Halloween Treats From The Pantry

halloween and harvest festival pumpkinsHolidays don’t necessarily mean that you have to ignore your grocery budget.  In fact, holiday treats can often be pulled together from things that you already have on hand as long as you have a well stocked pantry and plan ahead.

Candy for the trick-or-treaters still has to be budgeted, but fun food for the family is already in the bag.  Lets take a look at some of the great Halloween recipes/ideas that can be pulled together from things you may already have in your well stocked pantry.  I’ve gathered these ideas from around the web.  Click on the photos to be taken to the source site.

When I was a little girl, my parents always struggled to get me to eat something before going out trick or treating.  Remembering this childhood battle of the wills, I try to make the dinner on Halloween night something fun and memorable for my kids, so they are excited and eager to eat.  After all, they need to be fueled and ready for that long walk and hauling home all of that candy.  Toward that end, I recommend the following Halloween night dinner ideas.

For the taco lovers out there, I have two different versions that make a great dinner idea.

First up are the Tarantula Taco from FabulesslyFrugal.com

Tarantula Spiders CollageIf the olive tarantulas aren’t creepy enough, how about Eyeball Tacos.  This one came from LATaco.com.

Eyeball TacosIf you want to encourage your kids to eat vegetables before acquiring that stockpile of candy, there are some really cute ideas out there involving veggies.

There’s the jack-o-lantern crudite platter from TasteOfHome.com.

Pumpkin Veggie Tray RecipeThen, there’s the skeleton crudite from FeedingFourLittleMonkeys.blogspot.com

Let’s not forget dessert.  In our family, the Halloween night tradition is Ghosts in the Graveyard.  I found the recipe on KraftFoods.com years ago.  We make it every year, and the kids usually have it after they come home from trick or treating.  On occasion, we have even made it with sugar free chocolate sandwich cookies and sugar free instant chocolate pudding.  (For some reason, my links to kraft recipes never stay active.  I think they reject me.  If that happens AGAIN, go to kraftrecipes.com and search for “Ghosts in the Graveyard.”) 

Ghosts in the Graveyard recipe

We have also been known to use graham cracker quarters for the tomb stones because that was what we had on hand.  Some years, we just make the mud and toss some candy pumpkins or candy corn on top for decoration.  Vampires crave blood, but my lot craves mud, at least the stuff made from instant pudding and crushed chocolate sandwich cookies. 

If you want to try something a little healthier, that doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners, there’s always the old standby of chocolate covered fruit.

First, there are the Mummy Chocolate Covered Strawberries from TheSistersCafe.com.  I know, it’s fall and strawberries aren’t really in season, but they look so good.

Then, there are the Frozen Banana Ghosts over at SkinnyTaste.com

I hope this post helps to inspire you to create some frugal Halloween Treats for your family.  Thanks for stopping by.

French Dip Sliders

french dip sliders  This is the story of  a recipe from the make ahead freezer meals that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.  This is specifically about the  French dip sandwiches that you cook in the crock pot.  The recipe came from Six Sister’s Stuff.

The last time I made these French dip sandwiches, my family complained that they didn’t have enough flavor.  I mentioned in my earlier post that I planned to add chopped garlic or onion to the broth the next time I made them, but I came up with an entirely different idea.  The new idea didn’t require any additional prep work and it didn’t increase the cost of the sandwiches either.  All I did was substitute two cans of condensed French onion soup for the beef consommé.  It was a simple fix that worked out well.  The zipper-topped bag was placed in the freezer where it waited for us to give it a try.

Fast forward several weeks.  My life is extremely hectic and crazed.  I am working tons of overtime, and fast food temptation is calling my name.  My husband and daughter prepared two delicious meals, but we needed something easier.  I remembered the French dip sandwiches.  We thawed it in the fridge for a day and then poured it into the crock pot.  Upon plugging in the crock pot, sparks flew from where the cord attaches to the body of pot.  Alas, the crock pot was dead.

This was definitely a problem.  We had a crock pot meal and no crock pots.  I carefully considered my options as I returned the meat mixture to the refrigerator.  I vaguely remembered once when I was very young that my mother had roasted a beef stew in a cast iron Dutch oven for several hours in the oven.  Since Baker’s Man and Sue Chef would be home all day, they could put it in the oven at the designated time and monitor it while it baked at 300 degrees F for 4 hours.

