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Friday, January 13, 2017

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for Early January

Tuesday's Quick and Easy Dinner

I'm taking shortcuts, where I can and enlisting help from family, each week. I'm busy with other pursuits for the time being. Besides, it was time for a break from intensive meal preparations, ongoing since 1987.

  • lentil, vegetable and ham soup
  • pumpkin muffins with cream cheese
My husband cooked dinner for us tonight. He doesn't cook very often, but has agreed to help out once per week, for the time being. He did a good job, too.
  • rice and lentils
  • carrot and celery sticks, with Bleu Cheese dressing as dip
  • cranberry, pecan and oatmeal cookies that I baked earlier
  • chicken, black beans and vegetables, over
  • brown rice
  • steamed broccoli
  • cookies
Pumpkin, Ham and Sage Cream Sauce for Pasta

I usually make this dish with sausage. Ham was what I had, so ham it was. And it was still yummy. This is an excellent pasta sauce for an alternative to traditional tomato or cheese-based sauces.
  • pumpkin, ham and sage cream sauce, over
  • whole wheat penne pasta
  • tangerines
  • cookies
  • chicken fried rice with veggies (chicken leftover from the legs on Sunday, rice leftover from Sunday's dinner, too -- relatively quick to prepare)
  • grilled canned pineapple slices
  • cookies
Last Friday, I made double the amount needed for dinner that night. I froze half for use tonight, Wednesday. I'll be doing this every week, for my current menu plan (next 8 weeks). Wednesday is one of 3 easy nights per week for me, now. Okay, who am I kidding, they're all easy nights, these days!!
  • leftover lentil and vegetable soup
  • leftover pumpkin muffins and cream cheese
  • rhubarb-blackberry sauce (from end of summer, and in freezer)
I have a meeting tonight, so it shall be a quick and easy meal -- breakfast for dinner.
  • turkey bacon (bought on markdown 2 weeks ago and kept in freezer)
  • pancakes
  • stewed prunes (prunes from the freezer, last summer's harvest)
So far, I've only made a couple of adjustments to the meal plan that I made at the beginning of the year. I substituted canned pineapple for the blackberry-rhubarb sauce, on Tuesday, as the sauce wasn't thawed completely, yet, and I thought grilled pineapple would go well with the Asian inspired dish. And I served steamed broccoli on Sunday, in place of canned green beans. Something fresh is nice in a winter of canned vegetables.

Cooking is going well. I get enough of a break from preparing dinners on several nights per week, that when I do have to cook the full deal in the afternoon, it's not such a burden. And none of the changes that I've made are costing us anything extra.

How was your week? Anything special on your menu this past week? Who else does breakfast for dinner on a regular basis? What do you serve besides pancakes or waffles, when you make breakfast for an evening meal?

Have a wonderful weekend, all!


  1. Good for you and your husband, I'm sure he had lots of "oh so yummy" encouragement from you and your children. It must have been quite the sight to see him in the kitchen. One thing my husband notes when I'm in the kitchen is all the yelling and grumbling he's the mistakes and big messes I make just to mix and pour.

    I have to say also, that your meals look so yummy, word descriptions don't do it justice.

    We've done some extra days of shopping this past week, to catch some deals, and do extra rounds of thrift store grazing. We don't need anything in particular, but I'm always looking for more storage and organization things since this is the year I have dedicated to getting our house in order, paperwork and an inventory of stuff. I'm first going to remove everything we don't need and place it in the middle of one of the rooms, just take it there without deciding whether to keep, donate, or throw away. Then I'll slowly bring some back, inventory what I want to keep, and find a good place and system to store the items. I am willing to keep more stuff than most people would think advisable because I don't intend to rebuy what I already have on hand. As we get older, and less physically able, we cannot run to the store everytime I need something as we do now. So the bins of yarn, sewing notions, fabric will all come in handy one day. I don't need to be concerned about current fashion, vintage is good.

    Again, off topic, but being out of the house confused our dinner schedule so much we didn't have dinner most evenings, more like a snack since we ate lunch out. I've stocked on fast food gift cards at a very good discount, so with the establishment coupons in addition, that made a $10 meal only a few dollars out of pocket. This was our treat too, and break from home cooking.

    We made a large pot of home grown collard and ham. I followed your advise of roasting the ham bone, but forgot to remove the foil that was covering the pan in the fridge. When I removed the pan from the oven and opened the foil, that's when I realized I did it wrong, didn't want to continue another 20 minutes. But next time I will remember not to cover the pan lol However, it still made terrific broth, and I froze half for a future meal.

    This coming week, the grandkids will be over from tonight to Monday after dinner. Because of the great deal on tortilla wraps, we are planning "burrito bar" meals for as many meals we can. I think it will be a nice learning experience in taste combination for the grandkids to choose their own stuffing. I will tell them they can always unwrap and remove if the combination gets too weird tasting, and eat it separately.

