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Friday, September 11, 2015

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers in early September

chicken-noodle soup w/ garden veggies
*rhubarb jello
*pesto-French bread roll
*tomato wedges w/ 1000 Island dressing

BBQ pork on buns
*sliced tomatoes
*kale and garlic, sauteed
*plum cobbler

pork and beans
*fruit salad with pear, apple, plums, blackberries
*tossed salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber
*leftover plum cobbler

*homemade pizza with tomatoes, basil, olives, marinara and leftover pesto
frozen peas
*mixed fruit sauce

Monday (got home around 7:30 PM and had to make a quick dinner This is what we came up with)
breakfast sausage
frozen peas
frozen corn
bread and butter
assorted fresh fruit

Salisbury steak
brown rice cooked with herbs, garlic and canned tomato paste
*tossed salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber
*fresh plums

leftover rice
*sauteed summer squash
*plum pie

on fry bread
*tossed salad of lettuce, tomato, marinated waxed beans, canned olives, sunflower seeds
*fresh pear chunks
*leftover plum pie

*indicates some of this item came from the garden and orchard

The summer garden is winding down. I have a few more weeks of daily vegetables for dinners, and then in October I'll be relying on purchased produce, more and more. I dug half of the potato patch yesterday afternoon. While the potatoes did not do spectacularly, I dug enough to save for planting in the spring, plus a couple of family meals. There's still the other half of the patch to dig, but that will come later, as the pumpkins sprawled over that half. I am thinking about changing up how I plant and grow potatoes, beginning next year.

I pick a basket full of plums each day. One basket is enough for one pie, with a handful leftover. Yesterday's basket was halved and frozen for a pie in winter. This weekend will be when I try to harvest the rest of that tree, then deal with all of the plums, likely about 20 quarts of halved plums, looking at the tree. After the plums, there are the late pears, the crabapples and the cranberries. Cranberries did not do well this year, but I have about a pint left from last year, in the freezer. And the berries this year will be enough for Thanksgiving and one more meal. The figs are still not ripe, but I estimate I have another 2 to 3 weeks with that tree, due to it's location (up against the house, on a south-facing wall). If they don't ripen, then I'll make more spiced fig jam. We've been eating some of this jam alongside baked chicken. It adds a nice flavor to the meat, in the same way having cranberry sauce with turkey is a nice complimentary pair. Grapes, yes I do have some grapes. I have about 3 small clusters of grapes ripening, in total. The birds often beat me to any grapes, but maybe this year, we'll be able to enjoy a few in a fruit salad.

In this past week's menus, Monday evening was one of those very rushed meal prep nights. We had been visiting my FIL and his wife for the day and didn't return home until 7:30 PM. In the car, as we were approaching our town, we brainstormed what we could put together that would hit the major food groups, decently. It wasn't a grand menu, but it hit the target, and only took about 10 minutes to get from freezer to table. It was a great reminder to me, that we really don't "need" to stop for fast food, on a busy day. Of course, it saddened my husband that we would not be stopping at Mc Donald's for a meal of burgers and fries. But it was healthier and saved us about $15.

If you had to tonight, what could you throw together quickly, with what you have in stock in your freezer, fridge and pantry?


  1. Hi Lili,
    Do you ever have grazing days where for the whole day no formal foods are prepared and each family member just finds what they can to eat that may or may not involve cooking? You are always so well stocked with leftovers, fresh and frozen food, I think grazing would be pretty easy at your house.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Occasionally Saturday lunch is an every man for himself affair. For right now, and for the next several months, though, I have to plan/make/obtain all meals for one individual in the family, for med reasons (with exception to one lunch per week, and the rare dinner out). So, since I"m making hers, I go ahead and make something for everyone else. Even so, weekend lunches are pretty simple. And I make weekday lunches the afternoon before. I do grow tired of cooking. But no more so than my husband who grows tired of going into the office for his own work. This is all work. If I worked more hours outside of the home, or if my husband's work hours declined, I would insist on more equitable division of work inside the home. For now, this is what works best for our family as a whole. I do get one week off every year, and I do take that week. This next year may have two weeks off for me.

      What I would love is if there was more money in the grocery budget for high-quality prepared foods, or a personal chef. I'll take either, I'm not picky.

    2. I totally understand making sure that your daughter gets what she needs. I'm sure that right now you want her to concentrate on her job--school.

      A personal chef--that's an idea I could get behind. When I win the lottery, I'll send money for your personal chef after I take out a little for mine. However, at your house, they'll have a tough act to follow.

  2. Everyday is a throw together meal for us. Yesterday we had pork luau (frozen for my dad but he's not keen to eating coconut or luau leaves), boiled lupcheong sausages (straight from the freezer) , leftover ramen coleslaw, and plain white rice. I also snacked on some fresh pineapple and a small end piece of homemade basil/garlic flavored bread topped with pesto (thawed from the freezer). Lunch was our box lunch of bean patties (thawed from the freezer) topped with ketchup/mexican bottled hot sauce, ramen coleslaw, and white rice. Breakfast is always like live and learn suggested, grazing, but we call it "every man for himself" lol. I ate a bowl of raisan bran cereal and almond breeze milk (Costco had a sale so we thought we'd try it), and can't remember what else, since I usually eat my breakfast in front of the computer.

