Friday, November 21, 2014

Dumb Easy Dinner: Thanksgiving Style

So if nobody's coming to my house for Thanksgiving, and I'm not going anywhere for Thanksgiving, this is what happens to me: I forget it's coming. It's kind of an unforgivable trait in a food blogger, but it's true. Exactly two days ago, I was like, "Wait. Thanksgiving is next week." Yup, that's how I roll.

Fortunately for me, I was already planning (and by planning, I do mean kind of sort of thinking about) doing a dumb easy dinner line up for Thanksgiving. Because sometimes you really are just planning a simple dinner for your own little family, but simple or not, you want it to taste amazing. I'd much rather make a few fabulous things for a small gathering than a booty load of food that comes out of cans. If you're not serving a crowd this year or are looking for a simple, but delicious side dish or pie, here you go.

1. Dumb Easy Chicken. No, it's not turkey and I'm wagering purists won't do it, but I'm not quite sure how to make turkey dumb easy simply because it is so huge (maybe a breast cooked in a crock pot???). But this roast chicken is easy and fabulous. It won't serve a crowd, but if you don't have a crowd, this only seems like an advantage (fact: Americans throw out $282 million dollars worth of edible turkey every year). Sometimes I'm pretty sure my kids can't tell the difference between turkey and chicken anyway.

2. Dumb Easy Cranberry Sauce. And, no, it's not out of a can. But it can be made ahead of time and is much more simple than you think. And worlds better than the canned crap.

3. Brussels Sprouts Salad. Best salad ever. Simple, adaptable, seasonal, mostly healthy. You can make this the day of. Or--it would be a perfect place for a bit of leftover cranberry sauce and turkey chunks.

4. 10-minute Green Beans. There's no can of anything soup. These are pretty fancy (though the picture I have up on the site is seriously ugly, so you'll need a tiny bit of faith, but it's delicious). Also, these just need a quick stir-fry on the stove. The big disadvantage of this dish is that it doesn't travel well, so if you're taking a side dish somewhere, it probably won't work for you.

5. Dumb Easy Chocolate Pie. Five minutes of prep time, people. That's it.  (Though you will need a chill time, so don't go making this 5 minutes before dessert, though it might be a lovely pudding if you do).

6. You'll also "need" as we all do some good mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. So have at it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sunrise Juice


I don't hate the winter; in fact, I kind of like it. But that doesn't mean there aren't those days that feel like a black and white postcard, only colder. To make matters worse, those days often come on the cusp of too much food or perhaps just the wrong types of food. Never fear, this juice will fill your life with a pop of color and nourish you while we're here. It comes in two versions. Both have a citrusy base with a bit of carrot. But one uses beet for fabulous color. It's seriously bright, dark pink and lovely. It does, however, have a bit of the beet flavor. If you don't like beets, you just won't like it. The other version uses ginger for fabulous fabulousness (seriously, if you ever have a cold or feel under the weather, drink this--you'll never need ginger ale again). This ginger version is my favorite juice I've ever made. It really is like ginger ale in juice form and is amazing. Also, it clears your sinuses and just is awesome. 

I realize that juicing can be a pain and that juicers can be expensive. I got a big juicer once off of freecycle. It was a score to be sure, but it's worth looking at freecycle or cheapcycle or craigslist. Juicers tend to be the types of things people buy in a fit of zealousness and then never use. I also have an attachment for my Magic Bullet (purchased from a yard sale by my husband, and possibly the best yard sale find ever). Even if you don't get it from a yard sale, a Magic Bull might be a worthwhile investment. The juicer attachment is small and super easy to use AND CLEAN (which is saying something for a juicer), and it can make a single-serving juice wonderfully. That said, you can enjoy the citrus of this juice with a simple (and much less expensive) citrus juicer (you can get the electric one for under $10 and the ones where you just press the orange onto the juicing top for probably a buck or two at Walmart). If you have no juicer at all, you could blend this with a glug of carbonated water, (and tell me how it turns out). 

Sunrise Juice
Makes about 1 C 
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cleaning up time: 5 minutes--yup, that's juicing; sorry
Cost: about $1
grapefruit: .40, orange: .40, carrot: .05, ginger: .05, beet: .15

1 grapefruit, peeled
1 orange, peeled
5 baby carrots, or half of a normal carrot
1 inch of ginger, peeled
1 very small beet or 1/4 of a normal beet, peeled

Juice it all in a juicer. 

Drink immediately. 

Note: If using a citrus juicer, but you want to add that ginger, try mincing it and letting it "steep" for a few minutes (by using one of those tea things) in the juice and then removing it. Might not have the same kick, but should give a little flavor. 

