Friday, April 3, 2009

Menus weeks starting 3/6 and 3/13

These last 6 days we're doing favorites. Well, favorites I didn't veto because they were too much work. ;) These are all dishes that were very well recieved. Yes, i know it's a lot of ground beef... I think I'll probably brown it all at once!

All meals include salad with assorted veggies, croutons, and dressings and assortment of juices. Foods listed for each day are main dish and side or other menu items if applicable. Menus subject to change.

Week of 3/6-3/12

Mon. 3/6
Meatball Subs
Buns and mozzarella cheese on side

Tue. 3/7

Thur. 3/9
Cranberry Chicken

Fri. 3/10
Sloppy Joes
Buns on side

Week of 3/13

Mon. 3/13
Cheesesteak sandwiches
Buns and Provolone cheese on side

Tue. 3/14
Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

Wed. 3/15: END OF TAX SEASON!!!

Too sick and lazy to cook tonight... they're getting a re-run.

I had all the stuff for Carnitas and they were going to have soft tacos-- but they'll have to have that another time. (Or we will.)

The whole family has been sick and I just could not do any chopping tonight.

So instead I cast around and my eyes fell upon the spaghetti sauce jar full of barbeque sauce left over from the pulled pork... It's right at the 2-week point, and a lot of it is vinegar and sugar, so it has about a week before I would throw it out (this is leftover sauce that never touched meat, you understand.) I was considering doing some chicken with it this weekend or next week. But, it saved my rear tonight.

I threw in some extra ketchup (because I had used some last week and it wasn't quite full any more) and shook it up. Then I poured over the 3.6 lb. lean shoulder pork roast I bought for the carnitas, which I left whole of course. Jeff can pick up some hamburger buns tomorrow on the way to work, and the guys will be thrilled. Jeff won't get any because he is still sick enough he shouldn't be eating it. So that means about 0.4 lbs. of meat per person-- plenty to go around. Phew! So glad I didn't throw that out the other day when on a fridge-cleaning spree (I decided I just couldn't let that work go to waste...)

Review of Meatloaf

The meatloaf was delicious! We've all been sick and Jeff is still too sick to eat it (poor him.) But the kids and I tried the one piece that was left (not a tiny piece-- each piece was 1/4 lb. of meat plus additional ingredients.) We all liked it. It was tender and the flavor was very good.

And apparently it was a hit with the guys at work, too. (I assumed meatloaf would be. ;) ) One guy thought it was part of the "best of" week I'm planning for the next two weeks!

I'd definitely make this again-- but I'd maybe replace half the breadcrumbs with oatmeal, my binder of choice for meatloaf.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

For Thurs. 4/2: Meatloaf

I doubled this recipe. It made a BIG loaf. I didn't make any changes, other than pre-mixing the topping and sticking it in a bag to go on top when it's done. Jeff will pre-slice before serving (into 12 pieces.) I am sending some garlic mashed potatoes (instant) to go with.

Review of Chicken, Black Bean, and Salsa Soup

The soup was a big hit. I hear it's one guy's "new favorite" and that it was just as well-liked as the chicken tortilla soup.

There was not much left, testament to how well-liked it was. I think no one would mind having that again, and some time I might make it for our family at home. :) I'd cut up some avocado, though, I think it would be nicer with avocado.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For Tue. 3/31: Salsa, Chicken, and Black Bean Soup

Since they all loved the chicken tortilla soup so much but I am far too lazy to make that again, I thought I'd do something similar but, you know, easier. They're happy, I'm happy that way, right?

So I found this recipe over on A Year of Crockpotting (which is a really awesome blog, btw) and adapted to my needs.

I mostly just doubled it, but I did use canned beans (it's getting toward the end of tax season, I'm getting too lazy for dry!) I also subbed cans of corn for frozen (no room in my freezer!) and I only used half the chicken broth called for (if you doubled it) because after doubling everything else, there was only room for about 4 cups. (I think they will like a thicker soup anyway, and since I'm using canned beans they don't need as much liquid.) I don't intend to thicken it, oh, and after cooking (8 hrs. on Low) the sour cream, instead of being stirred in (because it sits on warm afterward, it would separate or curdle) will just be served on the side for people to put in. I used La Victoria salsa because it's my fave, I feel it has the most flavor. But the store only had Medium so I added a dash of chipotle to up the heat juuust a smidge. I loved that the chicken was the only cutting I had to do! (I used frozen boneless, skinless thighs-- half of a 4 lb. package, no measuring necessary. ;) )

On the side, I sent the sour cream, some shredded Mexican blend cheese (made with 2% milk) and some organic tortilla chips (same price as regular, may as well go organic!) They can crumble them in or eat on the side, as they wish. :)

I wasn't sure how to categorize this but it seems more Tex-Mex than Mexican to me so that's what I'm going with.

Review of Ravioli Casserole

They liked this one pretty well too, it seems; I didn't get to taste any because none came back...

Jeff said his only complaint was that it barely fed the 10 of them, he doesn't know how much people took but take that into consideration if you make it. Oh, and he forgot to put out the garlic bread at the beginning. ;) No one complained about the sauce.

So I could make it again, but only for a smaller group!

Monday, March 30, 2009

For Mon. 3/30: Easy Cheesy Ravioli Casserole

I used this recipe, almost as written...

I skipped the wine, doubled the tomato sauce. (After the last wine fiasco, well, wasn't messing with it again!) I didn't cook up onions and garlic. I wasn't feeling well. Instead I just mixed dried onions in with the sauce mixture. I did use Italian seasoning.

I made my layers like this:

sauce (a bit less than 1/3)
mozarella (a bit more than 1/3)
sauce (a bit more than 1/3)
mozzarella(a bit more than 1/3)
sauce (the rest)
mozzarella (the rest)
parmesan (fresh grated, not canned; about 1/4 cup)

It will cook 6 or so hours on Low and be served with garlic bread.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Review of Spaghetti

Well, the spaghetti went over well!

So well, in fact, that I did not get to taste much! Only about 1 bite came back, and only because I scraped it down from the sides with much effort! LOL!

The taste was great. Any blandness complained about by reviewers was taken care of by the sausage-- and browning them together, those boys didn't even suspect there was turkey in there! LOL! I think the V8 may also have contributed to the niceness of the sauce.

The texture was actually perfect. I think if it had not been whole wheat it would have been a little too gummy and overcooked but with whole wheat pasta it came out perfect.

I wonder if you could do this with penne as well...

Friday, March 27, 2009

For Fri. 3/27: Crock Pot Spaghetti!

I started with this recipe. I doubled, of course. I made as written except:

-used half hot Italian sausage and half ground turkey for the meat
-used V8 instead of plain tomato juice for the liquid
-omitted the garlic powder, used fresh garlic
-omitted mushrooms
-used whole wheat spaghetti (and a whole 12 oz., not just 8. That just doesn't seem like enough!)

The spaghetti I broke up and put in a bag; Jeff's only job is, after cooking on Low for 8 hours, to stir, add spaghetti, stir again, and cook for 1 hour on High.

Garlic bread to go with. They love that garlic bread.

Review of black beans and rice

Black Beans and Rice with Cumin

Well, my husband liked them. His co-workers ate some of it. I needn't have doubled, waaay too much came back. And I didn't even like it. :( I'm not sure why. I think it was the texture of the rice that got me. I'm not a big fan of brown rice in general and instant seems to be worse. My husband, like I said, liked it, saved leftovers and everything, but I just am not into them. I won't repeat it unless he specifically asks for it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

For Thur. 3/26: Black Beans and Rice with Cumin

I started with this recipe, doubled. I made the following alterations (to the doubled recipe):

I quick-soaked the beans (boiled with some water-- and baking soda, our water is hard-- and as soon as they were boiled, put the lid on and let it sit for an hour with the heat off.)

I used 1 1/2 cups of dried onions (I'm sick and didn't feel like chopping onions after I did a whole head of garlic.)

Instead of fresh jalapenos, I used a can of green chiles (drained) and a few Tbsp. of ground chipotle (which is smoked dried jalepenos.) I was going to use one can of green chiles and one of jalapenos, but Emma lost the can of jalapenos. Good job, Ems. ;) So I improvised; I figure the slight smoky flavor might make this a little more like Moros y Christianes, the classic Cuban dish, which I am fond of. I decided that was not a bad thing.

Toward that end (and also because it would not all fit) I reduced the water to 6 cups. I want it more like beans and rice and less like beans and rice soup.

Oh, and I omitted the pepper, because I'm sick and lazy tonight.

It will cook for 6 hours on Low (the beans were already pretty soft, I think I may have overdone the quick soak...) and then go to High for 15 minutes after Jeff removes the bay leaves and stirs in the instant brown rice (which Uncle Bens makes, if you were wondering-- and one box is a perfect size for this recipe, well, two if you double it, because one box is 2 cups.)

So yeah, less the soup it started out as, and more like Moros. Not a bad thing, IMO. Now, hopefully it works... So I'm classifying this as "Cuban" though it might not be so much really, because the flavors remind me of Cuban flavors. :) (Though I could throw a bit of cloves in there and make it even more Cuban-tasting, yummy.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Review of Chicken, Chickpea, and Apricot Tagine

This one was a good one.

I really would probably not change a thing next time, except remembering the tomato paste. The flavor was excellent, though. I loved it. Well, I might cut back the ginger a bit, because it kind of overwhelmed some of the other spices, but not by too much. It was "warmer" than I anticipated, but most of the "heat" was ginger heat-- not hard on your tummy, ginger heat. It reminded me more of a curry than I expected.

It was very good and probably will get made again. :)

The guys all liked it too. The mortgage guy says, "This one has the mortgage department's seal of approval!" LOL!

