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Schedule
Monday November 21st, 2005 01:54 PM
Here is my schedule for getting Thanksgiving done without losing your mind.

Monday night You will shop if you haven’t already.
If your turkey is frozen, place in bottom of fridge on a cookie sheet. If its a big one, it may not thaw completely and you will have to do the water bath thing later in the week


Tuesday
1) Bake Sweet Potatoes in microwave by washing and stabbing a few times with a fork. Since microwaves vary, I suggest cooking 5 or six at a time for 7-10 minutes and check for doneness at 7 minutes. We make a lot of pie and use what’s leftover for a side dish. I usually bake about 10.
2) Peel apples for Dutch apple pie and store in bowl of water with 2 tbs. lemon juice
3) Boil two dozen eggs-5 for the giblet gravy and the rest we use for deviled eggs.

Wednesday
1) If your turkey is not yet thawed place in cold water for 30 minutes per pound changing water every 30 minutes while you do other prep.

2) Make cranberry sauce-chill overnight
3) Prepare pies-your apples and sweet potatoes are waiting for you.
4) Peel potatoes (for your mashed potatoes) and store them whole in a pot covered with water in the fridge.
5) Dice a buttload of onions, green onions, and celery, store in fridge

Thursday morning
Place onions and garlic inside bird, slip sage under skin, baste
Roast turkey according to USDA table, when you remember to
Mix breadcrumbs, diced onion and celery, seasonings in 9x13 pan-ready to add broth, go in oven
Mix mushroom soup, green beans, onions-ready to go in oven
One hour before turkey is done put potatoes to boil
After turkey is done, pull it out of the oven to rest, cover with foil

IMMEDIATELY put green beans, stuffing into oven. They’ll be done in 30 to 40 minutes

When its cool enough to deal with, remove turkey to serving platter, scrape for drippings

Add drippings to saucepan and make your gravy.

When the stuff in the oven is done, sit down, eat and love yourself because you are so awesomely domestic.

Happy Thanksgiving!!


Recipes
Saturday November 19th, 2005 02:12 PM

Stuffing-
6 cups diced bread
2 yellow, white, or red onions-diced
8-10 green onions chopped
4 cloves garlic
3 eggs, beaten
3 portabella mushrooms
kosher salt/pepper
1 tsp. ground sage
2 ½ c chicken or vegetable stock

Heat pan, add 2 tbls olive oil. When oil is hot add diced onions and minced garlic and sprinkle with a little kosher salt and ground pepper. Sautee on high heat but stirring often to get that caramel color. When onions are nearly done, add sliced portabellas. In 9x13 pan, mix bread, sage and eggs well, then add sautéed onions, etc. toss ingredients til mixed then add all of the broth a little at a time to avoid mushy spots. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Mashed Potatoes- At holiday time I use Yukon gold as they are the yummiest. Sometimes we boil them in broth; sometimes we make roasted garlic mashed but we always add a little extra butter and half and half or 2% milk to make them extra creamy.


Giblet gravy-
2 cups stock
one cup of diced celery
8-10 bunches of green onion
3-4 boiled eggs
4 Tbs. corn starch

Scrape bottom of turkey pan and place drippings into a stock pan. Add two cups of chicken stock, giblets from the bird, a cup of diced celery, and 8-10 bunches of chopped green onion. Add a garlic clove or two if you want. Season w/ salt and pepper to taste. When the flavors have developed in the broth(20-30 min), in a separate bowl, add approximately ¼ c of water to 4 tablespoons of corn starch. Slowly add corn starch slurry to gravy until thickened. Add 3-4 chopped eggs

Green Bean Casserole
3/4 cup milk,
10-3/4 oz. can cream of mushroom,
two 14.5 oz. cans of cut green beans,drained
1-1/3 cups french fried onions.

Pour all the ingredients except for 2/3 cup onions into a 1-1/2 quart casserole. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Top with remaining onions and bake for 5 more minutes.




