Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Thrifty Thursday!

The description or should I say, disclaimer on this week’s meal plan was "Nothin Fancy". This meal was certainly simple and for the budget conscious (who isn’t these days?), a score. If you looked at the Split Pea Soup post, you noticed that one of the ingredients was Turkey Kielbasa. Many of you expressed distaste for split pea soup (I still stand by my soup), but maybe you’ll like straight up kielbasa better. The kielbasa I purchased at my local grocery were buy one get one free. So, I tossed 2 into my cart. Kielbasa may not be a personal favorite, but it is a hit with my family. I used one package for the soup and put the other in the freezer. I pulled it out to thaw for my Nothin' Fancy meal plan this week. I cooked it in the skillet according to the package directions and served it with one of those store brand cartons of freezer broccoli and fried potatoes. The potatoes involved the most effort and in my opinion, were the most tasty item on the menu. The broccoli was purchased in the little microwavable packages and cost $1 (10 for $10 mix and match freezer veggies). So, the entire cost of this meal to feed my family of 4 was less than $5. Everyone was full and happy. Not too shabby. Maybe I should run for some sort of office. I could reform….cut spending…don’t you think?

To make the potatoes, I melted about a tablespoon or two of butter in my skillet.

I’m a butter girl. I know there are arguments for both sides, but butter just tastes better and it’s not a hydrogenated, trans fat. That’s just my personal opinion. If you want to read studies by the Mayo Clinic or email forwards regarding the fact that margarine is just one molecule away from plastic, I can forward those sites to you. Me, I made up my mind a long time ago. Butter. It’s good stuff.

Then, I just peeled and thinly sliced 2-4 potatoes and tossed them into the skillet atop the golden, melted butter. If you like onions (and I do!) then throw in some onion slices as well. Salt and pepper to your taste. Now, I essentially stir fry the potatoes and onions until they are tender and golden brown.

Plate those potatoes with the kielbasa and broccoli and you have yourself a low cost dinner in about 15 minutes with prep time included.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Here's another from my book of favorites. I cooked it up as I watched ice hit the windows. A nice, hot, cheesy bowl of soup was just what the doctor ordered. Especially when I paired it with one of my family's favorite comfort foods, grilled cheese.

I begin by sauteing 1 cup of chopped onion with 2 cloves of garlic. For this recipe I just spray the bottom of my soup pot with a little non-stick cooking spray. Cuts down on fat and calories.

When the onion is tender, add chicken broth and broccoli. Once it reaches a boil, cook for 10 minutes. This recipe calls for broccoli florets. Make sure you get the florets, that way you avoid the fibrous strands that tend to hang out in the stalks. I was out of florets and didn't want to go to the store so you'll see stalks pictured below. Not wise. Every once in a while I got one of those hard, fibrous, stalk pieces in my soup.

Whisk the milk and flour until it's well blended.

Add the milk and flour to the broccoli and broth mixture. Stir in pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir it constantly or it will stick.

This picture makes me want to apologize for my beaten down looking old cookware and the haphazard way that I have those cooking utensils stored by the stove. Conveniently within reach. But since it says "everyday cooking" in my blog description...maybe I shouldn't apologize. After all, it doesn't say "cooking in my fancy, state of the art kitchen". Maybe I should just stop looking at these pictures. I didn't start to really dislike my Pfaltzgraff pattern until I started looking at pictures of it everyday on this blog. Okay....moving on... to Velveeta!

This family loves Velveeta. Obviously, not cheese connoisseurs. Velveeta isn't even a cheese. It's a pasteurized processed cheese food product which is what the FDA requires products with less than 51% cheese to be labelled.

3 cheers for Velveeta!
I cube mine before I toss it into the soup.

It melts so nicely!
Remove the soup from the heat and stir until the cheese is melted.

Now you should put 1/3 of the soup into a blender or food processor. This time, I put it all in because of those broccoli stalks. How do you like this food processor? It's from the 70's. My blender went out in a blaze of glory. The motor burned up. It actually smoked. Then, one of the key pieces of my food processor fell onto the heating element of my dishwasher. I've been at a little bit of a loss without these appliances in my kitchen. So, last weekend I sucked it up and did what any woman of my means and resources would have done... I borrowed my mom's. She's not using it anymore. Check it out, 30 plus years old and it still works great!

Now, just return the soup to the pot and dish it up.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
Saute for about 3 minutes
3 cups chicken broth
16 oz. broccoli florets
Add to the sauteed onion and garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.

2 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Whisk together until well blended. Pour into chicken broth/broccoli mixture, stirring constantly. Cook about 5 minutes, until slightly thickened.

8 oz. Light Velveeta, cubed
Remove from heat. Add Velveeta and stir until the "cheese" melts. Puree 1/3 of soup in a blender and return to the rest of the soup.

