Getting Creative in the Kitchen

Buckle up friends, this post is gonna be a recipe dump!

Yesterday morning as I was lying in bed, slowly waking up I asked Manny the same question I ask every day when it’s my turn to cook, “Any requests for dinner?” His response, “Something vaguely Asian.” Due to a recent conversation where he admitted to being vaguely off rice for the time being that limited me a bit. So what to make? Well, this kid has had egg rolls on the brain. So, in need of a grocery run anyway I hopped in my car and went to the store to buy the necessary items to make us a delicious dinner.

In the end I made cream cheese wontons, egg rolls, and stir fried yakisoba noodles with vegetables. Other than the wrappers for the wontons and egg rolls, I made all of it from scratch too. (Which I’m actually quite proud of.) There isn’t much more to be said about it, so let’s jump straight in with the recipes! Here we go!

Easy Cream Cheese Wontons
1 packet pre-made wonton wraps
2 8 oz package cream cheese or neufchatel cheese
2 tbsp chopped garlic
*Full recipe makes about 4 dozen wontons. I made half.

Place cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds or until soft enough to stir with a spoon. Add chopped garlic. On clean dry surface separate wonton wrappers. Place a spoonful of cream cheese mixture on the center of each wrap. Dip fingers in water and place small amount of water on each corner of the wonton wrapper. Gently pull the corners up and press together. Place on an ungreased no-stick cookie sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Dip in sweet and sour sauce and enjoy!

Simplest Sweet and Sour Sauce
1/3 C brown sugar
2 tbsp ketchup
1/3 C and 2 tbsp water divided
1/4 C lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp corn starch

In a small sauce pan combine all ingredients except for the 2 tsp corn starch and 2 tbsp water. Heat on medium high until boiling. In a separate bowl combine 2 tsp corn starch and 2 tbsp water. Make sure the water is very cold. Whisk smooth. Slowly pour into boiling mixture in the the saucepan, being sure to stir thoroughly the entire time. Remove from heat. Pour into a jar for saving. Recipe makes roughly 8 oz of sauce. Serve warm or cold.

Vegetable Egg Rolls
1 package egg roll wrappers
1/2 package matchstick carrots
1/4 head finely shredded cabbage
1/2 large onion finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped broccoli stems
1 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp finely chopped ginger
vegetable oil as needed

In a large oiled skilled combine ingredients over medium high heat. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and cool. On a clean dry surface lay out egg roll wrappers. Place 1/2 C vegetable mixture in center of each. Pull the two side corners in and stick them together using a small amount of water. Next pull up the corner closest to you and fold it over the first two corners and the vegetable mixture. Gently, so as not to rip the wrapper, roll the egg roll until there are not more corners left. Fix last corner down using a small amount of water. Place on ungreased non-stick cookie sheet and cook until golden brown at 350 degrees. Takes about 20 minutes.

Spicy Peanut Sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp sriracha
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Store extra in a jelly jar. Makes about 4 oz. Serve cold.

Noodle Stir Fry with Peanut Sesame Sauce
1 package yakisoba noodles
1 head broccoli chopped
1/2 head cabbage chopped
1/2 package matchstick carrots
1 1/2 large onions chunked
1 package tempeh chunked
2 tbsp butter
vegetable oil as needed
1/2 cup frozen peas

In large skillet combine vegetables and oil. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender. In small non-stick pan combine butter and tempeh. Fry on high heat until golden brown stirring often. Add to vegetable mixture. Microwave packet of noodles for 1 minute on high. Add to vegetable mix. Mix sauce recipe below, add to skillet. Serve and enjoy!

2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp chopped garlic
3 tbsp sriracha
4 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp roasted sesame seeds

Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl. Pour over stir fry. Serve and enjoy!

