Powered by Blogger.

Networked Blogs

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Creative Cooking - Asian Chicken

This is one of those recipes that is relatively inexpensive and makes a TON of food.  It's great to feed a lot of people, and the ingredients are flexible enough that you can make more of less of it  depending on your resources.  

We used to live in Colorado, and on more than one occasion, we would have a house full of people.  When that happened, I had certain go-to recipes that I knew would be tasty, filling, make large quantities, and were usually something that everyone would like.  Add a salad and drinks, and this is enough to feed a crowd. 

 Asian Chicken
4 pkgs. Ramen noodles
4 C. water
¼ C. soy sauce
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (may omit)
2 (16 oz.) pkgs. mixed vegetables, preferrably Asian stirfry, but any will do
6 cups cooked chicken of your choice (can reduce to as little as 2 cups, if desired; 6 cups is a lot of chicken)

In very large pot bring 4 cups water to boil. Stir in seasoning packets from Ramen noodles, soy sauce, and pepper flakes. Add noodles. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Do not drain noodles. Add veggies. Cover; cook until noodles and veggies are tender, 3-4 minutes. Stir in chicken. Makes almost 2 gallons.

HINT: To decrease the cost of this dish, you can decrease the chicken and add 2-3 scrambled, chopped up eggs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Freezer to Crockpot – Taco Soup

There are a million variations on taco soup. It’s easy, it’s tasty, it’s filling, and you can often ad-lib the ingredients to compensate for items you don’t have or use variations to suit your taste if there are ingredients you don’t like.   

Most recipes I have seen say to use a specific type of meat.  Realistically, you can use anything that you have or omit the meat completely  I like either browned ground beef or browned steak pieces/stew meat, but you can also use chicken and even kielbasa that’s been cooked prior to adding it to the pot.

Here’s the recipe. 

Taco Soup


1  to 1.5 lb. meat of choice (if fatty meat such as hamburger meat, cook beforehand)
1 small chopped onion
1 can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes (or other diced tomatoes with green chiles)
1 can plain diced stewed tomatoes
1 can kernel corn (not cream corn)
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix
1 pkg. taco seasoning

(These are all the regular small-sized cans (around 14-17 oz.), not the large cans.)

Again, do not drain cans of ingredients. Combine all ingredients in 1 gallon zippered bag and freeze.  When ready to eat, add to crock pot and cook on high 4-6 hours or low 6-8 hours. 

Stovetop variation:  Combine all ingredients in 5 qt pan, adding dry ingredients last.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Serve with crackers, tortillas, or Indian fry bread

Vegetarian:  Omit meat completely or substitute cooked lentils, tofu, or TVP.   
Meat:  Use browned hamburger meat, stew meat, or cut up pieces of round steak, boneless skinless chicken breasts, or even cooked shrimp.  You may also use thinly sliced and browned Kielbasa or smoked sausage alone or added with the other meats for an interesting taste combination.  Just make sure when using any fatty meat, such as hamburger meat or sausage, that it’s browned and drained before adding it to the recipe.
Beans/corn:  My hubby isn’t a fan of corn but will eat it in stews.  I sometimes substitute navy beans, garbanzo beans, or black-eyed peas. 
Tomatoes:  Use any canned tomato combination that suits you based on what you have.  I like Ro-Tel tomatoes because they already have peppers in them, and we tend to like our food very spicy.  However, you may substitute tomatoes with chipotle peppers for an interesting combination or even tomatoes with basil, oregano, and garlic.  If you do not have tomatoes with chiles in them, you can use regular diced stewed tomatoes and add a couple of tablespoons of chopped canned green chiles.  I have also used fresh tomatoes but added a small can of tomato paste to thicken up the soup, as fresh tomatoes tend to have more liquid.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Getting the Most Out of At-Home Hair Color

Have you ever tried to use at-home hair color only to have it not work for you?  Do you have gray hair that is hard to color, especially with at-home colors?  Here are some tips that may help you get the most from at-home hair color products. This is a long post but will be well worth the read.

My eldest brother, Roger, was a hair stylist and cosmetologist, and prior to his death years ago, he gave me some helpful hints.  Here are some with regard to hair coloring.  

