What do you pack on the road?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am going to my company’s National Conference.  I am DRIVING with 3 other women to cut down the cost.  Airline tickets are super expensive and there are no non-stop flights.  Driving was the answer for us.

This made me think about (of course) traveling food.  When I am scheduled to be in the car for an extended period of time, I always pack something to eat.  With 16 hours in the car, I need to pack several meals.

Why do I pack meals?  If I don’t, I’ll be stopping at a fast food restaurant.  Not a good option.  Not good in the taste department and definitely not good in the health department.  Also, I need to pack items that are easy to eat in the car while driving or while a passenger.

Here are some of the items I routinely pack:

  • Sandwiches

These are always an excellent choice while on the road.  My favorite is peanut butter.  Easy to transport and does not need to be in a cooler.  It’s always my first choice for just me.  But, my husband HATES the smell of peanut butter and cannot have it in the car with him.  When he is going to be in the car with me, I opt for something like: roast beef, chicken salad, tuna salad, ham and cheese, etc.

  • Chicken

I know this sounds weird, but I love to pack oven fried chicken when going on a road trip.  It’s easy to eat.  If you cook the drumsticks only, it’s really a one hand meal.  I put them in a zipper type bag or reusable container with an ice pack and we are good.

  • Calzones

Really a deluxe sandwich, the calzones are a great picnic or on the road food choice.  I normally make linguica and cheese; roast beef, onions and peppers with cheese and the old standby…ham and swiss.

  • Salads

Salads are another great choice, if you’re not going to be driving while eating.  If you are going to stop or switch drivers, salads can be a great choice for picnics and road food.  I love salads with some type of meat: Jerk Chicken Salad, Caesar Chicken Salad, Chef’s Salad or any salad with beans and chicken.  I have also made pasta salads with veggies and meats for many of our road trips.  Great tip:  put the dressing in the bottom of the bowl and make the salad on top.  Once you are ready to eat, just mix.  The lettuce does not get soggy.

That’s the type of “road” food I pack.  Now it’s your turn.  What do you pack for picnics or on road trips?

 

Muffaletta Wraps

I have never had a Muffaletta Sandwich.  I have seen them being made on various cooking shows but I have never had one.

I have made a really great olive and red pepper salad.  This salad is great for bruschetta and to serve with crackers.  I also had it for breakfast with cream cheese and a bagel.  YUM!!!

I was thinking about making a sandwich for the Council on Aging Cooking class and immediately Muffaletta Wraps jumped into my head.  Why not?  Instead of using a large round loaf of bread for the sandwich, how about a wrap.  It could work…and it does work!  In fact, it is delicious.  Here’s the recipe and here is the What’s Linda Cooking Segment where I made the wraps.  Enjoy!

Muffaletta Wraps

  • 10 tortilla wraps
  • 10 slices of smoked ham
  • 10 slices of salami
  • 10 slice of provolone cheese
  • 1 cup green olives with pimentos
  • 1 cup pitted black olives
  • 1 small jar of roasted peppers
  • 1 small bunch of parsley or 1tbs. dried
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Olive oil

Make an olive salad:  Chop the olives and peppers.  Mix in with the parsley, garlic and olive oil.  Set aside.

Assemble the wraps.  Place one wrap on cutting board.  Top with a slice each of ham, salami and provolone cheese.  Top with a small scoop of olive salad.  Tuck in sides and roll up to wrap.  Repeat with the remaining 9 tortillas.  Put onto a platter and for best flavor refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  To serve, cut wraps in half and serve with a green salad.

Makes 10 wraps

Linda’s Italian Sausage Shepherds Pie

Sometimes I get Sweet Italian Sausage on sale.  Most of the time it is $2.99/lb. where I shop.  But sometimes, it drops to $1.49 or even $.99/lb. for quick sale.  When I see those prices, I pick up a few packages.  Because it’s reduced for quick sale, I need to use it right away or package it up in 1 lb. or 3/4 lb. packages and put it in the freezer for later use.

Not long ago, I found a really good deal on Italian Sausage and came up with a Shepherds Pie using up the sausage.  It was a huge hit at home and also at my cooking class “What’s Linda Cooking”.  I hope you enjoy this and hopefully we will find some sausage on sale at $.99/lb.!

