Finding the Best Possible Price for Groceries

frozen sausages and hot dogs purchased at the lowest price can help stretch your grocery budgetFor some people, this may not seem like anything to take time to blog about, but a recent conversation with some coworkers during lunch made me realize that there may be people who need to hear this information.   Shortly after I organized my fridge top freezer, Our upright freezer in the garage started to act up.  While we were waiting for a repair man, we had to rehome the frozen food.    I was sharing with my lunch buddies that some of the food went to my oldest son’s apartment, some went to my youngest son’s mini-fridge, some was shoved into the open spaces in my fridge top freezer, and some went to my neighbor’s house.  They generously cleared an entire shelf for me.  I have awesome neighbors.

As I was recounting this story, more than one of my co-workers asked why I had so much food in my freezer.  I explained that having a well stocked freezer helps me to stick to my grocery budget.  Certain foods are best purchased when they are on sale, and some sales are seasonal.   Once you learn the cycle for the sales, you know when is the best time to buy certain items.    When they asked what I meant, I used the example of hot dogs.Buying foods on sale and storing them in the freezer can save money on groceries.

Disclaimer:  Every household has different opinions about hot dogs and their place in a dinner menu.  We don’t eat them often, but we have them occasionally .  In 2014, American’s purchased nearly 1 billion packages of hot dogs which worked out to  more than 2.5 billion dollars in sales.  Those are some expensive hot dogs, and my guess is that most of the people who read this blog will be people who eat hot dogs.   

We will use the basic, most inexpensive, mixed meat hot dog in our example.  These hot dogs routinely sell for $.99 to $1.59 at my local stores.  There’s one more unrelated thing that I have to say about hot dogs.  Has anyone else noticed that the packages no longer contain 10 hot dogs, and they no longer weigh a pound?  The packages now contain only 8 hotdogs and weigh closer to 12 ounces.   What’s up with that?    Sorry, I digress.

There are several times of year when hot dogs go on sale.   If you buy hot dogs at these times and put them into your freezer, you can save a considerable amount of money.  I have found that my local grocery store routinely sells these hot dogs for $.59 per package before Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day which is what all the other lists say, too.  My local grocer can also be counted on to have a hot dog sale around Super Bowl Sunday.

Since I know when there will be sales, I can buy enough hot dogs to meet our needs until the next sale.  By doing this, I save between $.40 and $1.00 per package.  If my family eats one package of hot dogs every two weeks, this adds up to a savings of $10.40 to $26.00 per year.  If I apply these same principles to other products that we routinely use, it can add up to hundreds of dollars per year in savings without clipping a single coupon.  Of course, clipping coupons can help save money, too.Saving a little money on a few staple household items can save you a lot of money

Small savings add up over time.  I challenge you to keep an eye on your local grocery store’s sale paper.  Keep a notebook or start a spread sheet to find out the best prices they offer on the staple items that you routinely use.  Once you begin to seen the patterns, you will be able to stock up when prices are low and buy enough to last until the next sale.  It’s very comforting to have a well stocked pantry that you can draw upon to ensure that your family’s needs are met.  Of course, saving money is nice, too.

One other thing you can do to save money on groceries is to ensure that you aren’t letting things go to waste.  The average American throws away between 10 and 40% of the groceries that they bring home.  That’s a lot of money going straight into the trash.

Freezer Organization for Under Six Dollars

I don’t know if I’m the only person who has this problem, but I seem to spend far too much time fishing around in the fridge top  freezer for something like that last breakfast sandwich that I’m certain I didn’t eat.  Everyone else is claiming that they didn’t eat it, so it has to be in the freezer, but I just can’t find it.  Finally, I leave the house with a granola bar in my  hand because I didn’t have time to make anything else before leaving for work.    (There’s nothing wrong with granola bars, but they are a poor substitute for a sausage and egg breakfast sandwich.)