Sweet Potato Pie-

About 10 sweet potatoes
5 tsp butter or margarine, softened
1 ½ c white sugar
1 ½ brown sugar
6 eggs separated
2/3 c evaporated milk
4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp grated nutmeg
2 9 in deep pie crust

Bake sweet potatoes in microwave, like you would regular potatoes. Cool, then scoop out flesh and mix with butter and sugar. Beat egg yolks and add to mixture. Add evap. Milk, vanilla, and nutmeg to the mixture and let sit for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whites into mixture. Our into pie crust and bake for 10 min. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for additional 35-40 minutes or until set in the center. Any remaining mixture goes into a small casserole for a side dish
I often top at leat one of the pies with pecan praline like bits. Melt a few tbs of butter in a pan and add about 1/4 c brown sugar. When its nice and bubbly, coat halved pecans and spread mixture onto waxed paper. Crumble over pie or casserole about 10 miutes before they are done baking.


Cranberry Sauce- Add one cup of water, a bag of fresh cranberries (16 oz I think), and ¾ c sugar to stockpan. Boil for at least a half hour. Then serve or chill. You can add nuts or other fruit if you like

Dutch Apple Pie- I am panicked becuase I can't find my recipe. I'll keep looking

Shrimp dip-
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup may
1/4 c chopped red onion
1/4 c chopped celery
1/2 lb cooked and peeled shrimp (tiny salad shrimp are great for this and so easy, just thaw from bag)

Mix everything and keep overnight in fridge for better flavor. Serve with chips, veggies, bread or crackers.




The One Woman Thanksgiving Show
Monday November 14th, 2005 02:15 PM
ONE OVEN, ONE WOMAN, ONE MISSION

I come from a large family of many cooks. A typical Thanksgiving meal might consist of 3 or four meats (turkey, duck, ham, and some type of roast) and enough sides to feed a small army. With six or more people cooking, you end up with a lot of dishes. This is great but you obviously can’t do this on your own. The first year I was unable to spend with my family posed a bit of a problem. How could I fix at least a good portion of our favorite dishes without taking off work the day before? And how would I get it all to be done at the right time? Would I have to spend the entire day on the kitchen?

So, I whittled it down to our favorites. And I decided that when it was just us or a few guests, this meal would not be during the lunch hour. A late afternoon meal is great for a couple of reasons. Number one: I love my family but I won’t get up at 4 am to start cooking for anybody. Secondly, if we eat breakfast and have snacky things out for munching, I think overall we eat less than we would if we ate Thanksgiving lunch AND dinner leftovers. Eat late in the afternoon and you can have a lighter dinner of leftovers. My dinner usually consists of pie. Think of all the calories saved by not eating the real food and then the pie.

My menu for the last few years has been:

Turkey
Bread stuffing with portabella mushrooms
Green bean casserole
Mashed potatoes
Giblet gravy
Succotash
Sweet potato pie
Sweet potato side dish with candied pecans
Dutch Apple Pie
Cranberry Sauce
Devilled eggs
Chips, Veggies, and dip

If you have help you can add more; if you have less energy, then you can subtract a few dishes. But this has worked well for our family (2-6) people for the last few years.

My biggest peeve is to shop when everyone else is shopping. So I usually shop Sunday night or Monday. If you wait until later in the week it will be bad. If you must wait, try to go later at night or very early morning to avoid the crowds.


Talking Turkey

First, you have to decide whether to buy a fresh or frozen turkey.
I think frozen turkeys are usually cheaper and that is the only one I have had experience with to date. I like frozen turkeys because I can buy them on my traditional shopping day three to four days before Thanksgiving Day. The easiest way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator so a frozen one works out well. If you can shop early (and you should) this is your best bet.

So I will start with the frozen turkey:
Allow for 1 lb of turkey per person but if you get a bigger one you can always freeze the rest or make leftover magic turkey cuisine.

Recommendations straight from USDA

In the Refrigerator (40 °F or below)

Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds
4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days

Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.

If things get crazy and you find that you can’t shop until late in the week, thaw your turkey using the water bath method. Wrap your turkey securely (I put mine inside a strong garbage bag). Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. USDA says 'Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.' I have thawed and refigerated overnight several times without incident. The key is to make sure your turkey doesn't stay above 40 degrees while thawing. Do not refreeze.

