Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pop's Favorite Breakfast

My dad used to make these as midnight snacks, when we used to watch the Ted Turner show and then Bela Lugosi marathons all night. I was maybe 7 at the time. I've since brought the recipe to many a broke college student or friend. I've heard them called "Bird's Nests" or "Toad in the hole"

Midnight Specials

1 egg
1 piece of bread
1 smallish glass that has around a 3" diameter
salt & pepper
spray grease
-option - slice of cheese

Heat up your pan on medium heat. Butter both sides of the bread, not a thick coating, just an even smear. Press the top of the glass into the buttered bread to make a hole in the middle of your bread.
Toss your holed bread into the pan. Spray a quick squirt of grease into the hole. Crack your egg into the hole in the bread. Add salt and pepper to the egg. Fry this until the white of the egg is mostly done. Flip over to cook the other side. It generally takes a few tries to get your timing down so the bread is golden and crunchy - not burned or soggy - and the egg is as done as you like it. Pops likes the runny yolk on this one, the bread sops it up.
When you've flipped the special, that's the best time to toss a piece of cheese on top. It will melt as the other side cooks. When the bottom of the bread is crisp and golden, take it out and slap it on a plate. Fry the buttered hole piece on both sides and toss on top of your creation.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure this one is mad with the ass building. Grease, starch and cholesterol. But, dang, it's sooo yummyyyyyy. My kids love these.

Wine rocks!

Wine can really add some interest to your cooking.
Red - beef or sausage
White - chicken or pork

Toss 1/4 to 1/2 cup of wine into anything you're cooking.

Baking lemon pepper chicken? Give Mr Chicken one last drink.

Stir frying beef strips to add to veggies? Hit em with a bit of the red.

Just remember, let the alcohol cook out. If you're trying to sauce up your date, don't do it with the food. Do it with the dessert. Heh.

Chicken and Rice - the spanishy version

Even this recipe has two variations: those who really like tomatoes and not so into the tomato thing.

Chicken and Rice - simple
1# boneless chicken
2 cups Instant rice
2 cups water or 1 can chicken stock and water to make 2cups liquid
1/2 tsp saffron
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 chicken boullion cube
12 chopped green olives
2 tbsp olive juice
1 chopped onion
3 stalks celery, minced
1 tsbp margarine
Caesar dressing
1 tsp Green tabasco sauce
Lemon Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Coat chicken in dressing and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Chop veggies and olives. Saute veggies and olives in a small pan.
Put chicken in a baking pan and coat both sides liberally with lemon pepper. Cook for 20 minutes. Don't overcook the chicken. When chicken is done and cooled enough to touch, chop into bite sized pieces.
Get out a pot and add water or stock, add boullion cube, minced garlic, olive juice, green tabasco sauce, cumin and saffron and bring to a boil.
Add cooked veggies, olives & chicken. Stir
Add rice. Stir.
Turn the eye off and cover tightly.
Wait 10 minutes.
Check your rice and taste it. Add whatever it needs to be best for you.

Chicken and Rice - the tomato version
Use the above recipe - just add
1 more cup of rice (not water, too. This has more liquid in it)
1 can chopped tomatoes
Use chicken & tomato boullion instead of straight chicken boullion
1 jar of salsa
1 tsp lemon juice or lime juice
1 tbsp sugar

Follow the rest of the recipe as normal, except...

Put marinated chicken in a baking pan, coat liberally with lemon pepper. Coat chicken with salsa, cover pan with foil and bake 25 minutes.

Use the juice and salsa from the pan in the rice water. You won't need to add salt to the water but you should add sugar to cut some of the acid from all the tomatoes. Add canned chopped tomatoes and lemon juice to the rest before you cover the pot to let the rice cook.


And then god made rice....

I use a lot of instant rice. It's fast, moderately cheap and can be done a zillion different ways.

Beef and Rice
1#ground beef
1 can peas
2 cups instant rice
1 cube beef bullion
Onion Powder or chopped onion
1 tbsp Minced Garlic
Seasoned salt and pepper to taste

Brown & drain the beef. Toss in the garlic while the meat is still hot. Add a couple shakes of onion powder and pepper. Boil 2 cups of water, add the boullion cube and let it melt. Add peans and 2 cups of rice to the meat, stir.
When the water comes to a rolling boil, pour it over the meat mix, stir and cover. I usually put the pot back onto the hot, but off, eye that I just boiled water on. Wait 10 minutes, stir. Check to see if the rice is ready. Taste it and see if you need more salt, pepper...

Feel free to add a can of chopped tomatoes to the meat. If you're using fresh onion, boil it in the water before you add the water to the meat.

