the last year (though she denies this accusation).  So last night while I was shopping I picked up pork sirloin steaks and arugula (L wanted an exact replica, hence the arugula), I was finally going to make the sandwich of L's dreams.

To replicate this I used:
2 pork sirloin steaks
Joanne's New New Mexican Spice Rub
Spicy Yogurt Sauce
Grilled Red Onions

Using this recipe from Bobby Flay I made the spice rub for the pork.  I didn't have, nor did I want to have 3 types of chili powder, so I subbed a bit. The following is what I used.

Joanne's  New New Mexican Spice Rub
2 Tbs Chile powder
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs paprika
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp allspice

Season the pork with salt and dredge it in the spice rub.  Don't sprinkle this on, or rub it in, coat it like you are breading chicken.  Sear the pork on a hot grill or in a pan. (Short plug for my Cuisinart Griddler, buy one yesterday, I love mine that much!)  Then finish cooking in oven or on low heat.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing, patience is hard when that delicious-ness is staring at you but be strong!  While you are waiting, go ahead and grill the red onions for a bit til they are just caramelizing.

Mesa Grill serves their sandwich with an ancho chile mayonnaise, all the recipes in this vein called for dried chilies, which I didn't want to purchase, and making your own mayonnaise, which I am not ready to try.  So I read a few recipes and decided to wing it with my own creation derived from my Google searches.

Spicy Yogurt Sauce
3 oz Greek yogurt
1/2 Lime
A few squirts of Sriracha

Combine the yogurt, lime juice, and Sriracha to taste.

Gather everything together, because you are ready to assemble!

First, slice that well rested pork thinly, against the grain.  And go ahead and try a bite, especially the end pieces, that play of sweet then spicy is absolutely perfect!

Next, toast your buns, both sides, of both sides, does that make sense?  This another place I used my Griddler, compacted the bread enough, made a crispy outer and soft center.

Now assemble as follows:
And now enjoy the wonderful bliss of sweet, spicy, peppery, crunchy, tender goodness!

Special Thanks to L
for making this come to fruition in my kitchen!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Vietnamese Summer Rolls (aka Alien Babies)

I made these today after church and shared them with my roommate, who promptly poked and prodded them, dubbing them "alien babies".  If you have ever had summer rolls before you know they have an almost sticky opaque wrapper, which inspired the name.  The rice papers were one of those things I just wanted to try out, then Bon Appetit featured a Vietnamese Summer Roll recipe that looked simple, so I went out and bought the rice papers.  Naturally I changed up the ingredients for the summer rolls according to what I had on hand, and would use as leftovers.  I knew I wouldn't be in the mood to julienne any vegetables, so I purchased prepared broccoli slaw mix.  I didn't have any sprouts (which I love) or basil or mint, so they just got left out.
I used:
1/3 package of rice noodles - Pour hot water covering noodles, sit for 10 minutes, cool in ice water, drain
Bag of broccoli slaw - Empty into bowl
Bunch of cilantro - I tore the leaves from a whole bunch and mixed it into the slaw
20 large shrimp (precooked, thawed) - take off tails, slice in half
Some lettuce - I got to use some fresh lettuce from the ward garden, rinsed well of course
8 Rice papers - Dampen them as you go.

I put about 5 shrimp on the rice papers, then some of the cilantro/slaw, then a bit of noodles, and a couple pieces of lettuce.  Then wrapped them up.
Disclaimer: I really should have watched a video about how to wrap these, you are welcome to try it as I did, but the following videos should help you get an idea of how to start the wrapping.

 I think I will do a better wrapping next time, for sure!

But I made them, and served them with a little soy sauce mixed with Asian chili sauce.

Now I am trying to figure out what else I can put in these gummy little wrappers next!
Tho'm Ngon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Saving at the Grocery Store (I Hope This is Clear)

A friend posted on her blog recently, her struggle to make good home cooked meals while balancing the budget she and her husband have established.  As I perceived it, her main problems are going back to the store, cooking for two, and saving at the store.  I have really thrown myself into the couponing deal-searching world in the last year or so, I watched my mom coupon as I grew up.  I have found it to be a great hobby, one I can justify spending time on and really do enjoy.  My friends make fun of me for my three ring coupon binder and my knack for the phrase, "It's cheaper at ______ this week."  But I have figured a few ways to pare down the food bill, even without the coupon binder and ad studying.  I wanted to share a few tips with my friend, and anyone else that struggles with these problems.

Going Back to the Store
Set a Menu, Be Flexible Within a Menu, Have Staples on Hand

    I love to grocery shop, it is cathartic and relaxing for me, which is why I try to avoid them except for when I am on my designated trips. I try to grocery shop every two weeks.   A previous post showed my menu board, I love this for planning my menu.  I find I cannot plan two weeks of meals and stick to it.  I plan my first week before shopping (but after looking at what's on sale in the ads), new recipes or specialty ingredients get planned on this week, then the week after shopping is my leftover week.  I don't eat leftovers all week, I just use whatever is left in my fridge for dinners.  Sites like Epicurious and Betty Crocker are great for plugging in what you have, and coming up with new meals.  I also know that I always have pasta, tortillas, canned tomatoes, and chicken in the house to replace any meals I just don't feel like making that specific night.  Be flexible with yourself, don't turn dinner time into a battle of your will against your menu.  When I follow my menu I always know that a) I am going to use up anything perishable in my fridge and b) I can do new stuff in just another week.

