Cent Saving Saturday: Use Up Rapidly Going Bad Ingredients

Cent Saving Saturday

Recently, I made Life in the Lofthouse’s hamburger buns.  I purposefully kept a few back to be able to use stale bread for a pudding or a breakfast casserole.  Or a breakfast bread pudding!  The buns are absolutely lovely fresh from the oven, but they do stale fast.  To me, that means they serve double duty.

That got me to thinking about how much food we (as world citizens and in our family) waste each year.  We buy/grow food with the best of intentions of consuming it all, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen.  When Josh and I were first married, I used to keep, as Dining on a Dime suggests, a container in the freezer of chopped up vegetables that were going south fast.  It always seems to be produce.  Or “heels” (the end crusts) of bread.

I really need to do better at things like that.  The crusts of bread make great bread cubes for Josh’s mom’s stuffing or croutons.  The veg would make a great addition to a broth or soup.  And the buns, as I said, would make an excellent bread pudding (especially frenchy toasty bread pudding in a mug).

I’ve even heard of (I want to say it was Rachael Ray who did this) making a vinaigrette in a jelly jar from the jelly residue, oil, vinegar, herbs, and spices.  I definitely want to try this!

But, for now, let’s focus on the sales for this week.

Super 1:

John Morell Bacon $2

3 pound bag yellow onions $1

John Morell smoked sausage $1

red, yellow, or orange bell peppers $1

5 pound bag russet potatoes $2


Kroger butter $1.99

Kroger shredded cheddar $1.88

red seedless grapes $1.28

Braeburn apples 99 cents/pound

Pepsi 2 L $1 wyb 5


Rotisserie Chicken $1.99 with $50 purchase

eggs, large, 1 dozen 99 cents (limit 2)

Asparagus $1.79/pound

red gold salsa 69 cents wyb 6

frozen vegetables 89 cents wyb 6

Red Baron frozen pizza $2.99 wyb 6

Red Gold canned tomatoes (28 ounce large can!) 69 cents wyb 6

Hershey, Mars, and Nestle candy bars 50 cents wyb 6

Carolina ground turkey 4/$5 (12 ounce roll)

What deals did you find this week?

Funny Muffin Friday: A Candid Sunday Morning

Funny Muffin Friday

Muffin likes to come into our room in the morning and snuggle, which I love.  He becomes very upset (especially on days when Josh and/or I go to work) if we are already up and at ’em when he wakes up.  Screaming upset.  Throwing a fit upset.  Sobbing upset.

Sunday was a lazy morning.  We didn’t have to get up and at ’em (as we did to Muffin’s favorite restaurant on Earth–to make up for the Ryan’s fiasco–Horseshoe’s The Spread buffet for brunch), so Muffin, Daisy, Josh, and I ended up snuggling on the bed.  Muffin gathered his dad and Daisy together for a photo that I think he wanted to be bound for Facebook (He’s obsessed with having pictures posted to Facebook lately).  I saved it for this post.


Muffin loves his family (especially Daisy) very much!

Thoughtful Thursday: Professional Restaurant Critics Versus Amateurs

Thoughtful Thursday

I’ve partially opined on this before, so some of this will seem very familiar.

My family and I like to eat out as much as the next family.  I use eating out opportunities for seeing what recipes I need to find recipes for or recreate at home.

I’ve learned that the sensibilities and sentiments displayed on Yelp! tend to mirror my own opinions.  Recently, we made a trip to our local Ryan’s buffet for breakfast, and the experience was atrocious (as in, I demanded my money back atrocious).  I took to Yelp and discovered that most of the opinions reflected my own (and the ones that didn’t were 3+years old).

Now, I have little time or patience for restaurant critics (the pros).  They tend to be more full of themselves than the food they are supposed to be purporting to enjoy.  I also have little patience for restaurant owners and chefs who prefer that their paying patrons not use Yelp! or the like.  Note:  if you are that self-conscious about the quality of the dishes you are setting before your patrons, then maybe you are the one with the issues, not the patrons using Yelp!

