Saturday, October 22, 2016

Festive Friday on Saturday?

I lived through yesterday thinking all day long it was Thursday, so according to my convoluted calendar this post is spot on.  For the rest of you who seem to know what day of the week it is, apologies and congratulations to you for being in the now.
Because Halloween is approaching I am changing the tone of this post just a tad. (Well that, and the fact that I screwed up the lettering on my gift of the week and don't have time to correct it right now. We are having overnight guests tonight and since I thought I had another day to get ready for them, I am scrambling to clean the entire upstairs before they get here)

So this is a quick and easy welcome Fall/Halloween treat. (Plus with a few leaves around it, it will be a nice centerpiece on my kitchen table and hopefully will look like I put some thought into it, rather than throwing the fastest possible thing together.  I guess I also should thank Mom who needed me first ting out of the chute this morning, so I was at CVS butt early and snagged the components of this treat.

1 bag smore's m & m's
1 bag candy corn  m & m's
1 bag candy corn
1 can cocktail peanuts

Mix these suckers together in a large bowl. Put them into a serving container that has a lid. I have a glass pumpkin I picked up for a buck or 2 a long time ago and it actually looks pretty good in it. ( When the kids were young I used to keep bubble gum balls that looked like eyeballs in it but we have grown beyond Eyeballs of Terror) I suggest putting a spoon out beside it just to keep people from putting their hands all over it.  If you have some Halloween muffin liners it would be nice to set them out on the side as well.  This tastes like a Payday candy bar with some melty and crunchy bits added to it.  I am not a big fan of candy corn or Payday's so this is a really good thing for me to have hanging around. It is candy that I can take or leave and when it is possible I prefer to have something I am indifferent to living in a candy jar.

Now go wrestle up some spooks, spirits or bags of candy and get your Halloween on!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Who's Got the Pumpkin?

Today while I was rearranging the pantry I decided to check some of the use by dates.  Now I am not a stickler for tossing things that have passed their dates, but sometimes you just have to draw the line. I found a jar of capers that had gotten shoved to the far corner of the bottom shelf with a best by date of '06 and several jars of chow chow that should have been used by '11. It was quite easy to toss all of those, but some of the other items were harder to call.  For example, I had 4 cans of pumpkin, three of which are still in the current date period, but one was dated 12/15.  I decided to go ahead and open it, smelled it, and declared it fine. Well fine with one small codicil. It had to be cooked for at least 20 minutes at a temp over 300.

The odd thing about all this is I am not a pumpkin fan at all. I bake one pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving for TheHub who eats 2 slices, sticks it in the fridge and 3 days later I throw it out. Every year is the same. Bake, Slice, Chill, Toss. So why did I find 4 cans in my pantry?  I have no idea.  And the even bigger question was what would I make to use this can. I thought about pumpkin soup but I really and truly do not care for it at all, saw a recipe for the Starbucks pumpkin latte (gag) and finally decided to just make muffins.  Edible? Yes! Heavy pumpkin taste? Not at all! Have a recipe handy to use pumpkin? Kinda (My applesauce muffin recipe would work fine)

                                                           Pumpkin Muffins


3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spices (normally apple pie spices) I used cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace, allspice, cloves and black pepper. I have no idea the exact amounts but I used more cinnamon than anything and used the rest in descending amounts in the order I typed them.  If you are in doubt just use some of the pre-blended pumpkin spice.
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar (For the apple sauce muffins I use half brown and half granulated. For these I just used granulated.)
4 eggs
1 can pumpkin (1 1/4 cup applesauce if making the apple sauce muffins)
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water/orange juice/apple juice (Your choice. I used apple juice because I found a bottle in the pantry)

Add ins, optional
chocolate chips
pumpkin flavored baking bits
grated orange peel (would be great if you used orange juice for the liquid)

In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients, including the sugar. Whisk well to combine everything. Add all the wet ingredients and stir until well blended, but do not over mix.

Spoon into well greased muffin tins. Makes 24 regular sized muffins or 48 mini muffins.  I have no idea how many jumbo muffins this will make because: ( a ) I didn't make any ( b )  I don't own any jumbo muffin pans to try it even if I had wanted to.

Bake at 350 for about 18 minutes (less if using mini muffin tins)

I made half of these regular muffin size and added mini chocolate chips to the other half, which I baked in mini muffin tins. I thought the chocolate addition was so-so, but I am not a big chocolate and spice fan.  Son2 had some and loved them. My mother thought they were delicious until I told her they were pumpkin muffins, when she declared she couldn't eat any more than 1 because she hates pumpkin.  Go figure!