    Have a terrific weekend!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      The burrito bar sounds like it will be a hit with your grandkids! The act of learning to make and roll their own will be fun, and will show them how to make meals and snacks for themselves. It will be like working on the other side of the counter at a place like Chipotle.

      Oh well, I'm sure the ham stock was delicious, nonetheless. I haven't had collards in years. They were one of the quirky things that I craved when I was preg with my girls. Must've been all the folate. Your ham and collards sounds tasty.

      Have a wonderful weekend with your grandkids, YHF!

    2. Much to our surprise, the grandkids loved the ham and collard dish alot. It was their first time trying, and the oldest said it was "awesome".

      Hamburger was very expensive, so instead I bought a plate of round steak, that was about a dollar per pound cheaper than lean hamburger, sliced it very thin and used the same taco spices to brown the meat. Instead of store bought lettuce, we saved a few dollars shredding our own garden kale. I'm glad I was able to save even when the grandkids are here, usually I turn the switch off and just let the purse strings loose.


  2. Looks like an awesome week of menus!

  3. Hi, Lili--

    Sounds like the plan is going great, and so is the food! Delicious menus! Kudos!

    Breakfast for dinner is popular here, too, and I grew up with it. We do omelettes and other egg dishes, french toast, biscuits and sausage gravy, breakfast burritos, hash and eggs (or without them)... pretty much anything we'd do for breakfast. It all tastes good to us any time of day.

    Sometimes we'll also add in a fruit crisp, scalloped apples, or something like that as fruit course/dessert. I also like sliced tomatoes or guacamole with breakfast (morning, noon, or night.)

    Breakfast for dinner is usually easy prep and easy clean-up, plus it always seems satisfying. :)

    Have a wonderful weekens! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      I add fruit to a breakfast/dinner meal, too. It's the "produce" part of the dinner, ha ha. The guacamole and tomatoes does sound like a nice change of texture, and adds freshness, to a heavier meal.

      And as an easy meal, it's also very thrifty to make. So definitely a win in my book.

      Have a great weekend, Sara!

    2. Thanks, Lili. P) Over the holidays, when I was alone a lot, I made a meal of a scrambled egg in a corn tortilla with some taco sauce and maybe a slice of cheese or tomato, if I had it. Since we buy all those ingredients in bulk, that seemed pretty thrifty, as well as quick and satisfying-- all important factors to me these days! :)


  4. Your pumpkin, ham and sage sauce sounds yummy. Care to share the recipe?
    I've been pretty diligent about using my freezer to shop for dinners the past two weeks. I've prepared cabbage stuffed rolls, omelettes, tacos, cheese enchiladas, minestrone soup, pasta with a red pepper sauce and rice and beans.

    Several months ago my husband served breakfast for a large group of police officers (he is a volunteer for the district). There was a large quantity of eggs left over. They are the pre-mixed, pasteurized type. I didn't want to waste them so I froze them in muffin cup size - about the measurement of one egg. I've been diligently trying to use them up. I just have to plan ahead so they have time to thaw before I can use them.

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      It's pretty simple, canned pumpkin or cooked pumpkin, mashed/pureed, onions, garlic, celery, sage, nutmeg, sausage or ham, stock and cream. I'll write it all up, better, soon. I just eyeball it all, and season to taste, so I'll make some better mental notes, for you, soon.

      Good job on saving those eggs! When I'm thawing a couple of eggs, I microwave a small container with some water in it, then set a small custard cup with the egg in it, over the warmed water, to thaw the egg, faster.

      The red pepper sauce on your pasta sounds delicious, too. Another alternative to cheese or tomato-based sauces.

      Have a great weekend, Ruthie!

  5. It has been another wild week. We have been sick and mom is in the hospital with an unrelated to her face pain resulting in having her gallbladder removed this morning. So now she is free from face pain and I hope her abdominal pain will be gone too.

    Hubby and I are both sick and no one has been hungry enough nor felt well enough to cook. Hubby made chicken noodle soup yesterday. He has strep throat and I have a terrible cough. I had a grilled cheese sandwich a couple of nights. We nibbled on meatloaf, soup, and that's about it. We need something tonight but I have little taste so I wouldn't even know where to start.

    1. Sounds like you had a hard week, Alice. I hope everyone is on the mend.

    2. Oh no, Alice! What a week! I hope your mom recovers quickly. Will you be helping to care of her when she comes home from the hospital? Take good care of yourself, too! I'm sorry you've also had a cold through all of this. I hope your weekend is a restful one, Alice.

