Sunday, January 30, 2011

Still Cleaning Out the Cupboards!

Years ago, my mom made a dish she called "Goulash."

I never did get the recipe - and the reason was, it never tasted the same twice. Mom always did what I did tonight:

Pull out what's in need of being used before it goes bad, and put it together with tomatoes, cheese, and whatever pasta you have on hand.

The one up there is a layered dish:
13.5 ounce box of whole wheat rotini (boiled in lightly salted water)
2 cans of diced Italian flavored tomatoes
1/2 an onion, chopped
3/4 of a yellow pepper, chopped,
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can of chopped black olives, drained
1 pound of ground chicken, sauteed in 2 Tblsp. olive oil
1 container of sliced fresh mushrooms, cut in half

then I shook in (without measuring) sage (just a bit b/c I couldn't decide if I'd like it or not), thyme, oregano, basil, and pepper.

I layered all the above (I mixed the chicken mixture in with the cooked rotini first) with shredded part-skim mozzarella and shredded parmesan cheeses. I topped the casserole with those as well, and baked at 350 for about 40 minutes (to heat everything and melt the cheese).

It was yummy.

Which is a darn good thing, because there's a ton of it! I suspect I'll be putting some of this in the freezer by Wednesday, but at least it will last awhile longer than it would have if I hadn't done something with all that stuff!

(and I think I'm skipping Meatless Monday this week, as a result)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Local, Local, Local...It All Starts At Local!

If ever that were true, it was today.

I left my office at 4:30, veered down the road a piece in one direction to my Local Yarn Store (which closes at 5) for needles, tangent-ed (is that a word?) off towards Salem (the town next door, but only barely) to pick up fabric a customer had requested at one of our nice local quilt shops (which closes at 5:30), then circling back around to the local druggist (who closes at 6) where I tend to buy generics OFF my health plan because the Big Health Plan insists I can't get them locally if I run it through them - so to HECK with them, I'm supporting my local guy. Not as often as I wish I could (which is always) but when I can afford to pay out of pocket, I do. I dread the day I drive up to the store and find it shuttered. The pharmacist and I have discussed just this...

Then unfortunately, I had to stop at the grocery store. NOT local. {sob!}

But sorta, kinda regional...a tiny bit better than Kroger. Thanks to their good price on cat food, the furkids will be cared for for another 25 days...

Now, do you know why I scurried for needles? Because my friend Ellen and her sister Jan, and friend Alison have all gotten the idea of knitting Warm Hats for Hot Heads. This to honor those folks in Tucson who lost their lives and the others whose lives will never be the same. We're knitting hats for each of the Representatives in Congress and all the Senators. It's a tall order. We want them to do more than the token "date night" for the State of the Union speech. We want them to return to civility. To treat every single one of the colleagues with respect and the firm belief that every single one of them is there because they love their country. They have different ideas of what is best for the country, but there isn't any doubt at all that they love it. We have to honor that, draw that out, and work to build the kind of responsible government that doesn't put people in danger. No yelling. Use your inside voice. Discuss. Don't tear each other down, work to persuade and learn to compromise. Like your Moms' all taught you.

Can you knit? Do you want to help? Let us know (we've also got a group on Ravelry). If you can't knit, can you spread the word thru your various knitter communities?

Thanks. Knit On.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Clean Out The Cupboards On Meatless Monday

You know, I'd have a terrible time following a macrobiotic diet. I love tomatoes too much (peppers, eggplants, and potatoes, too, frankly). But once again, a tomato-based dish is on the blog for Meatless Mondays:

I cleaned out a bunch from the cupboards, too! This was fast and easy, a can of black beans rinsed and drained, a can of corn (I did the same here, rinse and drain), a can of chili-ready diced tomatoes, and then I shook in a goodly amount of hot sauce, because I couldn't find the frozen chili peppers in the freezer (it's still too full!). Heated everything and tossed it over brown rice (again from the cupboard, there's a lot of rice in there). The corn muffins were left in the freezer, too, so all in all, EVERYTHING in this dish was in my house!

And by the way, as of this moment I've spent about $80 this month so far at the grocery! (Some of that was stocking up on kitty food, too, so not for my own use, but since they're family, I include their food in my budget.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cleaning Out The

It's my first real contribution to the Clean Out the Cupboards Challenge...

and this turned out nicely!

My spaghetti sauce is based on a Barilla jarred sauce (the Tomato Basil flavor), then I add a couple of tablespoons of dried onions, 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced, and this time, I added in about a cup of Morningstar Farms Recipe Crumbles (NAYY), a couple of links of spicy Italian chicken sausage (remove the casings first and then brown with the recipe crumbles), and a medium sized container of sliced mushrooms that I'd frozen because I couldn't eat them fresh at the time...saute it all in some olive oil, then add the jarred sauce.

You could easily (and I do) make this completely vegetarian, you could add in all sorts of veggies (and I have).

Cook up some whole wheat pasta (even if what you have in the cupboard is elbow macaroni!) and toss on some decent grated parmesan cheese (or not...I thought I had some, and I was mistaken, but it was still wonderful tonight!).

I'm really pleased that several things came out of the freezer, the crisper, and the cabinet. I've got another couple of meals here, and then I'll get to work on my next pantry feast. Maybe with some of the brown rice and canned beans I have in the larder...

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Clean Out The Cupboards Challenge!

I was surfing around over the weekend and discovered a blog and a challenge that, frankly, seemed to be quite suited the some of the plans and goals I set for myself at the start of the year here:

1. Lower the food bill
2. Use what I have!
3. Eat more Meatless meals, particularly participating in Meatless Mondays again
4. Continue increasing my awareness with regard to the environment and local food availability and community building...

