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Friday, October 28, 2016

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for the last full week of October (is it really almost November? Ack!)

"hamburger squares" -- 3 lbs of seasoned ground beef, pressed into a jelly roll
 pan, to the edges, baked in the oven and cut into 15 squares,
easier than making a bunch of individual patties

A simple meal, but enjoyed in the relaxed setting of the living room. This is the very last of the roast pork from earlier this week. I was a bit apprehensive about the flavors not jiving with Tex-Mex, but as it turned out, they were delicious!
  • refried bean, leftover rice/pork, cheddar tostados, with fresh quickie salsa and a packet of hot sauce from somewhere, IDK
  • leftover kale and onions
Having items like chili in the freezer has been so handy these last couple of weeks. When I am in between cooking big, I have something to fall back on, until I'm ready for a lot of kitchen work. The herb-garlic blend I made earlier in the week is now in the freezer. I can get out pinches of it to add to butter, for garlic bread, or to add to cooking rice, easily enough. Adds flavor, but no extra work for me.
  • chili from the freezer
  • herb-butter on French bread, toasted
  • spaghetti squash (from garden)
I'm catching a cold, or should I say, I actually caught the cold. Today feels rough. I don't want to cook. My daughters and I will make a stop at the grocery store deli after church, to find something quick and easy for lunch and dinner, today.
  • fried chicken (deli)
  • deli salads, leftover from lunch, and stretched using our fruits, fresh veggies and some cooked pasta
  • carrot sticks
  • herb-butter toasted French bread (herb butter from last week)
We didn't eat all of the fried chicken, so I plan on adding it to a salad. Should be good. I'll also bake 2 whole squash, so I can have extras ready for tomorrow night. Odd combo, the salad and baked squash, but whatever works, right?
  • Chinese chicken salad, using 2 leftover pieces of deli fried chicken, shredded cabbage, shredded carrot in Asian-inspired dressing (chive blossom vinegar, oil, soy sauce, garlic, onion powder, ginger), and topped with
  • homemade fried chow mein noodles
  • baked acorn squash (I baked 2 large acorn squash, to use tonight and in soup for the rest of week)
  • blackberry-rhubarb sauce from freezer
  • acorn squash soup (using leftover baked squash, and chicken stock from bones of fried chicken)
  • seasoned rice (using minced herbs from last week, now in freezer)
  • hamburger patties (done as a slab in the oven, making a large rectangle and cutting into 15 squares), saved the juices and fat. Will make gravy with juices, tomorrow.
Busy day, today. Nice to have dinner ready and waiting, mostly. I think there's enough leftover soup for Thursday, too.
  • leftover squash soup
  • leftover seasoned rice, to which I added some sauteed onions and beet greens, leftover from today's lunch
  • leftover hamburger squares (I froze them all last night, but can pull what I need out of the freezer to reheat quickly), topped with
  • gravy made from hamburger drippings, some of the beef fat, dried thyme, chopped onion, garlic powder and soy sauce for color and flavor
  • leftover blackberry-rhubarb sauce
  • leftover squash soup
  • slider patty melts -- more hamburger squares, served as sandwiches on
  • French bread slices with herb/garlic butter, grilled chopped onions and cheese, then grilled
Something I noticed about my cooking style, when cooking big -- I tend to go all in with the work, and don't worry so much about mess, or getting my hands really messy. I'm fast and furious, trying to be as efficient as I can. The works goes faster, this way. And since I know I'm only doing this twice per week, I don't mind the big clean-up that comes with big cooking.

I used my food processor to chop 3 large onions. About 2/3 of that went into the soup and the other 1/3 I kept in the fridge to add to other items, like sauteeing with greens, for an omelet, one day, and making a quick beef and onion gravy on Wednesday, and then grilling and adding to the slider patty melts. Very handy.

I hope your week went well. What was on your menu? Do you make squash soup in fall? This batch turned out deliciously, and took advantage of some leftovers, and a small amount of chicken stock that I made with the bones from fried chicken. 

