31 December 2008

Economize-One roast, three meals!

I fall deeper in love with my crock pot every time I use it.  Not just for the time saving aspect it brings to getting dinner on the table, but also for the grocery budget cost cutting side to it.  It takes cheap cuts of meat, and turns them into mouth watering masterpieces!  The following are three dinners made from one 4-5 lb. beef chuck roast.  The chuck roast will probably run you about $10.00, but since it makes three dinners, it's really a steal!  All of the work is done the first night so for the subsequent two nights, your only job is to reheat.  Enjoy!

For Night 1:  Beef Pot Roast (shown above with a green salad and a fruit salad) from Fix it and Forget it Big Cookbook by Phyllis Pellman Good

4-5 lb. beef chuck roast
1 garlic clove, cut in half
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 carrot, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 small onion, sliced
3/4 cup sour cream
3 Tbls. flour
1/2 cup dry white wine.

1.  Rub roast with garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in slow cooker.
2.  Add carrots, celery and onion.
3.  Combine sour cream, flour and wine.  Pour into slow cooker.
4.  Cover.  Cook on Low 6-7 hours.
5.  Slice for dinner the first night.  With the remaining roast, shred using two forks and split the shredded meat into two tupperwares.
6.  Prepare dinner for Night 2 and 3 and place in refrigerator.

For Night 2:  Pepper Beef Sandwiches

One tupperware with shredded beef from above
16 oz. jar of sliced pepperoncini peppers, mostly drained
Hamburger buns
Slices of your favorite cheese, pepper jack recommended.

To the tupperware of beef, add the jar of pepperoncini peppers and a little of the juice.  Cover and refrigerate for Night 2.  When ready to eat, reheat in the microwave.  Serve on hamburger buns topped with your favorite cheese.

For Night 3:  BBQ beef sandwiches

One tupperware of shredded beef from above
Bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
Hamburger buns

Add enough BBQ sauce to the shredded beef to make it saucy.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.  When ready, reheat in the microwave.  Serve the BBQ beef on hamburger buns.

Three meals for about $10.00 with minimum prep and minimum cooking.  Can't beat that!  Happy New Year everyone!

29 December 2008

Slow Cooker Lasagna

My mother, living in Hawaii, likes to use her slow cooker a lot to avoid heating up her condo.  Because I was doing a lot of the cooking while we were visiting, I adopted her cooking habits.  I came upon this recipe for slow cooker lasagna from Fix it and Forget it Big Cookbook, which is fast becoming my new go to book for quick and cheap dinners.  It made an absolutely HUGE amount that we ate for a few days and then threw out, I'm sure you could halve it.

Convenient Slow Cooker Lasagna adapted from Fix it and Forget it Big Cookbook

Serves: 6-8
Cooking time: 4-6 hours on LOW
Use a 6 quart slow cooker

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
2 29oz. cans tomato sauce
1 onion, chopped
10 oz. elbow macaroni
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
3/4 cups water

1.  Spray the interior of the cooker with nonstick cooking spray or line with a slow cooker bag.
2.  Brown the ground beef and the onion in a nonstick skillet.  Drain off the drippings.  
3.  Stir in the tomato sauce.  Mix well.
4.  Spread one-fourth of the meat sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker.
5.  Arrange one-third of the noodles over the sauce.
6.  Combine the cheeses in a bowl. Spoon one-third of cheeses over the noodles.
7.  Repeat these layers twice.
8.  Top with remaining sauce.
9.  Add water.
10.  Cover and cook on LOW 4-6 hours.

Papaya and Cottage Cheese Salad

My mother made this simple salad of a halved papaya filled with cottage cheese to accompany the lasagna.  At first I wasn't sure about it but the combination of the sweet/salty, lumpy/creamy consistencies really works.  Of course it helps being able to find papayas this sweet and ripe at the local farmers market.

28 December 2008

Back to the Snow!

After a wonderful, relaxing and beautiful stay in Hawaii, it's back to the COLD realities of real life.  I can't complain much, I know that most of you have been living in the cold and snow for the past three weeks without the benefit of a Hawaiian vacation.  Let me tell you though, it is a shock to the system to be back home.  We landed two nights ago on an unplowed runway due to active snowing!  Now it's back to housecleaning and catch-up work.  I know, I know, I have no reason to complain, I'm just stating the facts.

Above are some pictures from the farmers market in downtown Kailua-Kona.  No visit to the islands (or anywhere!) would be complete without a trip to the farmers market.  Check out the prices and quality of the starfruit!  The hairy, red fruits are called rambutans locally or also known as lychee nuts.  If you score around the outside of the fruit, the red, hairy exterior pops off revealing a large grape like fruit with an attached pit in the middle.  You just pop the whole thing in your mouth and eat around the stone.

Also, I had to take pictures of the Filipino Store from a little shopping center in Waikaloa.  Coming from someplace without the benefit of ethnic stores like this, browsing here was a real treat.  My mother bought some frozen lumpias here and my father was in hog heaven!

On one of my very first mornings in Hawaii, I was doing some grocery shopping as I was doing a lot of the cooking and came across these Dragonfruits.  I had never seen anything like these before.  A few days later, my mother came across some at the farmers market that were cheaper.  The ones she bought were yellow, but the same shape.  They tasted very similarly to kiwis but were less tart.  The grayish fruit with black seeds that was inside though was visually a surprise from the look of the exterior.
I can't wait to catch up on all that you have been doing over the holidays!  Don't forget that I will be hosting a read through of French Women Don't Get Fat on Friday's in January.  Our first discussion will be this coming Friday, January 2!

