Food

Thrifty Thursday: Onion Dip

I’m so sorry I didn’t post this past Thursday, the 3rd Thursday of the month, when my Thrifty Thursday posts are supposed to appear! I was at the beach with my boy, enjoying a few days off.

Love dipping your chips in onion dip but hate the strong taste in your mouth hours later? Here’s a tip to save your palate and save you money!

Your typical dry, onion soup mix says to mix one envelope with 16 oz of sour cream. Instead, mix it with a 24 oz container of sour cream. It cuts the onion flavor, so you aren’t brushing your teeth several times that day, and you have more dip!

Cooking Rice in the Microwave

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The Hubs wanted rice with dinner tonight. No biggie, except I was already using the pan that I needed for cooking rice. So, I decided to search the Google-sphere for a way to cook rice in the microwave without requiring a special container.

It took me about 15 minutes to find one, but I did and it turned out great! I used this fabulous recipe from Steamy Kitchen.

I cooked the rice in my large, glass bowl from Pampered Chef and just sat the lid on top. I used a scoonch too much water (my fault, I didn’t follow the 1 inch rule in the recipe) so some boiled over onto the rotating plate in my microwave, but it easily wiped up.

My rice cooked in half the time of doing it on the stove, so I am sticking with this way from now on!

Easy-Peasy, 3-Ingredient, BBQ Ribs in the Pressure Cooker

 

Ribs in Pressure Cooker

I *love* using my pressure cooker! Perfect for someone like me who thinks I’ve got everything going for me and I’m having a productive day, only to be brought up short in late afternoon with, “When’s dinner? I’m hungry.” Oh, right…dinner.  Forgot about that.  And you can’t pull out your crockpot at that late hour! So here’s another easy-peasy pressure cooker recipe, with only 3 ingredients, that produces tender, sticky ribs you thought you could only get from a low & slow professional!

I could’ve sworn the ribs were in the fridge, but I was wrong. No worries! I dropped the frozen ribs in my 2-gallon jug, full of hot water, and they were thawed in half an hour.  😀

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Remove baby back ribs from their wrapper and cut into 4 sections. Place the elevated cooking rack inside the cooker, pour in 2 cups of ginger ale and then lay rib sections on top of rack.

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Set pressure cooker timer for 25 minutes and ensure vent is sealed.

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When timer is up, vent out the steam completely before opening up the cooker. The ribs might not look pretty without their dousing of BBQ sauce, but try the meat here. So tender and juicy! Now we’re going to add the sauce and make the ribs sticky. You can do this on your grill, if you prefer. We’ve done that, but it’s faster and stickier under the broiler. You chose!

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Turn on your broiler, remembering that your oven door needs to be cracked when you are broiling. My oven rack is 7 inches below my broiler. This gives the sauce time to get sticky and really adhere to the ribs. If the rack was closer to the broiler, the sauce would blacken more. Pick your preference!

Remove meat to an oven-proof dish, underside of ribs facing up. Spread on your favorite BBQ sauce – ours is currently Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet & Spicy!

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Keep an eye on your ribs under the broiler; they can go from zero to burnt pretty quickly when left alone, but take forever to caramelize when you stare at them. ;o) Ours were under the broiler approximately 7-9 minutes per side.  When you have achieved your desired level of color and stickiness on the underside of your ribs, remove from broiler, flip, sauce the other side and back into the broiler for another 7-9 minutes. Do you see how the sauce just fused to the underside of the ribs, below?! It was so hard to put them back under the broiler for the other side because I just wanted to dig in!

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And…voilà! RIBS. ARE. DONE! To be honest with you, we could have left the top side of the ribs under the broiler longer, to achieve the same, infusion of matte sauce the back got, but it smelled so good, we couldn’t wait any longer. ;o) And they were still deliciously sticky! 

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Give these a try and let me know how they turned out! And check out my other Easy-Peasy Pressure Cooker recipes.