Linda’s Italian Sausage Shepherds Pie

  • 1 lb Italian Sausage-casings removed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 cups mashed potatoes (either homemade or packaged)
  • 2 cups green beans (cooked)
  • 1 cup cheese

Remove casings from sausage and sauté though with chopped onion, breaking up into crumbles in a 12″ oven safe skillet.

Meanwhile, mix cheese with mashed potatoes and other spices of your choice.

Once sausage is cooked, move to the sides of the pan.  In the middle of the pan, melt butter and combine with flour.  Cook for 30 seconds or so.  Add water and combine with meat to make a gravy. Turn off heat.  Add green beans on top of the sausage.  Then top with the potato and cheese mixture.  Dot with butter and bake in a 350 degree oven until bubbly about 20 minutes.

Serve with a salad.

Louisville Hot Dogs

Louisville Hot DogI love to travel. I love to travel for business and for pleasure. In my former job, I would travel to sales meetings and to conference shows. I loved talking with people at conferences.

I love going to new places, new cities and eating what the locals eat.  Normally, I will not eat at the hotel.  I know the hotels don’t want to hear this but the hotel restaurants tend not to be “local” establishments.  Don’t I ask the concierge for restaurant ideas.  I normally ask the bellmen, the hotel desk staff or the valet.  Why?  I ask them where they go to eat lunch in the city.  They go to where the locals eat.  The concierge normally sends me to restaurants that are touristy places.  I don’t want to go to a tourist place.  I want to eat locally.

For food talk, I love talking to cab drivers, people walking along in the city, hotel staff, etc.  Really anyone who is from the area.  I like to find out those hidden gems.

When my husband and I went to the Big Island of Hawaii, we asked the Valets where to go for  breakfast.  They told us about a little place about 15 minutes away from the hotel.  We went there and had a jackpot breakfast of pancakes, eggs, a linguica type sausage, homefries, and toast.  We ate like kings!  The plates were huge and filled with delicious food.  The whooping cost?  $15 with tip!  That’s right, $15 with tip!!!  We went there 1 other time…it was that good.  When we went back to the hotel, we heard the hotel breakfast was great but was $50 per person.  That’s right, $50 per person!!! Ouch!  We told everyone about the breakfast we had.  Needless to say, the restaurant was busier the next time we went with people we saw at the hotel.

On a recent trip, I went to Louisville, KY for a conference.  During a lunch break, we saw a Panera Bread across the street from the convention center.  While I love Panera Bread, I do not want to go the same chain restaurant that I could at home.  I want a different experience.  I want a local experience.

I spied a food cart just across the street to my left and told my friends that I wanted to go there instead.  Off we went to talk to the guy at the hot dog cart.  I asked him what was so special about his hot dogs.  He told me about the toppings he has…garlic aioli, sweet pepper sauce, caramelized onions, potato sticks (I love potato sticks) and coleslaw.  I was sold!  I told him to put it all on the dog.

I loved every minute of eating this delicous hot dog.  I recreated it at home and got 2 thumbs up from my family.  I cooked it a the Council on Aging got rave reviews.

So, here is the kind of recipe I used.  And, if you want to see me in action, cooking the Louisville Hot Dogs, go to this link

Here’s the recipe:

Louisville Hot Dogs

  • Grilled Hot Dogs
  • Sweet Red Pepper Sauce
  • Garlic Aioli
  • Caramelized Onions
  • Cold slaw
  • Potato Sticks

Put hot dogs in a bun of your choice. Top with Aioli, Pepper Sauce, Onions, Potato Sticks and then Cold Slaw. Enjoy! Super yummy!

Sweet Red Pepper Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup roasted red peppers (from water-packed jar)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a blender, combine the red peppers, vinegar, and oil and process until smooth. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Garlic Aioli

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of one lemon, juiced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Directions
  • Mix mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Coleslaw

  • Ingredients
  • 6 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, make dressing by combining mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seed, sugar, salt and pepper. Combine cabbage and carrots on top of dressing. Toss dressing into cabbage mixture and let chill.