In Cold Water

Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound
4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours

So this is basically a Thanksgiving morning thing, and while it can be done, it can also be a pain while you are trying to do other things. Plus, you will have to get up before dawn for a large turkey.

They say you can thaw a turkey in the microwave but I don’t like thawing meat in there anyway. See USDA website for details if you are interested.

Fresh Turkeys

As I said I have no experience with this but USDA says if you choose fresh, buy your turkey only 1 to 2 days before you plan to cook it.
Craftista note:The USDA advises against buying fresh pre-stuffed turkeys that do not display the USDA or State mark of inspection on the packaging. As a former microbiologist, I recommend you listen to them.

VERY INPORTANT INFORMATION FOR BOTH VIRGIN AND SEASONED TURKEY AFFICIANADOS

Do not forget to remove the giblets from the turkey cavities after thawing. Cook separately. They will usually be wrapped in a little packet of paper or wax paper and placed in the bird.

I have the following proud moments:

1) The first time I cooked a turkey I never even thought to look for a packet of giblets. So I cooked them, paper and all, right inside the turkey. Not always a huge problem but it can affect the flavor of the turkey, so avoid it all costs.
2) I once forgot to take them out because I was in such a hurry to get the bird in the oven.
3) I once searched and searched inside the cavity for the packet and never found it. I was convinced I had been robbed of my rightful giblets. The injustice! As it turns out, this company had stuffed the packet up its butt instead of in the body cavity. Moral: If you don’t find it in one end, check the other.

Roasting Your Turkey

A real turkey roasting pan makes great drippings for better gravy. Bed, Bath & Beyond usually has decent ones for pretty cheap. But the aluminum ones work ok if you can’t spend the cash because Christmas is coming up.
I roast my turkey at 325. Pop up thermometers can be very unreliable so get a meat thermometer if you don’t have one already. After the bird has cooked for the recommended time (see chart below) check internal temp by inserting a food thermometer in the thickest part of the inner thigh without touching the bone.

Timetables for Turkey Roasting
(325 °F oven temperature)


Unstuffed
4 to 8 pounds (breast) 1 ½ to 3 ¼ hours
8 to 12 pounds 2 ¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3 ¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 ½ to 5 hours


I place a ½ cup of water, broth, or basting liquid into the bottom of the pan. It keeps the drippings from burning. Your drippings will determine the flavor of your gravy so this is important. Cover the bird for the first hour, then baste. Re-cover for 2nd hour. Remove Lid (or foil) after 2nd baste. If you get the desired color before the bird is done you can recover.
I have done several baste mixtures, though my favorite is apple cider or hard cider with a little butter. The apple cider will be a bit sweeter so I prefer the hard cider. All alcohol cooks out during cooking (bummer).
I have also basted with a soy/OJ mix and a garlic herb olive oil.
Stay tuned for schedules and recipes!!!

For information on other methods for cooking a turkey, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854)
TTY: 1-800-256-7072
www.fsis.usda.gov






Partial weekend success
Monday October 10th, 2005 01:53 PM
Ok….so I didn’t get it all done. But hear me out. I got the errands done, the car was removed of its debris but has not been vacuumed or ‘cleaned,’ I cooked a mean pot of french onion soup, organized my craft totes for the holidays, made some xmas lists, bought two presents, cleaned the shed and filled two boxes for goodwill, unpacked winter clothes, and spent a leisurely day at the orchard, sipping cider and listening to a favorite band. Do I need to feel bad about my still dirty car? Probably not. I will vacuum it tonight if it’s not raining.

I am considering trying to get rid of 20% of my stuff. I don’t know if 20% is just some arbitrary amount or some sign from above but it seems do-able. I will literally count my items of clothing, shoes, books and try to get rid of 20% of it. Maybe it will make my house seem 20% bigger. Or my life 20% less complicated. When I think of all of the energy that goes into keeping up with all of that crap…..seems like such a waste.


