Friday, February 24, 2012

Daughter chicken potato pot pie

A few days ago, we were having a conversation at the dinner table discussing whether or not Dear Daughter is old enough to make dinner.

We decided daughter would make dinners on Friday, with coaching from me. She decided she wanted to make pot pie.

So, now she is.

She wanted chicken pot pie, so I suggested she prepare a sauce. The choices for the base were:
- vegetable stock
- butternut squash soup
- corn chowder
- V8 potato leek soup
- Campbell's chicken noodle
- Archer Farms Thai lemongrass chicken soup (that would have been my choice -- with some curry and lots of veggies)

She chose potato leek and she also chose a can of potatoes which she cut. She added the soup, cut potatoes and canned chicken to her pot.

She wanted to add spices. She decided against curry, didn't want Italian.
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoon country herb blend

She added to the pot:
- about 2 1/2 cups California blend heated in the microwave
- 1 cup corn
- about 3/4 cup white (great northern beans)

Then she put her pie crust in her deep dish pie pan.

Once she gets it all done we'll bake it...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hot tuna rolls

In a skillet:
- pour a tablespoon oil and sprinkle with a 1/2 teaspoon Ras el Hanout
- slap 1 tortilla shell in warm skillet
- spread with Boursin herbed cheese
- scatter with prepared tuna
- sprinkle with grated extra sharp white cheddar
- leave in skillet, careful not to burn shell, until cheese gets melt
- roll

Yes, I burned mine

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tapioca pudding

My dentist canceled my appt for today, which means no crown for my back molar until it's rescheduled and nothing crunchy any time in the foreseeable future.

So I tried my hand at tapioca pudding.

The Kraft minute tapioca recipe is as follows:
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons minute tapioca
- 2 3/4 cups milk
- 1 egg, well beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients but vanilla in medium saucepan. Let stand five minutes.

Bring mixture to a rapid bowl on medium heat, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.

Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Stir and serve.

But I never follow directions. So my ingredients look like this:
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons minute tapioca
- 2 3/4 cup milk
- 1 egg well beaten
Combine as directed. Let stand.
Before heating, add one cup diced strawberries.
After boiling, add 1 teaspoon almond extract instead of vanilla and a pinch of nutmeg.

Yum! Oh, this is delightful.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cherry Coke Chicken

*WARNING* this is untested. It is a crock pot experiment--but it's a variation of Crock Pot 365's Candy Chicken. THAT is a fabulous recipe.

- about six pieces of chicken breast (my husband cut them, so I'm not sure how big they are. It looks like six breast halves)
- about 16 ounces leftover cherry coke from Target café
- about 3/4 cup brown sugar
- about 1/4 cup maraschino cherries with juice
- 2/3 cup Archer Farm strawberry basil balsamic vinegar
- 2-3 tablespoons Wegmans cherry raspberry vinaigrette dressing
- between 2 teaspoons and 1 tablespoon dried basil

Crock pot. Low. About 8 hours.

After 2 hours, something sweet had, well, congealed. I'm hoping it will melt as the heat increases over time. To help it, I added about eight ounces water and upon tasting it, I tossed in

- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Because it was sickly sweet and a little slimy. Experiments can be risky.

At 12:30 I have deemed this a failure. Congealing got worse. Chicken VERY sweet. Removed to baking pan. Husband has said it's not so bad.

I'm glad I won't be home for dinner.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Budget contemplating on pizza night

My jaw feels almost perfect these days, despite the obvious exposed bone in my gum line. I have even chewed some food on that side of my mouth, and I can say that the healing where #29 was is in better shape than the last bottom molar on the other side of my mouth.

I go in to my regular dentist Tuesday to have that tooth tackled, so this weekend may be a storing-up-calories pig out in case I am reduced to pudding and yogurt once again.

We delivered girl scout cookies tonight, ones that had not been paid for. Our family pooled our funds and decided to stop at Dario's for pizza on the way home.

I had $14, my husband had $16 and the cookies yielded $14.

Large white with fresh ricotta, chopped tomatoes, broccoli and spinach = $15. Add a drink for the child, a 2-liter of coke for Mom and Dad, some fried zucchini sticks and French fries and the bill was just under $25 before tip.

This got me thinking about our budget:

- We spent $460 on medical expenses.
- $271 on groceries (and some of that was 'extra' food storing up for when I'd be traveling for two weeks in January)
- $236 on dining out (bad us: Target café, Target Starbucks, Five Guys, Wawa, MexTex Trio, Dario's, Forks Mediterranean Deli and China Fun. But in our defense, that $236 covered 17 transactions)
- our spending for the month was $1,000 more than our income, so we visited and depleted the savings account. Those medical expenses and our quarterly bills (water, sewer, garbage, life insurance) snuck up on us

- Overall spending was $300 more than income, which considering I was out of work for almost a month is reasonable
- groceries amounted to $136
- dining was $157, this included seven transactions. Two visits to Tic Toc diner, a trip to Friendly's on the way home from Girl Scout camp, MexTex Trio.

