Easy Slow Cooker Chicken or Beef Stock

chicken stock

My favorite way to add extra flavor to any dish is to use chicken or beef stock anytime a savory dish calls for water.  Making your own stock is simple and gives you a much tastier result than store bought stock.  When you cook from scratch you control the quality of the ingredients.  With this recipe you get a low sodium stock.  If you find the stock lacking in flavor you can add extra garlic or a little bit of salt.  I normally will skip the salt and add it to my finished dishes as needed.

Easy crockpot chicken or beef stock

Ingredients:

  •         3 to 6 oz of cooked bones (chicken or beef)
  •         1 onion – leave the skin on the onion if you want a darker colored stock
  •         1 carrot
  •         3 cloves of garlic
  •         1 celery stalk

Instructions:

  1.       Remove fat skin and meat from the bones.  You don’t need to have perfectly clean bones, a little scrap of meat and fat here and there will add flavor.  You want the bones to come from cooked meat so this means you would use the bones from a roasted chicken or from bone-in steaks, roasts or beef ribs.  If you want to use raw bones it requires a little more work.chicken bones
  2.       Put bones in crock pot along with the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic.
  3.       Fill crockpot to the top with water
  4.       Turn crockpot on high and let cook for 8+ hours.  The longer it cooks the more flavor you will get in your stock.  I will usually set this up after dinner and let it cook over night.  Do not cook longer than 18 hours or your bones will start to disintegrate.
  5.       Carefully pour stock through a mesh strainer into a large bowl.bowl of chicken stock
  6.       Let come to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight
  7.       Using a spoon, scrap the excess fat that has floated to the top and solidified
  8.       Now your stock is ready to use.
  9.       Storage:  Refrigerated stock needs to be used within 3 days.  Frozen stock will be good for 6 months.  I freeze my stock in an ice cube tray and then put all of the cubes in a gallon size storage back in the freezer.  When adding stock to a recipe 8 ice cubes is about 1 cup.

Ice cube tray of chicken stock

Ice cube trays are my preferred tool for storing liquids.  It gives you about a 1 oz portion per cube and allows you to utilize your freezer space a bit better than if you were freezing cup portions in plastic containers.  I’ve tried using portion bags in 1/2 cup size and the bags tend to leak a bit prior to freezing completely.  They don’t fit into my door compartments as easily as the cubes and sometimes you want less than 1/2 cup.

chicken stock ice cubes

I am always using chicken or beef stock in my cooking.  Here are some simple preparations using the stock:

Brown Rice – 1 cup dried brown rice, 1 ½ cups chicken or beef stock, ½ salt, 1 Tablespoon dried thyme.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Barley – 1 cup rinsed barley, 3 cups chicken or beef stock, ½ salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Marsala Cream Sauce – Chop 1 clove of garlic and 1 shallot, fry in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil for 3 minutes, add ½ cup marsala wine and cook for 5 minutes, add 1/3 cup heavy cream and ½ cup chicken stock and cook for 10 minutes.  This sauce is great on scallops, pork and chicken.

White Wine Cream Sauce – Chop 1 clove of garlic and 1 shallot, fry in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil for 3 minutes, add ½ cup white wine and cook for 5 minutes, add 1/3 cup heavy cream and ½ cup chicken stock and cook for 10 minutes.

Chicken Soup – Combine 2 chopped celery stalks, 2 chopped carrots, 1 chopped onion and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil into a stock pot over medium heat.  Stir occasionally for 5 minutes.  Add 6 cups of chicken stock, 2 cups chopped cooked chicken, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper.  Cook over medium heat until veggies are tender.  Add cooked noodles right before serving if desired.

 

Why I make my own baby food

Homemade Baby food

Baby food seemed like one of those things that you just have to buy, because how else would your baby get solid foods?  When my baby was ready to start exploring solids, which we knew because she started opening her mouth like a baby bird when ever we were eating, I started out with a couple of jars of the pureed baby food.  I spent about $0.80 per 2 oz jar or $0.40 per oz of blended green beans.  They didn’t taste that good.  You might think that I’m weird for tasting the baby food, but I don’t want to feed my daughter anything that I’m not willing to at least try.  Anyway, after the first couple jars of food I started to see all of the empty jars in our future, and all of the money that we’d be wasting on expensive blended vegetables.  I started to do a little research on how to make your own baby food.  I was surprised to see that it was quite simple to put a meal for baby together with the equipment that I already had.

