Monday, September 25, 2017

Shelftember 3 and Menu Plan Monkeyshines

This week, not only was I trying to use food from storage, but I was also trying to follow a meal plan. I did follow the bulk of it, with a few changes because of the direction life took during the week, but remained true to the essence of the plan. As for how I did with it? Not well at all. I found me resenting myself for coming up with menu options I truly did not want. I am not sure if the meals didn't sound good, or if I was just being pissy at the thoughts of having something I was bound to follow. I felt like I was relinquishing all creative control, which would be an oxymoronic statement since I created the plan to begin with. I am not trying to figure this out, just letting you know how I felt. And because as any good scientist knows one try is not an accurate trial, so I am going to do this one more week and see if the results are different.  Who knows? Maybe week 2 will find me compliant to my original wishes. Or maybe it will find I need self inflected pain. Or maybe (probably) it will find I am just seriously bad at following a plan and need to go back to  impromptu cooking.

The plan:
1. Spaghetti with bolognese sauce, side salad
2. Chicken sausage with cabbage, steamed carrots
3.Ham and cheese puff, apple and fennel salad, broccoli
4. Meatloaf, roasted cauliflower, tomato slices, jasmine rice
5. Taco salad with all the fixings (tomato, peppers, onions, pinto beans, salsa, on mixed greens)
6. Grilled white bbq chicken, green beans, tomatoes and cukes, rice maybe (who knows yet)
7. Okra perloo

What really happened and how it came about:

Monday: Okra Perloo. This was on last week's Shelftember post so there is no point in repeating anything

Tuesday: Tuesday TheHub skipped the dinner meeting, worked late taking an online P.D. course and came home after 8 totally fried. Originally he was going to eat out, so I had put together a quick ham puff  in the early morning. It was supposed to hang out in the fridge overnight, but I figured hanging out part of the day was enough hang time . I am very thankful I made enough for two meals. (Preplanned leftover lunch) We ate the entire pan along with cucumber slices. Since I was supposed to be eating alone I had already booted the apple fennel salad idea and did not go buy the bulb. It was fine, but the fennel apple salad would have been fantastic with it.
Used: Ham from the freezer*, Monterey Jack cheese from the freezer, onion,2 slices of bread, 2 eggs, milk,  and cucumber

Wednesday: TheHub had another dinner meeting so I indulged in really bad tv until about 7:30 and then decided to make something for dinner. If I were not trying to keep to my menu plan I would have popped some popcorn and called it a night, but I did have the thawed ground turkey in the fridge and knew I was going to have to use it for something, so I whipped up a small meatloaf, roasted the cauliflower while the meatloaf cooked and called it a meal. It was fine, but not what I wanted. As a bonus I made a chocolate cobbler again, to try and get the measurements correct for a small pan of it. Woo hoo I think I hit it exactly. TheHub was very glad he passed on dessert at the dinner !
Used: 1/2  pound ground turkey from the freezer, 1/4 onion, 1/2 zucchini, egg, breadcrumbs, tail end of a bottle of Thai sweet chili sauce, 1/2 head cauliflower, flour, sugar, butter, cocoa powder, milk

Thursday: Another very late night meal here. TheHub was supposed to have a dinner meeting and I was supposed to have book club. Both were cancelled at the last minute, so he stayed at the office late trying to get caught up on actual work, since the entire week had been taken up by meetings.  I thought I would just run to the Greek Food Festival and pick up a take out meal but their take out service ended at 7 which was past the time I checked to see their menu options were. Since it would be a little after nine when TheHub finally got home I had to punt. I had already thawed the chicken sausages for Friday or Saturday night anyway so I shifted them to the Thursday meal.  We ate chicken sausages (they had a pronounced cinnamon taste and I will not buy them again__ever!  Of course the package said they where chicken apple sausages but it did not dawn on me they would be spiced like an apple pie) steamed cabbage, a couple of new potatoes and icy cold beer.
Used: 1 regrettable pack of chicken sausages, 1/2 head cabbage, 4 new potatoes, 2 beers.

