My New Favorite Egg Salad Sandwich

egg salad sandwichGrowing up, I loved it when my grandmother would make warm egg salad sandwiches. Such a simple meal, but so comforting and tasty. Isn’t that the way with so many traditional meals, though?

I hadn’t had egg salad sandwiches in years but recently began making them again. And boy am I glad I did! This humble sandwich is fairly frugal, easy, and fun.

Fun? Well, why not? Do a search on egg salad sandwich recipes, and you’ll find dozens online. One person’s creamy egg and avocado sandwich can be made into something spicy. And that very fun, versatile nature of the sandwich makes it frugal and the perfect way to use up ingredients you may have lying around.

And don’t forget it’s tasty.

So what’s my new favorite? I call it the Southwest Egg Salad Sandwich. It came about one day when I needed a quick meal using only what we had in the refrigerator, which happened to be pretty bare at the time.

Here are the basic ingredients for this egg salad:

  • A couple of boiled eggs, mashed
  • Handful of crumbled bacon
  • Chipotle ranch dressing
  • Ghost pepper infused salt

That’s it! Just mix it all up, put it on some bread, and you’re ready to eat! You can adjust the ingredients depending on your own tastes or what you have on hand.

Do you have a favorite version of the humble egg salad sandwich? Please share!

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Pasta Bake with Sage Sausage

Pasta Bake with Sage SausageGenerally, when hubby offers to go to the grocery store, I make a specific list of items. Sometimes, though, I just say something like, “Get whatever is on sale.” The results can be interesting, and challenging, to say the least.

This last trip was one of those times. He came back with sage sausage. Now, I grew up eating this type of sausage for breakfast. Only for breakfast. What to do with it now?

Sage is not a spice that I generally use, and so I looked up foods and other spices that might complement it. I learned that oregano, tomatoes, and artichoke hearts go well with sage. So….a pasta bake!

I browned the sausage first in a saucepan and then threw in the rest of a bag of frozen peppers and onions. After all of that was nicely cooked, it went in a baking pan with some melted butter. I added a jar of premium Bertolli sauce along with artichoke hearts, a handful of Italian spice blend, as well as some garlic powder. After a bit of mixing, it went in the oven at 350 while I cooked the pasta. Once the pasta was cooked, it went in to the baking pan and cooked for about an hour, with my stirring the ingredients about every 20 minutes or so.

The result? It was well received by all. It had a subtle flavor that wasn’t too spicy. Plus, my husband and his daughter decided to mix in some cheese, and so that made it all the more family friendly. It was a definite winner!

Sometimes surprises can be good!

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Three Tomato Pasta with Bacon

pastalunchAfter some rest and reflection, I’m back to cooking and blogging. Today I cooked us up a special lunch out of ingredients that we had on hand. Please click on the link below for the details:

Three Tomato Pasta with Bacon

It was quite a good lunch with very little effort. Too, it was all made out of items from our pantry. This was sort of a “test run” for the Yoder’s Bacon to see if we liked it, and I can certainly say that it is a product that I will purchase again and add to our regular food storage.

Have you bought Yoder’s Bacon for your family? Or any other canned meats? Any reviews, recipes, or recommendations that you would like to share?

 

Easy Cheesy Soup (In a Wonderbag)

easycheesysoupHaving worked late last night, I wasn’t much in the mood for a heavy day of cooking. Dinner had to be easy and simple, especially since I would be working shifts throughout the day as well.

Luckily, my husband had stocked up on Progresso Recipe Starters awhile back when our local grocery store had run a sale on them. We always stock up on sale goods, especially when they’re canned and shelf-stable items. And who doesn’t like to save money? Anyway, he chose a selection of the various flavors, and luckily we had one of the Creamy Three Cheese starters left in our pantry.

Although the old brain cells take a bit longer to come up with something at my age, I was able to put together an idea fairly quickly. Easy Cheesy Soup! Improvising my own recipe from an established one would have to be the way to go in this case as I definitely wouldn’t be running to the grocery store for a few items. I found a good basic recipe online and began from there.

Here’s what I put in the pot:

  1. 2 links of hot Italian sausage
  2. 1 can of Creamy Three Cheese recipe starter
  3. About 1/3 bag of frozen Mirepoix vegetable mix
  4. Couple of handfuls dehydrated green and red peppers
  5. Ghost pepper infused sea salt from The Spice Lab
  6. Habanero infused sea salt from The Spice Lab
  7. Assorted spices (chipotle, roasted herb mix, garlic powder, etc)

I first browned the sausage in a bit of coconut oil, adding the Mirepoix veggies after a bit. Spices went in next; I then threw in the peppers and soup. I returned everything to boiling and put the steaming pot in the Wonderbag. It sat on my counter for an hour or so until we were ready to eat.