Make sure that the hair color you choose is suitable for what you want it to do.  Read the box.  If you want gray coverage, you must use a permanent hair color.  If you see semi-permanent or demi-permanent, the color will wash out in a certain number of washes.  Some hair colors now just simply say they will last through X number of washes.  That’s a semi-permanent color.  Take that into consideration when purchasing color.  If it says lasts through 28 washes and you wash your hair every day, the color will be washed out, literally, by the end of the month.  This is great if you just want to try a new color without committing fully.  However, if you want gray coverage, you will be disappointed.  For me, semi-permanent color will literally wash out of my hair as I’m washing off the color I just applied.  Permanent hair color will not wash out or come off; you will only see root growth.  The color may dim, but the effect will stay. 

If you use any hair-styling products, this can affect how your hair absorbs the hair color.  Even if it’s just mousse or hairspray.  Hair product residue can account for splotchiness/spots after you’ve colored.  This is especially true for straightening, smoothing, or heat-protecting serums.  Most contain some form of silicone.  Read the ingredients listed in hair products.  If you see anything that ends in “cone,” that’s a silicone based item such as silicone, dimethicone, or simethicone.  Polydimethylsiloxane (or PDMS) is another term you may see.  These all serve to coat the hair shaft, smooth, and seal it.  Seal it?! That’s right.  That goes against what you’re trying to accomplish by coloring your hair!  You will need to do something that strips all product residue off your hair before coloring so that nothing remains to block color absorption.

Finally, let’s talk about gray hair.  It’s that stuff that crops up on your head like a sneaky traitor bent on letting people know you’re just not as young as you once were (wink!).  Some of us were afflicted with a family trait that causes premature graying. I have prematurely gray hair, as did my father and brother.  In addition, that gray hair often seems to be tougher, coarser, wirier, and so resistant to color that you couldn’t get it to change colors if you sprayed it with spray paint!  But you can!

In order to absorb hair color, the hair shaft has tiny scales that must open so that the dye can be deposited on and in the hair shaft.  At the end of the process, a conditioner and smoother is applied to seal the color/dye in place.  (It’s more technical than that, but it’s a general idea of how it works.)  If you are going with a lighter color, you must also “lift” the color from your original hair, then deposit the new color, via dye, onto the hair shaft so that it absorbs.  That same process is needed in order to get gray hair to absorb color and not be just gray.  The chemical (peroxide) that causes this change is said to have a certain volume.  You may see 10 volume, 20 volume, 30 volume, or 40 volume.  This determines how much original hair color is removed or lifted when the chemical is applied.  For example, 10 volume takes it up 1 level, 20 volume 2 levels, 30 volume 3 levels, and so on. 

Most department store products contain 10-volume solution.  Some contain higher volume and usually say so on the box.  However, the wording may not be consistent.  It may say volume.  It may say level.  It may say it comes out in X number of washes. My favorite hair color, Loreal Feria, lists “level 3,” which would correspond to 30-volume developer solution.  That’s what I need for my stubborn grays.  If you have hair that is normal, most hair colors will work for you.  However, if you have hard-to-color hair or gray hair that is nearly impossible to color and you don’t want to have to go to a salon, here is a trick that may work for you to get the most lift so that the dye works as it should.

It’s likely in your kitchen cabinet, and it serves a dual purpose.  Not only does it strip any residual hair care products off your hair, it opens up the hair shaft that it’s ready to accept and absorb hair color.   
It’s baking soda.  Yes, you read that right.  Baking soda.

And slightly “dirty” hair. That’s hair that’s been washed in the morning, allowed to do its thing all day without hair products, and then colored at night…. Or washed at night and colored in the morning.  You get the idea. 

What works best for me is to wash my hair in the morning using baking soda with a diluted vinegar-water rinse then color it that night.   I put the baking soda on my scalp, near the roots which have grown out, and massage the hair between my fingertips.  The point is to really rough up the hair and rinse the baking soda out thoroughly.  After that I use a generous solution of half white vinegar and half water to apply to the hair.  Massage through, then rinse.  The white vinegar and water neutralizes any residual baking soda. 

This is going to leave the hair feeling strange and dry, almost sticky.  This is good.  It means the hair shaft is “open.”  I recommend allowing it to air dry or dry quickly with a blowdryer and then put your hair up out of the way because you do not want to apply styling products.

A few hours later, I dye my hair.  This allows some natural oils to seep out and protect the scalp.  I apply the color to the roots only, let it sit, and then massage the color through the hair.  Follow the directions on the box of color to complete the dye process.   That’s it! 

Be aware, though, that you might just want to color the roots.  Hair that has been dyed previously already has a hair shaft that is open and will readily absorb color.  This is why some people buy the same hair color and then occasionally get a surprise darker head of hair than usual if they apply the hair color to the entire head of hair from roots to tips. 

