Friday, October 21, 2016

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for mid-October (the humble bean burger starts the week)

I spent about 3 hours in the kitchen making enough bean burger patties to get us through 4 suppers and a couple of lunches. I had to dedicate my entire afternoon to this endeavor. But the payoff was that I didn't have much preparation for suppers for several evenings in a row.
  • bean burger patties, topped with tomato slices and 1000 Island dressing (made from homemade green tomato sweet relish, 3 ketchup packets, mayo and chive blossom vinegar)
  • whole wheat penne pasta with butter
  • baked acorn squash, seasoned with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter
I volunteered at a fund-rasier today and I am very glad to have dinner practically ready for plates. I'm tired.
  • leftover bean burger patties, topped with tomato slices and leftover 1000 Island dressing
  • whole wheat rotini pasta
  • baked acorn squash
  • leftover bean burger patties, topped with tomato slices and leftover 1000 Island dressing
  • oven fries, seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and chipotle pepper
  • leftover acorn squash
  • cucumber salad in dressing of last of Ranch dressing mixed with oil and vinegar
In the comments on last week's Cheap & Cheerful post, Brandy from The Prudent Homemaker mentioned preparing grape leaves as a side, recently. Grape leaves are a super nutritious leafy green that gets very little recognition. Her comment inspired me to go out and see if I could find enough tender leaves for making a batch of stuffed grape leaves. I have everything I need, here. I think these will be tasty with the last of the bean burger patties.
  • leftover bean burger patties, again served with tomato and 1000 Island
  • stuffed grape leaves (leaves blanched in microwave before stuffing with rice, raisins, garlic, onion, almonds, cumin, oregano, olive oil, salt and lemon juice. After rolling up, steamed in the oven with lemon juice, water and salt, dish covered in foil)
  • freshly baked French bread (yep, it was baking day. I did sandwich bread and French loaves)
  • curried peanut coleslaw, with a zip of curry and chutney (I left out the frozen peas)
the second "cooking big" entree -- roast pork loin

Today was my big cooking day for the week. I spent about 5 hours in the kitchen, but was able to make-ahead quite a lot, to get me through the next 3 or 4 days.
  • herb and garlic-crusted pork loin
  • herb and garlic roasted potato wedges
  • oven-roasted carrots and onions
  • leftover cole slaw
  • leftover stuffed grape leaves
  • chunky applesauce
I've got some lingering cooked squash and thawed pumpkin puree in the fridge. I'll use both to make a batch of pumpkin muffins. I can do those in the morning, and have them ready and waiting at dinner time, to round out a meal of leftovers.
  • leftover pork loin, I poured some minced herbs in water over the slices, before reheating
  • leftover carrots and onions
  • leftover applesauce
  • canned green beans
  • pumpkin and squash muffins
This is the last night of the pork loin. I'm thinking to cube it and combine with either rice or noodles, along with more of the herb mixture. I'll need a veggie or two to go with this. I'll see what's still in the garden, when the rain lets up.

  • brown rice with minced herbs from earlier in the week, diced roast pork, and olive oil
  • French bread slices, spread with minced herb-butter, and toasted in oven
  • fresh tomato slices
  • kale and onions sauteed in bacon fat

I feel like I am getting most of my dinner inspiration from all of you, these days. So I send you all a big thank you! I have some frozen leftovers I can use over the weekend, then I have to come up with something else. Any ideas? Ha ha! I'm getting lazy. I don't want to even do my own menu planning.

I hope you all had a great week, and have wonderful plans for the weekend. Wishing you well!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spiced beverage "starter" (or, how to make the spicey part of spiced apple cider in advance)

I shared this on facebook a couple of weeks ago. But because I know not all of you do facebook, I thought I would share it here, as well, simply because I've enjoyed having this in my fridge this autumn. I think of it as a spiced beverage "starter".

You may be wondering why I don't just simmer drinks like cider with the spices in them. Obviously, there's the instant factor that I appreciate. But more importantly to me, is pre-infusing some water with the spices, then adding the cider or juice for a brief heating, helps retain heat-sensitive nutrients, like vitamin C.

It's all of the yummy spices of autumn, infused in water, strained, then stored in the fridge. I use the infusion to add spice to hot apple cider, or make a spiced tea with Dollar Tree black tea bags, some apple juice and a spoonful of sugar or honey.

I've been using whole cloves, ground cinnamon (sticks would be nice, but cost more for me) and some allspice berries.

I make this infusion, either in a single cup, in the microwave, to enjoy right away or I make an entire pan of it, and keep in the refrigerator, for impromptu mugs of spiced drinks. Making this "starter" is an easy way for me to have an expensive-tasting drink at dollar store prices.

To make infusion, by the mug:
I put 1/4 teaspoon of whole cloves (or 2 pinches ground cloves)
2 or 3 whole allspice berries (or pinch of ground allspice)
and a 1-inch piece of cinnamon stick (I use 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon) 
into about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of water.

I microwave in 25 second intervals, about 3 times, and allowing 2 or 3 minutes in between intervals, for steeping. I remove any whole spices with a spoon, and either add a black tea bag and apple juice and water, for an apple-spice black tea, or, I fill the mug with apple cider and a bit of honey or sugar, for hot spiced cider, and heat all, as needed.

While making this one mug at a time has been nice, I also really appreciate making a pint of the spiced infusion, for several days of spiced beverages, made easy.

For a pint of spiced infusion:
I put 3 cups of water into a stainless saucepan,
along with 1 tablespoon of whole cloves,
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (or 2 whole sticks of cinnamon), and
1/2 teaspoon of allspice berries.

I allow this to heat, just below a simmer, on the stove for about 1 hour, until reduced by about 1/3 in the saucepan. It makes the house smell fantastic, by the way!

Then I pour it through a strainer, into a glass jar, and keep in the refrigerator. It has been keeping just fine, for over a week, for me. Spiced beverage "starter" just waiting for my cuppa.

To use: pour about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of infusion into a mug or cup, and add black tea, and/or apple cider, along with about a teaspoon of honey or sugar, if desired. Heat in the microwave.

I'm enjoying this for my own personal cups of apple-spiced tea, but it's also been nice to add to a family meal for the crowd, at the last minute. Hope you enjoy!