For Tue. 3/24: Beef Stew

Beef stew is a crockpot classic. I don't really use a recipe; I kind of make it the way my dad always did, modified for the crockpot. I split of a little less than 1/3 for our dinner tomorrow. Here's what I used (total, between the 2 crockpots):

-Trim the fat from and cut up a 4 1/3 lb. beef shoulder roast (pot roast meat is a lot cheaper than pre-cut stew meat, and cooks the same, and is often better quality. Look for something marked "pot roast.") You want about 1 1/2 inch chunks.

-In a Ziplock style bag (gallon size), toss about 1/2 cup flour with about 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 Tbsp. pepper (or to taste; can also use seasoned salt.)

-Toss beef chunks in flour. Then brown in a small amount of hot oil, just until the beef is beginning to take on some color. (Reserve the extra flour in the bag!)

-In the crockpot(s), toss 2 onions, diced, 6 large or 10 small potatoes, peeled and diced, about 45 baby carrots, halved, 3 stems celery, sliced, 2 medium-ish turnips, peeled and diced, 4-5 cloves garlic, minced, and about 3 Tbsp. rosemary, crushed between your fingers. (You want your dices pretty large, almost the size of the beef chunks, except the onions a little smaller.)

-Add the browned beef.

-In the bag with the flour, add 2 14 oz. cans beef broth, 2-3 Tbsp. gravy browning (this is important! Don't skip it, it gives a stew that "certain something") and about 1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce. Close bag and shake (and mush if necessary) until flour is all mixed in. Pour over stew ingredients. (If you're doing this on the stove you'd add some water, too.)

-Cover and cook low and slow until done-- about 8-10 hours on Low, usually.

I made biscuits to go with. Mmmmm. Stew and biscuits. I'm drooling already.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chicken, Chickpea, and Apricot Tagine

I used this recipe, doubled. Doubled, it was too much. I pulled a third of it off to a second crockpot for our dinner at home.

I mostly followed the recipe, but skipped the preserved lemon, the carrots (they would have been good but I was tired) and the cilantro for the top (well, what can I say, I'm lazy. And they won't care.) I used a whole bag of frozen chicken breasts. Also I somehow managed to lose the tomato paste, so it didn't make it in. I cooked the onion mixture a bit longer, until it thickened well, to hopefully make up for that. And I threw in a few Tbsp. of ketchup too. Hopefully I didn't ruin it-- I don't think I did. It smells awfully good.

Jeff will cook his for 8 hours on Low. I didn't have room in the fridge so I just threw mine straight in on Warm. Maybe it will be ready in time for lunch tomorrow (we have an 11:15 doctor appointment for Emma so hopefully it will be ready when we get home-- after a stop-off for some pita bread, I forgot to get pita bread. Jeff is picking some up on his way to work for the guys there to eat with it. I decided couscous was too much work for me this weekend. Were I having guests to serve this to, I'd make couscous, though.)

Review of BBQ Pork Sandwiches

I never thought I'd like a pulled pork sandwich. But I DID!

There was enough left over for them to be Sunday dinner. With some fresh coleslaw and a bit of the extra sauce added back in before re-heating the leftover pork, it was really, really good!

I think when pork roast goes on sale I might even make this again. Or try it with brisket or another beef roast! I never thought I'd say that...

My husband, who grew up in Texas and has been deprived of barbeque since marrying me since I despise anything smoked, loved it. The kids liked it okay. They mostly ate it with forks, it was too messy for them. That's fine. Anyway, the lack of smoke flavor means that this is a barbeque sandwich I can get behind! I really liked the sandwich with coleslaw ON the sandwich as well as on the side. My husband, being from TX, prefers just the meat on the sandwich, with coleslaw on the plate.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Menus, Weeks Starting 3/23 and 3/30

All meals include salad with assorted veggies, croutons, and dressings and assortment of juices. Foods listed for each day are main dish and side or other menu items if applicable. Menus subject to change.

Week of 3/23-3/27

Mon. 3/23
Chicken, Apricot, and Chickpea Tagine
Couscous? Flatbread? (One or the other.)

Tue. 3/24
Beef Stew

Thur. 3/26
Beans and Rice with Cumin

Fri. 3/27
Garlic bread

Week of 3/30-4/3

Mon. 3/30
Easy Cheesy Ravioli Casserole
Garlic bread

Tue. 4/1
Salsa, Chicken, and Black Bean Soup
Tortilla chips, grated cheese, avocado for toppings/sides

Thur. 4/3
Mashed potatoes

Fri. 4/4
Corn tortillas
Soft taco toppings (soft cheese, lime wedges, onions, radishes)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Review of Coq Au Vin

The (almost) Coq au Vin went over pretty well. The onions were not as big of a hit as the rest of the dish but it was all very good. There was a lot of sauce left over; I could probably have not doubled the sauce, just added more chicken, and been fine. The sauce was wonderful though, thick and smooth and rich. I've really never seen one like it come out of the crockpot!

I would definitely make this again; it would be a beautiful dish to serve company and they probably would not even know you made it in the crockpot!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

For Fri. 3/20: BBQ Pork Sandwiches with Coleslaw

I started by doubling this recipe for barbeque sauce. Didn't really deviate from it at all (okay, a LITTLE bit extra garlic. Like 2 cloves.) I use Heinz ketchup and chili sauce and Lea & Perrins Worchestershire sauce, of course. I am using, for my meat, 3 large pork butt roasts, fat trimmed, cut off the bone and the big slabs of meat thrown in with the sauce. He'll cook it 6-8 hours on Low, then shred and mix before serving (with buns to put the meat on.) The beauty of this is that you could use really any meat-- skinless chicken or turkey, beef brisket, anything you like. I don't even like barbeque sauce but this stuff smells good (probably because it has no smoke flavor in it, I cannot STAND smoked stuff, especially liquid smoke, blech!)
To go with it I made just a classic cole slaw. Here's the recipe for that:

In a large bowl or other container (I used an 8 quart Tupperware-type thing I got at Smart and Final, which I use mostly for making massive amounts of three-bean salad for parties) mix 4-5 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice with 1/2-2/3 cups Best Foods/Hellman's mayonnaise until smooth. Add sugar to taste (about 2-5 Tbsp.; this will depend on the acidity of the lemon, among other things.) Stir until well mixed. Add 1 1/2-2 Tbsp. grated white or yellow onion (I actually use the zester face of my grater, not the regular grater face) and salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1 1/2 tsp. salt and about 16 turns of my pepper grinder.) Stir well and add 2 bags of coleslaw mix (or equivalent hand-shredded cabbage and carrots.) It will look like a lot but as it mixes down it will shrink. Fold it all together or, if you're using a sealable container, put the lid on and shake it well. Refrigerate at least 6 hours (longer is good), stirring (or shaking) occasionally. Mmmmm. Perfect with hot dogs, burgers, or any other barbeque-type food.

I know the guys are going to ADORE this one...

For Thurs. 3/19: Coq Au Vin (um, without the vin...)

Well, I had everything set to make this recipe, doubled (using 12 thighs instead of breasts, because I got thighs on sale for $0.59/lb. the other week and they've been waiting in my freezer for a nice crockpot recipe) and using full-grown portabellos, halved before slicing (because they were 1/3 cheaper than the baby ones per lb.-- I bought them by the lb., the babies were only available in packages; btw, 4 medium-to-large portabellos are about a pound) and I was all ready to go. I even got a nice white wine, on clearance because something had spilled on the label for half off.

Now the thing you have to understand about this story is that we are non-drinkers. We got 2 "kitchen tools" sets when we were married that had corkscrews in them; we gave one to the thrift store and the other has been bouncing around our house unused and continually snatched away from the toddlers who always seem to find and play with it, for fear they will poke someone's eye out... Anyway, I saw it last month but when we went to look for it it was not there. Nor was it anywhere else we could find it. At this point it was 2 in the morning so it was not like I could call my dad to bring over his corkscrew and open the bottle for us (and then probably take the rest of the unused wine away with him.) So, we were in a jam.

Well, I ended up substituting. I used the substitution someone else said they had done with it-- 2 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar with apple juice to make 1 cup. Everything else went smoothly and hopefully after 6 hours on Low, with some rice on the side, no one will know the difference... It smells very good, I'm sure it will taste fine. And I guess the unused bottle of wine will go to my mom, who has been wonderfully helpful this tax season, taking us to Emma's doctor appointments, keeping the kids while she was in the hospital, and coming over when Bridget was too cranky for words and I was overwhelmed (and bringing dinner.)

Note: the recipe has mushrooms. It was just too good to pass up. I'm sending leftover roast chicken for the guy who doesn't eat mushrooms.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Dinner

It's St. Patrick's Day, and in our family that means one thing. No, not corned beef (though we'll have that some other time, and actually my dad served it to us on Sunday evening.) Colcannon!

I love colcannon but it's a bunch of work so I don't make it often-- but I ALWAYS do for St. Patrick's Day. It's, like, a tradition and stuff. ;) It's my favorite Irish food, and since I don't drink and am not Catholic the main point of my St. Patrick's day celebration is to celebrate my Irish heritage (I've got a lot of it, and am fond of it.)

So no crockpot cookery today, the crockpot will just be used to keep the colcannon warm.

I also made a baked ham to go with. I used the same recipe I did last year. You can view that recipe, and my colcannon recipe, on this blog post from last year at my personal blog. The ham will be served cold.

Have a happy St. Patrick's Day!

Review of Lentil-Veggie Soup

It was good, but needed salt for sure. Very filling, only half got eaten. The bread was not great but decent, not as good as it smelled! In the future the only change I'd make is a different kind of bread with it, and some salt at the end!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mon. 3/16: Lentil-Veggie Soup

I used this recipe. Doubled, of course. The only change was that I put the pepper in at the beginning.