I’ve seen some recommendations to add baking soda to your shampoo and scrub.  That works okay, but oftentimes shampoos contain moisturizers and smoothers.  These are the very things you were trying to get rid of, and this defeats the purpose of using the baking soda.  You can use a slight bit of nonmoisturizing dish soap to make a paste and apply to the hair, but only do this when you’re ready to color, as dish soap is very harsh and strips the hair even more.

So there you have it!  Using these techniques is not a fail-safe method, but it can help you get the color results you want to achieve, especially for hard-to-color or gray hair.  It’s an economical way to achieve a style you want, get results that are consistent, and avoid an expensive trip to the salon.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Catching Up Today

Sundays are my days to catch up on family time, household chores, and anything else that strikes my fancy.  It's also when I usually write blog posts, take photos, and schedule things for the next week. 

Have a great Sunday, and posts will be back tomorrow!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Broke Food - Pad Thai Ramen

Ramen has to be the ultimate broke food, and there are millions of ways to make it.  Pad Thai Ramen is one of my favorites because the base mixture is easy to make, and good all by itself, but even better with some creative additions.  

This is by no means haute cuisine, but it is hot, yummy food!  

1 package Ramen noodles
1 tablespoon soy sauce (prefer low sodium, but use what you have; packets from carryout food work great for this!)
1 tablespoon chunky peanut butter (creamy works, too) 
2-3 dashes of Tabasco sauce 
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes 

Prepare Ramen noodles as on package.  Drain 2/3 of liquid off noodles then stir in seasoning packet.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until peanut butter is dissolved.  Eat as is, or mix in additions. 

ADDITIONS  (Use as many or as few as you like, in any combination that pleases you)
Veggies:  Cooked carrots, Lima beans, corn, edamame, snow peas, cooked bits of spinach, shredded cabbage, diced onions, sliced green onions, diced green pepper, diced celery, broccoli, or whatever you have that's available.
Meat:  This is great for leftovers.  Chicken, bits of rotisserie chicken, sliced leftover steak, cubed bits of ham, cooked pork, Spam (yes, really!), leftover shrimp (I know that's an oxymoron), and even browned hamburger meat.  I have even taken several pieces of shaved deli meat, such as chicken or turkey, chopped it fine, and added to this. One or two well-scrambled eggs also work well as protein additions.  

The creative possiblities are endless, and this is a great dish to use up little bits of veggies or meat left over from other meals.  You can make larger portions by doubling or tripling the ingredients for enough to feed a family.  

Add Egg Drop Soup (boiling chicken broth, whisk in 1 well-scrambled egg until cooked and separated in soup,  2 tablespoons soy sauce, dash of red pepper flakes, and sliced green onions), and you've got a full meal!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Freezer to Crockpot - Mexican Casserole

This is a fun, simple, and easy Mexican casserole that tastes great.  It's easy to throw together, and it works great for a freezer to crockpot recipe.  It's spicy comfort food that's a hot, filling meal.  

We usually make this in the oven, but our schedules have been so busy lately that the crock pot has been our go-to cooking venue.  I decided to try this for the crock, and it was easy as making it in the oven*.  


1 to 1.5 pounds ground beef, browned, drained, and rinsed 
1 15-17 oz. can Ranch Style beans
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 14 oz. can RoTel tomatoes ( or diced tomatoes with green chiles)

When ready to cook, about 1-2 cups crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Do not put the tortilla chips in until right before you're ready to serve.  Otherwise, you'll end up with a soggy mess! 

Brown ground beef, drain, and rinse.  In 1 gallon zippered freezer bag, place ground beef, ranch style beans, chicken soup, and tomatoes.  Squeeze out air and seal, then "massage" bag to mix ingredients well.  

When ready to cook, place mixture in crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Approximately 10 minutes before serving, top with crushed tortilla chips.  Serve topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and salsa.  

*The oven version of this is the same, except when you're ready to cook it, divide the crushed tortilla chips and place a layer on the bottom of the pan, top with casserole mixture, then top with more crushed tortilla chips.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, top with cheese, then return to the oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese melts. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Printable Grocery and Product Coupon Links

One of the best ways to save is through printable coupons for groceries and other items.  Many manufacturers will e-mail coupons or coupon links to you in e-mail newsletters or have them available to print on their websites.  These are wonderful ways to save on your favorite products. Combine these with other coupon strategies, as noted in a prior post HERE, and you can reduce your grocery bill significantly. 

Below is a very long list of printable coupon sites from manufacturers and other sources.  I bookmark these for future reference. 