A Sunset Picnic with The Hubs & Nature

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B was at sleepway camp since Sunday afternoon and I pick him up yesterday. On Wednesday evening, our last night alone together, the hubs and I made a picnic dinner and went away from the city and the lights to watch the sunset and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.
He put a blanket and some cushions in the back of the truck and backed it up to a pond. After eating we laid down and just talked and listened and watched. It was beautiful and peaceful.
We saw lightening bugs; there are none where we live! Bats flew above us and bullfrogs talked to each other across the pond. An owl woke up and took off for his nightly hunt. We heard deer stomping and snorting in the woods behind us. It was so lovely.
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Our” bed”, cooler of dinner and thermos with tea. Trust me, those cushions from an old oversized chair in the basement were so comfy! Bug spray in bottom left corner.

 

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Selfie with my love.

 

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Partially eaten dinner sandwich in my lap. I made The Pioneer Woman’s Ranch-Style Chicken with thighs, instead of breasts, put them on potato rolls and wrapped them in foil for the trip to the pond. YUM-O!

 

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Final pic before leaving: the hubs, the evening star and the pond.

Cooking Turnip Greens for the First Time

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We went to the local farmers market this weekend for the 1st time this year.  One of the stalls was selling bunches of 3 turnips for $2.50 and I’d never seen turnips that big!  I like to put turnips in my Fall and Winter stews instead of potatoes, so I bought a bunch.  I’m going to peel, dice and freeze the turnips until I’m ready to use them later this year.

Unlike just the turnip bulb I find in the grocery store, these turnips came with their above-ground leafy stalks.  I knew I’d heard about turnip greens in certain Southern movies, books and ladies circles so, being the frugal Southerner that I am, I went searching for a recipe.  Cuz, let’s face it: once your north of 40, like I am, you can never have too many greens in your diet!  However, I didn’t want a recipe that took an ingredient and boiled it to death or smothered it in so much butter or bacon grease to mask the taste that it was no longer good for us.  So I asked The Google to find me a “healthy turnip green recipe”.   The second recipe to pop up in that search was Gina Neely’s Turnip Green Recipe.   I had all the ingredients, I liked the cooking method, so I went for it!

Once the hubs realized that I was actually going to cook the turnip greens, he felt the need to make a declaration: “I’ve had turnip greens before and I don’t like them.  Just like I don’t like turnips!  (Note to audience, he gobbles them up in my stews!) No matter how you’re going to prepare them, it’s not going to make a difference to me, because I. Don’t. Like. Turnips!  Therefore, I will not be trying yours.”  I gotta say, I totally admire the man’s courage for standing up to me.  ;o)

Well, I just loved these turnip greens!  I asked B if he’d like to try them (let him know he didn’t have to) and he did.  He loved them as much as I did!  The hubs was in the other room and called out, “What did the boy think?!”  I replied, “He liked them alright.”

The hubs came stomping into the kitchen with a duck face.  He looked at the pan of greens and his expression changed to disgust.  “Did you put vinegar in them,” he asked.  “Nope,” I replied.  “Hm.  Maybe I’d like them if they had vinegar.”

I said nothing; he continued to eye the greens like they were gonna jump up and bite him.  I turned back to the computer so he didn’t feel and pressure and saw out of the corner of my eye him grab a green out of the pan with his fingers and put it in his mouth.  His face was pleasantly surprised at the taste, but once he saw me looking at him, the duck face was back.  “Just like I thought,” he said, and walked into the front room.  I wonder if the leftovers will “mysteriously” end up in his lunch pail tomorrow?  ;o)

Why I love shopping at Aldi grocery store

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This morning at 9am, a new Aldi grocery store opened in the Washington, DC area, and B and I were there.  I don’t know if you’ve ever shopped at an Aldi, or even heard of Aldi, but I love them!  They are 1/3 – 1/2 the size of your typical grocery store and do not carry everything that bigger grocery stores do.  But they still carry just about everything you need for your kitchen and for cleaning: produce, fresh & deli meats, spices, baking supplies, dairy, boxed and canned staples, international foods, convenience foods, frozen foods, snacks & candy, breads, pet food & supplies, paper goods, personal items, organic items, seasonal, etc.  And the best part?!  You get quality products you’d get at other grocery stores for much less!  How?  They save money by not offering some things that other stores do and then pass that savings onto you!