Makes 6- 1 1/3 cup servings.
203 calories per serving 6.3 g fat, 2.9 g fiber

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2 for Tuesday!

I know that the meal plan lists Shepherd’s Pie for Monday, Broccoli Soup for Tuesday, and Sloppy Joes for Wednesday….so I apologize for a slight change in schedule. If you read my guide to meal planning then you remember that the plan needs to lend itself to a little flexibility. Therefore, today is 2 for Tuesday. I’ll first post about Shepherd’s Pie and then Sloppy Joes. We’ll be back on schedule with Broccoli Cheese soup tomorrow night.

Because we’re making two ground beef based recipes we’ll start by browning a whole lotta beef. The Sloppy Joe recipe calls for a diced onion to be cooked with the meat. The Shepherd’s Pie does not. I’m from the school of thought that a little onion never ruined a ground beef dish, so I threw an onion in with the 3 ½ lbs of ground beef (that’s 1 lb for the Shepherd’s Pie and 2 ½ lbs for the Sloppy Joes).

Now drain the beef and set aside for a bit.

While we’re on the topic of draining, where do you drain your fat? Do you dump it down the drain? We all know that’s a no-no. Nobody likes clogged pipes. You can’t dump it into plastic….it could melt. I’ve heard of using a coffee can. That’s a good idea. I use a canning jar. It hides under my sink. When it’s full, I pitch it. Kind of wasteful, I know. But my coffee comes in a plastic container so that’s out. Besides, that grease jar is full of memories. There at the bottom, that’s bacon grease from Christmas morning. Toward the top….fat from the chili beef from my very first post on this blog. Sniff sniff. I’m totally joking. That thing is gross. Hey- they could probably do a whole CSI based on a grease jar. Food forensics. Imagine, Marg Helgenberger to William Peterson: Well, the victim had Italian sausage in his stomach at the T.O.D. We obtained this jar of grease from Krista’s Kitchen. We ran it back to the lab and a sample from the third layer down shows remnants of (dum dum dum dummmm) sausage! The camera pans to catch the shocked look on my face. William Peterson to me: M’am where were you the night of Oct. 15th? Did you dine with the victim....
Okay, enough about the grease jar. Just for the purpose of keepin’ it real, here’s mine:

Shepherd’s Pie

You can either take your leftover potatoes from Swiss Steak night or make fresh ones or *gasp* even use instant mashed potatoes. They just need to be hot. Throw in the garlic, cream cheese and half of the cheddar cheese and stir.

Now mix 4 cups of thawed mixed veggies with 1 lb. of the ground beef and 1 cup of beef gravy.

Put it into a baking dish.

Top with the mashed potatoes

Top with cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes

And serve. Everyone ate it....some with enthusiasm. So, it gets a seal of approval from this household.

Easy Shepherd’s Pie from Kraft Food and Family
1 lb. ground beef
2 cups hot mashed potatoes
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, cubed
1 cup KRAFT Shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 cup beef gravy

PREHEAT oven to 375ºF. Brown meat in large skillet. Meanwhile, mix potatoes, cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese and the garlic until well blended.
DRAIN meat. Return to skillet; stir in vegetables and gravy. Spoon into 9-inch square baking dish; cover with potato mixture and remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese.
BAKE 20 min. or until heated through.

Sloppy Joes
While the Shepherd's Pie is baking, go ahead and make your Sloppy Joes. Refrigerate them for tomorrow night’s dinner.

I do love this Sloppy Joe recipe! It’s the only one I make. When you look at the recipe, you may be a skeptic. Worcestershire? Cream of Mushroom soup? Brown Sugar!? Just trust me. It is SO good. And so easy. Now that you’ve already browned the beef with the onion...

you just need to dump in the remaining 5 ingredients.

Stir. Simmer.

Serve it up!

Sloppy Joes
2 ½ lbs. hamburger
1 onion
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
½ cup ketchup….or catsup…. or whatever
1 tablespoon of mustard
2 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

I can't eat sloppy joes without thinking of the lunch lady from Billy Madison. "Have some more sloppy joes. I made 'em extra sloppy for yous. I know how yous kids like 'em sloppy."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Meal Plan and Grocery List for 10/27-11/7

Nothin’ Fancy.
That’s my theme this week. After a week of visiting family, the unpacking, laundry, and just plain old playing catch up this week will warrant a plan with simple meals….so I’m titling this week’s plan, "Nothin’ Fancy". But stay with me. It’s still good food.

Monday, October 27th
Easy Shepherd’s Pie

Tuesday, October 28th
Broccoli and Cheese Soup
with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
1 1/3 cup of soup = 4 WW points

Wednesday, October 29th
Sloppy Joe Sandwiches

Thursday, October 30th
Turkey Kielbasa
Fried Potatoes
Green Beans

Friday, October 31st
Happy Halloween!
Is and always will be pizza night!