People wonder is it worth it to print coupons because of the cost of printer ink and paper.  The answer is yes.  Why?  Because oftentimes these coupons are not available anywhere else or they are a higher value than what is printed in the newspaper inserts available on Sundays. 

Coupons function as a part of a company's marketing budget.  It's a way for them to not only get information about their product to you but to entice you to try that product by way of offering a discount through a coupon. 

By using these coupons combined with sales along with rebates, store coupons, and tracking of sales cycles, you can save significantly on your shopping budget 

I strongly encourage opening a web-based e-mail account to use for all of these coupons and newsletters.  Otherwise, you may find your inbox clogged and/or the majority of them going to your spam folder, which defeats the whole purpose!

1.  Make sure your Java is up to date, as many of these printable programs use Java to generate the coupons.  If your Java is out of date and the coupon messes up, you will not get a second chance.  The website uses a technology that identifies the number of times a certain computer has printed a coupon.  Most websites will allow 2-3 prints, but some do not.  It's wise to make sure everything is up to date, you've loaded paper, and your printer cartridges are working before hitting the print button.
2.  You may need to download a coupon printer from the site. Some coupon sites will request to install a coupon printer driver that is a simple program to generate the coupons.  As a general rule, if they come from an acceptable site such as, Red Plum, Smart Source, or Coupon Network, they are okay.  You may also see a link in your address bar that says ""  This is also an acceptable site.
3.  Most manufacturers also use one of these sources to print coupons from their websites, so it's advisable to install these printer drivers. 
4.  Links to coupons often open in another window.  If so, once the coupon is printed, try hitting back on your browser.  You may get a notice stating the page has expired.  Click try again, resend, refresh, or OK, and often you can get a second print of the coupon.  This is perfectly fine/acceptable and is a common practice. 

Here are some links to my favorite newsletters and/or websites that offer great coupon values: 

Loadable Coupons:
This is for people who have savings cards issued from stores.  Check to see if your store’s savings card is listed, sign up, and then shop.  When the purchase is confirmed by Savingstar, your account will be credited.  Once you receive $5.00 in credits, you can request that money be issued to you in the form of a direct bank deposit, Paypal deposit, or gift card from a retailer. 

These are coupons that are loadable to your cell phone.  Check to see if there are participating retailers in your area, then just bring up the coupon and have the cashier scan it at the register. 

Printable coupons  
This is a great site for printable coupons.  You can check to see what’s available under not only your own zip code but under other zip codes throughout the country, as well.  To change zip codes, click on the link titled “Local Coupons.”  Enter a zip code in a spot on the left-hand side, and press enter.  Then click the “coupons” tab.  You can then sort by Food, Beverages, Household goods, etc. also has a savings club that offers exclusive printable coupons to members that are not available elsewhere.  If you watch for promotions, oftentimes there are offers to get a year for free.

As a note, requires that a small printer driver/applet be installed on your computer.  It is safe and is necessary in order to be able to print coupons. 

Red Plum
Again, may require you to install a small printer applet that is considered safe for use.

Coupon Network  (Also a source to find out what Your Bucks/Catalina offers are available or coming soon.*)
Again, may require a printer applet in order to print; considered safe for download.

Smart Source
**This is the website where it is most important that you not only have Java installed, but make sure you accept their printer applet and turn your popup blocker off.  It’s the trickiest one about not printing or giving some obscure error such as telling you that you’ve violated some rule. **

These are coupons that serve as both discounts and fundraisers.  Sign up and choose a local organization to help, and then you can print coupons.
**I strongly advise printing these coupons one at a time, as sometimes the coupon sheet cuts across the next pages if there is more than one coupon and then will not print again.**

Hormel (Hormel lunch meat, Cure81 hams, Hormel Always tender meats, Hormel entrees, Lloyd’s Woodfire heat and eat products, Hormel Chili, and numerous others.)
Sign up and sign in.  They will also e-mail specials and newsletters.

Ready Set Eat  from Conagra Foods (Hunt’s, Pam, Healthy Choice, Pam, Chef Boyardee, Marie Callendar’s, Orville Reddenbacher, Reddi Whip, Wesson, Fleischmann’s, and another long list of items.)

Making Life Better by Unilever Products (Knorr products, Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Country Crock, Jif, Lipton teas and rice/pasta products, Ragu, Skippy, and many bath and laundry products.)  (Keebler crackers and some Kellogg’s brands)
Sign up, then click on the coupons and savings link.  Make sure you approve for them to send you newsletters and updates, as they will send either high-value coupons to your e-mail inbox or provide links to print coupons. 