Cooking for One (or Two)
Pre-package Your Bulk, Utilize The Freezer, Know Shelf Life
     This is really hard to do!  I have been cooking on my own for years and I still over portion my food on occasion.  I have found two problems to deal with when you break it down, portion and price.  The answer is bulk and freezing.  I know buying in bulk seems counter intuitive, but buying chicken at $2/lb a couple times a month is much more expensive than buying it at $1.59/lb once every couple of months.  I learned to add a step to my shopping trips from my aunt, single for 30 plus years, packaged everything after the grocery trip.  I package my chicken/steak/ground meat into proper proportions by serving size (this helps if you are watching your weight too).  This helps me track how much is left (when I need to restock), only use what I need (no chicken salad for two days to use up leftovers), and easier meal prep (shorter defrosting and cook times).
     My mom got a freezer for me at Christmas last year.  I have filled it with lots of different things.  Rice, for example freezes well after cooking, when reheated in the microwave it re-steams itself.  I also freeze spaghetti sauce, leftover canned black beans, and coconut milk. This is a good guide to what freezes well, and not.  Sometimes it is trial and error with recipes, but the things that work out are worth it.  I made individual fruit cobblers the other day and froze them individually.  Now I can finish dinner, pop one into a mug, pop it into the microwave, and pop it into my mouth.
     Produce can often present a problem as the fresh foods go bad on your counter or even in your fridge.  Recently I bought some green zip top produce bags, 8 bags for $1 at the The Dollar Tree.  I have kept my veggies in them the past month.  They are great!  I don't understand the science, but I can leave lettuce in them for three weeks and it is still fresh and crisp, snow peas stay crisp, and strawberries don't mold after a couple days.
      Lastly, know how long things are really good for, meaning don't be fooled by "expiration" dates.  I know some will disagree with me, but I stand by this concept.  This is a guide for storing food, but I disagree with even some of these.  Eggs are fine for up to 2 months (chicken scientist told me this, I am not kidding), asparagus keeps longer if you set it in a glass with a half inch of water in the bottom, and hard cheeses can be kept for a very very very long time, just cut off the mold.

Buy What You Use, Know Price and Ads, and Use Coupons

     Saving money at the register is a balance of buying what you use, knowing prices, and getting money off.  Obviously buying peanut butter is not a good use of money if you never eat it.  And $1 off at one store may be $2 more expensive than another.  And $1 off 4 of something is only good if you really will use 4 before they expire.  The menu and freezing will help you know what you will use.
     Knowing prices takes time.  The best way to do this is to look at your weekly ads.  Most grocery ads are online now, and you can even make a shopping list from it and print or email.  When you are new to learning prices there are various places to go to find out what actually is a good price.  I have found an EXCELLENT source for pricing in GrocerySmarts.  This site allows you to select a store and look at the rating of the current prices in the ads.  The red stars mean a great price, keep in mind there could be a greater price in another local ad, so look at them all.  You don't need to run around to 15 stores to get the deal, Walmart price matches any grocer's ad.
     GrocerySmarts also shows what coupons can be used with these deals, to sweeten the pot.  The most thought of place to find coupons is in your Sunday newspaper., which can be purchased all week long at most Walmarts, or many newspapers offer weekend subscriptions.  While this is the most thought of, the web has become an easy way for manufacturers to get there products to people, including coupons.  My favorite coupon site is,  This site has lots of coupons to print right off the Internet.  My favorite deal blogger Hip2Save has a coupon page where she links to lots of printable coupons from all over the web.  She also has links to the coupons, WITH a zip code, since different coupons are released to different regions, but still work everywhere.  I love Collin with Hip2Save, she has some really useful videos about how to use coupons if you are going to really get into the scene.  RedPlum, SmartSource, and All You magazine offer printable online coupons too.  Here in Utah a great money saver is the Smiths digital coupon feature.  You can load digital coupons directly onto your card, and print out a list of what's on there.  Finally, look at your coupons to see how many you have to buy, if you won't use two boxes of something, just get the one and leave the coupon on the shelf for the next person that does want two.  But, just because you have never bought it, doesn't mean you won't.  Kraft usually is higher price than store brand, but with a sale and a coupon, the Kraft could win out.  And never feel bad throwing away a coupon, it is better than throwing away money.

     I know this was a long post, but hopefully something in there was helpful.  I have really enjoyed the process of saving money with the help of all these tools.  Please feel free to ask questions or add to my notes if you so desire!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cheesy Braidy Bread

Just up the street from me is a pizza place that sells pizza dough, a large for 99 cents.
This night I was making pasta and wanted some yummy bread, so I stopped by PizzaPlus.
Rolled it out flat, cut some strands to braid on the outside thirds of the bread.
Then in the middle was Parmesan, butter, herbs, and garlic.
Bake until beautiful and golden.

Cheesy and Braidy and Yummy!