Friday, January 29, 2010

Beef Stew in the Crock Pot Plus a Special Ingredient

The baby is much better behaved in the mornings, so that's why it's much easier to make Crock Pot meals. I start it in the morning when she is content to sit in her chair and watch me, and can get everything prepared with little fuss over her. Today is another "clean out the cabinets" type stew, since tomorrow I'll finally have money to go grocery shopping again. I had a shallot in the cupboard so I decided to add that to my normal recipe for beef stew, found HERE. Shallots really suck to peel and cut, as they make you cry worse than regular onions, but they taste absolutely fabulous once cooked. Plus I had a few extra potatoes, and since I didn't want to have just two or three red potatoes sitting lonely in the cupboard I threw them all in.

It's a starch-heavy beef stew today. And I'm glad I always keep bouillon cubes in the cabinet. A can of beef broth tastes better, but when you either forget to buy one or simply run out, some bouillon cubes will do the trick.

The addition of the shallot turned out to be an incredible bonus, adding a sweet tang to the broth. I think I'll be putting a chopped shallot or two in my beef stew from now on!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Herb-Butter Roast Chicken and Red Peel Potatoes

This one was tough, as my daughter decided to throw a screaming fit after I'd just rinsed out the chicken and begun to mix the herb butter, so there are very few photos this time. I was going back and forth between letting her scream her head off for a few minutes (mainly because I wasn't paying direct attention to her) and rubbing herb butter over a raw chicken. Needless to say my hands got washed numerous times and I was frazzled enough to forget photos. I finally managed to get things done after I put her down for a nap in her dark bedroom though. Phew!

Ingredients for chicken:

2-3 pound (or so) whole chicken
3 Tbsp butter (warmed or room temperature)
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp rubbed sage
1/8 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp garlic pepper

Heat oven to 350 F. Remove chicken from packaging and discard giblets, rinsing off chicken under running water inside and out. Mix butter and herbs in a bowl (I used a spatula, but your fingers would work too). Place chicken on rack in roasting pan, then rub butter mixture all over skin (and under the skin if you can peel the skin from the meat a little) and inside cavity. Bake/Roast uncovered for 1 hr. 15-30 minutes (depending on weight of bird).

Ingredients for Potatoes:

5 red potatoes
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp parsley flakes
1/4 tsp basil leaves (dry)
1/4 tsp garlic powder or garlic pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder

Wash potatoes then cut off any unusable/bruised parts and, using the end of a potato peeler, pick out the biggest eyes on each potato. Chop potatoes into small chunks (do not peel!) then put in a pot and add enough water to just cover potatoes. Boil for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pricked with a fork. Drain, then return to pot. Add remaining ingredients and mash potatoes.

Serve with a side of corn or peas, or a vegetable to your liking. This meal will serve four people easily, or three people very large portions.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Medieval Pea Soup

I don't know if she's trying to talk or not, but all that was coming out tonight was a loud humming sound. My daughter is also learning how to fake her cries so Mommy will look at her or come running to get her. I wasn't taking any of it tonight, so I just put her next to the kitchen where she could see me. I blocked her face out for security purposes, but here she is in her rain-forest high chair watching me with Sophie the Giraffe, who had just been in her mouth.
I LOVE this recipe for Pea Soup that I found in the book Medieval Celebrations. I added a few things to make it taste even better, including a trick I learned fro my grandmother to make vegetable dishes taste like they have meat in them. This takes about a half hour to make from start to finish, and will feed a family of four for several days. The most expensive ingredient is the saffron, but once you get a supply of that on hand (this is pretty much the only dish I use it for regularly) it will last you awhile.
This recipe is the same (except for the modern methods of preparation) as from the time the rhyme was written: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old!


3 pounds frozen peas
3 small (or 2 large) yellow onions, peeled and chopped
4 cups vegetable broth (2 14-oz. cans plus one can filled with water)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. saffron
fresh, coarsely ground pepper (a little in the pot, a little more on top of each bowlful as a garnish)
heaping spoonful of bacon grease/fat

Bring stock and water to a boil (or at least beginning to boil) in a large kettle. I usually throw the onions in as the broth is heating up, mainly because I want them away from my eyes as quickly as possible. Add remaining ingredients to the broth, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until peas and onions are soft.
Puree the soup in a blender in small batches, pouring the pureed soup into a large bowl as each batch is finished and then returning to the pot to reheat once all is blended into a nice green mush.
Can be made ahead, frozen, and/or reheated.
The end result kinda looks like baby poop but it's absolutely delicious! And of course you can leave out the bacon grease if you want it to be vegetarian, but I think it adds a nice subtle hint as if I'd put ham in the soup.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Herb-Salted Pork Roast

So the baby finally decided to take a nap this afternoon, and I took 5 minutes of that "me time" to prepare dinner for later tonight, when my husband should be home to watch her. This is only the start of the recipe, which I prepared at least two hours before I planned on cooking it. The pork roast ran me about $4 and I had all the spices on my shelf. I'll be cooking vegetables to go with this later, just not sure what yet. This can be roasted on its own and just served with sides of sweet potato and a green veggie.