A lot of the veggies I’m buying are around $0.99 per lb and will make about 16 oz of food or $0.06.  If my baby is eating 8 to 12 oz of food per day this means that we save $2.72 to $4.08 per day or $81.60 to $122.40 per month.

What you need:

Food – We started with sweet potato, green beans, and peas when she was about 5 to 6 months old.  Now that she is around 8 months old we also give her lentils, zucchini, yellow squash, barley, potatoes, beans, and yogurt.zucchini

Something to cook the food in – a pot with boiling water, a steamer basket or the microwave has been used for several of our different baby food preparation sessions.

Something to process the food – You can use a food mill, food processor, or blender.  I have a Nutra-bullet because – hey I like smoothies (and other blended drinks) so this is what gets used to blend the baby food 90% of the time, mainly because it’s easier clean up than the food processor.  You can smash the food with a fork if you have a truly minimalist kitchen, you might need to peal your veggies if you’re using that method.

Zucchini waiting to be blended

Something to store the food in – We have little glass dishes that hold about 4 oz of food.  I like using the glass dishes because they’re safer to microwave than plastic and you can easily see what is in them.  I also freeze extra baby food in ice cube trays so that I only need to make baby food once every 2 or 3 weeks.  I like being efficient with my time and think batch cooking is a life saver.

Baby food in ice cube trays

Things that I’m figuring out while feeding my daughter:

I’m not afraid to give my baby texture.  I’m a believer that exposing a child to a variety of different colors, flavors and textures will help them keep an open mind in the future.  We shall see how my theory works out since I’m mostly flying by the seat of my pants right now as a first time parent.  I hear that kids don’t get picky about food  till they’re about one year old – so we shall see 🙂  Right now we mix shredded chicken into vegetables, we have lentils with chopped up carrots, onion and celery (which she loves) and I’m starting to chop foods into small bits instead of blending everything.

Gagging will happen, this is different from choking.  I don’t leave my baby unsupervised while she’s eating.  But if she starts to gag a little bit I let her work through it and only hook a finger in her mouth if it goes on more than a few seconds.  I try to stay calm when things like this happen so that I don’t startle my child.

Before we started feeding solids I wanted to try baby led weening.  As we all know, things don’t always happen as planned.  My baby doesn’t really put things in her mouth, which is awesome when there is dirt on the floor but not so awesome when I want her to put some beans in her mouth.  So we are using a spoon and when she gets tired of the spoon, and wrestles it away from us to happily bash on the high chair tray, she eats food from our fingers.  This is more of a ‘go-with-the-flow’ technique than any sort of baby feeding method.  It’s working for us so we’ll continue to flow.

The Best Baked Dairy Free Meatballs

Meatball recipe

Do you love the ideas of freezer meals but get tired of eating out of your crockpot? Lucky for you there are so many different main dishes that you can freeze for those nights when you would rather spend the time you normally spend cooking, doing something else – like spending time with your family, reading a book or taking a hot bath ***catching Pokemon XD.

Every 3 weeks I make a big batch of one of our go-to meal to stick in the freezer. Normally that batch will last us about 3 months with us eating it once a week. I normally keep a stock of chicken taquitos, pulled pork, and meat balls in our freezer for some minimal effort meals. What would you do if you had 3 nights during the week where you could have a homemade meal on the table in 5 minutes? I know that if I’m cooking from scratch it normally takes me about 45 minutes to put a meal together. So this saves me a few hours per week by having something ready to go.

I want to accomplish 3 things when I make a big batch of food. First I want these meals to save me money so that means that it needs to be from reasonably priced ingredients. Second these meals has to save me time and this is accomplished by making things that will last a while in the freezer. Third, this meal needs to be relatively healthy and taste good. I make almost everything from scratch and that includes my chicken stock and sauces.

