Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winter Greens:::Jenn

What's not to love about a dish with this much color? Last night I took 1/2 a cabbage and a small bunch of Kale and chopped them roughly to saute in a skillet with garlic onion and a touch of olive oil. I served it over some pre-cooked pasta ( I frequently cook some extra pasta to have an easy meal addition later) with scratch corn bread and a pitcher of wellness tea. The chicken was bartered, and I cooked it in the new crock-pot for a few hours with just enough water for moisture. It came out very tender and with enough leftovers to make chicken enchilada casserole for tonight's dinner. I would estimate cost at about $3.25 for the meal and I have over half of a pan of corn bread left, lunch for DH to pack, and a good start on tonight's meal. My kids ate it all (they love cabbage with an abandon unnatural to childhood) but said it had a bit too much onion this time. Though I struggle to keep a balance between cost and nutrient dense foods, I am always pleasantly reminded how well things like kale and cabbage do both. On a time note, this was not as consuming as it might appear. The chicken went into the crock pot in the late morning and the corn bread took only a few minutes (even with lots of little girl help). Come dinner time, all I had to do was chop and saute the greens and warm up the pasta. Somehow a little time here and there during a day at home seems so much less effort than something that takes an hour to prepare right at dinner time--especially as we are trying to also get ready for bed and straighten up after day of wreaking havoc upon the tiny place we call home.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Good Neighbors:::Gina

One idea, that isn't so much of an idea as an observation I suppose, is to have a buddy to undertake any kind of food-based challenge with. A couple of years ago, Miche and I did a Once-a-Month-Cooking day (which was infinitely more fun with two), after which we each had a month's worth of entrees in our freezers.

My sister watches my kids about once a week, during which she is often tempted to take them out for fast food. I proposed that instead of doing that, she make lunch for them, in exchange for which I'll cook her dinner one night. That saves me from feeling obligated to send money for her, and probably keeps her from eating out one night each week, as well.

Tonight, Jenn (one of A Year Without Eating Out's contributors, knew I was going to be tired and sorely tempted to eat out after being up for a birth all night long. She offered to throw an extra pan of cornbread in the oven with her own to help with our meal for the evening. Since we always have soup nearby in some form or another, this was very helpful. Some day when she's under the weather or busy for whatever reason I'll be sure to pay it forward and take something over for her family.


So, consider using a buddy system if you can. If nothing else, you'll have an ear, shoulder, and smile. But you might just have dinner some night.

It's a Charlotte:::Jenn

Well, as I have had the funky fridge problem going on, I am determined to have every thing we eat come out of there so it will be empty as soon as possible. This should be an adventure in culinary creativity.

First up on the list is a Charlotte. Our version began with leftover angel food cake and whipped cream from our Baby Jesus birthday cake. We added the only gelatin in the house (which happened to be strawberry) and a sleeve of lady fingers leftover from making a tiramisu cake for a friend's birthday so long ago, I refuse to admit who it was. Either the cake or the lady fingers would have been fine but as we didn't have enough of either--voila, a new version. So you layer the cake/cookies in the bottom of the pan followed by the gelatin/whipped cream mixture. Continue layering until you run out of something (in my case room in the dish). Finish off with either cake (for a traditional cake that can be turned out), or cream mix (to allow it to soak up into more of a pudding cake that will probably serve with a spoon). We used the second method based upon available materials and then put it into the fridge for dessert tonight. Now, made fresh this would be about $3 for the cake, $1 for the organic whipping cream and about $1 for the gelatin, but mine was all leftover from already allocated events and a box of gelatin that had been in my cupboards forever (and probably a gift from my grandma since it's the sorta thing she tends to give us). Therefore, I count it as a free item!

Edited later for taste opinions. While they were completely excited to make and to taste our creation, both girls found it way too sweet. Must be the combination of sweet gelatin, whipped cream and cookies! Next time I think I would steer more towards a fruit puree filling and more cake.

Not Eating Out For A Year:::Tammy

First of all, we eat out a lot. Most nights when my husband is off we have "late night."   It is a habit we started a long time ago. I think at first staying in will be easy. It's later that may be difficult.

He was on board when I suggested it to him though I had to promise him that we would do it a week at a time.

