Friday, August 27, 2010

Quick Cucumber Pickles

I'm here, and I'm not here. There's a lot of restructuring going on in the house, so not a lot of actual cooking is going on. There's also a lot of restructuring going on in my life, which kind of makes me not want to cook. Among other things, I've got a new semester starting (and I'm trying to get ahead instead of the staying afloat I did over the summer) and I quit smoking. It's a lot of stress, most of which I don't really want to get into here. But I wanted to pop in and say hi, and let everyone know I haven't forgotten you (despite the fact that I haven't even been reading other blogs as of late). I've just sort of been in my own little world, and oddly, food hasn't even been part of my life outside of quick take-out for the most part. I haven't even been grocery shopping, other than to pick up some juice here or there. I guess it's a good thing I have a lot of food storage, so at least there'll be food to eat if I do wind up wanting to cook without shopping first. :)

I had a really good time in Nebraska, though it was entirely too short. I lost close to 20 pounds over the summer. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but it does mean I've had to replace some clothes (which is kind of lame, since I hate shopping). The new semester is going well, and I'm plodding through in my efforts to get ahead of the game. That way, when things are tougher further into the semester, I won't need to worry that I'll get behind. So a lot of work there, though most of it happening because I'm imposing strict time constraints on myself to get it done early.

My plan is to start doing Food Waste Friday again in the next couple weeks, as well as resuming the Saturday spending logs. I'm no longer on the $10/week budget, but I do feel that being accountable to someone other than myself with my food spending keeps me from spending excessive amounts of money on food that may or may not get eaten. I won't be including shopping trips P makes in those lists, since he mostly shops as I've been doing lately (juice, sometimes some fruit or snack foods). I'll post recipes as I feel like cooking, but I think the most realistic expectation is that they'll be sporadic, since I'm mostly interesting in eating comfort foods, and y'all have all those recipes already.

So, that's the basic update on what's going on, and what'll be happening here in the near future. I'm not really sure if there's a time line we can expect for me to be cooking up a storm again or not, so I don't want to give one. But, I expect that once my life makes sense to me again, I'll be in the kitchen more often.

All that being said, I didn't want to leave you with nothing to eat here. When I was in Nebraska, D and I were extolling the virtues of my beloved banana peppers. He mentioned that he'd been told by a friend of his that using the brine from pepperocinis to brine cucumbers was really good. So, when my next bottle of banana peppers was empty, I reused the brine for cucumbers. 3 times. I don't think a fourth would work out so well. So, hope you enjoy!

1 bottle pepperocini or banana pepper brine
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced

Put the slices in the brine, and refrigerate. Let sit overnight. If your slices are thick, give it two days. If they're really thick, give it three. If they're thin, eat them the next day. You can keep them for a week before they need to be eaten. Serves one (in my house).

(No picture, because I ate them all before it occurred to me you might actually want to see them)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hiatus

You guys know I'm going out of town tomorrow, and that's well and good. But what you don't know, is I might be gone from the blog for a couple weeks or possibly as long as a month. I have no interest in cooking right now, and I've got a lot to do to clear my head space so I can do well in the upcoming semester. I kind of feel like being responsible for anything I'm not truly responsible for (i.e., paying my bills) is a little more than I can handle right now. If I thought I wouldn't be lynched for tossing my phones in the Gulf, I'd do that too. I'm just not really in a people kind of place right now.

So, I'm not ditching you guys, but I am ditching you. For a little bit.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Surprise Eggs

We ate these when I was growing up, and I just loved them. I believe my mother learned to make them from her Depression-era parents (though I could be mistaken), but given the economy I thought it might be nice to recirculate this tasty breakfast. I'm just listing it as serving one, but you of course can multiply it to serve as many people as you're feeding. One of the best parts of this recipe, other than it being inexpensive and tasty, is that the egg and toast are combined. If you're a runny yolk kind of person, it's set up perfectly for the dipping. Hope you enjoy!