I am having many houseguests during the Thanksgiving week and this might be on one day's menu. Next time I think I will use orange juice, toss in some orange zest and add toasted pecans to the batter.

Now go stir up something  delicious or at least stir up some trouble!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Just Because I Can Challenge

Now that the 50 Buck a week challenge is over, I am ready to clear some of the things I have in food storage out.  I need to make room in the freezer for the soon to happen great turkey buys, so for the next few weeks with the exception of milk, salad fixings, fresh fruit and the occasional bread purchase, we will be living on things we purchased and stored a while back.

Though I am not bound to it, I think a budget of 10 bucks a week on average should do fairly well, but understand I am not counting anything I use from the pantry or freezer as a part of the budget amount.

I will post what we ate along with the total $$$ spent each week. My goal is to spend about 40 bucks total between now and the middle of November, and to clear out at least 1 shelf in the freezer. (the big shelf that will hold 3 turkeys!)

I am kind of low on fresh produce and coffee (drats!) but other than that I have a pretty good starting point.

Now I am off to inventory what I have and get as creative as I can so we will not have too many repeating meals.

Fingers crossed that Aldi will have some 99 cent onions this week.  Just looked and I have only 2 left!


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Crock Pot BBQ Ribs

We were at the lake place for another football weekend.  Just exactly how many college games can
we possibly watch on any given Saturday?  With the channel jump function on the TV remote it is possible for us to keep up with 3 games at one time x the games start times (11. 2:30, 6:00, 7:00 and 9:30 Central) OK only the 11 and 2;30 games usually have 3 games we are interested in, and the 6 pm game generally has only 1 game. 2 for the 7:00 game and the west coast game we might or might not be interested in at all.  I still think we watch at least parts of 10 games on Saturdays. (Yeah, OK, I read while everything but the Alabama game is on.  Football is a slow enough sport with so many replays that intermittent watching works fine)

TheHub and Son2 go to each and every home game, so on those days I only have to make whatever I want, which is usually some fruit and popcorn.  For away games we head to the lake place.  It seems like we so nothing there but eat and watch and eat a little more.

I don't mind cooking, in fact I love to cook but we do not keep many food items at the lake. If it is not in a can or something I can store in the refrigerator or freezer I do not keep it there at all. (The lake fridge and freezer are filled with rice, pasta, powdered milk,coffee, flour. corn meal, grits brownie mix__anything that might be enticing to a lake mouse, but is a staple I really like to have on hand. ) Consequently I have to load food in and out every weekend we are there.  It is not a big problem but it does take planning since I do not like bring anymore home than I have to. And at the same time I am planning meals and snacks, I don't want to spend a lot of time there cooking.

I make TheHub and me a small breakfast, because we wake early to sit on the deck  and drink coffee while we watch the sun rise.  Our lunch is just a day of grazing.  I make dip using kefir as the base and we have tons of raw vegetables, and usually some tortilla chips and salsa. Dinner was the meal that kind of pissed me off, because I did not like getting off "The Drug Couch "(so named because no one who has sat on it longer than 30 minutes has not gone to sleep on it) to cook.

Several years ago I bought one of those 3 crockpots in one unit just for Christmas brunch and yes it made my life so much easier that it was worth the price for using only once a year. Then, about a year ago  I had a "Eureka Moment" and realized since all three have separate controls there was no reason not to use a single crockpot regularly, even if it meant having the entire unit on the counter. ( I am a slow learner).  I carted the old single crockpot to the lake, and my life changed immediately for the better.  Now I toss whatever we are going to be eating for dinner in the slow cooker in the morning  and by the evening we have something delicious with little effort on my part.

BBQ Beer Ribs

3 pounds baby back ribs
1 1/2 cup quality bbq sauce (it really does make a difference) bought or homemade
1 cup beer (cheap stuff works fine)
salt and pepper to taste
1 whole onion, sliced
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Cut the slab of ribs into sections that will fit into the crock pot.  Pour the beer and bbq sauce over them.  Add salt and pepper ( I use a teaspoon of each) Put the lid on and turn it on low to cook for about 8 hours. You can also cook it on high for about 4-5 hours if you don't start it early enough in the day.  Mid way through cooking add the sliced onion to the top of the contents. Cook until the ribs are fork tender.  Remove the ribs and pour the cooking liquid in a medium saucepan.  Heat on high heat until the mixture reduces by 1/2.  Pour about 1/2 cup of the liquid in a heat proof bowl (coffee mug) and add the cornstarch stirring to make a paste.  Slowly add it back to the cooking liquid and cook until it thickens a little. (Add more cornstarch if you want it thicker, but remember to put some liquid in a bowl to mix with the cornstarch before pouring it into the braising liquid.  If you just dump the cornstarch straight in you will get lumps you will never be able to get out. (And who wants to eat bbq sauce that has globs that feel like fish eyeballs?)

