Thursday, October 29, 2009

The one where I have a mid life crisis

This Saturday Jason and I are going to the second wedding this month. It would be an understatement to say that I am sick of going to weddings. Last week’s was really nice. My younger cousin got married at a small ceremony and your typical eat a bunch of wedding cookies and get drunk as possible reception, except that I didn’t drink and none of the cookies really interested me, but you get the idea. So amidst the cookies and drunkenness of others my various relatives felt the need to question me on when I am getting married and offer unsolicited advice as to why I should/shouldn’t get married. My favorite of the night was my uncle telling Jason, “I was with my wife for 15 years before we got hitched!” At points I just had to laugh, not because it was funny, but to keep from crying. Jason and I have always joked around about it though. We are the nonchalant couple who doesn’t care what people think and who don’t feel the “need” to get married. This has been fine for the last 2 years of living together but now that’s getting kind of old. But me, being the “good” girlfriend I am, of course never brings it up. Instead I just blog about my insecurities amongst recipes for cookies and cream sauce. But seriously have I fallen victim to the old adage “Why buy the cow when you getting the milk for free?” The worst part of the whole thing is that I usually just tell myself that I should feel lucky just to have an awesome boyfriend. Which I am and I know that. I just sometimes feel like I am in a catch 22. I can’t say to Jason “Why don’t you want to marry me?” because then it would be awkward and make Jason feel pressured to propose, which I don’t want, I want him to want to propose. But also I feel stupid. I mean, what am I doing wrong? Why would he not want to marry me? So at the end of the day I’m back to where I started which is not a bad place to be. Maybe just not the place I want to be right now. But you can’t always get what you want… Story of my life.

Stay tuned for regularly scheduled recipes and non ranting posts!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Restocking my Pantry

Spending $5 dollars on groceries for the past 2 weeks was so helpful! I was glad that I was able to save money and use what I had on hand. I made pretty much everything that I listed before and a few additional thing, like cookies and fresh bread. The only bad thing about using things from my pantry is that now I feel like I have nothing left! So my grocery budget this week will probably be more like $40 dollars instead of the typical $20. But the way I see it, everything is evening out in the end since I only spent around $30 dollars on groceries in Oct so far instead of the typical $60 dollars that I would have spent by now.

So this week I will be cooking for myself and Jason (yay!). Im glad that he will be home and not have to travel for work for about another month or so. This week I am going to be cooking a bunch of things in the crock pot and continuing to pack my lunch every day. Here is my menu:

Breakfasts: Granola, zucchini muffins, english muffins with peanut butter, and fruit.

Lunches: leftovers, soup from the freezer (which I made last week), hummus with tortilla and carrots, hard boiled eggs, and fruit.


Monday- Crock pot Zucchini Parmesan- I don't use a recipe for this. I just add a jar of sauce, 2 cups of zucchini, 1 cup of ricotta cheese to the crock pot. Then sprinkle it with mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs and cook on low for 6 hours.
Tuesday- Mushroom stroganoff
Wednesday- Pierogie casserole
Thursday- Bean and rice
Friday- Creamy rice with mushrooms and peas
Saturday- Pasta with tomato cream sauce- I adapted this recipe from one I found in a cook book that I found at goodwill- classy I know. The cookbook was from the 50's and it was all about home freezing, it is quite possibly my favorite cookbook ever. Anyway, the recipe is sooo easy..

Tomato cream sauce

1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic
3 tbsp butter
8 oz can of tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry white wine (or chicken stock)

In a pan saute onion and garlic in butter (Pretty please use butter! I tried olive oil and cooking spray and neither compare to the amazing taste that the butter gives to the sauce) Once the onions and garlic are somewhat soft and translucent add one 8 oz can of tomato sauce and 1/2 cup of dry white wine. cook for about 5 minutes to let alcohol cook off. Next add the heavy cream. Simmer for 5 minutes and voila the best cream sauce ever!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Yellow cake mix turned chocolate cookies

On Sunday I had a serious craving for chocolate. I scoured my (almost barren) pantry and all I came up with was a yellow cake mix. That definitely would not help my craving for chocolate. So I scoured the internet for inspiration and came up with the idea to turn my yellow cake mix into a chocolate cake mix, and then turn the cake mix into cookies. Perfectly logical steps right?

I got the recipe from this blog, which I just found. I suggest checking it out. It has some amazing recipes!