It worked perfectly.  I returned home from work to the smell of French dip sandwiches.  They were served on crusty sourdough dinner rolls with some homemade broccoli slaw and tater tots.

french dip sliders on sour dough rollsIt was delicious.  It’s good to know that, in a pinch, your cast iron Dutch oven in a slow oven can substitute for your crock pot.  The recipe said that it served 6, but we had leftovers enough for roast beef wraps the next day, and then some.

We chose sourdough rolls because they wouldn’t fall apart or become soggy when dipped.  I forgot to put the little cup full of broth for dipping near the plates before I took the pictures.  By the time I realized my error, they were gone!

French Dip Sliders on Sour Dough Rolls

Here’s my take on the recipe.  Give it a try.

French Dip Sliders
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Simple make ahead meal that can be assembled, stored in the freezer. Once it's thawed, it cooks in the crock pot., so dinner is ready when you are.
Ingredients
  • 3 pound chuck roast
  • 2 (10.5 ounce) cans condensed french onion soup
  • 12 sour dough dinner rolls
  • 6 slices provolone cheese (your can substitute your favorite cheese here)
Instructions
  1. Place chuck roast into a zip lock bag
  2. Add 2 cans condensed french onion soup
  3. Seal Bag and place in Freezer
  4. When ready to serve, thaw ingredients for 24 hours in the fridge
  5. Pour into crock pot
  6. Cook on Low for 8 - 10 hours or high for 4 - 6 hours or until meat shreds easily with a fork
  7. Remove meat from crock pot and shred with two forks
  8. Pile meat onto split sour dough dinner rolls
  9. Top hot meat with ½ slice of cheese and the other half of the roll.
  10. Serve with a small container of broth for dipping

Taco Salad in a Jar

Vegetarian Taco Salad in a JarOver the past few weeks, I have been sharing salad in a jar recipes here.  This is the third post in that series.  I am really in love with the salad in a jar idea because it allows me to make the salads on the weekend and have ready-made lunches that I can grab at least through Wednesday.  This ensures that I will eat a fresh, healthy and economical lunch at work and helps to prevent spending money on take-out.

In addition to being a great lunch, these salads can also be a quick and easy dinner idea as well.  For instance, this taco salad would make  a great accompaniment for some quesadillas.   Quesadillas come together quickly, and I don’t feel guilty because I didn’t make a well balanced meal.  The salad is chock full of vitamins and minerals from the veggies.

One caution about making salads in a jar, or any salad, is that you must follow certain guidelines for building a healthy salad or the salad will not necessarily be healthy.  It’s really easy to pile high calorie items onto your salad.  You must be careful so that your salad doesn’t end up containing more calories than a  typical fast food meal. That defeats the whole purpose of eating a salad.

To make this taco salad, I opted to go vegetarian.  There used to be a restaurant on the second level of the Santa Maria Town Center Mall.  My friend Molly and I used to go there for lunch and share a taco salad.  There was no meat in the taco salad, but it was delicious.  It has been years since I have eaten that salad, but I tried to picture it in my mind.  Mostly, I pictured all the things we got on the side because Molly didn’t like them on her salad, but I did.  It was always a very filling lunch.

I washed and dried my widemouth quart-sized mason jars and set them aside.  Then I began prepping all of the ingredients.  I washed and chopped up lettuce, I drained a (2.25 ounce) can of sliced black olives and a can of kidney beans.  I also rinsed the kidney beans.

I chopped red onion.

chopped red onionI chopped orange and yellow bell peppers.

chopped bell pepper

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, you can tell by the residue on my cutting board that I did the peppers first and then the onions, but it doesn’t really matter.  The point is that I chopped up everything I needed beforehand. 

The assembly is fast and easy once the vegetables are prepared in advance.  I assembled two of these at one time.

First 1/2 cup of jarred salsa was placed in the bottom of the jar.  Fresh salsa does not hold up well for this application.  A dollop of sour cream was placed into the salsa.  I had intended to mix them together and make a creamy salad dressing, but I forgot.  It still worked out okay in spite of this oversight.  Calorie conscious people can opt to use fat-free or reduced fat sour cream.  In this instance, no one really notices.

