Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cousin Amanda's Alfredo

Alfredo is one of my all time favorite sauces. This stuff is TO DIE FOR!!! I'm so tickled to have family to share recipes with now. Next week I'll be trying her MIL's Tacos el Pastor. Yum!

2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 Tbs minced garlic (or 2-3 cloves minced)
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 c milk
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper
1 box angel hair pasta (or other pasta)

(she also suggested parsley)

On low heat melt butter and add garlic, cook for about a minute to infuse the butter w/the garlic flavor, then add cream, milk and parm cheese with some black pepper and salt. Turn heat up to med-low until starting to bubble, add slurry (slurry=1 Tbs cornstarch for every 2 cups liquid, which a pint is 2 cups, so I mixed in cornstarch that was combined with a few Tbs water to make a paste), whisk until incorporated, continue to cook on med-low while cooking noodles, then add chicken and spinach and heat on med until heated through and starting to bubble again.

Thanks, Amanda!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Starting Sage

After watching Julie and Julia the other night while knitting a mug cozy, I was inspired to pull down my cookbooks and read them instead of just browsing for a specific recipe. One cookbook is The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver. He starts out the cookbook explaining things like how he got started, what staples he keeps in his pantry, what herbs should be grown fresh, etc. This inspired me to start a pot in my kitchen windowsill, especially since one of my goals for 2010 is to have a small 3'x3' vegetable garden (more about that later).

In my pursuit of frugality, I fought the urge to go shopping for new gardening supplies and seed and instead went on a search to see what I already have on hand. On my front porch I found a cluster of pots with dried potting soil from an herb garden attempt two or three years ago. I didn't realize at the time that if I sat the pots in front of the window a/c unit, the hot air would dehydrate them. Now I'm starting small with one plant. Jamie recommends rosemary, thyme, sage and bay and says they can be grown in most climates.

In my fridge I found a packet of sage seeds, so I am starting with those. I'm doing some googling to try to understand the plant better, but I start all my seeds the same with generally a lot of success. I find a small container like a seed starting pot, a small terra cotta pot, a paper egg carton, a toilet paper or paper towel roll, etc., fill with a little soil, moisten, add the seed, then place in a plastic ziplock bag in a warm, dark place for up to two weeks. I check on the bag to make sure mold is not growing and see how the seedling is coming along. Once it starts developing it's first leaves (the cotyledons and first true leaves) then I move it to a sunny location and keep damp. I seem to be great at starting seeds, but my forgetfulness which manifests into neglect is what kills the plants after it's first month or two of life. I'm going to be trying to develop habits and routine though so I can avoid this problem in 2010. We'll see how it goes...

Shopping Tips

A conversation I had with my mom this morning got me thinking about making a blog post on questions I ask myself when I'm shopping to keep from over buying. Hopefully they can help when you are on a budget or just looking for ways to help save more money.

First, I maintain a list on a dry erase board that I update in between shopping trips, plan all the meals in advance, and anything not on my list (and even some stuff on the list) get asked these questions:

1. Do I need you? If no, then I ask why do I want you? I put it away and in two weeks when I'm in the store again and I'm still thinking of the item and know exactly how it will benefit me then I will purchase it if it is within my budget.

2. Do I need you anytime in the next two weeks? If the answer is no and it's regular price, it goes back on the shelf and remains on my shopping list until next time. If it's an incredible bargain and it is something I truly need in the next month, then I will purchase it.

3. Is there a way I can get you cheaper? For example, if I see a book I want I make a note of it and order it off PBS. If it is food, can I make it from scratch with what I already have on hand? For home decor, is there a way I can make it? You get the idea.

4. Are you something I will still want in two weeks? The trick here is not to answer the question and just put it back. I had carried the same purse for the past four years and earlier this year saw an olive green oversized boho bag at Walmart that I fell in love with. I knew it would be perfect to keep a small knitting or crochet project in as well as all my personal items. Weeks went by and I couldn't get this bad out of my mind, so I went ahead and bought it and have never regretted it. Anything else I have forgotten about by my next shopping trip. (This is just a further illustration of a response to question 1).

5. Are you on my list? Why did I pick you up? Sometimes I'll just carry items around the store with me until I am ready to leave and once I realize how much I am already spending or that I don't need it, I'll make a final lap around the store to put things back (It's a great way to fit in some extra walking too). In a way it helps to get past the impulse urge by picking it up and putting it in the shopping cart, but the trick is not to let it leave the store with you.

