Saturday, December 4, 2010

Things I've Been Cooking

Hello again, thought I'd post a list of some of the things I've been cooking and thinking about. For me it's like looking at a photo album, and remembering each meal and the people I served it to or shared it with. I keep my "Food Ideas" list handy in a Google document, for inspiration. Though not included here, I also list the things I am hoping to cook. I'm so happy to have people to cook for, people who are consistently thankful and gracious.

Note: Some of the things on the list include what others have made; for example, my sister made corn casserole for Thanksgiving and my son smoked pork another time, etc. Thanks for reading!

Frittata with asparagus, feta, roasted peppers; fried potatoes; bacon; banana pancakes and blueberry pancakes
Greek salad with creamy Greek dressing
White chicken chili 
Thick pork chops, stuffed with white and wild rice with cranberries & pecans; yellow squash casserole; green beans and tomatoes
Banana-pecan muffins
Pasta dish with Italian sausage, Kale, Parmesan
Smoked turkey (left from Thanksgiving) quesadillas with corn and black bean relish
Thanksgiving: Fried turkey and smoked turkey, ham, dressing, corn casserole, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, sweet potato crunch, mashed potatoes, gravy, macaroni salad, broccoli casserole, cranberry salad, rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie, ice cream, whipped cream, tea, coffee
Sparkly Cranberry Scones
Sausage patties, fried eggs, toast
Penne ala vodka; roasted asparagus with olives 
Creole shrimp stroganoff with Cajun buttered noodles 
Pumpkin eggnog muffins
Husband's favorite chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed fresh broccoli, cheese sauce, corn
Eggs in purgatory (Eggs baked in a spicy-chunky tomato/artichoke sauce)
Roasted tomato soup
Vermicelli with creamy sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, bacon, & fresh spinach
Pan-fried grouper fillets, rice pilaf, yellow squash, salad
Mocha Bundt cake
Sweet potato cake with walnuts and molasses 
Black bean and butternut squash stew
Halloween dinner: pumpkin sloppy joes, slaw, ditalini salad, deviled eggs, apple slices with fluffy dip, pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting
Chili, apple crisp (for pumpkin carving night)
Pasta casserole with eggplant, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and zucchini; pesto garlic bread
Shrimp and sausage gumbo, rice, bread, key lime pies with cream and candied limes
BBQ chicken sliders with slaw, macaroni and cheese (Relish magazine, Oct '10)
Potato/corn/cheese soup with basil; oatmeal cookies with dried cranberries
Chicken divan
Roasted halved chickens with herbes de Provence; mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, biscuits
Moroccan chickpea stew; zaalouk
Banh Mi sandwiches with lemongrass chicken
Asparagus sandwiches
Greek orzo pasta salad 
Smoked Boston butts, Potato Salad, beans, homemade BBQ sauce,  chocolate chip cookies 
Fettuccine alfredo with broccoli, yellow squash, mushrooms, bell pepper, tomato; garlic bread
Chicken quesadillas, black beans and yellow rice,  guacamole
Southwestern pasta salad (tri-color rotini, roasted corn, avocado, red bell, tomato, sour cream and mayo mixed with taco seasoning)
Grilled chicken breasts (marinated in pineapple/teriyaki); roasted white and sweet potatoes; sauteed broccoli with orange zest, chili flake and garlic; deviled eggs; garlic bread
Vegetable stew/soup with grilled sandwiches:  ham, gouda, strawberry jam and  a little country mustard
Chicken pasta salad in creamy curry dressing

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Flier Highlights and Soft Pretzels

Hello again,

Yesterday just for fun I made a batch of soft pretzels. Whenever I make them I remember how easy they are and then I wonder why I don't make them more often. A bit time-consuming but nothing difficult. I used this recipe,, but I modified it. I needed more flour than it called for, and I added the boiling step (most pretzel recipes call for it, and it helps the crust taste more pretzel-like, less like French bread.)
Make the dough, and rest it for an hour. Cut off equal pieces and shape by making a snake then twisting the legs twice and pressing the toes on. Let rise another twenty minutes (seen here).

Boil them for a minute in a baking soda bath.

Drain on a kitchen cloth (not terry cloth).

Brush with honey butter (shown here) or egg wash. Sprinkle with kosher salt. 
Hot and fresh! Good with mustard or more honey butter.

I have the Publix and Winn Dixie flier. Via Foods is out of fliers today, but I'll check back with them and report their sales. They've been consistently low on many meats. We called a friend who owns a BBQ restaurant last week, because we knew he'd know the cheapest price in town on pork shoulder (Boston butt), and he said he's been getting his at Via Foods. We went to Wal-mart with the Via Foods flier and bought pork shoulders from them at the Via Foods price, .98 lb.

Publix has asparagus for $2.49 lb., green grapes .99 lb., pears .99 lb., and their summer vegetables are once again $1.29 lb. They have a lot of buy-one-get-one-frees (bogofs): tuna, chicken broth, canned tomatoes, fruit cups, canned fruit, canned vegetables, juice, snack crackers, granola, Hebrew Nat'l hot dogs, mac & cheese, kraft mayo, pasta, juice boxes, brownie mix, V8 fusion, granola bars, oats, peanut butter, Bull's-eye BBQ sauce, Ken's dressings, Fuze, Orville's popcorn, Thomas' bagels, Arnold bread, Eclipse gum, Doritos, EB organic baby food, Klondikes, "All" brand soap, 9 Lives dry, and more. And on Saturday and Sunday only, their Kellogg's cereals are all 50% off.