Part of the problem was that whenever my kids reached into the freezer to get a snack such as a popsicle or corn dog, they moved everything around in their search.  Of course, they seldom put everything back in its previous location.  Sometimes things fall out of the boxes.  Basically, the entire contents of my freezer were being stirred around on a regular basis when people went looking for something.  It was not a functional system.  It was also very frustrating.

Several weeks ago, I finally had enough.  I knew that I needed to organize my freezer, but I didn’t have a lot of money for fancy containers.   Nevertheless, I proceeded.  The first thing I did was remove everything from my very crowded freezer.  I had already begun removing things when I realized that this might be a good blog  post.  having a messy freezer makes it harder to prepare meals

I had taken some things out of the freezer and placed them here.food removed from freezer and placed on counter

I had also started to organize some of the items I removed from the freezer.

Some more of the food removed from the over crowed and disorganized freezer

When I finally removed everything from the freezer, I was disgusted by what I saw.  There were crumbs everywhere. Youre freezer gets quite dirty from food crumbs

There was even a stain where something had leaked onto the top shelf and side of the freezer.  melted food is a sticky mess in the freezerAs I cleared out and  cleaned out the fridge, I solved two mysteries.

1.  Why was there no room in the freezer?

2.  What happened to all of the ice packs for my lunch?

The answer was the same for both.  My freezer contained 21 ice packs.  Here they are piled onto my cutting board.  There was no room for food because of all of the ice packsBecause the ice packs went missing, I had resorted to using frozen water bottles to keep my lunch cold.

Once all of the extra ice packs were removed from the freezer, there was plenty of room to organize the food.  I used 5 baskets for which I paid $1.00 a piece.  I even put labels on the baskets.  One was labeled “Breakfast Foods” .  Another was labeled “Frozen Treats”.  There was a basket for “Fruits/Smoothies”, and I used two of them for “Vegetables.”   In addition to finding multiple ice packs, I found 5 partial bags of frozen peas.  Miraculously, none of them had expired.5 dollar store baskets organized my fridge top freezer beautifullyThe packages that are shoved between the two containers on the top were full of O’Brien potatoes which needed to be used soon because they were getting close to their expiration.  I even organized the freezer door so  that there is an area for icepacks (just not 21 of them), baking supplies, snack foods, smaller sized meats we will be using during the week, and frozen dinners that can be taken for lunch if there are no leftovers.  Having a place for everything makes it easier to find what you're looking for in the freezer

All in all, we are very pleased with our newly organized freezer.  I’m particularly happy that I was able to do it for only $5.00 (plus tax).  My hope is that as we use up the open bags of peas and other vegetables, we will be able to put our ice bucket back into the fridge.  It would be nice to just scoop ice into  glasses without popping it out of the trays.  At least, I can find that breakfast sandwich in the morning, and no one is stirring my freezer contents while they look for a popsicle.

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Good Tasting Guacamole Without Avocado – Fact or Fiction?

If you like guacamole, I have some sad news for you.  Apparently, there is a nationwide shortage of avocados due to the drought in California.   This shortage is driving up avocado prices which makes it more expensive to whip up a big bowl of guacamole to serve with chips and salsa.   At my house, the avocado shortage was not caused by drought conditions.  It was caused by this guy:

Siberian Husky trying to be adopted in the pound

Beautiful, the Siberian husky is a very charming dog. It’s tempting to adopt one from your local shelter; however, they are not the right dog for everyone. Huskies  are high energy dogs and need lots of exercise and attention or they can become very destructive out of boredom.  This is Riddick at the shelter the day we met.