- This month our spending is on track to match our income
- I've spent $127 on groceries, but that doesn't include the $81 at Wegmans where I used gift cards
- dining: $89, including tonight's pizza, Chinese to celebrate daughter's report card, Joe's Steaks and several coffee runs.

Must curb spending. I can do better.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Homemade guacamole and burritos

I bought an avocado on a whim over the weekend. So this led to a small batch of guacamole last night. I improvised some ingredients, kept forgetting to buy a lime.

- 1 avocado, mashed
- about 1 teaspoon canola oil
- about 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- about 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons diced green chilis
- 1 small tomato, seeds removed and diced

Mix all ingredients except tomato and chilis. When well mixed, add the remaining ingredients. Let flavors blend for about an hour before serving.

My sister-in-law had given us a box of Rice-a-Roni Spanish rice so I handed it to my seven-year-old and told her to prepare it. I told her it wasn't home cooking, but it was good practice in following directions which would help her learn to read a recipe.

She did great.

Meanwhile, I sliced the leftover sirloin from valentines day and gathered more chilis, tomato, lettuce and a multitude of salsas to make burritos.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Canned black bean vegetable soup

It's cold & damp & I'm exhausted & feeling phlegmy & afraid I'm coming down with a cold.

I poured myself some water and dropped in some Aspirine UPSA with vitamin C (French effervescent aspirin) and opted for canned soup. Easy on my mouth, good for my soul.

I had grabbed a can of Amy's Organics black bean vegetable from Target during the weekend, $2.19 for two servings. While the salt content is outrageous (620 mg of sodium per serving or 26% of the RDA), the other nutritional content proofed beefy for a soup.

Other nutritional info, per serving:
- 1.5 grams total fat
- 5 g/ 20% daily fiber
- 6 g/ 10% protein
- 20% vitamin A
- 8% vitamin C
- 4% calcium
- 8% iron

The label claims it's GMO free, vegan and gluten free.

Now, dumping it out of the can is gross. The water comes first, then the puréed beans with vegetable matter in it. When it heated and blended to a single consistency, it proved delicious and hearty.

Very happy soup.

All I need

Yesterday, in Wegmans, I fell prey to the croissants. I wanted at least one of each: plain, almond, and chocolate. I know my daughter prefers chocolate, but I'm not sure about my husband... And if I got almond, would they feel left out?

So I bought one of each for each of us. Now I have a colleague who swears Giant makes the best croissants, but I have yet to have a taste test them side by side with Wegmans and it should be done in close proximity to a trip to Europe.

Anyway, croissants are $1.25 (they used to be $1.50) so it's a good example of near absolute purchasing power parity, since croissants are 1 euro in Paris, and the exchange rate is about $1.30 per euro.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Oven roasted potatoes and carrots

This recipe is based on:

- four organic carrots, peeled and chopped into pieces no larger than an inch
- about 8 baby red potatoes quartered

Arrange in baking dish and prepare dressing. Preheat oven to 450.

Dressing Ingredients
- not quite 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- a few splashes (2-3 tablespoons?) strawberry basil balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon country herb blend
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon basil

Mix and drizzle on vegetables, mixing well. Cook for 30-40 minutes.


Valentines Feast

I got my stitches out today. I'm almost back to where I was before this whole debacle started-- toothless for the #29 slot but healthy-- thanks to my diligent periodontist. We try again June 14, giving my jaw plenty of time to heal.

In the meantime, I have a healing hole on the right side of my mouth and a molar that needs repair on the left. Doesn't leave me much options for chewing, but that back left molar is my dentist's project for next Tuesday.

My husband had suggested picking out a cake from Wegmans for Valentine's Day. So, armed with the remaining $37 on the Wegmans gift card from my mom and a $50 gift card I had hanging around I decided to find something to cook for dinner.

What did I get?

Keep in mind, today was a splurge day, and it was cheaper than going out to dinner since we didn't eat all of it tonight.