We all see the crazy deals that you can get on ground beef when it comes in the plastic sleeve. It’s normally a very high fat ratio and around $2.50 per lb or less. I’m going to show you an easy way to use that 5 lb meat log and stock your freezer at the same time.  If you have ever tried the store bought frozen meatballs you know that they’re not as good as the homemade version.  This recipe is super easy and doesn’t require skillet cooking.  Just roll the meatballs out and bake!  Don’t be afraid of the 27% fat ratio – repeat this mantra: Fat = flavor.

Here is the log of ground beef. Don't be afraid - it's here to save you money!
Here is the log of ground beef. Don’t be afraid – it’s here to save you money!

Prep and cook time: About 2 hours depending on how fast you roll balls.
Yields: 160 meatballs or about 32 servings

Ingredients:
5lbs ground beef – for ultimate value buy the tube or meat log, sometimes found in the freezer section
2 large onions
3 eggs
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons steak or bbq sauce (optional)

Instructions:
Dice the onions finely and place in a large bowl – probably the biggest bowl in your kitchen. In a pinch, you can use a stock pot for mixing if you don’t have a big bowl.
Add all of the ingredients to the bowl except for the meat. Mix so that the spices are evenly distributed
Add your ground beef and mix with your hand until the mixtures is even and uniform. This should take you about 3 to 4 minutes of mixing. If you mix your meat too much it could make your meatballs tough.
In a small skillet over medium heat cook about 1 teaspoon of the meat mixture for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool and taste for seasoning. Add additional seasonings if needed. This step is super important when making big batches of food. You want to make sure that the food is up to snuff so that it doesn’t turn into a freezer fossil.
Using a spoon, create meatballs a little bit bigger than 1 inch in diameter, they will shrink by about 20%. To create the balls, take about 2 tablespoons of meat mix and roll it gently between around in the palms of your hands. Place on a baking sheet leaving about an inch between each meatball
Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes.

Meatball ingredients

Add all of the ingredients to the bowl except for the meat.
Add all of the ingredients to the bowl except for the meat.
Mix so that the spices are evenly distributed
Mix so that the spices are evenly distributed
Mix your ingredients for about 3 to 4 minutes
Add the meat and mix your ingredients for about 3 to 4 minutes.
Roll your meatball just a little bit bigger than 1 inch across. They will shrink when cooked
Roll your meatball just a little bit bigger than 1 inch across. They will shrink when cooked
To create the balls, take about 2 tablespoons of meat mix and roll it gently between around in the palms of your hands
To create the balls, take about 2 tablespoons of meat mix and roll it gently between around in the palms of your hands
These guys are ready to bake! Who has time to pan fry meatballs?
These guys are ready to bake! Who has time to pan fry meatballs?
All done! These meatballs are ready to add to your favorite ball friendly meal.
All done! These meatballs are ready to add to your favorite ball friendly meal.

For Storage: allow to cool to room temperature and then put in plastic storage bags. Refrigerate overnight and then lay flat in the freezer. The meat balls should be in 1 row and not stacked on top of each other. This allows you to pull only what you need out of the freezer instead of needing to thaw out the whole bag. These keep in the freezer for 3+ months.

Once your meatballs are cooled put them in storage bags in a single layer
Once your meatballs are cooled put them in storage bags in a single layer

This is the best part about having frozen meat balls. To use them in a meal, place the frozen meatballs on a plate in a circle. Use the defrost setting on your microwave for about 7 minutes for 8 oz of meat. Your mileage may vary depending on your microwave. At this point they are hot and ready to eat and can be added to your dish.

Some of my favorite ways to eat meatballs:
Spaghetti and red sauce
Spaghetti and mushroom cream sauce
Meatball subs or sandwiches
Meatballs with veggies and mashed potatoes

So how much does my 32 servings of meatballs cost?

These are the prices that I got when I picked everything up at Aldi
5lbs ground beef log – $9.99
2 Onions – $0.50 (at $.99 per lb)
3 Eggs – $0.25
1 cup bread crumbs – $0.25
Pepper – $1.20
Salt – $0.06
Cumin – $0.80
Oregano – $0.60
Basil – $0.60
Worcestershire Sauce – $1.40
Steak Sauce – $.10

Total = $15.75
This works out to $0.49 per serving of meatballs. It might be a little bit less expensive than this since I used Amazon prices for the spices. I buy the store brand for spices and almost always get the bulk containers.