Chicken or Turkey and Rice - cream style
1# chicken - boneless
1 can peas
1 can carrots
1 can other - pick something you like: tomatoes, mushrooms, artichoke hearts
1 can cream of soup - pick one: chicken, asparagus, celery, mushroom.
1 cube boullion - pick one: chicken, chick & tomato, veggie
Italian dressing
3 cups Instant rice
1 can stock - pick one: chicken or veggie - or just use 1.5c water
Minced garlic

You may decide to use a bag of frozen mixed veggies instead of the canned veggies. Go ahead! If you have a stalk of celery or two getting soft in the drawer, chop it up and toss it in. Half an onion staring at you? Put it out of it's misery. Wilting scallions? Some lonely carrots? Toss em in! A serving of odd veggies from the day before last? If you think it'll work and be tasty, waste not, frugal friend!

Thighs are really easy to debone. Don't be afraid. The chicken is already dead, he's not going to care. Rule of thumb is one thigh per person plus one for the pot. Or go with breast halves... same rule. Pull off the skin, cut the meat from the bone, scrape off any fat you can get rid of. Trim anything off that you don't want to eat. If you want to save time on cooking day, debone your chicken and freeze it that way.

Chop your chicken into bite sized pieces and coat with italian dressing. Let it marinate in the fridge for at least a half hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Open your stock and put in a pan to simmer. Add boullion and minced garlic. Add cream soup and stir. The goal here is to have a creamy, pourable liquid, not a lump of can shaped goo.

In a baking pan, add your veggies, rice, spices and some salt & pepper. Add marinated chicken chunks. Pour warm soup stuff over everything. Stir to coat, get it all. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Dump, stir, dump, cover. Cook. How easy is that?


My beau and the kids love beefaroni. I'm not that into Chef Boyardee. Buying as many cans of that crap as I'd have to, to feed our tribe is just crazy. I decided to see if I could just make something like it. It was a hit!

Beefaroni Recipe
1# ground beef
1 can 4 cheese Spaghetti Sauce
2 boxes Mac and cheese - one Kraft and one Crap (or two Kraft if you're not pinching pennies or found a good sale..)

Brown and drain your beef. Boil the water and cook the macaroni for the mac and cheese. Add the cheese sauce packets to the dry beef, stir. Add the spaghetti sauce, stir. Add the cooked and drained macaroni. Stir. Put the pot on a hot (but off) eye with a lid on it and let it settle for about 10 minutes.


I generally serve this with a side of grapes or some other fruit.

This is a simple and quick meal. It's usually one of the first meals that I let the kids test their cooking skills with.

Pantry Pride

A well stocked pantry can save your butt. Doing one from nothing is expensive and sucks. I've found that with a few simple odd things and watching the sales, you can generally stuff your pantry. Here's a few lists of my must haves in the pantry. I try to pick up one or two things just for the pantry when I do my weekly shopping. It's like having a food savings account. With the right crap in your pantry, you can usually pull something out of your hat when you have an empty wallet. If you need just one for a dinner, see if you can afford to get two. If not, ok. Maybe next time.

General dry staples:
These are the ones that it comes in really handy to have when you have to fake something from scratch.
Baking Soda
Baking Powder
Brown Sugar
Corn Flour (Maseca)
Corn Starch
Potato Flakes
Dry beans
Rice - regular and instant
Pasta - 2 different forms, like spaghetti noodles and rotini

Standard Spices:
If I can't get these for 50 cents a bottle, I buy the giant size. We do go through some spices around here.
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Italian Seasoning Mix
Adobo Crillolo
As many different boullion types as I can find.
Lemon Pepper
Chili Powder
Ground Red Pepper
Seasoning Salt

BOGO Stock:
When these come on buy one get one sales or if it's something that is just naturally cheap, make sure you have at least two of them in your pantry and maybe one in the fridge.
Ken's Vidalia Onion Salad Dressing
Ken's Raspberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
Italian Salad Dressing
Caesar Salad Dressing
BBQ Sauce
Kikoman Stir fry sauce (the green label)
Favorite Salad dressing
Rice a roni
Macaroni and cheese
Spray Oil
Taco sauce

You need at least one:
Minced Garlic
Lemon Juice
Pancake syrup
Cake mix
Gravy mixes - beef, chicken, turkey, white, mushroom
Taco mix packet
Fajita mix packet
Sloppy joe sauce (the cheapest you can find)

Canned goods:
Choose 5 different veggies and keep at least 2 cans of each in the pantry.
Spaghetti sauce x3
Tomato sauce
Chopped tomatoes, get a few different variations
Chicken stock
Beef Stock
Veggie Stock
Cream of Chicken Soup
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Chili beans or Kidney beans

Super Cool to have:
Taco Shells
Rice or cellophane noodles
Tiger Sauce
Pickapeppa Sauce
Just add water pancake mix
Water chestnuts
Bamboo shoots

Once you get your pantry stocked, the amount of things you can do with a little of this and that is amazing. It takes a while to get it set up and to remember you have to replace stock from time to time. So worth it.