6. Is purchasing you going to put me over my budget? This goes for items I put on my shopping list as well as impulse items. Sometimes I think I would like a new pair of cleaning gloves or a bag of chocolate, and once I have the things I know I need and have them added up, then I examine the less crucial items to determine whether they really need to be purchased or not. There is nothing more stressful to me than going over budget and knowing I'll be dipping into what I could be saving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Frugal Tips of the Day

I just finished putting away groceries from my bi-monthly shopping trip and there were some real bargains on things I regularly use that I just could not pass up. I now have an excess of celery and heavy cream that I will use at later dates and wanted to share how I preserve them.

*Wrap celery in foil and it can keep as long as two weeks before use. I suspect they may last even a bit longer if you keep your fridge cold and they are wrapped in foil. I also chop and freeze to use in soups and stews. Celery can also be dehydrated. Here's a link for drying in the oven (Blanching is important to kill harmful bacteria or enzymes):

*Heavy whipping cream can be stored in the freezer, just make sure there is enough room in the container to allow for expansion. The cream can not be whipped after freezing, but it can be used in general cooking.

*Another tip I thought of this week is if you are ever in need of refried beans and do not have time to cook beans from scratch or you are looking to save a little money use canned pinto or black beans. Empty entire contents of can into sauce pan, heat thoroughly, then mash with fork or potato masher. If beans get a little dry add a couple tablespoons of water in increments and stir until beans are creamy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cheap Entertainment

I want to let you in on a secret. You do not have to pay full price for books, cds or dvds. I have been a member of (PBS) since June 2006. It has been an absolute life saver. I have a book addiction and instead of dropping $200 at Barnes and Noble or $50 at Half Price Books for approximately 10 books, I can get them for $3.45 a book (or less) at PBS. If you post books and mail them, the postage is less than $3.45 and you get a credit to request another book with. For me it's also cheaper than going to the library because I would spend $5 in gas per trip to the library. There are also and, and credits can be transferred between all three sites. I urge you to go check them out. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions! - Book Club to Swap, Trade & Exchange Books for Free.

Spaghetti Carbonara

This is one of those dishes that I can buy the ingredients and not have to worry about them going bad quickly, so I can make it in a pinch and it's quick and easy. It's also inexpensive, costing me about $5-6 to make. Serves 4.


1/2 lb bacon (approx, I buy bag of bacon ends at store, then separate meat from fat before putting in skillet)
black pepper
1 onion diced
1-2 garlic cloves minced
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 c white wine
1 c pasta water
3 eggs
5 oz package Parmesan, grated (I buy already grated, both the wedge and grated are same price and same weight at any store I check)
1 pkg angel hair pasta

While bringing a pot of water to a boil, combine eggs and Parmesan in a bowl until well blended and set aside. Pepper and cook bacon over medium heat about 3-5 minutes, add olive oil and onion and cook until onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook an additional one minute (you don't want garlic to burn or it becomes bitter). Add white wine to deglaze pan.

When pasta is done cooking reserve one cup of pasta water (the starch in the water helps thicken the sauce), add a small portion of water to egg and cheese mixture to temper, then add water and egg and cheese mixture to skillet with bacon and allow to thicken slightly. After draining pasta, return to pot, add contents of skillet and mix to combine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bacon and Cheese Potato Soup

This is essentially a variation of the spicy sausage potato soup I posted previously, and while that was really yummy, I like this one even more.

Ingredients (I don't recall making many ingredients lists before, I think I have some editing to do!):

1/4 to 1/2 lb smoked bacon ends (the package sizes vary at the local meat market)
1 onion diced
1 Tbs chopped garlic
2-3 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 in pieces
8 cups water
2 Tbs chicken base (Better than Bouillon is a wonderful brand and is found with bouillon cubes)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Black pepper
White pepper
Crushed red pepper

First trim the fat from the bacon ends to help reduce fat content of dish, then in a Dutch oven cook over medium to medium high heat in a Tbs of olive oil for 7 to 8 minutes, remove bacon from pan and onto towel-lined plate.

Next add remainder of olive oil to pan and cook onion until translucent. Add garlic and cook for one minute (you don't want garlic to burn or it will become bitter).

Add water, chicken base and potatoes to Dutch oven, bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft and break with a fork.