Let’s start outside the store; that is where they keep the shopping carts.  The carts are all connected to each and to get one out for shopping, you have to put a quarter into your cart.  Before you get upset about “paying” for a cart, let me finish.  After you’ve loaded your groceries in your car, you hook your cart back up to the rest and your quarter pops out so you can put it back in your pocket!  By using this system, Aldi does not have to purchase and maintain cart corrals in the parking lot nor hire employees to gather up the carts.  Savings passed onto customers #1.

You may see some national brands in Aldi (i.e. Charmin and Pringles) but they’re aren’t many.  Mostly you’ll see Aldi’s brand and other, less expensive brands.  Savings passed onto customers #2.

As I said in my opening paragraph, Aldi is smaller that your typical grocery store.  This means they may only have space for 4 different mustards (yellow, dijon, spicy brown and honey) instead of 20 different varieties and/or brands at other stores, but smaller spaces = lower overhead costs.  Savings passed onto customers #3.

At checkout, your groceries are not bagged for you and you are not given bags.  Your items are placed in another, empty cart (like what happens at Costco, BJs, Sams and the like) and you either bring your own bags or buy some from the cashier.  After checking out, there is a sturdy shelf lining the whole front of the store.  You pull your cart up to the shelf and bag your groceries or you roll your cart out to your car and load your purchases into boxes you have in your trunk (this is how my parents shop!).  Aldi not only saves money by not giving bags to customers, they are also helping save the environment by encouraging us to reuse bags we already have.  Savings passed onto customers #4.

When a store or business swipes your credit card as payment for your purchase, credit card vendors charges the business a percentage of that sale to process the transaction.  Once in a while, a check written for groceries isn’t honored by the bank it’s written on and returned to the business to which it was made out.  Then someone at that business needs to track down the check owner and get the money for the purchase or hire a collections firm to do it for them.  For these reasons, Aldi only takes 2 forms of payment: cash or debit card.  Savings passed onto customers #5.

Do you know what happens to a manufacturer’s coupon after you give it to grocery store cashier?  It and all the other coupons are sent to people whose job it is to sort coupons by manufacturer, tally them up and send them to the manufacturer for reimbursement.  Some of this is done with the help of machines and some by hand.  Aldi does not offer their own store coupons, nor do they accept manufacturers’ coupons.  Therefore, they don’t have to either take the loss on the product or hire people to process the coupons for reimbursement.  Savings passed onto customers #6.

I’ve taken the time to go through a couple of my Aldi receipts in the last 2 years and compare the total to buying the same or similar items at my other favorite grocery store, Wegmans.  I can do this because Wegmans’ website lists all the items in the store where I shop and their current price.  😀  At Aldi, my receipts have been 25 – 45% less than what I’d pay at Wegmans and Wegmans’ overall prices are less than Giant, Safeway and Harris Teeter, in my personal shopping experience.  For example, while there today, I bought a 20 lb bag of Audubon Wild Bird Food for $5.99.  The exact same bag (same brand, weight and ingredients) at Wegmans is currently $8.99 if you have a Wegmans Shopping Card.  I saved 33% on that bird food at Aldi!  That is a big deal to me since we go through a TON of bird food in our yard.

B loves to go to Aldi with me because they always have a selection of toys for him to oogle.  And at Christmas time, they have the best prices on NERF products, according to my 12 year old, and he looks at store and online prices of all things NERF, weekly.

OK, so let’s get back to the fact that this morning was an Aldi grand opening.  The store opened at 9am and we arrived at 8:25am.  There were friendly corporate employees outside with Dunkin Donuts and hot coffee.  One of the gentlemen was handing out numbers: the 1st 100 people (18 or older) to arrive would receive an Aldi gift card!  I was #47!  Quarters were put in all the grocery carts, just for the grand opening.  After the ribbon was cut at 9am, we headed into the store and received an Aldi, reusable shopping bag; even B got a bag!  I like their bags because they are bigger than most store’s bags.  At the back corner of the store, you could turn in your number to receive an envelope with a gift card in it.  The amounts varied and ranged from $10 – $100; we received a $10 GC.  😀  There were sample tables throughout the store, as well: I didn’t get to all of them, but what I did see had chips, granola bars, cookies and cheeses.