07 December 2008

Mele Kalikimaka

Tomorrow, the boys and I are off to Hawaii to visit my parents. We are all SO excited to be going. I may get a chance to update the blog, since my mother has informed me that I am cooking all the meals while we are visiting, but more than likely I won't get a chance to update. I'll be back after Christmas though with new recipes and some fun pictures of the islands. In the meantime, don't forget that I am hosting a read through of the book French Women Don't Get Fat, on Fridays in January. If you are interested in reading the book with me, remember to keep your food journal for the rest of December, and read the first chapter or two of French Women Don't Get Fat for the first discussion.

I wish you all a blessed holiday season. I'll catch up with you all in a couple weeks! Mele Kalikimaka!

05 December 2008

Rum Raisin Biscotti

Tonight, I've been invited to a cookie exchange.  I can't tell you how excited I am to be going!  When you are a stay-at-home mom, you don't need anything else to get your kicks than merely going out and talking to other grown-ups.  For this party, I created a biscotti recipe that I was really pleased with.  

The biscotti were my back-up plan after a disastrous attempt at something called Orange Snowballs.  After I threw those in the garbage, I had to come up with something whose ingredients I already had in my pantry.  This was the first time I've attempted biscotti but they turned out really well (if I do say so myself). I have been craving biscotti recently as accompaniments to my afternoon tea so I already had biscotti on the brain.  I always thought biscotti were too fussy to make.  Actually, they are a little fussy with the twice baking and all, but the dough came together quickly, and I waited overnight until the second baking which minimized the fussiness.  
If you've never heard of a biscotti (I mean, really now, where have you been?) it is an Italian cookie that is first baked in a log shape, then cut and baked again until dry and really crunchy.  They are fabulous dunked in a cup of tea or coffee, let to soften slightly in the liquid and then crunched up.  I dipped them in chocolate and put sprinkles on them just to fancy them up a little for the cookie exchange, but they are also wonderful plain.  

I think the ladies at the cookie exchange are going to love these.  I can't wait to see what everyone else makes.  I'll tell you all about it tomorrow and share some of their recipes too!

Rum Raisin Biscotti by Joie de vivre

Yeild:  about 60 biscotti

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
6 large eggs
4 tsp. rum extract
1/3 cup rum
1 1/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup boiling water
1 package of chocolate chips (optional)
sprinkles and other decorations (optional)

1.  Put raisins, rum, and boiling water into a bowl.  Set aside for at least 10 minutes while the raisins plump.
2.  Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
3.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a large bowl.
4.  In a second large bowl, whisk together the eggs and rum extract.  
5.  Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.  At this point, the dough will seem really dry and it may be easier to squish it up with your hands.
6.  Drain the raisins, and add them to the dough.  Squish this up well with your hands.  The dough will be sticky at this point from the residual liquid in the raisins.
7.  Divide the dough in two.  On a parchment lined baking sheet, shape 1/2 of the dough into a log about 12 inches long, and 3 inches wide.  Repeat on another parchment lined baking sheet with the other half of the dough.
8.  Bake for 40 minutes, switching the places of the baking sheets (put the sheet that was on the bottom rack on the top rack and the one that was on the top rack on the bottom rack) halfway through.
9.  The dough should be slightly risen, slightly browned and firm to the touch.  Let the logs cool at least 30 minutes or overnight.
10.  Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees again.
11.  Cut the logs diagonally into 1/4 inch slices.  
12.  Lay the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet.
13.  Bake the biscotti for 16 minutes, switching the places of the pans, and flipping the cookies halfway through the baking time.
14.  Remove the biscotti to a cooling rack and let cool.
15.  If desired, melt the chocolate chips in a saucepan set over a pan of gently simmering water.  Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.
16.  Paint 1/2 of the biscotti with chocolate using your rubber spatula and place on a sheet of waxed paper.  Sprinkle with edible glitter, nonpareils, sprinkles, etc. to decorate and let chocolate harden.
17.  Place in a napkin lined basket for a beautiful presentation!

03 December 2008

Crazy about walking poles!

For my birthday last week, my boys each gave me one Coleman trekking pole.  I had been eyeing walking poles for some time as a way to up the cardiovascular benefits of my walking, without having to resort to running.  (I hate running, I mean really, really hate running)  The Norwegians have been using walking poles for a few years now as a way to keep in shape for cross country skiing during the warm months.  Walking poles are used in the same fashion as cross country ski poles but are used while walking.  They get your arms moving thus increasing the calories you burn while walking.  Let me tell you, I am now a convert to the walking poles.  My first few times out with them, I couldn't walk very far because I got so tired.  My heart rate goes up much further than just walking alone.  Not only am I using my arms, but I feel I'm building muscle as well.  In just a week of using them, I'm seeing more definition in my arms and after the first use, I could tell by my soreness that I was using muscles not used to this sort of work.  I feel my biceps and triceps working, and also my shoulder muscles (deltoids) and chest muscles (pectorals).  For some reason I'm walking taller with the poles too thus lengthening my stride and engaging my stomach muscles.  After a week, I'm now back to my longer walks and I'm seeing results on the scale too.  I'm down three pounds, an awesome feat in my opinion the week of Thanksgiving.
My only complaints about the poles are the tips and the hand holds.  The Nordic trekking poles have angled tips which help to grab the ground when you're pushing off.  Since the Coleman poles don't have this, I sometimes push off the ground and the pole slips which gets a little frustrating.  Also, the hand grip bites into my hand a little bit, but this could be my technique and I might be holding on a little too tightly.
In full disclosure too, I probably look like a huge dork using them.  People have actually slowed down in their cars to watch me as they drive past.  I know this is a small town and people have to get their amusements from somewhere, but it does make me feel a little self-conscious (not that I care though).  
Dorkiness aside, if I am seeing results on the scale, and am feeling my fitness improve through increased muscle tone without really increasing the intensity of my workouts, I am sold.  I love these things.