Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Here is the tip for today: be flexible. If you noticed, there are some dishes that made a return on this week's menu from last week. I should put a disclaimer on my menu. The thing is that out of last week's menu I had only ONE dish that was scheduled. We had Sunday's chili last night because on Saturday, I was able to grab two turkeys on sale for 50 cents a pound.

I cooked one up for dinner on Sunday and put the other in the freezer. From that turkey (15 pounds) I was able a meal of roast turkey. Monday lunch was turkey salad sandwiches. There is still enough meat that I can make a pot pie or two and turkey and noodles. Because of my find I needed to re-arrange things. Things were also re-arranged because my children were out of school Wednesday due to snow. Then they were out Thursday and Friday due to the extreme cold. Our high was -13 on Thursday. Let's not get started on that nasty windchill. I had to be flexible with what I had on hand which was dwindling fast since the children were all home.

Another way to be flexible is when you run out of something only you didn't know you ran out of it until you start making a recipe and then remember you ran out of it. Hubby had a sweet tooth last night so I made an apple pie. I then made a pumpkin pie with the extra crust dough I had left. The only catch is I didn't have any evaporated milk. That was poor planning on my part. So it is getting late with the filling all mixed together except the milk. I turn to my trusty friend Google and look up substitutions for evaporated milk. I could make my own. Nah, not enough time. It was getting late. I could reconstitute dry milk. That didn't appeal to me. I could use buttermilk. I didn't have that either.

Wait! Buttermilk ... I used yogurt once with some added water to substitute for buttermilk once. Or was that the other way around? So the gears start turning in my head. A few might need a bit of oiling, but they are going. I do have some vanilla non-fat yogurt which would add a nice taste over the plain (also had that). Cool, I even got an added bonus of less fat. So I used 8 ounces of the vanilla yogurt plus 4 ounces of water to substitute for the 12 ounces of evaporated milk. The pie turned out so purty and yummy. There are times recipes have to be changed due to allergies, tastes or lack of available ingredients. You have to be flexible and having Google or other search engine is rather helpful. A bit of blind faith that it will turn out is nice.

You have to be flexible sometimes in menus as well. There are those days where everything seems to go wrong. There is no way that you can prepare that certain dish. Or perhaps like in my case this past week, you find an unexpected deal on a meat other than what is planned. Swap, substitute and switch if you need too. There might not be meatloaf because child A had practice after school that wasn't scheduled, child B came home sick with the flu and child C invited a friend over. Neighbor 1 has an emergency and needs someone to watch her two children. All of the sudden Sloppy Joes, Soft Tacos or Hamburgers seem a lot easier not to mention quicker.

(Now here is the disclaimer ...) My menus seldom stay as written. I have done well when I fix 50% of what was listed on the day it was listed. It is merely a guideline so I don't go shopping blind. That always costs me more money. I like to make meals that use basic, easy-to-find ingredients and can be changed up if needs be. It helps with the sanity which I find at times in shorter supply than time or money.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekly Menu: January 19

Monday: Chile con Carne, Cornbread Muffins, Fresh Fruit (Pineapple & Grapes)

Tuesday: Grilled Chicken-Spinach Alfredo, Green Salad, Breadsticks

Wednesday: Shrimp Stir-Fry over Rice, Egg Drop Soup, Orange & Pineapple Slices

Thursday: Turkey Pot Pie, Green Salad

Friday: French Onion Soup, Grilled Chicken Salad, Breadsticks

Saturday: Sausage Gravy over Toast, Peas, Peaches

Sunday: Turkey and Noodles, Green Salad, Steamed Broccoli

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday's Tip: Substituting for Butter

I won't argue that cooking with butter makes food taste real yummy. The biggest problem though is not my waistline (although I am trying to fix that) but my youngest's allergies. He cannot have anything with dairy among other things. That leaves out butter or anything similar.

We do use a dairy-free margaine like spread that he can have. There are foods out there but many times what doesn't have dairy products was made in close proximity of milk products or on the same equipment. That is a no-no too. Seeing as I do not like having a little boy with a upset tummy, congestion & blow-outs, I avoid the causes.