But back to the restaurant critics.  For some reason, and I know this is a horrible stereotype, I keep picturing the restaurant critic in Ratatouille, before he discovered Linguini and Remy’s ratatouille.  Supercilious and picky should not be the hallmarks of a restaurant critic.

But the chefs and restaurant owners are quick to point out that their patrons’ tastes are not sophisticated enough to judge their food (but they are sophisticated enough to overpay for your food?).  To me, that means that these chefs and restaurant owners don’t want my (or anyone else’s) money.  That they want to be out of business due to lack of business.  They forget that it is not the restaurant critics that keep them in business; it is the unsophisticated patrons that do.

Now, excuse me while I go search out a great place on Yelp!

We Plan Wednesday: Injecting the Meal Plan with Mass Reading Blogs’ Recipe Indices

We Plan Wednesday

After the recent meal plan desert of a few weeks ago, I have decided to do whatever I can to ensure that doesn’t happen again.  And, let’s face it, a few of my meal plans have been less than inspired as of late.  They needed an injection of newness.  They had started to be comprised of hot dogs, chili, pizza, tacos, nachos, and the combinations that can be made thereof.  Is it any wonder that I hit rock bottom?

When I meal plan, I try to have in mind at least the dishes (if not the order) that will be made for the following Saturday through Sunday of the following week by Wednesday.  I block out any days that I know we will eat out and that I know that Josh will probably be cooking.  Unless I have a dish-heavy week, I now block out Thursdays as leftover night (I know that OrgJunkie refers to these times as “YOYO” or You’re on Your Own and schedules them for the weekends.  That’s great for stay-at-home mamas.  For work-outside-the-home mamas, the weekends are your days to actually cook.  Thursday, as I’ve previously mentioned, this the worst day of the week sticking-to-the-meal-plan-wise.  It’s when you are desperately counting down until the end of the week, and even setting something in the microwave to reheat may be beyond your energy level or brain power.).  This week is the exception.  Thursday, we are trying out a new-to-us sloppy joe recipe that was prepared earlier this week.  Reheat the meat, slap on a bun, serve with a handful of grapes or fruit, and call it done.

I usually don’t try that many new dishes when Josh is on call because then it’s just Muffin and I.  If I’m exhausted and Muffin has eaten a lot at Granny’s, I know that a huge, elaborate meal will go unappreciated by us.

The first thing I did to get out of this funk was to scour my cookbooks and recipe magazines (including the Taste of Home collector’s editions and Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications).  I notated in a special meal planning notebook that I’m building the source and the recipe name.

Then, I began going through my bookmarks (just as I had on the previous two recipe challenges).  I listed the recipes from my bookmarks.

That didn’t seem to be enough because I had made or combined several of those recipes in previous meal plans.  So, I dug deeper.  I made a list for each blog or site that I had bookmarked recipes from in my bookmarks and began dissecting each of the sites.  Those that had an alphabetical recipe index (rather than an index with a list of linked clickable categories, or worse a regurgitation of posts tagged recipes) became my new besties.  And it reminded me that I needed to beef up my recipe index page, as well.  By the end of this summer, I hope to.

I made a comprehensive study of the ones that I had only bookmarked one or two recipes from and jotted down other recipes to try.  The inspiration for Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce was one such example.  I made a list of some that have appeared on meal plans that I haven’t tried (found a reason not to, didn’t buy the ingredients in time, etc.).  I penciled down those to try soon because a few have appeared on several meal plan lists and never been tried.

My next venture is to go through Pinterest (haha…20K pins and growing) and list possible recipes to try (and then to go through each of the sites that I pinned from and do the comprehensive study I mentioned above).

Will it take a lot of time?  Most definitely!

Will it be worth it for us in the long run?  Most definitely!

I then hope to compile a list of active (meaning people still post on them) websites and blogs to visit every so often for new recipe inspiration (from those I make a comprehensively study).  That serves two purposes:  it gives me fairly safe things to Swag search, and I will find new recipes faster.