The result? Yummy! We chopped up some cheese in our soup for a garnish, and it turned out cheesy and wonderful. I’ll definitely try this again. And the Wonderbag made it all easy and convenient even for my work schedule.

Sardine Salad with Crackers

sardine saladDo you ever have one of those days that is unexpectedly stressful and hectic? I think we all do, right? Well, yesterday was one of those days for me. Work and more work, along with upcoming deadlines and the related stresses. It was just not a good day for anything too involved as far as dinner was concerned.

Such days are smaller instances where having a full pantry can be quite handy. No SHTF scenario, no crisis. Just a busy day in need of a quick dinner solution. Luckily, I had just gone to the grocery store and grabbed up a few new items that I was raring to try.  Even a small indulgence or change from the ordinary can make a world of difference in our mood. And if they’re convenient, then so much the better.

I had been reading about sardines and their nutritional benefits, and so I wanted to give them a try. As I was new to eating them, I selected a boneless and skinless variety. After doing some reading, I decided to make a quick sardine salad that could be eaten with cheese and crackers. A cool meal that would be perfect for a hurried schedule!

Although this basic recipe could be fancied up quite a bit, I just used what I had on hand. Here’s what I mixed up:

  1. 1 tin of sardines, drained and chopped
  2. 1 onion, chopped
  3. Sriracha Mayo to taste
  4. Hot mustard to taste
  5. Salt and pepper to taste

The resulting salad is easily eaten with crackers and is filling. Plus it made enough leftovers for a few meals, which is certainly a bonus.

What are your favorite ways to use sardines? Any recommendations for someone like myself who is new to eating them?

 

Using Up Butternut Squash

usingupbutternutsquashOne of my weaknesses is planning for the use of various ingredients. With a small family, it can sometimes be difficult to utilize food products in a timely manner and not frustrate the taste buds of my family. I encountered again this weakness this week in my failure to use up the butternut squash that I cooked on Monday. Although I used one half of the squash in the soup that I made on that day, the rest of the squash still needed to be used in some meal.

Frustrated and lacking ideas, I did a bit of reading as far as freezing the squash. I found the information that I needed at this link. I followed the instructions, pureeing the squash and putting it in the container. While this was the first time that I have frozen squash, I hope that this will be useful information for the future. Too, by freezing the squash, we should have some time for our taste buds to readjust and crave the wintry goodness once again.

But before I put the container in the freezer, I scooped a bit of that squash out for use in my lunch, Butternut Squash and Pasta. This is a quick and easy lunch idea that can be quite handy for winter lunches.

So if you’re like me and get behind sometimes on your meal planning, then don’t be afraid to do a bit of research and try saving that food for another day. It can certainly prevent the ingredient from going bad in your fridge while you try to find an appropriate recipe. And it will keep your family happy in the meantime.

Family Revolts Against Leftovers

familyrevoltsagainstleftoversMy husband revolted today against the continued tyranny of the chicken and dumpling leftovers. In a small family, leftovers are always a potential problem and source of dissatisfaction. Even halving a recipe can result in leftovers that last too long, leaving family members dreaming of a hamburger. Yes, folks, my husband wanted a hamburger, and I was prepared to give it to him. Lacking bread or buns, I was ready to make some quick homemade hamburger buns, but we were out of eggs, with neither of us wanting to venture out during rush hour for one ingredient. Enter improvised cooking to save the dinner hour!

During my last trip to the grocery store, I picked up some Progresso Recipe Starters on a whim.  Although they are a bit more expensive than store brand soup or a homemade mix, I had an inkling that they might come in useful during the coming week. As my husband’s daughter hates any spices, I purchased the Creamy Three Cheese variety, along with a few others. Staring at the can, I thought of a few possibilities for meals, but I eventually decided to improvise based on a recipe on the can label. I cut the recipe in half and substituted small shells for the penne, marbled colby for the cheddar cheese, summer sausage for the bacon bits, and the remains of the French bread loaf for the bread crumbs. Doing this allowed us to have dinner and give new life to certain ingredients–particularly the French bread–that were possibly on their last legs.

parmesanmonkeybreadAs an added bonus and incentive not to revolt against me, I quickly made up some Parmesan monkey bread. Luckily, I had purchased too many cans of biscuits for the chicken and dumplings recipe, and so I was able to use those tonight. While I broke up the biscuits into pieces and coated them with Parmesan, I melted a stick of butter in the bottom of a Bundt pan. The biscuits pieces were then put in the pan on top of the melted butter. The bread cooked at the same time and temperature as the casserole: 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

When  a meal plan doesn’t quite work out, improvised cooking can preserve the peace in your house, just like it did in ours. Everyone ate up the dinner, with no complaints from anyone. It’s always nice to have a happy ending, even without a hamburger.