One thing that it makes difficult is having bread in the house, homemade or store-bought. He can't have eggs either, by-the-way. The other day I made some mashed potatoes from scratch. Instead of throwing out the potato water, I use it to make potato bread. It is already warm so works well with the yeast as does the sugars and starches in it. My potato bread recipe calls for milk and butter/margarine. Since both are no-nos, I substitute. I just use the potato water for the milk and oil for the butter. I use oil to replace butter in my bread recipes, preferring canola as it is a healthy oil.

Using those substitutions brings down the cost of making the bread and all in my family can enjoy it. (Which we did!) Here is my recipe that I use. It can be made in a breadmaker that can handle a two pound loaf. I have made that way and by hand with both working just fine.

Potato Bread

1-1/2 cups warm potato water
2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour (use bread flour or add gluten to all-purpose)
1/3 cup potato flakes
2 tablespoons sugar
2-2/3 teaspoons yeast

If using a bread machine, add all ingredients in given order. Select white or normal cycle with light crust (if option is available).

If making by hand, disslove yeast in warm potato water. Add sugar, salt, potato flakes and oil. Mix well. Add flour gradually until all has been added. Knead dough and let rise in warm place. When doubled, knead dough again and place in lightly greased loaf pan(s). Let the dough rise again until about doubled. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or lightly browned.

By hand, this will make one large loaf (10-inch or larger loaf pan) or two medium (9-inch or smaller) loaves. In the bread machine, this makes a two-pound loaf.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekly Menu: January 12

Monday: Faitas with Homemade Tortillas, Refried Beans, Apple Slices

Tuesday: Grilled Chicken Breasts, Seasoned Rice, Steamed Vegetables, Green Salad

Wednesday: Seafood Stir-Fry over Rice, Egg Drop Soup, Melon & Pineapple Slices

Thursday: Grilled Chicken-Spinach Alfredo, Green Salad, Garlic Bread

Friday: Steamed Fish with Vegetables, Seasoned Rice, Peaches

Saturday: Breakfast - Muffins, Scrambled Eggs with Ham, "Fried" Potatoes, Orange Juice

Sunday: Chili, Cornbread, Fresh Fruit

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Roasted Garlic Potatoes

I made this dish earlier this week for my family. I had a meeting so left it in the oven on warm. All during my meeting, I was afraid my family wouldn't leave me any. I had never made it before so wanted to see how it turned out (especially before posting it on a blog). I got home ready to eat. I couldn't find the potatoes anywhere and was a bit miffed. I was tired and hadn't eaten in awhile. That isn't a good combination.

I checked the dishwasher and drainer for the container I cooked it in and couldn't find it. I then asked my oldest where the potatoes were. Her response? "What potatoes?" I head straight for the oven. Sure enough, there are my potatoes. Luckily, I grabbed some to go with my dinner before my potato-obsessive daughter heard I had found them. They turned out yummy! I did tweak the recipe I originally used to accommodate what I had on hand with personal tastes both before and after the taste test.

The Recipe:

3 pounds boiling potatoes, chunked
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 (scant) teaspoon black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1-1/2 teaspoons dried parsley, crushed

In a large roasting pan, toss together all ingredients. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven, tossing occasionally. Cook one hour or until they are tender and golden.

Tuesday's Tip

The tip for today is healthy eating. I find eating healthy and proper portions is a money saver. It is good for you too. A rule I try to follow for meals is to think of the plate of food as a whole. One-fourth of it should be your meats or proteins. Another one-fourth should be your starches (i.e. breads, grains, potatoes). The remaining half should be vegetables. This allows for the servings from each of the food groups to be met. You can find out about those here.

Another thing with portions is the size not just ratio. You might follow the ratio but that 8 ounce-serving of steak is not the proper portion size. 3 ounces or about the size of a deck of cards is the proper portion size for meats or meat substitutes. Other proper portion sizes for food:

How does this help save money? Simple. You eat more of the foods that have fiber like your vegetables and fruits. Fiber helps you in many ways. One is making you feel full longer since it is not digested as quickly. Selecting whole grains for the starch portion (1/4) is a good source of fiber too. When you do not over-eat, you are not only healthier for it, but you do not consume as much. That means you do not need to buy as much. Buying healthier foods and cutting back or eliminating empty calorie, non-nutritional foods will help the budget.