 Kellogg’ (Kellogg’s products, mostly cereal,  Pop-Tarts but other products, too.)
This site is a shared site with but often has different coupons.  There may also be other printable coupons under the Offers & Promotions tabs and “Other Coupons” section.  

Betty  (Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Cascadian Farms, Muir Glen tomatoes, Yoplait Yogurt, Pillsbury products, General Mills cereals, and more!)
Sign up and sign in, and you will be sent special offers via e-mail and newsletter.

Nestle Very Best Baking (chocolate chips, baking products, etc.)

Sign in and print coupons and get the newsletter for extra printable coupons

Land O’ Moms (Land O’ Frost deli meats and kits)
They’ll want you to give your name and e-mail address.  Sign up for the Newsletter to receive news and special offers.  The latest coupon is usually on the right-hand side of the home page. 

Pompeian Products (Olive oil, vinegar, and grapeseed oil)

On the Border Products such as chips, salsa, and sauces from Truco Enterprises

International Delight Creamers and other products

Coffee-Mate creamers

King’s Hawaiian Bread and Rolls

Hiland Dairy Products  (Dips, sour cream, cottage cheese, orange juice, etc.)
Must sign up to be able to print.

Wholly Guacamole and Salsa (Facebook page; they almost always have a coupon there!)

Michelina’s Frozen Entrees and Dinners

Chinet Paper Plates, Cups, and Napkins
Sign up for their Newsletter, and they will send you a link every month to an awesome coupon that is usually $1.00 off one of their items.  This is a great way to stock up on paper goods, especially with the holidays coming up!
Link to join here:

Blue Bell Ice Cream
Sign up, then sign in.  The link for coupons is in tiny print at the menu on the bottom of the page. 

Blue Bunny Ice Cream Coupon
Again, sign up/sign in, and then you can print.  It’s usually for $1.00 off.

Marie Callender (If available, they'll be here)

*CATALINA OFFERS:  Those are the red-striped things that look like receipts when your cash register receipt is printed.  Many people throw them away without ever looking at them.  Don’t!  Many times companies will print these as rebates if you buy a certain amount or number of their products.  For example, recently KC Masterpiece and Kingsford charcoal and other manufacturers teamed up to offer a catalina.  Buy a certain amount of products and receive a $6.00 catalina for money off your next purchase.  That’s like someone handing you $6.00 and saying, “Here’s money to help with your groceries.”  If you get a red-striped coupon receipt that says $1, $2, $5, etc., off your next purchase, you’ve just been handed the equivalent of cash!  Make sure to keep an eye on the expiration date, and check to see if there are any restrictions, but these are like gold!

Lemon Cake/Bars - 2 ingredients

I discovered these yummy lemon bars on Pinterest and they have become a favorite in our household.  I found the original lemon bar recipe HERE.  It is so easy to make, and with only two ingredients you can't go wrong.  It's also relatively fat free, and the taste is divine! 

These would be awesome for a bake sale or luncheon.  If you are a fan of lemon bars, these are very lemony and light.  


1 box angel food cake 
2 cans lemon pie filling 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix dry cake mix and lemon pie filling.  Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Dust with powdered sugar or your favorite glaze or icing recipe.  

That's it!  Now bake away!

(This is a repost of prior post that got posted by mistake on the wrong day.  Ooops!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Creative Cooking - Grilled Chicken with Chipotle-Bacon Aflredo Sauce and Penne Pasta

 We grilled out a couple of nights ago, and there was one chicken breast remaining. This Chipotle-Bacon Alfredo sauce over penne pasta was a great solution for using that lone leftover chicken breast.  It came together easily and consisted of items I had in my cabinets.  This made a ton of food, enough for two servings plus lunch and dinner the next day. 


1 grilled chicken breast sliced/diced into pieces
1-2 strips of bacon
1-2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 can diced tomatoes with Chipotle chiles (I used Red Gold Tomatoes with Chipolte seasoning, but you might have to substitute a can of diced tomatoes with about 1 tablespoon diced chipotle peppers)
1 jar alfredo sauce
About 1 cup shredded cheese (I used Colby-Jack)
4-6 servings of cooked penne pasta

In a large frying pan, fry the slices of bacon until crispy. Remove from pan. Saute chicken and onion in bacon drippings until onion begins to turn translucent. Add can of tomatoes with chipotle and stir together with chicken and onion. Allow to cook until liquid from tomatoes has reduced down. Add alfredo sauce and shredded cheese, cooking to combine and until shredded cheese melts.  Stir in crumbled bacon.  Serve over penne pasta. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Salvaging Meat That's Tough or a Bad Cut

Ever cook meat and have it come out looking and tasting like shoe leather?  We have two tried and true ways of salvaging bad cuts of meat or meat that we've somehow flubbed the cooking process. Nothing makes me madder than ruining food, so I am always determined to save it if I can. 