- 4 of Wegmans perfect portion sirloin steaks, organic and grass fed, 2 per pack, one pack $10.26, the other $9.90
- 90-10 ground beef, $5.15
- club pack of boneless chicken breasts, $11.02
- port salut cheese, $4.20
- medium Brie, $6.37
- 9 croissants: 3 plain, 3 chocolate, 3 almond, $1.25 each
- baguette, $2.25
- Wegmans ultimate white cake (the small one), $6.50
- watermelon chunks, 10 ounces, $3.49
- French blend bagged salad, $2.50
- baby red potatoes, $3.99
- one pound organic carrots, $1.19
- Wegmans raspberry cherry vinaigrette dressing, $3.29

Total $81.36

1st course: watermelon
2nd course: pan-seared sirloin with roasted potatoes and carrots
3rd course: salad with mandarin oranges, dried blueberries, dried strawberries and the cherry raspberry dressing
4th course: cheese platter of baguette with port salut and brie
5th course: ultimate white cake

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Well, hello Target

Last week when we shopped at Target to get a few things after my opening cashier shift (which I completed with near perfect speed scores with a raging infection in my jaw bone, if you recall), my husband noticed a funky new type of Arm and Hammer cat litter on sale and swore we had a Target coupon for it.

No big deal, I said. I had my Thursday shift and could get some.

I forgot.

So today I have a closing shift in the café and I don't relish lugging 28 pounds of cat litter around the store before, during or after my shift.

I went with my husband while daughter was in dance.

We spent $47.09 and got:
- Oscar Mayer roast beef deli slices, $3
- Fresh Express greens (for Blue the tortoise), $2.99
- bag of Roma tomatoes, $1.99 (regularly $3.99)
- Amy's Organic black bean vegetable soup, $2.19
- Archer Farms buffalo blue cheese dip, $2.99
- Simply Asia sesame noodles, 2 boxes at $2.49 each
- avocado, 99 cents
- archer farms blueberry streusel bread, $3.29
- market pantry unbleached flour, $2.84
- 3 lbs gala apples, $3.99 minus $1 target coupon
- market pantry Asian blend frozen vegetables, $1.37
- archer farms steam in bend California blend in garlic butter sauce, $2.29
- market pantry frozen cut broccoli, $1.02
- market pantry frozen California blend, $1.37
- market pantry sweet potato fries, $1.97
- market pantry beef ravioli (they dodn't have spinach), $2.99
- Chobani yogurt, 2 at $1.19 each
- market pantry whipped cream cheese, $1.99
- 28 pounds cat litter, sale price $10.19 minus $3 target coupon
- three pounds salmon Purina beyond cat food, $7.29 minus $2 target coupon
- extra target coupon for $1.50 off a $5 purchase of fresh produce

Subtotal: $54.61
Team member discount: -$5.63
RedCard discount: -$2.45
Tax: 56 cents
Total: $47.09

Archer Farms Mocha Breakfast Bread

Target's Archer Farms Breakfast Breads have a new flavor: Mocha. These breads are on the pricy side, around $3 a loaf, but a slice of toast or a peanut butter sandwich on these desserty breads can do wonders for the spirit.

We've already tried blueberry, apple fritter and berry muesli, so when I saw "Mocha" I had to try it. Chocolate with a hint of espresso.

1 slice has 3 grams of protein, 120 calories, 1 gram saturated fat, 135 mg sodium (which sounds like a lot, but the Sara Lee 100% whole wheat my father-in-law brought has 100 mg a slice. I need to get making bread again), 1 gram fiber, 8 g sugar (hence why I call it part dessert, 2% RDA calcium, and 6% iron.

These breads can also liven up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Most of the varieties do contain milk products.

Toast is one of my favorite meals, so you can see why I adore these.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bubble Chai

My friend Gayle went to a Chinese New Year's celebration and tried "Bubble Tea" which she enjoyed and thought I would enjoy too.

She found a basic recipe online and emailed it to me:

1/2 cup chilled, cooked large tapioca pearls (if substituting smaller tapioca, use 1/3 cup)*
1 cup crushed ice
1 cup very strong chilled black tea (or orange pekoe tea or Lichee tea)
1 cup milk or to taste
Honey or granulated sugar to taste

I bought precooked tapioca last night at Target so this and homemade pudding top my list.

In my blender, I soaked
- 1/3 cup tapioca
- 1/2 cup very vanilla soy milk
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon local honey (all I have left)

While that soaks, I have one
- organic chai tea bag by Tazo
Steeping in
- 1 cup boiling water

Now I'm going to add
- 1 cup small ice cubes
To my blender and crush the ice

Once the tea gets really dark, I'll combine them

Blueberry Muffin Better Oats

A couple days ago we tried Better Oats maple and brown sugar-- but I was disappointed that I didn't notice it had sucralose. Today we're trying the "Blueberry Muffin" variety, which does NOT have artificial sweeteners.

Even made with water, it's got a rich flavor. I like it. And when we had it the other morning, it kept me full almost until lunch. No small feat.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Afternoon cookie shake

The girl scout cookies came (daughter sold 187 boxes this year). And since I'm chewing impaired, I thought I'd crumble some and sprinkle them on pudding or yogurt.