Next, I put half of the kidney beans into the salsa.  Kidney beans went first because they can tolerate sitting in the salsa without losing their texture.

kidney beans are added to the jarNext, the onions and bell peppers were layered into the jar.  onions, peppers, and sliced olives go into the jar before cheese is added.This was topped with the well-drained olives and shredded cheese.

finally, the rest of the jar was filled with lettuce.The rest of the jar is then filled with chopped or shredded lettuce.  I prefer romaine lettuce because it holds up better than the other lettuces.  I made two,  quart-sized salads, but this recipe could easily make 4 pints.   Keep in mind that you may need to shred a little extra lettuce in order to fill up your jars.

I usually pack a side of tortilla chips to eat with the salad.  I like to line the edges of a plate with them before pouring out my salad.  Baker’s Man likes to sprinkle his on top like croutons.  Either way, it’s delicious.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Taco Salad in a Jar
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Southwest
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 quart sized
 
Taco salad makes a delicious lunch. This vegetarian version is layerd in a mason jar and makes a great make ahead lunch.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup salsa from a jar (mild, medium, or hot--whatever you prefer)
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium sized red onion, chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 (2.25 ounce) can sliced black olives, drained
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 - 3 cups chopped lettuce
  • Tortilla Chips.
Instructions
  1. Layer ingredients, except for tortilla chips. into two, quart sized, or four ,pint sized, wide mouth mason jars in the order listed above finishing off with lettuce.
  2. Place lids onto jars and store in the refrigerator. until ready to serve.
  3. I usually pack the tortilla chips in a separate bag and either put them on the plate/bowl before adding the salad or sprinkle them on top.

 

Make Ahead Meals

Having Partially Prepared Freezer Meals makes getting dinner on the table a cinch.By now, everyone who comes here knows that I really like to make things simple.  One of the ways I do that is to have some make ahead meals in my freezer that we can use when life gets hectic.  Without planning ahead, we quickly resort to fast food runs to solve the nightly dinner dilemma.  Without leftovers, this often leads to buying lunch the next day.  One week, a hectic life, without planning ahead, resulted in spending $259 on take out.  That is more than  twice what I allocate as a weekly grocery budget for my family of four.

I have previously discussed ways to cut out take out including making some home made convenience foods to keep in the freezer.   Traditional once-a-month cooking means spending hours in the kitchen standing over a hot stove assembling meals.  The meals are then placed in the freezer for us to draw upon when things get busy.    Because the once a month cooking methods can be so time consuming, I often fill my freezer with homemade “convenience foods” by making larger portions of food and freezing the leftovers.  This works well for things like spaghetti sauce, lasagna, chili, and stews, but some nights, our dinners aren’t things that freeze well.  I was really happy when I found a post over at Six Sister’s Stuff that promised 8 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals in an hour.

The above is the image I saw on one of their posts.  I couldn’t resist clicking on it.  Eight Dinners in one hours?  Is it even possible?  I had to try.  The really cool thing about their site is that they even had a printable shopping list as well as printable recipes. If you click on the picture, it will take you to their site and the specific post.

Lists in hand, I went through my pantry and marked off the things I already had on hand and headed out to the store to buy the rest.  Shopping was a breeze, and I didn’t really come in too much above my usual budget for the weeks groceries.  I actually spent $60 more than I had allocated for my weeekly groceries, but I didn’t mind because I knew that the freezer meals wouldn’t all be eaten in one week.  I was purchasing  groceries for future weeks, so it was okay that I borrowed from future weeks budgets.

When I returned home, I discovered that a pipe in the  backyard had burst and necessitated the water to the house being turned off.  Of course, I didn’t learn this until I had carried in my first heavy load of groceries.  This was definitely not good.  I needed running water to wash my hands while I assembled tme meals.  I needed a solution.

My oldest son lives 4 miles from me.  He likes to cook, so I quickly put away all of the  groceries except for the ones that I was going to use to make my freezer meals.  These items were loaded back into the car along with the things on the shelf that I already had on the shelves that were necessary to make the 8 freezer meals.   I drove to my son’s house and took over his kitchen.  I was midway through the assembly when I realized that I had forgotten ketchup and the fresh cilantro.  I had to drive back home, get the things I forgot, and drive back to his house.   I took a few of the already assembled dinners back to my house and stuck them into my  freezer.

Forgetting those few things allowed me to check on the repairs  to my water line.  Baker’s Man was making great progress with the pipe repairs, and  it looked like I would have running water by dinner time.   I was a happy camper.  It took me 2 1/2 hours including travel time to finish assembling all 8 of the freezer meals.  I believe that if I had been in my own kitchen and not had to drive the 8 miles round trip, we would have been done in a little more than an hour.