Ingredients for dry rub:

Pork Loin Roast, 1-2 pounds
1 Tbsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp dry oregano
1/8 tsp dry thyme

Mix herbs and spices together well in a small bowl. Rinse meat off under warm water and shake dry, then rub seasoning mixture over the entire slab of meat. Place meat in a gallon-size storage back and let sit in the refrigerator at least one hour before cooking.

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-pound bag of baby carrots
1/2 sweet onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil spray
seasoned salt
ground black pepper

When it's time to cook, spray bottom of pan with olive oil then place meat in roasting pan and surround with chopped vegetables. Spray olive oil over veggies and sprinkle with some seasoned salt and ground black pepper. Roast at 325 F for 1 hr 15-30 minutes, depending on weight of pork, or until internal temperature is up to 160 F or higher.
I accidentally over-salted the vegetables, but other than that even a little overcooked it was fantastic. Feeds 3-4 people, if they don't steal all the veggies like my husband did.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Quick Marinated Steak

The baby is about 4 1/2 months old now and she is beginning to transition into sleeping most of the night and being awake most of the day, which means I'm exhausted on a daily basis now. So the meals I'm preparing for dinner, if I must prepare while my husband is not home to watch the baby, are getting cheaper and easier. After reaching my goal in the grocery store last weekend to spend less than $140, I am cooking lots of cheap meals this week. Tonight's is a chuck mock-fillet steak.


1-2 pounds cheap steak
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp A1 sauce
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp garlic pepper
dash of ground mustard, if available

Drop all ingredients into a 1-gallon storage/Ziploc bag, close the top and mix together well. Reopen bag and put steaks in, then seal bag tightly with very little air and shake around/massage sauce into meat. Let sit in refrigerator marinating for 2 or more hours. Broil on high 4-5 minutes on each side, depending on your preference for doneness.

I had about 1.3 pounds of steak (2 steaks) so mine will serve 2 people, but this would be enough sauce for 3 steaks. Double the amounts to make 6 steaks. Serve with potatoes and peas or another green vegetable.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lamb Neckbone Stew Again

I took a few more photos of the process this time. This stew will serve about 6 people and is very thick and hearty. The original recipe can be found HERE. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare and I had all the vegetable ingredients at home (remember the sort of things I said you should always keep in your cupboard, like root vegetables and frozen peas and corn), and the Lamb was in a reduced meat bin so I got a little over 2 pounds for about $7. The baby was actually able to enjoy herself for quite awhile in her playpen, lying on her tummy and talking to her toys until after I was finished preparing this.
This is what I mean by "cubed" potatoes, cut into large chunks:

A good tip in case you are trying to really stretch out ingredients when you don't have enough of something (say you only have half an onion, or only 3 carrots when you need 4) is to chop them into smaller pieces. If you take less of something and make it looks smaller it ends up getting spread out more, so every bite of the finished product gets a little.

Remember, start this stew by 10am and cook it on low all day to make your house smell wonderful and eat a lovely dinner by 5 or 6pm. Goes great with crescent rolls.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vegetarian Penne Italiano

Sounds fancy, doesn't it? That was the goal. I had an idea for this dish while I was grocery shopping, and I only actually paid about $2 for the ingredients, since I had most of this stuff at home already. The baby decided to enjoy some tummy time on her surfboard playmat while I put this together for about 20 minutes. My husband said it tasted great but could use some meat, so I think next time I make it I'll buy a hard salami and put some chunks of that into the mix.


1 box Penne pasta, prepared
1 cup onion, sliced lengthwise and then cut in half
3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 roma tomato, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and julienned or thinly sliced
2 small (or 1 large) zucchini, cut into inch long strips
1 small yellow squash, cut into inch long strips
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing

Prepare the pasta as indicated on the box, boiling until noodles are cooked but still firm. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil on low. Add all chopped vegetables to the pan and stir together well.