For us, this, along with tomato slices and cucumber spears is more than plenty to eat, with ribs leftover for the next day.

I forgot to take a picture before we chowed down, so sorry!  This was delicious, quick and like I said, we have enough left over for tonight.  I guess I am not planning on cooking!

Friday, October 14, 2016

MIA Festive Friday

Because a few of the major players in my life feel they can take  huge chunks of my time, Festive Friday is being punted to Monday.

grumble, gripe, complain, bitch, moan___doesn't change the fact that this week has not been my own.

Now I am headed to the lake where the bug man will be meeting me (And Hell no, he could NOT meet me in the later afternoon because his time is much more important than mine, evidently)

The upside:  The lake place is stocked with wine and we have sketchy cell service!  Win/win!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Week 7 50 Buck Budget

I want to buy things I don't even really like or would normally buy just because I feel like I can't.  I also have gotten two "Try The World" boxes since I began this, so I have all my little goodies waiting for me until this challenge is over, but TheHub was having a little sugar craving and did eat one of the almond cookies in the Italy box. So I guess technically it is not ALL waiting.  After  this challenge is over we have food from Sweden, Brazil, Thailand, and Italy to sample. When I opened the box from Italy what did it have in it but a lovely little pack of coffee.  Challenge or no challenge I am drinking all six cups off it. Guilt free!

I have also decided to end this challenge a week early. I have learned quite a bit since I began this and don't think an additional week of doing it is going to add anything of value. Plus, it is TheHubs birthday weekend and we are headed to the lake.  As part of his birthday I want to cook whatever he wants. (I imagine it will be grilling a steak or lamb chops, neither of which would fit into this budget)

I am going to the store today and grab a few things we need desperately for the lake place, along with fresh produce plus some snacks for the game day weekend (Amazingly the kefir dip has been such a hit they are actually asking for it, so no dip purchases).  Son2 is going to the lake with us and would like some almonds and TheHub wants some cashews, but neither care that I will continue to get the Fake Fritos from Aldi to eat with salsa.

When we get back from the lake we are starting a new challenge to eat up a good portion of our food storage.  My freezer overfloweth!

Piggly Wiggly
Bananas  .43 lb.  .99
Cucumbers 2/1.00 1.00
Scallions .50
Lettuce .99
Cauliflower 1.50
Grape tomatoes 1.49
Ground chuck 2.99 lb.  2.99
Pork Butt 1.49 lb. 4.66
Bacon 1.49 12 oz.
Taco shells .99
Coconut milk 1.89

Onions .99
Cheese ravioli 1.49
Potatoes 1.69
Butter 2.29
Tortilla chips 1.19
Onion ring (fake Funyons) 2/1.00 (clearance)
Cheddar cheese 1.89
Salsa 1.49
Chocolate milk 1.59
Cheese crackers 1.49
Fake cheerios 1.19
Bread 1.35
Mushrooms  .69 each 1.38
Red cabbage and apples .50 (clearance)
Carrots .49
Marzipan cake mix 1.59 (clearance)

Red curry paste 2.27
Tomato sauce 1.25

I spent 42.57 for the week.  If I had realized I had that much left I would have bought some ice cream sandwiches for the lake.

The Meals
Wednesday coffee
Thursday Took Mom for an 8 am Dr, appt.  No time for anything, coffee finally at about 11
Friday coffee, was summoned to Mom's to help her get ready for a luncheon
Saturday toast, coffee,  (both of us) fried eggs (TheHub)
Sunday toast, coffee, (both of us) fried eggs (TheHub)
Monday coffee,  cookie (at about 10:45 but is was the first "food" I ate so I guess it counts as breakfast)
Tuesday coffee, cereal

Wednesday bologna sandwich (end of the overpriced bologna)
Thursday Spent the day at Mom's bank, drugstore, house.  Pack of crackers at Mom's
Friday round 2 of Mom's bank and drug store, then helping her clean her luncheon mess, brought a plate of her party food home, stumbled in the entrance when the damn front door jammed (then opened way to quickly), dropped food all over the foyer floor, Shelby the dog had a feast. I ate chocolate chips mixed with a bowl of dry fake cheerios instead. (Should I mention how teed off I was while eating?)
Saturday football game day snack stuff, veggies, dip, nachos (made with cheese sauce purchased a few weeks back and tortilla chips) carnitas
Sunday leftover bbq, baked beans, cucumber tomato and onion salad (leftover from Persian restaurant)
Monday hummus and pita (leftover from Persian restaurant), celery and carrots
Tuesday leftover potato soup

Wednesday cheese ravioli with olive oil and herbs, tossed salad
Thursday TheHub was in Atlanta and got home about 8:30.  We grabbed food from the Persian place, ate at the house and had caramel apple martinis after dinner
Friday TheHub was very late getting in from work to leave for the lake.  We picked up bbq at about 9 pm on the way to the lake.  Oh well!
Saturday spaghetti with meat sauce, salad
Sunday potato soup
Monday red curry chicken, with onions, carrots, cauliflower, sweet red pepper and mushrooms, over rice
Tuesday carnitas tacos, using leftover carnitas, lettuce shreds. tomatoes, onions, and cheese plus the remaining 3ish tablespoons of salsa.