It looks to be very hearty. It will cook probably several hours on Low and then finish up on High. I have some kind of interesting bread I found at the bakery called schwartz brot. It's a sourdough made with part rye and part wheat flour. Looks good. Smells good too!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lasagna rematch: TURKEY lasagna!

Well, the guys liked the last lasagna I made so much I figured I'd do it again.

But, this time, in addition to using whole wheat noodles, I got a good deal on ground turkey ($1/lb.) So, omitting the mushrooms (since there's an allergy, apparently) I had room for my 2 1/2 lbs. of cheap ground turkey. I browned it up with some garlic (like 8 cloves) and the Italian seasoning.

Of course I used low-fat cheese, and I also used some spaghetti sauce with spinach in it (not like I'm trying to sneak nutrition into them or anything... *looks innocent*) In fact if you had the mind to I bet you could sub, or add, frozen spinach, squeezed dry, for the mushroom layer, or mix it in with your ricotta. That could be very yummy.

I already know that this turned out perfect at 5 hours on Low so we'll do that. I baked up 2 loaves of garlic bread to go with. Now to see if anyone notices the turkey and spinach...

Review of Aloo Rajma

Oh, my, the Aloo Rajma was everything I expected. Apparently the guys thought it was good too. No complaints, even in jest, this time about it being vegetarian. ;)

I really can't think of anything I'd do differently on this one, other than if I was making it for just us maybe making jasmine rice or even a pilaf and some naan to go with it. The flavors were just right and tasted every bit as good as a curry from my favorite Indian restaurant.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

For Thurs. 3/12: Aloo Rajma (Potato-Bean Curry)

I used this recipe (doubled) with the following changes:

-My onions were really strong, I used half as much. But then, I added like 8 cloves of minced garlic, so...

-I used half curry powder and half garam masala, upped the ginger, added coriander (did you know coriander seed is the same plant as cilantro? But they taste way different), and added a bit of turmeric (because I like a really nice strong turmeric color and flavor in a yellow curry.)

-I used half red and half white new potatoes and garbonzo beans.

-I used store-brand tomatoes with chiles, not Rotel. Because I'm cheap that way. ;) I almost used tomatoes with jalepenos instead of tomatoes with green chiles but I thought that might be too much for a few of them to handle.

It will cook on Low for about 8-9 hours. I made some steamed rice to serve it over and I'm sending some yogurt to cool it off for those who are wusses in the heat department. ;) (I know at least one person will put hot sauce on it. And really, I didn't put NEAR as much heat in as I would if I were cooking just for me. But, you know, some people just can't take spicy the way I can.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Review of Pasta E Fagioli

The Pasta E Fagioli was very, very good. Probably would have been even better had I remembered to get real beef stock. ;)

Really, I can't think of much I would do differently except that I was right it could have done with half the beef. And maybe more pasta. I think if I made it again I'd use half as much beef and twice as much pasta, for my personal preference. (And real beef stock or broth. ;) )

But this one is a keeper for sure! Really good, hearty soup, a big pot full that everyone enjoyed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Review of Spanish Chicken

Review of Spanish Chicken With Olives

This would have been great-- except it was undercooked.

The flavor was good and the guys didn't complain, but the rice was gritty.

It tasted like, well, Spanish rice with chicken, pretty much. Very nice, but if I make it again I'll either shell out for the converted rice or cook it longer. Jeff didn't think to CHECK before serving it so... The guys didn't complain though. And the chicken was cooked through, at least.

I would like to make this for company some time, I'm sure they'd be impressed, but like I said, I'd make sure it was cooked through!

For Tue. 3/10: Pasta E Fagioli

I used this recipe (a recipe I didn't have to double! Wow!)

I added 2 cloves of garlic.

I subbed a dash of cayenne for the Tabasco.

As suggested by reviewers, I cooked the pasta (Bertolli Piccolini Mini Farfalle) separately and Jeff will add it in at the end.
I somehow managed to leave the store without buying the beef broth. And, I am somehow out of beef boullion (which I ALWAYS keep on hand, I don't know what happened, really.) So I flavored some water with 2 or 3 Tbsp. of Worchestershire sauce, to add color and meatiness. I doubt they'll notice. (I also decreased the water by about 2 ounces because I'm not putting the pasta in dry to soak up some of the liquid. The pot still ended up full to the VERY top. This is a HUGE recipe, folks.)

They'll eat that with some rolls we got. (And they'll like it. Or else. ;) No, just kidding, but I'm sure they'll like it.)

My first impression is that I could have done with half the beef. But we will see when it is cooked.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

For Mon. 3/9: Spanish Chicken With Olives

It actually has rice and beans in it, too. :)

I doubled this recipe. (Except I used 10 pieces of chicken.)


-Like a reviewer, I used regular rice and doubled the water.

-I also subbed minced garlic and fresh pepper for the garlic powder and garlic pepper seasoning.

-I used a jar of pre-sliced green olives instead of "roughly chopping" them. Because I'm lazy that way. 1 jar is about 1 1/4 cups which is close enough to 1 1/3 for me. I put half in the bottom and sprinkled half over the top.

-I used frozen chicken breast halves and just put them in frozen. I figure it will be defrosted by the time it goes in.

-I sprinkled dried parsley on the top instead of garnishing at the end.

-I used 1 yellow and 1 green bell pepper because that is what my mom had and I forgot to get it at the store.

-I borrowed saffron (the really good stuff) from my dad. I'm not up for buying a bottle of really expensive stuff I never use just for one recipe. ;) If you don't have a dad who's a gourmet cook you can borrow some from and aren't up for buying it, you can use 1/4 tsp. turmeric instead. It will change the flavor somewhat, but it will give the right color, and the flavor difference won't be THAT noticeable.

It will cook for 6 hours on Low and hopefully not sit too long after that.

Review of Meatball Subs

As expected, the Meatball Subs were a big hit.

In fact, not one whole meatball came back. A few little pieces and some sauce did, and the one I tasted was good. It was a weeee bit mushy. Probably because I didn't bother to brown it. No one complained and I didn't really mind. However next time I might put a bit more breadcrumbs, make it stiffer so it wouldn't be quite as mushy. But they cooked through quite well.

I think I would like meatballs cooked like this, and the sauce, over spaghetti (like I said I'm not a meatball sub person.) The guys want this one again!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Menus weeks beginning 3/9 and 3/16

All meals include salad with assorted veggies, croutons, and dressings and assortment of juices. Foods listed for each day are main dish and side or other menu items if applicable. Menus subject to change.

Week of 3/9-3/13

Mon. 3/9
Spanish Chicken with Olives

Tue. 3/10
Pasta e Fagioli

Thur. 3/12
Aloo Rajma (potato and bean curry)

Fri. 3/13
Garlic Bread

Week of 3/16-3/20

Mon. 3/16
Lentil-Veggie Soup
Crusty Bread

Tue. 3/17*
Colcannon (kept warm in crockpot)
Baked Ham

Thur. 3/19
Coq Au Vin (chicken in white wine sauce)

Fri. 3/20
BBQ pork sandwiches
Buns for sandwiches
Cole slaw (for sandwiches or side)

*St. Patrick's Day. Dinner is for entire office, will be cooked at home and served at dinner time.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday 3/6: Meatball Subs

Ah, the meatball sub. I'm not sure whether to list it as Italian (it purports to be) or American (it actually is.) I guess I'll do both.

I doubled this recipe. Omitted the parmesan, like I said, I'm out. Used dried minced onions. Added breadcrumbs until the texture was right. Seasoned up the sauce with extra Italian seasoning (again, cheap brand.) Didn't brown them, just threw them in to cook for 8 or 9 hours. To be served with buns (not hot dog, good sub buns) and shredded mozzarella cheese (and a slotted spoon, for the meatballs, and a ladle, for the sauce.)

I anticipate that much as I am not a fan of meatball subs, the guys will adore it.

Tomorrow I am also having Jeff pass around a list of what they've had so far so they can vote for up to 4 favorites to be repeated.

Review of Spinach Stuffed Shells

The stuffed shells are excellent.

I didn't even miss ricotta (usually I would LOATHE using non-fat cottage cheese instead of real whole-milk ricotta-- oh, did I mention it was non-fat? It was) and eggs, which are two things that usually go in my shells. The slow-cooking fixed any potential textural problems. The flavor was awesome despite the cheap sauce. This one's a keeper, folks.

Comments included:

"Very filling"


"I don't know what's in this but it tastes great!"

And from my husband, "They always say it's good, they've come to expect great food from you at this point." (Hmmm, maybe I should throw some stinkers in there so they stop taking me for granted. Just kidding! :p )

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thurs. 3/5: Spinach-Stuffed Pasta Shells

I doubled this recipe.

I added 4 cloves garlic and fudged the parmesan because, um, I forgot to buy it, so I dumped in what we had and a bit extra mozzarella, and hoped no one noticed. ;)

I added some dried onion and Italian seasoning to the spaghetti sauce because I bought the cans of store-brand and, well, not so flavorful. ;)

I poured in 1 26 ounce can of sauce, layered shells, poured in a bit more than half of a second can, layered shells, poured the rest of that can and another half, layered shells, and then the rest over the top. It seemed like the right amount to me. I did have cheese mixture left over when no more shells would fit in the crockpot, but all my shells left were broken anyway, so I just dumped them. It wasn't THAT much left over.

I boiled the shells "al dente" and then drained in a colander, rinsed, and put straight back into the pot, but this time filled with COLD water. That's a trick my dad taught me. It keeps the pasta from getting sticky while you're filling it. A great technique for any kind of stuffed pasta (shells, manicotti, etc.)

