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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Waiting for Spring

It's been rough times here. Surgeries for two of us and car problems. On a positive note, my sister graduated from college. 2 days later she had bone construction surgery on her foot with mixed results. She's maybe heading for surgery again. I've been off for 2 and a half weeks with another 3 to go. Tough times but we will make it. Hopefully we'll have a better year.

Anyway I have a recipe today that will make your mouth happy. I don't like idea why...but I'll eat anything dunked in this caramel sauce.

Carol's Caramel Dip

1/2 cp butter
1 1/2 cps packed brown sugar
3/4 cp light corn syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

Combine butter, sugar, corn syrup, & milk in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Pour into a dipping bowl. Serve warm with apple slices.

I made this sauce today and used half of it on a Better Than Sex cake. So after we finish this delicious cake, we'll have caramel for apples too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cuban Pork .... my version anyway.

Yesterday was a crazy busy day. I had looked at my schedule wrong and thought I didn't work until 4 but actually worked from 2 - 11.  So 2 hours were gone from my day. Throw in an unexpected doctor appointment for the intense horrible pain in my shoulder and another hour is down the tubes.  Thankfully it was a quick trip and I was soon home but still had things to do.  I had set out pork stew meat earlier thinking I could figure out something to do with it.  Pork stew meat is one of my favorite things to buy.  It is so inexpensive and I can do so many different things with it. I almost always find it marked down at my grocery store so I had two packages for less than $2 each.

So I stood in front of my slow cooker looking at my pork stew meat and glanced over at my fruit bowl which held lemons and limes. Bingo! I seasoned the meat with my "house seasoning" (A big bowl of kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, and seasoned salt that I use on everything I cook) and put it in the slow cooker.  Then I added half a jar of green salsa from the pantry, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, and chili powder.  I put the lid on, turned it on, then went off to do the rest of my housework. I did not measure my spices, I just threw in what seemed right for me. You all know how spicy you like things and you can always add more!

I ate a tuna sandwich before I left for work then gave the pork a stir and hoped for the best.  I left instructions to put the pork into tortillas with black beans or rice and some cheese.  When I returned from work I was so hungry!  There were leftovers so I made myself a taco out of what I called Cuban Pork.  I wasn't sure what to expect but it was so delicious!  The pork with the black beans and some cheese and sour cream made for a pretty filling taco.  We had enough for dinner, plus what I ate at midnight, and there is still plenty for lunches.

Pork stew meat is so versatile. There are lots different stews you could make. I've made a traditional stew with carrots and potatoes, or used sweet potatoes and peanuts to give it an African twist. I've gone the Asian route with it too but we are big fans of Mexican food here so that's how we use it most of the time. However you decide to use it just get some and use it!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

White Chicken Enchiladas

It's been a long time since I posted.  Life gets in the way sometimes.  It's been an interesting three months full of good things and bad things.  But enough of that. Nobody wants to hear about my depressing life anyway.  Tonight for supper we had White Chicken Enchiladas.  It's one of our favorites.  I like it because it makes a bunch and they reheat well so you can easily take them for lunches or reheat them for leftover night.

White Chicken Enchiladas

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
 1 cup sour cream
 1 cup green salsa (World Table roasted salsa verde)
 2 cups cooked chicken
 2 cup shredded Mexican-style cheese blend (I used sharp cheddar tonight)
 1 jar On the Border creamy Monteray Jack queso sauce (in the Mexican aisle)
 10 (8 inch) flour tortillas (I ended up using 14 but I had an 11 x 14 dish.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray a 13 x  9 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Stir together the softened cream cheese, sour cream, and salsa until blended. Fold in chicken and shredded cheese. Spread a small amount of white cheese sauce onto the bottom of the baking dish. Evenly divide the filling among the tortillas, and roll into firm cylinders. Place into prepared baking dish and cover with remaining sauce. Bake in preheated oven until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving.

