Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sloppy Joes, slop, sloppy Joes!

Slacker! I'm guessing it's time again for that obligatory update every six months to a year post? Sorry. Nothing new here. Same old, same old. Still experimenting in the kitchen, haven't set off the fire alarm in the past several months. Though, yes, the oven could sure use a cleaning again. Note to self: baking soda is a rather crappy cleaner due to the white residue it left behind last time.

Last night, I was really craving some sloppy joes so I began defrosting a couple chunks of ground beef while I scoured the cupboard for sloppy joe mix...oops, I ran out of it. Have no fear! Random cookbook of the shelf to the rescue! And if I didn't have one, I would've just headed for pinterest instead.

I love compilation cookbooks sold by fundraisers. Come by my house pedaling one and I might just cave easier to you than a girl scout selling Grasshoppers. My lifesaver came via the latest MOPS cookbook and someone named Sara Odonnell. (Gotta try and give credit where credit is due.) So why do I love these sorts of cookbooks? Because, most times, the recipe has been tried and tested by a regular Joe (get it, haha, um yeah) and is most likely a family favorite. Yes, I have Rachel Ray and Pioneer Woman cookbooks but frankly, I reference these little guys/gals more often.

Sloppy Joes:

Brown up 1 pound of ground beef. Throw in some diced onion and green peppers if you'd like. For the sauce, add in some dashes of garlic salt, 3 TBSP brown sugar, a few squirts of mustard, and 1/2 cup ketchup (give or take, depending on how saucy you want).

I think hubby liked it's sweetness. He also praised the homemade french fries with that pink stuff called Utah fry sauce. Nope, those things need more work before ending up here. So there you have it. Manwich? Powdered packets with high sodium content? The time has come for me to say goodbye.

P.S. Anybody catch my nod to SNL and Adam Sandler? Fist bump right atcha!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Snow Day Pancakes

Today, the Iowans declared it a snow day and that means it's pancake day in our household! Rather than the ol' bisquick or box pancake mixes, I whip mine up from scratch. Oh that must be sooooo hard! Says me never. So today I'll share the recipe that I've adapted over the years for my family.

First rule of thumb is pancakes in our house must contain at least one fruit, be it bananas or apples or chocolate chips. Er wait, chocolate chips don't count, do they? :P

Today's pancakes started with three bananas tossed into the bowl and promptly mashed with my whisk. (Some minor frustrations may or may not have been dealt with in the process.) Then I added the rest of the basic pancake ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup quick oats (the instant oatmeal kind)
2 TBSP sugar
1 tsp salt
 2 TBSP baking powder
+/- 2 tsp cinnamon
+/- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup oil
+/- 2 cups milk

Note that how much cinnamon and nutmeg you add really depends on your personal as well as familial preferences. Whisk all that together while the griddle is heating (250-300 degrees on an electric griddle or medium heat on a stove top griddle). Using the 1/4 measuring cup, splort some batter blobs onto the griddle and cook until little bubble holes start popping up. Flip and let the other side get golden brown as well.

I can't recall how many pancakes one batch makes. Sometimes our little family of four eats them all and sometimes we have a few leftovers for the freezer.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rising Again: Whole Wheat Bread

In my efforts to write more, I've decide my goal should also include updating the good ol' Domestic Engineer blog; even if few visit. So here I am, trying to resurrect this sorry little baking blog of mine yet again! And isn't it fitting that I begin with a bread recipe?

I used to be too afraid to make homemade bread. Yeast was such a fragile and expensive ingredient, in my mind. And I naively assumed one must knead of the dough by hand and let it rise multiple times. Geez, bread must be such a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. Why does anyone bother?

And then one day, I decided to confront those fears. Make homemade bread? Challenge accepted! I researched the making of bread. I chose a recipe. I bought yeast. I made bread!

And...I failed:

So what do you think I did next? I quit...until I went home for Christmas and took proper lessons from a master bread maker - my mother.