His name is Riddick, and he ate my avocado tree.  No!  Really!  While unsupervised in the yard, he chewed the branches off of my avocado tree one by one and finished by digging up the stump.  Except for the support post, which he showed no interest in,  it’s as if there was never a tree.  I have never seen a dog who eats trees before, and my family has owned dogs since I was born.   Someday, my son will move out and take his dog with him.  When he does, my garden will be safe from canine pruning. Riddick’s also the reason I no longer have grape vines.  It’s not that Riddick is a bad dog.  He just has a lot of energy and gets bored easily.  Note to all readers:  If you like to garden, a Siberian Husky is not the best choice for a pet dog.  These dogs require a great deal of exercise, including daily walks.  Putting them into a large back yard and not walking them doesn’t work.  They get bored.  When they get bored, they dig and chew.  Huskies are notorious escape artists as well.   If you are planning to get a Husky, learn about the breed and ask yourself if you can really commit to going for a several mile walk, run, or bike ride with them every day.   If not, maybe you should look at a different breed for your next pet.  Unfortunately, Riddick doesn’t get walked daily.  My son claims that he is too busy.  We have another Husky.  She goes for a 5-mile walk every day.  She never attacks the landscaping.  There’s a saying:  “A tired Husky is a happy Husky.”  I would also add that a tired Husky is a less destructive Husky.

Tired Husky

A well exercised husky is a calm dog.

I seem to have gotten off topic.  While Riddick caused my personal shortage of avocados, my desire for a delicious guacamole to dip my chips in did not go away.  Unfortunately, my budget couldn’t accommodate the cost.  With avocado prices climbing, I tried several different “Mock-A-Mole” recipes.  One of them was made from broccoli, another from green peas.  Finally, there was one that used some avocado along with the peas, and there was even a recipe that made a guacamole substitute from asparagus.   One site featured a recipe for “Edamame Guacamole” which increased the protein while decreasing the fat.  Each of these recipes was very good.

In answer to my title question, the answer is that yes, there is such a thing as good tasting “guacamole” without avocado.  So if you find yourself without avocados, or you’re just trying to cut down on the fat in your diet, click on the links above and give each of these recipes a try.

In the meantime, I will be building fences and planting new trees and grapevines.  We’re so lucky to have Riddick.  He helps to make sure that we get our daily workouts done.

If you’re thinking of getting a dog, check out your local shelter.  If you want to make sure that the breed of dog you adopt is right for you, check out many of the on-line tests to help find the right dog for you.

Riddick's approval

MY NAME IS RIDDICK, AND I APPROVE THIS BLOG POST.

Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Cranberry Chicken Salad

20150501_121754As the weather starts to get warmer, I want to turn on my oven less.  That means that we grill in the summer and bake in the winter.  I mentioned this in an early post on this site.  April’s weather was very labile.  One day it was warm, almost hot.  A few days later, we were bundling up in our coats.

On one of those chilly days, I roasted a chicken.  There was still quite a bit of leftover meat on the carcass in the fridge, and I knew I needed to make something with it.   Yesterday, when the weather was hot again,   I  put together a chicken salad that we ate with crackers.  One of the things that I love about chicken salad is that the recipe is incredibly versatile.  I often make it with different ingredients which makes each end product unique.

Yesterday’s chicken salad turned out so good that I decided to make note of its ingredients and share them here.   If you want to make it lighter, you can use light or even fat free mayonnaise.    However you choose to make it, it will be delicious.

20150501_122146Here’s your recipe printable.   Give it  a try and let me know what you think.

Cranberry Chicken Salad
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Leftover chopped chicken mixed with vegetables and a light mayonnaise dressing makes a healtlight and delicious lunch. Make sure you refrigerate leftovers immediately to prevent spoilage.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup chopped leftover cooked chicken
  • ¾ cup chopped celery
  • 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced (use white and green parts) This should be about ½ cup.
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ sweet relish ( You can use more or less to taste)
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise (You can use more or less to taste)
Instructions
  1. Chop chicken and celery
  2. Slice green onions
  3. Shred carrots
  4. Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well to combine.
  5. Cover and store in refrigerator until serving time.

 

 

Linguine With White Clam Sauce

reduced calorie linguine with white clam sauceThis recipe has its roots back in B.C.  I’m not talking about the time before Christ.  (I know it’s actually B.C.E. or Before the Common Era, I just didn’t need the E for my purposes, so I went old school.)  In this case, B.C. refers to Before Children.  This recipe was first prepared in our kitchen while I was a new college graduate and Baker’s man was working and going to school part-time.