Additional cooking/baking
Flourless peanut butter cookies, loaf pan size marzipan cake, cream puffs

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Food 911

I have an insane amount of milk left along with an abundance of eggs, while I was thinking about how to use them I thumbed through our family holiday cookbook.

I am in the process of creating handwritten cookbooks with family favorites for each of my sons, but the holiday one is just recreating one I started when my older two sons were very young and I was flipping through it making critical decisions about what stays and what can be edited out.  As I was looking through it, I saw the recipe for cream puffs and for old fashioned pastry cream.  Since the recipes use a total of nine eggs and a cup and a half of milk (plus TheHub really loves them) I thought it would be a great idea to make them.

The cream puffs are just your basic choux dough, and you can find a recipe for it just about anywhere, but this is the one I use when I am making something sweet.

Cream Puffs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
5 eggs

Pour 1 cup boiling water in a saucepan, add butter and salt.  Cook on low heat until the butter melts. Add the sugar and flour all at once and beat well over low heat  with a wooden spoon until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Remove the pan from the heat and cool for about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated in the dough before adding the next.  When all of the eggs are mixed  in and the dough is very well mixed, put it in a pastry bag or a plastic bag with one corner cut out of it.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and pipe golf ball size balls of dough, leaving space around each ball.  Pop them into the oven, do not open the door for at least 20 minutes.  At 20 minutes check them. (I generally take them out of the oven at this point and poke a wooden skewer through the top of each one, then put them back in the oven for about 5 more minutes (This allows the inside to dry well) This is a great time to tell you how I screwed this up. I had no parchment paper so I cut a Trader Joe's brown bag to fit the cookie sheets.  It seems that particular paper does not release the cream puffs like parchment does, so the bottom of every single one stuck, leaving me with just the pretty puffy tops. So instead of cream puffs I made cream half puffs. Oh well!

Take them out  of the oven, remove from the baking sheet and cool on racks until they are completely cool.  You have the option of filling them with whipped cream, pudding, cheese cake filling or  whatever else you can imagine.  Personally I only use this very basic pastry cream recipe.

Pastry Cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 egg yolks

Mix the milk and vanilla and set aside. Put the flour, sugar and salt in a medium sauce pan and whisk it well.  Slowly, slowly add the milk mixture, whisking continually until you have a very nice and smooth mixture.  Turn the heat on medium and cook, stirring continually until the mixture thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the custard mix to cool for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile put the egg yolks in a heat proof dish and beat them well.  When the five minutes is up, slowly pour 1/3 of the milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. The purpose of this step is to temper the egg yolks and bring their temperature up so they will not cook when you add them to the milk and flour mixture.  If you skip this step and just put them straight in the pan, trust me__you will have cooked eggs in your custard. Pour the heated eggs slowly into the remaining milk mixture, whisking constantly yet again. Return to medium heat and cook while stirring until it boils and thickens enough that a wooden spoon drawn down the center of the pan will leave a "trail".  You can store this in the fridge for a day, but you need to have plastic wrap touching the entire surface of the cream.  If it is exposed to air it will form a "skin" and this is just too tasty to waste.

If you made your cream puffs correctly use a pastry bag to fill the interior of your cream puff.  (Or cut them in half and spoon the filling in them putting them back together kind of like a sandwich) Since I only had halves I just spooned it directly onto the half. I followed it with a drizzle of a very basic chocolate glaze

Chocolate glaze
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup confectioners
1 tablespoon milk (add a few drops more as needed)
Drizzle it over the top of the cream puff , or in my case over the cream in the puff half.

Dang these things are good. I ate 2, I don't know how many TheHub ate but there are only 4 left. Feel free to count and do the math if you wish

These are easy, much easier than it sounds and really tasty.  You can use this same recipe, minus the sugar to make cream puffs to fill with chicken salad, tuna salad, crabmeat, whatever savory thing your heart desires.

And now I have 9 less eggs (well except for 4 egg whites and now I have to find something to do with them) and 1 1/2 cups less milk.  Yay!