Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stretching Out Leftover Soup

There are many times in which I've made a pot of soup, and gotten down to the point where there isn't enough left for a full blown meal, but tossing it, or feeding to the goats seems wasteful.  Here's my favorite tip for stretching that soup for one last meal.  Make a batch of rice, or barley.  Use a 2 to 1 ratio of water to grain, and cook it up separately from your soup.  Meanwhile, heat your soup.  When the rice/barley is cooked, serve it in a bowl, with a ladle of soup over it, and you've got a great winter warmer-upper, hot soup, hot rice, and hopefully, satisfied bellies in your household!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Easy as Cous Cous

The cupboard was a tinge bare, the day before payday.  There was enough summer squash from early picking, that it could go with some grain.  Or, there's that bag of cous cous I completely forgot about.  I opted for the cous cous. 

I sauteed onions and garlic in butter, then added some tiny bell peppers from my garden, minced.  Finely chopped summer squash, a teeny pinch of saffron, and a little white pepper.  Meanwhile, bringing my water to a boil, and shutting it off, I added the cous cous, stirred, and covered while I finished cooking the veggies.  Fluff the cous cous, and stir in the veggie mixture, and it's a great pinch hitting solution when the mainstay dinner items are low.  Ratio of cous cous to water is 1 cup cous cous to 1 1/4 cup water.  For my big bunch, I tripled this, and it was just enough.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WFMW: Dry Peanut Butter Sandwiches, HubPages Writing Contest

It's "Works For Me Wednesday" at We Are That Family...be sure to check out the great ideas!

Quick Improv Tip, then I want to mention a food related writing contest over at HubPages.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches are a standby lunch in our house, particularly during busy days which involve outdoor work, garden care, and our latest project, getting a workout with our horse.  Únfortunately, sometimes we don't realize that we are out of jelly, until the peanut butter is already spread on the bread.  Honey is a great alternative to jelly, but if that's out, a plain peanut butter sandwich is a little dry.  On a whim, yesterday, I used pancake syrup.  I was pleasantly surprised that the flavors went together well.  That's the improv tip for the week, Peanut Butter and Syrup.  It spreads  well, you don't need much, and it's just enough to take that dry edge off the sandwich, which works for me.

On to the HubPages Contest...

HubPages is a writing community that allows users to post articles on a multitude of subjects.  Whereas blogging allows one to have a running theme based on a given area of interest, Hubs are independent articles, and need not be dependent on a reader's connection to the writer.  Further, HubPages offers a means of incorporating Google Adsense, Amazon Affiliate, Ebay Affiliate, and Kontera accounts, allowing a writer to earn royalties based on these programs.  It does take some research, and there is a learning curve, so don't expect overnight riches.  However, if you enjoy writing, this is another interesting venue.

Periodically, HubPages hosts writing contests, and is advertising a food related contest for the month of June.  Hubs must be written about the food related topic of the day, and submitted in the specified time frame.  Weekly prizes of $100 for the best hub of the week, and $100 for the "People's Choice" for the week, will be awarded over the 4 week contest.  Daily prizes of $50 will be awarded randomly to one of the individuals having published a hub in the given time frame.  The grand prize of $1000 will be awarded at the end of the contest, to the best of the 4 weekly winners for best hub.  Participation is open to members of HubPages, with some restrictions based on country of residence.  Further details are available here...there's time to create a HubPages account and get your feet wet in the realm of hubbing before the contest gets underway.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WFMW: Extending Leftovers For Lunch

It's Works For Me Wednesday at We Are That Family.  
                                 Stop by for the latest hints from across the net.

Lunch time arrives, and as you prepare to fix PB&J sandwiches for the troops, you discover that the jar is nearly empty.  Egg sandwiches would work, but the eggs were used in a spinach-egg skillet breakfast prepared by your teenage future chef.  

Fortunately, you have lots of cheap spinach in the fridge, along with leftovers of last night's quick macaroni improv meal.  An extra can of spaghetti sauce, a few minutes in the microwave, and the saucy mac goes alongside the spinach salad....heavy on the salad, easy on the mac.  All 8 kids, and Macaroni Mom, eat to their satisfaction!  Salad anyone?  Gotta hide the peanut butter better so it tides me over til payday this week!  Spinach salad extends my leftovers, which works for the kids, and works for me!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WFMW: Knorr Chicken Bouillon is a Timesaver

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A standard ingredients for many quick and easy soups and pasta dishes at our Improv kitchen is chicken bouillon powder, particularly Knorr.  Whether you are making Mexican Red Rice, Sopa Fideo, or Albondigas Style Soup, or just a simple chicken noodle soup with broth and angel hair pasta, Knorr's chicken bouillon is great to have on hand.  As much as I use it, I stock up with a huge (35.3 oz.) jar from Costco, which lasts me for 5-6 months for about $4.00.  Small jars, sold in the grocery store, run more than a dollar apiece, and don't last me more than a couple of weeks.  It's definitely worthwhile to get a big jar if you do a lot of improv meals. 