Ladle about half of the onion and potatoes with some broth into a blender and puree. Return back to Dutch oven, add bacon, black pepper, white pepper, crushed red pepper and thyme to taste. I'd approximate 1/4 tsp each of the pepper and 1/2 tsp thyme. Let simmer 30 minutes.

During the last 5 minutes of cooking up to serving time, add cheddar cheese and stir to blend.

I served this with toasted Irish soda bread.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Money tight? Here's some tips!

I've been getting a lot of positive comments about the blog lately and been hearing a lot of opinions about how people feel like the economy will not be getting better any time soon. This got me thinking about all the ways I have cut back in our family but do not feel like we are missing out on anything. My husband is a truck driver and I am a housewife. I do try to work when a job comes along, but in the area we live in there just are not many jobs to be had, and in the nature of hubby's job about 2-4 times a year we are going to be seriously strapped for cash. It's taken several years and some very hard lessons to help me figure out how to manage our money better and things I can do to ease the burden during hard times. So here are some of the things I have done and continue to improve on:

1. Create a budget. I started this by keeping a log of how much I spend on each individual bill, dog and cat food, groceries, dining out, entertainment, household purchases, gas, cigarettes (hubby smokes), and misc expenses. After 4-6 months I started seeing trends and I would try to make small changes in various categories. After I became accustomed to making small changes and cutting back, I started putting a cap on how much I could spend in various categories then setting aside money in savings. Tony and I now pretend that each of his checks are a certain dollar amount and when the checks are over we save everything over that amount, then when he has checks under that amount we have a cushion to help make up the difference.

2. Household bills. I have had my mortgage now for just over 6 years and early this year I shopped around for a new insurance policy. I still have a low interest rate from when I worked at the bank, otherwise I would have shopped around for a lower rate too. At the same time I got a new auto policy and between the two I am saving about $80 a month. For the electric bill, when we had a little extra money with our tax return we replaced our computer server with a smaller, more effective unit. I also called the electric company and they came and replaced our old meter with a newer one which we've noticed a big change in how much the unit says we use per day. If you know or suspect your current meter is at least 10 years old, or is analog and not digital, call to see about having your meter replaced, the company will generally do it for free. My electric company (Green Mountain in Texas) also has a customer loyalty program where I was able to lock in my rate at 12.5 cents per kilowatt hour for a year. Shop around for electric rates. I have also gotten into the habit of paying our bills 2 to 4 weeks in advance. If bills are the same amount every month then I'll pay them a month in advance. If they are variable, I'll pay a little extra on each one and pay it as soon as it's available. After keeping a log you will start to notice trends in how much those bills are at different times of the year and can anticipate how much they will be. Then when we have a month where Tony either does not work or works very few hours, playing catch up is not very difficult if we have to at all.

3. Pets. I started checking out different places that sell pet supplies. For years we bought our food at Walmart, and believe it or not, Walmart is not the cheapest place to get pet food. I found Tractor Supply Company had better prices on name brand food than Walmart, then started checking feed stores and found they have even better prices than TSC.

4. Food. Back when Tony and I both worked full time we would eat out 3 times a day. Then when I became a housewife we would eat out 2-4 times a week. Gradually we continued to cut back and now we only eat out one or two times a month. The cheapest we can eat out for is $15 if we hit a buffet, but often our bill exceeds $30 after tip at regular restaurants. I've made a game of trying to figure out how to make at home those foods we love when we eat out. The most expensive meals cost $10 to make and some I can make for $2-4 and feed 2-4 people and sometimes get multiple meals out of them. The past month with the cooler weather and tighter budget I have been making a lot more soup and serving homemade bread or grilled cheese sandwiches. I'll freeze the leftover soup to serve for lunch another day. Even convenience foods from the store I've started making at home for less (for example: pizza, burritos, french bread, refried beans).

5. Entertainment. Tony set up the new server connected to our television in the living room and set up Hulu desktop so we can watch tv shows and movies on demand for free. We do still have satellite service since we don't pick up local stations without it, but we are able to get by with just a local package since we can watch a lot of our favorite shows online for free. Tony and I do still go to movies once every couple of months, but instead of going to the big, mega theatres that charge $10+ dollars for admission then even more for the consession, we started going to the Movie Tavern which only charges $5 for admission. Sometimes we will eat there as the prices are good, but when money is tight we will get Taco Bueno before and just get a drink to share at the movie (which comes with free refills).

