Here is Part II of my pizza-making videos. Part I was THE SAUCE.
Here is Part II of my pizza-making videos. Part I was THE SAUCE.
I’m trying to eliminate some of the things in my pantry and freezer. It’s working at about 50%, which is a start. Part of my aim is to cycle out what needs to be eaten (mainly in the freezer), and the other part is to save some money on groceries this month (pantry shopping). We had to replace tires on one of the cars, and have another unexpected expense with the van, so tightening the bootstrings even more is a must.
So I took an inventory of what I have in the freezer (up and down – one in the kitchen, one in the garage), and have tried to do what I can to rotate out some of the longer-standing items.
I can’t say I haven’t grocery shopped, but I have definitely shopped less, which is a win. I should say it is a “win” for the pocketbook, but a bit stressful on me trying to coordinate this fine dance. Some of my meals lately have been… less than spectacular. Some have been dandy, though, like the heart-shaped pizza I made yesterday.
We have a local pizza place that makes heart-shaped pizzas every Valentine’s Day. Initially we were going to order from there. So much easier (for me). The phone line was busy for half an hour. Once we got through, we learned the cost was $12 per pizza plus $2 per topping. Since the boys were off to wrestling, I figured I should be able to whip those up in the same time it would take to order out, and for less.
I made 2 pepperoni, and 2 of our favorite – sausage and banana pepper rings.
NOBODY complained. They rarely do when I make my own pizzas now at home. It’s very nice. We all like an ordered out pizza now and then, but it’s getting to where the ordered pizzas aren’t often as good as the ones made at home. These were no exception.
I had purchased two heart-shaped pans at Goodwill a while ago, thinking I might use them someday. They aren’t anything special. But lined with some olive oil and filled with dough, they were delicious.
That paired with some homemade brownies (I’ve yet to find a homeade version that is prepared over the boxed one):
And some strawberry milk (was NOT a hit, and I’m actually glad).
Today, though, a Friday, Frank’s working overtime (again). I’m tired. It’s been a long week and the last thing I wanted to do was to make another meal. I had eyed up the hot dogs earlier, figuring that could be a back-up plan, though I hate serving hot dogs. But it’s cheaper than $50 Chinese food.
But then I decided to make something I haven’t for a while. Rice Spaghetti. It is a one pot meal that is a breeze to throw together, and cooks up pretty fast.
Easy Rice Spaghetti & Meatballs
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1.5 cups brown rice
3 cups water
1 bag meatballs (I used Fit N’ Active Turkey meatballs from Aldi)
Put everything in a pot and stir.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until rice is chewy tender, stirring occasionally. Don’t worry about removing the lid and stirring. All is good. After rice is done, vent lid and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve with olive oil and parmesan cheese. Serves 6.
I had mine with a glass of wine. Two of the boys ate theirs with leftover tortillas. I think they missed the point on it, but oh well.
It’s quite tasty.
Years ago, I’d whip up some rice, pour sauce over it, add some OO and cheese, and we’d dig in. It was decent eats on a budget. I’ve forgotten what a satisfying meal it can be. If you don’t have the meatballs, sub it for a veggie and add that on top. I was going to roast some broccoli, but I’m seriously THAT tired that it was too much work.
Supposedly this recipe is all over the internet, but I don’t recall seeing it until yesterday. I was immediately intrigued. Pancakes with only two ingrediants, eh? I guess it is Paleo, though I’m not too familiar with that, so I can’t claim it. It is a simple, no-frills breakfast, allowing for protein and fruit. I’m all in.
There are different ratios, but I went with the simple 1:1.
I was going to just make 1 batch, but instead I used the 3 black bananas I had and tripled it. I’m glad I did. It was genius Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I would fail a batch, and need more to work with. In retrospect, pancakes (for me), generally start with one failed ‘cake, and the rest are beautiful, so this worked.
So I took my eggs and bananas and put them in my Ninja. I was going to just use my favorite little chopper, but the more I use my Ninja, the less I use my old faithful chopper. Kind of sad. I feel like I’m cheating on it.
Most people tend to mash theirs by hand – but I thought blending it to a liquid would be better. So I did. People also talked about adding baking powder and such to it – but I wanted to keep it simple. A true Two Ingredient Pancake.This was difficult for me, because I tend to like to experiment. But without starting with the simple base, you never know if your experiments worked. Beyond that, the verdicts for additions to this simple concoction weren’t too outstanding.
I do not like how precariously that is sitting on the edge of my counter. It didn’t fall, but just looking at it makes me think it will.