I find that the angel hair and chicken bouillon are a great alternative to Top Ramen, though, of course, it's not a regular meal in our home.  Add a couple of beaten eggs, and its an easy egg drop soup.  Or, drop whole raw eggs into the hot soup mixture, allow the eggs to poach, and serve the eggs in the chicken noodle soup mixture.  This is a popular, easy dinner for the kids.  There are also other varieties of Knorr Bouillon, including beef, tomato, and vegetable, which can be used for different flavors.  However, I haven't seen these at the warehouse store. 

Knorr Chicken Bouillon works for quick, tasty meals, which works for me.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On the Road...Cheap Lunch, Minimal Mess.

We had a softball tournament in a small town this weekend.  It was last minute that we were sure we could go, being that a baseball double header at home had been on the slate, but was cancelled at the last minute.

Quickly packing the ice chest, I tossed in granola bars, graham crackers, a jar of peanut butter, a package of flour tortillas, and a butter knife, along with a bunch of bananas, napkins, and water bottles.  At the end of the first game, dh took it upon himself to make peanut butter wraps, surprising everyone with banana inside. The peels went nicely into the empty tortilla package, along with the knife, in order to avoid making a mess.  Everyone loved the treat, and we were all well satisfied.  An expected meal at a sandwich shop in the small town would have cost, easily, $50-75, but the $5 or so PB & B (Peanut Butter and Banana) tortillas were a hit! 

The improve strikes again!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Works For Me Wednesday: Phony Phried Rice

It's Works For Me Wednesday at We Are That Family;  be sure to swing by and check out all the great tips!

I love the flavor of fried rice, but haven't ever achieved comparable taste and texture to that of a Chinese restaurant.  As a young mom, however, it occurred to me that trying beef broth in cooking my rice might provide something reasonably close.  By substituting a can of beef broth for part of the liquid, I achieved a brown color, and a great flavor.  As I experimented over the years, I found that a dash, or two, of soy sauce also complemented the flavor.  Further, frying up small diced pieces of my meat of choice (pork, chicken, whatever was on hand) and cooking a small bag of mixed veggies, then adding to the finished rice, makes a nice side, or in a pinch, main dish.

Broth in the rice makes for great flavor, which works for me!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Works For Me Wednesday: Kid Pleasing Mac N' Cheese Variation

It's Works For Me Wednesday at We Are That Family...be sure to check out the great tips!

This is a simple trick, and makes the difference between a "blah Mac N' Cheese from the box" night, and a "Mom, are there seconds?" Mac N' Cheese night.

My simple Navy Bean Crockpot Soup was on the menu plan.  However, in the midst of Algebra, long division, and the like, along with an hour of garden watering in high winds, during which eldest, seeking more algebra help, inadvertently stepped into a hidden mud hole made of dampened poof dirt, losing her shoe in the murky mess, the crockpot soup slipped my mind.  Never fear, I just loaded up on boxed Macaroni and Cheese, and Spaghetti sauce, during Kroger's semi-annual case lot sale.  Dinner is saved!

Prepare your boxed macaroni and cheese according to instructions, but simply omit the milk, and in it's place, use a can of Spaghetti sauce.  Simple.  Yes, use butter or margarine.  Or, if you have a finicky gall bladder, try olive oil.  Of course, if you do have a finicky gall bladder, you probably shouldn't be eating the cheese. 

My crew of 8 kiddos will easily go through 4 boxes of this dish, and be left begging for more.  This time, I did 5 boxes, leaving some leftovers.  The cost breakdown:  $1.67 for Mac N' Cheese, .75 for Spaghetti sauce, and about .18 for the margarine. 

8-10 servings @ $2.60, based on my case sale deals.  Not many times will the kids be satisfied at less than .30/serving.  No, the nutritional value isn't great, but in a pinch, during a busy garden-sports-end of school year time frame, a definite sanity saver.  Keep it under $5.00 while amping up the heartiness, by adding a pound of ground beef, thoroughly cooked, or ground turkey. 