To turn my cake mix from yellow to chocolate I added 1/4 cup of cocoa powder. Then I added 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of oil, and about 3 tablespoons of water. The original recipe from the blog above calls for 1/3 cup of oil but I used 1/4 cup and they turned out really good!

The batter kind of looks like ground meat which was gross. Luckily it smelled like chocolate!

I then rolled the batter into calls and placed them onto a cookie sheet (which I lined with foil for easy clean up, because I'm lazy like that)

Next I flattened them out and baked them at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

I bet you're all wondering what professional kitchen gadget I used to flatten out all of the balls and keep them looking so uniform. Was it pampered chef? Kitchen Aid? An antique cookie press handed down for generations?

Nope... it was happy harvest tomato sauce. Which it a very useful kitchen gadget! It serves so many functions! It can be used as a rolling pin, cookie press, meat tenderizer, and when combined with white wine, onions, and cream it makes a delicious cream sauce!

These cookies came out so so sooooo good! They are going to be my new default cookie. You can use different cake mixes for different flavors too. I can't wait to try a carrot cake and top the cookies with cream cheese icing. Yum!

my $5 a week grocery budget is working out really well! I didn't originally plan for it to include cookies but thanks to my pantry and the eggs that I bought last week I could get my chocolate fix and stick to the budget!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

$5 a Week on Groceries

So the past few days/week has been pretty crazy. I have a cold and have been feeling really yucky for the past few days, which is never fun. Jason left for a work trip on Monday, which he will be on for 2 weeks. Then today I found out that I over drafted my checking account, which I haven't done in at least 5+ years. On the bright side, thing can only get better from here! Ah the glamourous, under paid, life of a social worker. I remember watching movies or TV shows and seeing social worker and thinking wow that would be an awesome job. And it is, most of the time. But what the TV shows and movies don't portray is that most social workers make next to nothing. I'm not complaining though. I am thankful just to have a job in an economy where so many do not.

I had fully planned on grocery shopping this week and then being sick threw me off schedule. Thankfully I didn't go or I would have over drafted my account even more. So I went shopping today after work and budgeted $10 which I plan to last me until next Friday. Meaning I spent on avergae $5 for this week and $5 for next week. The menu I made is for lunches and dinners. Lukily I have somethings in the freezer and pantry. Unfortunately I didn't go grocery shopping last week, and just picked up a few things. So this is really going to depleat what is in my panrty but I am glad that I am semi prepared and able to make 2 weeks of lunches and dinners for $10.

Here is what I bought...

A bag of potatoes, A can of corn, sour cream, 1 dozen eggs, cheese, a bag of onions, 1 container of cream, a bag of carrots, english muffins, and hummus.

Here is what I'll be eating...

Lunches: PB&J, english muffin pizza's, hummus on tortilla, left over soup, pasta, hard boiled eggs, and left overs from dinner


Thursday- Vegetarian chili using tomato soup and beans from the pantry, peppers and TVP from the freezer, and onions which I just bought

Friday- Ravioli with tomato cream sauce using ravioli from the freezer, sauce from my pantry, and cream which I just bought

Saturday- Corn chowder using a can of corn, potatoes, carrots, onions, and cream that I just bought.

Sunday- Crock pot curry using potatoes onions and carrots that I just bought and tomato paste, peppers, curry powder, and pea which I had already

Monday- Taco's using TVP, peppers, and tomatoes from the freezer, tortilla that I already had, sour cream that I just bought.

Tuesday- Mac and Cheese using noodles from my pantry and cheese and cream that I just bought

Wednesday- Potato soup using potatoes, onions, and cream that I just bought and faux chicken boullion that I had on hand

Thursday- Rice pilaf using rice and pea's that I have on hand and onions and carrots that I just bought

Friday- Spaghetti using noodles I had on hand and left over sauce from the ravioli.

I hope this didn't bore you too much. I just wanted to show that even when money is very tight you can still throw together tasty meals. The other life saver for me was definately shopping at aldi's. If I would have shopped anywhere else I probably would have spent 15-20 dollars for the same things. If you have an Aldi's near you and have never gone try it out!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How to buy meat for .49 cents a pound

One of the advantages of being a vegetarian is that I never have to pay the ridiculously high prices for meat. A few months into being a vegetarian I found the morning star veggie crumbles. They are in a word, amazing! They taste exactly like ground meat. The only down side to the morning star veggie crumbles is that they are on avergae 3.50 per bag (1 bag = 1 pound of "meat"). At that price I might as well buy meat. Except that I don't eat meat. So I looked at what the crumbles are made of and decided that it couldnt be that hard to recreate them. That when I was introduced to the wonderful world of TVP.