Add spices on top of that and mix well, cooking on low for about ten minutes or at least as long as it takes to cook the pasta.

Note that in the video I mistakenly said "bay leaves" when I meant to say "basil leaves".
Drain pasta and pour into a serving bowl, then add cooked vegetable mix on top. Add the Italian dressing and stir all together well.

If you like, mix in 1 cup chopped hard salami. Eat and enjoy! Fair warning, because of the mostly-still-raw garlic and onion, this dish may give you a bit of gas.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cheatin' Chicken Fajitas

As the baby gets older, it's easier to distract her either with toys or a new viewpoint, such as sitting in the high chair looking at things or watching me from her bouncer. Last night was one of those easily distract-able nights for her, especially since we had a couple friends join us for dinner. I'm a big fan of McCormick spices and spice packs, and I took advantage of one of their easy meal ideas last night. Of course, I added a couple ingredients to make it better, but if you don't have the extras on hand then the mix packet works just fine on its own. This takes about 20-30 minutes to prepare and feeds 4 people.


1- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cost: about $3)
1 sweet onion, halved and cut into strips
1 green pepper, cored and cut into strips
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/8 tsp ground cumin seed or ground cumin
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 McCormick Fajita Mix packet (cost: 60 cents)
10-pack or larger of flour tortillas (cost: $2)
12 oz pack of Mexican-style shredded cheese (cost: $2)
12 oz. light sour cream (cost: $1.60)

Cut chicken thighs into long strips. You need a good sharp knife for this sort of thing, and I used my Ginsu. You can buy pre-cut strips of chicken but it's cheaper to just do it yourself. Brown meat (or at least cook until you no longer see any pink) in one Tbsp olive oil in large frying pan on medium heat, then remove to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, add the remaining Tbsp olive oil and brown/wilt the onion and pepper.

Return chicken strips to the same pan and add the lime juice, cumin seed (which I ground myself in my mortar) , water and spice packet. Continue to fry, mixing all together for another 3 minutes on low-medium heat. Warm a few tortillas for 10 seconds in the microwave, then put some of the fajita mix in the middle of each tortilla, topping each with some shredded cheese and sour cream, then fold up and eat.

I forgot to take photos of the finished product, as I had been working on a glass of wine by this time and was distracted by the company we had over. I'm sure you'll figure out what a fajita looks like without my help though. The baby had a good time listening to the conversation and watching us all eat. Very tasty recipe and easy to make!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Baby Food

So the baby food making venture is going well, except for a few unexpected setbacks. Number one, Mason jars that are only 8 oz. cost $7 for a mere set of 4 at Walmart. Not planning on buying those again! I got some freezer jars as well, but I'll probably just have to start filling larger canning jars. I was hoping to avoid that, as I don't know for sure how long a larger jar will last once it's been opened, but I guess we'll have to see.

Yesterday I peeled and chopped 4 large carrots and boiled them with 1/4 cup of water in the Crock Pot for about 5 hours. Once I removed them to the blender, the mix ended up needing another 1/4 cup of water, but after that it was able to get mostly pureed. Just boiled carrots and water. Here's the kicker though: 4 carrots filled ONE 8 oz. mason jar. That's it! So I bought a huge bag of carrots at the grocery store today and I'll be working on canning more all week. I started on a bag of frozen green beans once I got home. I threw the whole (2 pound) bag into the 4-quart Crock Pot with 1/2 cup of water and it's cooking now.

This is a long and slow process, but will be worth it once the baby starts eating real food in a few months. She's just on rice cereal and breast milk now, but soon enough she'll be on real foods. I know I'm definitely saving a ton of money by doing this myself.
Once you fill a jar (almost to the top), just drop it gently into a pot of boiling water (letting the water cover over the top of the lid) and leave it there for 5-6 minutes, then take it out and set it on a paper towel to dry. The lid will seal itself within minutes.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Marinated Pan-Fried Steaks with Acorn Squash

The baby is doing well with watching me and sucking on a toy when I strap her into the high chair in the kitchen with me. I'm making my first attempt at making my own baby food today with the only suitable thing I had left in the house, since I'm not going grocery shopping til tomorrow: carrots. 4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks, and 1/4 cup of water in my small (4 quart) Crock Pot. I need to buy a lot more canning jars if I'm going to make this a regular venture.
Anyway I figured since I was already in the kitchen that I would start on dinner. I had a 2.3-pound package of Top Blade Steaks (5 steaks) which my husband thought would be pretty good fried rather than broiled. So I decided to make a marinade and let the steaks soak in a bag until I cook them up tonight.