Making xmas gifts - babbling brainage

This year as usual, money is tight. We have a seriously large extended family. I have to get on the ball with xmas this year.

I'm thinking that for my brother's girls, we may make them beaded bookmarks. We made one for Steele and he loved it. Or I'll start them charm bracelets and get them new charms for birthdays and yule.
Hmmm. Or we could go with my standard fallback position: books.

I could also make my niece an apron. Paige really liked the one I made her last time. The new one could be 1950's style.

Gwen's family will probably get photo albums of the kids. Been wanting to do them for years, so far the count is 5 that I'd have to make and I really should do one for the jailbird. The sick on that one is the man hours of choosing photos and writing/printing a zillion little tags with info on them.
I'm not too sure I have the time to do this one. Again.

I'm considering making fudge and misc candies for gimmies.

Mike's family generally gets store boughten or gift cards.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Grandma's Chicken and dumplings

This recipe was my grandmother's recipe that my father used to make and now it's my turn. I cheat and use boullion rather than boiling down and picking whole chickens. We're a white meat kinda family, so the whole chicken thing doesn't fly so well here. Nanny used to get up at 5am and start making breakfast, supper was usually started by noon. She was old school southern. I start this soup pretty early in the afternoon and clean while it's cooking. The longer it cooks, the better it is. Second day is super yummy!

I add a whole lot more of everything than he used to, but then I'm cooking for 8 for two days with some lunches to go, a bowl for Dad and usually a bowl gets given to a friend. Which calculates to about 22 servings. The soup bowls are kinda big, too.

I have a pasta maker. It's a hand cranked deal that crafters are using for clay nowadays. I like to use it to make the noodles. I often have a child who is more than happy to crank the handle for me while I work the noodles. They like to drop the noodles in the pot as well. Kid fun, yay!

This can be an expensive dish if you really like the veggies. I'm just going to put a list of veggies that work well. Pick the ones you want and add them in until you're happy.

3 large cans of chicken broth
3 Goya chicken boullion cubes
6 Telma chicken bouillion cubes (really really good)
4 whole chicken breasts - skinless boneless
Lemon Pepper
Italian Dressing
3 tbs Minced garlic
2 - 3 tbsp Italian seasoning mix
Veggies, like......
Snow Peas
Red Potatoes

Trim the chicken breasts and put in a ziplock bag, coat them with italian dressing and put in the fridge until the oven gets to 350.

Chop veggies into bite sized pieces. Note: adding corn, broccoli or cabbage will drastically change the flavor. Try it without these first, then go ahead and play with the recipe.

Cook the breasts in a foil covered baking pan, generously spray greased with about a half cup of water in the bottom. Sprinkle the breasts on both sides with lemon pepper, seal the pan and bake for 40 minutes.

Get out the stock pot, dump in the broth and about 6 cups of water. Add the boullion cubes, Italian spices, garlic and the bite size cuts of veggies. I generally have about 6 cups of veggies. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour. Add more water as it cooks if you feel it needs it.

Once the chicken has cooked, if there is liquid in the pan add it to the soup.
Chunk the breasts into bite sized pieces and throw them in the simmering pot.

Now it's time to make the noodles!

I generally do 3 -4 batches of dumplings (noodles), kids and adults steal them outta the pot before and after if I don't make a ridiculous amount of noodles, I hear about it on second day.

1 cup Flour (not self rising unless that's all you have)
1 egg
1 tbs oil (use olive oil if you want to)
1/4t salt
Pepper - about 1/4 tsp, add more if you'd like
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning mix (to make the noodles look special)
a little water

In a bowl, add all dry ingredients, stir and make a well.
Beat the egg and oil together, then pour into the well.
Stir with a fork until it starts to hold together, then knead by hand.
Add water 1 tsp at a time until you get a nice elastic ball.
Rip the ball into halves. Grrrr! Show it who's boss!
Turn the soup up so it'll be at a nice rolling boil when you're ready to drop the noodles in.
I do my noodles in the crank machine to a setting of #5. (Start at #1 - twice, #3 - once, #5 - once)
If you're going low tech and want to roll them out by hand, it's about 1/8th of an inch thick when you get done.
I place my rolled noodle slab on a decently floured board and sprinkle more flour on it and stroke the flour to cover the entire slab. This extra flour is what thickens the soup. Don't use too little or too much. It should be a nice coating about like what you find on decent powdered donuts.
Cut the slab into 3/4 inch by 1 inch rectangles. It's ok if they're not perfect or perfectly square, they taste yummy anyway.