The 'Handbag'
Friday October 07th, 2005 02:14 PM
I think right about the time that I quit finding mushy zwiebacks and toddler paw prints on the inside of my purse, was when I had an epiphany about the purse. For years, I had hauled around a lummox of a bag along with the requisite over-stuffed diaper bag. I traded my diaper bag for a back-to-college backpack and learned a few things. In fact, everything I learned about my purse, I learned in college.

The night before my first class I was having one of those anal-fests where I was organizing my new supplies; sleek new notebooks, shiny calculator, gel pens and super-sharp, woody-smelling pencils, and a great backpack with a bazillion pockets. As a packed my supplies, I realized it was not going to be very comfortable to carry a purse over my arm as well as a backpack. So I went out and bought my first wallet on a string. Small thing, a little bigger than my graphing calculator with the slimmest of pockets for plastic, driver's license, money, a tube of lip balm, and some change. I also got a clip for my keys that would let me clip them onto my purse strap or belt loop (I know, it’s nerdy but sometimes it helps). My wallet fit easily into my pack and when I wasn’t going to school, I’d grab it and go. Also perfect for trips to the bar.

I packed some essentials into the pockets of the pack: Hand lotion, tissues, ziploc of baby wipes ( hate dirty hands) medicines that I took daily, gum, granola bars…whatever. This worked well for me for 5 years. When I graduated and got a real job, I ditched the backpack in favor of a nice, black, “pleather” tote. Since I don’t have the plethora of pockets like I did with the backpack, I gathered a few small make-up bags I had around the house and put them to use. I have a great one that acts like a tiny trapper keeper. It’s about 4 x 5” and has three or four zippered bags inside and it zips up like a binder. I keep medicine, contact stuff, and my costume jewelry that I wear often in there. I have a long one that holds pens, pencils, stamps, a few paper clips and a mini Swiss army knife made for the key ring. Having everything in separate bags eliminates digging. The large center pocket in the tote, I retain for keeping paper work; current bills (I always know where they are) coupons, checkbook and work related paperwork. On the weekend I don’t haul around the tote, just my wallet on string or maybe a smaller handbag. Since everything has its own pouch, it takes about 30 seconds to repack a new purse for a night out. It sounds complicated but, trust me, it turns out to be much easier. Don’t spend your life digging for shit in your purse. If you spend even 5 minutes a week digging in your bag for change, your frickin’ ringing cell phone, a receipt you need, your keys, or the lip balm you are addicted to, you would spend over 5 weeks over a 50 year lifetime digging in your purse, probably pissed off the whole time. Twenty four hours a day, no less. If you can even cut that down by half you can sit on the beach for 2.5 weeks having cocktails. Doesn’t that sound better?


In the beginning, there was enthusiasm...
Friday October 07th, 2005 09:27 AM
Ok, so I said were going to approach this like kindergartners. I think you know what I mean by that. Since I am busy with a few short and long term projects at the moment, I know that I need to start small. Really small. So today is Friday and the weekend is shaping up like this:

 Quick grocery stop,
 liquor store stop,
 party/music down the street Saturday, need dish to pass
 possible trip to the orchard on Sunday,
 need to work on, but not necessarily finish a baby blanket,
 organize my music stuff,
 think about xmas,
 cook a big pot of something,
 update this blog.

It’s a lot but it’s totally do-able. Most of these things would have to get done regardless of how ‘ready’ I was to do them. The house could be trashed and I would still go to the party. I will never tell you that you can’t go out ‘til your house is vacuumed. A lot of these chores are errands. The latin root err means ‘to wander.’ That can not be a coincidence. Just get them done, in one trip if possible.


My two things that I want to accomplish this weekend in addition to, and not at the sacrifice of, relaxing and getting together with friends are to clean my purse (it’s a mess) and clean my car ( it’s getting cold and it’s also a mess). Since I have an hour long lunch I will start then.

And how about you?


No words.....
Thursday October 06th, 2005 11:42 AM
Holly Beach October 2005 (from the La. times)

Welcome to Holly Beach. The photograph you see above is a small, gulf side community where my Dad’s family spent a lot of time when I was a kid. We owned a small, somewhat grungy, beach house that we referred to as ‘the camp.’ It had been in the family since the year I was born, or close to it. We habitually spent our summer holidays there, along with a number of other weekends throughout the year. It was our home away from home and a place where we could go to be with family that lived in Louisiana. There were sometimes 15 or more of us crammed into what basically amounted to a large two room cabin.