Have a great weekend!


  1. Hi, Lili--

    Add my "ack!" to yours about the quick passage of time!

    I agree about the efficiency of a bigger cooking day for making a mess, getting it done, and then worrying about the clean-up. The days you are using up the "convenience food" you made on the big day are super-duper easy clean-up, which is so nice when you're not feeling well or life is extra-busy. :)

    Our convenience food stock-up for this week was DS and I mixing up bulk chili seasoning, a seasoned/salty all-purpose herb/spice blend (like you'd sprinkle over a roast or use to flavor fried chicken flour), some cinnamon-spice sugar, and our favorite spice tea. Nice to have the go-to flavor ready, especially if you aren't super-inspired about what you want to make, just want tried-and-true flavor fast (without the packaged seasoning additives!), or want a little flavorful treat.

    We also made some snack bars, and had more garlic bread from the cheap sheepherders bread I have in the freezer. My husband brought home some groceries from some traveling he did the same day we did a big shopping; so I doubt if we were frugal this week, but it was fun to have plenty of everything to inspire us. (wink) Sara

    PS... See, we ladies told you that the pork would be good in Mexican food. I had the same misgivings the first time I did it camping; but I've never been disappointed. :)

    1. Hi Sara,
      It sounds like you and your son were quite busy in the kitchen this week! Those convenience items that you made will be very useful and appreciated on busier days. I agree, I find it inspiring to have lots of ingredients to work with.

      Yeah, I really wasn't sure about that herb-garlic pork in the tostados, but they turned out delicious.

      Have a great weekend, Sara!

    2. What is sheepherders bread?

      Lili, your meals sound great. I love having freezer food on hand to pull out on those busy days or when I'm just not feeling up to pulling together a meal. How is your health?

    3. Hi, Kris--

      Sheepherders' bread is a sort of fluffy-but-still-substantial, round loaf of white bread. It's a Basque thing, and they bake it in a dutch oven over a campfire.

      You can do the same thing at home in the oven in a dutch oven or round glass casserole with a lid (which you leave on for half the bake time.)

      We sometimes bake our own; but a couple of weeks ago, I found some marked way down (because it was about to go our of date at the natural grocery store). I threw the loaves I bought in the freezer, and have been pulling them out a few slices at a time to use for "immediate" things like french toast and garlic bread, because the couple of pieces I left out for a couple of days did go moldy (actually always a GOOD sign to me that it doesn't have a ton of preservatives. Wink.)

      You can also buy it in some grocery stores. If you see a big round loaf it's usually (at least around here) sheepherders' bread or Hawaiian bread (which I've never bought, so I cannot explain how it might be the same or different.)

      The slices are so wide, we sometimes make a sandwich with one slice cut in half, but it's yummy bread. We bake ours at home in a 1 1/2 quart casserole, so it's a little less-wide than the commercial loaves.

      Have a good weekend! Sara

    4. Thanks for asking, Kris. I think I am making some progress towards better health and energy. But in some ways, I feel like I'm in limbo right now, waiting to see if something works. If it does, then great. If it doesn't, I have to go back and we'll look at another couple of things. But I know some things are getting better. I feel like my memory is returning, and I have more energetic days than I did a month ago. So, progress.

      I hope all is well with you and your family. Have fun with the kids tonight!

  2. Hi Lili,
    Your week sounds busy and productive.
    Our menu was random this week. Chicken Fajitas with a bag of already sliced onion and peppers from 99 cents only. Sometimes they have the already cut veggies. Beef bolognese veggies from 99 cents only. Burgers with
    roasted butternut squash and potatoes. Chef salad with
    bacon,chicken hard boiled eggs and homemade dressing. Ginger soy chicken with sweet potatoe salad in a peanut,soy,ginger,honey dressing. Baked potatoe bar. Steak salad on kale homemade dressing.Quick chili beans
    and corn chips.
    Have a great weekend,

    1. Hi Patti,
      Your meals for the week sound yummy! How do you make your sweet potato salad? Is this something you can make the day before, and allow to refrigerate overnight? I'm looking for super easy and do-ahead recipes for Thanksgiving, and I'm open to all kinds of ideas that would use some of the traditional ingredients.