And I succeeded! Further proof:

So I am passing along my lessons in bread-making to you. It's not as daunting as one thinks! So I dare you to try your own hand at it!

Whole Wheat Bread (2 loaves)

2 1/2 cups hot water
2 TBSP oil
2 TSBP honey
1 TBSP yeast
+/- 6 cups wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 TBSP dough enhancer or conditioner
1/4 cup gluten
(I have a cool Amish grocery store where I get these last two unusual ingredients but I'm sure you can find them around your town.)

First, pull out your trusty rusty 60's avocado green kitchen aid mixer, named Ethel. Oh, yours isn't green and named Ethel? Oh well. As long as you have a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.

Measure in the hot water and sprinkle in the yeast. Momma says it likes a nice hot bath! Mixing on a low speed, add in the oil, honey, salt, dough enhancer, and gluten. One cup at a time, slowly add enough wheat flour until a dough ball begins to form and pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl. The amount of flour you use depends on the season and your local climate. My mother used more flour in Utah than I do here in Iowa, it seems.

Mix on a medium speed for about 6 minutes. This is the kneading part I was so afraid of when, ending up, most of it's done by the mixer, hah! While that's going on, prepare two loaf pans by greasing them with some crisco and a paper towel. Grease a little of your counter too since you're going to knead out any last air bubbles before splitting the dough in half. My mother takes out some of her pent up aggression out by slapping the dough on the counter. A good smack or two...or even four, if necessary, ought to do it. Divide the dough into two and roll into oblong loafs just the right size to fit into your pans.

Cover the loaves with some greased saran wrap and let them rise until the dough peeks above the rim of the pan (probably about a half hour or so, depending on how warm the spot is). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When ready to bake, put the loaves in, and then turn the oven down to 375 degrees. My oven tends to be a little hotter than my mother's so I knocked it down a few degrees. Bake for 25-30 minutes, till golden brown. Pop one out onto a cooling rack and tap it on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it's done. If not, pop back in and bake a little longer.

Attempt to let the loaves cool before cutting and consuming, but I won't tell anyone if one of the loaves barely survives five minutes out of the oven. It happens. Jam helps.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Taco Soup

This recipe is an amalgamation of three different taco soup recipes, therefore, I might as well call this one my own (I need just a little ego stroking today, thank you very much). It has quickly become one of our favorite and quick soups.

1 onion, diced
1/2 green pepper
ground beef
1 can kidney beans + liquid
1 can corn + 1/2 liquid
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
taco seasonings (One of those packets or your own favorite combination. Ours is chili powder, cumin, mustard, paprika, and a little Mrs. Dash (she's like my third grandma).)
tortilla chips
shredded cheese
sour cream

Saute one onion and half a green pepper (optional) in a little Worcestershire sauce. Add ground beef and brown. Add taco seasonings. Add beans, corn, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil. Simmer until ready to serve. In your own bowl, sprinkle on some shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, and a dollop of sour cream.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This probably isn't a healthy soup but my excuse is that it will help us with some additional padding in the cold winter season. I even lowered the excessive amount of butter from the original recipe (you're welcome)!

1-2 chicken breasts, cubed and cooked with a dash of chili powder (either microwave or cook in a separate pan)
1 Onion
1 green pepper (optional)
1 pint Half & Half (I hope to experiment with milk someday, I'll let you know how that turns out)
1 c. flour
1/2 c. butter
4 c. chicken broth (bullion granules + water works fine)
1 c. cheese (plus some for garnish)
1 (10 oz.) can diced tomatoes (with or w/out chilis)
1 can corn, drained (or use frozen)
1-2 cans beans of your choice, drained and rinsed (we like black beans and kidney beans)
Taco Seasonings (packet or homemade - chili powder, cumin, paprika, mustard, Mrs. Dash)
Sriracha chili paste (for my slightly masochistic husband)

Saute onion and green pepper in butter. Add Half & Half. Slowly add in and WHISK flour. Add chicken broth, cheese, cooked chicken, tomatoes, and seasonings. Rinse beans in a collander and add. Add drained corn. Season with taco seasonings and Sriracha (optional) to make it as hot as you dare.