We owned a small fishing boat and my Dad often went ‘shrimping’ and ‘crabbing’ to fill our freezers with seafood upcoming year. I can remember the incessant whining that came when we had to sit in the carport, cleaning shrimp and crabs for dinner instead of going to the beach. On Saturday mornings, our parents would send us down to the tiny market to buy boudin’ which is a mixture of sticky rice, meat, and strange spices stuffed into sausage casing. Kind of like dirty rice in a tube. We’d buy several pounds of it and a loaf of the best, softest white bread in the world, Evangeline Maid. It was our favorite breakfast. We’d set out on foot in the middle of the street and end up doing the ‘asphalt dance’ over to the side of the road because the sand and asphalt were too hot for our bare feet. Holly Beach was known for its late night revelry so it was usually quiet this time of day. You could smell the beginnings of great cajun food and coffee creeping out of any open windows along the way. If the stove was on, then the radio probably was too, and in the south, the music rides on the wind. If the wind was from the south, the air smelled like beach (fish); if it was from the north, it smelled like marsh (mud). I learned so much in that place. I learned to build sand castles and catch hermit crabs. I learned to swear in French. I learned how to flirt with boys and that French kissing was not, in fact, gross. I learned that eight shots of tequila is indeed, too much. And I learned to make a roux.

My parents had to sell the ‘camp’ in 2001 because they needed the money to build a house in Texas. My dad had become legally blind in the last few years and there was just no other way. They sold it for around $15,000 and I cried because I was a single parent in college and did not have the money to buy it and keep it in the family. But we said goodbye and I always thought I might go back someday and get something smaller for the family to enjoy those weekend trips again. So much of our culture was replenished by those visits. Each time we met new friends and saw old ones. Every scent wafting out of someone’s kitchen window and every song on the radio would bring back an old memory, long buried. I had hoped to visit again on one of my few trips to TX. But now it’s all gone. And I know that with the loss of life and livelihood of so many in the aftermath of other storms, I should not mourn for this place; it is, after all, just a place. But I feel that I have lost something, too. And the place is empty.

These back to back disasters have me thinking about my own life which has only been grazed by these events. Am I prepared for some impending disaster? Am I so caught up in getting through another day that I have forgotten to care for something or someone important? What if my time here was going to be shorter than I expected? Did I really want to spend it running too many errands or taking care of too much stuff? Sitting at stoplights or standing in line?

We spend so much of our lives accumulating more things that we often lose sight of taking care of what we do have. Do I want more stuff or do I want greater fulfillment in my daily life? Do I want a huge house or do I want a quiet place to lay my head when I am not traveling, experiencing, eating-breathing-drinking in this world. In the end, it’s all timber and trash. It just hasn’t been knocked over yet.

I have made a conscious decision to craft my life in a way so that I will not spend it craving someone else’s. It’s going to start with very simple things. Kindergarten simple. It won’t be easy. It’s October and the holidays are coming. But work has slowed down and I don’t have any travel plans. I have been successful at this sort of endeavor before and I can do it again. If you’d like to tag along and see what you can do in your life, the more the merrier. I will share with you what I know and I know you can teach me something, too.


Company's Coming Recipes
Thursday September 22nd, 2005 09:21 AM
Here are two great recipes for when company’s coming

Both of these recipes require a process called carmelizing. This involves cooking your flavoring veggies, in this case mushrooms and onions, on high heat quickly to bring out the sugars which are them ‘carmelized' by the high heat.

Slice your onions and sprinkle with a little salt. This changes the osmotic pressure on the surface of the flesh and the sugars in the onion will exit the onion and head to the surface. Heat your oil until a drop of water dances when placed on the pan. Add your onions and keep sautéing on hi heat. Allow the onions to get very brown on all sides. This is how you get that great flavor. The process is basically the same for the mushrooms.