6. Household purchases. It's amazing how much money we spent on things like cleaning supplies, bottled water (our water here isn't always safe to drink), hardware, car repairs, etc. Many of you are familiar with my recipe for making laundry soap, I believe it is a November 2008 post. That alone saves me at least $120 a year, $170+ if I include fabric softener savings. For $1 I can make a batch of detergent that will last me a month, and I've replaced my fabric softener with 1/2 cup to 1 cup vinegar in the rinse cycle (cuts down on odors and lint). I do still use dye and perfume free dryer sheets, my mom bought me some dryer balls but they just did not seem to work against the static. I have also started making many of my own cleaning products, but I do also keep a bottle of Clorox Green Works dilutible soap on hand and use a few drops in water for everything from cleaning windows and mirrors, floors, walls, counter tops, degreasing the stove, etc. This one product instead of tons of others for each individual job has helped me save money and space. Tony and I also try to figure out how to fix things ourselves rather than having someone else do it like we did in the past. As for our water, we bought an under-sink cold water filter then use a Brita to filter it a second time instead of always buying bottled, and I found some inexpensive bpa-free reusable water bottles on that Tony uses for work.

7. Cigarettes. I hope each of you reading this does not smoke, but if you do, then rolling your own cigarettes saves A TON of money. We make a trip to the Oklahoma border once or twice a month (we only live 40 miles from the nearest border tobacco shop) and for about $30 Tony can get enough tobacco and tubes for two cartons of cigarettes vs. $50+ a carton here in Texas.

8. Changing my mindset and constantly asking questions has made the biggest difference. In everything I do that costs money, I ask myself "Is there a way to do this cheaper?" and with my purchases I ask "Is this something I need before our next paycheck?" If I see something that I think I really want I make myself wait to purchase it. If by the next check I'm still thinking about it (like a new purse) and it's affordable, then I let myself have it. Most of the time I find I have forgotten all about it.

I hope some of these ideas help. Times are tough for many if not all of us, and even though I've learned to cut back I really do not feel like I am missing out on anything. The sense of pride and satisfaction in doing things yourself and seeing yourself improve is the most amazing feeling.

If you have any tips you would like to share please leave them! I am always looking for new ways to change.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Spicy Sausage and Potato Soup

One of my hubby's favorite soups is Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden, and after making a low fat Potato Leek Soup a few weeks ago, I thought I would merge the two recipes and the result was super yummy!!! The cheese I used is an Edam cheese I found at the local German Meat Market, but almost any cheese will work. Adding chopped kale just before serving would be a good addition as well.

Spicy Sausage and Potato Soup

1 lb spicy bulk sausage

2 med onion sliced

2 ½ lb potatoes, diced

Olive oil

1 Tbs butter

Cayenne pepper

White pepper

Edam cheese

Chicken bouillon

6 cups water

In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown sausage in a little olive oil, until crumbled and cooked through. Remove to paper towel lined plate, refridgerate.

In same pot, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, butter and onion. Cook on low until onion is soft and translucent. Use this time to peel and dice potatoes.

When onion is done, add water, diced potatoes, cayenne, white pepper and bouillon. Heat on high to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes until potatoes are soft.

Remove half of mixture from pot and puree in a blender with a little broth, return to pot with sausage. Heat another 10 minutes.

Serve with cheese.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Shredded Pork Tamale Pie

Okay, so I didn't make the tomatillo sauce and chiptole mashed potatoes today, instead I made tamale pie! This is very inexpensive to make, the Ro*tel is the most expensive ingredient at $.98+ a can. Total I'd say it cost between $3-5 to make and it can feed 4-8 people depending upon the portion size. This was my first time to make it and I altered the original recipe enough to warrant typing it up here. It came out super moist and spicy. If you don't like as much spice cut down or eliminate the cayenne. It was so yummy it's going to become a regular meal in my home.

Here's how I made it:

2-3 cups shredded pork
1 cup corn meal
1/2 cup milk
2 cups frozen corn
1 can Ro*tel
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
pinch of cayenne pepper to taste
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups water
Butter spray
1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or any kind you like)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a pot, large sauce pan or skillet with deep sides, combine corn meal, milk, corn, Ro*tel, eggs, chili powder, cayenne pepper and salt. Cook over medium to medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes adding 1/4 cup water each time the mixture starts to get really thick and dough-like. There will be a small amount that will burn on the bottom of the pan, don't worry about this.