Note on juice: I'm not a hard-core juicer, but I do enjoy it and I consider home-made, non-pasteurized juice quite healthy. However, it does oxidize quickly, which means it becomes less nutritious the longer it sits (although a juice with a lot of citric acid like this will keep the nutrients longer than other juices). Also--the purists are going to tell you that you should always drink your juice alone and not with any solids. And you shouldn't eat a meal right after either. You're supposed to wait at least 15 minutes (or more) before having solid food. This is because they say that the benefit of juicing comes from the fact that the nutrients can get more quickly and efficiently into your blood/body without those solids slowing it down. I don't know if this is true, but if I can I try to drink my juice by itself. If I'm starving, however, I don't stress too much about eating food with it. It's still good for you. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Aldi--When Will a Sale Price End?

You guys know I love Aldi. One of the reasons I'm a not-great food couponer and don't have a Sam's membership is that I find that--for me--the prices at Aldi just usually can't be beat.

Here's a way to love Aldi more. Now you can know how long their sale items will be on sale. 

Note: Related, but unnecessary story you can skip if you want to move on to the next paragraph: A few weeks ago when I was at Aldi, I had limited funds. I needed to get what I needed and nothing else. However, the cream cheese was on sale for $.99 and my freezer stash is low and I was tempted to overspend a wee bit and stock up. However, I knew that if I could wait, it would be less tight for us financially (I know--my life is pretty exciting with very important and weighty decisions that must be made every day--"To save $.30/block of cream cheese or not to; that is the question.") So I asked my friendly neighborhood Aldi guy if it would be on sale next week or if was seasonal item (several of Aldi's items will be a lower price throughout the holiday season). And then he gave me a little piece of insider information that I thought would be helpful to you.

Often when Aldi has an item on sale, they'll put this white/red/yellow tag with red and white lettering on it. This is to draw attention to the item. You'll notice just left of the price, there are two smaller numbers. The bottom number is actually a date. The product will be on sale until that date.

See that 1118 to the left of the price on the bottom. That means these chocolate chips will be on sale until 11/18. 

But say you don't want or need chocolate chips before then (what--don't you want and need chocolate chips always?). Should you stock up anyway? Well, sometimes their stuff will stay on sale even longer--usually because it's some kind of seasonal buy. But how do you know. Underneath the white tag is a yellow tag. This is so that as soon as the sale ends, the employees can just whip off that white tag. Underneath is the normal old yellow tag. Sometimes that tag will go back up to the normal price. Other times, however--as with those seasonally cheap items--the yellow tag underneath also has the cheaper price so you know it will be at that price for a long time. The great thing is that the yellow tag is already there under the white tag, so you can take a peek.

Looks like this is a seasonal item. It's going to stay cheap for a while--probably through December and into January. 

So now we don't have to guess. If something is on sale, but we don't have the money this week, but will next week or next month, we'll know if we can still stock up or not.

Happy shopping and stocking!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dumb Easy Dessert (and a Picture Redo for Easy Chocolate Pie)

Most of the pictures from my early days of blogging are a little of what I'd like to call, well, ugly. Yet many of them are fabulous recipes--my tried and true classics.

Sunday, when I went to make an apple pie only to discover that 3/4 of my bag of apples (from Walmart--land of evil produce) were completely rotten--as in just rotted through after you peeled off the shiny red outside...Anyway, after that, I had a pie crust and no pie. So I decided to fill it with what we had. Which was chocolate. And I was reminded of this lovely and stupidly easy pie. I was also reminded that its picture was ugly.

Today I rectify that.

Easy Chocolate Pie

I also remind you that this pie filling takes only about 5-7 minutes of prep time. A graham cracker crust will add another 5. And then you chill it. You'll be finding it on my dumb easy Thanksgiving line up soon.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sweet and Sour Soup--Secret Recipe Club

When it gets colder, I crave soup. But what I often really really really crave is soup with that sassy combination of flavors that make up Thai soups. I love the kick of spices and peppers with the creamy coconut milk and a little sweet. It's kind of a meal that appeals to all our cravings in just one dish.

So when I had Morsels of Life this month for Secret Recipe Club, it wasn't hard for me to pick a recipe. This one jumped into my cold house like a--well, anyway, I can't think of a good simile--but I really wanted to make this soup.

And I did. And it was delicious. If you're afraid of Asian soups or cooking, don't be. This was kind of a nice little fusion soup--a little Asian, a little American. CJ. who writes Morsels of Life (and has a new baby--yay!), says that if you like a little more of something or less of something, then add it accordingly. I was making this for a nursing mom, so we scaled back the heat in order to keep her baby happy. I also didn't have any lemon grass and so I used a bit of lemon rind--worked wonderfully. Also, I completely forgot about the rice noodles. I had them; they just never made it into this soup. I didn't even notice their absence until hours later, but if you want noodles, then go for it. The point is--don't be afraid--just give it a go. It's a beautifully balanced soup that is wonderfully satisfying.