Money was very tight with student loans to be repaid, and dinner had to be easy to cook as well as economical.  This recipe met both criteria, and it was delicious, too.  Back then, it cost us about $2.25 for the entire meal, so it went into regular rotation on our meager menu plan.  One thing we discovered was that when we used minced clams it appeared that there were more clams in the recipe.  This was because the minced clams were cut smaller than chopped clams.  As a result, they spread through the recipe more evenly.  That’s why we use them instead.    Of course, if you must have large pieces of clams, go with the chopped.  On ooccasion, I have been known to go wild and use one can of each.

What I didn’t realize at the time, having never eaten linguine with white clam sauce before, was that the recipe I had memorized from an outdated waiting room magazine was actually a reduced fat version that was actually healthier than the original.  Over the years, I have tweaked it a bit, and I always double the recipe to feed our brood.  The best thing about it is that the longest part of the preparation is waiting for the water to boil to cook the pasta.  I can still make a this recipe for under $5.00.

This recipe is good served with some nice sour dough bread and a salad.  If you have Sue Chef over for dinner, you better serve some cheesy garlic bread on crack instead of plain sour dough.  It’s her favorite. Of course, she also likes this version of cheesy garlic bread, too.

Whatever you decide to make will give you something to do while you wait for the water to boil.   Seriously, that’s the most time consuming part of this recipe.

Give the recipe a try and leave a comment to let me know what you think.  Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Linguine With White Clam Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This is a quick and easy, reduced calorie, version of the traditional Italian dish. It tastes so good that no one will ever know you cut the calories. Enjoy. (Prep time and cook times listed below are for the sauce. Waiting for the water to come to a boil so you can cook the linguine is the longest part of the preparation.)
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of Linguine noodles (white or whole wheat).
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 (6.5 ounce) cans of minced clams
  • Juice of one small to medium lemon (you can use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice concentrate if you don't have a fresh lemon
  • 1 (6-8) ounce container of plain, unflavored, yogurt--No fat is okay to use here, but so is regular yogurt.
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (to taste)
Instructions
  1. Put salted water on to boil for pasta.
  2. Drain canned clams, but reserve the liquid
  3. Peel and Mince Garlic
  4. Squeeze Lemon Juice
  5. Wait for water to boil. This is a good time to assemble the salad or prep garlic bread for the oven.
  6. Once water has come to a boil, drop pasta into hot water and stir until it has settled into the bottom of the pan.
  7. Set a timer so you will know when the pasta is cooked.
  8. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
  9. Add 2 Tablespoons olive oil to the pan and wait 1 minute
  10. Add garlic to the pan and saute for 1 minute.
  11. Add clams and saute for 2 minutes.
  12. Add clam juice and bring to a boil.
  13. Add lemon juice and mix well, sometimes, the mixture starts to become opaque and thicken slightly at this point.
  14. Stir in yogurt, until it is well incorporated into the sauce and bring to just a boil.
  15. By this time, 10 - 12 minutes should have elapsed, and the pasta should be cooked.
  16. Drain Pasta put into a large bowl and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  17. Pour clam sauce over the pasta and toss well.
  18. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese and serve

 

Scrambled Eggs With Peas

peas and eggs scrambled togetherI known this may sound like a strange combination to some of you, but its actually pretty tasty.  The first time I saw this, my aunt was serving it to us for breakfast one morning.  I liked to eat raw peas from the garden, so I didn’t hesitate to try this breakfast dish, and I liked it.  Recently, I woke up thinking about peas and eggs, so I whipped up some for breakfast.  I had leftover corn tortillas, so that was what I had with them instead of the toast that my aunt had served.

This whole dish comes together quickly.  In fact, this one came together so quickly that I didn’t think about posting a blog with the recipe until I was plating the food.  That’s why there are no photos of the steps. Of course, being half asleep might have had something to do with it, too.  This recipe can easily be modified to include other vegetables like corn, carrots, or mushrooms.  Cheese is always a great addition, too.