Winn Dixie has a bunch of bogofs as usual, too. It's one of the ways they compete with Wal-mart, because Wal-mart doesn't honor bogofs, they just match the lowest price of area grocery stores. WD's bogofs: strawberries and blackberries, mac & cheese, Sargento cheese, Dole salads, Little Sizzlers, center cut pork chops, boneless chicken breasts, country style ribs, Luzianne tea bags, WD spices and extracts, canned tomatoes, yellow rice, various Cover Girl, taco shells, Stonyfield yogurt, Hefty trash bags, PF bread, olive oil, PF cakes,  Blue Bunny and Starbucks ice cream, Juicy Juice boxes, and more. If you buy three of their General Mills cereals, you'll get a bag of Folger's coffee, a gallon of milk, a bag of powdered donuts, and a dozen eggs free. A 4 lb. bag of sugar is $1.48, and that's a stock-up price. Whole beef brisket is $3.49 lb. Pears are .99 lb.

Save-a-Lot has chicken thighs, .88 lb.

If you want to make meals out of the items on sale this week, here are a few ideas:

To use the bogof boneless chicken (WD) and pasta bogof (Publix) and vegetables (Publix):
Chicken Scallopini (For a good recipe, )
Chicken Primavera with Parmesan Pasta ( )

To use Publix tuna bogof and pasta bogof:
Tuna Noodle Casserole (

To use thighs from Save-a-Lot, bogof chicken broth from Publix, and bogof rice from WD:
Chicken and Rice (Arroz con Pollo)

To use bogof pork chops from WD:
Smothered Pork Chops ( . You might serve rice (WD) and vegetables from Publix.

To use the bogof peanut butter and bogof oatmeal (both Publix), how about some Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins?

To use eggs and Winn Dixie's Little Sizzler's bogof, how about a big frittata--Italian oven omelet--with sausage links arranged as spokes? Here's a recipe that uses potatoes and Italian sausage, but you can substitute the ones on sale.

If you do any extra holiday cooking, it might be a good time to stock up on WD's spices and extracts (bogof).
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday's Grocery Specials


This week's best meat deal is once again at Via Foods supermarket, on the corner of Business 98 and Spring Avenue near East Avenue. Wal-mart will honor their prices, but I would bring along a Via ad flier. They don't add a 10% surcharge like Grocery Outlet.

Their NY strip steaks are $2.58 lb, while the uncut whole strip is .20 per lb. cheaper. Boneless basa fillets (a type of Vietnamese catfish) are $2.98 lb. A serving is about half a pound (8 oz.). These would be great fried and used in fish tacos. (For an easy recipe, visit this link: .) You can also pick up Hass avocados at Via for .79 each, to go with your fish taco dinner. Boneless chuck roast is $2.38 lb., which is cheaper than Winn Dixie's loss leader on chuck roast this week. At Via,  Boston butt is .98 lb., and most folks enjoy shredded barbecued pork. You could even make up a batch to freeze. Via's broccoli is $1.50 per bunch, but it looked awful, so I'm going to Wal-mart for broccoli and I'll have them give me Via's price unless theirs is cheaper. Via's 3 lb. bag of yellow onions is $1.49, and their seedless red grapes are .99, the same as Winn Dixie.

Speaking of WD, their large tomatoes are .99 lb. I'm excited about the asparagus, $2.49 lb. I really enjoy making Paula Deen's asparagus sandwiches, which we fell in love with at The Lady and Sons restaurant in Savannah. Surf laundry powder is bogof, two for $4.99. They have a lot of bogofs, as usual. Publix doesn't have any great sales this week, just quite a few bogofs, too many to list. I think I'll stock up on Pam spray, Emerald mixed nuts, and Lipton tea bags. Pasta sauce at both Publix and WD are bogof this week: Classico at WD and Barilla at Publix. If you add crushed fennel seed, jars of pasta sauce become pizza sauce. Ever make a pizza casserole? It's a kid-friendly meal. Follow this link to a Taste of Home recipe. .

My friend Julie works hard to make the Taste of Home fall cooking school a great success. It's on September 23rd this year, at South Walton High School. The tickets are $10 in advance. It's always a fun night and there are lots of door prizes.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Current sales and recipe thoughts


I got some deals at Winn Dixie and turned them into Sunday lunch. We had grilled chicken breasts marinated in pineapple juice and teriyaki. Create your own marinade, starting with an acidic ingredient such as pineapple juice, orange juice, lemon juice, or buttermilk...and then build up from there using other components (buttermilk and  pepper sauce is a classic marinade for fried chicken). Plus, when you marinate meat (or brine meat), the cells take up liquid and make the finished product much juicier. Use care with a sweet marinade if you plan to grill because it burns more easily. When I get chicken on sale, sometimes I divide it into dinner-sized portions and place it in freezer bags, then add a different homemade marinade to each bag and label. That way it's marinating as it freezes and also as it thaws.