The freezer meals have served us well, but we need to anticipate when we want to cook and eat them because they require  a full 24 hours to thaw in the refrigerator before we can put them in the crockpot to cook.   Overall, this has worked out well for me because I can usually anticipate a crazy day.  We liked almost all of the dishes, but will make a few changes before we make them again.  My family likes really bold flavors.

BBQ Ribs

They  loved the barbecued ribs with some extra bbq sauce added at serving time, and black bean taco soup.  They complained about the french dip sandwiches needing a bit more flavor.  The next time I make these, I will probably add either garlic or onion to the consomme to liven it up for them.  Overall, I would say that these are worth making.  The important thing to remember when making crock pot dishes like this is that the raw meat will release cooking  juices and fat which then dilutes the flavor of the sauces.

Go visit Six Sisters Stuff.  Try out their recipes.  They have several make ahead meals or freezer meals posts.  The site is full of great resources.

Chinese Chicken Salad in a Jar

chinese chicken salad in a jarThis recipe is a combination of two ideas that came from two different places.  The first is the salad in a jar idea which I discussed a few weeks ago and you can read about here.  The second is an idea for a Chinese chicken salad that I ate in the wee hours of the morning in a diner inside the old Boardwalk Hotel and Casino which used to be on the Strip in Las Vegas just north of the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino.

As I was beginning to attempt my first salad in a jar, I noticed that I had a full jar of ginger-sesame dressing.  That dressing made me think of the Chinese chicken salad I ate many years ago at the Boardwalk.  I thought about the ingredients and decided that if I arranged them correctly, they should make an acceptable combination for creating this salad inside of a quart-sized mason jar.

I began by pouring between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of the Asian flavored dressing into the bottom of the jar.

Next, I added 7 grape tomatoes on the bottom of the jar.

1/4 cup of julienne carrots were evenly distributed on top of that.

1/2 cup chopped cucumbers were next.

1/2 cup chopped cooked chicken

1/2 (11 ounce) can of mandarin oranges in light syrup, drained

1/4 cup blanched broccoli florets broken into small pieces

3 large radishes halved and thinly sliced

2 green onions (white and green parts) thinly sliced

chopped romaine lettuce to fill jar nearly to the top

1 handful of bean sprouts

I placed the  lid on jar and stored the salad upright in the fridge until the next morning when I loaded it upright into my lunch box.  At lunch time, when I was ready to serve my salad, I turned it upside down and let the dressing run through it. Then I dumped the whole thing into a large capacity bowl.

I packed a small bag containing about 1/2 cup of crunchy chow mein noodles with the salad in a jar and sprinkled them on top.

This salad was very good.  It held up well for two days in the fridge.  I don’t know how well sprouts would hold up over several days, so I made only two of these and we ate them quickly.

chinese chicken salad in quart and pint jars

This makes a very large salad and is good for people with big appetites.  If your appetite isn’t so big, I suggest that you make the salad in a pint jar instead.  Just cut the ingredients in half, or you can do what I do.  I make the salad in a quart jar, and share it with a friend.

Chinese Chicken Salad in a Jar
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 quart sized
 
Salad in a jar is a good make ahead lunch and keeps for a few day in the fridge.
Ingredients
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup of the Asian flavored salad dressing.
  • 7 whole grape tomatoes on the bottom of the jar.
  • ¼ cup of julienne carrots were evenly distributed on top of that.
  • ½ cup chopped cucumbers were next.
  • ½ cup chopped cooked chicken
  • ½ (11 ounce) can of mandarin oranges in light syrup, drained
  • ¼ cup blanched broccoli florets broken into small pieces
  • 3 large radishes halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions (white and green parts) thinly sliced
  • chopped romaine lettuce to fill jar nearly to the top
  • 1 handful of bean sprouts
  • ½ cup of crunchy chow mein noodles.
Instructions
  1. Layer all ingredients, except chow mein noodles, in order listed above into jar. Keep it upright and store in fridge until ready to serve or pack into a lunch box with an ice pack.
  2. Pack chow mein noodles in a small baggie to sprinkle on the salad when served.
  3. Invert the salad in a jar to distribute the dressing and then pour into a bowl to serve.
  4. Sprinkle chow mein noodles on top.