Jeff cooked it 4 hours on Low then let it sit another 2 or so on Warm. I sent 2 loaves of pre-sliced garlic bread with him. Hopefully they enjoy it but not so much that none comes back for me to taste. ;)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Review of Pea Soup

I'm eating a bowl of Split Pea Soup right now.

It's awesome. It's thick and creamy and everything, really, that a pea soup should be. I might tweak the flavor a weeee bit next time-- maybe a dash of caraway, a bit more celery, and a finer dice on the ham, or even a bit of bacon. But it was excellent as is. Especially with sourdough, sourdough and pea soup are just made for each other! I was glad I did not bother do mince the carrots, they fell apart as it was. They were fine sliced.

It got eaten. One person even said he wouldn't mind a repeat, but overall not RAVE reviews but well-liked. I mean, it's pea soup. It's not flashy but it's comforting and comfortable and filling and yummy. :)

I would definitely use the recipe again, and recommend it. Good pea soup. Excellent pea soup.

Now I'm going back to my bowl of pea soup. ;)

P.S.-- the Black-eyed Peas were also good. No extra water needed today, it was just the right amount. And the kids even ate them. It was nice to come home to after a doctor's appointment. We had it with fruit, actually, because after making banana pudding for dessert the kids were fussy so I opted to get them down for a nap rather than make cornbread. But it had meat so I figure we're good on protein. ;)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bonus Recipe: Black-Eyed Peas with Soup Bones

Soup bones were on clearance and black-eye peas take a lot of the same ingredients as pea soup so I decided to put some in our crockpot for our lunch or dinner tomorrow (no room in the fridge so it will just cook overnight.)

Here's what I did:

Put about 3 lbs. beef soup bones or pork or ham or other meaty bones in the crockpot.

Add 16 ounces dried black-eyed peas, rinsed.

Add 2 carrots, sliced (or equivalent baby carrots), 1/2 medium onion, diced, 2 stalks celery, sliced, 2 cloves garlic, minced, and black pepper to taste (I prefer to add salt at the end.) If desired, add chili or chipotle powder to taste. If desired, add 1 can diced tomatoes. (I didn't add either this time.)

Pour over about 1 1/2 quarts water, or more if needed (judge it by eye, remember you won't lose as much in the crockpot as on the stove.) Cook on Low until done, adding water and stirring as needed. Season with salt, remove bones, and stir before serving. Serve with rice or cornbread. Mmm.

Tue. 3/3: Split Pea Soup

I looove split pea soup. Hopefully the guys will too.

I doubled this recipe. I had like 3 but this looked the most like my on-the-stove recipe, plus I'll admit I was swayed by the "don't stir" directions. ;)


-I Don't Do whole carrots. I'm lazy like that but I ABHOR peeling. For your future reference, 5 baby carrots are equivalent to 1 whole medium carrot. I usually mince them for pea soup but for this recipe I followed directions and sliced. They'll fall apart anyway, it's the crockpot.

-I bought pre-diced ham. It was the same price per pound as ham steak. Did I mention I'm lazy? If you got other ham on sale it would be cheaper but no ham was on sale so I bought pre-diced. I only used 1 lb. and I think that was about 1/2 the amount the (doubled) recipe would have called for but it looked like plenty to me.

-I ran out of seasoned salt. Regular salt it is.

-I couldn't find my pepper grinder. I love how things disappear around here. I used pre-ground instead and since it was really old (hardly ever use it) doubled the amount.

-Obviously I didn't use hot water, what's the point? I did use filtered, we have hard water around here. 3 qts wouldn't all fit in the crockpot with the other stuff. I used 2 1/2 quarts 'cause that's what fit.

Jeff will cook for 5 hours on High (then Warm for 2 or 3 hours) or 9 hours or so on Low, then remove the bay leaves, stir, and serve with sourdough break-off rolls we picked up at the bakery. Mmmm.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Review of Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

This one went over well! Surprisingly so!

I thought, based on reviews, that without cooking the bacon it might not cook right, etc. Apparently the flavor went nicely through the dish and no one minded the texture. (Then again, they're guys in their 20s-- mostly-- and not picky.)

Several people said this is among the favorite recipes so far, actually. One guy said he's not a fan of water chestnuts (well then TELL ME these things when I ask for allergies or dislikes!) but he liked the chicken itself. My husband said the chicken was tender, falling apart after so long on high, and the sauce was delicious over the rice.

I'm thinking we need a survey to see what they want me to repeat. This one was fairly simple, if they want it again I think that can be arranged.

Revised menu week of 3/2

Obviously I am doing chicken today, not shells... I had to move the chicken from last week, it needed to be eaten. So this week's menu will be as follows:

Mon. 3/2

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

Tue. 3/3

Split Pea Soup
Crusty Bread

Thur. 3/5

Spinach-Stuffed Pasta Shells
Garlic Bread

Fri. 3/6

Meatball Subs
Buns on side

Hopefully the guys will not mind marinara sauce 3 days in a row (they almost always get Italian food for their Wed. dinner, too.)

(Honestly, I'm sure they won't complain.)

Mon. 3/2: Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

This recipe was my springboard...

I started by pretty much tripling it. I used half half breasts, actually, because I had a package of 5 huge half breasts that I cut in half.

Of course we have a mushroom allergy so I switched the soup out to 98% fat free cream of celery. I omitted the mushrooms and put in 3 cans (well, minus what I ate-- I can't resist those suckers) of sliced water chestnuts for crunch. And it looked kinda bland so I threw in about a Tbsp. of soy sauce for color and flavor, and about a tsp. of Worchestershire sauce. I tossed them around a little bit when I dumped them in so each piece would have some sauce around it, hopefully. I'm tired (after 4 hours in the emergency room) so I wasn't really loading them neatly in each surrounded by sauce.

Oh, and I couldn't find my toothpicks, which have disappeared to some mysterious place, so I used bamboo skewers, cut in thirds.

It will cook about 8 hours on high (and hopefully not overcook.) And I made white rice to serve it over. And I hope everyone will get their skewers out before they eat them. ;)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Review of Sloppy Joes

The Sloppy Joes were a huge success.

There was even a little left over for us to eat. I LOVED it. So did Bridget. (Emma did not try it. She is still not eating well.) The flavor was SO much better than canned stuff. I will be doing this again, possibly for a party or something some day, possibly just for us! And I think the guys would not mind if I made this again, not one bit. Thumbs up all around on this one.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday 2/27: Sloppy Joes

Oh, my, the guys are excited about this one. (I skipped the chicken, you may note. A client provided dinner Wed. so the employer provided dinner Thurs. instead.)

I used this recipe, doubled. (Yes, it says it serves 10, but this is Sloppy Joes we're talking about, and a bunch of guys mostly in their 20s. They love this stuff. I planned for 2 to 3 each. I sent 24 hamburger buns. Yeah. I don't know that there will be leftovers.)

I mostly followed the recipe but like another reviewer the mustard just seemed really strong. Also the texture was a bit too much meat, not enough sauce, and just not tomato-ey enough. (Okay, that's not a word but I used it anyway. Whatcha gonna do about it? :p ) So I added in (to the double recipe) about 10 ounces of canned tomato sauce. At that point it looked just right.

I hope there's a taste left for me, I've been jealously thinking of their dinner all day. ;) The recipe says this freezes well so it may be something I'll have to make ahead some time and freeze in individual or 2-4 person portions. (It's also a great meat-stretcher, in the tradition of Sloppy Joes. 2 dozen servings from 2.5 lbs. of meat? Not bad at all!)

Review of L'hamraak Garagh

Review of Moroccan Pumpkin Soup

It was okay. Pretty good. I might make it for the family some time, maybe on the stove, but it wasn't really a crowd-pleaser. I'd say out of 10 stars it rated 6 or 7. Good, but not great. Nothing to write home about. I've had other vegetarian soups, even with similar ideas, that I liked much better. Eh. I wouldn't really change anything-- although it might be better with chicken rather than veggie stock-- but it just was a great idea that in real life I don't think turned out as well as it could have.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Review of Moussaka

Review of Moussaka

Mmmm, it's really good. There are a few things I'd do differently next time:

-More garlic. Everything can use more garlic, IMO...

-It turned out a bit soupy. I might coat the eggplant in seasoned flour next time.

-I was glad I hadn't gone to the trouble of a bechamel but it could have used more creaminess. I think next time I make it I might add some mozzarella on top of the feta for a really creamy cheesy topping.

The flavor is excellent though and even the non-eggplant-eater said the eggplant wasn't bad at all. ;)

Tues. 2/24: L'hamraak Garagh (Moroccan Pumpkin Soup)

I used this recipe.


-Made 1 1/2 recipes' worth

-Used canned instead of dried beans; since dried beans approximately double their volume, used about twice as much.

-Used 2 leeks and a large onion, since leeks are expensive and it's a strong onion. I skipped sauteeing them, just put them straight in the crockpot (after washing of course-- have to be careful washing leeks, dirt can get trapped in them as they grow.)

-Used vegetable broth

-Used canned pumpkin for an easy no-puree smooth texture; will leave beans whole though

-Used allspice AND cloves AND nutmeg, because you can't have too much flavor. ;) Used ground cinnamon.

It will be served with yogurt to dollop in and chunks of "finger bread" which is just a plain, sturdy-textured wheat bread that's excellent with soup.

Menus for weeks beginning 2/23 and 3/2

All meals include salad with assorted veggies, croutons, and dressings and assortment of juices. Foods listed for each day are main dish and side or other menu items if applicable. Menus subject to change.