      You have a great weekend, too, Patti!

    2. I peel and boil sweet potatoes or just microwave
      and peel. Then I dice then into nice size cubes.
      Just kind of what I am feeling like. Let them cool on counter or in frig. Then I slice a few celery ribs and add.Then I dice scallions if I have them. If not I use shallots I am looking for that mild flavor. Then I open a can of chick peas and add that. I think it would be good without the chick peas. Then I make the dressing. Ok so I don't measure some peanut butter,some olive oil, some tahini or sesame oil or skip it if you do not have it. Some honey or sub brown sugar some soy sauce and finaly some vinegar and ginger. I like fresh but dry is great too. Add a pinch of salt and mix with fork or wisk. I serve it on bed of kale or lettuce with cucumbers if I have them.
      It is also good without the bed of greens. I think it would be good on shredded carrots and
      cranberries would be good mixed in too. And yes it is better the 2nd or 3rd day.
      Have a great weekend.

    3. Thank you, Patti! I'm going to try that. It sounds delicious!

  3. Lili,
    Your meals always look delicious. We had a lot of homecooked meals (actually all of them were homecooked) but a roast feeds us several days as does 4 pieces of chicken. I decide that if I'm going to cook, it makes sense to do more than just two pieces of chicken since turning the oven on costs more than just cooking a tiny bit. But we have used our pressure cooker a lot too.

    Last night I had boneless pork chops that were about an inch thick and some cabbage. I did them together but I didn't like the cabbage as well as cooking it on the stovetop. Hubby liked it though. We had au gratin potatoes and the chicken on Wed. night. Tostados on Tues. night because we had a 6 hour power outage and I was able to do those on my gas stove.

    Lili, I was at my dr. appt. on Wed. and I'm healthy. I was asked if I was taking my vit. D and thanks to all your research I could announce that I just started taking it with a daily multivitamin. BP was normal and I usually have elevated BP especially when going to the dr.

    The dr. thought I was on anti-depressants and thyroid pills. What? I may have been given the option for a little post-partem anxiety when #3 was born and I had three kids under the age of 3. I chose not to take them but rather get a little help from a neighbor lady. This was 20 years ago! I also had an ultasound on my thyroid and it was ruled that there was nothing wrong probably 15+ years ago. How strange that they think I've been dealing with depression and thyroid issues all these years. This is a good reason why I don't like going to doctors.

    I had gone to a different doctor for strange rashes I had on my legs and other times on my face and they told me they didn't know what the problem was so I had to leave with no help for a red raging rash. Another time I was dizzy so they tested for vertigo. I failed the test meaning I didn't have the symptoms and therefore didn't have vertigo. They sent me home without any help with the dizzyness. I don't exactly have a lot of faith in our medical drs. of today. Those were two strikes and the third strike was when hubby needed a dr. to do a pre-op physical for his hip replacement and they refused because "you're not sick". What? His hip was giving him trouble from a car accident 26 years ago! Thank God he had 26 good years but to clear him he had to be "sick"?! Third strike!

    OK, I'm done ranting!


    1. Hi Alice,
      I'm so sorry that you've had such poor care from your doctors. I don't know if it's insurance related (Drs don't want to spend the time to figure out what's wrong because they won't get much reimbursement) or just poor/inept doctors. I've had similar issues with my own doctor, and have had to do a lot of research on my own, so I could request testing and evaluations. I know there are good doctors out there. It's just hard to find them. Wishing you well. That is great news, though, that your blood pressure is normal. At least that's one area of your health that you know you needn't worry about.