 

 

 

Easy Southern Style Banana Pudding

Easy Southern Style Banana PuddingMy mother made delicious banana cream pies when I was growing up.  We’ll talk about Mom’s pies later.  My friend, Tammy, had a mother who made delicious banana pudding.  Both of them made these dishes from scratch.  I will be sharing their recipes in the future.  Anyone who comes here often knows that sometimes, I just want to be lazy, I want to take a simple approach to making dessert.

This recipe fits the bill, though banana pudding is still labor-intensive if you want it to look pretty.  My mom asked me once why we bothered to take all the time to make the banana pudding look so pretty when the family devoured it so fast.  She once suggested that we just pile everything into the bowl haphazardly and give it a stir and top it with some crumbs.  We both agreed that the family might not notice, but we never gave it a try just in case they liked the way it looked.

Here’s how you make this version of the pudding.

A bowl of milk

Put 3 cups of milk in to a bowl.

mix vanilla extract and pudding mix into milk

Add  1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and two  4 serving size packages of vanilla instant pudding.

pudding thickens after stirring

Stir until pudding begins to thicken.

Cool whip in top of pudding

Fold in an 8 ounce package of frozen whipped topping, thawed.   Then set aside.

Gently fold cool whip into jello pudding

Arrange a layer of vanilla wafers in the bottom of a 9 x 12 inch baking dish.

vanilla wafers layered in pan

Arrange sliced bananas on top of this (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this step.)

pudding spread evenly over cookies

Then spoon half of the pudding mixture on top of the bananas and cookies and spread evenly across the entire pan.

Layer cookies on top pudding mixture and top with sliced bananas.

Then, layer cookies on top of the pudding mixture.  Top these cookies with more sliced bananas. (Yes, I realize that I forgot to take a picture of the bananas, AGAIN!) 

pudding spread evenly over cookies

Spoon the rest of the pudding on top of this layer of cookies and bananas and smooth it over the pan, spreading it evenly to the edges.

Whole vanilla wafers and crushed vanilla wafers top of the pudding.

Finish pudding by putting a row of cookies around the edge of the pan and sprinkle some crushed cookies over the middle.  Cover the pan and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.  (You can eat it right away, but the cookies get soft if you let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours.)

To make this recipe more friendly for dieters or diabetics, make it with non-fat milk and sugar-free instant pudding.  You can choose either fat-free or sugar-free frozen whipped topping, too.  No one in my house has complained when I make it this way, and my diabetic guests are appreciative.

Easy Southern Style Banana Pudding
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-10
 
This is a simple and tasty banana pudding recipe. You can trim calories by using non-fat milk and sugar free pudding mix. You can also use either fat free or sugar free frozen whipped topping. No one in my family has noticed when I make these changes for visitors with diabetes or other health concerns. It's still not a health food, but it's better.
Ingredients
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 (4 serving size) packages of Instant Vanilla Pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (8 oz) package frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 4-6 bananas sliced
  • 12 oz box vanilla wafers
Instructions
  1. Mix together milk and instant pudding until pudding begins to thicken.
  2. Stir in vanilla extract and mix well.
  3. Fold in frozen whipped topping.
  4. Set aside.
  5. Place vanilla wafers in a single layer on the bottom of a 9x12 inch pan
  6. Slice bananas and layer them in a single layer on top of the vanilla wafers.
  7. Top bananas and vanilla wafers with half of the pudding mixture.
  8. Spread pudding evenly over vanilla wafers and all the way to the edge of the pan.
  9. Layer with another layer of vanilla wafers then another layer of bananas.
  10. Top with the pudding and spread it to the edge of the pan.
  11. Place a row of cookies around the edge of the pan and sprinkle crushed cookies into the middle.
  12. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

 

Salad in a Jar

Salads in a Jar in fridgeIt all started with a Good Housekeeping magazine that someone had left on the table in the break room at work.   Inside, there was an article about how to make yourself look seven years younger.  One of the things they recommended was this salad which was supposed to promote healthy skin because of all of the healthy ingredients.

What I noticed about the salad was not the promise of beautiful skin; I noticed rather that the salad was artfully arranged in layers in a mason jar.

I may be one of the last people to have heard about this phenomenon, but I thought it was a great idea.  I was excited because I’m always looking for ways to make lunch preparation both simple and healthy.  I immediately began searching for instructions on the internet for making salads in a jar.  After reading other people’s recipes, I decided to mix things up a bit and try to create some of my own salads in a jar.