Critics to this method will say, “What about meal rotations?”  Meal rotations are perfectly lovely provided that 1) you and your family are okay with eating the same thing twice a month without fail, 2) you have a very hefty stockpile of the proteins and other ingredients involved, and 3) your mind isn’t hardwired to think in food.  Sometimes I wish my mind were not hardwired to think in food; I would probably be at least 80 pounds lighter.  But I think in food.  How to arrange it on the plate.  How to make sure that there is a rainbow on the plate.  How to adapt it, craft it, copy it, make it more kid friendly.  Seriously, a restauranteur would be overwhelmed in my brain.

Case in point:  My class is studying The Odyssey.  I’ve been trying to think of an appropriate menu to serve for Josh and me when we watch the Armand Assante version (or to bring as treats for my students when they do well on the test).

Testing is right around the corner (state standardized testing, that is), and I’ve already been trying to think up little treats to bring for those students in my testing group after they finish testing each day.

So, I shudder to think what might happen to my brain if I don’t have a very changeable meal plan.

My sister scrapbooks.  I meal plan.  That’s my creative outlet.  (In fact, the only successful scrap book I have ever made was a recipe book that presently resides on my mom’s cookbook shelf.)

What is your creative outlet?

Tip Tuesday: Adapt a Website’s Recipe to Make a Local Restaurant Favorite

Tip Tuesday

You know how it’s super easy to find a version of most chain restaurant recipes on the Pinteresting Blogosphere, but unless you live in a major MAJOR metropolitan area (New York, San Fran, L.A., Seattle, or Houston), you’re out of luck in regards to finding a clone or copycat of a local restaurant.

So what’s a girl to do in trying to create a restaurant clone at home?  Turn to the Pinteresting Blogosphere for inspiration, of course.

A bit of backstory:  (wavy lines of flashback)  When I was in college (and the restaurant is still there, but, while we go over to Youree Drive at least weekly, we rarely eat there because we are in a rush), I used to eat at Imperial Cathay in Shreveport almost weekly.  It was close to my university, and cheap (relatively so for a sit-down).  In fact, when I ate out with one of my friends, it was usually El Chico or Imperial Cathay.  When the History Club ate out, it was usually Imperial Cathay.  When my mom and I shopped on Youree Drive, it was almost always Imperial Cathay at lunch.

And we would, without fail, order exactly the same thing.  Even though I usually insist on trying something new each time I go to a place I’ve been to before.  We would have the chicken chowder soup (I still haven’t found a recipe close to this, and I’ve been desperately trying), egg roll (actually more of a spring roll), and Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce.  The Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce is julienned strips of pork and vegetables (water chestnuts, celery, bell pepper, carrot, and onion) in a slightly spicy (very slightly), garlicky, sweet sauce.  Until now, it has eluded me.

And then, last weekend, I was amazed to find a Jalapeno Pork with Garlic Sauce from My Recipe Journey.  The sauce appeared, with a few alterations, to be spot on.  I left out the jalapenos and the pepper sauce when I made it, added in a flurry of crushed red pepper flakes, used two carrots, and julienned the onion rather than chopping it.  I also left out the green onion.

Next time, I think I will make the sauce a bit sweeter, add in a few more red pepper flakes, and julienne everything (and add in a bit of bell pepper, julienned).

Muffin liked the meat, carrots, celery, and sauce, and he ate around the onion.  I consider that to be a success!  The recipe posting below reflects my alterations I plan to make.

My mom is very excited about this recipe, too.  My mom, who hates garlic, loves this dish from Imperial.  We have had that discussion, usually when she says something has too much garlic in it.  I think what makes it okay with her is that the garlic is sauteed more than it is in, say, a spaghetti sauce.

Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce (in the style of Imperial Cathay)

Adapted from (almost inspired by) My Recipe Journey


3/4-1 pound boneless pork loin, sliced into julienne strips (about 3 pork chops’ worth)

2 large cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat large skillet over medium heat.  Saute pork and garlic in oil until cooked.  Remove from skillet and set aside.