Week of 2/23-2/27

Mon. 2/23

Tue. 2/24
L'hamraak Garagh (Moroccan Pumpkin Soup)
Yogurt to top soup with
Bread or rolls

Thur. 2/26

Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Fri. 2/27
Sloppy Joes (buns on side)

Week of 3/2-3/6

Mon. 3/2
Spinach-Stuffed Pasta Shells
Garlic bread

Tue. 3/3
Split Pea Soup
Crusty bread

Thur. 3/5
Slow Cooker Latin Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans

Fri. 3/6
Meatball Subs
Rolls and cheese for subs on side

Monday 2/23: Moussaka

I went with this recipe. Notes:

-Doubled it, of course. Made for a VERY full crockpot, but fit.

-Used no-salt-added canned tomatoes. I always do. The regular are so high in sodium, and it doesn't change the flavor.

-Used ground lamb, drained after browning.

-Used Italian seasoning instead of oregano because it's mostly oregano and I think I used mine up.

-She didn't say how to slice the eggplant so I quartered it, peeled, then sliced the long way. I sliced the onions in half rounds and then halved again to get quarter rounds. After seeing how much space they took up next time I might dice the onions (if there is a next time-- which there might be, since it smelled delicious.)

-I used green bell pepper since no color was specified. It seemed a bit bitter and with long cooking I didn't want it to get more so so to cut any possible bitterness I added about 1/2 Tbsp. honey.

-I put the Feta (I used reduced-fat tomato and basil, it was on sale and, well, reduced fat, you know I never use full-fat cheese if I can help it) on the top, just crumbled all over. I figured that would let it kind of melt down for a more traditional moussaka topping without going to the work that reviewer did of making a bechamel. I'm not a bechamel-in-the-crockpot kind of girl most of the time. ;)

It will cook about 8 hours on Low.

I am categorizing this under lamb, because that is what I used, but also under beef because it could easily use ground beef instead if you don't have access to/can't afford ground lamb. (She says you can also use turkey, feel free but I'm not going to categorize it under every possible substitution. If I substituted, I would do beef. ;) ) I was surprised to see, though, that ground lamb at Vons was actually not much more than ground beef and was fresh and looked very good.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


So we've been at the hospital. Emma had to go back in Sunday. We got back yesterday. My husband and I have been keeping a thread going on one of our forums we frequent with information and I will just link it here rather than re-hashing: here you go.

Because I missed a whole week (poor guys) I will just be using last week's menu this week. I'll post a new two-week menu when I get next week's planned.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Skipped a day, here's why...

Emma (our four year old) had a febrile seizure (apparently she had a UTI and her fever spiked suddenly from 99 to 104-ish) and we spent the night dealing with that, her in the ER and then the PICU.

So no meatball sandwiches. Sorry guys. We'll do it soon.

The Company Chicken Casserole was apparently well-liked by my husband. He didn't have time to get reactions before he was running out the door because I called saying Emma had a seizure. For what it's worth. ;) I am hopeful the others liked it as well. It certainly made me drool while I was making it. Jeff said the predominant flavor was "chicken." Which is good, I suppose, in a chicken casserole.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday 2/12: Company Chicken Casserole

I doubled this recipe, with the following changes/notes:

-whole wheat pasta. It's such a simple thing to do, doesn't change the taste much, but it really is much healthier-- more fiber, more heart-healthy. (For this one, I used penne.)

-I used boneless skinless breast halves. Each one, cooked and diced, was about 1 cup. I bought the frozen ones and stuck them in the microwave with some water, covered, nuked for about 15 minutes and let stand covered until poached through, as I did for the tortilla soup.

-I omitted the musrooms, since there's an allergy.

-I used twice the amount of basil called for since I was using fresh instead of dried (the recipe doesn't specify but I assume they meant dried.)

-Since some reviews complained of lack of flavor, I added some fresh-ground pepper (they may still want more) and about 4 cloves of minced garlic.

-I used low-fat Cheddar and low-fat small curd cottage cheese.

-I used a leeetle less chicken broth than called for, since to get the perfect amount I would have had to open a new 14 ounce can to get 2 ounces out... Yeah. Not doin' it.

-Being lazy, I did not melt the butter. I drained the pasta, put it back in its pan (not a bowl-- again, lazy) and threw the chicken and veggies in. Then I broke the butter in little pieces and mixed it around, letting it melt on the hot pasta. Then I added in the cheeses, mixed again, and then the cottage cheese, soup, and broth.

The double batch completely filled my 6 qt. crockpot with really no room to spare. It will go for about 8 hours on Low.

It was making me drool as I mixed it, it looked so rich and creamy... I hope there's a taste left for me to try!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Review of Kohlsuppe

Review of Kohlsuppe

It was reeeealy good. The pepper was enough to give it a nice kick on a cold day, though I would probably still prefer less pepper and some more delicate caraway seed if I had had it. I gobbled my bowl (which had no meat left in it-- silly men-- but still tasted like the sausage) without even stopping to put sour cream in it... Oops. Would have been even better with the sour cream. ;) It reminded me a little bit of the Zuppa Toscana that Olive Garden serves, flavor-wise. (That's a good thing, I love that soup!)

It went over well, apparently. Even a self-professed cabbage-hater tasted a little bit, and then went and got another bowl and said, "I guess I do like it this way!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday 2/10: Kohlsuppe (Cabbage Soup with Polish Sausage)

Okay, so I really modified the recipe on this one. But I hope it will be good anyway. ;)

I took this recipe as my jumping-off point.

I started by sauteeing a large onion with one pound of kielbasa, sliced rather thin, until the onions were just turning golden.

Then I peppered it pretty heavily (so the pepper would get through everything.)

I stirred in as I chopped 2 small heads green cabbage (I sliced in half, removed the cores, and THEN rinsed before cutting, in case dirt was trapped between the leaves.) I chopped them in about 1 to 1 1/2 inch squares/rectangles, just a rough chop. I wilted down the leaves so they would all fit; adding them a bit at a time gave room for them to shrink. I kept stirring until they were wilted down to about half their original volume.

Then I dumped in one 2 lb. package frozen hashbrowns (the kind that are just diced potatoes and something to keep them from browning.) Mixed them all up. Transferred to the crockpot.

Then I poured chicken broth over; I ended up using 7 cups (4 14 ounce cans.)

I did not salt because I prefer, when using such salty foods, to let people salt to taste.

I would have thrown in some caraway seed but apparently mine is lost... No clue where it is, I thought I had some but couldn't find it. :( If you do this, caraway seed would be good.

It will cook about 4 hours on High or 8 on Low, I think. Cabbage is one of the few veggies that takes well to long cooking; the longer you cook it the more tender and almost creamy it gets in texture. In a soup like this all the nutrients that leach out when you overcook veggies go right into the broth, so it doesn't really matter, they'll still be eaten. :) Definitely will need stirring before serving.

It will be served with Ukranian rye bread (dense and slightly dry, perfect with soup) and sour cream to dollop on top.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Review of Ratatouille

The ratatouille was really good. I thought it was just great, with or without cheese (though better with cheese.) Sopping up the juices with bread is just delicious! The zucchini was tender, the eggplant was meaty, the whole thing was just YUMMY. I might have increased the eggplant-to-zucchini ratio had I known how it would turn out, but it was good as is too.

I highly recommend it, though it was a LOT of chopping and might have gone better had I spread the chopping out over several days (the onions in one go, the bell peppers in another, the olives in another, eggplant in another, basil in another, etc.)

One of the people eating it commented, "I've never had this before but I'd eat it again!" Another, who just joined up this week, commented, "It's official-- this is really, really good!"

Monday 2/9: Ratatouille

So, I started off doubling this recipe, but it was so much that it didn't fit. So a quarter of the double batch (half a batch) went in our home crockpot, and they're getting a 1 1/2 recipe batch.

As some reviewers did, I also put the tomato paste and the olives in from the beginning. I used fresh instead of dry basil. I chopped up extra basil to go in at the end and put it in a baggie in the bag with the cheeses (besides feta crumbles I'm sending shredded mozzarella for anyone who wants it.) I used 1 green, 1 red, 1 orange, and 1 yellow bell pepper. And, um, the full amount of olives may not have made it in, due to me, um, eating them out of the cans as I chopped... *looks innocent*

Other than that I didn't really change it. Besides the cheeses I'm sending wheat french bread (pre-sliced for them); I was going to send rolls but they were sooo expensive and the bread was on sale, so they get bread. Whatever, it's all bread anyway. ;)

It will go in for about 3 hours on high, then have the extra fresh basil stirred in just before serving.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Review of Mac and Cheese

The mac and cheese was enjoyed, apparently.

Only a little bit came back-- less than a serving for sure. (I had a feeling...)

I thought it tasted too "cheesy" for me, personally. That would probably be the sharp cheddar. But then, I don't like cheese, so... If I was planning to consume it I'd probably use mild cheddar. But I am not planning on it any time soon, since the only mac and cheese I like is from a box, much to my mom's dismay. ;)

It could maybe have used a smidge more pepper too. But I have to say, using the non-and low-fat products did not hurt anything. It was still CERTAINLY rich enough.

It was maybe a bit too eggy too. Maybe bring it down to one egg if I make it at home? (For a single batch-- that would be 2 for a double batch.)

It LOOKED mushy when I looked in the pot, but the texture was actually very firm, like a classic baked mac and cheese. So it tasted firmer than it looked.

Overall, it was liked, if they want it again I'll make it for them again. It ended up pouring rain today so it was a nice kind of "comfort food" day.