2-3 pounds Top Blade Steaks
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp Low Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. garlic pepper

Pour the sauces and spices into a one gallon storage bag, then close the bag and shake it up well. Reopen bag and drop steaks in, then seal the bag tightly and swish back and forth to mix and coat all the steaks in the sauce. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before cooking.

Fry on medium heat about 6-7 minutes on each side, or longer if you like them well done. Serve with vegetables and egg noodles or potatoes. Takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves as many people as steaks you have.

For the squash, I took one medium/large size acorn squash (green and orange or yellow doesn't matter as they both taste the same), cut it in half and cut a bit off either end so each half would stand up with the center hole side up. Clean the seeds out of the hole in the center and set each half on a baking sheet.

Filling (amount for each half):

1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 pat butter
salt and pepper

Put all filling ingredients into each half of squash. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour. Serves two. VERY tasty side dish!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pork Loin Roast with Sweet Potatoes, Apples and Onions

Military folks get paid twice a month, and it's almost pay day. This means that my fridge and cabinets are almost empty of all the food I bought last paycheck (two weeks ago), so I'm doing pretty well for making it last two whole weeks. But that means that the pork roast I had thawing in the refrigerator for today had little left to accompany it. So this is totally an empty-out-the-cupboard meal. And I'm starting it a little late, having waited for the baby's 10:30am nap to get this ready. And now that you'll have my recipe, I can tell you it will probably only take about 20-25 minutes to prepare in your 7-quart slow cooker, and then you just play the Crock Pot waiting game.


2-pound pork loin roast (cost me a little over $3)
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp garlic pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp garlic salt
1/8 tsp seasoned salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 apple, cored and cut into small chunks
1 whole sweet onion, sliced lengthwise and broken up
2-3 shallots, sliced lengthwise into strips
1/2 cup water
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Rinse meat off and place flat side down in bottom of Crock Pot. Sprinkle next 6 ingredients (herbs/spices) over the meat in whatever order you like, rubbing into meat.

Toss in onions, potatoes, shallots and apple, mixed up altogether. You can do this in layers as it may be easier to spice that way. Pour in 1/2 cup water. Sprinkle seasoned salt on all layers of vegetables, then sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg, trying to get most of the last two on just the sweet potatoes and apples. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Makes about 4-6 servings.

The pork ended up tasting a little bit dry, but not bad. If you have time, I recommend salting the pork a half hour before you set it in the crock pot to cook.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spicy Chili Night

It's time for chili again! I plopped the baby in her high chair in the kitchen with me, handed her her favorite butterfly toy, and went to work making chili. I used the same recipe as last time, found HERE. But I took a few more pictures this time to help you out.

Brown meat:

Rinse off beans and add to pot with the diced tomatoes:

Chop vegetables:

I also wanted to add that this chili takes about 20 minutes to prepare and cooks for at least 6 hours on low in a 7-quart Crock Pot. It will feed at least 6 people, which means my husband and I always end up with leftovers. And this chili is excellent reheated as well! Let me know how yours turns out if you try making this with my recipe.

What it looks like in the pot all mixed together before it cooks all day:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Butter is better

Since I didn't really cook dinner tonight (I don't count two slices of toast with butter and marmalade for myself as dinner), I still wanted to leave you with something that has been on my mind lately: why I use butter instead of margarine.

I suppose part of it is an individual taste; once you stop using margarine and try butter on your foods for a few days it's very hard to go back. But part of it is my aversion to hydrogenated oils and my love of natural foods. Cream and salt churned together until solid. You really can't get much more natural than that.

Anyway, I also did a little research online and found that the greatest argument AGAINST using butter is its saturated fat content (which anything that is made from natural animal ingredients will have), which can cause problems for consumers with high cholesterol problems.

The American Heart Association says the fat in butter is a monosaturated fat, which can actually end up being healthier for you than the fat contained in margarine.

These other articles also back up my argument:

Fat Fight: Is Butter Better?

Why Butter Is Better Than Margarine

Why Healthy Butter Is Better

My conclusion: Hooray for sweet cream salted butter! I don't even keep margarine in my house anymore; if I need soft butter I take some out of the covered butter dish I leave always full out on my counter. Butter replaces shortening in all my baking recipes, as "shortening" usually refers to Crisco, which I find really yucky. As long as you don't have a cholesterol problem, try trading your tub of margarine for a smaller amount of real butter next time you need to cook, bake, or put something on your toast.