So that’s my meatball story, what are some of your favorite foods to batch cook and freeze?

Homemade Coffee Creamer

We all want to know what we are putting in our bodies.  I’ve been buying flavored coffee creamer for ages and recently ran out.  My grocery trip isn’t until later this week so I started researching how to make a homemade version of my coffee creamer.  Found that all of the recipes that were out there were some variation of milk, half and half, heavy cream and/or sweetened condensed milk.

I happened to have a can of sweetened condensed milk in my pantry from when I planned to make a pie last year for Thanksgiving.  I had my baby a bit earlier than planned so my cooking plans were detoured.  When I saw that I could use this in a recipe that wasn’t a pie I was pretty thrilled.  Any chance to use up a pantry fossil makes me happy.  I made this with what I had on hand.

Homemade Coffee Creamer

Ingredients:

1 part sweetened condensed milk
1 part heavy cream
1 part whole milk

Instructions:

Combine and mix well, I used my blender but you could put it in a container and shake it or stir.  Store in the fridge.

Coffee and homemade creamer

My morning is better with coffee!  I hope you all have a great day!

Exploring Bread Making

home made bread

Baking bread has been one of those elusive skills for me (like keeping plants alive)  It doesn’t seem that hard to do, since I can follow instructions pretty well.  And yet, when I try to make bread it just doesn’t turn out how I imagined.

I already figured out that one of my problems was the type of flour that I was using.  Bread flour has higher protein content then all purpose flour.  Ah!  Science!  I can understand that!  The protein allows the gluten to develop in the dough.  Gluten is what is produced when the yeast does its magic and what gives bread its chewy texture.  This all makes sense.  My previous attempts at bread making yielded some crumbly spongy weird bread.

Like any ambitious amateur baker I sought out some information from people that new what they were talking about.  Off to the library!  I found My Bread by Jim Lahey, he has a way of explaining the basics that clicked with me.  His method of creating a tasty loaf of bread promised to be less muss and fuss than the traditional kneading and rolling techniques.  You pretty much mix all the ingredients together to make kind of a doughy soup.  You cover and wait a long time.  He recommends 18 hours but for me it was closer to 24 because of work.

bread dough rising

 

Once the blob of bubbles and flour had morphed into a alcohol-smelling-thing I scrapped it out of the bowl with a spoon and formed my round blob that would very soon bake into my loaf of bread.

The finished loaf of bread

I set my oven to a temperature super hot and it started to smoke a bit.  I have a large dutch oven and that served as the “inner oven” for the loaf of bread.  This part is pretty genious since it allows you to have a more controlled temperature.  The way ovens normally heat is they will kick on and raise the temperature and then it will fall to a certain point and then the oven will kick on again.  So the temperature normally fluctuates which is fine for most cooking but not so good for bread I imagine.

home made bread

I am pretty pleased with the end result of this baking experiment.  My husband even liked it, and I know he won’t sugar coat it if something I make doesn’t turn out quite right.

Here is the recipe I used for this bread.  If you want more detailed direction check out Jim Lahey’s book My Bread.  This book also gave me my latest pizza dough recipe.  I’ll be checking this one out from the library again soon.

Ingredients:

3 cups (400g) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoon (8g) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1g) dry active yeast
1 1/3 cup (300g) cool water
additional flour for dusting

Instructions:

  1. In large bowl combine dry ingredients and mix.  Add water and stir for 30 seconds. Cover bowl and wait 12-18 hours.
  2. Dust work surface with flour and scrape dough out of bowl.  Pull edges of the blob to the center to create a round blob. Sprinkle with flour.
  3. Cover with cotton dish towel and let raise for 2 more hours.  30 minutes prior to the end of this time preheat your oven to 375 and place a large dutch oven, my 6 quart dutch oven seemed to be the perfect size.
  4. Remove dutch oven from oven and carefully invert the dough into the pot seam side up.  Cover and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove lid and bake for additional 10-30 minutes until bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt.

I was surprised how little yeast was needed for this recipe.  A packet of yeast is about 2 teaspoons.  A big part of why so little is needed is the amount of time you let the dough rise.  18 hours is the longest that I’ve seen in a recipe.  Bread making is a time commitment.  Most of the work is in the waiting.  If you will be around your house for a few hours while the dough goes through it’s second rise and baking, it is well worth the time invested.