My pork was sitting in the fridge overnight so I reheated it in a small saucepan with 1/2 c water while I was stirring the corn meal mixture. The last few minutes of cooking I added the shredded pork to the corn mixture along with the water from the pan and stirred until combined and dough-like.

In a greased 2 qt baking dish (about 6"x10") pour the mixture and level. Bake for 30 minutes (another 10-15 minutes if your oven tends to under cook), remove and turn off heat in oven, sprinkle pie with cheese and return to oven for 5 minutes to allow cheese to melt. Remove again, cut into squares and serve.

Mexican rice or refried beans would be great side dishes for this meal.

*Frugal tip, you can use less meat the more finely you shred it. You'll still have all the flavor and never be able to tell there is less meat this way.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Super Easy Faux Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork

So most of us don't have a BBQ Pit or are pit masters. But after watching several BBQ cookoffs on Food Network and the Travel Channel this summer when I spotted a pork butt (shoulder roast) at the meat market for only $.99 a pound this week I couldn't pass it up. When I got it home I had to figure out how to cook the thing. I've had lots of luck making pulled beef in my crock pot and last week I successfully roasted a chicken in the crock, so I knew that would be my vessel of choice again. However, I really didn't want to add any water to the roast, and since I roasted the chicken last week without water I figured I would do a little experiment and put the pork butt in dry and see how it turned out. I have to say it is perfect! Now I've never been a big pork fan but this is really good. Here's how I did it:

I sprinkled on some liquid hickory smoke, seasoned the pork butt (isn't that just fun to say?) with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder and onion powder (it's the base seasoning mix hubby and I use for all our meat cooking), and cooked on each side in a skillet until browned (this is to add flavor). When all the side were browned I put the pork butt in an oiled crockpot (olive oil spray), added a little more liquid hickory smoke for good measure, and cooked for 10 hours overnight on low.

When I woke up (waking up to check on food is always a good start to the day!) I tried picking up the pork butt with a pair of tongs and it just fell apart, so I tried picking up the bone with the tongs and the meat fell clean off the bone (this was a great treat for my black lab mix, Geordi, although it occurred to me after I gave him the bone that it would have been an excellent way to season some pinto beans when I make refried beans from the crock pot). So I shredded the meat with a fork and tongs and as soon as hubby is done working on the car I'm going to mix part of the meat with some BBQ sauce (haven't attempted making this homemade yet, so I buy various Texas brands when we're out at restaurants) for pulled pork sandwiches. The remainder of the meat I plan on making my tomatillo sauce (much like salsa), tossing the meat with it, then serving it with chipotle mashed potatoes (one of my hubby's faves).

So have no fear and give this method a try. I may have to try the same method with a rump roast or brisket just to see what happens. I suspect the rump roast may be a little drier in the end and the fat in the brisket will make this a perfect cooking method. Generally I use a little water with my rump roast then drain before making pulled beef sandwiches, tacos, or empanadas. Each meat (beef, pork, even chicken) would also be great in a posole (soup made of meat and hominy).

A great frugal tip is to look for these cuts of meat when they are on sale: beef rump roast (a good price where I am is $2.19/lb which is comparable to ground beef) and pork butt (shoulder) (good price is $.99/lb). I can easily get 3 meals out of each and sometimes stretch them further. Whole chickens are also inexpensive and I'll blog about how to make it when I try it again within the next week.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Berries and Beverages

Okay so we all know how important water is to our health and most of the time I love plain water, but from time to time I want something more. I love unsweetened iced tea more than life itself but I live in Texas and man does it get hot!!! At times I tend to get a little dehydrated which triggers migraines for me so I know I need just water. Here's a little trick I decided to try when one day I was craving some Kool-aid from my childhood days but didn't want all the sugar. I grabbed a handful of raspberries from my freezer and added them to the water with some ice. I just let the berries infuse the water and they naturally sweeten it just a hint.

Now a little treat later for my husband I'll be making some Italian sodas with some blueberries I have in my freezer. Back in high school I was on the school newspaper as a staff writer and Features editor and on my lunch break while out running errands for the paper I would stop at the local coffee shop for turkey on a croissant and a raspberry Italian soda. It's still one of my favorite meals but since I can't handle the calories now quite like I used to, it's an occasional treat.

