Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tortellini Soup

I ran across a recipe the other day for Tomato Tortellini Soup and it looked pretty good. I did not, however, have those particular ingredients on hand, so I made some substitutions.

Frankly, I substituted everything but the broth. And added bacon because everything's better with bacon. ;)  Our local store puts boxed locally-smoked (nitrate free!!!) bacon ends and pieces on sale fairly regularly, and I always try to buy a box, and I chop it up and use it in all sorts of things for added flavor and protein. The slices aren't pretty, but they're damn tasty, especially in soup.

Pulled from my pantry and super yummy!

For my version...

About 1/3lb bacon, or big handful of ends and pieces
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1 8oz pkg dried cheese tortellini
1 14oz can chopped tomatoes (I used petite cut with oregano, onion and garlic, but any would work)
1T Ranch Dressing Mix (or a little dill weed)
1/2 8oz pkg cream cheese

Chop the bacon. In your soup pot, brown bacon until cooked. Add broth, deglaze, and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and boil until cooked al denté, about 15 min. Lower heat. Stir in tomatoes, ranch seasoning, and cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and serve!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

On the CHEAP.

And I do mean cheap.

Due to posty office closings and whatnot with Bill's job, our food budget has been not just slashed, but eviscerated. We have less than $100 for 2 weeks worth of groceries and household essentials like soap for three adults, a pile of pets, and a baby on the way. I cannot articulate how utterly thrilled this makes us, but here we are.

So, in an effort to save some green, Laura and I did some price-comparisons at our local grocery stores (all within a couple of blocks of each other) and have learned that Aldi's is about 1/3 the price on almost everything. There are a few items that are the same or slightly cheaper at our local (Iowa/Midwest) chain stores, but just about everything costs lest at Aldi's. I know the quality isn't always the best, but beggars can't really be choosers. When we went shopping on Friday we actually came in under budget, so there's money left for more milk or whatever else we might run out of.

I'm making some things (like tortillas) from scratch. Heck, I'm making almost everything from scratch, other than sliced bread because, try as I might, I am not a good bread baker.

Here are some supper items we're having over the next couple of weeks:

Tacos (stretched with rice to leave enough leftover for...)
Cheesy bacon soup
Leftovers fried rice
Spaghetti,  er, pasta with red sauce
Cheesy broccoli rice with chicken
Beans with bacon
Stuffed baked potatoes

Bill has requested that we have more 'rice things' than 'pasta things' so rice it'll be. I can buy a 5 lb box of 'bacon ends and pieces' for $9 and have a LOT of meals using chopped bacon as the meaty condiment. Frozen veggies were on sale for a buck a bag, and they add a little nutrient and color. Beans. Pasta. Potatoes. Rice. I don't like using a lot of carbs, but they fill us up and make a little meat really stretch.

If anyone has super-cheap-and-filling main dish ideas I'd love to hear them! We're pretty much stuck in poverty-eating mode until we sell the house.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cake Mix Cookies

I have a confession to make.

I hate decorating cookies. And cakes. And most anything else.

Maybe hate is too strong a word, but every year, at Christmas, I make these 'big plans' for my holiday baking and every year there are sugar cookies and bites with sprinkles and frosting and candies and whatnot, and I tell myself - every darn year - that this time it'll be different. I will roll out the dough, I will use cookie cutters, and I will carefully place those mini gumdrops (or whatever) but, ya know what? Every year I make drop cookies and bar cookies and smooshed cookies and other yummies that require zero decoration.

Apparently, I'm not froo froo or fussy. And I'm mostly cool with that.

Until Vanessa posted her take on Cake Cookies with Sprinkles.

Look at that! Decorated cookies without the fuss or the mess! I'd tried cake mix cookies before - some crazy thing using devil's food - and didn't like them, but these looked fabulous. Finding cake mix on sale this week, I just had to give them a try. They're super simple, and super awesome.

All you need:

1 white cake mix
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup oil
Candy sprinkles

Heat oven to 350˚ and combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. (I suppose you could use a stand mixer for this, but why? It only takes a minute or so by hand). Dump some candy sprinkles in a small bowl (and, if you're not like me, please remember to put the lid back on BEFORE you set the bottle on the counter so you don't accidentally knock it over and have a flood of sprinkles dance everywhere like I did). Scoop up about a teaspoon or so of dough and roll into a ball (trust me, it helps to flour your hands) and dip one side of the ball into the sprinkles. Place these super cute little morsels sprinkle-side-up about an inch or so apart on an ungreased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper) and bake for 15 min.

Aren't they CUTE?!?!?

I thought 15 minutes sounded like a loooooong time for little cookies, but it was perfect! Don't let them get brown, because they lose their super soft succulent awesomeness.

This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies (I got 49) and despite giving about a dozen and a half to my neighbors, the guys totally gobbled up the rest during our game night last night. That's right, zero left! All for the cost of a cake mix and some staples.