Our teen was insisting that "year" meant Jan1 to Dec 31. She was hoping for some leeway. Since she can only have junk food if we can have it she'll be begging food off her friends I guess. :D

On that note....we went to a new church on Sunday and all first time guests get a fast food gift card. Our family of nine (Dad was home) was gifted with $90 of gift cards for DQ. :D I'll be holding on to those.

We menu plan but our problem is that we don't like what is being served (though we insist the kids eat it--go figure) and we end up eating out, skipping our dinner to eat later. So I need to beef up the menu or just learn to be content with what I have planned on the menu.

We will be menu planning today as we usually do every two weeks. We are also trying to eat from our pantry so we buy less food and save even more money. Let's see what I can come up with.

Tonight we are having ham loaf. It's a favorite and goes pretty fast. I think I will try to make four and freeze two.

Tonight will be hard because my husband is off and we like to watch a movie and have late night as we call it around here. But....considering I am trying to watch less tv, late night might not even cross our minds.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Failing to Plan:::Monique

Okay, I will post, but not about tonight's Ham and Beans.  My MIL made them and, alas, I did not take a picture.  They were pretty good and she also made huge dumplings to go with them.  I don't eat ham (clogs the intestines, but no, I'm not Jewish) but the beans were pretty good.  I'm not quite sure what happened to the cornbread, but it fell apart when I took it out of the pan.   It tasted good though.  I didn't bake that either.  ;)  

I have actually been trying not to eat out since this summer.  The biggest thing I've found to help in this department is planning our meals.  I have planned for a long time.  I used to plan biweekly because that's how often DH gets paid.  I would just make a list of meals and we would shop for them and then eat them in random order as to our tastes and likes for the day.  Then I came upon The Organizing Junkie.  Have you seen this blog?   She does Menu Plan Monday.  I decided to try it.  It couldn't make that big of a difference, planning weekly, could it?  Oh boy, was I wrong.  I use this form from www.TheHomeSchoolMom.com.  I plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea (aka afternoon snack).  

What's for Dinner:::Gina

Okay, I know this is a resolution for 2009, but I've been working on the blog most of the day, and am eager to get started. Tonight I have an Italian potato soup simmering and a loaf of country bread in the oven. On Christmas Eve my grandmother took us to the Olive Garden (little did I know it might be my last meal out, lol) and I had the soup and salad. This is my best reconstruction of that soup, with a few modifications. It's simmering now and I just sampled it. I'd say so far, so good. I guess I'll commit and write a recipe here:

Italian Potato Soup

1# ground beef, buffalo, or sausage (I suspect sausage would be the best, but I didn't have any on hand)
1/2 a large onion, finely chopped
1 large baking potato, quartered lengthwise and then thinly sliced
1 can white beans (dried, cooked, and frozen beans would be the most frugal choice)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Approx 2 teaspoons each dried basil and oregano
Approx 1 t dried fennel seeds
Approx 3 C milk
1 bunch kale, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Basically, I just browned the beef and onion, adding the garlic when it was almost done. I added spices while this was browning and then added the potato and beans. Cover with milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer about 30 minutes, add kale, and simmer another 5 or so.

The bread is a variation of this recipe, with whole wheat (white wheat) flour instead, and a little cornmeal thrown in because I ran out of flour after last week's baking frenzy.

Wrap up analysis...

Kids factor: Accepted very well. Liam hemmed and hawed a bit, but that was because he had a snack about 5 minutes before dinner. Grrrr... I tried to get them to rate it, but Quinn was the only one who got the concept of that really, and he gave it a 9, which is probably an exaggeration. He can be very ingratiating.

Cost factor: Honestly, I don't know what a half-gallon of organic milk runs these days, but I used about 2/3 of one, so I'll guess that's in the neighborhood of $2. $2 on the beef, $1 for the kale and beans, $0.25 for the onion and probably $1 for bread fixin's and maybe another $0.50 worth of spices. So a grand total of $6.75 and it made about 10 servings.

Health factor: I'm not a huge fan of dairy, I used beef instead of buffalo, and potatoes are questionable at best. Still, it was 2% milk, no "extra" fats, and did contain kale. So, fairly healthy, but not extraordinarily.

The Challenge

Welcome to A Year Without Eating Out. Because of the need to tighten belts and budgets, a group of friends is answering the challenge to go a full year (each with her own "free pass") without eating out. Stay tuned for tips, ideas, and inspiration that you can use in your own homes for 2009.