And that’s it. I know it looks like a lot. This meal is a bit putzy if I’m being honest. All together it took me about 2 hours to create but it was a delicious treat. Definitely not something I’ll be tossing together on a regular basis or when I’m strapped for time but delicious non-the-less. I hope you enjoy and as always, take care and God bless.

Adapt and Overcome

Today is a sad day. Blue, my computer, is biting the big one. Life has been absolutely insane ever since I went back to work and I haven’t been able to post much and now that I’m back to it, Blue is dying. It was slowly going but in the last several days it has really declined. The keyboard is completely shot so I’ve plugged in a usb keyboard to keep going but it’s running very slowly on top of that and I don’t actually know how long I’ll be able to limp it along so if I suddenly disappear, that’s why. I’ll try to continue with my phone but who knows how long that will last. When it rains it pours, right?

Dirty Rice

Today a new challenge fell in my lap. Little did I know this morning when I asked my fiance what we should have for dinner I would be researching a food I’ve never made and creating a new recipe from scratch! See, this morning I asked Manny what we should have for dinner. In our house this means, pick a protein and I’ll do the rest and sometimes he’ll give me some ideas of what I could turn that protein into. He said I should make whatever we have the most of which is in fact venison. So I went in the freezer and grabbed the first package of venison I found which just happened to be a pound of venison hamburger. If you’re starting to get squicked out by the prospect of deer meat, take a deep breath. You don’t have to use venison. You can easily substitute traditional hamburger or even leave the meat out entirely to make a delicious vegan/vegetarian version of this meal!

We had gotten a rice cooker as a gift at my bridal shower and Manny has been dying to try it out so he suggested I make a big pot of rice, half it, make dirty rice tonight with the hamburger and tomorrow we can make fried rice (which will be another adventure I’ve never been on!) So that’s what I’m doing! Tonight is my version of Dirty Rice and tomorrow we’ll see how I do making Kimchi Fried Rice.

Sorry to have had to put the introduction before the recipe this time, but let’s get into it!

Dirty Rice

2 C uncooked rice ($0.70)
3 C water (free-ish)
1 C mixed frozen veggies (peas, corn, lima beans, green beans, and carrots) ($0.33)
1 can dark red kidney beans ($0.48)
1 lb hamburger ($3.71)**
pinch cayenne (< $0.01)
pinch black pepper (< $0.01)
1 tbsp paprika ($0.12)
1 tsp fresh garlic ($0.06)
1 small onion ($0.16)
cajun seasoning to taste (I used a lot… like a lot a lot.) ($0.05)
Total without beef: $1.90
Total with beef: $5.61

As mentioned above, I was working with a rice cooker, so first step is to start the rice. If you don’t have a rice cooker you can make your rice in a pot. Remember to rinse your rice though in order to get excess starch off and make the texture more pleasant.

In a separate pan brown hamburger with the spices and the onion. Strain kidney beans and add to pan along with vegetables when the meat is done browning. When rice is done add rice and mix. Eat and enjoy! We topped ours with Franks hot sauce and it was absolutely delicious!

As always, prices are an estimate. Obviously the venison also does have some cost as well. Best I could figure our venison cost about $0.58 a lb. This of course does not take into account time for hunting or processing. I come from a hunting family and hunt myself so it makes sense for us to use a lot of venison. All recipes involving venison can easily be made with beef or even pork sometimes.

Why venison?

For me, I’ve grown up hunting. It was a think I did with my papa before he passed away and a thing I continue to do with my dad. This year Manny decided to try it and although neither he nor I got deer it was still a fun experience and we will likely continue to hunt as we are able in the future. On a purely humane note, I like to hunt because I know how the animal was killed. If done correctly hunting can be very humane. Instead of living in big corporate pens, raised with the sole purpose to be someone’s meal some day, the deer get to live free and wild. A good shot can kill a deer with a single shot. This means the animal gets to live a free, wild life and have a humane death.