I call them inexpensive because I usually have cream cheese, sour cream, and cheese in my refrigerator already.  I always have a package of cooked chicken in my freezer. It's inexpensive and easy to buy a whole chicken, boil it, and end up with 2 packages of cooked chicken and 8 cups of broth.  I also always have tortillas in my cupboard so the only thing I have to get is the salsa which is inexpensive and the On the Border sauce which is less than $3 at my grocery store. So try it!  Hopefully you'll find a new recipe to add to your menus!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Our favorite chili

After years of trying different chili recipes I have finally found one that everybody can agree on.  It's good and filling and pretty inexpensive.  I usually buy ground beef when it's marked down and I can always find ground pork marked down to less than $2 a pound.  I use a mixture of beef and pork but you can use any kind of ground meat you'd like. This chili recipe makes a large amount.  It seems like a large amount to me anyway because there is only 4 of us.  We each eat a bowl for supper.  The boy will probably eat a bowl for breakfast. Yeah, don't ask, he's weird. And I'm taking a bowl to work with me for lunch.  The rest is going to be paired with macaroni for supper on Monday night. So it feeds us for a few days.

What I like about this chili is you can do what you want with it.  If you like peppers, throw 'em in there.  You like it hot?  Add some jalapenos and hot sauce.  Add more chili powder if you want.  Add less.  Add more beans.  Add less beans.  I have used less meat when I didn't have enough or a different combination of tomatoes like a big can of whole and a small can of diced.  Add some corn...well you get the idea. Do whatever you like to this chili.  It's still good.  My other favorite thing about this chili??  I cook it in the crock pot.  Walk away and forget it.  But you don't have to.  You can cook it on the stove
 too...but really, why would you!?!

Carol's Favorite Chili

1 lb ground chuck
1 lb ground pork
1/2 cp. onion, chopped
1/2 cp celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14 1/2 oz) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 1/2 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 1/2 oz) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can mild chili beans
1 sm. can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 pkg mild chili seasoning mix
2 tsp granulated sugar
chili powder - to taste
cumin - to taste
salt & pepper - to taste
Shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped green onions - for garnish

In a large skillet, brown the ground meat with the chopped celery, onion, and minced garlic.  Drain the grease from the cooked meat and add to a large crock pot. (Or kettle if you're cooking it on the stove).  Stir in the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili seasoning mix, sugar, and the seasoning.  I don't usually measure, I just dump and taste it a couple of hours later and adjust them as needed.  Break up the whole tomatoes if you'd like with the back of a spoon. Put the lid on the crock pot and cook on high for about 4 hours. If you're cooking it on the stove bring it to a boil then cover and simmer it for 4 hours.  Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheese and chopped green onions if desired. 

That's it!  Perfect for cold snowy nights like we have here tonight.  Sometimes I make a big pan of cornbread to go with it but tonight we just used oyster crackers.  It is delicious!  Hope you enjoy it too.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's a new year!

Happy New Year!  Hope the holidays were good to you.  We had a good Christmas here.  Until Christmas night when we were having supper at a Chinese restaurant and the 12 year old had an allergic reaction to crab!  Fun times! She had cracked some crab legs and gotten that juice all over her hands.  Then she got tired on the way home and was lying in the back seat rubbing her eyes and BOOM! We already knew she was allergic to shrimp, as am I, but she had no trouble eating crab or clams or fish.  But the doctor wants her to stay away from all seafood now and maybe give it a try in a couple of months.  And yes, she is wearing One Direction pajamas. If only they'd had Donny Osmond pajamas when I was 12.

Anyway, the holidays are over and our houseguests have moved on so life is getting back to normal, which for us is one problem after another.  Currently we are having car problems and also it's been so insanely cold.  The kids are home from school today because of the weather.  At this rate they will be in school until the 4th of July!

So we are back to our old way of cooking and doing things.  I usually buy a chicken marked down or at Aldis so it's around $4. I boil the chicken at the beginning of the week and we have enough meat for 2 meals and also about 8 cups of broth.  One of our favorite easy chicken recipes is Chicken Croquettes.  I try to make these when we've got leftover mashed potatoes so we can make potato patties to go with them.

Here is the recipe!

Chicken Croquettes

2 cps leftover chicken, chopped in the food processor
1  cp seasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cp chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Saute the chopped onion and garlic in a skillet sprayed with Pam until soft.  Mix the chicken, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture together in a bowl.  If it seems really dry, just add another egg. Add the seasonings and mix well.  Shape into patties.  I make mine kind of small so we get about 8 patties out of this.  Heat some oil in a large skillet and fry the patties until they are golden brown.   