Drop the noodles one at a time into the bubbling center of the pot. After you drop about 20, give the soup a stir and keep dropping until you're out. Take note of the noodles. Yank one out and try it. Does it need more pepper? Is it too thick? Too thin? You can fix it for the rest of your noodles.

I tend to do my noodles one batch at a time so the dough doesn't dry out on me while I'm fighing people away from the soup pot and making more noodles with the help of a child and one or more curious cats.

Do the other half of your dough ball. Roll and drop.

Repeat until you have as many noodles as you want. Like I said, I generally do 3-4 batches. Once you have added all your noodles, turn the pot to a simmer and clean up the wreck you made while making noodles. By the time you're done and have dug all the noodle leavings out from under your nails (usually while grumbling about forgetting to take off your rings) the noodles should be cooked enough to eat.

At the very least, let the pot simmer for a half hour after the last noodle is dropped. It gives the flour a little more time to thicken the soup.

Taste the soup. Does it need anything? Adjust until you're happy.

Grab out the big bowls, you're about to be a dinner goddess.

Split Pea and Ham Soup

This was my first try on this one and it came out really good. Yippie!

Two bags of dried split peas.
One block of cream cheese or One Pint of half and half
Goya Ham Boullion - 6 packets
2 cups diced ham bits
2 tbsp Lemon juice
Pepper to taste

Soak peas overnight.
Cover with water and boil until soft.
Add 6 ham boullion packets while starting to boil.

Once peas are soft, blend soup in food processor or use immersion blender to make smooth. Pour back into soup pot. If you use a food processor, you're gonna have to do it in batches.

Add cream cheese by teaspoons and stir until they have melted and disappeared. You'll have to turn the pot back on to low or medium to keep an even heat in your soup to melt the cream cheese.


Add half and half and stir.

Add lemon juice and chunked ham and let cook for another 15 minutes or so. Don't let it stick to the bottom of the pot.

Taste it. Does it need more ham flavor? More salt? More pepper? More sour? Add what you need to make it taste right. Is it too thick? Add water to get it to a consistency you like. Taste it again after any addition.

If you overdo the sour, add some sugar to fix it.
Sour will fix a too salty problem.
Salt will fix a too sweet problem.
(General rules of thumb

Potato Soup

There are a few kitchen tools that look strange but come in really handy. My current favorite - the immersion blender. (RIP- thunderstick, I loved you!) Mine just broke, but I got a food processor from Freecycle, so I can make do for a while. Also, as mentioned, a food processor. Mine collects dust for months at a time, then for a few months I wear it out. She gets long vacations, but when I need her, she's there. What more can you ask?

To make this recipe, you're gonna need a potato ricer (masher, whatever you were told this silly thing was called) or a food processor or immersion blender. I usually use my low tech, hand held, not electric, potato ricer. It's an odd looking thing that is a stick with a metal circle on the bottom that has all these little squares cut out. Yeah, that thing.


5# red or idaho potatoes (red preferred)
Idaho potato flakes
Goya Ham boullion -Small box has like 6 or 8 packets in it
Medium Onion
Half a bunch of celery - use the leaves and heart
One grated carrot - if you want to, more won't kill the soup
Pint of half & half (or just use milk)
Pepper to taste
Italian spices for fun

Peel and chunk up the potatoes. Cover plus some with water.
Add 6 packets of boullion. Boil until potatoes are soft. Don't let all the water boil out.
Grate the carrot into the soup while it's boiling. Finely mince onion and celery. Toss it in the pot. Let it cook for another half hour or so.

Turn off the eye and move the pot off it. Mash the potatoes into the soup. Make em as small as you want. When you're happy, add the half and half (or milk) and stir it in. Add potato flakes, half cup at a time, stirring and waiting until you're at a consistency you like. Be careful, you may end up with mashed potato flake balls in yer soup. Too thick? Add more milk or water. Add spices.

Taste it. Does it need more ham? Add the other two boullion packets. More pepper?
Some garlic? Have leftover ham? Chunk it up and toss it in. Go ahead, it's just soup not astrophysics.

When it's cold and I see that my local store has bags of potatoes on BOGO, it's time for soup. Yummmmmmmm

If you want to get tricky, switch the onion for some leeks or some scallions.

Soup Recipes - the beginning

When it gets cold, I start making soups, baking and wearing socks. That's how my close, close chums's starting to get brisk in sunny florida.

I also start on soups when it starts getting cash thin around here.

I am going to post my favorite (and cheap) soup recipes. You can add all sorts of stuff depending on how much cash you have and what sales are happening at a store near you.

I generally dig through the veggie bin and occasionally the canned goods to see what I can find to toss in.

Hope you enjoy them and can use them to squeak through on a bad week.
When you know your budget is going to be tight, do a soup that will last for about two days and use the spare funds in your gas tank or wherever.