We took our bird seed and 4 really cool Star Wars Hot Wheels cars to the checkout.  After paying for our items, B went to the front counter to bag, and I entered a drawing for a year’s worth of free produce.  *fingers crossed*  There were two corporate employees at the cart return and I wanted to tell someone how much I like their stores and give them an example of why.  I let him know that every Thanksgiving, our church members buy and distribute holiday meal baskets to families in DC.  One of the required items in the baskets is either a canned, fresh or smoked ham, 4-6 lbs.  Other than a Honey Baked Ham store, I cannot find hams that small in the grocery stores in my area, except at Aldi.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m buying for my own family and others during the holiday season, I can’t afford Honey Baked Ham.  But at Aldi, I can get a larger ham at a good price for my family and I can also buy 4-6 lb hams for other families.

This nice Aldi gentleman told me that this Thanksgiving, he would like me to come into the store, speak with the store manager about the size and number of hams we needed so that Aldi could provide us with those hams.  I thought that was going above and beyond!  He didn’t say he was offering us free hams or anything.  I think he was just saying, if you let us know what you need, we’ll make sure we order it and have it here for you, so no one’s running all over the place searching for hams.

I’m so glad there is an Aldi closer to my house and they will be seeing a lot of us.

***UPDATE!  I meant to include this info yesterday but forgot!  Right inside the entrance doors at Aldi, you’ll find that week’s sales ad.  Right before you walk out the exit door, you’ll find next week’s ad.  I love that I get to preview next week’s sales and can start meal and errand planning already.  You can sign up to receive their sales ad via weekly email or view them on their website, Aldi.com.  I don’t know if they mail their weekly ad to locals because I’ve never lived close enough to receive one.  However, it would not surprise me if they did not mail ads in order to pass savings #7 onto customers.  😀

I was not invited to the grand opening by Aldi.  I just found out last night from a blog I follow that the opening was today and decided to go.  Although I received a GC from Aldi, so did 99 other shoppers, and it was not given to me to express my opinion.  These are solely my opinions and I am in no way associated with Aldi, nor any other grocery store.  I merely like to share my good experiences with others so y’all can experience them, too.

 

Leftover Challenge

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I posted this picture to Facebook & Instagram on Monday with the caption: “Just pulled all of these leftovers or soon to expire items out of the fridge and I’m determined to make two new meals. Will post to the blog later in the week with the results.”  So here they are.  As one of my savvy Instagram followers guessed, the hubs made a Chicken Stir Fry for dinner Monday.  On Tuesday morning, B made a Chicken & Rice Stoup.  That is not a typo; I meant stoup, and you’ll read why.

The hubs took the 2 raw chicken breasts, the partial sweet (white) onion, the pepper, zucchini, some carrots, stir-fry sauce and one box of take-out rice.  To that, he added garlic, fresh ginger, another half of a sweet onion (from our onion basket), cilantro left over from dinner guests over the weekend that I completely forgot was in the fridge (good thing he checked!) and he filled the rest of the stir-fry sauce bottle with this homemade teriyaki sauce we love and shook it all together (FYI – I do not add the cornstarch and the ¼ cup of water to the teriyaki sauce cuz the hubs does not like cornstarch.  Tastes the same, just doesn’t get thick.).

He sliced and diced everything, including the chicken breasts, and then I stole ⅓ of his ginger/garlic.  😀  He salted and peppered the chicken and cooked it in sesame oil in our wok.  Removed chicken and cooked veggies in the same wok – carrots, pepper and onions first and when they were almost done, he added in zucchini and mushrooms (that he begged me to go get from the store for him.  Which I did, cuz he’s really sexy and he was cooking for me!  He also texted me when I was in the store and asked for a can of water chestnuts.  Always nice to have a little crunch in your stir fry!).