The instructions tell you to cook the eggs over a low heat.  The reason for this is because scrambled eggs are always more fluffy when they are cooked slowly over a low temperature.  Almost everyone likes fluffy scrambled eggs.

If you’re wondering what to serve with your peas and eggs, you can serve them with just a side of toast, or a warm tortilla.  If you like meat with your eggs, sausage or bacon taste good with the combination of peas and eggs.  As for me, I’m looking forward to the leftover Easter ham.  This is particularly good when served alongside a slice of leftover ham.eggs scrambled with peas are common in the diets of many cultures

Give the recipe a try and let me know what you think.

Scrambled Eggs With Peas
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Multicultural
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
 
Peas scrambled in eggs may seem like a strange combination, but it's really delicous. Give it a try.
Ingredients
  • 1 small onion finely chopped (about ½ - ¾ cup)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
Instructions
  1. Place eggs in a bowl with milk and whisk together.
  2. Season eggs with salt and pepper.
  3. Melt butter in sauce pan.
  4. Add onion and cook over medium low heat for a few minutes until they become translucent.
  5. Whisk eggs again and add to skillet.
  6. Pour peas over eggs.
  7. Reduce heat to low and stir eggs by lifting from the bottom, and folding the eggs back over onto itself.
  8. The secret to fluffy scrambled eggs is to cook them slowly at a low temperature.
  9. When the eggs are set and the peas are heated through, it's ready to serve.

 

No-Bake Easter Nests

IMG_1808One good thing about having a well stocked pantry is that it’s easy to whip up treats for your loved ones without making a run to the store.  Before I continue though, I have to tell you something.  I love jelly beans.  Jelly Belly’s are my favorite, and I almost always have some around the house.  It makes my husband crazy because he doesn’t understand why I buy jelly beans when Easter is no where in sight.  The truth is that I have a Jelly Belly addiction.

Now that I’ve addressed that issue, I’m ready to move forward with this weeks recipe.  This week, I am going to share with you a super cute, fast, and easy no-bake recipe to whip up some Easter treats for the special people in your lives.  If you don’t have a Jelly Belly stash in your house like I do, don’t worry.  There are always inexpensive bags of jelly beans to be had in the local stores this time of year.  You can usually pick one up for under a dollar.  My daughter actually thinks these treats taste better when they’re made with “regular” jelly beans.  I’ll let you decide for yourself whick type of jelly bean you prefer.

To make the Easter Egg Bird’s Nests, you will need to combine 1/4 cup peanut butter and a 12 oz package of butterscotch chips in a double boiler.  These can also be made with chocolate chips, but the nests are dark brown.

IMG_1798

Stir them until the chips are melted and the mixture has achieved a smooth and even consistency.

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Add a 9 oz package of baked or fried chow mein noodles and mix well until all of the noodles are coated.

IMG_1801

These are the crispy noodles that you can eat straight from the bag that are used to top chow mein dishes.  When I was little, my big brother used to tell me they were french fried earthworms.  That was his strategy to ensure he would have more of them.

Spoon the noodle and butterscotch-peanut butter mixture onto wax paper and use the spoon (or your fingers) to arrange it into a nest shape.

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Place 2 – 3  jelly beans onto each nest and place the sheets of nests onto cookie sheets and place in the refrigerator until the butterscotch chips are firmed up.

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Place in covered container with pieces of wax paper between the layers to prevent sticking.  Store in a cool and dry place.

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For an adult, this recipe goes together quickly.  If you have children helping you, add an hour to the prep time so that little hands can work at their own pace.  In my household, holiday recipes are all about making memories, so we just allow extra time to enjoy the moment.

Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.  I hope all of you have a very Happy Easter.