Venison is also really good for you. It is higher in protein than beef, with 26g per 3 oz as opposed to only 22g per 3 oz in beef. Additionally it has only 2.7g of fat per 3 oz serving instead of the whopping 13g in beef per 3 oz serving. Venison is high in vitamins B6 and B12 AND it’s high in iron too, making it a great choice for people who struggle with anemia. Plus, it’s organic and free of hormones and chemicals.

Whether you make this recipe with venison, beef, or no meat at all, it’s a delicious zippy meal to get you through on these chilly spring days. Let me know in the comments what you think! And as always, take care and God bless.

One-Pot Wonders are Indeed Wonderful

Spicy Beans and Rice

Nothing’s worse than when a blogger makes you scroll for ten freaking years just to find the recipe hidden in the depths of their post. So let’s get to the good stuff right away, shall we? And if you like what you see, do me a solid and read the rest after.

2 C rice ($0.70)
4 C water (free-ish)
1 can diced tomatoes w/habeneros ($0.99)
1 can pinto or black beans ($0.66)
1 C corn ($0.33)
1/4-1/2 C lime juice ($0.06)
1 tsp cumin ($0.14)
salt and pepper to taste ($0.05)
1 ring spicy smoked sausage ($2.98)
pinch dried or chopped cilantro ($0.09)
1/4 C salsa verde ($0.62)
Total: ($6.62)

Prepare sausage by cutting on a bias, cubing, dicing, whatever you want to do! In a large pot crisp up your sausage on medium-high heat. When browned add rice, water, and the can of diced tomatoes. I used Ro-tel brand for the tomatoes and habeneros and since I do not like chunks of tomato I pureed the whole thing before adding it but you could do either way. Reduce heat to medium-low. Next strain your beans, you can use pinto or black beans, and add these to the pot. Make sure you stir periodically. Add corn and lime juice. How much lime you use is up to you, I prefer a more limey taste so I did more. Next add cumin, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Cook until rice is done. Serve in a bowl with salsa verde as a garnish. Enjoy!

I don’t care for the chunks in salsa either but love the flavor so I also pureed this. Please be aware if you do the same it will make your salsa more spicy if it has pepper seeds in it as the seeds hold a lot of spice and when broken up they can get VERY spicy.

Pro-tip for rice preparation! Get a fine mesh strainer, we got ours from the dollar store, and strain your rice in cold water before cooking to get the excess starch off. This will make your rice not as mushy as it cooks and makes the overall texture of the dish more enjoyable.

So now that we have the recipe done, I’d just like to do the disclaimer that the prices are an estimate based off the current running price for that item in my area… which may not be your area… so don’t quote me on the prices. Also, I broke down what the full packages would cost if you split it up for what the recipe calls for. There are ways to make this cheaper. If you leave off the sausage the whole cost goes down to $3.29. A delicious one-pot meal that can easily be made vegan.

We had this meal last night for dinner and it really did hit the spot. Cold weather with a dreary drizzle and a beastly wind made the warm spice of this exactly what the doctor ordered. It was a little bit of a learning experience because I hadn’t realized how blending the salsa would affect it until too late and had added too much to my own bowl. Thank goodness my fiance was happy to help me out cleaning up the remainder that I couldn’t finish!

So give it a try, let me know in the comments what you think of it! And as always, take care and God bless.

Enter the Kitchen

The best place to begin is… well… the beginning. So let’s start there. This morning I woke up to the ping of an email, an email that would send my heart straight through my stomach and down so low it sat in my butt for a few good hours until I could work up the courage to move on and face the world again. Maybe that’s being a little dramatic but for real, it was an oddly earth shattering if very politely worded email informing me that the latest job I had lined up had fallen through much like all of its predecessors.

