Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sweet & Sour Chicken

Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite appliances: the electric pressure cooker.  It is my favorite way to cook rice.  I can even make risotto in this and I never have to stand over the stove pouring and stirring, pouring and stirring.  I got this little baby at Target when they were clearing them out.  I didn't know what a gem I was purchasing.  I use it to cook meat, other grains, and vegetables.  It also has a wonderful entertainment factor.  There is a big gray button on top lets the steam out.  My sons all love to push that button as it cools down.  You can see some models here.

So, tonight The Comedian and The Engineer helped me make dinner.  The Engineer fizzled out after we dredged the chicken in cornstarch.  I think he was a little grossed out by the raw meat. The Comedian then took over and stayed with me all the way to serving the food.  (with his ADHD, that is a huge thing!)

The recipe:
1 1/2 pounds cubed boneless chicken
3/4 cup cornstarch
2 cups oil
1 cup water
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 Tbls cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
onions, peppers, pineapple as desired

Dredge the chicken in the cornstarch and fry in the oil

For the sauce, mix the water, sugar, ketchup and vinegar in a saucepan.  When it boils, add the cornstarch/water mixture.  Stir until it thickens. 
If you want to add the onions, peppers and/or pineapple, cook the onions and peppers first.  Add it to the sauce or serve it on the side.  Serve it all with rice.

We are back to school this week (YIPEE), so lunches won't be planned.  Really, it wasn't a bad week.  We all slept in until 6:30am, we explored the newly opened, wonderfully stocked, brand new library, we did chores, we read books, we played games, we watched movies and we relaxed.  What more can we ask from a week off from school?

Breakfast Sandwiches (sausage pattie, egg, cheese on a sesame seed bun)
Probably these Muffins
PB Toast
Donuts (found a sale and froze them!)
Cold Cereal

Pot Roast and all the trimmings
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Beans with Cornbread
Hot Dogs
BBQ chicken (in the oven) with couscous

Visit the oranizing junkie for menu monday and a southern fairytale for mouthwatering mondays and visit real life for real life mondays.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dry Mixes You Can Make For Your Pantry

 Here are 13 different mixes that you can make and put in jars to give away. Or.  Here are 13 different mixes you can make for yourself to put in the pantry.  Or. Here are 13 different mixes you can make and decide later where to put them. 

1. Potato Soup Mix 1-3/4 cups instant mashed potatoes 1-1/2 cups dry milk 2 Tb. instant chicken bullion 2 tsp. dried minced onion 1 tsp. dried parsley 1/4 tsp. ground white pepper 1/4 tsp. dried thyme 1/8 tsp. turmeric or curry 1-1/2 tsp. favorite seasoning salt Measure all ingredients in a canning jar or vacuum seal bag.

To Use: place 1/2 cup mix in soup bowl and add 1 cup boiling water. Stir until smooth.
Possible Variations:

Add small dehydrated potatoes or bacon bits Or small amount dehydrated broccoli or dehydrated corn or celery

2. Split Pea Tortellini Soup Mix
3 ounces dried cheese-filled tortellini (2/3 cup) 1/4 cup dried tomatoes 1/3 cup dried split green peas 1/2 cup dried chopped carrots 1 tablespoon instant chicken bouillon granules 1 tablespoon dried minced onion 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil -- crushed 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme -- crushed 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper Add a couple Table spoons Tomato Powder

Layer all ingredients in a Jar, or Vacuum Seal bag; seal & attach a tag with directions.

Attach Tag:
1 pkg mix
Add 5 cups water. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 50 minutes or until peas are tender.
(Option: Add 1 cup chopped cooked ham or sausage or add imitation bacon bits to the mix above ahead of time for bacon flavor)
Serves 4.

3. Texas Two-Step Soup Mix 1 (1.61-ounce) package brown gravy mix 2 tablespoons mild red chili powder 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon dried minced onion 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

10 to 12 regular-size tortilla chips, coarsely crushed 1 to 1 1/4 cups uncooked small to medium-size pasta Dehydrated corn, Dehydrated red and green bell pepper. Layer ingredients in a jar.