For Sunday lunch, we also made grilled eggplant tossed with feta; garlic bread; roasted sweet potatoes and white potatoes; deviled eggs; and broccoli sauteed in olive oil with garlic, red pepper flakes, and orange zest.

A couple days ago we had a big pot of vegetable soup, so yummy with grilled cheese sandwiches. Save up your last bits of vegetables in a carton in the freezer and add them to your soup. Making soup is a cinch and one of my favorite things to do. This one contains: onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, potatoes, corn, green beans, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, bay leaves and basil. I made vegetable stock and then pureed the aromatics I used for the stock (onions, carrots, celery) and stirred them back in.

Vegetable soup

For today's beach picnic, we had cantaloupe and strawberries, and a pasta salad everyone really seemed to enjoy. I call it "Southwestern Pasta Salad:" tri-color rotini and kernels of roasted corn, avocado chunks, tomato, red bell pepper, small cubes of pepper-jack cheese, and a dressing of sour cream and mayo mixed with part of a package of taco seasoning. You could also add some red onion and black olives but some of my crew has allergies and dislikes.

Tomorrow is the last day for this week's grocery sales. If a store doesn't have what you are looking for, get a rain check. A family pack of top round steak is $2.38 lb. at Via Foods. I'm going to put some in the freezer and then make a note of it for Swiss steak later this fall--such an easy meal. A 4-lb. bag of sugar is $1.79 with a $15 purchase. Chicken thighs are .88 lb. They are easy to marinate and grill. I'm going to debone some and marinate them for the Banh Mi sandwiches I'm still planning to make (and of course save the bones for stock). Via's zucchini is .79 lb. (I put zucchini is pasta sauces and soup or sauté as a side dish). Cukes are .33 each (cucumber salad, or tzatziki sauce for Greek pitas); and milk is $2.99 a gallon.

Summer vegetables are still on sale at Publix, and Winn Dixie has eggs for .99 a dozen (omelets or frittata for dinner) and lots more (see last Wednesday's post). Plan a week or two week's worth of menus using items on sale and in your pantry and freezer. I try not to run out of anything--buy on sale and stock up whenever you can. Make at least one meal a week vegetarian (like soup and grilled cheese sandwiches or black beans and rice). Shopping from your own pantry and freezer is often the most frugal option.

Happy shopping and cooking! Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday's Grocery Specials and Stuff I've Been Cooking

Hello again,

Winn Dixie has a few specials worth mentioning this week. Fresh corn on the cob is .25 each. Cantaloupes are bogof at $2.99 so you might want to split the deal with a friend. Boneless chicken breasts are bogof at $4.59, making them $2.30 a lb....not that great, but if you need some this week it's not too bad. I wouldn't stock up at that price. Other bogofs include Breyer's ice cream (at Publix also, WD is $3.99 and Publix is $4.13); Kraft mayo, Miracle Whip, (Hellmann's at Publix), all bogof; 5 lbs. of red potatoes at WD are bogof $4.99--that's ten pounds for $5; Lay's chips, Kraft cheese, Thomas bagels or powdered donuts, Birdseye frozen corn on the cob, all bogof. Hormel Cure 81 hams are bogof, making them $3.00 per pound, a much better price than deli ham.

Using some of the specials at WD this week, you could have a great Labor Day meal of marinated, grilled chicken breast sandwiches served on French-style buns (bogof in deli). You could marinate in teriyaki and top the sandwiches with honey mustard and pineapple, or go the American route with bacon and cheese. Serve with roasted red potatoes or potato salad, grilled corn on the cob (homemade chili butter or basil butter), and two-melon salad (or watermelon-tomato salad).

Save-a-Lot has chicken thighs and drums for .88 lb.--compare that to Publix, $2.99 lb. I'm going to make Banh Mi sandwiches soon using thighs. Also S-a-L's boneless chuck roasts are $2.49 lb.--not an amazing price, but better than I've seen lately. I try to keep a couple of roasts in the freezer for BBQ'd beef, Sunday roasts, Machaca Beef (Mexican shredded beef) and beef stew. It's cheaper and easier to go shopping in your own freezer and pantry, so stock up when items are on sale.

Publix has summer veggies on sale again this week, .99 lb. for green beans, eggplant, okra, zucchini, and yellow squash. Okra, tomatoes, shrimp/sausage and rice would make some lovely Cajun food (a 3 lb. bag of Rico rice is still .99 at Publix). Their Labor Day loss leader is spare ribs, $1.79 lb. Paul Newman's pasta sauce and Mueller's pastas are bogof (Ronzoni is bogof at WD), and it's nice to have those around for pasta casseroles. (I simmer jarred sauces with carrot & zucchini cubes and red pepper flakes and toss with cooked pasta, bake and top with mozzarella for an easy vegetarian supper.) Cool Whip is bogof, so buy a few and freeze if you use them around the holidays. Planter's peanuts are bogof and it's easy to make spiced nuts, just toast a jar of them on a baking sheet (350 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes), and then carefully toss with 2 teaspoons chili powder, a teaspoon of cumin, a good pinch of cayenne and about two teaspoons of oil so the spices stick and bake them for another ten minutes. These are a favorite of football fans and they pack easily. I keep peanuts around to toss into stir-fries, too. Breakstone sour cream is $1, so it's a good time to make chili, potato salad using sour cream, and a dip I make that's surprisingly popular: it's just a package of taco seasoning and a carton of sour cream (2 cups). You'll never want regular sour cream on any Mexican dish again, once you taste it.