Friday, 2/6: Macaroni and Cheese

I used this recipe, with the following changes:

-I doubled it (it fit perfectly in my 6 qt. crockpot, with a bit of headroom over it even.)
-I used fat free evaporated milk instead of regular
-I used 2% milk low fat sharp cheddar instead of full fat cheddar
-I used non-fat milk instead of regular, and because I was using no whole milk products and fat free tends to be thinner, I shorted the milk a bit-- 2 1/2 cups or so instead of the 3 cups that a doubled recipe would usually call for
-I used organic, whole wheat macaroni. It cost $0.50 more a box (store brand) than the other brands of pasta, and it ups the fiber from 3% of your daily requirement per serving to 9% with that one simple change. More on the health differences later.
-I mixed it in the pot I cooked the macaroni in. Why get a bowl dirty?
-For that matter, I beat the eggs in an empty can from the evaporated milk, too. And also, I used the can as my measuring cup for the milk. Seriously, why get more dirty than you have to?

The changes I made, other than doubling, were mostly for health reasons. Here's a look at how the changes I made affected the nutrition of the dish (based on the un-doubled recipe making 8 servings):

Original recipe (full fat products, regular macaroni)

Per serving (1/8 of recipe):

Calories 438
Calories from Fat 227 (51%)
Amount Per Serving %DV
Total Fat 25.3g 38%
Saturated Fat 15.4g 76%
Monounsaturated Fat 7.3g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 130mg 43%
Sodium 728mg 30%
Potassium 317mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 28.6g 9%
Dietary Fiber 1.0g 3%
Sugars 0.9g
Protein 23.8g 47%

Modified recipe (non-fat milk, low-fat cheese, whole wheat pasta):

Per serving:

Calories 259
Calories from Fat 51 (19%)
Amount Per Serving %DV
Total Fat 5.7g 8%
Saturated Fat 3.0g 15%
Monounsaturated Fat 1.8g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 67mg 22%
Sodium 721mg 30%
Potassium 309mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 28.9g 9%
Dietary Fiber 2.4g 9%
Sugars 6.8g
Protein 23.8g 47%

See what a big difference a few different choices in ingredients makes? And I'm sure that it will still taste delicious. :)

This will cook for 5 hours on Low, then stay on Warm for a few more hours. It should make 16 servings, with 10 people eating it, there ought to be some left over, but we will see what happens with that. ;)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Review of Cranberry Chicken with Potatoes

Review of Crockpot Cranberry Chicken With Potatoes

So, the potatoes on the bottom worked out really well. :) They ended up just lighly scented with cranberry, with a slight chickeny taste. I love the way Yukon Golds hold up in the crockpot. They don't get mealy like Russets can; they stay firm but get very smooth when slow-cooked.

The chicken, of course, was a hit. I've never served that chicken to anyone who didn't like it. :)

And it was so easy to have the side cook at the same time as the chicken, I think I will do that again. You may have to increase the cooking time by about 1/2 an hour from the recipe for just the chicken, and it certainly doesn't hurt to let it sit on Warm after that, which is why I love a programmable crockpot.

Menus for weeks starting 2/9 and 2/16

All meals include salad with assorted veggies, croutons, and dressings and assortment of juices. Foods listed for each day are main dish and side or other menu items if applicable. Menus subject to change.


Mon. 2/9
Cheese for topping

Tue. 2/10
Kohlsuppe (cabbage soup with Polish sausage)
Rye bread with butter

Thur. 2/12
Company Chicken Casserole

Fri. 2/13
Meatball Subs


Mon. 2/16

Tue. 2/17
L'hamraak Garagh (Moroccan Pumpkin Soup)
Yogurt to top soup with
Bread or rolls

Thur. 2/19
Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Fri. 2/20
Sloppy Joes (buns on side)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thursday, 2/5: Crockpot Cranberry Chicken (with potatoes!)

Crockpot Cranberry Chicken is another family favorite. It started as a Recipezaar recipe, originally from a cookbook, but I have since made some significant changes, so what follows is my "improved" version of the recipe. It's very simple and VERY impressive. I serve it to company quite often. I'm making an alteration but I'll give you my regular recipe first:

4-12 pieces of chicken, bone-in, skin removed (depending on size and how many you want to serve; use less breasts or more thighs, for instance. The recipe originally called for thighs, but I have found that just about any kind of chicken pieces except wings works quite well. Breasts, thighs, drumsticks, a mixture-- whatever you have or like. You can use boneless skinless chicken pieces, but you'll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. If you had them frozen, you should probably defrost them first.)
1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce (I only eat Ocean Spray for eating, but for this recipe, store brand will be fine)
1 tsp. prepared mustard (spicy brown is best, yellow doesn't do much for the flavor; Dijon would be fine, or Cajun or whatever you like)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar (but white will do in a pinch)
1 Tbsp. beef boullion powder or granules
1/4 cup dried minced onions (you can omit these if you want though; I did when I was pregnant and couldn't stand the smell and it was okay.)

Put chicken pieces in the bottom of the crockpot. Mix all other ingredients, and pour over chicken, ensuring there is some on each piece. (You may have to lift pieces and use a spoon to spread it around to ensure this.) Cook about 5 1/2 hours on Low or 3 1/2 on High, until chicken is tender.

I usually serve that over rice, with a salad or veggie. That's where the difference is coming in: I'm going to try some potatoes in there. Before I put in the chicken, I'm going to put some Yukon Gold potatoes in, cut into quarters (the long way, like wedges) and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. We'll see how that goes, since I've never done it before!

Review of Chili

Okay, not so much a review since it's my tried-and-true recipe, but comments on yesterday's chili:

First off, it was all gone. I don't mean that most of it was gone. I don't mean that they left less than a serving in there like they did with the lasagna last week. I mean it was ALL gone. There was about a Tbsp. left spread around the bottom, and probably only because they couldn't get it out without scraping it with a teaspoon (not a ladle), which is what I had to do to get a taste. LOL.

It turned out as good as it always does-- nothing special, but good. Apparently they really like chili and cornbread though, and it's so easy I think I will have to do that one again.

A few people put hot sauce in it, of course; I cater to people who like it milder because you can always add heat but it's darned tough to take it out.

Everyone Jeff asked said it was quite good. Again, it's not one of those things that gets raves-- but it was all gone at the end of the night. To me, that speaks for itself!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday 2/3: Chili and Cornbread

I made my standard "crockpot chili." Sometimes I make it without beef, in which case it is "food storage chili" because it uses only ingredients I keep in my shelf-stable food storage. It makes a huge batch; believe it or not, I actually always make this much, because it freezes well or will feed us all for about 5 days if kept in the fridge, and it is so easy. And it's not expensive, so why not do the work once for quite a few meals? I make it pretty mild, you can add more chili powder or red pepper or hot sauce as you like to up the heat level if desired.

Drain and rinse (until the water runs pink is good enough; it's not like 3 bean salad where you want it to run clear so it won't stain the other food) 3 27 ounce cans kidney beans (dark or light makes no difference; can also use 1 no. 10 can, which is what I usually do, I get them at Smart and Final, or you can cook dried; you shouldn't use dried straight in the crockpot unless you adjust the liquid accordingly, which I don't have room for since I'm making a huge batch but on the stove it's completely feasable, or if you have a working pressure canner, which I don't right now, you can can your own dried beans to make it even cheaper.) Dump them in the crockpot.

Add 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes and 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (for soupier chili; for more stew-like chili use 1 28 oz. and 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes), undrained.

Add 1 lb.-ish browned and drained ground beef (I did 4 lbs. all at once the other night, might as well; used 1/2 of it for the Nogales Pie and then used 1/2 of what was left tonight; the other part will be Hamburger Helper or something later in the week.)

Add about 1/2 cup dried diced onions, 1/4 cup dark chili powder, 2 Tbsp. cumin, and a shot (about a Tbsp.) of Worchestershire sauce (I only use Lea & Perrins, I just think it tastes better.)

Mix (I just use my hands for this...)

It will cook on Low for at least 6 hours. Ideally it would be stirred once or twice in there, but if not, just stir before serving.

To go with I made a pan (in a disposable cake pan so it doesn't have to come home) of Marie Callender's just-add-water cornbread mix. Yes, I am that lazy. It tastes great and they won't care (or probably know) it's not from scratch. And it's a lot less work and less messy than "real" cornbread (no eggshells, etc.) and tastes just as good! Plus it's shelf-stable too, I keep it as part of my food storage. It's an easy, tasty way to make a complete protein with the beans if you're going vegetarian (though of course it's not vegan.)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Review of Nogales Pie

The Nogales Pie turned out well. :)

Jeff ended up cooking it on Low for 7 hours, then letting it sit on Warm for a few more hours.

It wasn't quite as spicy as I could have had it, but spicy enough my kids would probably have called it spicy. ;) It could definitely have used a bit of sour cream and some avocado (or guacamole) served on top of it for color, texture and "zest." It was good though. Reminded me of a Tex-Mex lasagna. Quite a decent casserole, definitely suitable for a potluck, and I'm sure it will be made again. It didn't really dry out despite sitting on Warm for quite a while. About 2 servings were even left over.

Some comments:

"It was very very good."

"It smells really good!"

"It's a good thing you're already married to your wife, otherwise we'd have a problem..." (I guess because he'd run off with me? LOL.)

"Can she come cook at my house?"

(They really like this having dinner made for them thing, if you can't tell. ;) )

Edited to add: Emma tried it and just asked for seconds! :o This is the child who lately has shunned anything remotely spicy, including chili. She also claims to not like corn or olives. I guess it's really a winner!

Monday 2/2: Nogales Pie

I started with this recipe.