Shrimp Victoria
1 16oz carton of Sour Cream (Lite will work ok)
2 lbs peeled, deveined uncooked shrimp
Two Large onions
2 peeled cloves of garlic
16 oz mushrooms washed and sliced

Carmelize your onions, garlic, and mushrooms according to directions above. Deglaze the pan with a splash or two of white wine. Add shrimp and cook for two-three minutes until shrimp are pink throughout. Remove from heat and allow to cool for just a few minutes. Add carton of sour cream to dish and stir until well mixed. Serve over rice.

Red clam sauce

2 onions
5-10 garlic cloves, depending on your love of garlic
16 oz muchrooms, sliced and diced ( I like the different textures)
2 cans diced clams
2 cans diced tomatos
1 can diced black olives
splash or two of dry red wine
Carmelize onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Deglaze pan with red wine. Add drained clams to pan, reseverving juice. Cook for a few minutes allowing the clams to take on some of that nice color from the carmelized vegeies. Add drained can of diced tomatoes and a can of diced olives and allow to cook down for at least a half hour. If you need more liquid add some of the clam juice. Serve with your favorite pasta and a little fresh grated parmesan.


I love the women of getcrafty.com
Wednesday September 14th, 2005 01:57 PM
Thanks to all who made comments. Getting posisitve feed back is a great motivator. Here's a few more favorite recipes.

TOMATO SALAD

This is my late summer favorite.....

As many fresh tomatoes as you can beg, borrow, or steal.
Large onion (red and vidalia are great)
Can of black olives(lg or sm depending on the depth of your love of olives)
Can of artichoke hearts (not marinated)
As much fresh garlic as you can stand
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Fresh basil is best but dried will do
Can of Hearts of Palm (pricey and optional but sooo yummy)
Can of garbanzos beans (optional)

Into a large bowl, slice tomatoes and onions and make sure to save that sweet juice. Drain all canned ingredients and dump into bowl. Cut hearts to desired size (personal preference) and dice the olives if you like or you can leave them whole and save time. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste, add salt (coarse, sea, or kosher if possible) and fresh ground pepper.
Fresh grated parmesan, feta, and fresh mozzerella is also awesome in/on it. You can let this marinate as long as you like up to three days, at which point it should be eaten. I have served this a number of ways:

Cold, as a salad with crusty french bread

As a Bruschetta topping (leave out the beans although I admit to having picked them out after the fact)

Toss with hot pasta and serve warm

Serve over grilled chicken with rice or pasta

Add to cooked pasta and chill for great pasta salad

Simmer for an hour with a dash of red or white wine and serve as a soup

That's 6 different meals/appetizers from one recipe. It travels well for picnics and parties too.


MEXICAN RICE

Rice
Broth or Bouillion cubes
Ham or bacon
Onion chopped
Salsa


Cook 1.5 cups rice in 3 cups broth. Sautee' cut up ham or bacon. Add onion. When clear, add cooked rice. The amount of salsa to add is up to you. Just add a little at a time and stir until it the color of your favorite Mexican restaurant's rice. Hope you got the recipe in time to serve with your enchiladas!

Gettin' Crafty in Da Kitchen
Tuesday September 13th, 2005 02:50 PM

I think I may have always been crafty in the kitchen. I grew up in a family with great, resourceful cooks, most of them cajun, all of them relatively poor. At age 16, I earned the nickname ‘Ma Joad’ (Grapes of Wrath) because my circle of friends and I took a camping trip to Lake Livingston, TX and I cooked most of our meals over the campfire. I wasn’t anything special; I was just afraid of the big, green Coleman stove at the time. My life’s ride took me on a very different path than most, if not all, of my girlfriends. I became a mother at a very young age (19) at which time I dropped out of college temporarily. I stayed home with both of my children and struggled greatly at times just to make ends meet and maintain my sanity (which did not always happen). My friends went off to college and led the life. We didn’t see much of each other for a few years but with time we all started to congregate together once or twice a year. During these visits we talk about balancing work and home our attempts to have the lives that we want for ourselves and our kids. They say to me “How did you know/learn how to do that?” Usually, I don’t have the answer. I know some of it came from the women in my family and a lot of it came from books, magazines, and PBS (no cash, no cable). I tried things and remembered what worked and what didn’t. I couldn’t afford a lot of things so I learned to make them or make do with what I had.