Instruction Tag:
Brown 1/2 pound ground beef.
In a crockpot combine the following:
Browned ground beef
Contents of jar
8 c. water
Simmer a couple hours or until macaroni is fully cooked.

4. Sun Dried Tomato & Penne Soup 2 c. penne pasta dried tomatoes dried mushrooms 1/4 c. onion flakes 1/4 c. parsley flakes 1 T dried minced garlic 1 1/2 tsp dried crushed thyme 1 1/2 tsp dried minced basil 1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper Vegetable Broth powder Salt Pepper Dried Green Beans. Combine all ingredients in lg Jar or vacuum seal Bag.

Attach Tag:
1 Jar Mix
8 cups water Good with a little sausage.
Combine all except beans in large saucepot. Soak for an hour. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover & simmer in Thermo cooker.

5. Cream of "Anything" Soup Mix 4 c. powdered milk 1 1/2 c. cornstarch 1/2 c. instant chicken bouillon granules 4 tsp. dried onion flakes 2 tsp. dried thyme 2 tsp basil - crushed dried 1 tsp. pepper Measure all ingredients into a Ziploc Bag. Shake well, transfer to vacuum seal bag, seal and store up to a year.

To Use:
1/3 C mix
1 C water
Cook over low/med heat until thickened.

Variations: add 1/2 c. minced or chopped *_________*
*Choose One*:
Onions, Mushrooms, Asparagus, Broccoli, Celery, Cooked Chicken, Diced Potatoes, Tomato, Cooked Shrimp, etc.

6. Creamy Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup 2.75-ounce pkg. Country Gravy Mix (regular or no-fat) 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules 2 teaspoons dried minced onion 2 teaspoons dried celery flakes
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes 1/4 cup uncooked wild rice 1 cup uncooked white rice
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried mushrooms from the produce section (shiitake, chanterelle or oyster)

Attach gift tag with following directions:
Empty contents of jar into a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add 7 cups water; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally. Or, place in crockpot in the morning with 7 cups of water and let it simmer all day until you get home.

7. Dreaming of a White Christmas Soup Mix 1 package (2.75 ounces) regular or no-fat country gravy mix 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules 2 tablespoons dried minced onion 2 tablespoons dried celery flakes 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes 2 1/2 to 3 cups uncooked wide egg noodles or other pasta

Gift tag directions:
Empty contents of jar into a 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven. Add 8 cups water; heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to medium; add one 10-ounce or two 6-ounce cans cooked and chopped chicken. Cover and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes or until noodles are tender, stirring occasionally.

8. Farmhouse Soup 2 tablespoons dried minced onion 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes 2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper 2 tablespoons beef bouillon flakes 1/2 cup quick cook barley 1/2 cup dried split peas 1/2 cup rice, uncooked, do not use instant 1/2 cup dry lentils 1/2 cup alphabet pasta, uncooked
1 cup flavored spiral, macaroni, uncooked ½ cup dehydrated carrots ½ cup dehydrated celery 1 cup dehydrated tomatoes ¼ cup dehydrated cabbage, 3 table spoons tomato powder.

Attach Tag:
Farmhouse Soup
1 pkg Mix
3 quarts water Boil then simmer. Add Beef ground or chunks if available.

9. Winter Bean Soup Mix 1/3 cup dried yellow split peas 1/3 cup dried green split peas
1/3 cup dried lima beans 1/3 cup dried pinto beans 1/3 cup dried kidney beans 1/3 cup dried great northern beans 1/4 cup instant minced onion 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Layer all ingredients in a 1-pint glass jar.
On gift tag put recipe for Winter Bean Soup Mix as follows:
8 cups water
Winter Bean Soup Mix and the following fresh or already have dehydarated and include in jar:
2 medium carrots, chopped (1 cup) or 2 medium stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
2 pounds smoked ham shanks or meaty ham bone
Heat water and Winter Bean Soup Mix to boiling in 4-quart Dutch oven. Boil 2 minutes; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Stir carrots and celery into bean mixture. Add ham shanks. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 2 hours or until beans are tender. Skim fat if necessary. Remove ham shanks; remove ham from bone. Trim excess fat from ham. Cut ham into 1/2-inch pieces. Stir ham into soup. Heat until hot.