1 slice bread
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
pat of butter (or you can use saved bacon grease or any other kind of fat)

Heat up a pan. Melt the butter in the pan, then tear out a hole from the middle of the bread (ball this up and eat your bread marble, or it's a nice treat to appease the dog who is going to be angry you didn't make him an egg too). Put the bread into the pan and break the egg into the hole (season at this point with salt and pepper). Fry until the yolk sets a bit, then flip (seasoning the other side) and fry until done as much as you like it. Serves 1.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Summer Plan Update

This was a really weird week for me. I broke down and needed some synthetic food, in the form of a Big Mac. So I got one. Then I went to a baby shower which was at a sushi restaurant. I didn't think I'd ever had food budget money again, but apparently the shower organiser had decided to cover the bill. So that was good and I was off the hook for another total potential fail this week.

So, here's the business of the week. P gets back in town tomorrow. He tends to like for certain things to be on hand that don't necessarily fit into the $10/week budget. However, I'd intended to stay on this budget until the 21st. So what I'm going to do is reopen access to the Cave, in order to defray some of that increased cost, and also to try to stick with the budget. I'm not sure how well this will go, so it's possible I might go over. But I'll try not to. If it looks like going over is unavoidable, I might modify things to give me $10/week/person instead of just $10/week. So, we'll see how that goes.

However, I am being sent to Nebraska on Thursday (and from now until then I'm studying for my final), so I'll be out of pocket for a little bit (my plan is to eat the foods I've canned, which means I'm not likely to be going to the grocery store again until I get home from Nebraska). So if you don't hear from me for a little while it's because I'm not here. I'll try to keep track of any monies I spend while I'm on vacation, but I'm excluding this trip from the budgetary concerns since I'm not actually spending my own monies while I'm away. If I get any grocery shopping done before I leave town, I'll schedule a Saturday post so you guys can see what happened. If I don't, then that's okay too. I should be back around the 18th or 19th, so we'll proceed from there. Also, I will try not to forget my camera, so I can show you what I eat while I'm away.

In terms of progress, I only have one can of corn left. This makes me a sad panda, a little. I used a couple more chicken breasts, and that was pretty much it from the freezer. Normally I eat chicken only rarely, but I've been eating it a lot lately. Francis has been eating some too. I found this box on the pantry (I'd had cans on top of it so I guess I forgot it was in there) that had some bean soup mixes in it. I used one of those to make a bean porridge, and I ate a lot of that the last week in lieu of really cooking. This last week I've tried to avoid spending a lot of time in the kitchen, since I've been under a lot of stress with my class (and it's stupidly hot here which makes me not want to eat, let alone cook). I can't wait until it's over. Just a few more days, I keep reminding myself. It's just not a good sign when you adore the professor but can't deal with anything else about the class. Anyway, I digress. Again. I've eaten up most of the canned pineapple. What a surprise, huh? There're some mandarin oranges that went the way of the belly as well. I used up most of the salad dressings in the fridge, though I didn't actually have a single green salad. And of course, you already know the frozen mango is gone. I've eaten all the shells I'd frozen, and about half of the cheese breads.

Everything else in the freezer is basically the same, so there's plenty of stuff for P to eat without him needing to grocery shop. He's not obsessed with banana peppers, so I didn't get more of those. My guess, though, is that he'll eat out every day since that's more his style. Or alternately, he'll eat lots of the home-canned meat sauce w/ pasta. Or the other jarred sauces from the guest spending with pasta. Apparently he learned some cooking in Chicago, so maybe he will eat some stuff in the freezer!

Additionally, some pistachios were donated to the cause by a friend of mine. I put those together with some walnuts and butter from the freezer and the last of the phyllo dough, to make baklava for everyone at school. It seemed to be enjoyed. So that also helped eliminate some ingredients from the freezer. Oh, and I moved a bag of almonds to my nightstand to snack on in bed.

On to the spending!