I heated my skillet to 350. I didn’t even bother with my beloved iron skillets because they aren’t the best behaved for me with pancakes, with their reputation for sticking. I didn’t want a bunch of added oils, either.
A few minutes later the edges looked like they were firming up. I tried to flip, and it gave me the whole accordian pancake look, like, I’m not ready. Soon there was a smell that one can only associate with food burning, and I had to flip it.
Batch #1, failed. Thankfully, Frank likes doughy pancakes.
Batch #2 I decided to turn the skillet down to 250. I read a tip about cooking a bit longer on lower heat, and that working better. I also used some non-stick spray. (I need to find and link to that blog, because she posted some very helpful tips… here it is: secrets to a perfect two-ingredient pancake.)
One worked great. Smelled great. The other, not so much. I think I was a bit jumpy on the gun. Out came my ipod timer.
Set the timer for 5 minutes to force my patience. That was the PERFECT amount of time, only I forgot the dang spray -gah- and had an issue… again. But they were cooked enough, and I saved them regardless. I ate one from #3, putting it on the bottom and topping it with the pretty one from #2. Spread a little peanut butter on them.
Verdict: Pretty good. If you don’t like bananas then skip it. If you’re not much for bananas and peanut butter (I’m not, even though I ate it happily) – try syrup, jelly – or nothing. Mine were way sweet enough from the over-ripe bananas. Syurp would have been too much for me. As I ate them, I wondered if sweet potatoes would work in this kind of recipe. Hmm.
They weren’t light and fluffy like a pancake. They were actually a bit gooey, which is how my husband likes them. Kind of crepe-y. I liked that they were warm, and something different, had no egg and no flour. I’d like to make a few and see if they will hold to nuke on mornings where I don’t feel like making anything, and want something warm.
I think I would try these again for something different. They’re less than 200 calories and a relatively quick breakfast fix. A little vanilla in them might be nice. Or not.
I was going to follow-up with my hair saga. But I got distracted by a craving for popcorn.
It started at work. I was tempted by the stale bags of emergency popcorn in my drawer, but I was able to stave it. Then it came back again with a vengeance, this time for movie theatre popcorn. I fantasised a bit, figuring that technically, I could run in the closest movie theatre around and get a tub of unbuttered popcorn to bring home. I have done it before. I mean, why pay for movie tickets when all you really want is the popcorn? Let’s be real here.
Reality set in somewhere and I forgot about the craving… until I got home. Sometimes the best choice doesn’t happen, and at that point you have to go to the alternate better choice.
Overwhelming craving for movie theatre popcorn. Best choice: ignore craving, munch a veggie, or make air-popped corn and eat that. The BEST choice didn’t sit so well with me. I was either going to sink or come to a middle ground. I chose the middle ground: homemade popcorn with butter and salt. It wasn’t the BEST, but it wasn’t the WORST. I met things half-way.
Which leads me to the whole reason for this post, which is to share the semi-newfound love of microwaved popcorn in a brown bag. As I snapped my pictures, I couldn’t for the life of me remember where this idea came from, but I certainly didn’t pull it out of my own imagination. On a whim I checked my history and found it: squawkfox. I think that’s it. There might be other sources, but that’s what popped up for me. Get it? Popped up?
At any rate, I generally make popcorn on the stove in my iron pot with some oil. But, that’s not something I want really the kids to do by themselves right now. They are more likely to reach for a bag of microwavable corn than to grab my iron pot, oil, hot pad anyway. I rarely eat the microwaved kind, though, so when I buy it, it is only for the kid’s sake. With two kids that LOVE popcorn (with hot sauce). I was happy to find the brown bag method. This is cheaper, and renders just as good results. I would say better because you can make it and add what you like.
All you need is 1/3 cup of popcorn, a brown bag (lunchbag) and a microwave.
Look mom! I took pictures this time!
1/3 cup of popcorn goes in bag:
Does that make you feel claustrophobic? It does me.
Bag goes in microwave. You can put it upright or sideways with the top folded a couple times. I like it upright (yeah, my microwave could use a cleaning I see):
I have a “popcorn” setting on my microwave (picture of that didn’t turn out so well). I set it to the 3.5 setting and it was perfect when setting the bag upright, and don’t fold it over. If I lay the bag on its side folded over on the top I have to set it to a shorter setting and push +30 to add more time. Every microwave probably has its happy spot for popped corn, and you’ll have to find yours.
Generally I don’t. I just take my salt grinder and grind some salt into my mortar and pestle, then go at it a bit to make a finer salt. Buying it in a little shaker is convenient. To each their own.
I really, really love popcorn.