10. Vegetarian Black Bean Soup Mix 3 cups black beans, sorted 3 tablespoons dehydrated onion
3 tablespoons granulated garlic 1 teaspoon crushed oregano 2 teaspoon salt 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (do not omit) Dried Cilantro Dried chopped Onion dried limeslice

Attached the following instructions on a gift tag:
Put in pot. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and cover beans with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until very well done (about 2 hours). Beans should be very soft. Add water as needed to keep beans from sticking. There should be some liquid left on beans when done.
Serve over Rice.

11. Turkey Noodle Soup Mix 1 cup Uncooked fine egg noodles 1 tablespoon instant minced onion
2 and 1/2 tablespoons chicken-flavored bouillon granules 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pepper 1/4 teaspoon dried whole thyme 1/8 teaspoon celery seeds 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder 1 bay leaf Add: Dried Turkey or chicken Dried Carrot Dried Celery Dried Corn

To make the soup:
Combine soup mix, 8 cups water, in a large pot. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf

12. Minestrone Soup Mix 1/4 cup dried split peas 1/2 cup dried kidney beans 4 crumbled beef bouillon cubes 1 teaspoon dried basil 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried parsley 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper 1 cup elbow macaroni dried carrots dried celery dried onion dried corn dried tomatoes 3 Tbls. dried tomato powder
Attach Tag:
8 cups water
1 jar minestrone soup mix
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
Place water into a large stockpot. Add the minestrone soup mix and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the skin from the sausage.
In a medium skillet, brown the sausage, breaking it into small pieces. Add to soup.

13. Bean Soup Mix 1/4 cup dried garbanzo beans 1/4 cup dried navy beans or lima beans 1/4 cup dried red kidney beans or pinto beans 1/4 cup dried whole or split peas 3 Tablespoons minced dried onion 2 Tablespoons whole wheat berries 2 Tablespoons pearl barley 2 Tablespoons dried celery flakes 2 tsps. instant beef bouillon granules 1/2 tsp. dried basil, 1 bay leaf Salt , dehydrated onion, tomato powder

Layer all ingredients.

To use:
Combine contents of package with 7 cups water in a 3-quart saucepan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour. (Or soak bean mixture in the water overnight in a covered pan.) Do not drain. Bring beans and liquid to boiling, reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until beans are tender. Remove bay leaf. Season to taste. Makes 6-8 side dish servings. To make chilli add chilli powder and tomatoes, and beef if available. To make cheesy bean soup remove bay leaf, and use 4 cups water…mash a little add mild and cheese.

If you have not considered freeze dried vegetables or fruits for your pantry, here are a few links of places that sell them.
Emergency Essentials, Walton Feed, Amazon,

Visit thursday-13 for more 13 lists.
Visit Life as Mom for Frugal Friday.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Apple Skillet Cake

This has got to be one of the most fatteningly delicious recipes I have made in a long, long time.  I got it off the Pioneer Woman's website.  I actually had to lower the amount of butter for which it called because my arteries couldn't stand reading about using almost 3/4 pound of butter for one cake.  As is it, I doubled the recipe, made two cakes and used an entire pound of butter and it was SOOOOO wonderful.