5.0 from 1 reviews
No-Bake Easter Nests
Author: 
Recipe type: No Bake Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
A simple 4 ingredient treat that's sure to be a hit with the kids in your family whether they are young or old.
Ingredients
  • 9 oz package of chow mein noodles
  • 12 oz package of butterscotch chips
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • Jelly Beans
Instructions
  1. Melt peanut butter and butterscotch chips in a double boiler until a smooth and even consistency is achieved.
  2. Add chow mein noodles, stirring until all noodles are coated with butterscotch/peanut butter mixture.
  3. Spoon onto wax paper making small nests. Use the spoon, or your fingers, to shape them into a round shape and make a slight depression in the center of each one.
  4. Place 2 to 3 jelly beans into each depression
  5. Place in refrigerator or other cool place until they are set.
  6. Place in a covered container with wax paper between layers to prevent sticking.
  7. Store in a cool, dry place.

 

 

 

 

Complete Pork Chop Dinner in a Crock Pot — A Recipe Review

plated complete pork chop dinner in a crock potI don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m always looking for a way to get a healthy,  homemade dinner on the table without a lot of fuss.  I really don’t like to take a lot of time to make dinner, so I am always looking for fast and easy recipes that will work for us. Crock pot recipes can be really helpful especially on days when I have to work late.  As a result,  I’m always cruising the internet looking for a new recipes to try. While I was researching the pizza pull apart bread, I noticed a link on the bottom of the page at StockpilingMoms.com.  The link advertised a complete pork chop dinner in a crock pot.  The accompanying photo showed a pork chop some potatoes and a vegetable plated and ready to eat. It looked delicious.  How could  I resist?  I had to give it a try.

Here’s what I did.

I seasoned four boneless pork loin chops with my moms secret pork rub.  pork chops are seasoned and placed in the bottom of the crockpot

Then I placed them in the bottom of the crock pot and added 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce. (My photography skills still suck, and I realize that I  need to learn food styling techniques, too.  I’ll add “Learn Food Styling Techniques” to my list of things to do.Topping the pork chops with barbecue sauce

The recipe called for red or white potatoes,  but I had sweet potatoes that I needed to use.  I peeled the potatoes and cut them into large chunks.  I arranged them on a foil sheet, sprinkled them with salt and pepper and dropped on some butter.  I folded them up in the foil, making a pouch,  like I would if I was cooking in a camp fire.  sweet potatoes are seasoned with salt, pepper, and butter and sealed in a foil packet

I shoved the foil packet into the crock pot and pushed it down on top of the pork chops.  The potato packet and the vegetable packet are placed on top of the pork chops in the crock pot.

Next, I placed brussel sprouts in a foil pouch with a little salt, pepper and butter, and once it was sealed, I placed it in the crock pot on top of the potato pouch.The crock pot is full and ready to cook

The crock pot was turned on to low, and the contents were allowed to cook for 8 hours.   Usually, if I am cooking something that I’m not sure will tolerate a longer cooking time, such as this recipe,  I assemble the ingredients in the removable crock,  I leave this in the refrigerator, and when it’s about 8 hours before I will come home, Baker’s Man puts it into the crock pot and turns it on.

That was what we did in this case.  When I came home, a delicious aroma greeted me.  I went into the kitchen and removed the foil pouches from the crock pot.  This was not as easy as it sounds because they were very hot, and they had steam building up inside of them so they were a bit swollen.  I ended up using kitchen tongs to remove them, but I split open the sweet potatoes’ pouch in the struggle, so I lost quite a bit of the butter into the bottom of the crock pot.  a complete pork chop dinner from a crock pot

I plated the dinner, and we all ate.  brussel sprouts were a major fail

What did we think?  I knew the minute that I opened the brussel sprouts that they were seriously over cooked.  They had that overly dark appearance.  I will confess that I used frozen brussel sprouts and their pouch was stored in the freezer until it was time to turn on the crock pot.  Maybe that had something to do with the fact that they turned to mush when we applied only the pressure of our tongues.  We ate them, but as Sue Chef says.  “It made my mouth sad.”  As a consolation, I made some blanched broccoli which met with everyone’s approval.   I may have had better success if I had started with fresh, raw brussel sprouts instead of frozen.  Next time, I may try fresh ones.  The sweet potatoes were perfectly cooked.

The sweet potatoes were perfectly cooked.  We didn’t even miss the buttery liquid that spilled into the bottom of the crock pot.  I will definitely explore potatoes in the crock pot.