4 large cloves garlic, minced (Yes, you will end up using over half a bulb of garlic!)

1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Mix above ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Make sure the sugar dissolves!

Vegetation (and the rest):

1 onion, julienned

2 carrots, peeled and julienned

1 celery rib, julienned

1/2-1 bell pepper, julienned

1/2 of a small (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, julienned (optional…This is authentic to Imperial Cathay, but Josh hates water chestnuts)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup cold water

Heat large skillet over medium high heat with oil.  Add vegetables.  Cook, stirring constantly, 2-3 minutes.  Add pork and cook, stirring, 2-3 minutes.  Add sauce to skillet.  Cook, stirring constantly, 2-3 minutes.  Make a slurry out of the cornstarch and water.  Pour the slurry into the skillet and stir until the meat and veg are coated and the sauce has thickened.  Serve over rice.


I may have started eating before I realized that I needed to snap a pic.

Seriously, though, if anyone has the recipe for Imperial Cathay’s Chicken Chowder soup available only at lunchtime, please share!  You will make two generations of one family very happy if you do!

Meal Plan Monday: The Adapting Recipes Edition

Meal Plan Monday

This week is kind of a crazy week.  I’m trying a few new recipes, well, adapting them really, but Josh is on call.  So, I’m hoping to pack him those meals on the days when he is working.  As he is off but on call today and Tuesday, I am really hoping to leave him instructions for things that need to be done.

The recipes that I’m adapting are the Pork with Garlic Sauce (from My Recipe Journey’s Jalapeno Pork with Garlic Sauce) and Sloppy Joes (from Life in the Lofthouse’s Sloppy Joe Squares).

I also am including one slow cooker recipe, a return of one that Josh loved (the Honey Sesame Chicken from Six Sisters’ Stuff).

So, here it is for the week:

Saturday:  Pork with Garlic Sauce (from My Recipe Journey’s Jalapeno Pork with Garlic Sauce) over rice

Sunday:  Monterey Chicken (from Six Sisters’ Stuff), crescent rolls, mixed veg, and some Claussen pickles I bought on clearance at Kroger for $1.25

Monday:  Oven Fried Pork Chops (from Better Homes and Gardens), cole slaw, strawberries, and grapes (with homemade bread)

Tuesday:  Spaghetti with Italian Sausage, homemade bread, leftover cole slaw or another green veg

Wednesday:  Honey Sesame Chicken over rice, leftover bread with dipping sauce (balsamic vinegar, oil, salt, pepper), green veg, strawberries or grapes

Thursday:  sloppy joes, fruit, veg

Friday:  mini pizzas

Saturday:  Monterey Chicken on buns (if any left over)

Sunday:  Roast Chicken in Crockpot

My goal for the week (now that we are off on Monday for a supposed winter storm that didn’t happen) is to get everything prepped today.  And, as always, I plan on linking up at OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday.

What’s on your plan for the week?

Summary Sunday: Three New Recipe Hits of the Week

Summary Sunday


This week, quite unintentionally (as in, I didn’t plan a new recipe cooking series), Muffin’s family tried out two new recipes.  Well…we tried out one-and-a-half, actually.

As you can tell from Monday, we have A LOT of pulled pork in our house.  As delicious as sammies with coleslaw and soft buns (toasted) are…the delightful novelty fades after 10 or so.  So, in an effort to find a way to use more of the leftovers up, I came across a recipe for…Pot Roast and Cheesy Ranch Grits from A Sprinkle of This and That.

I have a huge confession that challenges my southern-ness to the core.  When I was younger (until I was a grown adult and teaching), I could not stand grits.  Could.  Not.  Stand.  As in, I would gag around a throatful.  My earliest memory of grits is stopping at a restaurant between New Orleans and Shreveport, Louisiana (where my grandmother lived).  I must have been two or three.  My mom ordered grits (probably against her better judgment and with the caveat “You’re not going to like them.”) for me.