I also like to press my patties into some Panko crumbs before I fry them because it gives them a nice crispy coating.  I also just use the heels of my loaves of bread to make bread crumbs if I don't have any of the other kind.  You can change up the seasoning if you'd like, or add hot sauce, or whatever.  But this is a really inexpensive dish to make and the kids love it.   Stay warm out there!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's almost Christmas and life is crazy as usual...even a little crazier.  We have 3 extra in our house for a little while so it's a challenge to get everybody fed.  We've been managing by eating a lot of pasta, rice, soups, and casseroles though we did splurge on 6 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts to make chicken nuggets one night!

We are still doing our normal things that we do at the holidays while trying to incorporate the other family's traditions as well as give them space to do their own thing but it's not easy!  We have 2 Christmas trees, 1 in the living room and another in the other family's bedroom so they feel festive too.  Decorations are up inside and out!  Presents are purchased and waiting to be wrapped and I think I've convinced the kids that they are getting one tiny present.  We managed to get them several nice gifts so I think it'll be a good Christmas.

Today I am baking the last of my Christmas cookies.  These are my favorite and I came up with the recipe myself after trying many different ones. It's certainly not thrifty but it's not Christmas without cut out sugar cookies.

Carol's Christmas Cut Out Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cps butter, softened (I used 1 stick of butter & 2 of margarine this year & it worked fine)
1 cp white granulated sugar
1 cp powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon zest
5 cps flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt

Cream together butter & sugars until smooth.  Beat in eggs, vanilla, & lemon zest. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover & chill.

Preheat oven to 400. Roll out sugar cookie dough 1/2" thick.  Cut into shapes.  Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 6 - 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely. Decorate with frosting and sprinkles.

I also made the children's favorite cookie, Chocolate Cherry Kisses.  They are easy and pretty and you can get the recipe here.  And my budget breaker, my fruit cakes, are currently soaking in Captain Morgan Spiced Rum just waiting for Christmas.
  Hey, you gotta have priorities!

Whatever holiday you celebrate, my family and I wish you a season filled with happiness!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Homemade laundry soap

One of my favorite ways to save money is to make my own laundry soap.  It is so easy to do and it seems to work good.  Mac, who is 12, is an ice skater and a cheerleader, so lots of dirt there and Michael is 17 and, well, a boy and you know what teenage boys smell like.  We have been using this laundry soap for about 9 months with no problems at all.  It costs less than $9 initially to make and it tends to last us around 5-6 months.  Not too bad since just looking at the price under a container of Tide almost caused me to have a stroke.  I will never again pay that much for laundry soap.

All you need is a box of Borax, which is also good for killing fleas in your carpet by the way, a box of washing soda, and a bar of soap such as Fels Naptha, Zote, or Kirk's Castile. In my area, the Castile soap is hard to find.  I bought some at Meijer and it worked fine but the Walmart by me has both the Fels Naptha and the Zote so I buy a bar of each.  They cost $1 and the Borax and Washing Soda are each less than $4.

You are supposed to use 1 cup of Borax, 1 cup of washing soda, and 1 bar of the soap grated.  You can also add some drops of essential oils if you'd like but I like the smell of the soap so I don't. They aren't that expensive since you'd only use a few drops but I prefer not to use them.  To each his own. Anyway,  Zote soap is BIG so I count that as 2 bars and I grate it and the Fels Naptha on my big cheese grater.  My hand gets tired after a while but it probably only takes me about 10 minutes to do it.  Word of caution..DO NOT get the bright idea that your food processor would be perfect for this step.  It's not pretty.  Since I grate the 2 bars, I count that as 3 since the Zote seems like a double bar to me.  So for 3 bars I mix the grated soap with 3 cups of the Borax and 3 cups of the washing soda.  I put mine in a big ice cream bucket and keep it by the washer.  You just need 2 Tablespoons per load.  I keep a little 1/8 cup scoop in my bucket with the soap.

It will dissolve in cold water, eventually, but I start it on hot and swish it around then switch it to cold.  Oh -  the repairman told me once that you shouldn't just change from hot to cold without pulling the knob on the machine first and stopping it because that will ruin your washer!  He said it's like shifting your car into gear without coming to a stop first and we all know how expensive transmissions are. I don't know if that's true or not but I do it and my old washer is still going strong!

So that's it!  Homemade cheap laundry soap that works!  For me anyway!