My first creation was a Chinese chicken salad recipe.  This was followed by a taco salad recipe.  (Both of these recipes will be featured on Patty Cakes Pantry over the next few days or weeks.)  My creations were well received by my family as well as one of my co-workers who is always willing to try something new.  In fact, she was so excited by the idea that she made twelve quart-sized salads and stuck them into her fridge.

The salads she created consisted of six chef’s salads and six taco salads. The photo at the top of this post is hers.   These salads were eaten, one at a time, over the next four days, and she reported that the salads she pulled from the refrigerator on day four were as fresh as the ones she ate on day one.  I had read that they would stay fresh for that long, but having someone I knew and trusted confirm it for me was wonderful.

There are a few rules to be observed when assembling your salad in the jar in order to ensure success:

  1. Dressing goes into the bottom of the jar.
  2. The items that are added next must be able to withstand being submerged in or in contact with the dressing for extended periods of time without losing their texture.  Good items for this layer are whole cherry or grape tomatoes, diced bell peppers, julienne carrots, chopped onions, cucumbers and beans.
  3.  Once vegetables have been stacked beyond the point where they will be in contact with the dressing, other ingredients such as meat, cheese, hard-boiled egg, and olives can be added.  You don’t want to put something toward the top that will dampen ingredients below it.  For instance, the olives would probably go toward the bottom of that list.
  4.  Finish off your jar with salad greens of your choice.  I prefer romaine lettuce and my co-worker prefers iceberg.  Both types of lettuce served us well in our jar salads.

Salad in a jar is a simple, delicious and healthy way to prepare those work day lunches or to leave a ready-made lunch at home for your family.  Give them a try, you’ll be glad you did.

Spinach Salad with Dried Cranberries

Spinach Salad with Cranberries and baconAs anyone who is a frequent visitor to this site knows, I am always on the lookout for ideas for new salads.  Recently, while on a trip to one of those big warehouse stores, I noticed that they had a collection of prepared, easy to serve food items.  One of the things they had on display was a spinach salad.

The salad in question was a bed of spinach that was topped by neat rows of egg, sliced red onion, crumbled bacon, shredded mozzarella cheese, dried cranberries, and cherry tomatoes.   It was packaged with a container of poppy seed dressing.  Though the salad was pretty and looked tasty, the price tag for what appeared to be a one or two serving salad gave me pause.

When I got home, I kept thinking about that salad.  I realized that I had all of the ingredients to recreate the salad already in my house.  Actually, I didn’t have any poppy seed dressing, but I didn’t really think that would be a problem.  I could use something I already had, or I could make a dressing for the salad.  I decided to make the salad for our lunches. I layered spinach into the bottom of a container and then topped it with a rows of sliced red onions, shredded cheese, dried cranberries, crumbled bacon, cherry tomatoes and two hard boiled cut in half.  I packed a container of a red French dressing to top it with at work. The resultant salad was delicious.  The tartness of the red French dressing was a perfect match for the salad ingredients.

I shared it with a friend at work, and she agreed that it was good.  The photos were taken after it traveled to work in my lunchbox and was tossed around in the break room  fridge so all of the layers aren’t visible.  After removing the hard-boiled eggs, we tossed everything else together with the dressing, so it didn’t really  matter that the pretty rows weren’t there anymore. The best thing about this salad was that I made salad for 6 for the price of one of those little containers in the warehouse store. All in all, everyone agreed that this salad is a keeper.  The recipe I’ve included is for all 6 servings to go into one large container.  Give it a try and let me know how you like it.

Spinach Salad with Dried Cranberries
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree Salad
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
 
A simple and delicious spinach salad that makes a great lunch
Ingredients
  • 12 oz package of fresh baby spinach
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ -1/2 cup prepared bacon pieces
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, halved
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 10 to 14 cherry tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Layer spinach in an oblong bowl.
  2. Place other ingredients, except for eggs, on top of salad in rows.
  3. Arrange egg halves around the edge of the serving bowl.