I must also remind you that because butter is made with cream it technically becomes spoiled/hazardous in less than a week if left on the counter. I have not experienced this myself, but if you are unused to using warm butter you may prefer to take precautions and purchase a Butter Keeper.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rosemary Garlic Chicken with Fried Rice

This recipe was a toss-up...I completely BS'd my way through what I thought was garlic chicken. I recommend preparing the oil infusion a few days ahead of time, though, to let the flavors truly infuse the olive oil. My husband didn't think the chicken had enough flavor to it.

Rosemary Garlic Oil Infusion:

1- 1 1/2 cups olive oil
3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, halved or quartered
1/8 tsp garlic pepper
1/8 tsp sea salt

Drop all ingredients into a seal-able jar (I poured the oil in last) and shake, then let sit for a few days. You won't need this much just for this recipe, but if you add a little garlic salt to the oil mixture after you're done with this recipe, this will make a great bread dip for later.


1 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
seasoned salt
ground black pepper
1/4 cup rosemary garlic oil infusion

Rinse off meat and pat dry, then sprinkle both sides of each piece with a few shakes of seasoned salt and pepper. Pour oil into a large bowl. Rub spices in, then dip each thigh into the oil, coating both sides. Place meat on broiler rack in roasting pan and roast at 375 F for 35-40 minutes or until no longer pink inside.

Fried Rice:

1 1/2 cups Nishiki rice
2 cups water
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 sticks celery, sliced lengthwise then chopped fine
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
pinch of garlic powder and ground black pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce

Bring first two ingredients to a boil in a pot, then simmer for 15 minutes until rice has absorbed all water. Put peas and corn in bowl together with a few tablespoons of water and microwave for 2 minutes, then drain. Heat oil in a large Wok on medium heat, then add celery, onions, peas and corn.

Once these begin to wilt and become see-through, push to side of Wok and drop eggs into the space left, moving and frying until cooked.

Mix all together and sprinkle spices over all; keep frying. When rice is finished, add it to the Wok and add soy sauce, mixing well and cooking on low to heat all through.

This meal makes 2-4 servings; we only had 3 thighs but I could have easily made 4 with this recipe. There was enough rice to feed at least 5 or 6 people a serving.

And of course, if you get a fresh loaf of sourdough or French bread, you can rip bits off and dip in some of the leftover oil.

Beef Teriyaki

Alright, give me a break, it was a Saturday night, and after 9 months of not drinking followed by barely drinking anything the last four months you can't blame me for getting drunk off one glass of wine! The recipe I was using called for 2 tablespoons of white wine, so I figured I might as well open a bottle of reisling and drink as much of the rest of the bottle as I could. My point is, I forgot to take any photos of the process or result. I can draw a picture if you want me to. Suffice to say, this stuff is delicious; my husband hates teriyaki but told me this was the best teriyaki sauce he'd ever had. Oh, and I was missing several items from the recipe I had so I substituted some ingredients to make this my own.


1 1/2-2 lbs blade steak, sliced thin
ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp white wine
2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
2 scallions sliced thin or 3 Tbsp minced onion

Slice up steak. Drop veggie oil into large frying pan and heat on medium, then brown steak in pan. In small pot add all other ingredients and whisk together, heating on low-medium, until it comes to a boil. Simmer 2 minutes, then add sauce to the browned meat and cook on low another 2-3 minutes til heated through.

Serve over hot bowls of Nishiki rice, then sprinkle each serving with sesame seeds. Serves 3-4, depending on exact poundage of meat.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Crock Pot dinner made super easy, and cheap! Except around St. Patrick's Day, when corned beef is at a premium, you can usually find a good hunk of the stuff at your grocery store for a decent price. I picked up a 3-pound prepared corned beef brisket for a little over $8, and the veggie accompaniments were all together only a couple bucks more. Definitely use at least a 7-quart Crock pot for this one though, as there are a lot of things to pile in.


2-4 lb. corned beef brisket
3-4 red potatoes, cubed
4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced
whole small green cabbage
seasoned salt and ground black pepper

Rinse off the beef and place fat side down in bottom of Crock Pot. Open seasoning packet (which comes with every package of corned beef) and sprinkle over meat.

Arrange carrots, potatoes, and onions around the meat, letting extras spill over on top of meat. Sprinkle vegetables with a few shakes of seasoned salt and pepper. Add 3/4 cup of water, poured down the side so as not to disturb the spices.

Cut up cabbage into large chunks and arrange to cover all. Sprinkle with a little more seasoned salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low 6-10 hours (all day). Makes about 6 servings.