Ok. The blog has taken a decided turn towards this over the past couple of years, and I wanted to go a step further. I also wanted to not have such a stuffed freezer (just the fridge part!).

I really love the old New England ("Down East") saying: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

Yes. Yes. Yes. Now...using up what's been in the freezer for a bit began with the vegetable soup I showed you yesterday - and Rebecca has this wonderful challenge that I only just discovered. I'm hoping she won't mind that I'm linking to today without a recipe and referring her to that post for this weeks "Clean Out the Cupboards Challenge."


I am going to try to buy less food, but I have to have fresh fruit and veggies or I'll start to regain my weight and that's not happening. So I'm going to meal plan, and use up the things in the cupboards, freezer, and fridge, and buy much less this month.

My first real recipe will be my tried and true spaghetti sauce this weekend. I've got whole wheat pasta, sauce, frozen Morningstar Farms Recipe Crumbles, frozen mushrooms and peppers and onions. All in the house. Oh! There's even parmesan (real stuff, not the shaker cheese!).

I have whole grain bread, too. The only thing fresh will be the greens I bought tonight for a salad!

Oh...that was the other goal: Meal Planning!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Meatless Monday-On The Cheap!

Here we are, Meatless Monday again! Amazing how fast the time goes, right? It's already the 10th of the month and January is virtually 1/3 over!

In the interest of keeping my food expenses down this month and also because of the brrrr-isk winter chill we've been subjected to here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I decided to make a sort of "clean out the fridge" veggie soup:

Ok, some of the ingredients were in the pantry, not the fridge, but you get my drift?

The base is vegetable stock - you can easily begin one of these with the water left from cooking veggies for other meals, but add in a stalk of celery, some herbs (to your taste), an onion. Or like me, you can rely on canned (this time). In fact, this soup doesn't have any real onion on it, because truly I had none. I used dehydrated flakes from the spice rack. Another flavoring was my Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb. I opened a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, one of which was Italian seasoned, and then I opened the veggie drawer and the freezer. There are canned kidney beans, frozen peas, crisper drawer celery, carrots, and potatoes (those from the market in November), and frankly? I can't remember what else I put in. Oh. Except that after it had cooked a bit, I felt as if there was something missing...I opened the fridge and peered into it, especially the shelves. And came out with balsamic vinegar! There are a couple of good slugs of it tossed in and it made a HUGE difference. I can tell you that the flavor draws out the earthiness in the root veggies (or I think it does...)

So now, with some artisan bread, Vermont cheddar cheese and a bowl of this? I can stay warm and full from lunch time till evening tonight when I may just make an omelet. Oh. And of course, I'll be eating fruit - since it's now free on Weight Watchers! I have enjoyed keeping bananas and oranges on the counter to pick up and eat. While I know they're not local, they make winter bearable.

I've been rereading some voluntary simplicity books and rethinking my knee-jerk reactions...I drove down past my favorite grocery store last night and I didn't stop. While I will have to go tonight, I need a list, and I need to organize carefully what I need to buy. And I need fortitude against the wonderful book store next door - my favorite Barnes & Noble...and I have a gift card. But that card is reserved for a Nook and it's not quite enough for me to get that right now...I'm saving up. By staying away last night, I didn't spend the $15 I probably would have on a magazine. Hmmm...another bit of cash to stash for the purchase.

(I'm also thinking thru how fast I want to make the Nook purchase, because the payoff of holiday debt and a couple of other things right now are important to accomplish. So I'm mulling all this over in my mind...

Most of all, it's consideration, deliberate consideration of whether I believe that I'll use the Nook. I'm convinced I could downsize my book collection considerably and that would leave more space for yarn and fabric...

We'll see how this goes...enjoy this soup if you decide to make it, and if you do? just tell me how you made it YOURS!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Meatless Mondays (continued)...

I have just made a promise to myself for 2011 to eat more vegan meals (not to become a vegan, the two things are different!), and decided to recommit to Meatless Mondays (that's the Facebook link as I get updates there!).

Today, I've got the day off (sorta...payroll waits for no holiday), so I have Susan V.'s New Orleans Style White Beans in my Cuisinart Slow Cooker. May not actually get to eat these tonight, because I have to be at a TKGA chapter meeting tonight, and I'm not sure the beans will be ready (or that I should have them before I sit in a room full of friends for a couple of hours! *wink*).

But after spending last year saving every single register receipt from the grocery store, I'm committed to eating less - from the money standpoint. I simply can't imagine that a single gal like myself should be spending $300 a month on groceries!

Of course, early in the year, I promised myself that I'd spend whatever I wanted as long as I had fresh produce to facilitate my Weight Watchers weight loss. Ok. I did that. Now, it's time to rein in my propensity to overspend, and keep to a smaller budget. There are two easy ways to do that:
(1) Plan my weekly meals
(2) Eat even less meat than I already do

I won't be giving up meat and dairy entirely. But it's certainly a challenge I'm ready to try, to whittle down the budget a bit more.

Susan V's site is one I'll be checking out routinely, as will the Cheap, Healthy, Good Blog.

What are your plans for 2011? I'll be adding to mine here in the next few days, so be sure to check back!!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Crafting a New Year

In addition to all those New Year's resolutions (okay, I call them PLANS) along came a post that really spoke to me: Crafty New Year.

And the thing that intrigued me was the challenge to find unexpected ways to create with recycled items. So I'm in. I'll be trying to consider items in new ways. This on top of promising myself to work more out of my stashes (yarn and fabric) in creating my own artistic endeavors.

Sounds like a great plan, and I promise to share with you. Happy New Year!