Today I made Do Chua for the Banh Mi sandwiches I hope to make this weekend. We've been watching "The Great Food Truck Race," and the Nom Nom truck is so successful, we'd like to see what the fuss is about. I had to order daikon radishes from Publix, and they were very nice about it. The prices weren't cheap, especially considering how many daikons I grew in my fall garden last year.

Carrots and daikon giving up some liquid
Do Chua--Vietnamese pickled daikon radishes and carrots

Ground chuck was on sale at Winn Dixie last week, so today I made Three-Bean chili, which will go into the freezer.

I also made a big batch of meatballs for the freezer.

I think it's important to get a good crust on them, but they aren't cooked in the middle until they simmer in sauce.

Ready to cool and head into the freezer. 
It feels good to have some things put away for the busy nights (or lazy nights) to come. These make wonderful meatball subs, or spaghetti toppers.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tonight's dinner

Hello Again,

This afternoon I visited my sister and my two nieces, age three, and I fixed supper for their family. We decided to help Mommy by making a quick supper of Shrimp Lo Mein before they had to zip off to dance practice. Those little girls helped me take the tails off a pound of shrimp! They've been cooking with me since they were eighteen months old. They love it! But not nearly as much as I do.

Tonight we made Chicken Pasta Salad in Creamy Curry Dressing for supper. There were about six of us and everyone loved it. It can be served hot or cold. I modified a recipe I had found on the Internet, using penne rather than rotini, etc., and quadrupling it but not to exact specifications.

Chicken Pasta Salad in Creamy Curry Dressing

I use Watkins curry powder. Make sure you use a good one; some curry powders detract more than enhance. is such a great go-to site for recipes, which I where I found this one.

Also, did you know has a search feature in which you can input the ingredients you have and it'll find recipes you can use?

Chicken Pasta Salad with Creamy Curry Dressing
1/4 pound rotelle
1 whole skinless boneless chicken breast (about 3/4 pound), poached and cut into bite-size pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered (I used regular tomatoes.)
2 scallions (green onions), sliced thin
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves

For the dressing:
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger root (I keep jarred pulverized ginger in the fridge, which is so handy. Do not use powdered ginger, it's completely different.)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar (I keep this on hand, it's less harsh than regular white vinegar.)
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
dried hot red pepper flakes to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped drained bottled mango chutney, or to taste (Because I quadrupled the recipe, I used an entire small bottle of Major Grey's, and I didn't chop it or drain it.)


In a large kettle of boiling salted water cook the pasta for 10 minutes, or until it is tender, refresh it in a colander under cold water, and drain it well. In a large bowl combine the pasta, the chicken, the tomatoes, the scallions (green onions), and the basil. (I didn't use the green onions because my husband is allergic to raw onions.)
Make the dressing:
In a skillet cook the garlic and the gingerroot in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until the garlic is softened, add the cream, and cook the mixture, whisking, until it is thickened slightly. Whisk in the vinegar, the curry powder, the red pepper flakes, and the chutney.
Add the dressing to the pasta mixture, tossing the salad to combine it well, and season the salad with salt and pepper.

If you don't have cooked chicken breast, just heat a large skillet, add a T or two of olive oil and fry up the chicken breasts until perfectly done. I cover with a splatter guard. Take them out, cool them slightly and chop, and make the dressing in the same skillet. Pasta can be served hot, cold, or room temperature. If serving hot or warm, don't rinse it under cold water, just dump it into a large bowl. Enjoy!

For fun, my dear daughter-in-law and I made a pan of homemade brownies. For many years I have used the One-Bowl-Brownies recipe on the back of the Baker's chocolate (unsweetened) package. Tonight we modified it, adding walnuts, mini marshmallows and chocolate chunks. I snapped a photo in the nick of time!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Meatloaf Recipe

Hello again,

Winn Dixie's ground chuck is on sale this week so I thought I'd put some meatloaves into the freezer. Here's the recipe, along with pictures. I've been using this recipe for a few years. It's not my original recipe, I found it on the Internet. I like the name, because after you try this one, your search for great meatloaf will probably be over. Enjoy!

The World’s Last Meatloaf

1 T bacon grease
1 cup minced onion
3/4 cup minced celery
3/4 cup minced green pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp Montreal steak seasoning
1 T salt
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 pounds ground chuck
1 cup white bread crumbs, coarsely ground

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat bacon grease in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté vegetables with seasonings until tender. Allow to cool. Combine milk, eggs and Worcestershire and ketchup and mix well. Place ground chuck, cooled vegetables, bread crumbs and egg mixture into a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, gently squish meat until you have mixed everything together. Avoid over mixing, which will toughen the meatloaf. Shape meat mixture into the form of a loaf onto a broiler pan or roasting pan, with sides to catch the grease. Form an indentation down the center of the loaf (this is where the glaze will go). Bake 50 minutes. (This is the first baking before the glaze. After glazing, the meatloaf will need to bake another 30 minutes.) While meatloaf is cooking, make the glaze. Serves 8-10.