Serve with tortilla chips, a little more cheese, and a small dollop of sour cream to cool it down.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Smart shopping

I am the wife of an MD/PhD student who earns a small stipend and a stay-at-home-mother of two small children. According to the US government standards, we are considered to be below the poverty line but I think we live quite comfortably, eat very well, and the only current debt we have is our home mortgage. We shop quite frugally and manage to stretch our dollars quite far!

If it’s alright, I’d like to pass some of my frugal grocery shopping tips on to you. You can also learn more by just Googling for more frugal shopping and even frugal cooking tips. Lots of people write blogs and websites devoted to shopping on tight budgets. Heck! I’m still learning and I'd love to hear from others what sort of money-saving techniques you use when grocery shopping as well as favorite blogs on the subject!

Price per ounce – shop with a calculator to figure out which package of vegetables will give you the most for your money. Sometimes, beggars can’t be choosers and one must buy the store-brand if it’s the cheapest. Some store-brands are even better than the name-brand!

Shop for sales and keep track of prices with a small notebook in your purse so you can record what a good price is when you come across it. Look at the store ads, clip coupons. Stock up on things to keep in your pantry you know you use often rather than waiting till you run out. Peanut butter on sale? Stock up if you eat it often. Mayonnaise? Pickles? Cereal? We're also in the market for a chest freezer so we can stock up on awesome priced frozen vegetables and meat.

Buy some items in bulk – dried beans, brown rice, sugar, flour, oatmeal, etc. It’s intimidating but a big bag of brown rice is a smarter choice than little boxes of minute rice and stores well in five-gallon buckets in my food storage room. Brown rice is also healthier and fills you up more than white rice. And you don’t have to be a family of four or more just to buy in bulk. Even my husband did it when he was a bachelor!

Food storage – Yes, I’m LDS. I grew up learning about food storage. It’s not just about being prepared for a natural disaster or job loss but stocking up on things you eat when on sale to easily have on hand. I stock up on canned food, boxed cereal, etc. Anything that has a good shelf life and that we eat often, I’ll buy when I can. I’ve also learned from my mother’s mistake of buying red wheat that she never could really use. Don't buy in bulk what you just won't eat!

My laundry/food storage room

Make dinners from scratch – I must confess that Stouffers lasagna is quite tasty but it’s expensive and actually not all that healthy (too much cheese also gives my nursing infant painful gas, anyway). I can also make a bigger pan of healthier lasagna for less than those frozen meals cost. Left overs are also just fine in our house. My husband made a huge batch of chili this weekend in our stockpot. He doesn’t mind eating it for lunch almost every day this week. And no, he’s not that gassy because his body is used to eating beans and able to digest them. (Besides, if you know anything about my sense of humor, I think farts are funny!)

Gardening – I can’t talk about this one but someday, I’ll find my green thumbs and figure out how to cultivate a garden of fresh fruits and veggies and learn how to preserve them for the winter months.

The list can go on and perhaps I'll write again in the future about smart shopping but this is what I've come up with in just one morning while my daughter watches some Cailou.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eggs Marshall

Sorry it's been a while. I've never been good at updating this ol' thing. And now there's a new addition to the family! We shall call him Bubs! We're all still adjusting and I'm slowly working my way back into the kitchen and away from the quick-fix box meals. (There's nothing bad with Hamburger Helper, just a little boring.) Today, I shall introduce you to Eggs Marshall (picture unavailable since the nursing mommy scarfed it up too fast, but here's another cool picture which is still somewhat relevant to today's post).

(Man, I wish I could get my hunnybun to wear a fedora!)

I got the simple recipe/seasoning tip from the show "How I Met Your Mother". Lily adds just a couple of squirts of Italian Dressing to scrambled eggs and bada-bing! you've got Eggs Marshall. Quite tasty! You can adjust the amount of dressing depending on the taste buds of the consuming connoisseur.