There will be dinner.

Yeah let’s talk about food. Yum in my tum.

One thing that I didn’t do before I got married was meal planning. I just got whatever spoke to me at the grocery store and hoped that my creativity in the kitchen would figure out how to make it edible. Usually this involved buying random things that I had never heard of before just to see what I could do with them. I felt kind of like I was on Chopped.

Basically everything that I ate tasted very similar. I have lots of different types of cookbooks from middle eastern, to soup only, to Julia Child, usually I didn’t look at the cookbooks before I went to the store so I would have one thing for ten different recipes, but nothing that really worked as a whole.

                                                                    The collection.                                                                              One is signed even signed by the author. Is it weird to have a signed cookbook?

I did try to make an effort to learn what flavors and spices were prominently used in different cultures, but as you know I was never good at the whole following through thing. But then marriage happened. All of a sudden I had to please someone else’s taste buds, not just my own. My typical throw everything into a pot and hope that it doesn’t come out tasting like soap (because somehow this has happened to me before…salsa fixes everything) wasn’t going to work.

Planning out meals can still be very difficult for me and so I try to make things last over a few days. Like right now I have a bunch of chicken legs and thighs in the crockpot with veggie ends and water. Some of the meat is for dinner tonight, the rest will go to a different meal, and then the broth, (broth deserves it’s very own post) the broth will be saved for soups later on down the line.

Fun fact: My crockpot full of bones and water makes 9 cups of delicious yummy broth.

These are the steps that I take when I am trying to plan out what we are going to eat for the week. I am still trying to figure out if planning for the whole month, or week by week is more cost effective.

  1. Check on what is on sale.

The first thing that I always do is check on what is going to be on add at the supermarket. I have an app on my phone that lets me search the different items for things that I actually buy, usually produce and meat. Sometimes I venture into the dairy section, but rarely.

2. Use gained knowledge to search for recipes that will fit what is on sale.

My most common internet search is probably: Healthy, cheap dinner ideas. I find that produce almost always gives me the most bang for my buck, so I usually try to find recipes that are high in veggies rather than cheese or pasta, or frozen items. I also try to plan variety, some meatless dishes, some chicken or pork, and some fish.

3. Make a list of what I need.

Then comes the shopping list. I break mine down into veggies, fruit, meat, grocery and bulk. I don’t like having to search through and make sure I have everything before I leave the store, by breaking the list into different categories I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.

4. Shopping!

Because I spent almost a year working at a grocery store after I graduated from college, I
feel like I may have a leg up as far as finding better deals…maybe. I know there are some people who go to multiple stores to get the best deals on their whole list, or use coupons for everything, and they save a ton of money. I don’t usually go to two different stores, unless my husband tags along, and I only use coupons if I happen to come across one for something that we use, which doesn’t happen all that often. Instead I look for anything with a “Manager’s Special” sticker on it, especially in the meat department, this usually means that the meats date is coming up, but I always put the meat in the freezer until I am ready to use it, so this isn’t an issue for me. I also only buy apples if they are under $1 a pound. Basically I don’t buy anything unless it’s on sale. This is a philosophy that expands to more than just food shopping!

Sometimes I don’t schedule meals on a few days, either because I know we will be away or because I can’t think of anything that satisfies my meal criteria. I usually end up regretting this because then we are stuck without anything to cook and end up eating out instead. Which is mucho expensive.

Goal: become good enough at cooking to create my own recipes and write a cookbook.

I need to get working!





Red Beans and Rice

It has always been a dream of mine to travel to New Orleans. I love food and New Orleans has a unique food scene that I have always wanted to experience. With mardi gras just around the cornder,  breaking out something a little Creole was perfect.

Red beans and rice is a very traditional New Orleans dish, originally cooked on Mondays while the family did laundry. Aviary Photo_130994569405066261Because it didn’t need to be watched over closely, and cooked all day long, it was something that could be started in the morning and be done in time for dinner.

I got my recipe from The New Orleans Cookbook by Rima and Richard Collins written in 1975 and published by Knopf, the same publishers that published Mastering the Art of French Cooking!! I got it in a secondhand book store, and so far I love it.

I had to get a little creative because the recipe calls for pickled pork, which I could not find anywhere. So I used salt pork instead. To remove some of the extra salt I boiled it for 45 minutes before adding it to the pot.  I also didn’t add the salt that the recipe called for and the seasoning turned out perfect.

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2 lb. dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight in cold water to cover (I used 3 cans of kidney beans, with no added salt. That’s what I had on hand, but I wish I hadn’t put them in the pot from the beginning because they kind of disintegrated)

2 c. chopped onions

1/2 c. thinly sliced green onion tops(scallion)

1 1/3 Tbs. minced garlic

2 Tbs. minced parsley

1 lb. baked (not smoked!) ham, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 lb. pickled pork, cut into chunks

1 large ham bone, with some meat on it, sawed into 4- to 5-inch lengths (I probably had one 5- to 6- inch bone that was cut into 1 inch pieces)

1 Tbs. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/8 tsp. cayenne

1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper (I used about half a fresh jalapeno, seeded and minced)

2 whole bay leaves broken into quarters

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/8 tsp. dried basil

enough cold water to cover all of the ingredients in the pot

boiled rice

  1. drain the soaked beans, and put them, along with all of the other ingredients into a large pot.
  2. cover with cold water
  3. bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, let it cook at a simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours or until it gets thick and the beans are tender.
  4. stir it every half hour
  5. ladle over rice. yum.

I let mine cook for 3 hours covered and then wondered why none of the water was evaporating so that it could thicken up… another hour and and half later without the cover and it thickened right up.

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