Friday: We were supposed to head to the lake Friday night with Greek Food Festival in tow. I got to the location a little before 4 and sat in line, and sat in line, and did a little more sitting. In the past years the drive through line has moved like a well oiled machine. This year there was a cog in the wheel somewhere and I sat forever, moving only inches at a time. I would have gotten out of the line entirely but I was blocked in and could only wait. I got home at about 6:15 and TheHub pulled in right after I did. We decided to eat at the house and then head down to the lake, but somewhere between the delicious food, and a glass of wine, we decided  we would not go to the lake until Sunday. After all Saturday was game day and we start watching Gameday at 9 and we would need to leave the house by 7:30 to get down there, make coffee and still have time to watch everything. So we stayed homeand ate greek chicken, pastichio, spanakopitas, tiropitas,koulourkia, and wine__did I mention wine?DELICIOUS!!!
Used: Nothing but money and a bottle of wine

Saturday:  We were watching 3 ballgames Saturday night, flipping frantically between all three of them. Fortunately they all had halftime at approximately the same time.  I had made and frozen bolognese sauce earlier in the week, so all I had to do was cook some pasta, warm the thawed
sauce, and throw together a tossed salad. Quick and easy! Add lunch lady peanut butter bars for the win and the meal was complete
Used: Canned tomatoes, 1 onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 lb ground chuck, 1/2 lb  ground pork, spices and herbs, red wine, spaghetti noodles, lettuce, cukes, tomatoes, peppers peanut butter, flour, sugar, egg, butter, confectioners sugar, and milk

Sunday: Taco salad,
Used: 1/2 lb. ground chuck, assorted spices, 1/4 onion, 1 tomato, 2 ounces cheese, 1 can pinto beans, lettuce, salsa, peppers, tortilla chips, 2 beers

The New Plan:
1. Chicken koobideh, jasmine rice, salad, grilled tomato, taboon bread (I will buy this)
2.  Bbq chicken, mashed potatoes, coleslaw
3. Tater tot casserole (yes it sounds awful) green beans, tomato, cucumber, onion marinated salad
4, Peas, okra, cornbread, sliced tomatoes
5. Bottega's for dinner
6. Chicken scallopini, salad, grilled asparagus
7. Leftovers
8. Black and blue salad, dinner rolls

We have one planned dinner out and one night of leftovers, because I know I will be the only one here Saturday night and I am not cooking just for me. I will watch the ball game with a plate of whatever is in the fridge. And this week again I have planned one meal too many to give me a little wiggle room with what I cook.

* I had 2 hunks of ham in the same freezer bag. I pulled out one to defrost but it was more than I needed for dinner. I minced what was left, threw in a half of a pack of cream cheese, scallions, tabasco and a few spices, stirred until it was nice and creamy and stuck it in an airtight container. Friday l formed it into a ball and rolled it in chopped pecans for a Saturday ball game treat. Note to self: from now on chop leftover ham and freeze in one or two cup portions instead of freezing large pieces.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Clean-Up on Aisle 3

Sorry__Itchy finger hit publish and it is just not time to publish this yet

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mini Chocolate Cobbler

I read the blog Two Men and a Little Farm every time they publish. Many of their posts have wonderful ideas I "borrow" and tweak as a lake place possibility. I truly appreciate all the inspirations I get from the blog, but a few days ago First Man posted what may have been their best post ever__their recipe for chocolate cobbler.  My mouth thanks you so much for posting this, the rest of me, well. . .

I did change the recipe a bit, mainly because it is too dangerous for me to have that much deliciousness in my house at one time. Of course I had to make it twice to get the new proportions correct. (Don't you feel sorry for me having to eat this 2 different nights?) This size is better for me because chocolate leftovers are not my friends, so I almost always reduce the yield in any baked goods. (Except fruit desserts since I am not a huge fan of cooked fruits.)

Smaller Size Chocolate Cobbler

1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons self rising flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons  toasted pecan pieces (delicious experiment with cobbler #2)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a 1 quart oven proof pan melt the butter. Mix 1/4 plus 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons self rising flour, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and 3 tablespoons of milk  in a bowl. Pour over the melted butter, but DO NOT STIR. Sprinkle the pecan pieces over the batter. DO NOT STIR. Mix the additional sugar and cocoa powder together and sprinkle evenly over the batter. DO NOT STIR. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over the sugar cocoa mix and DO NOT STIR. Bake approximately 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes.