      Yikes! Power outages really mess with cooking plans. But very good save using your gas stove. It helps to have options like that. I have a gas cook top, too, so that's always in my mind thatI can use the stovetop in an outage.

      I hope you have a relaxing weekend, Alice!

    2. If you can't find a good doctor (MD), you might try a naturopathic doctor (ND). Many insurance plans cover them, and they are trained to treat the whole person and look at things MDs won't always consider. I have had many bad experiences with the traditional medical system, so I have moved towards alternative practitioners: NDs, acupunturists, chiropractors, etc.

    3. Alice--

      We moved my mom across the state this past summer and have had to start with a whole new slate of doctors. A lot of work went into researching who the good ones are, and many of the best aren't taking new patients. I wish you were in my area, as we have found an excellent primary physician for mom as well as some great specialists. She is finally getting health concerns addressed which should have been dealt with years ago, but she had similar problems with her medical care as you have had. Anyway, while not perfect, some of the physician rating systems online were,, etc. If you know medical professionals living in your area, they can often steer you toward the best doctors, and it's well worth asking around.

    4. Hi Tina,
      thanks for suggesting a naturopath. I have another friend who has made the same suggestion, and I'll check our insurance to see how much would be covered. Thank you!

  4. Lili, I'm so impressed with your menu, how you cooked in batches and turned leftovers into a base for another meal, dressed and seasoned differently. We just eat the same leftovers, meal after meal until they are all gone.

    We like to buy our onions in large quantity (at least 10 lbs) on sale, and mince it all in the food processor, then separate into one onion portions and freeze.

    This week we did another batch cooking for bean patties. My father eats one bean patty every day, and I have gotten my constipation problem under check by eating a bean patty and three stewed prunes EVERY day. Nothing else seems to work as well.

    I so agree with Alice, that it is hard to find dedicated good doctors. I am not satisfied with my primary care physician. Fortunately, I trust and like my OBGYN doctor, who helps me with primary care questions whenever I feel confused or unsatisfied with my other doctor's answers. Yet we've been with the same primary care doctor for over 20 years, so it is hard to change. That doctor, as well as my colonoscopy doc a few months ago, told me to eat more fiber, which only made my condition worse. Funny how they give standard textbook answers and assumed I wasn't eating enough fiber even when I told them I ate kang kong and kiwi skins every day. Turns out that was too much fiber!! So now I have eliminated that from my diet and I'm much, much better. Yes, it took nearly an emergency visit to clear the problem, and my colon has suffered irreversible damage over the past years from having been given the wrong medical advice.

    Ha, nuff said.

    Everyone, have a very nice weekend!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      I really believe that gone are the days when we can just accept whatever our doctors say. It's up to each of us to know our own bodies, do the research, and then find doctors who will really listen to us, then share their knowledge. It's frustrating.

      About the bean patties, have you ever tried making them in a large patty or sheet, then cutting into wedges or squares? I've been thinking of trying this next time I make bean burgers, just to simplify and speed the making. I just don't know how well they'd hold together for freezing like that. I'll let you know my results.

      Have a great day, YHF!

    2. Before making this past batch of bean patties, I seriously considered baking it in a casserole dish, instead of frying individual patties. Usually I shape the patties in the frying pan with my spoon and silicone spatula, but it is nerve wrecking and takes forever to make about 24 patties this way. Instead, I decided to roll the mixture into balls with my spatula and spoon as I'm waiting for the next round, then just flatten when it goes into the pan, much easier.

      Tomorrow, I'm going to try doing the casserole, and report back. My father enjoys the bean patties in hamburger form because I think it reminds him of meat. He has problems chewing, so that is as close to meat (due to the beef broth added) as possible. But for me, it doesn't matter what shape or form.

      Thanks, and have an amazing day (love that word!!)


  5. Such a good idea to cook the burger in a jelly roll pan! I will definitely have to try that.

    On Tuesday, I made 2 (7qt) crockpots of black bean soup. I used frozen chicken stock & a carton of chicken broth that was a couple of months past the "best by" date. I'm not sure why I even had it on the shelf as I make my own stock. I also added cubed pork loin that I had frozen from the previous week. We ate leftovers for lunch a couple of days, plus I had enough to freeze 3 individual size portions.