The pork chops were tender.  They were sitting in a huge puddle of liquid in the bottom of the crock pot, and this seemed to dilute the flavor of all the seasoning.  I would have expected them to be moist, but they were a bit dry.  I read this complaint in the comment section of a similar recipe.. Unfortunately, I can’t find the site again.  When I do, I will link to it.    One site, suggests that perhaps I overcooked the pork chops and that’s why they were dry, or maybe I used too tender a cut of meat.  Whatever the reason, We added extra barbecue sauce to both moisten the meat and add back some of the flavor lost during cooking.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad meal, but if I make it again, I may just use a pork roast instead of the chops.  A larger piece of meat can’t be overcooked so quickly, and I’ve had good results cooking roasts in my crock pot.   I really like the idea of cooking an entire meal in the crock pot without it being all mixed together.  When I do this again, I will cook the potatoes in the same way, but I think that if I add vegetables, it will probably only be for the last hour or two.  That way, they won’t become over cooked and mushy.   Hopefully, my next attempt will be better and Sue Chef’s mouth will be happy instead of sad.

As we progress toward warmer weather and I won’t want to be using my oven so much, I intend to explore more crock pot recipes.  One thing that I know I will definitely be researching is how to bake potatoes in a crock pot.  We love baked potatoes, but rarely have them during warm weather because I don’t want to turn on the oven.  If they come out well in the crock pot, it will open up many new dinner options during the summer.  I’ll let you know how it works out.

Thanks for stopping by Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Seasoned Oven Fries

oven fried potatoesSometimes, I just want a burger and fries, but I really don’t like deep frying.  Buying burgers and fries for our family costs a minimum of $25 dollars, and sometimes, it costs more.  Since I am always trying to save money and provide my family with relatively healthy meals, I needed to find a better way to make burgers and fries at home without a deep fryer.  That was when my friend, Amber, came to my rescue.  She told me about oven fries.  I was surprised at how easy the instructions were, and I couldn’t wait to try her recipe.

The most time consuming part was washing and cutting the potatoes.  They are tossed with one to two tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkled with your favorite spice blend.  I frequently use seasoned salt.

The potatoes are then placed in a 400 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes  until the potatoes are cooked through and slightly browned.

That’s really all it takes to make delicious fries that contain less fat without sacrificing flavor.

homemade french fries from the oven

Seasoned Oven Fries
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5
 
A delicious and easy side dish. Wedges of potatoes are tossed with olive oil and seasoning.
Ingredients
  • 5 medium potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of seasoned salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheit
  2. Wash potatoes and cut into 8 to 12 wedges.
  3. Place potato wedges in to a bowl.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Sprinkle with seasoned salt.
  6. Toss together until all potatoes are coated with the oil and salt. They should not be overly greasy.
  7. Arrange potato wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet or pan.
  8. Place in preheated oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

Give them a try and let me know what you think.

Beans and Greens

beans and greens steaming after being ladled into a bowlCanned beans are a pantry staple in my house.  By adding a few ingredients to a can of beans, you can have a nutritious dinner ready in a snap.  Today’s post isn’t just about a low fat, high fiber recipe loaded with vitamins and proteins.   The story is also an illustration of how a well stocked pantry can help you to manage dinner even when you’re a couple ingredients short.

Today’s recipe has Italian roots.     It’s Italian name is minestra.  It’s a simple dish that can be made with or without meat (usually Italian sausage or pancetta).  In addition, it can be made with most greens that you have hanging around.  I have seen similar recipes published which call for escarole or  spinach.  I have even been known to use swiss chard as the greens for this dish.  It’s extremely versatile and you really can’t make it wrong.

This week, Kale was on sale at my local market for 2/$1.  This was a good thing because Sue Chef wants to try Kale Chips.  I’m sure we’ll have a story to tell blog post about them if we ever get around to making them.  Because of the sale, Kale was my green of choice.three bunches of kale are needed for beans and greens

This recipe comes together quickly.  In fact, the bulk of the labor is in chopping up the onions, garlic, and greens.