  6. Hi Lili,
    Your meals sound good. We had chicken piccata, Lentils and rice, Three bean chili over rice,asian chicken over rice, hamburgers with oven fries and avocado.Tonight will be something with chicken legs.
    I hope you have a nice weekend.That is great that your family is helping with meals. :)

    1. Hi Patti,
      Now I know where the capers you mentioned went -- into the piccata! Yum. That's one of my favorite dishes.

      It will be a busy weekend, for me. I hope you have a great weekend, Patti!

  7. We serve quiche every Monday night. It's simple to put together. My 15 yr. old son usually makes it for us. That's the night most of the family heads out for Bible study. I sometimes make that same son's waffles (for the freezer) that night as that job takes too long to tackle in the morning.

    Have a restful, weekend, Lili! (or at least try to steal a few minutes for yourself:) Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      I go through phases where I make quiche often. You're right, it is a simple thing to put together, and then just let it bake while getting other things done. I like quiche lukewarm, so it's something that I'll often make earlier in the day.

      Have a great weekend, Melissa!

  8. I'm glad that you're not feeling as burdened by meal prep these days. I'm sure your family is very willing to help. All you have to do is ask. Does your husband want advice on what to fix? My husband is very willing to help, but needs help figuring out what to cook.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I don't offer unsolicited advice, or at least I try not to. But if he were to ask me what to make, I could come up with a few easy ideas. I think it does take a lot of repetition to have a mental bank of easy meal ideas. When your son cooks, does he use recipes, or does he just wing it? I think that is a hard part for my husband. Because what he sees is me just winging it (or so it looks), he doesn't realize that basically, I've memorized a selection of recipes that I adapt to different ingredients.

      I hope you have a great weekend, live and learn!

    2. My son does a combination. He reads a lot of different recipes for certain things and gets a sense of what spices and textures work well together. Then he sees how he can adapt them with what we have on hand. Sometimes he follows a brand new recipe and sometimes he totally wings it with what we have. And most of the time, what he makes is very good. Last night (midnight?) he put a pork shoulder in the oven for a long, slow cook. It was great waking up to such a good smell.

    3. You realize that you have what many of us dream about -- a live-in cook! I bet the aromas in your house are such a welcome when you come home at night. This is such a blessing for you, during this very busy time of straddling ownership of two homes.

    4. Believe me, I do know what I have. I have dreamed about this myself many times.

  9. How wonderful to have help!

    We are on a low spend challange for the month of January and it is going well. I have $20 budgeted for each week and managed to end week 1 with $26 left! I then used the surplus to budget for a meal out this coming Sunday (bought a groupon plus set aside cash for the tip on full amount). As of right now we have $6 left for the week which ends on Saturday! Any savings this month will be put into our vacation savings as we have no debt.

    I would also like to request the pumpkin, ham and sage sauce recipe. Your posts and meals always sound so good.


    1. Hi Saryn,
      You're doing awesome with your low-spend challenge! I hope you stash away a huge amount for a great vacation! I'm working at spending less this month. I know I'll be spending a lot more than you, but if I save a little this month, that will be good.

      I gave the ingredients to the pumpkin, ham and sage cream sauce, in my comment to Ruthie, above, but will put together a recipe, soon.
      Enjoy your meal out! Have a great weekend, Saryn.

  10. I fear I'm off to a miserable start budget-wise. I've been sooo stressed out recently and I think I tend to react to stress by browsing new recipes and filling the fridge! Plus winter makes me want to hibernate and cook. Well, at least I don't have to worry about going hungry! My recipe plans for the week include potato kale soup and crock pot honey garlic chicken (those darned Facebook video recipes - they always look sooo good!)

    1. Hi Cat,
      I'm sorry the stress is still getting to you. At least you're doing something productive with your stress, with the cooking. You may be spending more than a spartan budget, while you find new recipes to try. However, it's not like cooking at home, with quality ingredients is a bad thing. You're preparing good foods, at a fraction of what restaurant meals or convenience foods would cost. And you're continuing to eat healthy. Those are good things. There's a season for everything. This just isn't your season for an uber-low grocery budget.

      I read an article (in The Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences) on stress, and our mind-set, a while back. This article detailed a study of individuals who were trained to view stress as enhancing in some ways, and how these individuals had fewer stress-induced physical symptoms, than people who view stress as debilitating. Feeling stress, through physical reactions, is actually a signal in our brains to prepare for fight or flight. Stress motivates people to make changes in their lives. We can't control what other people are going to do, but we can control how we respond. There is a way to find peace, despite the world feeling like it's crumbling around us. Anyway, I'm trying to sound encouraging, and I'm not sure if I am. Sending you a hug.

    2. Thanks for the encouragement Lili. I think I've read somewhere that fear and excitement are both physiologically the same emotion, it's all in how we interpret it. So perhaps I just need to look at this as a particularly exciting time! :-)


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