Tomato glaze
1 tsp bacon fat
1 T minced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 T yellow mustard
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 cup ketchup

Heat bacon fat over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic in bacon fat three or four minutes. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Stir in remaining ingredients. Remove loaf from oven and spoon glaze down center of the meatloaf and spread over the sides. Return meatloaf to oven, lower heat to 300 degrees and bake 30 minutes more. Allow meatloaf to rest 15 minutes before serving.

Bacon fat
Onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic
Thyme, oregano, Montreal steak seasoning, salt
Bread crumbs. I use bread from the freezer.
Eggs, milk, Worcestershire, ketchup. I'm making three meatloaves.
Vegetable mixture and ground chuck
Mix gently but thoroughly.
The first meatloaf. I wrapped them in non-stick foil, labeled, and froze. 
The essential glaze. 
Freeze next to the meatloaves. Thaw meatloaf in bottom of refrigerator overnight. Place on a baking sheet with sides and bake according to directions.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Shopping adventures and ratatouille

Hi again, today I stopped by Winn Dixie, Publix, and Save-a-Lot in Lynn Haven.

Save-a-Lot's large green peppers are .59 each. When produce is sold by "each," rather than by the pound, be sure to get the biggest ones you can to get your money's worth. A 3 lb. bag of onions at SAL is $1.99. I was glad to get a large 46 oz. bottle of Hunt's ketchup for $1.79, because tomorrow I hope to make meatloaves. They have $1 Grey Poupon mustard coupons just inside the door on a display. I'm hearing from other shoppers about how sweet their $4.99 seedless watermelons are, too.

Winn Dixie's ground chuck is $1.89 lb., as I wrote recently. Their ground beef is also $1.89 and I'm sure lots of people are accidently buying it instead. Winn Dixie marks their meat down when it's close to the "sell by" date, labeling them "manager's specials," and you can get some great deals. I bought two slabs of spareribs for .99 lb.

When you enter Publix, the flier stand has other pamphlets, too, and some have coupons. This week those coupons are bogof on Kotex products and bogof on the 15 oz. can of Allen cut green beans, among others. Their Rico white rice is still .99 for a 3 lb. bag. Cascadian Farms granola cereal is bogof, with a $1 coupon attached--you would normally pay $8 but with the coupon you get the two boxes for $3. I was glad to buy eggplant, green beans, yellow squash, and zucchini on sale, some of which I used in tonight's ratatouille, pictured below.

Ratatouille (pronounced rat-a-TOO-ee)

Remove stem cap and chop an eggplant.
Chopped onions
Chopped garlic
Heat olive oil in a large pot, chop two onions and sauté for five minutes. Add a few cloves of chopped garlic.

You don't have to use six--I just like zucchini. Two or three is fine. 

Chopped zucchini

Add it all into the pot, first onions, then garlic, a few minutes later, the eggplant and cook it a few minutes. Then add zucchini, cook for a couple of minutes, and add tomatoes. I used two cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes, but fresh is great if you have them. I usually love to use fresh plum tomatoes but I didn't have any today. Season with salt and pepper.

Last, I use a couple tablespoons of basil that we grew and chopped, which I keep in a tub in the freezer. Dried herbs such as oregano and fresh parsley at the end would be good, too.
BTB, RTS. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Cover and let cook until vegetables are tender. Salt and pepper, eat with a crusty chunk of French bread. Even better for lunch tomorrow.

For dessert, I made apple crisp. I bought eight pounds of Granny Smith apples for .49 a lb. a few days ago. Here's a picture of some of them them, sliced in the baking dish, ready for a crumble topping of oats, brown sugar, flour, butter, and cinnamon. The aroma of fall is in the air. Thanks for reading! And by the way, not a spoonful of this was leftover. Who can resist baked apples?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This week's grocery specials

The best meat deal this week is Winn Dixie's ground chuck at $1.89 lb.

Via Foods (on 5th Street just west of East Avenue) has T-bones for $3.98 lb. A 5 lb. bag of red potatoes is $1.99. Roma tomatoes are .89 lb. Sweet potatoes are 2 lbs. for .99. Boneless skinless chicken breasts are $1.98 lb. Limes are .10 each and a pitcher of limeade sounds good right now. Since none of these are buy-one-get-one-frees, Wal-mart will honor their prices.

Because of the sale on ground chuck at Winn Dixie, this would be a good time to plan ahead and stock the freezer with meatballs, meatloaves, taco meat, spaghetti sauce, chili, taco soup and/or minestrone. Autumn is on the way, with friends and family dropping over, evenings spent Christmas shopping, and late nights watching fall ball and lots more. Won't it be nice to grab a gallon size zip-top bag of homemade chili or soup out of the freezer? Thaw it in the bottom drawer of the fridge overnight or micro-defrost it the day you need it.