    We will have our annual Reformation Party this coming Monday. I normally make (or sometimes even buy take-n-bake) cheese pizzas to serve for dinner along with a crockpot of chili and corn bread muffins. Anyway, I went into Walmart today & saw day old French bread loaves for 50 cents each. I decided that I'll make French bread pizzas. Much cheaper than getting Papa Murphey's and easy enough that I can get it done when I'm scrambling to get everything else ready for the party.

    I also stopped by Safeway & picked up their digital coupon deals. I never shop there, but I went specifically for the Kellogg's cereal & other items on special. I picked up 4 boxes of Rice Krispies (99 cents each). I made Rice Krispie treats for my kids to enjoy during the World Series game tonight. (I already had the marshellows & butter on hand). They'll be excited as they almost never have those. Have a good weekend, Lili! Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      I love that I could freeze the squares and pull out cooked meat patties for quick meals. Really simple.

      That's a lot of black bean soup that you made! Oh, good idea on the French bread pizzas. Have fun at the Reformation Day party.

      Have a great day, Melissa!

  6. Hamburger squares, now that's my style of cooking. :) Looks like another great week at you house, Lili. Believe it or not, I'm actually looking forward to when I have a little more time to cook. However, I did make a good chicken noodle soup this week from a chicken carcass we had.

    Hope your cold is getting better. I had a cold last week also, but it's almost gone.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Thank you. I think my cold is now starting to go away. It wasn't a bad one just lingering.

      Your chicken noodle soup sounds very comforting! With your cold, I'm sure it was appreciated.

      Have a great day, live and learn!

  7. My Summer job runs May to near the end of Oct; so, i can't believe it's going to be Nov. either! The time flew!
    I went on a crazy cooking spree today. Meatloaf is ready to cook, with one in the freezer, cooked burger and ground turkey are ready to be made into sloppy joes, Stew was made for my husband, thawed potato and leek soup for me, homemade broth and cheese is thawing for cheese and broccoli soup, and i made a decadent brownie cake with rich chocolate glaze. I pulled some frozen strawberries and applesauce, as well. Plus, i cleaned one freezer and found all kinds of stuff i'd forgotten about. But, there's room for my husband's ice cream! Ha! I love having the energy to cook for a few hours; i feel like i've done something with my time.
    Lili, you always amaze me with your diversity. I have to eat a pretty plain diet. Although, i do occasionally try to add more pizzazz to my husband's meals.

    1. Hi momsav,
      I feel the same way about cooking like that for a few hours. It feels so productive, especially if I can then get some things put in the freezer, or have dinner all made for a couple of nights. your cooking spree sounds very productive and yummy! And good work on getting the freezer cleaned out!

      I'm working on mine. I had hoped to get it all cleaned out before Thanksgiving, but I'm not too sure on that, now. At least I have room for a spare turkey. that will have to do.

      Have a great day, momsav!

  8. Lili, that is an absolutely brilliant idea on the meat patties on a 15" pan. I am definitely going to try that out. I like baking bar cookies because they are so much more efficient. Can't believe that it never occurred to me to try "hamburgers" this way.
    Glad to hear that you are feeling a bit better. I have had a cold for the last 10 days but am definitely almost over it. Have a great day!

    1. Hi KCMama,
      hamburger patties done this way are sooo convenient! My jelly roll pan will do about 15 squares, so enough to freeze some. I do a thinner "slab" of ground beef just like this (but with less meat) for French dip sandwiches, using ground beef, in place of pricier roast beef. Works great, too!

      Oh, I'm sorry that you've had a cold for 10 days! The way colds can linger is so annoying. I'm glad you're about over yours. And yes, I'm feeling pretty good this week! Maybe everything is finally kicking in!


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