 

Shrimp and Vegetable Quiche–A Leftover Makeover

Quiche made from LeftoversLeftovers lurk in the dark recesses of my refrigerator.  They are trying to weaken my resolve to use everything and let nothing go to waste.  Sometimes, it’s something that we didn’t really like that much.  Other times, it’s something that there just isn’t enough of to make a meal.  There are even times when it was such an unusual thing that it just doesn’t seem to go with anything else that’s lying around in the fridge.  Of course, there are those occasions where I totally misjudge the volume of food the recipe is going to make and we end up staring at the same thing over and over again until we just wish it would disappear.

Since the philosophy in our house is to use it up and not throw it out, I have to make it disappear in some way other than the trash can or garbage disposer.  The dogs are also considered an unacceptable receptacle for many of our leftovers.  They have their own food.

This is the story of shrimp succotash.  It seemed like a good idea.  It was chock full of delicious vegetables, a combination of fresh and frozen.  The night I made it, it was well received by my family when served with a side of rice.  They willingly ate it the next night.  I took two servings to work to share with my favorite co-worker, so I actually ate it twice that day.  It was okay.  I liked it, but after that night’s dinner, I knew I didn’t want to see it again in its current incarnation.

The next night, I stirred some of the drained shrimp succotash into a fried rice dish.  It was delicious, and the leftovers were served for lunch the next day.  Unfortunately, there was still quite a bit of the shrimp succotash left in the fridge.  We needed to use it up before it went bad, and I had been staring at it for 4 days already.  I poked around in the pantry and the freezer trying to figure out what I could do when I came across some frozen pie crusts.    Pie crust in hand, I shouted out my solution: “Quiche!”   I know what they say about real men not eating quiche, but Baker’s Man is a really good sport about these things.

I couldn’t find my standby quiche recipe, so I consulted the source of all knowledge–the internet.  I found several quiche recipes, opened them in different windows, and studied the ingredients.  I listed all ingredients from several of them side by side and picked out the common denominators, and considered the measurements.  Finally I was prepared.   I had a list of what I thought would be the makings of a delicious quiche.    Only one problem.  Most quiche recipes contain cream or half and half, and all I had was non-fat milk.  It didn’t matter.  I was confident, so I drained the succotash, broke some eggs, and whipped up a creation while in mad scientist mode.  the result was two quiches which were very well received.  No one even knew that it was made out of leftover shrimp succotash.  I simply called it Shrimp and Vegetable Quiche.

shrimp Vegetable Quiche

I do have a confession to make, though.  I poured the leftover broth from the succotash onto the dogs food.  It’s terrible, I know.  I just didn’t want to have to imagineer a use for the broth.  Please forgive my blatant waste of potable food.  Next time, I will more closely watch how many vegetables I am chopping when I make succotash.   We don’t need enough to feed the entire infantry.  After all, there are only 4 of us at home now.

The prepared quiches can be cooled, covered, and frozen to take out and eat at a later date, or they can be devoured immediately.  We ate one the first night and had leftovers for lunch the next day.  It was delicious.

Here’s the recipe.  I have eliminated the need to make succotash first in this version.  I hope you enjoy it.  Thanks for visiting my site.

Shrimp and Vegetable Quiche
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: French
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 - 10 servings
 
Quiche is a great leftover food. You can substitute any type of meat and vegetables that you like in this recipe. You only need to drain any excess cooking liquid which might prevent the quiche from setting up.
Ingredients
  • 2 frozen 9" pie crusts with the fluted edges (raised up above the edge of the pan)
  • 3 cups cooked, chopped vegetables of your choice. (I almost always use a chopped onion in this mixture for the flavor)
  • 1½ cup salad shrimp (you can use chopped cooked chicken or beef in place of shrimp)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (your choice, but make sure it complements the meat and vegetables that you are using).
  • 8 eggs
  • 1½ cups milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Put 1½ cups of chopped cooked vegetables into the bottom of each pie crust.
  2. Top each pie with ¾ cup of cooked salad shrimp
  3. Sprinkle to top of each with 1 cup shredded cheese.
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together 8 eggs and 1½ cups milk. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When well mixed, pour into pie pans. They should be very full. If they are not, sprinkle in some more cheese to fill them up. They will raise slightly during cooking.
  6. Place quiches onto a cookie sheet or sheet of foil in a 350 degree oven. (The pan or foil is in case they boil over while baking.)
  7. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes until the filling is set.
  8. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting.
  9. This is delicious served warm or cold.