Saturday, November 1st
Sausage-filled Acorn Squash

Sunday, November 2nd
Beef Stew and Biscuits

Grocery List

Hamburger Buns

2 onions
Acorn Squash

3 ½ lbs of ground beef
2 lbs stew meat or 1 quart canned beef
1 lb turkey kielbasa
½ lb bulk sausage

Dry Goods
Brown Sugar
Beef Bouillion

Canned Goods
Tomato soup
French onion soup
Cream of mushroom soup
Worcestershire sauce
3 cups of chicken broth
Beef gravy

Cream cheese
Shredded Cheddar

16 oz broccoli florets
24 oz stew vegetables
4 cups mixed vegetables

Slow Cooked Cube Steak with Mushroom Gravy

Cube steak has never been my favorite cut of meat. However, my family sends me beef and some of that beef is in the form of cube steak. What am I supposed to say? "Could you please not send me any of that FREE cube steak?" I think not. In the past I’ve picked around these cube steaks in the freezer until I have used up all of my beef and there are about 8 packages of cube steak staring back from my otherwise empty freezer. No longer! Now I try to throw cube steak into my meal plan from time to time so it’s used up and my family doesn’t have to eat country fried steak for a week straight.

Some of you might be asking, what the heck is cube steak? Well, to make a cube steak, the butcher generally takes an ordinary, flavorful but tough round steak cut from the top or bottom round ,and runs it through a butcher's tenderizer once or twice, turning it almost into hamburger meat. This machine is sometimes called a cube steak machine, and leaves cube-shaped imprints on the surface of the meat, thus the name "cube steak". My husband’s favorite method of preparation for cube steak is country fried and smothered in white gravy alongside mashed potatoes. However, I prefer it slow-cooked so that the last bit of "chewiness" is cooked out over a period of hours. I did compromise though, and served this slow cooked cube steak with mashed potatoes. If you decide to follow next weeks’ meal plan then you will notice Shepherd’s Pie on the plan for Monday. So save 2 cups of the mashed potatoes for Monday’s Shepherd’s Pie.

The way that I prepared this cube steak was to rub it with a beef bouillon type seasoning and salt and pepper. Mmm. Doesn’t it look good? Not so much? That’s okay. It gets worse before it gets better.

Then I spread a can of cream of mushroom soup over the top and filled the soup can with water and dumped that in too. See, I told you it would get worse.

I set my crock pot on the lowest setting and left for church and lunch and the store… get the picture. Then around 6 pm I removed the lid from my crock pot to see this.

I cooked up some potatoes and microwaved some green beans and served up that so-tender-you-can-eat-it-with-a-spoon cube steak topped with mushroom gravy (a by-product of the meat and mushroom soup) for Sunday dinner. Mmmm mmmm

Slow Cooker Cube Steak

2-3 lbs. cube steak
2 cubes beef bouillon or 1/2 packet french onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can (use mushroom soup can) water

Heat a little oil or butter in a skillet. Mix flour, salt, and pepper together. Dredge steaks in flour mixture. Transfer to hot skillet and brown on both sides. Remove to slow cooker. Mix together the mushroom soup, water, and bouillion or french onion soup mix. Pour mixture over the cube steaks. Cover and cook on LOW for around six hours or until the steaks are falling apart tender.

Blushing Penne

I have been away from home all week visiting family. We’re on a little Fall holiday. Unfortunately, it means that I have fallen behind on my blog. On the upside, I had the opportunity to cook for a wider base of critics (my parents, sisters, and their families) this week. AND for those of you that are getting tired of viewing the dinners that I create on my Pfaltzgraff Jamberry motif plates, you can look at my mom’s dinnerware in these pictures. Look- when I registered for our wedding gifts 6 years ago, I had no idea I'd be taking daily pictures of my everyday plates. If any of you were dying with anticipation for my Blushing Penne recipe, I am sorry to have kept you waiting.

I love this pasta recipe because it is so easy to make. The flavors from the parmigiano-reggiano cheese and the herbs combined with the creamy texture and blushing color make such a simple recipe "fancy"... for lack of a better word.

If you’ve never used parmigiano-reggiano cheese before, you’re in for a treat. Parmigiano-Reggiano has a sweet-nutty flavor and crumbly texture that is a favorite of both cheese lovers and connoisseurs. This cheese has significantly more flavor than regular parmesean, so you can use less of it and conserve calories.

I begin by boiling the water for the penne. Then I melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. I toss in about a cup of thinly sliced onions and cook them until golden brown. Then I add basil and thyme and cook for another minute or so.

Next, I pour in a cup of half and half and ½ cup of white cooking wine.

Now here’s the blushing part: 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
Stir it in.