What is the difference between ground beef and ground chuck? The most common answer is the amount of fat: ground beef can be up to 30% fat, while ground chuck is 20% or less. That's about a third shrinkage with and a fifth with But to me the most important difference is ground chuck is literally ground from the chuck (shoulder). Ground beef is ground from beef with no designated section (this is the part where you use your imagination). If the product is labeled "hamburger," that means other beef fat can be added into it.

I think it's important to choose ground meat from a store you trust. Not all meat men have the same integrity; not all stores have the same standards. The more something is ground, the more surface area is opened up, the more chance for bacteria. That's a good reason to keep it very cold and use it quickly. And please, do not thaw it all day in your sink. That's just scary.

Other sales that make me happy this week are some of the fresh veggies at Publix: green beans, eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, and okra, all .99 lb. Grilled vegetables are so versatile: you can eat them as they are, put them in panini sandwiches, make soup out of them, put them on pizza, make vegetable lasagna. I love to make ratatouille, and I am thankful for the movie because I used to say, "ratatouille," and got blank stares. If you haven't had it, it's a vegetable stew with tomatoes, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, onions, bell peppers, and herbs. To me, it's tastes like late summer in a bowl. Another great dish to make when eggplant is on sale is Baba Ghanoush, the middle Eastern eggplant dip.

A few ideas for yellow squash: it's lovely raw and cubed in pasta salad; sauteed the Southern way with onions (I let it brown a little); sliced into ribbons with zucchini for a great side dish; put into a cheesy yellow squash casserole with crumbs on top; or made into yellow squash-lemon soup (ala Sweet Magnolia's).

Winn Dixie has their chunk cheese on sale, $2.99 per pound (it's buy-one-get-one-free). Of course if you choose two 6 oz. packages instead of two 8 oz. packages, it's $4 a pound, not $3. So be sure to choose eight ounce packages. These can be frozen and used later, especially in cooking since they tend to crumble when thawed.

Winn Dixie's lettuces are .88 lb., making it a nice week for salads.

Green beans are sort of a friendly vegetable. I like to bring a large pot of water to boil and add a tablespoon of salt. While that's heating up, I snap the stem ends off, and fill a large bowl with a little ice and lots of water. When the water is boiling, put the green beans in (up to about two pounds at a time) and let it reboil. Boil for three minutes or so. Meanwhile get a colander ready in the sink. Drain the beans into the colander (or fish them out with tongs) and place them in the ice water. Let them chill for a bit, then drain them well. I roll them in paper towels and put them in a large zip-top bag, and refrigerate them. I use them within a few days. All they really need is reheated in a hot skillet with some butter or olive oil for a few minutes. Great in stir-fries, too.

Winn Dixie has Gain laundry detergent for $4.99. The best value is the 40-load powder. I use a sharpie and draw a line on the scoop where it says "large load." Winn Dixie also has Chock Full o' Nuts coffee buy-one-get-one-free at $4.79 for two.

I don't like to spend the money on vegetable broth or chicken broth in cans or cartons, and I need broth to make all kinds of soups and stews. I haven't made chicken broth in a slow cooker yet, because I usually make larger quantities, but I recently made vegetable broth and it was easy and good. I just put a cut onion, a few garlic cloves, a broken stalk of celery, a cut carrot, a bay leaf, a few parsley springs, and a few grinds of pepper into my slow cooker. I cooked it all night on low but later I put it on high and cooked it a few more hours, so next time, I'm just going to start it on high for six or eight hours. Then I cooled it and discarded all the solids. Remember, when making stock, there's no need to peel the onions or carrots or anything...just be sure everything is clean.
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chicken Divan

Chicken Divan is one of those older recipes you don't hear much about anymore, but it's a comforting casserole that's easy to put together. Since I found broccoli, chicken, sour cream, and mushroom soup on sale, it seemed like a good fit.

The original creation was made by a chef at a New York restaurant in the 1950's, and had asparagus. Mine is the Paula Deen version.

I cut up two heads of broccoli, steamed them in the microwave and placed them in a casserole dish.

I covered the broccoli with chunks of roasted chicken breast. A good use for leftover chicken.

I made a creamy sauce out of mayo, mushroom soup, sour cream, a little curry powder, Chef Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic, juice from half a lemon, and salt and black pepper. Spread it over the chicken. 

I had some stale white bread in the freezer, so I processed it and mixed it with melted butter and Parmesan. Sprinkle it over the top.

Bake at 375 about 45 minutes to an hour, until brown and bubbly. Enjoy!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ramen days

Hello folks,

Recently a relative face-booked that he was eating Ramen. That got me to thinking about those times when you need to feed your family for only a few dollars a week.

Here's a week of seriously frugal dinners. They take some planning and forethought but you'll probably be able to spend less than $20 total. I'm going to include recipes for Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken Noodle Stew, Red Beans, Fried Rice and a basic plan to follow. (Rico rice is on sale at Publix this week, three pounds for .99 cents.)

When you have time, roast the chicken (an hour or so); take the meat off the bones (half an hour--save bones); make the stock (an hour and a half); make all the white rice (half an hour); cook the red beans (and later, the pinto beans) in your slow cooker (soak six hours, then cook eight hours). Of course, very little of that time is active work.