That's time saving taste that doesn't waste:  Works For Me!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Angel Hair...Don't Pull YOUR Hair Out!

This was a big hit!  Our Smith's stores had a great stocker upper sale, buy 8, get $4.00 off:  the pastas were .49 per 1 lb. package, after the discount.  I meant to get all spaghetti, but some Angel Hair found its way into the mix.  A quick, cheap lunch, I boiled water, cooked 2 lbs. of the pasta.  Added 3 small cans of tomato sauce, garlic salt to taste, and stirred.  In retrospect, a little more tomato sauce and some parmesan would have been nice, but the cupboards were a little bare.  The kids loved it!  Not the healthiest meal, but definitely frugal, filling, and satisfying!  Great for an improv moment when the hungries hit, it came in at $1.82 for the whole pot, just .91/meal, as it spanned two lunches.  Further, it served 9 of us, working out to a grand total of approximately .10/serving.  Thin the noodles to one package, add some chopped onion, chicken bouillion, and water, and that will drop to about .06/serving for a sopa fideo!  ¡Delicioso!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Not so Improv...Rootbeer!

For a summary and more info, see this article at Hubpages...we ran out of brown sugar, and weren't able to make the second batch, so on my list for the day, making rootbeer.  Also on the list, Corned Beef and Cabbage, as our St. Patrick's Day is dh's b/day, and we serve tacos on his day!  Also on the list, maybe, is to try our hands at homemade yogurt...maybe.  Time may be the deciding factor.  Some things lend themselves to an improv mindset;  these do not!  Happy Saturday!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Couscous...A Tasty Pasta For a Quick Treat

I ordered a 5 lb. bag through a health food co-op recently, and have to say that this is an interesting pasta, and a potentially time saving soup filler in my kitchen.  Walking through my warehouse store, I found some intriguing containers offered, with a colorful version as well as the plain.  Prepared in a 1 to 1 ratio with liquid, either water or broth, this has a lovely texture and flavor.  I'm thinking about preparing it with a sprinkling of cheese melted and stirred in, just to experiment.  A worthwhile flavor and texture, I found that the price is comparable at Amazon Grocery, with some couscous products available at a 15% discount via the subscribe and save option. 

More about Amazon Grocery Subscribe and Save

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

More Than Just Pasta, Baby!

I started this little blog with the concept of dressing up leftovers, pasta, and other quick meal items.  Just to clarify, I don't restrict myself to macaroni!  The kids would get bored!  Quickly!  There are so many intriguing things to make for a quick meal, and I must say that discovering them is fun.

Barley has become one of my favorites!  I order pearl barley through a buying club, which orders from Azure Standard .  At less than .50/lb when purchased via my co-op, this is an interesting grain to work with.  I toss it into homemade soups as a filler, and believe me, it makes a thin soup thick and hearty.  For a very hearty soup, I go with about 4 measures of liquid to 1 measure of barley...in our household of 10, that measure is a cereal bowl.  For a slightly thinner soup, perhaps 5-6 measures of liquid.  I don't usually buy broth to use as the liquid, but opt for the more frugal flavoring, chicken bouillon powder, about 3-4 dollars for a big jar at our Costco. 

Barley also works well with stir fry, in place of rice.  Cook with a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part barley, just a tinge longer than you would cook rice.  I haven't tried it in a Mexican rice type dish yet, but have used it with albondigas flavorings.  I'm confident it would do quite well as a substitute in my Mexican rice dish. 

One place I did not like the barley was in a sweet version, similar to arroz con leche.  The flavors were not great. If I don't care for it, I'm probably not fixing it again...if the kiddos reject it completely, not gonna be on the menu again.  Their feellings are mostly positive about the more savory barley meals, though one son has been very vocal about his displeasure.  9 out of 10 is a great approval rating, in my opinion, so barley gets a green light at the Macaroni Improv.  This grain is sure to be on the menu for many meals to come, and I will be on the lookout for intriguing ways to dress it up!  Be sure to give it a try before you invest in a 25 lb. bag, like I did!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I've been away from this one for a while...forgot it existed...uh, oh! But I think it's relevant and pertinent to make the most of one's kitchen resources, so I'm gonna play with this a bit! LOL! For those who may stumble across this site, patience, please! It's a work in progress, by all means!