My kitchen craftiness evolved out of necessity. When my kids were young, I only had access to a car a few times a week. I had to plan my shopping and errands carefully. Later, as a busy non-traditional student, I had a few more resources but A LOT less time. Over the last 15 years, I learned a few things…….

I learned that, as much as I wanted to spend time playing with new recipes, I usually had neither the time or money to do so. So, I eventually committed around 15 to 20 recipes to memory and I choose from those recipes based on what is on sale that week. Why plan to cook a big roast at $3.99 lb when chicken breasts are on sale for $.99? If the gargantuan bag o’ potatoes is cheap, eat a lot of potatoes that week. This also allows you to stock up on items that are really cheap so you will have enough for later when they jack the price up again. But we can address being fabulously frugal another time.

For now, I will share a few of my favorite recipes and tips. Some may involve a few pantry items that you will keep on hand. I mark these with an asterisk* because they may do double duty on future recipes.


Quick and simple

I stole this first recipe from my great friend who recently moved back to Mississippi. Since I loaned her Jean’s book and the bee-otch took it with her, I feel no shame about my culinary larceny. If you’ve ever had real Jambalaya, which takes about three days, please don’t be mad that I call this jambalaya. It tastes great but not much like the real thing. But I digress...


Cheater’s Jambalaya
1 lb good sausage (use turkey if you like)
1 can tomatoes with green chilies (can sub regular toms if you must)
1 can tomatos diced
1 can beef broth 15 oz
1 cup white rice
1 onion, chopped
any other veggie you want, like green or red pepper, or celery or nothing depending on your budget for that week.


Slice the sausage into chunks and sautee’ with onion and other veggies. No oil needed. When onion is clear add rice, beef broth and both cans of tomatoes with the juice. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to barely a simmer and cover. Try not to peek for 20 minutes then check to see if rice is done. The constistency varies on this dish but it is good no matter what. If it is a good week and you have some extra cash, you can a little shrimp to this at the sautee’stage. This stuff is also great as tortilla filling/in wraps.

Now, you may be thinking….why didn’t she just say Rotel tomatoes cuz that’s what tomatoes and green chilies is right? Right but you are poor and can’t afford name brands like Rotel. Buy the generic/store brand, its fine.
I usually buy diced tomatoes because #1 when they’re diced there’s more tomato and less juice, #2 who the hell has time to spend chopping canned, whole tomatoes. It’s the only convenience food you can afford. Be the Queen.

Enchiladas/Casserole
If I have time and energy, I will make these as traditional rolled enchiladas. Most of the time, I just layer the ingredients like lasagna.

1lb of basic ground beef *(see below) from freezer
2 Cans of red, black, kidney beans (whatever)
1 can of corn, drained (optional)
2 cans of cream of tomato soup
2 cans of red enchilada sauce (preferably a store brand)
Corn or flour tortillas
Shredded cheese that you bought on sale

Mix tomato soup and enchilada sauce with a whisk until blended and not too chunky
Spray a large baking casserole dish (like a lasagna pan) with non stick cooking spray. Add a layer of sauce to the bottom of the pan. Tear tortillas onto halves or quarters and layer like you would lasagna. Follow with a mixture of the drained, rinsed beans, meat, and corn, then a little cheese. When nearly full, pour remaining sauce over the top and finish with cheese. Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes until heated through.

This one can be done in the crockpot which is great in summer when you don’t want to heat up the house. My vegetarian daughter substitutes rice in for the meat.

Basic beef is something I started doing when I used to buy ground beef in bulk packages. Cook the meat, drain the grease, and add onion, bell peppers, and/or celery. When the veggies are close to being done, separate a cup or two of the meat mixture into freezer containers. You then have the most time consuming part of a number of dishes, cooked and ready to be thrown together at 5:20 on a weekday. No need to thaw for most dishes. I will include more recipes using this later. I have to return to the excruciating drudgery that is my day job.





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