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Monday Musings: 02.25.2014 Edition February 24, 2014

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Freezer Meals, Home, Information, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff, Review.
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Boy, there for a minute, we almost started thinking about spring!  The weather this weekend has been, well, the word that comes to mind is temperate.  Not too cold – we actually came close to 50 at one point! – and sunny, to boot!

Although we didn’t need much (which is just as well, since the selection is pretty slim this time of year), it was nice to walk around at the Public Market without freezing for a change!

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Okay, I would like to pause for a moment and congratulate myself.

For the past few years, I’ve been carrying FOUR cell phones on my account – mine and Peeps, sure, but also The Boy‘s and Peeps’s mom’s, as well.

Let me just say – that kind of thing starts to add up!    Even when three of the four of us were just using basic phones – none of that fancy smart-phone stuff.

So now. . . the other two have transferred their phones to their OWN accounts, and Peeps and I?  Well, we closed our account and went with a new(ish), no-contract carrier called Republic Wireless.

Basically, we bought the phones outright ($300 each (ouch) BUT that’s what credit cards are for), and from here on out, our service is $25 a month each, plus tax, for unlimited talk, text, AND data.  No contracts, no extra charges, no nothing.

Plus?  I’ve got the Internet in my pocket, guys!

The service has been great, we love the phones (Motorola’s Moto X), and we’ve both been extremely happy.  And it’s significantly cheaper than the basic cell service with the other company.  Where’s the bad?

If you want to check it out for yourself, click on the Republic logo above –  either for more information or even to sign up yourself.  In addition, just until the end of the month, if you do use the referral link above, Republic is offering a $19 credit on new plans.

*  Unsolicited opinions here.  The only renumeration I may (or may not) receive would be a $19 credit to me, too, if anyone signs up using that link, which they’ve offered to all their customers, so . . .

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.   I’ve got another busy week ahead at work – it’s getting to be that time of the year, I guess!   It’s still a little weird with Peeps frequently getting home later than I do, but, on the bright side, we’re not getting up before 4AM !

Monday – We have some veal shanks in the freezer, which will cook reasonably quickly in the pressure cooker!  Several years ago, I found this recipe for ossobuco bianco, and, although we’ve only made it a few times, we love it.  I may also try risotto in the rice cooker – I think that’ll be a perfect complement.

Tuesday – I’m kind of embarrassed about this, but, ever since the Ukraine thing has been in the news last week, I’ve had Chicken Kiev on my mind.  (I’m pretty sure the Ukrainian rebels would probably be less than impressed that FOOD is what I think of when their government is overthrown, but what can I say?  At least it’s lovely, garlicky-buttery chicken!)  Maybe with some barley and broccoli.

Wednesday –  I kept stumbling across two partial bags of frozen corn in the freezer – it was driving me nuts!  So . . . you know what you do with two partial bags of corn?  You make corn chowder.  I used the last of the chicken from last week’s roast chicken, along with some of last summers corn stock, and BOY is this gonna be good!

Thursday –  My most recent dog food purchase has  reminded me (again!) how important it is to keep the freezer under control – what goes in MUST come out!  As it happens, Peeps opened the freezer door the other day, and a container of pork sugo fell out.  Ha – saute the broccoli rabe we picked up at the market, and we’ve got dinner!

Friday – Friday night is always pizza night for us – the crust sits in the fridge and ferments all week, and we’ve got plenty of homemade sauce, salami, ricotta, mozzarella, provolone, basically whatever we’re in the mood for.  And, of course, Jar’s Kong!

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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The wing is the thing August 23, 2012

Posted by Peeps in Cooking, Food, Freezer Meals, random stuff.
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One of the things I noticed when I first moved up here, is the somewhat unusual attachment people have with chicken wings.

I recall a couple times back in the days when I still ordered pizza when they asked me if I wanted wings with my order. Why would I? That’s just strange.

I suppose it has something to do with our proximity to Buffalo, where wings got their start. Not that I have anything against wings. I don’t. I just don’t consider them a staple. Usually.

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The other day while looking for something in the freezer, we found a bag of split chicken wings that had been in there far too long. So, we decided to make up an old favorite from when we had the shop. Asian chicken wings.

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Place two pound of split chicken wings into a gallon zip top freezer bag. Then add 1/3 cup of honey, 3 tablespoons asian chili sauce (or homemade sirracha, if you have it), 3 tablespoons oyster sauce, 3 tablespoons sesame oil, three teaspoons of minced fresh ginger, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, three tablespoons of soy sauce and about 2/3 of a cup of thinly sliced scallions all straight into the bag.  That’s it, you’re done.