Some of the things you will need:
3 lbs. of potatoes
1 lb. dry red beans
1 lb. dry pinto beans
2 lbs. white rice
5 onions
1 lb. fresh carrots
1 bunch of celery
1 head of garlic
1 whole chicken
a few cups of all-purpose flour
vegetable oil
a bag of frozen peas
a bell pepper (a frozen bag is often cheaper)
bag of noodles
two eggs

*Potato soup and homemade bread (or from the bread store)--save a little boiled potato for Chicken Pot Pie.
Soup is a chopped onion and peeled and chopped potatoes, cooked in water, then mashed in the liquid to make soup, with salt and pepper. For added flavor, use a little milk or cream, or ham.

*Chicken Pot Pie (basic recipe follows)

*Red beans and rice (basic recipe follows).
--Make extra white rice (2 cups raw and four cups water, and refrigerate for Fried Rice later in the week.)

*Chicken Noodle Stew (basic recipe follows)

*Refried beans (made from dried pintos) in homemade tortillas with caramelized onions (pan-fry sliced onions in a little butter or oil until very tender add a diced jalapeño to the onions if desired). Link to a tortilla recipe

*Fried rice (basic recipe follows)

How to cook dry beans in a slow cooker: Rinse and pick through beans, discarding foreign objects. Place in a bowl (or crock pot) and cover with water plus two inches. Do not salt. Refrigerate if your house is warm so bacteria can't grow. Soak for six hours. Drain beans. Place in crock pot and cover beans with water plus two or three more inches. Cover and cook on low eight hours. If you do this overnight, cool and store cooked beans in the fridge until you are ready to use them. For refried pinto beans, smash tender beans with a fork or food processor and reheat with a little oil or butter and salt. 

Roast the chicken: Remove giblet bag, place in a zip-top bag, label, and freeze for another use. Roast the chicken. Cool and take meat off bones to use in two other recipes. Save carcass for Chicken Noodle Stew, below.

Chicken Noodle Stew:
Boil the chicken carcass in a large pot of water (about 12 cups) with a carrot, a stalk of celery, half an onion, a bay leaf and a clove or two of garlic, and season with salt and pepper, and then turn it down and simmer for at least an hour. The point is to extract all flavor from the bones and vegetables. Cool for less than two hours (to prevent bacterial growth), then transfer to a large bowl, cover and refrigerate. The next day, take the chicken fat off the broth (it will be congealed on the surface). Save the fat (it freezes too) to use in the pie crust for chicken pot pie (instead of shortening). Strain the broth, carefully picking out the rest of the chicken meat, and discard the solids. Reserve two or three cups of broth for gravy for the Chicken Pot Pie.

In a large pot, melt one or two tablespoons of fat (vegetable oil, olive oil, bacon fat, or chicken fat) and sauté a chopped onion, two chopped carrots, a stalk of diced celery and a clove of garlic for six to ten minutes (don't brown). Pour the chicken broth and whatever chicken meat you just picked off the carcass into the pot. Season with salt and pepper (and a teaspoon of herbs such as thyme or marjoram, optional). Bring to a boil, add a package of noodles (wide egg noodles or thin, your choice). Reduce heat and simmer until noodles and veggies are tender. Serve with crackers or bread.

Chicken Pot Pie
Make a pie crust using the chicken fat: In large bowl, using fingers, a pastry blender, or two forks, mix 1 cup all purpose flour, half a teaspoon of salt and five tablespoons of cold chicken fat or shortening. (You can also use a food processor.) Mix in a tablespoon of ice water at a time, a total of two to three tablespoons. (If using processor, pulse in the water.) The dough should come together in a ball. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for a few minutes. Dust a board or waxed paper with some flour, roll out the dough thin and cut into strips, or squares if desired.

Melt a tablespoon or two of chicken fat (or other fat) in a large pot, and add one or two diced carrots, a diced stalk of celery, a diced onion, and two cloves of chopped garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, seasonings if you have them (such as poultry seasoning, sage, or thyme), and two or three tablespoons of flour, stirring constantly. Pour in the two or three cups of reserved chicken broth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, to thicken, which should only take five minutes or less. Add in the reserved chopped boiled potato and any other vegetables such as canned or frozen peas and canned or frozen corn. Add two cups of chopped, reserved chicken. Pour into a baking pan and cover with strips or squares of pie crust. Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.

Fried Rice
The secret is starting with cooked, cooled rice. Heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Stir-fry a finely diced carrot for a few minutes, and whatever additional vegetables you like, such as sliced celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, or broccoli. Add leftover rice and stir-fry until rice starts looking a bit dry and separated, and add leftover chopped cooked chicken to warm it up, plus some frozen peas and/or other frozen vegetables. Push rice to the side (or pour it into a bowl temporarily) and pour two beaten eggs to the empty side of the skillet, and scramble and chop them. Stir in rice mixture, some soy sauce, and a chopped green onion.