    We rely on premade frozen foods a lot, and we don't plan most of our meals. Not the best way to eat, but I don't think I can change. I cook when I have time (usually on days off) and what fresh veggies are bargains at the farmers market. I frequent a vendor who sells her off grades 6 bags for $5, which is a bargain, netting often more than 10 pounds. Some weeks we buy tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, long beans, luau leaves, okra, eggplants, bittermelon, and my favorite of all, apple bananas. Also we bought more bargain apples so there is more apple desserts in our future and for our freezer.


    1. Hope you are feeling better....despite your low energy and stomach discomfort, that is another good week of balanced suppers, where every dish including the starches are thoughtfully prepared.


    2. Hi YHF,
      today, I woke up with no stomachache, so that is a good sign for the day. Thanks for the well-wishes.

      First of all, is ramen cole slaw a cabbage and raw ramen noodles salad? Second, do you use a rice steamer and cook a large batch of rice a couple of times per week? I've been thinking of getting a rice oooker, as we do eat a lot of rice (and it's the one grain that never gives me trouble). And third, what are luau leaves, and how do you prepare them?

      This may sound shocking (LOL) but I actually bought cold cereal last week. Store-brand cheerios and rice crispies were on sale $1/box (and with senior discount, my price was 90 cents/box), but there was a limit of 9 boxes. I am rationing out the cereal, so it will last for a couple of months. But one day per week, my daughters have been having cheerios for bfast. Most weekdays, I make them both smoothies and put in thermoses to drink en route to school/work, milk in thermoses along with a muffin or two. My husband likes toast and coffee, so he gets his own on weekdays. My son picks up a granola bar at work, and for myself, I usually have an egg, fruit and rice if there's any leftover plain rice (I can't eat almost all commercial cereal, due to intolerances). Weekends, I do make breakfast for everyone. Saturdays it's often pancakes or waffles (to use up various leftovers) and Sundays it's often oatmeal with nuts and dried or fresh fruit added.

      I do like to plan out the dinner menu in the mornings, as it's less stressful for me than trying to throw something together just before dinner time. And I have a problem that's the complete opposite of many folks, I have to count calories and other nutrients to make sure it's enough, everyday, for one member of the family. So planning in the morning allows me to make sure I hit all of her nutritional needs. It is what it is, and won't always be like this. For now, I'm the resident dietician and chef.

      Great buys on those veggies, YHF! I'm looking forward to shopping at the produce stands and ethnic market once again, when our garden is completely done for the year.

    3. What a relief that must be to wake up feeling pain free. I'm in a similar situation with my back. Everyday I wake up with a different pain, sometimes my left hip and leg, sometimes my right (spondylolisthesis), and very rarely no pain at all. If I do 30 minutes of PT everyday, I can keep my condition fairly stable (maybe why I can't count on cooking and standing too long in the kitchen at the end of the day.) But chronic pain and suffering is psychologically very depressing, so I hear you. Yet I know and must remind myself to be grateful for what I do have, so life is good :)

      My husband cooks rice for all of our meals with an Aroma brand rice cooker (Costco, about $30). He absolutely raves about the cooker since it makes perfect rice, adjusting for the type of grain like brown or white. He cooks rice for all of us everyday and prefers hot fresh rice, but we've also freezed leftovers too in small batches for my dad to have handy. He loves ramen and adds rice to it. At his age, I can't preach what not to eat so I just buy what he asks for. And yes the ramen coleslaw was made with uncooked ramen. I had half a head of wilting cabbage and quickly searched the internet for a coleslaw recipe that didn't need refrigeration (no milk or mayo) and came across that recipe. My husband couldn't believe we were eating raw ramen...but thought I'd try it...after all being almost 61, I'm on semi gravy years lol

      Yes, I'm grateful for the veggie stand that bags her off grades BEFORE it goes bad, not after it can't sell.

      Luau leaves are a huge so I remove the stringy veins and cook for about an hour in water, baking soda and salt, then I can freeze or make a dish with chicken, pork or squid. It's a Hawaiian vegetable, usually what's in laulau, which is a wrapped smoked pork/fish luau in ti leaves. I have tried an oven version of laulau using foil instead of ti leaves, and liquid smoke instead of being smoked in an imu pit in the ground. But I really don't know much about the leaves, probably akin to spinach.


    4. YHF, thanks for that info on your rice cooker. I am seriously thinking about one, and will be watching thrift shops, too, as I think that could be an item I'd see second hand.