First, chop 2 – 3 small to medium onions and 4-6 cloves of garlic.chop onion

Next, prepare the greens by washing them and cutting them into strips.

remove stems from kale

Break or cut off the stems from the bottom of the leaf.  These may not cook up in the same time as the more tender leaves and removing them makes for a more consistent texture.  It also avoids tough, chewy stems.

split the stem up inside of the leaf

The large vein (the ting that became the stem) should be cut in half lengthwise to speed cooking

split large veins in the leaf

This is a better view of the center vein of the leaf after it was split in half. Doing this ensures more even cooking.

slicing kale

One the leaves are prepared, you can stack them on top of each other and slice and chop through an entire bunch at one time.

Saute the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons oil until tender. (We use olive oil.)garlic and onion are sauteed in olive oil

Carmelized onions and garlic

The onions and garlic have begun to carmelize.

When the onions are soft, add the greens to the pot.

What looks like too many greens for the pan

Pile the greens into your pan. It will look like there is way too much for the pan, but don’t worry. Greens shrink when they wilt.

Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  (Easy on the red pepper flakes if there will be children eating.)Kale beginning to wilt

When the greens have begun to wilt, add 1 (14oz) can of chicken broth (approximately 1 1/2 cups).

Greens cooking in chicken broth.

There will be crackling and steam when the broth is added to the greens.

If, like me, you discover that there is no more chicken broth in your pantry, you can use a bouillon cube dissolved in 1 1/2 cups water or better than bouillon.  (Better than Bouillon has about half the sodium of  a bouillon cube.)  If you will be using either of these substitutes, omit the addition of salt from the recipe.

bouillon adds quick flavor

Bouillon cubes or better than bouillon, either chicken or vegetarian, can be a life saver in the kitchen when trying to put together a quick meal. Keep some in your pantry.

Add 2 (14 oz) cans of beans, drained and rinsed to the pan.  I really like to use dark red kidney beans in this recipe because of the intense color contrast, but when I reached into my pantry, I only had one can of light kidney beans.  I substituted a can of great northern beans for the other can of kidney beans.

Beans added to greens

I really wanted to use the dark red kidney beans, but I used what I had on hand instead. I will make this again with the dark red beans and post a picture when I do. It’s so pretty that way.

Mix the beans into the wilting greens and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer 10 – 15 minutes until beans are heated through and greens are the desired consistency.

bowl of beans and greens

A steaming bowl of beans and greens ready to eat.

Serve with a crusty piece of bread, and you’ve got a great tasting, inexpensive meal that is very nutritious.  It serves well as a side dish or as a main course.   If you live with someone who must have meat in their meals, you can cook a pound of either mild or hot italian sausage with the onion and garlic before adding the Kale to the pan.

Beans and Greens
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree or Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Beans served with greens are an Italian dish that hasn't gotten as much press. It's an inexpensive, nutrient rich dish that I'm sure you'll love. If you want to add meat to this dish, cook the onion and garlic with some Italian sausage in the beginning and finish the recipe as directed. You can also substitute spinach, escarole, or even swiss chard for the kale.
Ingredients
  • 2-3 small/medium onions
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 bunches kale, stems removed, center vein split, and leaves sliced or chopped
  • ½ tsp salt (omit salt if using bouillon instead of broth)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 2 (15oz) cans of beans (kidney, canellini, or great northern)., drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can chicken or vegetable broth or 1½ cups hot water with bouillon dissolved in it.
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in large pan
  2. Saute onion and garlic in oil until translucent.
  3. Add kale to pan and toss well.
  4. Season with salt, pepper, and pepper flakes.
  5. Stir until Kale begins to wilt.
  6. Add broth or water with bouillon to the pan.
  7. Stir in the two drained and rinsed cans of beans.
  8. Bring to a boil. reduce heat, cover pan, and simmer for 10 minutes or until greens are cooked.

Here’s your recipe.  Give it a try and let me know what your think.

Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

 

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