(I’m sorry for those of you who are eating while reading this in advance.)  I upchucked my first (and only) mouthful of the plate.

In general, I am not a picky eater (other than chili mac, raw potatoes, hard boiled eggs by themselves, kale jerky, and hockey puck slow cooker orange chicken).  Most picky-ness that I qualify for as a picky eater come under the category of texture, rather than taste.  Broccoli florets.  (I love the stalks.)  Grits.

Now, I love cornbread.  Adore it.

But plain, instant, just barely boiled long enough grits?  I’m sitting at my laptop shuddering even now.

When I first became a teacher, my principal cooked for the teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week.  (I won’t step on my soapbox now about Teacher Appreciation Week; I’ll save that for a particularly scathing Thoughtful Thursday post.)  To me, that was about the most thoughtful thing possible…a gift of food…prepared by one’s own (or loved one’s) hands.  (After all…don’t take away my Southern card just yet.  Love=food and food=love.)

One year, he made grits.  Because of my aforementioned gag-worthy (and gagging) aversion to grits, is it any wonder that I reached my mid-twenties full of trepidation about trying the dish?  On one hand, I hated (and feared) grits.  I had the phobia covered on both ends.  On the other, my principal was a fabulous cook.  And I hated to offend him by not eating it.

I tasted…a soft creamy (not gritty) heaven, the grits swelled to nearly gelatinous bubbles of yummy-ness.  I may have cried in pleasure…or blacked out.  However, I do remember hounding him for information about how he prepared the grits.

He baked them, probably more of a braise, thus softening up the (previously gritty) bits of ground grain.

Yup.  I was in luuuuuuv.

I began trying shrimp and grits and grits and grillades whenever I had the chance at restaurants.  I experimented with cheesy grits, devoured grits doused in Southern gravy, and dreamed of other ways to prepare them.

Josh, newly planted in the South, does not share my newfound lust for grits.  Considering it took my 25 plus years to be okay with grits, I find that perfectly understandable.

So, it was with some trepidation that I added my variation of the pot roast with cheesy ranch grits recipe to the menu.  Cheesy ranch grits topped ever-so-flagrantly with root beer pulled pork.

Yup.  I totally went there.

The grits…especially if you let them sit at low for 20 or so minutes after they finish cooking…achieve that same gelatinous texture (swelled with liquidy chicken broth almost to the popping point) as those long-ago oven-baked grits.  The consistency is almost that of polenta…at the very least it is a very scoopable (and capable of holding its shape) grits dish.  No creamy ooze here.

I’m only going to include the recipe for the cheesy ranch grits below.  If you wish to see the recipe in its entirety, please click the link above.

Cheesy Ranch Grits

(adapted from A Sprinkle of This and That)

3 cups chicken broth (I ended up using two cans…a bit more than three cups because the mixture became VERY thick)

1 1/2 cups quick (white) grits

1 packet ranch dressing mix (If you remember the green potato catastrophe, trust me when I tell you this:  Buy Hidden Valley brand to avoid green grits.)

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Boil three cups of chicken broth in a large pot.  Slowly stir in the grits.  Continue stirring, fairly regularly, for five minutes, over medium-low heat.  At five minutes, the mixture will be VERY thick.  Add a bit more broth until you are able to stir the mixture comfortably.  Stir in the ranch packet and the cheese.  Continue stirring until cheese is melted.  Reduce heat to low.  Allow to sit for 20 or so minutes on low to allow the broth to swell the grits until soft.  Tasting the grits immediately after the cheese melts and tasting them 20 minutes later is a completely different mouth feel experience.

(I found this out by accident because the grits came together so quickly, and Josh was a bit late coming home because he kindly stopped by Brookshire’s for me.)

When ready to eat, spoon (and spread) the desired amount of grits on the plate.  Top with slow cooked meat and juices (in my case pulled pork).

Enjoy converting the skeptics!