This week I spent:

McDonalds:

Big Mac - $3.56

Kroger:

Bread flour - $2.75
Healthy balance juice (2) - $1.29 (had a BOGOF coupon for this, and then the bottles both had $0.55 coupons on them, which the cashier rang up too, much to my surprise and delight)

Total: $4.04
Grand total: $7.60
Total to date: $99.24/$95.84

This puts me under budget, regardless of how each individual person feels about the $4 kraut mishap. So, lookin' good. See y'all in about a week and a half!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Mango Smoothie

So, mangoes. I think you guys heard about the mangoes in the freezer for like, 2 months. I actually managed to do something with them. I thought about mango quick breads and mango cupcakes and all sorts of other mango things, but at the end of the day, I mainly just wanted a smoothie. Kind of a creamy-ish version of pureed fruit. So, here it is. Hope you enjoy!

2 cups frozen mango
1/2 cup almond milk

Put them in a blender, and blend, blend, blend. If you want to make it protein-y, add some protein powder. Serves 1 (2 if you're more polite than I am).

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

I wanted to eat some chicken recently, but I wasn't quite ready to eat the Italian dressing thing again (though there's no particular reason why I wasn't - I just wanted to do something different with it this time). I was peeking around in my Fridge-of-Holding, and I remembered I had some Caesar dressing in there. I probably should use that up, since I honestly don't remember when I bought it. If you want to make your own Caesar dressing, here's my favourite recipe for it (with the extra bonus of other dressings as well). Anyway, I really like chicken caesar salads, but I didn't actually have any romaine lettuce. So I decided to turn it all into a pasta salad. It's more filling and stretches further this way too, which is also an extra bonus. Aside from the addition of pasta and the lack of lettuce, there are a couple other deviations from the normal Caesar-type thing, since I wanted to have some variance in texture. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 pound pasta, cooked according to package directions (I used gemelli)
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
salt and pepper to taste
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 - 3/4 cup Caesar dressing
Extra parmesan shaved or grated for serving

Season chicken with salt and pepper, then cook in a non-stick skillet. Cool and cut into cubes. Combine with cooked and cooled pasta, celery, carrot and dressing. Toss well then chill before serving. Add extra parmesan when serving. Makes about 4 cups.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Queso

I mentioned yesterday that this was a really pedestrian version of Magnolia's Mud. That's pretty much true. I went the super lazy route, not bothering to buy a tomato to make a proper pico, using the last of the pickled jalepenos instead of ponying up the 5 cents for a fresh one, and using entirely less cheese than one probably should use. I also didn't add the fresh items (avocado excepted) to the mix after it was cooked - I just dumped everything into the saucepan at once and let it figure itself out. I was really hungry, what can I say? Though on the cheese front, I actually used less because I like my queso a lot more tomatoey than most people do. Given I'm the only one eating it (with pita chips!), I figured I should just do whatever I want. So, I'll put the normal person way in parentheses below. I ate this as a meal (okay, 2 meals), but mostly it'd be served as an appetizer to feed more people. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 pound Velveeta or similar (1 pound)
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes (I leave the juices in but I think a normal person wouldn't)
1 cup cooked and drained black beans
1/8 cup pickled jalepenos (1 fresh, sliced thinly)
1/8 red onion, diced (use pico here in place of the onion and pepper)
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup canned black olives, sliced (I don't think this is really supposed to be in there but I like olives so I don't care)
1 avocado, sliced or diced

My way: Put everything but the avocado in a saucepan and turn it to low heat. Let it cook until the cheese is melted, stirring periodically. Add avocado and eat with chips. Serves 1.

The right way: Combine cheese and drained tomatoes in a saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring frequently. When melted, stir in beans (or you can put them on the bottom of the serving vessel then top with the queso and let your eaters stir it in themselves) and jalepenos (and olives if you're using), then heat through. Top with pico de gallo and avocado, then serve with chips. Serves 4.

This, by the way, is another one of those recipes that looks utterly disgusting but tastes awesome.