Method #1, crock pot shredding method.  

Works for any type or cut of meat. Place meat in crock pot and cut in chunks to make it fit, if necessary.  We particularly use this if the meat has been cooked but at the end of the cooking process it's tough.  It works especially well for grilled items like steaks, chicken breasts, or pork tenderloins.

Place meat in crock and add enough broth or bouillon to cover it about halfway.  It doesn't even matter what type of bouillon.  Beef, chicken, vegetable... any of it is good.  It doesn't even have to match.  For this process, it's fine to use chicken broth with beef or vice versa.  Cook meat on low for 8 hours.  Shred inside crock pot.  Either add 1/2 bottle of barbecue sauce OR 1 packet of taco seasoning mix.  Allow to cook for another hour or so.  Remove shredded meat and discard drippings/sauce.  This will not have a strong flavor but more of an essence of whatever seasonings you added. 

If using barbecue sauce, then use shredded meat in sandwiches or add to baked beans and use more full-strength barbecue sauce. 

If using taco seasoning, use as meat for enchiladas, soft tacos, flautas, etc.  

Method #2, oven method.  

Especially good for large cuts of meat such as roasts or other thick but less expensive cuts. 

Place meat in a large pan.  Add water or broth, enough to fill halfway.  Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and cook in a 200-250 degree oven for 8 hours.  We usually do this overnight.  

The next morning, this usually comes out tender, juicy, flavorful, and falling apart.  

Meat is too expensive nowadays for it to be ruined and need to be thrown out.  Usually one of these two ways is an excellent way to salvage meat that's just not quite come out how it was expected and is an economical way to get your money's worth! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Freezer to Crock Pot - Pot Roast with Veggies

The combination of pot roast and veggies is a yummy, satisfying, and comforting meal, especially after a long day.  Walking into your house and smelling the wonderful aroma of a hot meal is like a little slice of heaven.  This is an easy recipe and can be prepared ahead of time, put into the freezer, then cooked in the crock pot for a hearty meal.  (See my confession about this roast below.*)


One 2-3 pound roast, trimmed of excess fat (see below for substitution)**
1 packet Italian dressing mix
1 packet onion soup mix 
2-3 carrots cut into medallions 
1 small onion cut in large chunks (optional) 
2 cubes beef bouillon or 2 tablespoons beef bouillon granules
1/2 cup water
When ready to cook, 3-4 potatoes cut in chunks.

Trim roast and cut slits in meat.  This is important, as the meat starts to cook it tends to contract and can take longer to cook.  Place roast in 1 gallon zippered freezer bag and add all ingredients except potatoes.  When ready to cook, add potatoes to crock, along with frozen roast and veggies.  Allow to cook for 8-10 hours on high (necessary to get the internal temperature of the roast up where it needs to be). 

*Here's my confession.  The poor roast pictured above had a real workout.  I put the chunk in the crock pot, turned it on, and went on my merry way.  The problem is that the crock pot wasn't plugged in!  D'oh!  I found it about 1-1/2 hours later. Aacck!!  I plugged it in and turned the crock on high, but even at 11:30 last night, it still wasn't done.  I ended up taking everything out of the crock pot, putting it into a large bowl, and sticking it in the fridge because cooking it overnight would have been too much.  I got up this morning, put everything back in the crock pot, and cooked it 4 more hours.  Luckily, it was ready to go by lunchtime.  Unfortunately, some of the carrots and potatoes were worse for the wear, but everything still tasted good! 