The Price of home made bread:

bread flour – (Assuming you purchase a 5lb bag for $3.99, you can get this cheaper from a bulk supplier) = $0.77
salt = $0.02
dry active yeast (Assuming you purchase a 2lb bag for $4.94) = $0.01
electricity to run the oven = $0.16

Total for this loaf of bread = $0.96

I’ll definitely be making this recipe again.  Happy baking!

Pulled Pork Pizza

I’m a big fan of pizza, as any teenage girl living in a thirty-something-year-old-body could be  ;). My pizza making has evolved from pepperoni and cheese on top of English muffins and bagels, to store bought already cooked crust, to a ball of store bought dough, to me actually making the dough from scratch.  I’ve been experimenting a lot with my crust recipe and  have settled into a winning pizza crust method!  This recipe is from “My Bread” by Jim Lahey, which is a great book if you are just getting into making your own bread.

If you do not own a food scale, buy one!  You can find them for as little as $12 new or even less if you happen upon one at a yard sale or thrift shop.  One of the great things about Lahey’s book is that he has measurements in both cups and weight.

Ingredients:

Bread Flour – 500g (3 3/4 cups sifted)
Instant or active dry yeast – 10g (2 1/2 teaspoon)
Salt – 5g (3/4 teaspoon)
Sugar – 3G (3/4 teaspoon plus a pinch)
Water at room temperature – 300g (1 1/3 cup)
Extra virgin olive oil for the pans

Instructions:

1. In medium bowl combine dry ingredients and mix, add water and mix with wooden spoon for 30 seconds.  This should give you a stiff ball of dough.

2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a wet towel and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

3. Use an oiled spoon or bowl scraper to remove the dough from the bowl.  Divide into 2 parts. I put one of the halves in a plastic container and freeze it for later.  (This is where I deviate from the recipe) For thin crust divide the ball in half again and shape into a ball, allow to rest for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 425.  Oil pizza pans liberally.  Use your hands to stretch the dough, place the dough on the pizza pan and press it out towards the sides of the pan.  Alternate between working the dough into a pizza shape and allowing it to rest, this will allow the dough to stay stretched.

5. Once your dough is stretched out on the pan, allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Put in preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes.

6. Remove from oven and top crust with your pizza toppings.

7.  Bake pizza for 7-8 minutes until crust is brown.

Making pizza is a yummy way to re-purpose leftovers.  I’ve been experimenting with the different meats that I would have in my fridge every week and pulled pork pizza is a favorite.  To see how I make pulled pork check out this post.  For two pizzas you will need 1 cup of pulled pork, 1/2 lbs of mozzarella cheese, and your favorite BBQ sauce.

Pulled Pork Pizza Ingredients

Stretch out your crust and bake partway according to the above directions.  With the low temperature of my oven, cooking the crust part way before adding toppings will give you a more sturdy crust.  If you like a softer, fold in half type of pizza you can skip the partial baking and put your topping directly on the raw dough. I have tried it both ways and prefer a sturdy crust.

Pizza Crust

Spread the pulled pork out on the crust.  It will be easier to break apart if the pork is warmed in the microwave.  A little bit of meat goes a long way on pizza.  Once your meat is evenly distributed on the pizza crust squeeze out about 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce per pizza.

Pulled Pork Pizza Assembly

Top with mozzarella cheese and continue baking for another 7-9 minutes.  Once the pizza is done, use a rubber spatula to loosen the pizza from the pan.  Transfer to a cutting board and cut into pieces.

Cooked pulled pork pizza

Pizza is so easy and cheap to make.  I did a price break down in this post of how much pizza cost me to make.  When you cook from scratch you not only save money the majority of the time but you know exactly what ingredients are in your food.

Garlic Hummus & Pita Chips

I love hummus.  I almost feel guilty for eating a bunch of it for breakfast most mornings but it keeps me satisfied till lunch time. It is so easy to make and you can make many different variations. My favorite flavor if hummus is roasted garlic.