This is what is looks like straight from the oven. The pecans rise to the top of the cobbler, which has a buttery crust with a soft yet dense cake.

When you spoon into it to serve it, you find the cake layer sits on top of this delicious thick chocolate sauce. If Heaven were a food I think this would be what heaven looks like!

I strongly suggest serving it with the cake part down so that all that warm fudgy goodness will be on the top, oozing into the buttery cake. TheHub had his with vanilla ice cream on top, but was so unsure of whether we liked it or not that he had to have another bowlful just to be certain. At least that is his story and he is pretty much sticking to it. I had it plain (misnomer: there is nothing plain about this) and loved it.

This is a picture of my bowl of chocolate cobbler. If I am being perfectly honest I had licked some of the chocolate sauce off of the spoon before I thought to take a picture. Yeah, I couldn't wait even 5 more seconds.

So, there is nothing left to do but curse thank them for sharing this extremely easy to make and even easier to eat dessert that is unfortunately now in our food rotation. Diets be damned!

This smaller version makes 4 smallish servings, 3 regular sized ones, or 2 gigantic servings!
Don't blame me, I am just the messanger!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Okra Perloo

TheHub had a work related dinner meeting, I had begun a menu challenge and nothing sounded good or bad, so I opted for what was easiest. I always have cooked bacon in the freezer and I always have a jar of bacon fat in the freezer as well. The rest of this meal just required a tad of chopping and minimal cook time, so it won!

Okra Perloo*

2 slices bacon, cooked, save the drippings
1/2 onion diced
1/2 bell pepper diced
1 jalapeno, seeded, ribbed and minced
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 cup sliced okra (supposedly you can use fresh or frozen, but I used fresh)
1/2 cup rice
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook the bacon, remove from the pan and reserve 1 tablespoon drippings
In a saute pan or sauce pot att eh drippings and bring them to a medium high heat. Throw in the onions and peppers and cook for about 2 minutes. Put the okra in the pan and leave without stirring until the "slapping sound" stops. Then give everything a good stir, add the rice and chicken broth. (I added an additional 1/2 cup of water because it looked like it needed it. Bring the rice mixture to a boil, slap a lid on the pot, reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 more minutes until the rice is cooked thoroughly. Put into bowls and crumble the bacon on top of each.  This makes 2 dinner servings or 4 side dish servings.
The bacon flavor permeates the rice and any slime factor that okra is famous for is absorbed by the rice. When I make this again I will increase the jalapenos because I like heat in my food and this has just a hint of "hot" This is a perfect one bowl meal for those nights when you are tired of the usual and want something a little different.

* Perloo must be a 50 cent word for Pilaf because it really is a bacon flavored pilaf with okra.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Shelftember Week 2

This began week 2 of Shelftember where I am concentrating on using up a good bit of food storage from the freezer and pantry and only buying produce, milk and bread. I did add a codicil to my plan that if I found something at stock up prices I was going to go ahead and buy it, but would not use it at all during this challenge. I am very glad I did because ThePig has had a great buy on ground chuck and I have purchased about 15 pounds of it, processed it and it now lives in nice flat freezer bags for future use.*

Tuesday: In anticipation of Irma  blowing in and knocking down a few trees which would cause a loss of power, I rearranged the upright freezer so I could transfer everything from the refrigerator freezer in the kitchen to the laundry room. I have a portable generator which supplies enough power to be able to run both, but they are not close enough to each other to actually do it and I will always choose saving the freezer foods. So___Irma came and went with a whimper here, but I was left with a few things I had taken out to thaw as "just in case easy to cook in the dark" meals. Which meant I had to use them. TheHub was not going to be around for dinner so I chose the easiest course of action, and made an Indianish  pork and rice (emphasis on the ish ) This was truly delicious
Used: Sliced roast pork from the freezer, 1/2 onion. can of  diced tomatoes, small handful of baby carrots, 1/2 cauliflower, rice, leftover yogurt, clove garlic, hunk of ginger.