Planning Ahead for Comfort: Chicken Dumplings and French Toast

planningaheadforcomfortI’ll admit it: I have never been good at planning ahead when it comes to meals. I’ve tried time and time again to make and follow weekly meal plans, only to abandon them part-way through the week. Partially this stems from a former lack of emphasis on all things home, but too, I believe that it also comes from the fact that I am usually only cooking for two. I have found that what works for me is to plan a few meals based on what I find on sale, “winging it” for the rest. By stocking my pantry with a variety of ingredients, I can have those showy, planned meals that provide leftovers and create spur-of-the-moment dishes and snacks throughout the rest of the week.

crockpotchickenanddumplingsThis weekend has been all about comfort foods, and that has necessitated a bit of planning. For my own special comfort, I made Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings. My grandmother would make chicken and dumplings for me when I was younger, and it was certainly my favorite dish. The creamy, slightly spicy soup with chunks of chicken and tasty biscuits always warmed me up no matter how cold it was outside. I know that my version certainly isn’t nearly as yummy as hers, but I just don’t think that’s possible. She was a master at improvised cooking. Still, I wanted to have that experience again, even if it was just a shadow of what I remember of my grandmother’s tasty creations.

readytoeatThe slow cooker chicken and dumplings was very easy; I just threw everything in the crockpot and let it cook. One thing that we did do, however, was shred the chicken half way through the cooking time.  This allowed us to confirm that the chicken cooked thoroughly. By the end, the chicken fell apart anyway, but we really wanted to make sure that everything was cooked. I also found that the biscuits required at least an hour to cook completely, much longer than what the recipe states. Too, if you make this for your own family, you might want to consider adding some spices as it was rather bland.

overnightfrenchtoastFor a final goody for this weekend, I prepared Overnight French Toast last night so that we could have a hot breakfast this morning. When I saw French bread on sale yesterday at the grocery store, I knew that I would have to give this recipe a try. As we already had all of the other ingredients, it was a cheap risk. And that risk was certainly a tasty one! Preparing the dish the night before and storing it in the fridge overnight, I found that it was ready to stick in the oven this morning. Perfect for those of us who can’t function–much less plan a meal–before our morning coffee. I was able to wake my husband up with cinnamon and coffee smells. What a nice way to begin the day!

I know that plenty of wives follow meal plans strictly, and I do admire that. I suppose I haven’t yet reached that level of organization. For now, this works for us. Occasionally planning ahead doesn’t hurt one bit. And it’s mighty yummy!

Learning to Cook Creatively

learningtocookcreatively

When I first began cooking, I was quite the frightened amateur. I followed recipes strictly, frantically running to the store if I ran out of an ingredient. Obviously, this was neither frugal nor practical. I had to find a way to utilize the ingredients that we had on hand while providing my family with a variety of meals. It took some time, but I finally managed to begin improvising when I cooked.

I was inspired to do this partially by my grandmother, who managed to cook for a large family during the worst time in our nation, the Great Depression. She always amazed me in her ability to create meals out of nothing and with no guidance from a recipe. This instinct seemed to come naturally to her, and it certainly frustrated me with my lack of it. I also discovered The Complete Tassajara Cookbook, which provided me with some idea as to how to cook without a recipe. These two influences were crucial in my developing cooking abilities.

How did I begin this type of cooking? I first began studying how basic dishes such as a casserole or a stir fry were put together. For example, a casserole usually includes a carbohydrate such as rice or noodles, some sort of sauce, veggies, and the like. Too, I also looked at the type of spices used for Mexican, Italian, Asian, and similar dishes. Knowing these spices and having them ready at home made cooking so much easier. Learning the basics of cooking is an ongoing process, but it has been worth it.

In addition to studying easy cooking recipes and the basics of such meals, storing a wide range of ingredients at home is necessary. Whether it is a spice, rice, or a vegetable, making sure that you have a good selection for your improvisation will make it that much easier. There are lists of basic pantry items online or often in specialized recipe books. Looking at these suggestions and tailoring them to your family’s tastes and budgets will help you build up the size of your pantry.

And what then? I just learned how to cook as I went along. After I had gathered ingredients for our home pantry, I found myself creating soups, casseroles, and other dishes. These meals vary from time to time, and written recipes look more like suggestions for another person’s creativity. This method for cooking food has been of great benefit for our small family as well as our small budget.

So what do you have to lose? Put that recipe book aside for the evening and give your own creativity a chance for expression in the kitchen. You might enjoy the change!

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