See last week I quit my job. I was an advocate at a very well respected domestic violence shelter but I was working overnights and quite frankly it was doing it’s best to kill me. I had been sick for the better part of two months, permanently exhausted, experiencing migraines that would last anywhere from one to six days (that’s right, DAYS, not hours) and my mental health was deteriorating at a rate that frightened myself and my fiance. So the decision was made. I needed to quit my job. Not wanting to be completely impulsive, I reached out to a former job and asked if they would hire me back and they assured me yes, they would. So I put in my notice and exhausted but hopeful, waited for my last day.

You know the saying “out of the frying pan and into the fire?” Well that’s kind of what happened here. I was no sooner done with my job than the new one I had lined up fell through. Never one to dwell for long, I cried for a couple hours, questioned my life choices, and then started applying for jobs. I had decent luck too. Twelve years of food service experience and roughly sixteen of customer service and I was pretty marketable. Within a couple days I had two job offers and although not life alteringly awesome, they were workable. Then Covid-19 became truly worrisome and the world stopped turning.

Again, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but that’s kind of what it feels like right now. On Friday I drove to a neighboring town to do some grocery shopping and while I was driving I was hit by the complete and all encompassing awareness that we are in fact living through history now. Whatever camp you’re in as far as Covid-19 is concerned, you would be hard pressed to deny that what we are currently experiencing will change the world and make history. Years from now they’ll teach our grandchildren about this pandemic in the same way that we were taught about Spanish Influenza and dare I say it? the Plague. A person should always be hopeful but as someone with a degree in history, I can’t help but feel I am reading the writing on the wall when I say hard economic times are ahead of us. If pressed to make a prediction, I would say that Covid-19 will affect the economy for years and that the recession in the early 2000’s was nothing compared to what lies before us.

Which brings us back to that email from this morning. Due to Covid-19 the country has ground to a stop. One could argue that the world has ground to a stop but I will stick to what I know and that is my own country. There’s something very heavy about being able to watch not only your president but also your governor, and your mayor declare a state of emergency. Piece by piece normal day-to-day life has slowed to a grinding halt, closing restaurants, bars, theaters, schools, daycare, and literally anything non-essential. And like a puff of smoke those two job offers I had disappeared.

Here I must insert another bout of crying and questioning life choices but I am very lucky in that I have been blessed to have the sweetest, most supportive partner to go through life with. My fiance has listened to me cry and freak out and wonder where on earth we’re going to get money to take care of things; then, when I’ve cried myself out he holds me close and tells me how we’ll make it. The number one and most crucial part of how we’re going to make it, is that we are going to get through this together. Second, he has a job that pays decently and there is generally no shortage of potential overtime. Cash will be tight but we should be able to meet our bills and make ends meet. Thirdly, given the fact that I have pretty bad asthma and the common cold can at times cause distressing airway problems, maybe this is for the best. So, based on a joint decision, I stopped looking and put the frantic search for work on the back burner until the pandemic clears up. My top priority now, is to keep our house, manage our finances, and ensure we have good food on the table every night.

Right here I would like to just say that I have never in my life looked down on stay-at-home moms or house-spouses but that has never before been an option for myself. I didn’t meet my fiance until I was thirty and by then I had long since come to terms with the fact that whatever I wanted in life I would provide, at least financially that is. Not working for financial gain was an utterly foreign and ultimately impossible concept. Because life costs money. Unless you live in the woods on land that is fertile and dotted with productive farm animals, life costs money. Rent, groceries, cars, gas, medicine, insurance, phones, internet, water, electric, etc. The list goes on and on. But we’re now in a place to have me stay home for a few weeks and I refuse to not be productive during this time. I love to cook and bake and keep house and I also love to write. So I thought, why not combine those passions and keep a blog of my adventures in frugal housekeeping. Here we go!

My name is B. I am currently unemployed and waiting out the pandemic in one of hundreds of cities affected across the United States. When life gives you lemons you make lemonade… or lemon bars… or lemon meringue pie… or lemon rice… or lemon chicken… you get the point. Click follow to get the latest in my frugal adventures. New posts daily. Comments are love. And as always, take care and God bless.