Pantry or Menu Plan?

photoI have read many frugal blogs and sites.  Many of them rely and support the idea of menu planning for cutting your grocery bill.  Those who are supporters of this practice, say they look at the sale flyers and base their menu on the rock bottom prices.

While this may work for some, it really is not realistic for many.  Why?  Suppose you plan on having Chicken Fajitas for dinner on Tuesday.  Tuesday comes along and you just don’t feel like fajitas.  But maybe you really feel like a pizza.  The menu planning option is too rigid for this type of circumstance.  Or, maybe you made too much pasta one night and have leftovers.  How do you use up those leftovers with a strict menu plan?

Instead of a menu plan, I rely on stocking my pantry; combining that with shopping sales and special markdowns.  Basically, I shop sales to stock up!  I always have the basics in my house:  eggs, milk, flour, sugar, chicken, basic canned and frozen vegetables, etc.  When I see a fabulous sale on any of these items, I stock up.  Here’s an example, of one of my trips to the store, I saw a special markdown on sirloin tips and London broil.  They were both marked down to $1.99/lb. for quick sale.  I (along with other savvy shoppers) stocked up on them.  Why…because, I have not seen that price for beef in a long time.  My family loves a beef dinner every once in a while and it is nice to not just have ground beef.  (I have not seen ground beef at $1.99/lb. in a while)  When buying reduced meats, you just need to cook it up right away or store it in the freezer.  I normally cook one that night and put the rest in the freezer.

So, how do you make sure that you have all the ingredients for what you want to make?  Simple, decide what to cook the night before.  While cleaning up from dinner, I plan my next day’s menu.  Any leftovers that are enough for one portion, go into my husband’s lunch for the next day.  I take anything out of the freezer that needs to defrost and any side dishes I make come from my pantry.

A note on side dishes.  I shop for produce at a local fruit market.  They don’t have “sales” flyers.  They are a restaurant supply store and they stock any leftovers that were not purchased by the restaurants in their store.  They (and I) never know when the deliveries will be made for the day and what they will have.  Sometimes, I can get bags of salad mix for $2 (we are talking large bags or organic), artichokes 4 for $1, strawberries for $1, gallons of organic orange juice for $1 (I saw a sticker once and it was $21/gallon but I paid $1).  I never know what I will get.  I make my side dishes based on what I buy at this market.  I normally can buy a weeks’ worth of produce for $5-$8.  That’s right…$5-$8 of fresh sometimes organic produce.  If you don’t have a market like this in your area, shop in the reduced produce section.  While your deals may not be as good as the ones I described, they will be substantial.  Once the fresh produce for the week is gone, then switch to your frozen or canned supplies.

These tips have helped me maintain an average food bill of $40-$60 per week for 4 people.  I hope they help you too.

Now, how do you cook?  Meal plan or cook from pantry?  Comment below.

Is Healthy Food Really Expensive?

My niece, whom I adore, wrote on Facebook, “Why is healthy food so expensive?”  She just lost about 100 lbs by eating healthy and exercising.  Wahoo!!!!  She looks and feels fabulous!  She noticed that when she shopped for junk food, she spent far less than when she shops for healthy food.  I saw her comment on Facebook and wondered, is it really that expensive?  I really don’t think so.  I know I am very thrifty and I can find deals.  While going through the supermarket, I can see how it seems that healthy food is expensive.  With  a few strategies, you can find that healthy food at a reasonable price.

Buy Seasonal Produce

I am sure you hear this a lot.  Buy seasonal.  What does that mean?  Each food has a growing and harvesting season.  You should buy your produce when it is in season for the best price and optimal quality.  For example, zucchini is in season right now.  You will find loads of local zucchini at great prices.  When it’s winter, you’re not going to find it locally and at that great price.  Starting about now, peaches are in season until about late September in the Northeast.  You will find the best prices and quality right now and through the summer.

Check Loss Leaders at the Markets

These are the super low priced items on the front and back pages of your sales circulars.  These are made to have you go into the store and spend more money on other items.  A week ago our local store had Corn on the Cob 12 for $1.97.  Great price.