Here's how I do it:

Blueberry Simple Syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup blueberries

I cook the ingredients together in a medium saucepan on the stovetop until the sugar is dissolved and the berries have mostly burst. Drain the mixture with a mesh colander to catch the blueberries. I store the syrup in a mason jar in the fridge for up to a month (although it never lasts that long!).

Italian Soda
8 oz Carbonated water
4 Tbs Blueberry syrup (more or less to taste)

Over the ice, I pour the syrup followed by the carbonated water (I prefer seltzer water, my husband likes tonic water). To make this a French soda add a little milk or half-and-half.

Some frugal tips for you:
*If you don't like the taste of tap water, try an under sink water filter which eliminates about 99% of impurities in tap water. Since we have poor quality water where we live we further filter the water in a Brita system and the water tastes clean and crisp after the dual filtering.

*This simple syrup works great for other dishes too. Try it on pancakes or waffles for breakfast and pound cake for dessert. Also make the simple syrup with only the sugar and water to add to tea or kool-aid and eliminate sugar granuals in the bottom of the pitcher. Hmmm... thinking about it, the fruit syrup would be very yummy with iced tea too!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Au Jus

French dip sandwiches are one of my all time favorites. I make them at home from time to time but in an effort to cut down on our grocery bill I thought I'd try to make the Au Jus myself. I tried looking online for a simple recipe using just beef stock but didn't have much luck, so I winged it with some ideas I got from looking at various recipes, and it turned out wonderful!!! A friend did mention that Au Jus no matter how you make it is hard to mess up, but I'm very happy with the results I got.

Au Jus

3 cups water
3 reduced sodium beef bouillon cubes
1 tsp cornstarch (you can use a little more or omit)
1 tsp Kitchen Bouquet (browning sauce)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Heat until boiling, add sliced roast beef (I just used deli roast beef) and cook until meat is heated through about 1-2 minutes. I'll make a French dip sandwich with the roast beef and either Provolone or Baby Swiss on a toasted French baguette or Mexican bolillo bread.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Winter is orange season in Texas and I've been buying them up by the bag every chance I get. Unfortunately hubby and I don't always get them all eaten before they start to go soft. So tonight I made some orangeade that my dear friend Lupita taught me how to make from her days growing up in Central Mexico. When she comes over to cook with me she always heads straight for my fridge to see what citrus I have on hand to make this wonderful beverage. We use any citrus on hand and combining them is always an adventure for the taste buds and takes me back to my childhood days of 5 Alive. Remember that??? Anyway, I digress...

Orangeade (or any kind of Citrusade)

8-12 oranges (lemons, limes or grapefruit work as well)
1 cup sugar
2 quarts of water

This is almost exactly like making a pitcher of Kool-Aid only you're using fresh juice instead. Juice the oranges into a pitcher, add the sugar and stir. Gradually add water stirring as you go until sugar is dissolved.

A couple of tips for you, first I cut the oranges into quarters to make juicing easier, second if you have a hard time getting sugar to dissolve try making a simple syrup of 1 cup sugar and 1/2 water (the ratio for a simple syrup is always 2 parts sugar to 1 part water), cook in a sauce pan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Then add to fresh squeezed juice and remaining water, stir and serve over ice.

A bit of trivia for you as well. Texas produces very sweet, juicy oranges and grapefruit from October to May. They are grown in the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas/Mexico border. The warm, humid South Texas climate produces an orange that is lighter in color with a thinner peel than oranges from California, Arizona or Florida.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Spicy Chicken and Rice Soup

I have a sinus infection today which is making my head feel like it's about to explode, so that combined with the cool, cloudy weather we're having made me want some soup. When I'm sick I usually make tortilla soup but I wanted to use up some frozen veggies I had left over from the summer and some rice I have on hand. So here we go...

1 lb chicken
chicken bouillon
adobo paste
chipotle powder
black pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
chili powder
2-5 garlic cloves minced (we like a lot of garlic)
1 onion chopped
frozen veggies (I used bell pepper, onion, zucchini, yellow squash and corn; use what you have on hand)
1 cup uncooked rice

In a large pot bring approx 8 cups of water to a boil and add chicken, bouillon and adobo (I just followed the instructions for the proper amount each of bouillon and adobo to be added to that amount of water). Once chicken is cooked, remove and either shred or dice returning to broth.

