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Friday, January 8, 2016

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers to start the New Year

Celery Salad from Tuesday

It'll be pizza and a movie night at home for us. We've checked out a movie from the library, and I have homemade pizza sauce in the fridge. I'll make a scratch pizza crust (using this recipe). As pizza is finger food, and we'll be eating while watching a movie, I'll add other finger foods. We have some cola leftover in the fridge. It's likely a bit flat, but we're not picky and will drink it anyway. I have a sliced lime in the fridge, too. I like cola with lemon and ice in it, but we'll give lime a try tonight. So, here's the New Year's dinner menu:

homemade pizza (cheese, olives and onions)
carrot sticks
celery sticks
orange segments
apple wedges
cranberry-oatmeal-pecan cookies

meatloaf (I'll make a double batch and freeze half for a future meal)
mashed potatoes (I'll make extras for a quick potato-onion soup tomorrow)
caramelized onions (the leftover onions will go into tomorrow's soup)
frozen peas
pumpkin pie (making 3 pies, for leftovers to get through early in the week, and 1 for the freezer)

rosemary-turkey-potato soup
leftover pumpkin pie

leftover rosemary-turkey soup
Yorkshire pudding
celery sticks
leftover pie

homemade tomato soup
toasted cheese sandwiches
celery salad
pumpkin pie

kale, onion and ham quiche (making 2, 1 for tonight, the other for the freezer; the pie dough is from the big batch I made on Saturday, rolled out these last 2 crusts and put into pie tins, kept in the fridge for a few days)
oven-roasted winter squash and potatoes

(Christmas un-decorating party tonight, which means snacky foods for dinner)

cream cheese and pepper jelly spread
carrot and celery sticks
deviled eggs
orange segments
chocolates and the last of the homemade peppermint ice cream

I have to admit, my favorite dinner this week was the meatloaf. I just love my beef these days. Along with a gravy, some mashed potatoes and freshly-baked pumpkin pie, it was all so delicious.

You may have noticed, we're eating a lot of carrots, celery, oranges, onions and potatoes. 'Tis that season. I'm hoping for more variety in early spring, when produce stands open for the season.


  1. I'm curious about your turkey potato soup. I make a ham and potato soup in the crockpot--I use cubed potatoes and have never made soup with mashed potatoes. Do you have a recipe?

    I also love meatloaf. My son hates it so I have to save it for when he won't be around for dinner (or on Thursdays, when he can eat dinner at youth group).

    1. Hi Kris,
      I did this in the crockpot. I had frozen turkey meat in stock (1 to 2 cups of meat in about 1 1/2 qts stock). I added leftover grilled onions (equal to 1 1/2 onions, sauteed in bacon fat), finely chopped celery, finely chopped carrots, onion powder, about 3 cups of leftover mashed potatoes, salt to taste, a pinch of garlic powder, and about 2 teaspoons of minced rosemary (frozen). I just let it cook in the crockpot on low all day.Towards the end, I add about 1 cup of frozen peas. They add a nice color contrast. I've added cream to this in the past, but didn't this week. The cream is a nice addition, too. I don't have a "real" recipe, but do this all to taste. I like the soup to have some rosemary flavor, without being overwhelming. If I want a more uniform consistency, then before adding the peas, I use a stick blender to puree the soup.

      This is my new favorite, after-Thanksgiving turkey soup. It's creamier, and not quit so turkey-ish as turkey noodle soup.

      Have a great weekend!

    2. Sounds good, thanks! I don't like peas and will skip that part ...

  2. These posts always make me hungry! I haven't had meatloaf since I was a kid. I never much liked it because it was always served with ketchup at our house - not that I don't like ketchup, but everything served with ketchup tends to taste like... well, like ketchup!

    But having it with mashed potatoes and gravy sounds delicious! In fact, just about anything with mashed potatoes and gravy sounds good to me! I may have to buy some beef and give it a try! Any advice for a first time meatloaf chef?

    1. My mother never put ketchup on our meatloaf, so when I got to be an adult, I added it--noting like caramelized ketchup on the top of meatloaf, I think.

      I think it's hard to go wrong with meat loaf and there are many versions out there. I would start with the classic recipe from Quaker Oats and expand from there until you gradually figure out what your allergies will tolerate and what you like. I always put chopped spinach in mine for added nutrition. Also, Alton Brown has very good basic ideas about meat loaf.

    2. So funny that Alice doesn't like oatmeal in her meatloaf--that's how I like it best. I just go by the Betty Crocker recipe and I put Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce on top of it. I make it with baked potatoes instead of mashed--since the oven is going, it's an easy side for me. Most people (excluding my son!) like it.

    3. Hi Cat,
      I don't use oats in my meatloaf, but 1 slice of dense, whole grain bread, torn into to bits and turned to mush with an egg -- per pound of ground beef. I season my meatloaf like I do meatballs, with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, red pepper flakes and dried oregano, and sometimes I add a spoonful of ketchup to the meat mix. I only sometimes put a ketchup glaze on top -- using part ketchup, part soy sauce (not so sweet that way). But just as often, no glaze at all on top, and then make a beef gravy with the fat drippings, flour, some more onion powder, soy sauce (for color and flavor), garlic powder, and then a bit of ketchup.