I made a few changes:

-used 2+ lbs. of beef
-used a whole (2 cup) package of shredded 2% (aka low-fat) Mexican blend cheese
-used 2 onions
-used 5 cloves garlic
-used 3 Tbsp. chili powder and 2 1/2 Tbsp. cumin; omitted oregano (forgot it...)
-used one can tomato sauce and 1 drained 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes (I forgot to double the amount of sauce I bought; it's not something I keep around)
-used 2 cans Ranch Style beans
-used 2 cans no salt added corn
-used 5 corn tortillas on each layer, and ripped into quarters instead of cutting into sixths
-used 2 4.8 ounce cans of sliced olives
-used 2 4 ounce cans of green chiles

Here's how I did the layers:


Half of beef mixture topped with about 1/3 of cheese


One can of beans, one can of corn, one can of olives


Rest of beef mixture, topped with 1/3 of cheese


Other can of beans, other can of corn, other can of olives, topped with rest of cheese

It just filled up my 6 qt. crockpot. It will cook for 5-7 hours on low.

I think it will be pretty mild; people will probably want to put some hot sauce on it.

The lady who posted the recipe calls it Mexican but it feels Tex-Mex to me (despite the lack of liquid smoke) so that's how I'm classifying it.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

You may wonder how I do my shopping...

...since we have only one car and my husband takes it to work. (Well, if you knew we have only one car.)

The answer is grocery delivery.

While Jeff (or all of us if I need to get out) can pick things up at the 24 hour supermarket as needed, when I forget something or whatever, for most of our tax season grocery shopping, I order from Vons online and have the food delivered. It costs a little more (no coupons, which I usually can save a lot with, plus a $12 delivery fee unless I am doing a BIG shop-- $150+-- and happen to be buying things they have a free delivery promotion for) but it is SO worth it. The delivery guy and I got to be quite good friends last year. This year there's a new one, I look forward to getting to know him! :) They are friendly, they bring the grocery bags right to my door, and it's wonderful.

I do occasionally buy things like avocados that I want to check for ripeness myself at the little market down the street, and that's where we pick up bread when we run out or snacks, since we can walk there and back and they have excellent produce. But I couldn't bring myself to drag the kids back and forth enough times to pick up everything I needed-- not to mention they have a limited selection of American products which tend to be higher priced, as they are an Armenian market-- so they fill more of a need of supplying things we decide we want suddenly/run out of in between large deliveries.

I just had my first delivery of the year and it is so nice to have all of next week's groceries put away waiting for me. (Usually I'll do it biweekly but we bought the first week's in the store.) The process to order online makes thing simpler, too-- I don't have to write a paper list, I can just toggle windows between my menu, my recipes, and the shopping page.

Review of Cheesesteak Sandwiches

The sandwiches were a hit!

Jeff said the meat was kind of one big chunk at the end of 6 hours. So maybe stir it once in a while if you're home with it. (He stirred it up though and it was fine.)

It was tender and juicy (due to the way it was sliced), very flavorful, and I think even better than grilled meat for a cheesesteak. But that's me. (I don't claim to be an expert on cheesesteaks, mine have all been of the fast food/chain restaurant variety.) I think they could have used more salt and pepper (I only used about a tsp. of salt and a Tbsp. of pepper-- could maybe even have used a shot of soy sauce instead of salt) and maybe a Tbsp. of sugar to cut any bitterness from the bell peppers cooking so long. That's what I'll do next time.

I also thought that with different seasoning (a couple of Tbsp. of chipotle or a few dashes of hot sauce, a couple more of cumin, a dash of lime or lemon juice, a sprinkle of sugar) it would have made quite decend fajita filling. Perhaps an idea for a party?

For your reference, the provolone went first, it seemed to be the choice of cheese for a cheesesteak. And if I was serving them at home/at a party, I might toast the rolls first and maybe put out some mayo to spread on them. But it was well recieved, and I might do it again in April (with my seasoning changes.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday 1/30: Cheesesteak Sandwiches

I looked around at several recipes but ended up kind of improvising based on the theme. Here's what I did (remember this is to make a HUGE amount, enough for 12 or more sandwiches:

-Sliced 2 onions in half-rings; dumped in crockpot.
-sliced 1 red, 1 1/2 yellow, and 2 green bell peppers into strips; dumped in crockpot.
-Using kitchen shears, cut almost 5 lbs. of beef loin flap meat (the stuff you use for fajitas; if you watch Good Eats and saw "Tender is the Loin", this is familiar territory) WITH the grain into pieces that were as wide as I wanted my strips long. Trimmed off excess fat and any silverskin that I found left on (because as Alton says, "That's definitely not good eats." Turned sideways and cut across the grain into thin strips. Dumped in crockpot.
-Seasoned with salt and fresh-ground pepper.
-Tossed (but left a lot of the onions on the bottom to carmelize.)

This will cook 6 hours on Low, then go to Warm until time to eat dinner, and be stirred just before serving.

It will be served with sliced French rolls and an assortment of cheeses (the traditional American slices, but also sliced mild Cheddar and sliced Provolone.) Each person will open a roll, put their desired cheese on, then top with meat/pepper/onion mixture, close it up and let the cheese melt while he makes his salad.

I kind of really hope there's some left over. ;)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday 1/29: Polish Sausage and Potatoes

This one is actually a family favorite. It's an adaptation of my mom's recipe, which she cooked on the stovetop (takes about 40 minutes with thin-sliced potatoes and sausage. If doing it on the stove saute the onions and sausage, sliced thinner than in this recipe, add the thinly sliced potatoes, and put water in to just almost come up to the top. Then cover and simmer until potatoes are tender. For us I usually use about 1 lb. potatoes, 1 package kielbasa, 1 medium onion. Can also be baked or put in foil packets, as you desire, and is easily done in a dutch oven over a fire.)

Here's what I'm doing (and I'm doing massive amounts because more people have joined AND this is my dinner tomorrow too):

4 lbs. baby red potatoes, halved
2 large sweet onions, sliced into half-circles
3 packages polska kielbasa (or other smoked sausage-- I'm actually using 1 package all-beef kielbasa, for the flavor, and 2 packages turkey smoked sausage, for lower fat and more protein per ounce), sliced into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces

Toss the potatoes, onions, and sausage in the slow-cooker together. Add water until the water is about 1/4 of the way up the side of the food. Cook on Low for at least 5 hours, until potatoes are cooked through. (You could do High but I never have to figure out the time.)

It's simple comfort food but I think it's a winner. Everyone I've ever served it to likes it and for a Thursday when they're working late, it's perfect. Resist the urge to add any seasonings (unless you want more garlic, that works well.) The sausage salts and flavors the potatoes quite nicely, and the onions get sweet and counterbalance the starchiness of the potatoes and the meatiness of the sausage.

I divided a third or so out into our home crockpot for our dinner tomorrow night. It was too much to fit even in a 6 qt and it looked good to me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review of Chicken Tortilla Soup

Verdict on the Chicken Tortilla Soup:

It was good. The flavors were superb, the texture (once tortilla chips and other toppings were in) was just right. It was a little bit more spicy than some people would like (mild to me, but I like spicy.) I would say if you have kids who are not fans of spicy, definitely tone it down, perhaps omit the jalapeno completely. That would take out most of the "kick" I think. (Like I said, I liked it.) There was enough left over after they all ate (and the boss tried some-- now he thinks he wants in, lol) for me to have a whole bowl when it got home. I don't know that I'll make this one for the co-op again (at least not this year) as it was a lot of work chopping. But if you want to go out and run errands and come home to a dinner to impress guests with, and don't mind a bit of work, this one is a winner!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday 1/27: Chicken Tortilla Soup

I used this recipe. My notes:

-I didn’t use shredded pre-roasted chicken. I had frozen chicken; I put the frozen pieces in a Pyrex bowl (2 small thighs and 2 large ½ boneless skinless breasts; I buy chicken when it’s cheap, de-skin if it has skin, wrap individually in waxed paper, and freeze, and these were “ends” of different packages I had in there), poured water in, seasoned with salt and pepper, covered with plastic wrap. Then I microwaved on high for 15 minutes, then let sit for ten. It came out perfectly poached. Instead of shredding I just did a rough dice. I figure it will fall apart cooking anyway.

-I forgot to get chicken broth when I was shopping at the big store. I walked with the kids to the little Armenian market but all they had was a tiny can; the recipe calls for about 3 of those. They were expensive (the American convenience foods tend to be expensive there; on the other hand, the meat, veggies, and imported brands are good and cheap) so I only got one. Poaching the chicken in the microwave solved my broth problem; I poured the liquid from the poaching out and got enough to equal about 2 more cans.

-I only found 2 decent tomatoes, and they were small, so I put those in and added an extra can of diced.

-I forgot to get an onion too. For once I’m out. So I used diced instead. I’m not worried because there’s extra liquid from the extra can of tomatoes.

-The store I went to didn’t have Anaheims in stock so I used Pasilla peppers instead. They have a similar heat level (mild) and are about the same size; the difference is that Anaheims are lighter green and have a brighter, slightly more bitter undertone while Pasillas are darker green and have a lower, muted fruitier undertone.

-I don’t keep Tobasco around and didn’t feel like buying it just for this. I upped the chipotle to a whole tsp. instead.

-While I was at it I doubled the cumin, because it just seemed like it could use more. (I really like cumin.)

-Since I was slicing the avocados ahead of time (and I did slice them, I think they look prettier that way than diced and also they maintain their integrity better in a bag) I put the juice of a lime in with them and shook around before sealing, in hopes they won’t turn completely brown.

-I also sliced up green onions in case anyone wants them. (Actually I did that the other day when I was doing the ones for the salad. Might as well do it all at once.)

I don’t usually like cilantro but I do like it in albondigas soup (ooh, that’s an idea; I bet I can do that in the crockpot!) and in curries, so since this recipe is almost a halfway point between those two flavors, I figured it will probably be good. If I get to taste any I’ll tell you!

This one is supposed to cook 5 hours on “High” but instead I will have him put it in right away for 4 hours on “High,” then it will go to “Warm” and they can get it whenever they are ready for dinner. The extra time on “Warm” should give it time for all the flavors to really meld.