No human being should have this many pictures of their popcorn.
But that’s how much I love thee.
I have to share this recipe because it was super delicious and wonderfully easy. This recipe is a definite keeper!
I’d like to interject that I really hate how Google now handles picture uploading and sharing. They’ve turned it all over to Google+ instead of Picasaweb; I am disappointed, inconvenienced. How dare they change up their free services on me?
Back to the recipe: Buffalo Chicken Tacos.
I’ve admitted before that me and measurements just don’t go well together. So I’ll tell you how my ratios rounded out. This recipe was so painfully easy, yet rendered mighty tasty results. Shred, dump, heat, enjoy. Voila. I’m sure you could get more detailed using avocados, lettuce, onions, cilantro – whatever your heart desires. But the bare-bones of this type of recipe are good just by themselves. It is appetizer-like in quality and taste, but can easily work as a stand alone dinner.
This ended up serving 7 of us (about 2-3 tacos each).
1 rotisserie chicken (meat removed and shredded)
1 12-oz. bottle Frank’s Red Hot sauce (dump over chicken)
1 bunch of celery (about 8 stalks – chopped)
1 20-count package of flour tortillas (warmed)
about 1 cup of shredded cheese (I used some leftover colby/jack and shredded it by hand on top)
blue cheese dressing (or ranch, as some of my boys preferred)
I pulled the chicken off the bone (saving bone and skin to make broth), put it in my small crockpot. Dumped the jar of sauce in; set the crockpot on “warm” until the kids got home from the pool. In the meantime I washed and chopped up the celery. (When I was ready) I warmed tortillas for about 15 seconds each in on each side and remove; add toppings (chicken, celery, cheese, dressing). It was so easy. Did I say that already? I didn’t bother with the sea salt or oiling the griddle like the original recipe called for. I was down for simplicity and the Red Hot and blue cheese are pretty salty on their own. I don’t usually oil my griddle when I heat tacos. I started to and then stopped. I used my iron skillet on med-high for a few seconds on each side, stack on a plate, cover and keep warm until I use them. It’s habit.
While waiting for the boys to get home, I threw a couple tortillas on to warm, cracked a beer and had my dinner in a quiet house while I watched the end of the Brewer’s game.
They are rich, hearty, little buggers. You don’t need a lot of any of the toppings for it to make a statement. Dante’s girlfriend said it was too spicy. The rest of the boys ate their two quickly (some adding additional heat to their taco) and then swarmed like vultures, hoping to get another one. I was able to sock two away for Frank when he gets home from is overtime.
I’ve taken a million pictures and have a ton of recipes to share, but little time to whip these posts up. As I’ve gone through the past few weeks of events and trying new things around the house, I’ll snap a picture or scratch a note down for things I want to blog about; the pile is high. As I surf around and look at blog after blog of picture plump tutorials, recipes, daily activities… I can’t help but wonder how everyone finds the time. Not only the time but – does the food go to waste sometimes during these blogazine post tutorials (’cause every “blog post” is now a “tutorial” yanno – yes, please show me how you scoop sugar from a container, would you, I need to know)? I’m probably over-thinking it, but whatever.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE the internet and its vast amount of free knowledge and entertainment. But, the more I surf, the more I notice assimilation. In the striving to be different than, there is a lot more of becoming the same as. Words, photos, catch phrases… it is interesting. I’m not saying I’m immune, either. It seeps in your veins like an acquired accent (give me 10 minutes in a room with a Southerner and I come out with a drawl). It’s kind of like a hairstyle. People see, people like, people get the same haircut. I guess with a million restaurants, you can still eat your cheeseburger wherever you want, depending where you like on how they make it.
I know I’m bit of an old soul (or old crow), but–and maybe I’ve said this before–things ’round the internet ain’t the same, friend!
Back to those popsicles. One thing about this whole “everyone’s alike” thing is that I don’t have to feel so badly about not taking gorgeous magazine-ready photos while I’m running around like a headless chicken in my kitchen. I get to present with this:
(taken from Franny’s cellphone: L-Chocolate Mocha, R-Avocado Coconut)
Want sexy popsicle? Google images will do ya. My contribution is half-eaten pop and a shaky hand.
My mom made frozen treats all the time. Blendings of kool-aid, yogurts, and sometimes she’d just straight up freeze a banana on a stick and call it a day. I can’t say that I ever really liked any of the frozen popsicles she made (sorry mom). Part of that might have been that they were all sugar-free, or that they were always just a frozen version of a liquid, never tailored to the process. Over the years I’ve gone on popsicle-making binges, the molds always collecting dust and going to the trash bin after a while. A few weeks ago I was shopping at Marshalls and came across some fun looking molds and it sparked a desire to make them again.