Once cooked chicken is added back to broth, add about a tablespoon each of oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder. Add about a teaspoon each of chipotle powder and black pepper. Also add garlic and onion, other veggies, and rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Serve with jalapeno cornbread. For this I just use a box of Jiffy cornbread mix, add a half cup of frozen corn and 1 diced jalapeno and cook according to directions.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Easy Fried Rice

I was sitting here tonight editing a friend's book and started getting the munchies. I made a roast beef wrap, ate a few bites and realized it wasn't what I wanted to eat. So I gave the rest of the wrap to a doggy and suddenly realized I was craving rice. I wanted to make something with the incredibly aromatic and yummy Texmati Basmati rice I had in my pantry. I Googled "easy rice recipes" and when I saw the words "fried rice" I knew that is what I wanted, one of my all time favorite foods. A perfect comfort food and good for you too! Now let me tell you that all those nutritionists out there claim that white rice is horrible for you and don't eat it. Well, they can go shove it. My botany prof in college is convinced that rice (white or brown) is an almost perfect food because of the high level of amino acids (and if you eat beans and rice, depending upon the type of bean, you can potentially have a complete protein, and this is a very, very good thing!). But I digress...

I have found the Texmati brand of Basmati rice (grown in Texas) has the most incredible aroma when toasted to a light golden brown and cooked. The air is filled with the scent of buttered popcorn. I've even seen Alton Brown suggest it as his rice of choice on Good Eats. Yay! So on to the recipe we go...


1 cup Texmati Basmati rice
1 Tbs Olive oil
1 3/4 cups water

1/8 cup vegetable or canola oil
3 Tbs seasame oil
1 yellow onion chopped (I prefer sweet Texas yellow onions)
2-3 cloves garlic chopped
1-2 cups frozen peas & carrots
2 eggs scrambled
1/4-1/2 c low sodium soy sauce

In a sauce pan over medium heat add the olive oil and rice, stirring rice to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until rice is a light golden brown. Add water, heat until boiling, cover and cook for 13-15 min. (The package says 15 min but mine was done after 13, and make sure you open the lid away from your person, I did not do this and now have a nasty steam burn on my forearm!).

While rice is cooking in water, heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add veggie or canola oil and sesame oil, mixing together w/a spoon or spatula. Add onion and garlic, cook until onion is translucent then add frozen peas and carrots cooking until heated about 1-2 minutes. Push veggies off to side and add egg mixture. Scramble and once cooked, incorporate into veggies.

Now drizzle veggies with some of the soy sauce and mix until coated. Add 2 heaping spoonfuls (or spatula-fuls) of rice to skillet, drizzle with a little more soy sauce, mixing to incorporate and coat, and keep repeating until all rice is incorporated.

Let leftovers cool for about 20 minutes, place into a storage container and refridgerate. I would guess this is good in the fridge for up to a week.

Optional: Drizzle a little soy sauce or sesame seed oil on top of rice as garnish.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rockin' Black Bean Chili

I love how recipes created out of scrounging tend to be some of the best. Tonight for dinner I made the most rockin' black bean chili. Here's what I used:

1 lb stew meat
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper (I use McCormick Grinder, Black Pepper Medley)
onion powder
garlic powder
chili powder
3 chopped garlic cloves
1 chopped onion
2 beef bouillon cubes
heaping tablespoon adobo paste
1 can Rotel (undrained)
1 can fire roasted chilies (undrained)
2 cans black beans (undrained)
couple handfuls crushed tortilla chips
2-3 tablespoons lime juice

In my cast iron dutch oven, I cooked the meat with a liberal sprinkling of all the seasonings until it was mostly browned, then I added the onion and garlic and cooked until soft.

I then added the beef bouillon, adobo, Rotel, chilies, and black beans, heating until boiling, covered and reduced heat to low. It cooked for about 30 minutes before I added the tortilla chips to thicken the mixture, which I let cook for another 15-20 minutes to allow them to dissolve. About 10 mintues before serving I turned off the heat, added the lime juice, stirred to incorporate, and let the chili rest before serving. I topped with some grated mozzerella cheese I had on hand.

I would have taken a photo but we ate it all before I remembered to write down the recipe.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Music City Muse

So I now have another writing gig doing music reviews for The Music City Muse that my friend Mel Barnes started. I'm really excited about this opportunity to help fatten up my portfolio and hopefully one day actually have a paying job from home!!! The first reviews I'm working on are of the bands J Minus as well as Slander. I'll let you know when the first reviews are posted!