Super Easy, Super YUM!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Simply Awesome Meatloaf!!!

My meatloaf used to be messy and, frankly, inconsistent. Sometimes the crackers would absorb more than others, sometimes it would fall apart, sometimes it would seem gushy, sometimes bland or pasty or whatever.

I guess the old stereotype of calling meatloaf 'mystery meat' applied.

Then I changed the way I make meatloaf, and it's pretty much always awesome now! And there are no sticky/greasy hands!

You need:
1 gallon sized zip-lock type of bag
2 eggs
2 lbs ground beef (I like ground chuck or the 85% ish lean variety, but any will do, even ground turkey)
1 box of Stuffing Mix (StoveTop or the store brand equivalent - Chicken flavor works best for us, but they all work well.)
1 cup water
1/4 cup or so of sauce plus a bit more (we like barbeque sauce best, but spaghetti sauce, taco sauce, pizza sauce, ketchup, all work great!)
A 9 x 13 inch baking pan

Heat oven to 375˚.

Open the bag and crack both eggs into it. Smoosh around a bit to 'scramble' the eggs. Add everything else (I eyeball the amount of sauce and surely put in more than 1/4 cup. Yum!), push out the air and seal the bag. Roll, smoosh, poke, and otherwise mash the stuff inside until it's all mixed well. Squeeze into baking pan and form into an oval 'loaf' shape (I actually use a big spoon for this so my hands don't get gross). Dribble on some more sauce and bake for about an hour.

Super Yummy Stuff. Serve with whatever you like with your meatloaf - Bill's partial to mashed potatoes, gravy and a green veggie. The leftovers make great sammiches.

As I type this, I'm thinking that ground turkey with Alfredo sauce might be yummy! I think I'll try that next week! :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Whatever Casserole

Casserole (or Hotdish) is great when the weather turns cold, plus it's another one of those 'use up bits of this and that' kind of main dishes.

Anyway, it's super easy! All you need is:

1 carby base - I usually use a package egg noodles but rice and macaroni work well too
A couple of handfuls of chopped cooked meat (most any kind will do, chicken, ham, roast whatever, sausage... really anything!)
About half an onion, chopped
A handful or two of other fresh 'soft' veggies you want to include, chopped (like green peppers, celery, broccoli)
A handful or two of any canned/frozen 'hard' veggie (corn, peas, carrots etc. I use 'mixed vegetables' a lot in casserole)
1 can of cream of something soup (chicken, mushroom, celery, etc)
1 can of creamed corn. Yes, I said creamed corn. Thank my sister in law for this addition, it's awesome!
Chopped/shredded/crumbled cheese (any kind you have to use up)
Spices to taste (salt and pepper, Mrs Dash, etc)
Something crunchy for a topping (crushed chips, dried bread crumbs, grated parmesan, etc)

Cook your carb and drain. Mix in chopped meat, veggies, soup, creamed corn, cheese and spices. Pour into greased 2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle on crunchy topping. Bake at 375˚ for about 30 min until bubbly and hot. Serve with salad and bread, if desired. :)

Casserole with egg noodles, ham, mixed veggies, velveeta, mushroom soup and crushed potato chips.
Honestly, you can skip (or expand upon) everything but the carb, soup, creamed corn, and cheese. Use what you have! It re-heats well and there's just something about the carb/cheese/creamed corn that's amazing!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tonight it's "Italian Leftover Sauté'

Which sounds a bit boring, but it's really yummy.

I have some stuff in the fridge I should try to use up, especially an eggplant, but I also have peppers, mushrooms, onions, and a rope of smoked sausage. Gonna chop it all up, fry with a little garlic and olive oil, maybe toss in a can of diced tomatoes (or get ambitious and chop some romas I have in the fridge somewhere) and serve this luscious, fridge-clearing concoction over pasta. Ooooh, I have a mozzarella ball too to cut up and toss in!

The thing is, whenever you have extra stuff lurking in your fridge, you can make something truly yummy for supper by grouping similar ethnicities together and spicing it up accordingly. The peppers and onions and tomatoes can go mexican with some corn or beans and a bit of hot spice or cilantro. Mushrooms, peppers, garlic and onions go asian with a little soy sauce and rice. If you add curry and something creamy (like yogurt) to pretty much any of the combinations you can go indian. Fresh vegetables are so, so versatile and there's no excuse to let them go bad, so everyone see what's in your crisper and think up something fun!

But that eggplant, she's italian and dreaming of tomatoes and cheese! ;)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Got pears? Make cake!

My latest issue of Food and Family had a nummy looking recipe for Pear Upside Down Cake. And pears were on sale, so I thought it might be fun to try.

Super easy. Super YUMMY. Oh my. Moist and bouncy and oh my. I might just come to like pears. ;)