Emma had fun helping me crush tortilla chips in a zipper bag. (I used about 2/3 of a bag. I was going to use those blue corn tortilla chips with flax seed in them for a little extra fiber, but the store I went to was out. So I just got the regular ones. She and Bridey also had fun helping “clean up” the avocado that got left in the skins when I scooped it out. ;)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Review of lasagna

Review of lasagna served 1/26

Well, we did find out one person has a mild allergy to mushrooms (luckily he was okay just picking them out. Why he did not say this when asked if he had any allergies, I don't know!)

The verdict: rave reviews. There was a little left over for me and Emma to taste and it was really good. You can't tell that it was low-fat cheese and whole-wheat pasta at all. I had thought of putting in some spinach; I think next time I will. This is going on the list of "things they don't mind if I make again." Some comments:


"It was really good, and so nice to have a warm dinner."

"It's like Maggiano's in a crockpot!"

"Oooooh, I'm full!"

(Now, to be fair, this is from a bunch of guys who are used to eating junk food all tax season so any real food is a pleasant change, but it was very good.) Quite a passable lasagna, and from a crockpot! Now that I know the technique-- order of layers, dry pasta, slightly thin sauce-- I can change some things around. I'd probably add spinach if making at home, for an "all in one pot" meal, and I think it would be really good with a mixture of sweet and hot Italian sausage to replace the beef. I was surprised that even after 4 hours on "warm" the noodles did not burn to the bottom or anything even though I didn't grease the pot. This one is going to become a staple at home as well as for the co-op. I forsee much more lasagna in our family's future now that I don't have to heat the house up to make it!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Monday 1/26: Slow Cooker Lasagna

I started with this recipe. I made the following modifications:

-used whole-wheat lasagna noodles (and used the whole package)
-used part-skim ricotta and low-fat mozzarella
-used extra mozzarella
-added minced garlic to the beef before browning
-mixed the (undrained) mushrooms with the sauce instead of layering (I'm lazy that way)
-mixed Italian seasoning in with sauce instead of meat
-used a slightly smaller can of spaghetti sauce (that's what the store had.)

It will cook for 5 hours on low. We'll see how it works! I found the ricotta a bit hard to spread so I ended up putting globs all over and then spreading them out to just about cover, like frosting a cake. Emma washed her hands and helped sprinkle the cheese on.

Instead of breadsticks they're getting garlic bread. I got too lazy. Sorry. ;)

I also cut up veggies to go on their salads all week. This is starting to make me hungry...

Menu, weeks starting 1/26 and 2/2

Due to office politics, we will not be serving food on Saturdays, when their lunch is brought in. Instead juices will be included in each week's meals.

Recipes to follow.

All meals include salad with assorted veggies, croutons, and dressings and assortment of juices. Foods listed for each day are main dish and side or other menu items if applicable. Menus subject to change.


Monday 1/26

Tuesday 1/27
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Toppings for Chicken Tortilla Soup

Thursday 1/29
Kielbasa With Potatoes and Onions

Friday 1/30
Cheesesteak Sandwiches (meat in crockpot, buns and cheese on side; assemble as desired)


Monday 2/2
Nogales Pie

Tuesday 2/3

Thursday 2/5
Cranberry Chicken with Potatoes

Friday 2/6
Macaroni and Cheese
Fresh fruit

Monday, January 19, 2009

So what crockpot are you going to use for this?

I've had some conversations with people about this so I thought I'd do this post in a question/answer format. So here you go!

So what kind of crockpot are you going to use for this?

I just bought a new one: the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Stay or Go 6 Quart Slow Cooker. (That, by the way, is the store with the cheapest price for it that I could find. Their website also lets you check your local store for availability; if they have it in-store you can save yourself shipping, or if they don't they also have a ship-to-store option where you order online and pick it up in-store.)

Why did you choose that one?

I chose that one because I wanted a larger-capacity crockpot with a lid that sealed for easy transportation of a full crock and a programmable timer that would cook for a set time and then turn to "warm." Rival makes a 6.5 qt. model that claims to, but all the reviews I found of that one said, "Don't do it! Steer clear! It's poorly designed and falls apart after a few uses!" This model, on the other hand (Hamilton Beach model 33967) gets very highly favorable reviews everywhere I look (with the exception of a few people who said theirs had faulty wiring or something and wouldn't turn on, but they also said that customer service was quite helpful and they were able to get replacements without a problem.) One reviewer said their crock full of chili slid off the car seat driving somewhere and it didn't spill a drop, the gasket-seal lid kept it all in! It also can be used in probe thermometer mode to cook a roast or meatloaf or whatever to a desired temperature rather than time, which is rather awesome, and has a spoon that clips right into the top so you don't lose it, which is a nice bonus. I don't know that I'll ever use the probe but I like having that option. And it looks like an all-around good value.

But it's from Hamilton Beach, so it's not really a "Crock Pot" then, is it?

No. You're right. It's technically a slow cooker. Crock Pot is a registered trademark of Rival brand, and in the past I have really been very loyal to their brand, because most of their products seem to be the best intersection of consistent quality and low price. However some of their "fancier" models get reviews saying that they cook too hot, fall apart, etc. So if I'm going to spend that much money on a slow cooker, I'm looking for one with better reviews. As for why I call it a crockpot when it is actually a slow cooker, in my family and community the terms are interchangable. Like saying "Kleenex" when you mean "tissue," or "Scotch tape" when you mean "cellophane tape" (or "Sellotape" if you're British, apparently.) If you have a problem with it you have my permission to mentally replace "crockpot" with "slow cooker" each time you read it.

So are you going to send it back and forth every day?

We're going to try it that way, at least. Jeff will wash it every day, I will refill it, he will take it back the next morning. Only the crock part though, the hardware part will stay at his work.

If that gets to be too much work, we'll buy a second, identical one, so he can bring it home and I can wash and refill it the next day at my leisure, and I'll have a second one already filled by the time he gets home each night so I can just relax, and we'll trade off which crock is at his work and which one is at home being washed and refilled.

You mean you're going to buy two $50 crockpots?

Maybe. Probably. If you think about it, though, $100 is not that big of an investment in equipment when it's going to save us a lot on the cost of my husband eating take-out, etc. Also, I just spent more than $100 on disposable serveware for them to eat out of at Smart and Final. So, yeah, not that bad. Those costs will actually be mostly covered by what folks put in toward the costs, though, and at the end of it I'll have 2 new crockpots, which is great.

What will you use them for when you're done though? I mean, won't it be a waste of space to have 2 more crockpots in your kitchen?

In my opinion, more crockpots are never a waste of space! I've had parties where I cooked everything, or almost everything, in crockpots. I anticipate using them many times in the year to come, and of course if this goes well we'll do it again next year, so it will be a one-time investment for many years' savings during tax season.

Wait, you've had parties where you cooked everything in crockpots? How many do you have?

Well, not counting the new one I had 3. And I would borrow several more from my aunt, my dad, etc. I think with the new one (and possible second new one) I'd be able to not have to borrow and return any others, which would be nice.

So that's the scoop on my new crockpot. If you guys have any other questions post them in comments and I'd be happy to answer. :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Watch This Space

My husband is a tax accountant. From mid-January until mid-April, he works insane hours-- 100+ hour weeks, Sundays his only day off. Many days he doesn't have time to do more than microwave an instant mac and cheese or Cup O' Noodles and eat it at his desk while he works. He can have food delivered, but that's expensive and not that healthy either. Wednesday nights dinner is provided for the employees, but that leaves 5 nights a week when he's not eating well or skipping dinner completely and just snacking at work. Considering he usually doesn't have time for lunch, either, that's not really a good thing. And by the time he gets home he's so tired that in the battle between food and sleep, sleep often wins out.

I decided that this year we needed to do something different. I toyed with the idea of a Mr. Bento, but that seemed like a lot of work for him (since I'm often not up when he leaves for work so he'd basically be packing a complicated lunch every day, time that could be spent sleeping instead. I know him; he'd choose to sleep. Because of the way the bento jar works, it couldn't be packed the night before, really, not without extra work in the morning and extra dishes to boot.)

Then I hit upon the idea of using a crockpot. I love my crockpots; I do lots of crockpot cooking and even taught an Enrichment activity class for my Relief Society. But if I was going to cook for one in a crockpot, that a) might not go over well and b) would be a lot of work for one person. So I came up with another idea: why not keep a crockpot at his work and offer anyone in his office a chance to sign up and chip in for dinner each night, and that way they could ALL eat a decent meal each day, save money, be healthier in their food choices, and we'd have more of a budget for nicer meal choices?

And so the Tax Season Crockpot Co-Op was born. For each 2-week period that a co-worker wants to participate, s/he will chip in $20. Five days a week (every day but Sunday and Wednesday) I will send my husband to work with a pre-filled crock of food and instructions on how to cook it (I'll be aiming for things that can go 8-12 hours in the crock on low most days.) That works out to $2/person/night for a complete meal-- can't get that price ordering in! That's less than you could spend on a frozen dinner, even! Weekly a 5-lb. box of spring mix salad, salad dressings, and salad "fixin's" will also be provided, and daily there will sometimes be a side dish (such as a bread or fruit) to complete the meal. We anticipate that each dish made will be made to serve 8-12 people, since participation may vary from fortnight to fortnight.

On this blog I'll chronicle our menus, recipes (with links to where I found them online and notes on modifications I made, or a post of my own on the recipe I'm using), notes on what went over well and what didn't, or anything else I come up with that seems relevant. :) I find it useful to have an online repository of this information, and friends on a forum have asked that I share it, hence the blog.

So watch this space! I'm sure I'll discover some really great recipes and you can benefit from the experiment, too!