I’ve been using a modified version of this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. She has a couple odd and time consuming instructions, like she tells you to peal the membrane off of your chickpeas…honestly, who has time for that?  I’ve followed her instructions to the letter and the hour that you spend pealing chickpeas does not make your hummus any smoother in my opinion.  She also has you chop your roasted garlic, I pop mine right in the food processor prior to adding the chickpeas.  This saves you a little bit of time.


Pita Chips – I buy a package of Pita bread from Pricerite for $0.89 a pack and this gives me 6 pita pockets.  A bag of pita chips is $2.79.  Every week that I make these I save myself about $1.60 including the oil and salt.  That and I think they taste better and are more crispy than store bought pita chips.

IMG_0626[1]

 

Ingredients:

1 package of pita pockets
1/4 cup of olive oil
salt

Instructions:

  1. Set oven to 400 degrees
  2. Brush each side of the pita pocket with olive oil
  3. Cut cross wise to give you 8 triangles for each pocket
  4. Spread in one layer on a sheet pan. Do not crowd your pan or they will not get crispy.
  5. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the chips are golden brown.

Store these in an air tight container and they will stay good for about a month.  I keep mine in a Ziploc bag.


Roasted Garlic Hummus – I always make a triple batch of hummus since that’s about how many chickpeas I get from a 1lb bag of dried beans.  If you are going to use dried beans make sure you cook them the day before you want to make the hummus.  Roast your garlic ahead of time or allow an extra hour in your prep time.  To see how much you would save by making your own hummus I’ve created this little calculator.  With my grocery store prices I save $4.30 with each batch I make.  We eat about one batch a week, so that makes my yearly savings $223.60.

IMG_0624[1]

Ingredients:

2 to 2 1/2 cups chickpeas cooked per instructions
8 roasted garlic cloves (Sally’s Baking Addiction instructions for roasted garlic)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tahini, stirred well
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup reserved water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

  1. In food processor add olive oil, roasted garlic cloves, and lemon juice
  2. Pulse until the garlic is pulverized
  3. Add tahini, chickpeas, water, cumin, salt and pepper
  4. Process until smooth
  5. Add water if needed

Hummus can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months or in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Of all of my kitchen gadgets, my food processor is my favorite.  I’ve had mine for about 5 years.  It lets me chop, shred, and process food in bulk.  It makes the daunting task of shredding 10 blocks of cheese quick and easy.  If you don’t have one you should definitely look into getting one.
IMG_0625[1]

Freezer Fruit Rescue – Peachy Strawberry Margarita and Blueberry Muffins

When ever I don’t get around to eating my fresh fruit right away I always pop it in the freezer to avoid wasting it.  I had about 2 cups of blueberries, 3 cups of peaches, and 2 cups of strawberries.  So the easier answer to using this fruit would have been to make some smoothies.  I just haven’t been wanting smoothies and figured I might as well not try to force myself to eat something that I wouldn’t enjoy.

It was Cinco De Mayo and I was going to celebrate we made nachos and margaritas.  I got the idea for a peachy margarita from this Martha Stewart recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/313180/frozen-peach-margaritas


Ingredients:

1 oz Taquila
3/4 oz Triple Sec
1 lime juiced
2 teaspoons of sugar
1/2 cup frozen peaches
2 frozen strawberries

Instructions:

1. For easy juicing, microwave your lime for about 15 seconds. Slice the lime in half, slice one piece about 1/8 inch thick for a garnish. Juice the remaining halves of the lime into your blender.
2. Add Taquila, triple sec, sugar, peaches and strawberries to blender
3. Blend until smooth
4. Serve with lime slice on the glass as a garnish

Keep in mind that most shot glasses are 1.5 oz so it would be pretty easy to make your drink too strong (like I did).  You can also make a virgin version of this recipe and will be a sweet and tart treat.


I made blueberry muffins from this recipe:  http://www.food.com/recipe/the-best-blueberry-muffins-50719

Ingredients:

1⁄2 cup margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup milk
2 1⁄2 cups frozen blueberries

Instructions:

  1. Set oven to 375 degrees, grease muffin tins or line with muffin papers.  Makes 18 small muffins
  2. Cream margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beat after each
  4. Add vanilla and milk
  5. In separate bowl mix flour, baking powder, and salt
  6. Add dry ingredients to wet one cup at a time, mixing after each
  7. Once mixture is combined, add frozen blueberries and mix with a spoon
  8. Spoon batter into muffin tin
  9. Bake for 20 minutes
  10. Insert toothpick into center off muffin, if the toothpick comes out clean then the muffins are done.  If it comes out with batter on it, bake for 2-3 more minutes.  Repeat this step until toothpick comes out clean.