      I used to "snack" on raw ramen noodles. They taste like saltines to me. My step-mom has made a raw ramen noodle, chicken, mandarin orange salad before that was very yummy. It may have had cabbage in it, as well.

  3. Last week, I had forgotten to thaw the meat for "the plan", so we did breakfast for dinner: hashbrowns cooked with diced onion, and scrambled eggs with some bacon bits sprinkled in and topped with Cheddar. Another go-to is salmon patties from canned salmon. Sometimes homemade pizza (this is my 14 YO's thing she offers to make at times...she has gotten quite good at it).

    1. Hi Cat,
      eggs are a great last-minute meal. When I have an abundance of eggs I do make something along the lines of your breakfast for dinner.

      Isn't it great when your kids want to make something, by themselves?! I think we'd be having pizza a couple of nights per week, if I was you! That's neat that she likes to make it.

  4. Looked like some yummy meals to me, Lili. :)

    I try to keep a lot of small-portion things leftovers in the freezer that are easy to heat up when you need "convenience food". I also try to keep lots of ingredients I can mix and match in the pantry.

    My latest last-minute "free" (all from the pantry) dish that was a hit with the family was a home-made rice pilaf with dehydrated veggies, dried spices, cube boullion, and SPAM. Better than Rice-A-Roni (which we used to like, but avoid now due to ingredients we'd rather avoid.)


    YHF, just lop cheung and rice is a fabulous meal, in our book! :)

    1. PS... we also like "breakfast for dinner" in a pinch. Sara

    2. My husband taught me to cook the lop cheong (sorry mispelled it lup) sausages with rice in the rice cooker...can I say "broke da mouth". But since watching our cholesterol, we have not cooked it that way for the past 20 plus years. But the flavor of the sausage and oils from the sausage cooked into the rice is sooo good. SPAM is another staple in our house especially when the grandkids are over. Spam musubi (rectangle rice cakes) is all they want to eat. And of course when we're lazy and short on meal ideas, my husband without thinking starts rolling out some spam musubi. It's our convenient stand by. So bad for our health, no wonder we are prediabetic.


    3. Hee, hee, YHF! I hear you! Rice never tastes better than when you've steamed some lop cheong in it! :) We don't eat it often anymore, mostly because we lost our best "local" resource for it; but I sure enjoy it when we have it. Even just a few slices are so yummy as part of a Chinese meal. So rich! (I'm just about slobbering here! LOL)

      When I visited Hawaii one time years ago, I was pretty much in heaven with Spam and guava juice all on pretty much everyone's breakfast menu, and lop cheung on several. With those and TRULY ripe bananas from the farmstands--something I never, ever realized made such a difference!-- it was just delightful! :)

      Our favorite Spam dish is to cube it, fry it, and put it in spaghett saucei. Like you said, not super-healthy, but a lot of our friends and family will come running for it! LOL

      Oh, and I've seen lop cheong spelled a BUNCH of ways, depending on what language they're translating from. I think "lup" may well be one of them. But spell it any old way, it's YUMMMMMMMMY!

      Take care! Sara

    4. Sara, some locals here prefer a mainland source for their lop cheong. Would you believe a gift shop in the California Hotel in Las Vegas (can't remember the name but it is located upstairs)? The sausage was thicker, juicier and meatier, but not worth the extra few dollars and humbug IMHO lol


    5. YHF--

      Well, that's just silly!!!! :) 30 years ago I went to a restaurant in Lihue that had three kinds of lop cheong on the menu, I think. I wonder if it's just not as popular anymore for some reason?

      We used to be able to get a good brand in the Asian refrigerator section of a local Ralph's supermarket. It was one of the ones with big cubes of dark meat and fat, so very juicy and flavorful. Who'd have guessed, though they did used to have a great Asian food selection.

      For a couple of years after that, we got a much more processed kind at a Vietnamese store. The flavor was yummy, but it was a pinker ground-meat style. The store owner told my hubby it was Vietnamese vs. Chinese style; but I have no idea, independently, if that's true.

      I prefer the chunkier, greasier type, but I'll take either, in a pinch. ;) Sara

  5. The official name of breakfast-for-dinner is "brinner". Now you know. ;) And it's a favorite for me.

    1. Thanks for straightening us all out, Kris! :D Sara

    2. If you want useless information, just come to me! Ha!

  6. Is the recipe for the spiced fig jam available on your site? I bet it would be great with pork as well as chicken. I made savory tartlets a while ago with figs, honey, thyme and a soft goat cheese. If I can find another deal on figs I'd like to try making the jam.


    1. Hi Urshuala,
      I don't think I posted that recipe, but will see if I can dig it up. Basically I took a recipe for spiced preserved, figs, and ran the figs through the food processor, before adding the lemon juice, sugar and ground cloves. I'll post something when I make the jam in about a week.

      Your savory tartlets sound delicious! And interesting with thyme added, along with the sweetness from the figs and honey.

    2. Thank Lili! Looking forward to seeing how you make the jam.



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