Slow Cooker Red Beans
Soak a 1 lb. bag of red beans in water to cover by two inches in the refrigerator overnight. Drain. Turn slow cooker to high, add a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil, bacon fat, or olive oil. Add a finely chopped onion and a finely chopped stalk to celery and two or three cloves of chopped garlic, and cook for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Options if you have them: bay leaf, thyme, parsley, teaspoon of liquid smoke, a piece of pork such as a ham bone, a pinch of cayenne. Add beans and cover with water by two inches. Cook on high eight hours. You may need to add more water, but the more you uncover the crock pot, the longer it will take. Add salt and pepper (or cajun spice) at the very end. Mash the beans and serve over hot white rice. It's really best to make this the day (or night) before and heat it up--that way if the beans aren't tender you won't have to wait all evening to eat.

Happy Saving!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Steak sales and store comparisons

Hello folks,

Today I visited Via Foods, a grocery store located on 5th St. and Spring Avenue in Panama City. It's about a block west of East Avenue. One of this week's specials at Via Foods is whole New York strip steak for $2.38 lb. That's got to be the deal of the week!

If you were to cut a 13 pound whole strip side (pictured below) into 8 ounce steaks, you'd have 26 steaks for about $31, or $1.19 per steak. Wal-mart's strip steaks, already cut, are $8.48 lb. The equivalent amount of steak bought at Wal-mart would cost $112.95 this week, so Via Foods would save you $81.25.

This week, Via's ground beef is $1.79 lb.; Wal-mart's 5 lb. tube of ground beef is $10.98, or $2.20 lb., and Winn Dixie's ground beef is $1.99 lb.

Via has thick ribeyes, $3.99 lb. (pictured below). The ribeyes at Wal-mart are $7.98 lb. Winn Dixie's ribeye steaks are $9.99 lb. (pictured below).

Wal-mart will "comp" prices on most stores--match prices on comparable items. If broccoli is on sale at Winn Dixie for .88 lb. (which it is), you can buy it from Wal-mart for .88 lb., even though Wal-mart's price today was $1.79 lb. I tried to buy the broccoli at Winn Dixie on Transmitter but it was awful; each head was unusable--brown, slimy, and gross (picture below). I bought it at Wal-mart for Winn Dixie's sale price.

Lynn Haven Wal-mart's manager told me that they'll match Grocery Outlet's prices, without adding the ten percent at the end that Grocery Outlet does. You may have to prove the price, though. Wal-mart won't match buy-one-get-one-frees, which is precisely why area grocery stores began offering bogofs when Wal-mart came to town and started selling food.

I like to use roma tomatoes (aka plum tomatoes) for roasting and making into tomato soup. They are on sale at Via for .99 cents a lb. At Winn Dixie, they are $1.79. My recipe follows.

Tomato Soup

3 lbs. roma tomatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil, approximately
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional
kosher salt, few pinches
cracked black pepper, few grinds
a chopped yellow onion
pinch red pepper flakes
couple cloves smashed garlic
vegetable or chicken stock, or water, 3 to 4 cups
fresh basil,  several leaves (optional)
splash of cream (optional)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and place in large bowl. Toss with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, balsamic vinegar (if using) and some salt and pepper. Mix them thoroughly to coat and pour onto cookie sheet, roast until brown in spots and well-cooked, about half an hour or more, depending on the size of your tomatoes. 

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a pot and sauté the onion until nearly tender; add the crushed garlic in the last few minutes, stirring occasionally (don't brown the garlic). Throw in the pepper flakes for a minute, too. 

When tomatoes are ready, add them to the pot along with the stock (or water) and basil. Use an immersion blender (or carefully spoon and pour into a standing blender) and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Heat up the soup to a high simmer, take off heat and stir in cream (optional). Enjoy!

I like to add a swirl of cream to each bowl for decoration. Great served with panini sandwiches or grilled cheeses of all kinds. 

Roasted tomatoes are great to put on pizza or in grilled sandwiches, too. 

Bye for now and thanks for reading! 

Salmonella eggs Part 2

Hi again,

I got the information from my last post via a news service. Another news service had different ending numbers. I called Walgreen's and the manager said none of their eggs are the recalled ones. One news service says the eggs were not distributed in Florida. To be cautious, don't eat handmade (not bottled) Caesar dressing or eggs with runny yolks, etc., especially if you are elderly or immune-compromised, and don't feed them to small children.

Do police prevent crime? Or do they just investigate crime that has already occurred? Similarly, does the USDA ensure our food is safe? Or do they just let us know when it's not, after people get sick?

Thanks for reading! I look forward to your comments. ~Nise

Salmonella eggs

Hi folks,

FYI, The CDC has recalled millions of eggs due to salmonella and some were distributed in Florida. These are the brands:
  • Albertson
  • Boomsma’s
  • Dutch Farms
  • Farm Fresh
  • Hillandale
  • Kemps
  • Lucerne
  • Lund
  • Mountain Dairy
  • Ralph’s
  • Shoreland
  • Sunshine
I have some Dutch Farms eggs in my refrigerator right now (bought at Walgreen's) but the code on the box doesn't match the code of the affected eggs. The recalled egg code starts with the letter P and ends with numbers from 136 to 225. 

If I get more information I'll post asap. Bye for now.