Since the bag of wings we found was four pounds, we actually did this twice, with one bag going right back into the freezer for another day.

When you want to do these, let the bag of seasoned wings thaw in the refrigerator completely. Then preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

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Line a baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray. Place the wings and whatever sauce you can manage to get out of the bag into the baking sheet and cook for 25 to 35 minutes, turning occasionally.

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When the wings are done, set the oven to broil, and broil wings for 8 to 10 minutes until wings are slightly crispy and the sauce has thickened. You are now ready to serve.

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We haven’t done these in years. Wings are far from the healthiest of meals. Even these, that aren’t deep fried, cannot be considered good for you.

However, they are really good. They’re simple to make up. You can keep a batch or two in your freezer and once thawed they cook in very short order.

You should probably try them. At least once. You’ll be glad that you did. As long as you have plenty of napkins on hand.

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Easy AND Cheesy March 3, 2011

Posted by Toy Lady in Business, Cooking, Freezer Meals.
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I’ve mentioned before that Saturday evenings around here have essentially become “pasta night.”  Not officially, like Wednesdays are “soup night” – more out of laziness and, well, lack of imagination, I guess.

That, and we really like pasta.

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Plus, pasta dishes are usually fast and cheap.  Sure, you can go with something a little more involved, but it’s certainly more than easy to make a quick dinner with pasta as the base, too.

So we’ve got some ideas for some quick – as well as not-so-quick – pasta meals.

Doesn’t everyone?

One of our favorites originated several years ago, from an Alton Brown recipe.

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We’ve done a bit of tweeking over the years, including adapting it as a “freezer meal” for our now-defunct meal-prep business.

And it occurred to us – we haven’t had our stovetop mac-and-cheese in, well, we couldn’t remember how long, which means it had been a while.

And since we had everything on hand, well, why not?

We started by shredding an 8-ounce package of cheddar.  I like the super- sharp cheddar, but then, I’m a Dairy State gal – I do love my cheese!  In this case, we went with Cabot’s Vermont White, I think.

Orange cheese works nicely too.

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The cheese gets set aside, while we beat together the bechamel ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1/2 tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. dried mustard
  • 2 eggs

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You’re going to want to whisk that together while your pasta is cooking – 1/2 lb. of elbow macaroni.

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Cook the pasta to just barely done, about 6-8 minutes for elbows.

Then drain and return to the pot, and toss a couple of tablespoons of butter into the macaroni to melt.

Once the butter is melted, and the pasta is slightly cooled, you can add the egg-and-evaporated milk mixture.

That way the egg won’t scramble in the pasta.

 

PhotobucketAnd once the egg mixture is combined with the pasta, turn the heat back on low, and, while cooking gently, add the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring and melting after each addition.

Now I’m going to admit – this is a lot of cheese for half a pound of pasta.  And decent cheese is not a low-fat food.  (Though it is dairy, and that’s a plus, right?)  Of course, you could add some steamed broccoli or something if you’re really worried about it.

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Or you could just relax and enjoy an occasional indulgence, and know that you’ve got enough left for lunch Monday, then it’s gone.

I  pick that.

Chicken and Stuffing is Easy Enough January 6, 2011

Posted by Toy Lady in Business, Freezer Meals, random stuff.
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You may (or may not) remember the couple of times Peeps and I have mentioned our prior business life – the one where we ran a meal-prep business.

What we  basically did was help people who otherwise probably wouldn’t have bothered with cooking step away from the Lean Cuisine and Domino’s for at least a spell.

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It was amazing to see grown women (mostly women – some men) who had never actually touched raw meat, or who were unfamiliar with the most basic of ingredients.

Yes, that’s what a chopped up onion looks like. . .

And honestly, these people were the reason we started this business.  People who needed someone to just help point them in the direction of home-cooking.

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One of our most popular meals (both among our customers and among us!) was a chicken and stuffing bake – originally designed to be baked in individual muffin tins (oh, how cute!), Peeps and I both agree that we prefer it baked all together in a single pan.

We start with the basic chicken (chopped into bite-sized pieces) and diced onions and celery, to which we add some chicken broth and seasoning (salt, pepper, poultry seasoning).

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When that all gets mixed together, you stir in a couple of cups of those stuffing croutons that, while they’re front and center in the supermarkets around the holidays, they’re still available if you look for them the rest of the year.