Wednesday: TheHub had to work late again (Same guy in town as the night before but he opted out of the dinner this time. He is in the office by 6:30 nearly every morning and if he has to go to a dinner meeting it means his work day is nearly 14 hours long. Even though he is eating he still has to be in business mode, and 2 14 hour days in a row is more than he likes) He was fried by the time he got home and not terribly hungry and declared he wanted spinach pies from Taboon Noon Since we can do takeout for 10 bucks total and the food is fairly good for us, it was a winner!

Thursday: TheHub was out of the office and came home relatively early for him, but still was not terribly hungry. I had taken a package of sliced turkey from the freezer and made some turkey gravy from one of those cheap packaged gravy mixes. We had open faced turkey sandwiches with gravy on top and a side of sliced tomatoes. Totally uninspired, but fodder nonetheless.
Used: Frozen turkey slices, 4 slices bread, 1 huge tomato, cheap turkey gravy packet

Friday: Friday was my birthday, but we had been to a funeral out of town and both had eaten lunch very late in the afternoon. We had planned a celebration out but were not hungry at a normal dinner time. Instead at about 9:15 we went to Firebirds for a couple of appetizers and drinks then decided we would go to  Highlands, our favorite restaurant in town, in a couple of weeks and celebrate both of our birthdays. We only go there a couple of times a year because you pay dearly for the impeccable service and extraordinary food but it is purposely in our T and E budget every year. Since we do not buy each other birthday gifts this will be our mutual present, and then on TheHubs actual birthday, I will make whatever he wants for dinner along with a speciality cocktail or two.

Saturday: TheHub and Son2 went to the Alabama/Colorado State game so I was alone for dinner. I had some assorted leftovers and ate what could be zapped for a minute. I could be uppity and call it a tapas meal but I am not sure a tablespoon of green beans, a couple of tablespoons of rice, and a half of a cucumber plus about 1/4 cup of leftover Indian counts as tapas. Not great but it used what I had on hand, was quick and I had only one plate and fork to clean up.
Used: Several small containers of leftover assorted items.

Sunday: TheHub decided we were having a birthday meal, so I pulled 6 hamburger patties from the freezer. We had planned on cooking out but the rain had other plans for us. Instead of a burger I cooked them on the stovetop, added a little gravy then served broccoli, saffron rice and rolls. TheHub bought a cake. Whoopee!!!
Used: 6 frozen hamburger patties, frozen container of gravy, 1 pack frozen broccoli, 1 pack yellow rice with additional saffron, frozen rolls

Monday: I had some okra that had to be cooked, I was going to be the only one here  for dinner and nothing sounded good or bad. I had recently read an article about meals in the slave quarters of the American South in the early 1800's. One of the items mentioned was something called okra perloo which I had not only never eaten but had never heard of before, so I did a quick Google search and low and behold I found it several places. It is more like a rice pilaf with okra in it, but it was tasty, quick and easy to eat while I was reading.
Used: Rice, 2 slices bacon*8, bacon fat, okra, onion, frozen diced bell pepper, frozen jalapeno

*Using a vacuum sealer extends the freezer life of meat products greatly. This ground chuck will last many months.
** I cook several pounds of bacon at one time, drain them well, put them on a cookie sheet to freeze, then pack in containers. That way I can easily pull out a slice of 2 as needed. After cooking the bacon I strain the leftover bacon grease and keep it in a pint jar in the freezer. I don't use it often for cooking but when I do the flavor it adds is remarkable.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bound and Gagged By a Plan

I read many different blogs with many points of view about life and pick up hints for daily living, alternative thinking and a load of glimpses about how different people organize their lives. I fail miserably at organization and tend to live more of a pass then punt life. I am terribly fickle and live my days whichever way the wind is blowing. It does cut out on the stress levels if you have only a vague idea of what you want to accomplish each day rather than a plan because often things do go awry. But sometimes vagueness tag teams with indecisiveness and things I really wanted to do go undone.

Today I am jumping into the deep end of the pool with something that is as normal as breathing to most of you, but this is something I balk at all the time. I am going to try to have a real life, big girl weekly menu plan and stick to it.