      Mix the meat and other ingredients all together (and while I usually don't like to get my hands all gooey, this is one instance where you really do need to get in there with both hands, to get everything combined). The experts say to not over-mix, as it makes the meatloaf too dense and tough.

      After mixing, shape into a loaf, on a baking sheet, a couple of inches bigger all around, and with raise edges all around (not a loaf pan, despite the name "meatloaf"). The air circulation all around the loaf will crisp up the outside edges. I'm not sure how long I bake it for, exactly, but about 40-45 minutes, or so, at about 375, until it looks done, or until about 160 F degrees inside.

      I use an 80/20 (lean to fat) ground beef, and not a lot of additions like bread, so my meatloaf doesn't stick badly to the pan. Some people grease the pan, first, especially if stretching the meat with lots of bread crumbs, or using leaner meat (like mixing in some ground turkey, or using extra lean beef).

      After it's done, allow to sit for 5-8 minutes before slicing (so it doesn't fall apart). Leftovers can be sliced, and frozen in slices separated by waxed paper/parchment, for easy removal of one slice at a time.

      I know lots of people like minced onion or other minced vegetables in meatloaf, I prefer just onion powder, garlic powder and herbs. The onion/garlic flavor is more uniform, and no vegetable bits to fall out on my plate. We all have out "things" when it comes to certain foods. Ha ha

      For you, I would say just start with how you might like other ground beef, like burger patties or meatballs. How do you like to season those? Do you like a texture of lots of additions, like bread crumbs, or just a little (I like it meatier and less bread-crumbs)? You can also look up Alton Brown (as suggested by live and learn), or Martha Stewart, or Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), for ideas about what to add, or glazes.

      Good luck!

    4. Thanks so much guys for all the tips. I'm glad Lili mentioned not to put it in a loaf pan, because I would have done that for sure! who me? Literal?

      I don't really have a "usually" for cooking ground beef since I'm still a recovering vegetarian - honestly I have only tried beef a small handful of times, and usually I just put it into a casserole or skillet dish that I used to make vegetarian!

      But having drippings to make gravy with is sort of what I'm after here... we'll see how it goes. Hopefully the experience will be blog-worthy!

    5. Good luck, Cat!
      The drippings from ground beef aren't always the most flavorful. But you can add to the flavor with onions, garlic, mushrooms, tomato paste, soy sauce, celery seeds or stalks/leaves, parsley, oregano, thyme -- whatever you think will be good.

  3. I'm zeroing in on the tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches. Simple, but always tasty. :)

    1. Hi live and learn,
      That combo is always welcome in our house, too!

  4. I never liked meatloaf growing up--something about oatmeal in my meatloaf and the dry onion soup--made this very unappetizing to me. I now have two recipes that I use that are unbelievable good. One is a beer meatloaf and another is the kind with a ketchup mix topping. Neither have oatmeal nor dry onion soup. Our family loves these two types of meatloaf and it is a standby recipe! Talking about it makes me think Sunday dinner has now been planned! Thank you!


    1. Hi Alice,
      I didn't care much for meatloaf, either, as a child. For me it was a texture thing. It does help to find the way that you, particularly, enjoy it. Which it sounds like you have!

  5. I love meatloaf and meatballs too...just don't eat meat dishes too often these days. We buy meat only when the grandkids are over, otherwise fast food hamburgers fill any occasional desire. Funny, the more we eat beans, the less we want to eat meat. Maybe it is also because we are older. This year, on our is our last day in San Diego, our appetites shrank remarkably. Usually we eat one restaurant meal plus breakfast and light dinner in the room. This year we could not fit a light meal for dinner at all. So I'm having to bring home a dozen or so foil packets of pink salmon which I bought on sale prior to the trip. Both husband and I did not have as much appetite this year so I know it wasn't a health issue other than slower metabolism. That is another reason we may be able to spend less on food this year!!

    Those two meals, Friday movie night and Thursday Christmas undecorating party finger food meals, must have been fun to eat for the whole family, where food was not the "main dish", anyway a good break from routine, plus you got a lot of help with taking down the decorations and turned an unfestive chore into a memorable family tradition. Good thinking and planning!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      I hope you have had a wonderful vacation!

      Growing up, my mom always took down the tree herself. So that's what I did, at first. But it was a lot of work for one person. Many years ago, I thought, why not turn this into an event for the whole family -- get everyone to help, and sort of form closure with the end of the holidays. And it turns out, my kids do like helping with this, so everyone wins! We also put away as much of the decorations as we can on that one night, too. And the house returns to normal quickly.

      The bonus is -- if some year I am incapacitated and can't put up or take down the tree, my 3 kids know how to set up and take apart the artificial tree, how and where I like it stored, and the same with all of the ornaments. Like a lot of things in life, they could do this without me, now.

      Have a good flight home, YHF!


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