Here are the basics about TVP:

What is TVP?
TVP stands for textured vegetable protein. TVP is a food product made from soybeans. It is produced from soy flour after the soybean oil has been extracted, then cooked under pressure, extruded, and dried.

Benefits of TVP
TVP is very high in protein and fiber and has zero cholesterol.
With TVP you never have to worry about ecoli or other bacteria that is associated with cooking raw meat.
The shelf life of TVP that has been dried and stored in an airtight container is 2 years. I don't know any meat with a shelf life of 2 years!

Generally I can find one pound of dried TVP from the bulk bins for $1.49 per lb. Rehydrated TVP triples itself. So that breaks down to 3 pounds of meat for $1.49 or $.49 a pound! When Making tacos burritos or other mexican dishes I also tend to put 1 part rice to 2 parts TVP which make it stretch even farther.

How to cook with TVP
To rehydrate, add 1 cup boiling water (or stock) to 1 cup TVP and cook 6-10 minutes in the microwave. If making TVP in small batches I will add taco seasoning, powdered BBQ seasoning, garlic powder or other flavoring to the water that I rehydrate the TVP with. Usually I make TVP in large batches and freeze it once its been rehydrated so all I have to do is take a scoop from the freezer and heat it up. If I make TVP this way I cook it plain and add the seasoning as its reheating.

For meat eaters a good way to introduce TVP into your diet (and trick your family) is to mix a bit of TVP into your meat dish and gradually increase the amount until you are cooking with primarily TVP. Your family will not be able to tell the difference between ground meat and TVP, its amazing!

I hope this helped to open some minds to TVP and some people will give it a try! If you have any questions please ask!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mushroom Stroganoff

Lately I have been in such a cooking rut. I feel like I cook the same meals every week- taco's, pasta, stiry fry, and soup.So last week I decided that I am going to try and make something new every week. Last week the new recipe I tried was Mushroom stroganoff. I never liked beef stronganoff when I ate meat but this recipe was amazing and really easy to make! I found it on recipe zaar. If you have never used recipe zaar go right now and use it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Soup, Soup, Soup

This week has been cold, rainy, and all around dreary. Yuck! This weather makes me want to put on sweatpants, lay under blankets and eat soup from my crock pot. Well not exactly from my crock pot (I just got a crazy visual of me sitting down with a spoon and my crock pot- not that it would be unheard of to do something like that), but soup that has been made in my crock pot while I sit around and eat bon bons and watch daytime TV. When I first became a vegetarian soup was one of the things that I missed the very most. Sure there are vegetarian soups out there- vegetarian vegetable, potato soup, tomato, etc But the soups I was craving were all chicken stock based soups. A lot of vegetarians just simply substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock. I am not one of those vegetarians. I have a confession to make- I. hate. hate. hate. vegetable stock. With 3 hates. Its just so gross and flavorless or the flavor it does have it that of celery. There is no need for a big pot of celery water. Yuck. Luckily I found an awesome brand of faux chicken stock at my local kosher store and it is amazing! My vegetarian soup possibilities have increased exponentially! So without further ado here are a few of my favorite soups…

Stuffed pepper soup

1 package veggie Crumbles (I use morning star or boca)
2 quarts water
1 (28 ounce) can stewed tomatoes (undrained)
1 (29 ounce) can tomato soup
2 cups cooked long-grain rice
2 cups chopped green bell peppers (about 2 large peppers)
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. You can substitute ground beef for the veggie crumbles but I would suggest browning it first before adding it to the crock pot.

Loaded baked potato soup

2 cups potatoes peeled and chopped into cubes
1 8oz pack of cream cheese
2 cups chicken stock
½ onion- chopped
Baked potato toppings of your choice such as bacon, chives, sour cream, etc

Combine potatoes, onion, and chicken stock in a pan and bring to a boil. Once potatoes are tender you can either mash potatoes with a potato masher, blend in blender or pulse in your food processor. It just depends on what kind of texture you are looking for. Once blended add cream cheese and stir until melted. Spoon soup into bowls and top with your choice of baked potato toppings.

Tortellini soup

4 cups chicken stock
½ onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 package of frozen spinach
½ cup carrots peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon celery salt
1 package tortellini

In a sauce pan sauté onions and garlic until tender. Add all remaining ingredients except for tortellini and bring to a rolling boil. Let boil for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!