Sweet and Sour Soup
adapted from Morsels of Life
Serves 4-6
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 20-30 minutes
Cost: $6.00 (to reduce the cost, add fewer shrimp or a less expensive white fish)
onion: .15, pepper: .50, chilies: .10, carrot: .10, mushrooms: .30, ginger: .05, garlic: .05, chicken stock: .40, lemon grass: .40, shrimp: 2.50, tomatoes: .20, coconut milk: .75, rice noodles: .50, other ingredients: .20

1 Tbsp oil
1/2 C onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 tsp finely diced chilies (I used jalepenos without seeds to add a little something without too much kick; you could also use a chili pepper sauce but then wait and add it with coconut milk)
1 carrot, sliced
1/2 C mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
3 C chicken or veggie stock
1 1/2 stalks lemon grass (or a few scrapes of lemon rind)
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 lb shrimp (white fish would probably also work)
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1/2 C tomatoes, diced
1 C coconut milk
1 Tbsp cilantro (I used for garnish, but could be added to soup)
2 Tbsp brown or white sugar
a handful rice noodles

Heat oil in a pot. Add onion, pepper, chilies, carrots, and mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and ginger and cook for a minute or two more. Add remaining ingredients except rice noodles. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. (If you used lemon stalk, take it out here.) If using rice noodles, add them and cook for just a few minutes. Garnish with cilantro if desired.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

6-Week Muffins

(These mini-muffins were made from batter approximately 5 weeks old.)

Game changer: A batter for muffins that will last 6 weeks in your refrigerator. 

You know what that means, right? It means that you can make a huge amount of batter and then every morning, drag your sorry, lazy behind out of bed and, while still half asleep, pour batter into muffin tins and then 20 minutes later when you've finally realized you're awake because possibly you've taken a shower, but more likely because your kids keep talking with the dulcet tones of children respectful of the morning pauses and silences--by which I mean yelling every word they say as though you were on a different continent. When this happens, all of the sudden (with no significant effort on your part) hot, sweet breakfast will come forth out of the oven like a miracle of goodness. 

That is what I'm talking about. 

I originally heard about these at a church event. We were given a recipe and I almost fell out of my chair and then one of my friends leaned over and said, "You can do that with my muffin recipe too." I love her muffins and they are already on this blog. So I thought I'd start with those babies. And sure enough, it worked. We probably could have gone through our batter in much less than 6 weeks, but I intentionally kept it in the fridge to make sure nothing nasty was going to grow on it. Nothing did. And we ate these muffins and they were delicious. 

I was sure the leavening would just poof out and not work after the first day, and I will say, they didn't have quite as much rise by week six as they did for the first batch, but they were still very respectably muffin-like and not leaden bricks of dough. 

Here's the recipe. (Note: This original recipe can make muffins or pancakes, but the pancakes do NOT work for 6 weeks--they just wind up really really flat if you try.) It makes quite a lot by itself, but if you double it, you'll have a super lot. Use what you want, tightly COVER the rest, and make muffins whenever you like. 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Creamy Dijon Chicken

Recently at a party, a friend commented that she had been checking my blog and that I hadn't had many recipes up lately. It was a fair critique. I have been uber busy the last two weeks and have spent this week whipping up such fabulous dinners as: Eggs.

But. That doesn't mean that I don't have a few recipes I've been meaning to post for ages and just haven't gotten to (see the busyness excuse; also the laziness one--oh, whoops, forgot to mention that one). So, my friend, here you go and enjoy. This is a simple, but very satisfying creamy chicken that'll get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. For the low-fat option--oh wait, never mind. (And truly I should have added some parsley to the top of this for color, don't you think.)

Creamy Dijon Chicken
adapted from The Hobo Kitchen
Serves 4
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $6.80 ($1.70/serving)
chicken: 5.00, cream: 1.50, mustards: .20, lemon juice: .05, other stuff: .05

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 C cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard (or whatever else kind of mustard you like)
1 tsp whole grain mustard (I think I subbed in cheap mustard here)
dash onion powder
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
dash chili flakes or a spring of parsley if you don't want your meal pale like mine is

Heat oil in a skillet. Add chicken breast and cook, browning on either side and cooking until center is no longer pink.

Remove chicken from pan. Cook garlic for a quick minute. (If you feel so inspired, you may also cook up some leeks or shallots). Add cream, mustard, and a dash of onion powder (if you didn't add leeks or shallots). Whisk and allow to simmer for 5-8 minutes until it has reduced just a bit.

While this happens, shred or cube your chicken.

Add lemon juice. Add shredded chicken back. Add salt, pepper, and possibly chili flakes to taste.

Simmer for several minutes.

Serve over rice. Or spoon from pan to mouth. Whatever floats your boat. Maybe garnish with parsley or at least serve a colorful vegetable.



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