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Friday, April 8, 2016

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for the first week of April

(no photos this week. My camera is on loan to a daughter who is taking a photography class this quarter. I'm happy to loan it to her. We've agreed to share it for the time being.)


French bread pizza, on a loaf of homemade French bread from the freezer, with green peppers and black olives for toppings (made extra pizza/pasta sauce for Saturday and for the freezer)
Frozen green beans
Toffee Bars


Meatloaf (made double and froze half)
Polenta squares
Leftover pasta/pizza sauce
Kale sauteed in ham fat
Rhubarb-blackberry pie


Black beans, rice, peppers and canned tomatoes
Carrot sticks and dip
Tortilla chips and salsa


Black bean burgers, topped with 1000 Island dressing
Sweet potato oven fries
Cabbage, carrot and kale slaw


Ham and bean soup from freezer
Pumpkin muffins
Carrot and celery sticks


Black beans and rice from freezer ( had it in the crockpot to warm while I worked outside all afternoon)
Strawberry, rhubarb and orange gelatin salad (using orange juice, orange zest, cream cheese, frozen strawberries and fresh cut rhubarb, stewed)
Pumpkin souffle (from frozen pumpkin)


Cream of kale soup (made Wednesday while I made dinner, using 2 baked potatoes from the fridge, a large bunch of garden kale, ham fat, ham stock, some onion, shallots, garlic, nutmeg, flour to thicken, salt and only about 1 cup of milk so I can have some if I take a pill)
Leftover gelatin salad
Leftover pumpkin muffins

Another easy dinner, so I can work outside all day.

So I bought this handy-dandy tool in November, which I am really finding useful. It's one of those stick blenders that you can put into a pot of soup and whirl away to puree. I really wanted one for years, but thought I wouldn't use it enough to make it worthwhile. As it turns out, it's one of my favorite tools now. It's easier to clean than a stand blender, and far easier to use for pureeing soups. The blending part detaches from the motor part. I can quickly wash the blending part, and set to dry on the counter before putting in a cupboard for storage. The motor part stores in the drawer with my hand-mixer. I still use the stand mixer, and the food processor for other foods. The stick blender didn't replace those two, but gave me an easier option specifically for pureed soups, sauces, and gravy that turned out lumpy. I used it on Wednesday, when I made Thursday's soup. When I think of all the times I made pureed soup before, and had to wait for it to cool enough to pour into the blender or food processor, puree, then pour back into the pot to reheat -- the stick blender is such a time saver. I bought it on sale, and used it as part of my minimum spend to get a deal on a turkey, just before Thanksgiving. I am hoping it will continue to work well for many years.

Favorite food this week -- I think the gelatin salad was a big hit. I cut some fresh rhubarb and was looking for a way to use it that seemed new to us. I came across a recipe for rhubarb and strawberry jello, that also used orange juice and orange zest. I didn't follow this recipe, but it gave me a springboard for adapting my creamy rhubarb jello salad. Quite delicious, and it used up some shriveling frozen strawberries from last year's garden.

What was your favorite meal this past week? Do you have a favorite kitchen tool that you think is worth the expense and space to own?


  1. Looks like a lot of beans this week. I guess that means no one in your family has digestive issues with them. Not so true in this family.

    I also got one of those stick blenders. Several people spoke highly of it just as you have. However, it now just sits on a shelf. If I cooked as much as you, maybe I would probably use it more.

    1. I should really read these comments better before I post. "Interesting" wording up there.

    2. Hi live and learn,
      I didn't realize we had a lot of beans this week, until you mentioned it! How's that for lack of awareness. Beans are easy for me, once they're cooked, so I tend to do a lot of them when life is very busy. I've had a week of working in the garden daily, so most of the suppers needed to be easy ones. I get a few complaints, here and there, about too many beans. Myself, I do take Beanno, from time to time. And it helps that I've been working outside all week ;-)

      That's a shame you bought a stick blender and then find you don't use it much. Perhaps I make a lot of pureed soups. It's the greatest for pureeing warm/hot things.

      Have a lovely weekend, live and learn!

  2. Hi, Lili--

    Looks like another yummy week. My favorite meal this week was some "high-end" beanie-weenie I made from some fancy smoked sausage and peppered bacon the hubby bought us for Christmas, which I'd saved in the freezer, and biscuits from the end of the Bisquick we inherited from our neighbor.