I like sweets once-in-awhile, but they are not a main staple in my home. That includes chips, soda, sugary snacks and the like. I do not need the temptation, and my children do not need them for their growing bodies (up not out).

Monday, January 5, 2009

Weekly Menu: 5 January 2008

Monday: Potato Pancakes, Sausage Patties, Applesauce

Tuesday: Roast Chicken, Garlic Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli, Fruit Gelatin Salad

Wednesday: Broccoli Beef over Rice, Egg Drop Soup, Cantaloupe Slices

Thursday: Chicken Salad Pitas with Lettuce & Tomato, Apple Slices, Carrot Sticks

Friday: Turkey & Gravy over Toast, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans

Saturday: Breakfast - Ham & Cheese Omelettes, Hashbrowns, Fresh Fruit, Orange Juice

Sunday: Chicken Taco Soup, Tortillas

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I made this recipe this week. It was a HUGE hit. Even my picky that dislikes casseroles gave it a thumbs up when he had his polite bite. It tastes good as leftovers. I more than doubled the recipe. It is all gone 3 days later. See after the recipe for the changes I made to recipe to suit my and my family's tastes. Here is the recipe in the original form as I got it from a chat board.

Serves 6

3-4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (about 4 breasts)
4 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided (Mexican works well)
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 can Rotel tomatoes, drained (add more or less according to preferences)
1 pack of taco shells, crushed

Mix all ingredients (using only half of the cheese) in a large bowl making sure taco shells are wet. Place in a greased 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. Top with other half of cheese. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until bubbly and cheese starts to golden.

*Note from Ranae - I have used diced chicken breasts, leftover cooked chicken as well as shredded chicken for this recipe. I prefer the diced chicken breasts. I also use a tomato and green chile mix for added kick but not using the full half can called for if doing it that way. Also I have used tortilla chips. About half a bag equals a pack of taco shells.

I serve the casserole on a bed of shredded lettuce and topped with sour cream and sliced black olives. Salsa is a good topper as well if that is your preference like it is my hubby's.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I found this recipe on the 30 Day Gourmet site. On the site, they have adjusted the amount of ingredients for larger or multiple batches if making all at once. You can check out the Loaded Baked Potato Soup recipe here. I have both made the recipe to serve immediately and to freeze for a later meal. It is a good way to use up any leftover baked potatoes from a previous meal. It also can be adjusted to make a lighter version by using lighter or fat-free, low sodium, etc. versions of the ingredients.

Serves 8

4 large baking potatoes
10 tablespoons butter or margarine
2/3 cup flour
6 cups milk
1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1-1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon balck pepper
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces sour cream

2-3 green onion sliced
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3-4 slices cooked bacon, cooked and crumbled

Scrub potatoes and wrap each one in aluminum foil. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 60-90 minutes, or until they’re soft when you squeeze them. Remove the potatoes from the oven, unwrap and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the pulp into a large bowl. Set aside. Save the leftover skins to make potato skins, or discard.

Melt butter or margarine in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring until smooth. Cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. Turn heat up to medium and continue stirring while slowly adding the milk. Continue to stir until mixture is thick and bubbly. Add the cheddar cheese, salt, pepper, and bacon. Mash the potato pulp with a hand-held potato masher, a fork, or a mixer, to get rid of the large chunks. Add the potato pulp to the pan, stirring to mix. When it is heated through, add the sour cream and stir to mix well. Do not boil the soup. Set aside to cool.

Freeze in freezer bags or rigid containers based on your family size. Seal, label and freeze.

Thaw at least overnight in the refrigerator. Put the soup in a saucepan or microwave-safe container to heat. The soup will have the consistency of soft mashed potatoes. If needed, stir in some milk to make it more “soup-like”. But the soup should be thick, not runny. Once it’s heated through, spoon into serving bowls. Top each bowl with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar, sliced green onions and crumbled bacon as garnish.