Apple Skillet Cake(adapted from the pioneer woman)

Topping (which is really the bottom while it bakes)
4 small tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into six equal slices
1 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat to make up for the gluttony of butter)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 small apple, peeled, cored, and chopped finely

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a 9 to 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt butter over low heat. Add 3/4 cup sugar to the pan and stir around, then place apple slices, wedge side down, in the pan. Don’t pack them too tightly, but try not to leave overly large gaps. Allow this to cook over low heat while you make the cake batter.  It should boil while you are mixing the other stuff, but don't let it burn.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 stick of butter and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and eggs. Add sour cream and mix well. Combine dry ingredients and gradually add flour mixture until just combined. Gently stir in 1 chopped apple.

Remove skillet from heat. Spoon batter over the top, then spread gently so batter is evenly distributed. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and bubbly. (Note: Put a pan under the cake to allow for drips.  I had a house filled with smoke because I didn't do this.) Allow cake to sit in skillet for five minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. If some of the topping sticks to the pan, just scoop it out and find a spot for it on the cake, it won't matter if it's not perfect.

Visit the Organizing Junkie for Menu Monday
Visit 11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven for Homemaker Mondays
Visit a Southern Fairytale for Mouthwatering Mondays
This week is fall break, so we have a menu full of breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
Homemade Egg McMuffins (these can be made up ahead of time and frozen)
Cold Cereal

Tuna Sandwiches
PB & J
Chicken Noodle Soup
Macaroni & Cheese

Ham Bonaparte (one of my all time favorite casseroles, will post for Tuesday)
Hamburger Stew (very frugal meal)
Pulled Pork  on Buns
Fettucine Alfredo (Realized I haven't posted this one either, so will get to it this week, too)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Basic Americanized Stir Fry

There are some wonderful recipes for stir fry out there. Although each is slightly different, there are some basic principles to making the dish that can be used across the board. You will want to have a few basic ingredients in your pantry/frige door that will allow you to make it any time you want.

First of all, you will need some soy sauce. What is the point of trying any kind of Asian food without it? I usually have Kikoman on hand because it comes in huge bottles at Costco. However, America's Test Kitchen did a taste test and it didn't win. So if you are really serious about authentic taste, you may want to check out their results. I also like sweet soy sauce and lite soy sauces, too.  Other must have ingredients are garlic, fresh ginger, corn starch, and broth. After that, you can mix and match as your fancy takes you.

Start with your protein (tofu, shrimp, chicken, pork or beef). Cut it into strips or cubes and cook it in oil on medium high heat. If you have sesame oil, add a teaspoon to your main oil to give it a better flavor. If not, oh well. Add some minced garlic to the protein when it is almost done and cook it with it ~ at least 2 cloves. If you have some ginger root, grate some of that into your meat, too. You can also cheat and use ground ginger. It won't be the same, but it will give a good flavor. (about 1 tsp). Remove the meat from your pan and set it aside in a bowl.

All sorts of vegetables go great in stir fry. Carrots, onions, broccoli, asparagus, peppers, summer squash are just a few. You can also add cans of baby corn, bamboo shoots or water chestnuts. This is a great way to use up the last of anything that may be sitting in your produce drawer. Cut the veggies up into bite sized pieces. Add a bit more oil to your pan and start stirring them. If you are using hard and soft vegetables, start with the ones that will take the longest to cook, adding the others halfway through the cooking process. I usually add 1 can of broth to my vegetables so they don't burn because I am usually still helping with homework, making other food and have my mind on twenty different things. If you do that, put a lid on the veggies, turn down the heat a bit and let them soften (we really don't like crisp vegetables in our house, so I let them get soft, but not mushy).

Now that your protein and vegetables are done, combine them in the pan. Here is where any yummy Asian type sauces come in handy. If you have oyster sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, coconut milk, rice wine, teriyaki, "stir fry", Yoshida's or any other extra sauce combine it with the soy sauce (about 2 Tbls of each) and then add about 2-3 Tbls of corn starch. When mixed, stir it into your veg/meat/broth mixture and stir until thick and bubbly.

Serve over rice and voila: stir fry. It will be slightly different every time, but it will always be good.
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