    It was all home-made (well, except the Bisquick, I guess), and mostly easy from the freezer (I always cook oodles of beans at a time and freeze them, because they take a long time at this elevation). But the best parts of that meal were some blackberry jam my husband made at work from berries his co-workers were going to discard, and the fact that it was an impromptu meal with my BIL and nephs. The nephs actually helped stir the beans and set the table, and the neph who doesn't usually eat much WOLFED down his beans. :) I was never so flattered!

    Have a great weekend! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      Your beanie-weenie meal sounds like it was a huge success. Sometimes meals like that really hit the spot more than a fancy-schmancy dinner.

      Does your husband do a lot of the cooking at work? How marvelous! I'm not sure my husband could figure out how to make jam. He has other talents. But if something happens to me, he's up a creek in the meal preparation department.

      Have a wonderful weekend, Sara!

  3. I can't decide between the taco salad and the beef stew. They were both yummy. It was warm for the beginning of the week and now it is raining. I am enjoying the rain except for my daughters commute. She drives really far on those wet freeways. You week of meals sounds really good.
    Have a great weekend

    1. Hi Patti,
      Taco salad sounds very tasty to me, right now! I haven't had a good taco salad is the longest time. Do you put a dressing on yours?

      The rain is needed, though, isn't it in your area? But it does make the roads slick. My sister, who lives in So. CA, has a grown son, and I remember a couple of conversations when he was learning to drive and first driving on his own, about how scary it can be with slick roads in CA with the first rainstorms in a while. But I'm sure your daughter is very careful, which makes all the difference.

      Are you doing anything particularly fun this weekend, to celebrate your good health news? Whatever you do, have a great weekend, Patti!

  4. I enjoy reading these posts, your meals always sound so wonderful. How do you prepare your meatloaf? I like to add shredded veggies that need to be used, not only does it help to clean out the fridge but it also adds moisture to the loaf. I made a "seafood" alfredo this week using imitation crab, the last shrimp (part of a shrimp cocktail appetizer plate) that we were gifted and the heavy cream that needed to be used or tossed. I made home made pasta and roasted asparagus and sliced apples to round it out. The family gave it rave reviews.


    1. Hi Saryn,
      I don't usually add veggies to the meatloaf mixture. I'll have to try that sometime. Usually when I make meatloaf, I'm wanting it to be super-meaty, so it's the ground beef, garlic and onion powder, salt, herbs, a bit of tomato puree or juice, bread crumbs and egg. It's about what I use for meatballs, only meatloaf is less work. My meatloaf tends to have an Italian flavor, if that helps to imagine it, and I often serve it smothered in marinara sauce.

      Your meal of homemade pasta Alfredo and roasted asparagus sounds wonderful! I can see how it got rave reviews from your family!

      I hope you have a great weekend, Saryn!

  5. I have a burning question, for anyone reading the comments this morning --

    I've got some cod fillets in the freezer that I need to use up. I had been deep-frying them for fish and chips, but that just sounds "heavy" to me this spring, and the cod is about 9 months old, and I'm afraid not the best condition, may be a little "fishy". I'm thinking of cooking it up and using in a casserole. Not being a fish-person, I am having a hard time trying to think of a delicious (to me) way to serve this fish.

    Any suggestions for me?

    1. What about cod cakes, Lili? We're not super-big fish-eaters, but my family loves those. If you gently cook and flake cod, and then season it up good (lemon-pepper, onions, chives, etc.), fry it and than serve it with tartar, cocktail sauce, or ketchup, it seems to hide a myriad of taste imperfections. YHF's suggestion of Portuguese Fish Stew also sounds yummy.


    2. Hi Sara,
      Thank you for the suggestion. I did come across a fish cake recipe that I might be willing to try. It has mashed potatoes in the mix, so maybe I would like that better than one with bread crumbs. My husband likes fish, a lot. And I rarely cook it. His birthday is in a couple of weeks, so I thought I'd do some sort of fish dinner for him.

    3. Crushed plain puffed rice also makes a nice binder/filler. Dried bread crumbs are okay on the outside, but I like either fresh bread bits or puffed rice best inside (and usually just flour or cornstarch on the outside, actually.)

      Best-- Sara

  6. I have never tried, but if I had some frozen cod I would be inclined to try a Portuguese Fish Stew (thinking the extra spices and stewing process may mask any extra fishiness).