Original yummy recipe from wonderfuljoyahead.com. I very much like this recipe. I collected a few others, but wanted to make this particular one. I also had one for Mocha pops, which Franny preferred to try, but it called for heavy cream and some other high-calorie additions that I didn’t want to dive into. So I compromised with this:
MOCHA FUDGE POP RECIPE
This made 3 pops plus 2 3-oz. mini cups for me. I like having the mini cups (Solo or Dixie) and some sticks for the extra batter. They are the perfect size if you’re just wanting a taste.
2 1/2 T (approx 25 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 C. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1 1/2 T. unsweetend cocoa powder
1 1/4 C. whole milk
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 T. instant coffee (I did not measure this, but am guessing)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 T. unsalted butter
Add coffee to milk and stir to mix. Don’t worry if it doesn’t completely mix in. Over very low heat, melt the chocolate chips in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly. Stir in the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Add milk in 1/2 cup increments, stirring constantly. Turn heat up to medium once all the milk is added. Cook about 5-10 minutes, until the mixture coats the spoon well and turns to a thin pudding consistency.
Remove the pan from the heat, add the vanilla, and butter. Stir to combine. Let cool for a bit, and then pour into your molds. Wait until it’s fully frozen, at least 3 hours.
These were yummy. You could taste the fudge and the coffee.
Onto the AVOCADO COCONUT POPS. These are my favorite. I may have screwed the recipe up a bit or stumbled upon brilliance (I think I forgot to boil the sugar/water – at least on the first batch). I honestly do not know how I can jumble up a popsicle recipe? Maybe this is two recipes in one. Regardless, these bad boys are t-t-tasty. Original recipe here. Please don’t compare it with what I’ve done because clearly I went wildly amiss.
AVOCADO COCONUT POP RECIPE
Keeping house, making home. This is something I thoroughly enjoy and feel is one of my strengths, however, it isn’t something I am able to do full-time. Gone are my days of staying at home full-time raising little ones. The physical need for me to be home is lessened. Still, someone needs to put food on the table, clean clothes, balance a checkbook, shop, tidy the house. As far as I’m concerned that IS a full-time job. I’m in awe of mothers that work full-time outside the home and are still able to keep house in order. I’m working part-time outside of the home, and most of the time trying to keep afloat around the house.
I find that I’m able to pour myself into ONE task and do it well. Multiple tasks leave me in the center of a bunch of loose strings, and unordered, unfinished lists. One at a time I can do it like a pro: coupon, budget, clean, meal-plan. Try doing it all and I fall short. I wish I could create better balance because when one of those things is going well, the rest tend to be lacking. For example, I’m on a couponing bender. I find great deals, stock my shelves, am amazed at my abilities… but my house is a mess, my checkbook is scrambled and I can’t seem to put a meal on the table. Or, like this current run – I’m meal-planning, cooking, stocking my freezer… but my coupons are expiring, I need to balance my checkbook, and my house is a mess.
It’s frustrating. Maybe I need to cycle through and focus on one each week (since there’s about four). The problem is, I can’t clean once a month, or coupon once a month. Or balance the checkbook monthly (although that one might be the easiest to do). I need to find some order. Clearly. I’ll work on that.
In the meantime, I’ve been cooking, cooking and cooking, planning my meals and eating out way less (in the past week or so). That’s went well. I’ll focus on that.
Meatballs. Here’s some meatballs I made for this recipe for Meatball Minestrone Soup. The recipe called for some meatballs from Costco, but those ended up having soy protein in them (husband, allergy thing), so I made my own. I used 4lbs. of meat (3 beef, 2 pork), which gave me enough meatballs for 3 meals, including the soup for tonight. Having started this post prior, and now being in the post-eating stage, I can say a couple things about this meatball recipe:
1.) Do NOT sub the water for white wine, even if it sounds like a good idea at the time.
2.) This meatball recipe is WAY too bready for me. I’m going to have to get Frank’s nona’s recipe (again) instead of trying to do things “my” way. Her meatballs are the BEST.
Moving past the meatballs, the soup was a HIT.
It was super low maintenance with a fresh, tasty ending. I would serve this up for company, no doubt – it would be an easy make-ahead. I made this on a night that Frank was working overtime (he worked 4 last week). So glad I did. I grabbed frozen loaf of french bread from Costco (I freeze them and them zap them warm and crusty in the oven after defrosting – saves me many trips to the store for a loaf of crusty bread), served up the soup for the boys, and everyone ate.