 

The Zorba

Zorba SandwichWhen I was away at college, I spoke with my parents at least once a week.  It was during one of these weekly calls that my mother told me about a sandwich that she and my father had for lunch one day while traveling to a neighboring town.  The sandwich was called “The Zorba.”  She described the ingredients, a mixture of ground beef, broccoli, and “ripe olives” which were served in a “pita pocket bread,” and promised to make the sandwich for me the next time I was in town.  I know some of you are probably wondering what a “ripe olive” is, so let me explain.  The olives that come in a jar with the pimento are called green olives, right?  My mother considered the black ones to be “ripe”.  I don’t know if they were ever actually labeled that way for sale, but I grew up calling them ripe olives until one of my roommates asked  “What’s a ripe olive?”

Personally, I thought that my mother’s description of the sandwich sounded pretty weird, and  I was not eagerly anticipating the day when she would make one for me.  In fact, when she commented at the end of Thanksgiving weekend that she had forgotten to make me a Zorba, I was secretly happy I had managed to avoid the taste test.

“It’s okay, Mom.”  I told her.  “We had so much turkey and other stuff, we really didn’t need them.  I’ll be home again.  We can try it then.”   I was hoping that she would forget.  What I didn’t know was that she made these sandwiches for my father at least once a month.

It was when I came home for Christmas break that she finally was able to make the Zorba for me.  I stood in the doorway to her kitchen which was near her stove and talked with her about the things going on at school as I watched her prepare this strange sounding mixture.

First, she chopped up some garlic.

chopped garlic

Then she chopped up some onion.  She probably only used one type of onion but I had two half onions sitting in the fridge. 

Chopped Onion

Then she put all of it into the pan with some ground beef.

Ground Beef, Onion, and Garlic go into the pan

She cooked this until the meat was browned.

Cooked ground beef that has been cooked with onion and garlic

Then, she stirred in frozen chopped broccoli.

Frozen Chopped Broccoli

Finally, she added a 2.5 ounce can of sliced black olives that had been drained.  I have been known to use a 4.25 ounce can of chopped black olives instead.

Sliced Ripe or Black Olives

She continued to cook this mixture, adding black pepper and salt until the broccoli was cooked to her liking. I usually add only black pepper because of the saltiness of the olives, but my mom always complained that  I don’t use enough salt when I cook.  Taste it and decide for yourself.

Heat the zorba mixture through

The mixture was then served inside pita pockets that had been spread with mayonnaise, and served topped with shredded cheese.

Completed Zorba Sandwich

To my surprise, it was very good.  I guess you could call it “love at first bite.”

During Spring break, my mom wanted me to go with her to try the original sandwich upon which she had based her recipe.  We drove 30 miles, and after completing some other errands, we stopped at the diner.  After studying the menu, we couldn’t find the Zorba anywhere.  My mom summoned the waitress who was new.  She brought out the manager, and he told her that, sadly, the sandwich was no longer available.    I don’t remember what we had for lunch, but I remember that I liked my mom’s Zorba Sandwich.

When I got  back  to the college, I made it for my boyfriend.  He really liked it, too.  He’s now my husband.   I can’t promise that Zorba sandwiches will turn your boyfriend into your husband, but it worked for me.   In fact, he’s the one who is responsible for this post.  I asked what he wanted for dinner, and he said “You know something that you haven’t made in a long time?   Zorbas.”  Baker’s Man is really an awesome guy.   Of course, I might be prejudiced.

Here’s the recipe.  Please give it a try and let me know what you think.

The Zorba Sandwich
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Pseudo Greek
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
 
A remake of a sandwich my mother and father ate at a diner in a neighboring town. You can add some shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes to the sandwich if you like. If pita bread is expensive in your area, use flour tortillas and roll up burrito style.
Ingredients
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 10 oz frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 (2.5 ounce) can sliced or chopped olives, drained
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 6 pita (pocket) breads
  • Shredded Cheese or crumbled cheese of your choice
Instructions
  1. Cook garlic, onion, and ground beef together in a skillet until meat is browned and onion is translucent.
  2. Drain off excess grease.
  3. Add frozen chopped broccoli and cook, stirring frequently until broccoli is nearly cooked.
  4. Add olives, and heat until broccoli achieves desired degree of doneness and olives are heated through.
  5. Cut pita's in half and open the pockets.
  6. Spread the interior of the pocket with 1 - 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  7. Spoon in meat mixture
  8. Top with a couple pinches of shredded cheese.
  9. Serve