Stir the rest of the half and half with 2 tablespoons of flour until smooth. Add the mixture to the sauce. Also add ½ cup of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Cook until thickened.

Now you’re all ready to drain the penne and toss with the sauce. Top it with more of that delicious parmiggiano-reggiano cheese and it’s ready to serve!

Last night I served the Blushing Penne to my family with a plain old lettuce salad graced with celery, dried cherries, and a crisp, slightly tart sliced apple. Oh, and of course, pasta’s good buddy: garlic bread. You've gotta have garlic bread!

Blushing Penne
1 package (16 oz) penne pasta
1 cup of thinly sliced onions
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups half and half cream, divided
½ cup of white cooking wine or chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
Cook penne according to package directions. In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook onions in butter 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Add thyme, basil, and salt, cook 1 minute longer. Add 1 cup of cream, wine, and tomato paste. Cook and stir until blended. Combine flour and remaining cream until smooth; gradually stir into onion mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes until thickened. Stir in ¼ cup of cheese. Drain penne. Toss with sauce. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

1 cup= 336 calories, 10 g fat, 46 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber. WW points: 7

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes

Here's a recipe from my teaching days. We used this tasty squash as one of the recipes in our vegetable lab. I like this recipe because it is full of flavor AND healthy . It provides a sneaky way to get your kids to eat more vegetables. It's a vegetable diguised as pasta... and kids usually like pasta. This meatless dish is also a filling option for the diet concious. 4 ounces of spaghetti squash contains only 37 calories! You can make this recipe even "lighter" by omitting the butter.

The quickest way to prepare spaghetti squash is in the microwave. First, cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Place the halves in a microwave dish and add 1/4 cup water. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and cook the squash about 10 minutes on high. Depending on your microwave and the size of the squash, the exact time will vary. I test for doneness with a fork.

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes
1 spaghetti squash
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 large clove garlic
2 T. olive oil
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. dried oregano leaves
¼ tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. fennel seed
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 T. butter or margarine
¼ cup grated parmesan
1. Prepare and cook squash using microwave.
2. Cook onion, green pepper and garlic in oil in 3-qt. saucepan (I used a skillet) over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes, salt, oregano, basil, fennel and pepper. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove squash strands with two forks

4. Toss squash with butter and cheese

5. Spoon tomato mixture over the top and enjoy! I like to sprinkle a little parmesean over the top and serve with garlic bread.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chicken Piccata

This recipe has made it into my notebook of favorites.

I begin with cutting the chicken breast halves into (approximately) 4 oz. portions

Now the fun begins. I prefer to make this dish when I have a little pent up aggression. Pulverize that chicken until it is 1/4" thick. I put mine in a resealable plastic bag and pound away with the flat side of a meat mallet. Why the plastic bag? Who likes to clean pulverized raw chicken off of their walls? Don't you love it when people answer a question with yet another question? Seriously, it's not terribly sanitary to have potentially salmonella infested chicken juice splashing all over your food preparation and eating surfaces with every strike of the mallet. Still have your appetite? Read on!

I prepare the egg mixture and flour/Parmesan mixtures for breading. Dredge the chicken in the flour. Dip into the egg. Then back into the flour one more time.

Now into the pan

And flip. Isn't it pretty? All golden brown and scrumptious looking.

After you remove the chicken to a warm location, don't scrape the pan or wash it out before the next step. Rather, toss in the butter and melt, then pour in the remaining wine and lemon juice and scrape the drippings loose while you stir the sauce. That stuff cooked on to the bottom of the pan adds flavor.

Now boil the sauce until it is reduced by a fourth. I like capers in my piccata, so I toss in a tablespoon.

Finally I place the cooked chicken breasts on a bed of whole wheat angel hair pasta and drizzle the sauce over the top. Mmmmmm.

Chicken Piccata
8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth, divided
5 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter
1-2 tablespoons capers

Directions: Flatten chicken to 1/4-in. thickness. In a shallow dish, combine the egg substitute, 2 tablespoons wine or broth, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, garlic and hot pepper sauce. In another shallow dish, combine the flour, Parmesan cheese, parsley and salt. Coat chicken with flour mixture, dip in egg substitute mixture, then coat again with flour mixture. In a large nonstick skillet, brown four chicken breast halves in 1-1/2 teaspoons oil for 3-5 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Remove and keep warm. Drain drippings. Repeat with remaining chicken and oil. Remove and keep warm. In the same pan, melt butter. Add the remaining wine or broth and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, until sauce is reduced by a fourth. Toss in about 1 tablespoon of capers. Drizzle over chicken. Yield: 8 servings.

One serving:
One chicken breast half
Calories: 246 Fat: 8g Carbohydrate: 8g Fiber 0g (trace)
Diabetic Exchange:
4 lean meat, 1/2 starch.
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