** If you do not have roast, another inexpensive cut of meat can work, such as round steak.  What I have done in the past is to get approximately 2-3 pounds of round steak and cut it into medallions.  Use the rest of the ingredients, as directed.  Cook on high 6-8 hours, and check doneness of meat.  This comes out more like a stew than roast but can be a great way to use a less expensive cut of meat. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Freezer to Crock Pot Cooking Tips

  • Link to post with above photographed recipes is HERE.
  •  I use 1 gallon zippered freezer bags.  They are more durable than regular zippered bags.  The 1 gallon size is usually equivalent to a 5 quart slow cooker.
  •  When you’re ready to cook your items, always start with a cold crock pot.  Do not preheat the crock.  If you put cold items into a crock that’s already heated, the crockery insert could shatter or crack. This is also true for items that have just been in the refrigerator.  Cold+hot=Shatter. 
  •  I cook items straight from the freezer.  It takes longer to cook, but I’ve never had a problem.  Some people prefer the recipes are thawed first.  If so, thaw the entire bag of ingredients unopened for 24 hours in the refrigerator, and then add to the crock.  Adjust cooking times as necessary. 
  •  Write what’s in the zippered freezer bag on the outside before adding ingredients.  Include cooking times, directions such as to add potatoes, serve over rice or noodles, etc.  You may think you’ll remember what’s in that bag, but two weeks from now you might not. 
  •  Crock pot cooking temperatures vary.  When in doubt, allow more time to cook rather than less. 
  • When using meat, you will need to precook meats with a high fat content such as hamburger meat or certain cuts of stew meat.  If in doubt, precook.  I also recommend rinsing these meats before adding them to the freezer bag.  Since you will be cooking them again in the crock, there might be more fat that comes out during the cooking process. 
  •  Place meats in the bottom of zippered bags and place ingredients on top.  Once everything is added, squeeze out air, seal the bag, and massage slightly to distribute ingredients well.  This ensures meats are surrounded by ingredients.  This is important when you’re ready to cook because sometimes the meat can stick together as it is cooking, increasing time needed for everything to cook evenly.
  •  Less liquid is better than more.  The funny thing about cooking in a crock pot or slow cooker is that it generates liquids from the items that are cooking, since condensation is trapped.  You can always add more liquid later if the recipe seems dry or thick.
  •  If at the end of cooking your recipe seems to have more liquid than intended, turn the crock pot on high, remove the lid, and allow some of the liquids to simmer/boil off until it’s the desired thickness. 
  •  You can make almost any crock pot recipe a freezer-to-crock recipe.  Just remember that potatoes and pasta do not freeze well.  I’ve seen recipes that say you can use both of these items, but my experience is that the potatoes and pasta come out mushy, with the exception of lasagna.  I add potatoes at the time I put ingredients in the crock.  I cook pasta separately and add it just prior to serving, as we tend to like our pasta al dente.
  •  Almost any casserole can be adapted for cooking in a crock pot. 
  •  Almost any soup can also be adapted for the crock pot.  Just decrease the liquid significantly (by at least 1/2 if not 2/3).  When I make soup in the crock, I start with as little amount of liquid as possible then add liquid toward the end, if needed. 

I will be posting more freezer-to-crock pot meals in the coming days and weeks.  I just need photos.  Photographing food is a lot harder than it looks! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

More Grocery Savings Strategies - 2 trips

This is one of those weeks I go out of my way to make a couple of trips to the grocery store.  My favorite store, Homeland, was having some sweet deals that I knew would allow me to get quite a few groceries for a really good price.  Homeland doubles coupons up to $1.00, BUT they will only double one like coupon per trip.  Combining those double coupons is what allows these deals to be so great, but sometimes you have to be creative in getting double coupons.  This means I sometimes make a trip to a different store on the same day so the coupons will double.  We're lucky in that we have 3 Homeland stores in Muskogee, two within 1 mile of each other, and the other is across town.  That makes getting these deals much easier. 

In order to get the deals I wanted, I visited two separate stores.  I also bought meat at the first store using the strategies noted in a prior post, and then made a second run.  I'll show photos and prices/scenarios from both runs to hopefully help and compare.  When I can, I'll provide links to sign up for newsletters and coupons that were e-mailed. 

Total for trip #1 was $52.78.

Total for trip #2 was 41.33

Filled up with gas (see way below) for $2.749 per gallon with rewards points for $21.18.

There are photos and prices for both trips, so don't forget to scroll down to check them out!

This is trip #1: 
There was a special going on where if you bought 10 Red-Gold Tomato products, you would receive a $5.00 automatic rebate on your grocery total.  Red-Gold offers coupons from their website and e-mailed newsletters.  Plus, there are coupons for Red-Gold diced tomatoes and Sloppy Joe Sauce in the Homeland Cares Coupon books.  These could be used in combination with the $5.00 to get these products basically for free.  This technique is called "stacking."  It means using manufacturer coupons along with either store coupons or rebates in order to get maximum savings.