For the month of September I am trying to use items from my food storage (freezer and pantry) buying only fresh produce, milk and bread as necessary. (And yes. I am perfectly capable of making my own bread but it is just not going to happen) I rustled through the freezer this morning and pulled out several days worth of meal possibilities, thought about what I could make with them and am committing (fingers crossed) to a plan. (I am already feeling a little figurative claustrophobia at the thoughts of being bound to a menu.)

I am not assigning days to this plan, but am labeling it 1-7 leaving one night this week open for The Greek Food Festival, an annual event that we will NOT miss! By planning 7 meals it gives me the option to change my mind one time, and my mind always needs alternate plans!

1. Spaghetti with bolognese sauce, side salad
2. Chicken sausage with cabbage, steamed carrots
3.Ham and cheese puff, apple and fennel salad, broccoli
4. Meatloaf, roasted cauliflower, tomato slices, jasmine rice
5. Taco salad with all the fixings (tomato, peppers, onions, pinto beans, salsa, on mixed greens)
6. Grilled white bbq chicken, green beans, tomatoes and cukes, rice maybe (who knows yet)
7. Okra perloo

Looking at this menu all I will need to buy is a fennel bulb. tomatoes, salad greens, green peppers and a cucumber.

Things to make or bake
Egg muffins (I hate breakfast but hopefully I will eat one of these each morning)
Brownies (because, well__chocolate)
Pudding (I have a ton of milk that needs to be used)
Dinner rolls (Maybe maybe not. Depends on my mood)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Indianish with a Side of Sadness

I had taken out a package of sliced pork roast when I reshuffled the big freezer to make room for the items I keep in the freezer section of the refrigerator, as I was getting ready for some sort of power loss during Hurricane Irma. I am so sad that Cuba took a thrashing, but it did lessen the impact when it hit Florida and by the time it made it to us there was little more than rain and a few gusts. Our lights never even flickered, but by Tuesday I needed to start using the things I had taken out to thaw to make quick meals in the dark.

I was contemplating what to do with the pork slices when Shelby, the dog, appeared. I cut her a couple of small nibbles and without any thought kept cutting until it was all in cubes. So if anyone deserves credit/blame for this meals it's Shelby.

TheHub had a work dinner meeting and I was cooking just for me so I decided I could have whatever suited my fancy. TheHub is not a huge fan of Indian cuisine, which made it the perfect night for me to indulge myself. It would be even more perfect is I actually followed a recipe instead of just using my typical wing and a prayer approach, but typical of me I did not; which is why this is more ish than Indian.

1 tablespoon olive oil*
1 onion sliced
1 small handful baby carrots cut in "coins"
1 can diced tomatoes, drained, reserve liquid
1/2 head cauliflower in florets
1 clove garlic
1 slice fresh garlic
salt to taste (I used none but I am not a huge salt fan)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
couple of shakes of red pepper flakes (my tastes, but adjust downward if you do not like heat)
1 cup (ish) diced cooked pork
yogurt (optional)

In a large pan saute' the onions  and carrots in the olive oil until they begin to wilt. Add the cauliflower, garlic and ginger stirring until everything is wilted and fragrant, but not browned. Stir in the tomatoes and keep stirring until the mixture is almost dry. Sprinkle with the seasonings and stir them through.  Add the reserved tomato liquid and additional water as needed to make a sauce. Plop the pork in the pan and continue stirring. Turn the heat down and let it simmer until everything is nicely hot.  Serve over hot rice,  add a dollop of yogurt sprinkled with a bit more garam masala and enjoy!

Son2 and Girlfriend2 stopped by after a heartbreaking 24 hours. She lost her father unexpectedly late Monday night and they came here to decompress. I was so thankful I had cooked this because it made enough for all three of us, was comforting, and gave us some quality time to have a communal meal and conversation. I am so sad for her, but so thankful she feels comfortable enough to come and share her grief at my home. Hoping and praying that she will be blanketed with peace.

*I used a large copper finish non-stick pan. Using a regular pan might require a little more oil to keep the veggies from sticking