IMG_0623[1]

I did add granulated sugar to the top of the muffins but I honestly couldn’t tell.  I will be skipping this step next time.  And yes, that is my grandmothers plate 🙂

With these two recipes I freed up a good amount of space in my freezer.  This will allow me to make some of my own convenience foods to save time during my work week.  It’s been a busy week for cooking and it will hopefully allow me more time in the rest of the month to hang out with my family.

Fridge clean out chowder

OK so it’s really Turkey Corn Chowder.  I had milk, corn and Turkey that had been hanging out in the fridge with no plan.  You don’t need exact amounts to make a chowder or soup, I used up all of the ingredients that I had in the fridge and it tastes great!  I made enough to freeze about 4 servings in addition to feeding my husband and I lunch on Sunday.

image

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium onions chopped
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 4 medium potatoes peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 4 cups turkey chopped in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Bacon and shredded cheese for garnish

Instructions:

  1. In a large stock pot over medium heat sauté the onions in bacon grease or oil for 5 minutes.  We cooked bacon this morning so I used the left over bacon grease for extra flavor.
  2. Cut the corn from the ears.
  3. Take 1 cup corn and 1 cup milk and blend until smooth.
  4. Add milk/corn purée to the cooked onions and turn heat to low.  Add in the remainder of the corn and milk to the pot.  Also add the potatoes, heavy cream, salt and pepper.
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes and stir occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat, stir in turkey and let sit for 5 minutes.
  7. Top with shredded cheese and crumpled bacon if desired.

If you want a thinner chowder you can add chicken or turkey stock near the end of the cook time.  You can add what ever vegetables are in your fridge that are nearing the end of their freshness.

The Cost of Coffee

A large iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts costs $2.79, at Starbucks it’s $2.95.  If I were stop at Dunkin Donuts to buy coffee on my way to work every morning it would cost with sales tax  $14.85.  I need coffee on the weekends too since I’m addicted…so that bumps it up to $20.79.  You might say to me “Oh what’s $20?  That’s not much of a cost for you to enjoy something that you love.”  But add this up over time and that $20.79 becomes $1081.08 in a year.  If I got coffee every morning of my working adult life, let’s say that I work 40 years, that becomes $43,243.20  I don’t know about you, but I can think of better ways to spend that kind of money than on a tasty morning beverage.

But what can we do?  How else will we get our caffeine fix?  These are some very good questions.  What we are neglecting is a more frugal option that will give us the same amount of joy (or close to it) in making at home coffee.

Get a coffee Maker – You will need to make an initial investment in a drip or single serving coffee maker.  If you are a coffee novice and only making a cup or two for yourself you can purchase a small 4 cup machine like this one for around $20.  Or better yet, check your local second hand store and get it for less!  If you are more of a coffee snob, like me, you can invest in an espresso machine.  I bought mine on a Black Friday deal for $30.

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Coffee Central Control – Yes this is necessary
Get Coffee Grounds – Now this is where my inner coffee snob will start to show.  As a reformed Starbucks addict I have a taste for the stronger (better) coffee.  So I watch for sales on starbucks ground coffee and stock up when it is a good price.  For the sake of this comparison we will use the regular price of $13.49 for 12 oz.

Brew coffee, save money – There are about 5 Tbsp in 1 oz of coffee.  I brew my coffee at a ratio of 2 Tbsp to 10 oz of water.  So this means that for my $13.49 I will get 30 cups of coffee at around $0.45 a cup.  If I am diligent with my home brewed coffee this gives me a savings of $917.28 for the year!

Coffee preferences are specific to your tastes.  I created this coffee calculator that you can use to calculate your own savings by brewing at home!  Save a copy and update the blue cells.  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/173SGs_nKvKVw2Fx8WGxvRE-688UU5EvWYdwVMqnHPBM/edit?usp=sharing