Here are prices, coupons, and totals for the first trip:

Fresh limes  4 @ $0.09 = $0.36 

Yellow onions x2 = $0.93

Bell Pepper x2 @ $0.79/lbs. = $0.94

On the Border Tortilla chips = $2.99 
Coupon for $0.55 available HERE which doubled to $1.10
Final $1.89

Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Chiles x3 $0.75 = $2.25*
Less Homeland Cares Coupon for $1.00 off 3 cans 
Doubled to $2.00= $0.25*

Red Gold Tomato Sauce x2  @ $0.75 = $1.50*
Less printable coupon from Red Gold $0.50 off 2 cans 
Doubled to $1.00  = $0.50*

Red Gold Diced tomatoes with chipotle peppers x3 @ $0.75 = $2.25*
Less Homeland  coupon for $1 off 3 cans 
Did not double because already used one = $1.25*

Red Gold Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Onion x2 @ $0.75 = $1.50*

Beef top Round Roast  = $16.00 
Beef Chuck Roast  = $8.59
Beef Top Round Steak = $4.15
Boneless Butterfly Pork Tenderloins = $4.15
Bonless Butterfly Pork Tenderloins = $4.82
Thin Cut Boneless Pork Tenderloin = $5.30
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts = $4.06
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts = $3.80

*Purchased 10 items so received $5.00 off total order

**Used $5.00 off $50.00 purchase from Enjoy the City coupon books.

Trip #1 FINAL TOTAL (tax incl.) = $52.78

Trip #2 (Photo above)

5 lbs. Russet potatoes x2 @ $1.39 per bag =$2.78 (stacked one on top of the other in photo)

Kraft 17.5/18 oz. BBQ Sauce x2 = Free**

Minute Rice 14 oz.  = $1.50
Coupon for $ 0.60, doubled to $1.20               
Final price =  $0.30

Minute Rice 14 oz. = $1.50
Coupon for $0.60  (did not double because of prior coupon)
Final price = $0.90 (still a good price!)
Red Gold Tomatoes with Chiles x3 $0.75= $2.25
$1.00 coupon doubled to $2.00
Final price = $0.25*

Red Gold Sloppy Joe Sauce x2 @ $0.75 = $2.25
$1.00 coupon doubled to $2.00
Final price = free*

Red Gold Tomato Sauce x2 @ $0.75 = $1.50
Printable coupon for $0.50 doubled to $1.00
Final price $0.50*

Red Gold Sloppy Joe Sauce x2                              
Coupon for $1 (did not double because had one prior but still good price)
Final = $1.25*

Libby’s veggies x4 @ $0.79
Coupon $1/4 doubled to $2.00
Final price = $1.16 for 4 or $0.29 each

Williams Chili seasoning x4 @ $0.89
Final $3.60

Nabisco crackers x3 $1.99 **
Coupon for $1.00 off 2 doubled to $2.00
** Store special for $3.00 off purchase of 3 Nabisco cookies/crackers
Final = $0.97 for 3!!

Keebler Club crackers x2 @ 2/ $5.00
Coupon for $1 doubled to $2
Final = $3.00

Freschetta Pizza $3.99
Coupon for $1 doubled to $2
Final price= $1.99

International Delight Creamer
Coupon for $0.55 doubled to $1.10
Final = $0.89

Coffee-mate creamer x2 @ $2.45
Coupon for $1/2 doubled to $2.00
Final:  $2.90 or $1.45 each

Oscar Mayer Deli Shaved Meat 16 oz. $4.99
 Coupon for $1 doubled to $2
Final:  $2.99

Oscar Mayer Weiners 16 oz.$1.99**

Borden Shredded Cheesex3 @ $2 = $6.00
Coupon for $1 off 3 doubled to $2
Final = $4.00

Lay’s Kettle Cooked chips x2 @ $3.00
Coupon $1 doubled to $2
Final = $4.00

On the Border chips  $2.50 (in-store sale)
Coupon for $ 0.55 doubled to $1.10
Final = $1.40

Best Choice Cream Cheese $1.45

Hiland Sour cream $1.93

*Buy 10 save $5.00

**Buy Oscar Mayer Wieners 16 oz. get 2 Kraft BBQ sauces free. 

FINAL TOTAL with tax included = $41.33

Homeland has a gas station outside the store at Chandler and York.  You can accumulate cents off per gallon with use of your store card.  I had accumulated $0.55 in savings.  So I filled up my tiny little car's gas tank and got 7.786 gallons of gas@ $2.749 per gallon for a total of $21.18.  

So my grand total for the day was $115.29!!!