Everything gets stirred together, dumped into a greased pan (or muffin tin if that’s the way you want to roll) and baked.

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We use a loaf pan, but if you doubled the recipe, you’d use a square pan, and if you went the muffin tin route, you’d use six.

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Bake at 375 until the chicken part of the show is done (if you’re the thermometer type, look for 165-degrees) – it’s going to take, all told, 40-50 minutes.

And if you’re really in a holiday mood, roasting some squash while the chicken – stuffing is baking is certainly not a bad idea.  In fact, it’s not a bad idea even if you’re not in a holiday mood – it’s mighty darned good!

And here, for your mealtime pleasure, is a printable version right here.

November’s Third Thursday: It’s What’s for Dinner November 18, 2010

Posted by Toy Lady in Eating Down the Fridge, Freezer Meals, Information, random stuff, Third Thursday.
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Welcome to November’s Third Thursday!

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First, I think I need to clarify – when I say “it’s what for dinner,” that is not to say we’re talking about beef.   In fact, this month, we’re not going to be talking about a particular recipe, either, or even (gasp) food.  Specifically.

Not unless you want another soup . . . because honestly, right now, that’s about all I’ve got.

No, what we’re going to talk about this month is meal planning.

Oh great, yet another blog post about meal planning.

I’ve been thinking about doing a post on this for a while, but there always seemed to either be another great soup, or I’d run out of time, or, well, something.  After all, who am I to tell our tens of readers that they should do something?

Then I read Michael Ruhlman’s recent blog on weekly meal planning – and I realized that I’d better get on the ball!  So here goes.

Dude.  You should do this.  Besides ultimately you saving scads of money, it will help save your sanity (or what’s left of it)!

Everyone does it differently, and if you don’t do it at all, well, I can see how the very idea would get overwhelming – where to start?

Well, here’s what I do.

First, I start with a running grocery list – right in the kitchen.  It’s a dry erase board with magnets mounted on the back, and as we run low on things, they get written on the list.

Opened the last can of coffee?  We write it on the list.  Last pound of butter?  It goes on the list.  Running low on rice?  List.

You get the idea.

Then, we check our grocery store’s sale ads – our sales run Sunday through Saturday, which is great, because we can get the shopping done first thing Sunday morning (usually by 8:00).   We generally only buy items on sale – and when they’re on sale we stock up.

Occasionally, our supermarket has the big cans of ground coffee on sale for $4.99, which is an excellent price – so we’ll often buy 2 or 3 cans at that price; one can lasts us about a month, so odds are, by the next time we need it, it will have gone on sale again.

I try to keep track of what’s in the freezer and what should be used sooner rather than later.  While I haven’t done as well with this as maybe I could have, I’ve started kind of pre-scheduling proteins.  For instance, if I buy, say, 8 chicken breasts, with two being a meal for the two of us, that’s four meals  – actually, 6 meals, because I trim them myself, so we have four meals of chicken breasts, one of chicken tenders, and the last is usually chicken chunks or nuggets of some sort.  Most of that gets packaged and frozen for later – we usually keep two breasts out to enjoy freshly pan-roasted. (I cannot imagine life without a freezer!)

I keep a running three-month calendar – each month is divided into 4 weeks (or 5, as appropriate), so, keeping with the example of chicken, that will get penciled in for each of 6 of the coming weeks.  I usually update the calendar every month – right now, I’m finishing up November-December-January — in a couple of weeks, I’ll start December-January-February.

Finally, I’ve created a weekly template with space for Monday through Friday, plus the weekend.  We don’t generally plan for weekends (a little spontaneity isn’t completely over-rated!), but sometimes, we’ll decide to prepare something time-consuming – a roast, say, or a turkey, and we need a little more than “after work” to do it.

I’ve also left space for notes for something that we might want to do for a future week – often, we’ll be going through recipes and come across two chicken recipes, say, that sound really good, and since we’re can only eat one at a time, I like to make a note so we don’t forget about the second one!

I’m going to link to my templates – you’re welcome to them, if you’re interested: Meal Planning Templates It’s really not as complicated as it sounds – you just need to get into a rhythm!

So tell me, do you plan your meals ahead of time?  How does it work for you?  What tips or tricks do you use?

And, of course, if you’d like to play along with our Third Thursday challenge, leave a comment with a link to (or description of) your Third Thursday project – tell us what you’re up to!  For loose guidelines, or if you want to check out some past Thursdays, they’re right here!