We ran out of pudding and all the yogurts were weird fruity flavors.

And so I looked in the freezer. My father-in-law brought Friendly's individual fudge sundaes.

I got out the blender. In the blender, I threw in it:

- 1 Friendly's individual sundae, having fed my daughter the chocolate chips
- about 8 ounces very vanilla soy milk
- about 4 ounces coffee
- 2 thin mints
- 2 peanut butter patties

Better Oats Instant Oatmeal

I'm not a big believer in instant oatmeal, preferring to make my own oats or cream of wheat and flavor them at my own discretion.

After my first bout of dental surgery, I thought instant oatmeal might be a nice change from the pudding and yogurt and other assorted mush I've been eating.

But reviewing the instant oatmeal, none of them packed any real nutrition (even Target's Archer Farm varieties) so it seemed pointless to buy them.

And then I found "Better Oats." Reasonably priced, with vitamins and minerals and an ingredient list I can read. I grabbed maple and brown sugar and blueberry muffin.

We tried the maple this morning. We followed the directions and used water instead of our usual milk or soy milk. It tasted fine, but I was very disappointed to see it had sucralose in it. Why does our society have to add artificial sweetener to everything? I won't buy this flavor again.

Another day we'll try the blueberry, which does not have any surprising ingredients. Well, except for flax seed.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Post op dinner

I'm pleasantly surprised. My mother-in-law brought us smoked sausage which my husband felt needed to be cooked so we made for my post op mouth Bush's vegetarian baked beans and Green Giant's steam-in-bag antioxidant vegetable blend. Husband and daughter also had a side of zaatar bread. But I even managed to eat a few bites of sausage!

Sadly no fancy meals...

I had my two-week post-op follow up on my dental implant today. I've had some intense pain with this procedure so I suspected something was wrong.

The periodontist did an exam and had me screaming as soon as he stuck his hand in my mouth. Apparently I had a "super infected" area under the implant where they extracted the tooth chip that had been missed by my oral surgeon in May.

With an amazing show of bedside manner, my periodontist removed the implant, cleaned the infection, and performed a bone graft. He stitched me up, commented on my toughness, and told me to keep taking my antibiotics. (I broke down yesterday afternoon and called because I was in so much pain.)

I didn't expect to have dental surgery this morning... So it's back to pudding, yogurt and smoothies...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday night lament

I've got a partial batch of chômeur pudding in the oven while I debate more ibuprofen. I'm still in much pain. My husband has a cold and we're super broke.

We did do a touch of grocery shopping after my shift at Target, which I'll have to replace the money we spent before the mortgage comes due. I had to break down and shop because otherwise I'd be whipping out the credit cards for takeout.

First, I was traveling.

Then I had the dental surgery from Hell.

It's impossible to meal plan and grocery shop with pain radiating through your jaw, but somehow I bought food. Not great food but food...

I spent $73.63 and bought:
- Mrs. Paul's Fish Filets, on clearance for $3.17
- two loaves Archer Farm breakfast bread, one apple fritter and one mocha (that sounds exotic and decadent), $3.29 each
- pretzel rolls, $2.49
- new England blueberry cobbler coffee, $6.79 (we had company coming)
- chock full of nuts coffee, $3.59
- better oats (instant oatmeal that actually has some nutritional punch), maple and brown sugar and blueberry muffin, five pouches each, $1.79 per five-serving box (2 boxes)
- bigelow plantation mint tea, $2.19
- Lipton green tea, one box mixed berry and one box vanilla and black currant, $1.87 each
- archer farm steam in bag Thai vegetable blend, $2.29
- archer farm lime cilantro steam in bag rice with poblano peppers and corn, $2.29
- old orchard 100 percent apple raspberry juice frozen concentrate, 3 at $1.47 each
- pillsbury pie crusts, 2 at $2.49 each
- one dozen large eggs, 99 cents
- six Chobani yogurts, $1 each
- archer farms spinach pizza, $4.99
- 100 for women vitamins, $3.99 minus $1 coupon
- breath right strips, free after coupon
- up and up nighttime cold medicine $4.04
- Kleenex, 2 boxes, $1.69 and $1.62, minus 75 cent coupon
- pencils for school valentines, $3
- squeegee, $1
- Morningstar breakfast patties, 3 at $3.69, plus a box of Morningstar corn dogs, also $3.69

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Apple fun breakfast

We're in a hurry this morning because child is taking three times longer than usual to do everything. Sigh.

Her breakfast this morning is "fun apples."

Slice an apple and serve with:
- a small dipping bowl of cinnamon sugar
- a butter knife and peanut butter
- raisins