    I would love to make the rhubarb strawberry gelatin that you described. The gelatin I ordered from Amazon came yesterday, so I'm wanting to make something with it (not in the habit of making desserts of any kind). I have several cans of strawberry rhubarb pie filling on the shelf (clearance find at Walmart, still did not make a pie although tried making a cake version which turned out a disaster), and have some frozen OJ and zest in the freezer. Could you briefly describe the ingredients and how you put it together? TIA

    My favorite meals were all about bean patties. We made another batch of 24 patties (dad eats at least one patty a day so we have to make a new batch every other week, we freeze each IQF.) Just popping the patty in flour tortilla (from the freezer) taco style, adding leftover salad greens, cheddar and jalapeno peppers with hot sauce was so delicious. We had that twice this week. We made a batch of pesto pizza with extra basil leaves under and over the cheese, pepperoni, mushroom, olive and green pepper....yummy. And pesto, basil, tomato (garden still giving everyday) rice dish served with salmon ends (fried in olive oil, saving the oil in the freezer for the next batch of bean patties). Same old meals but that's how we eat.

    Kitchen tools...not any standout. But since you mentioned lumps in gravy, I am now interested in a handheld blender :)

    Have a wonderful weekend!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      Portuguese fish stew sounds interesting. I'll have to see what other ingredients go into a dish like that.

      You might find a hand held blender at a thrift store pretty cheap. Then you could try it out without much of an investment. otherwise, with lumpy gravy, in the past, I've pushed it through a strainer just before serving, to get the lumps out (my grandmother's trick).

      The gelatin -- so happy for you, by the way, that it has arrived -- these are my best guesses as to how to make a gelatin with your canned pie filling.

      Run about 3 1/2 to 4 cups of rhubarb pie filling through the blender to puree, along with some orange zest (about 1-2 teaspoons) and about 1-2 cups of orange juice (if you use the lesser amount of juice, add water to make 2 cups total added liquid). I also added about 4 oz of cream cheese, but you could leave that out, if you don't have any.
      In about 1/3 cup of cold water, soften your gelatin.
      You'll need to measure the total amount of other ingredients. For every cup of other ingredients, use 1 teaspoon dry gelatin. When the gelatin is thoroughly softened (no lighter-colored dry spots remaining), put this along with about 1/2 cup of other ingredients into the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well to combine. Dump into the blender, with other ingredients and blend. Pour into a bowl and chill.

      The cream cheese makes it taste a lot like cheesecake filling, but it's not necessary. Making gelatin is a super great way to use up less-desirable or over-abundant fruit. And with bulk gelatin, it's really a cheap and healthy dessert. Enjoy! and let me know if these instructions worked well or what could be changed with them!

      Have a great weekend, YHF!

    2. Thanks, we just made a batch of salsa, using your recommendations from a post long ago...delicious!!

      I really appreciate your expertise in coming up with a best guess directions for making gelatin from a can of pie filling...sounds like it will work. I'll let you know how this comes out since I'm going to try it this weekend. This is so exciting...I love the process, just wish I won't mess it up by forgeting a step or leaving out an ingredient. Cream cheese in gelatin reminds me of my auntie's gelatin mold layer salads with the creamier layers at the bottom. Happier times when our families gathered quite often.


    3. I should add, when you microwave the softened gelatin, make sure it melts completely. If it isn't completely melted, microwave for a bit longer. Happy cooking!

    4. Oh oh, didn't check to see if the gelatin was completely melted. After blending it, however, it looks and tastes fine. Very smooth. I used a 21 oz can of rhubarb/strawberry pie filling, which measured just over 2c., 1/2 can of the frozen O.J. concentrate + water to 1 c. total, some zest, 3 t. gelatin softened in 1/3 c. water. I think I added too much OJ concentrate, I should have used 1/6 can + water to make 1c. total (since 12oz concentrate makes 48oz juice). Less zest too. I had such a hard time shredding the frozen orange skins, I gave up and added a chunk of orange rind instead. But I think I understand the process. Thank you so much for your help, Lili, you've made so many positive changes to our diet and food spend :) I would never have thought to buy gelatin in this quantity from Amazon, buying at the grocery store is too expensive to eat this way, with fruits or juices in a simple gelatin, as part of our daily diet.


  7. Hi Lili,

    I'm late today!! My daughter's birthday today and we've been out and about with hubby for a little while this morning.

    I really like my immersion blender but my old one seized up and no longer works and the only one I could find to replace it was a Kitcheaid but the buttons are so hard to push that I just can't do it. I have to find a different one.

    Meals this week have been interesting. Much of it was brought it and I made a few things. Mom and Dad brought chili with pigs in the blanket. Hubby's mom brought bratwurst. I made spaghetti, chicken dumpling soup, tater tot casserole, and mostly we ate our big meal at noon and just crackers, cheese and cereal for an evening snack. We had just enough goodies and meals brought it supplemented with what parents brought and what I made that we never were in need.