One thing I’m looking forward to is changing the seasoning and cheese.  I have a feeling that Parmesan with a tweak of herbs would turn this into a great mock risotto.

The second recipe was one that seemed very classy, very unlike anything I would make…Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  The recipe was a planned leftover use of her Lemon Garlic Chicken, so of course, I had to (sort of) make it, too.

Let’s go into the major changes I made first.  Instead of marinating and grilling the chicken (forgot to put it in the marinade and Josh was working–so grilling was out), I poached the chicken in the marinating liquid plus a bit more water.  Then, I used Penne Rigate rather than rigatoni.  Penne was nineteen cents a package at Kroger, so penne won.  And, since I used a package of penne, I had to decrease the amounts of the ingredients that the pasta boiled in (because I purchased a 12 ounce bag).

So, here’s what I did:

Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken

(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

Poaching Liquid:

juice of one large lemon

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

1 teaspoon dried oregano

6 cups water

Combine the poaching liquid ingredients in a pot (large enough for the poaching liquid and a pound of chicken breasts, cut into manageable strips).  Bring the poaching liquid to a boil, add chicken, stir, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Check for doneness periodically.  Mine finished in 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and allow to cool before shredding into bite-sized pieces.

While waiting for the chicken to cool, prepare the pasta.


4 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 4 1/2 cups water and 3 chicken bouillon cubes, crushed)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

12 ounces penne rigate

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

While waiting for the chicken to cool, bring the broth, garlic powder, and black pepper to a boil in a Dutch oven.  When in boils, stir in the pasta and lemon juice.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often to prevent sticking, until all liquid is absorbed (15-25 minutes).


Shredded chicken (see above recipe)

1 1/2 cups half-n-half or whole milk

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Stir remaining ingredients into the cooked pasta.  Cook, stirring often over low heat, for five minutes or until the butter melts.  Remove from heat and let stand five minutes before stirring.

We served this with asparagus roasted in a 375 degree oven (tossed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, fresh ground black pepper, and lemon zest, and drizzled with a bit of red wine vinegar) 15 minutes or so until slightly wilted and softened.

IMG_0731 The third recipe, also from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, is Korean Beef and Rice.  This one was an all-around winner.  My mom and a coworker asked for the recipe.  Muffin LOVED this one.  I loved this one; it reminded me of some boiled chicken wings (trust me, they were good) that my great-aunt Gene (my mom’s mom’s sister) used to make with sherry and ginger.

What I like about this one is the ease of preparation.  I prepped it on Monday ostensibly for Wednesday but was able to talk myself in to eating it on Tuesday (when I couldn’t find the grits or ranch dressing powder I had purchased).  Muffin and I tasted it, and I had to use all the willpower I had not to inhale the entire pan.  The preparation took, at most, 15 minutes, as long as it takes to brown meat, whisk together and pour in a sauce, and simmer it for a bit.

This one is definitely a repeater.

I didn’t change the recipe up too much, only to add in a bit of sesame seeds as a garnish on top with the green onions.  I sliced my green onion fairly thinly.  (I do apologize for the incompleteness of my picture.  I had already taken a few bites when I remembered to snap a shot.)

Here’s what I did:

1 1/2 pounds ground meat (I used 12 ounces ground turkey and 12 ounces ground beef.  I am looking forward to seeing what ground pork does to the mix.)

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup dark brown sugar (It’s what I had)

1/2 cup soy sauce (I used full-sodium and compensated accordingly)

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon sesame oil (an absolute love of mine!)

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (The author also recommends 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger.)

3 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

sesame seeds

hot cooked rice

Brown the meat with the garlic in a large skillet over medium heat.  Mush and mash up the meat so it is in fine crumbles.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Drain excess grease.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Stir the sauce into the meat mixture.  Simmer over medium heat for five minutes, stirring to fully “sauce” the meat.

Serve over hot cooked rice, garnished on top with green onion slices and sesame seeds.


This recipe (and the other two) were Muffin Approved.

Muffin Approved

What new recipes did you try successfully this week?