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After meat and veggies were cooked, he added and heated more sesame oil and then pressed the container of rice into the wok to get warm and flavored.  He said was going to add a scrambled egg, but I didn’t see any in my bowl.  I also found the can of water chestnuts, unopened on the counter, when I cleaned up the kitchen after dinner.  He forgot to put them in.  My scatterbrainedness is rubbing off on him – poor guy!  Once rice was too his liking, he put meat and veggies back in wok, tossed, added in the sauce, tossed, served up and added chopped, fresh cilantro as a garnish to his and my bowls!  No cilantro for B, thank you very much.  It was, like all of the hubs stir fries, AWESOME!

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While the hubs had been furiously chopping all the veggies, raw chicken, garlic and ginger for his stir fry, I was chopping myself for a chicken and rice stoup.  From the ingredients in the top pic of this post, I took the baggie with the chicken thighs the hubs had smoked on the grill, celery, carrots, red onion and the other box of rice.  I realized that the waaaay too pungent odor of the red onion meant that it was past it’s prime and should not go into my dish and with shame and sadness, I tossed it.  I then grabbed the other half of the onion that the hubs took from our onion basket and didn’t use in the stir fry.

I removed and tossed the skin from the chicken thighs, diced the meat, placed it in the bottom of a tupperware container and covered it with a piece of plastic wrap.  Then I diced up sweet onion, carrots and celery and placed them in the same tupperware container on top of the plastic wrap.  Why the plastic wrap, you say?  Because the next day, when B made the stoup, it was easy to remove all the veggies from the container without taking meat with them nor having to pick out the bottom layer of veggies from among the meat.  I also put a little glass bowl in the container with the garlic and ginger I stole from the hubs, added the cover and popped in the fridge for the next day.  I know what you’re thinking: “You are brilliant!”  Thank you.  I have my moments.  They are few and far between but I do, occasionally, have them.

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While getting the tupperware container Tuesday morning, B found 2 opened boxes of chicken stock in the fridge and pulled them out.  He also got out the Wegmans Basting Oil and a pot.  He heated approx a tablespoon of basting oil in the pot.  How did he know the oil was hot enough?  After a minute, he wet the tips of his fingers at the kitchen faucet and then flicked some water droplets into the oil.  He knew it was ready by the height and loudness of the water droplets sizzling because his mama taught him that.  🙂  In went the onions, carrot and celery and he sautéed them for 7 – 8 minutes.  Then he added the garlic and ginger and stirred constantly while they cooked, but didn’t burn, for 2 more minutes.

He announced that all the basting oil had ben absorbed by the veggies and, before adding the chicken, he needed to add a smidge more oil. And by “smidge”, I mean that the bottle got away from him and the oil dumped in.  That’s alright, that’s alright, the finished product has a nice sheen of oil slick on top that adds to the flavor and “beauty” of the dish.  😉  While he added the diced chicken thighs and heated them through, I dumped ½ of a box of take-out rice into a bowl and broke it up with a spoon.

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He added the stock to the pan and brought to a boil before adding and heating the rice.  There was not as much stock in those 2 containers as I had thought, but I didn’t want to open up a new one.  So, I declared the Chicken & Rice Soup to now be Stoup.  It’s a word used by Rachel Ray to describe a soup that is hearty enough or thick enough to be a stew.  B’s creation did not have much liquid and so we improvised in the kitchen.  That is what I love about cooking – it is an Art, up for change and interpretation by the artist.  Baking is not my favorite thing to do because it is a Science.  You can’t constantly tweak baking recipes based on what you do or do not have on hand because certain ingredients and amounts are non-negotiable.  They perform chemical reactions to get the desired, and more specifically an edible, end result!  We tasted his stoup and decided the smokiness of the chicken was a bit overpowering.  We added some pepper and salt, which balanced the dish and allowed the flavors of the stock and veggies to come out.

IMG_20141107_094319  And here is B’s end result!  I put some in a mug this morning, added some water from the tap and heated it up in the microwave.  Look at the beautifully shiny circles of basting oil sitting on top!  When I was done eating my stoup, my lips were so soft from that oil, I won’t need to apply lip gloss today.  😀  I love the dark flakes from the smoked chicken thighs!

I hope you are inspired to create new dishes from your leftovers and soon to expire kitchen items!  I have other posts on here about using leftovers.  If you are interested in seeing more, just search “leftovers”.

 

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