So, yeah. Last week was a score as far as meal-planning went. On a busy Saturday spent 2 hours away for a soccer tournament, a lasagne made on one of my cooking sprees (I can’t find the dang recipe, either) came in handy. I took it out the night before, had the kids pop it in the oven as I was leaving the field, and they had a home-cooked meal while I went to book club. It was perfect. We didn’t eat out ONCE this entire week. Not even on pizza night Friday. It was a lot of work, but surely it saved time and money. There’s no way I could keep up with this every week though, which would be why it goes in spurts for me.
“E” for Effort, though.
I’ve never been a regular, loyal Aldi customer. My visits have been few and far in between. Years ago when my friend raved on Aldi I gave it a try. Ok. A lot of generic stuff. Big deal. Rules, like paying a quarter for your cart, having cash, and bagging your own groceries put me in the camp of questioning the experience. Is it worth it? I live in Madison, Wisconsin. There are tons of supermarkets small and large to choose from. I could go to Woodmans, shop all the generic items, and come out with a decent haul for a good price. So why did I need Aldi?
Unconvinced, I used it as a novelty, rarely visiting. Besides the quirky “rules” to follow, it seemed to me that most of the items there were junk food, and sub-standard quality at that. Still, I wasn’t sold. But… in the last couple years I’ve given Aldi another look.
I was no longer a stranger to the rules, so I equip myself with a quarter and cash (and a calculator) before I hit the store. Being a more learned shopper, and not as much of a brand snob, I’m able to navigate the prices and the quality a bit better than I was the first few times I gave Aldi a try. I should note that over the years, I think Aldi has stepped up the quality of their products a bit, too. (Some) of them are not as sodium and sugar-laden as they were 10 years ago.
In my adventures back to Aldi, here are the things I like:
Items I buy on a regular rotation:
There are some things I don’t buy – mostly the canned foods, only because I don’t buy a lot of canned foods. I have shied away from the household products – another item I don’t routinely buy. In a pinch we picked up some paper towel and it was fine. But it only came in two-rolls, and we need more than that. Haven’t tried the laundry detergent or any of that.
All in all, I will continue to add Aldi to my regular rotation. Even for cereals, chips, produce, milk and eggs, it is an easy stop to shop, with less potential to get me buying things I don’t need.
Do you have any Aldi favorites?
Wanna learn more? Check out Mom Advice for some Behind the Scenes at Aldi.
Even though buying bulk (Costco, Sam’s Club) may not always render you the lowest price, it will keep you stocked and away from the stores. The less time you spend in the stores each month/week, the better chance you have at keeping to budget.
I purchased a ridiculous amount of sponges at Costco last year. I could have waited for sales (Costco did have an in-house coupon on them) and purchase them in smaller amounts, but since we have no dishwasher and use sponges constantly, it seemed like the best idea. Maybe not the best bargain price, but having them in bulk means that I don’t have to worry about having to make a special run to Walmart (the closest store to us) because we’re out a sponge.
Like I said back in this post (Using Scissors to Save Money), I cut each sponge in half, which also maximizes my dollar.
The smaller size makes it easier for little hands to hold (dishes are one of the kid’s rotating chores). I’ve been doing this for so long that a full-sized sponges feels foreign in my hands. I prefer the smaller size.
Other items I try to stock: toilet paper, laundry detergent (I wait for sales on this), toothpaste, toothbrushes (can get for almost free), deodorant and other toiletries (sales and coupons)
Today was a shopping day.
I dropped the kids off at school and began my rounds.
Bath & Body Works.
The problem is, along with shopping for other people, I found myself picking up little things for myself. Nothing big, a soup mix here, a shirt there (more than a shirt at Goodwill, but hey)… lotion, and this:
I had been shopping for hours and didn’t even realize it. Marshall’s has all kinds of stuff, and this here caught my eye. I figured if I could make it home without stopping for food, the mug could be my gift.
I made it. It was not easy. 2pm and I hadn’t eaten since the morning, I was ready for some food. I chomped on some ginger licorice, drank my water, and pondered on what I could eat when I got home. I knew the dog would be flipping out excited to see me, since I’d been gone so long. I also knew I had an enormous amount of stuff to take in the house, primarily from my grocery shopping at Costco.
I was so hungry I dug into the freezer and pulled out a Lean Pocket Pretzel thing.
It suited me fine. I’d rather not think so much about it and just have something that’s not going to wreck my calorie intake. It worked. A banana and half an orange rounded it out. And, my lovely mug full of fresh coffee. What a treat.