    Hubby is starting to walk with a cane instead of a walker. I'm going back to work on Monday after having almost two weeks off. Kids are coming home for dinner on Sunday and to see their Dad whom they haven't seen since his surgery.


    1. Hi Alice,
      it sounds lie you life is approaching normal again. That is great that your husband is able to get out now, and is using a cane! I know he still has some work to do, but the worst must be over now.

      Your meals sounded just right. And wonderful of family to provide so much to take that extra burden of cooking off your shoulders while you tend to your husband.

      Wishing your daughter a very happy birthday! Have a great weekend with the whole family, Alice!

  8. Hi Lili,

    Your meals all sound yummy! My favorite meal this week was chicken with peppers and olives, served over sun-dried tomato couscous. We have been eating a lot of comfort food this week, otherwise: peanut noodles, nachos, nachos again... I started a second job (brings my hours up to full-time) and I am still adjusting to that schedule.

    I wanted to let you know about a fish recipe that I really enjoy and that I have shared with my parents and THEY have also really enjoyed it. And they have shared it with several friends. So...I feel confident that it is a peer-reviewed recipe. It's the White Fish with Vegetables Casserole on the blog Olga's Flavor Factory. She has quite a few fish and seafood recipes on her site, if that particular one doesn't catch your fancy. I have found ALL of the recipes I make from her site to be easy to follow and highly successful. I hope you find a way to make the fish so everyone can enjoy it!

    1. Hi Laura,
      Yum, that chicken, peppers and olive dish sounds delicious! Good luck with the second job and adjusting to this new schedule!

      I'll check out that recipe. Thanks for mentioning it!

      Have a wonderful Sunday!

  9. I have one of those stick blenders I bought at a yard sale. They are really nice to stick in a hot pot of soup and blend it up. I'd have to say my favorite appliance is the Presto Salad Shooter. My exdh bought me one in 1990 and I used it regularly until last year when it broke. I tried to make do without it, but I seriously missed grating cheese with it. I finally replaced it last month when we got our income tax refund. I didn't realize how much I missed it. lol

    1. Hi Belinda,
      I remember ads for the Salad Shooter. It did look handy, and I can imagine it was great for shredding cheese. I'm glad you were able to replace your broken one.

  10. I think my favorite meal form last week was the ham, pineapple stuffing & salad dinner. Lots of leftovers too, which we love. Ugh, immersion blenders, I always wanted one but just never got one, well a few years ago my MIL had one she had never used & offered it to me. I was thrilled...until the first time I used it I was making a box of instant pudding, I know I was being lazy! Anyway, I had it in a small bowl & decided to use the immersion blender to try it out, bowl was too shallow & I had pudding mix & milk all over the kitchen. You know, I put that thing away & never used it again! I should get it out again.
    I just emailed you a recipe for cod casserole, hopefully you get it ok.

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      Now that has happened to me a couple of times, too, when using too shallow or wide of a container. But mine does work very well in my higher sided stockpots for soup. There is a learning curve to those blenders, that the instructions fail to mention!

  11. Hi Lili,
    I was wondering if you would be willing to post your recipe for ham & bean soup?

    1. Hi Rhonda, I'd be happy to share.
      No real recipe, but here's the gist of what I do:

      I start with ham fat (or oil, 2 tablespoons either) in the bottom of a stockpot and saute onions (about 1/2 to whole of one large onion, chopped), then celery (2 or 3 ribs, diced) and if I have carrots, one carrot diced small. When all the veggies are softened, I add about 1 to 2 cups of chopped ham and just a bit of minced garlic (1/2 clove or a dash of garlic powder), and then a quart of ham stock. To that I add about 4 cups of cooked beans, whichever I have ready, often pinto peans, but I know many folks prefer navy beans.

      Depending on what I have on hand, I sometimes add a bay leaf or some dried summer savory, and allow to simmer for an hour. Add water to thin to desired texture. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Then I use my immersion blender to partially puree the soup. I like some whole beans and chunks of veggies in the soup. If I add too much liquid and the soup is too thin, I thicken it with a slurry of flour and water, stirred in briskly.
      If I'm trying to increase our leafy greens, then I'll add some chopped Swiss chard from the garden, a couple of large handfuls, near the very end of cooking, so still a bright green.

      And that's about it! I hope I got all of the proportions right. Enjoy!


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