Farmers Markets

Farmers Markets are filled with great products from local farms.  It’s a great way to support your community and buy the freshest produce.  Also, because transportation costs are low, the prices are really great.

Outlet Stores

There are restaurant supply stores that sell to the general public extra produce the restaurants do not purchase.  There are great deals to be had at these outlets.  The store  I frequent, has amazing deals!  I will outline them below.

Auctions and Flea Markets

This is one that we don’t think about much.  There are auctions around the country that auction produce, meats, canned goods, etc.  Also, many flea markets have produce stands.  If you go at the end of the day, many venders do not want to take their produce home and are more likely to give you a deal.

My Haul

 

friendly fruit

Today I went to my favorite produce store and hit the jackpot.  The delivery truck was just coming in and I picked up great deals.  What did I spend for this.  See below:

  • 2 lb bag chopped romaine lettuce $1
  • 3 stocks of leeks $1
  • 2.04 lbs yellow squash $1.02
  • 3 lbs. (?) bag of broccoli florets $2
  • 1 pineapple $1
  • 1 seedless watermelon $3
  • 1 lbs baby grapes $ 1 (Yum)
  • 2 containers of raspberries $1
  • 1 cantalope $1
  • .34 lbs sliced mushrooms $.60

My total was $12.98.  Not bad for my 20 minutes at the store.  I have items that we will eat this week and some that I will chop and put into the freezer for later.

How about you?  How do you get the best price on produce?

 

Pretzel Wrapped Hot Dogs–What Could Be Better?

Pretzel dogs done

My daughter and I were walking in the mall.  I hate malls.  I hate shopping…except food shopping.  But, my daughter was called out of work due to the weather & wanted me to go to the mall with her.  Much to my dismay, I ended up at the mall. (I thought she had a driver’s license and a car just so I wouldn’t have to do this!) But,  I’m getting off track.  Back to the story.

Off to the mall we went.  While there, we spied a pretzel place selling pretzels wrapped around a hotdog.  Pretzel + Hot Dog = YUM!!!  Being frugal and knowing I can cook just about anything (except Turducken but that’s another story), I passed on buying the Pretzel Wrapped Hot Dogs.

I thought about those hot dogs for a few days.  I checked out my refrigerator and confirmed that I did indeed have hot dogs.  Tonight, was the night!  I gathered all my materials…flour, yeast, sugar, butter, baking soda and those hot dogs.  And to make it easy, my bread machine.  Off I went on my culinary adventure (hot dogs = culinary…ha, ha, ha).

I came up with a really great recipe that got 2 (count them) TWO thumbs up from my kids.  Success!!!  Enjoy…

Pretzel Wrapped Dogs

  • 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt (I used regular but you can use Kosher)
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp of butter cut into 4 equal pieces

Put into your bread machine and put on the dough cycle.

  • about 10 cups water
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup baking soda

Once bread machine beeps and finishes its cycle, take dough out of the machine and cut into 8 equal pieces.  Bring a big pan of water (about 10 cups or so)  and baking soda to a boil.

Meanwhile, take each section of dough and roll each into a rope about 10 – 12 inches long.  Wrap each dough rope around each hot dog and seal the ends.

Place pretzels 2 at a time in the boiling water for about 30 seconds.  (1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi…or use a timer or guess)

Remove them with a slotted spoon and put on a greased baking sheet (I used a stone)

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  •  1 egg yolk beaten with a little water (I saved the white for an egg sandwich for tomorrow’s breakfast)
  • Kosher salt

Brush each pretzel dog with egg and top with a sprinkle of salt.  (or add some grated cheddar cheese = extra yummy)

Bake at 450 degrees for about 12 minutes.

Done and delicious!!!

What to do with Cream of Wheat?

Farina CookiesWhat can I do with Cream of Wheat?  I have had this box for a few years and yes, it’s time to throw it out.  But remember, I’m thrifty.  I don’t like to throw away food.  How can I use this up when I really don’t like Cream of Wheat for breakfast?  Cookies may be the answer!!!

When I need to find out how to use something up…I Google it!  I found a few recipes for Farina Cookies.  But, I wanted to make them a little more healthy and without so much flour.  So I looked in my pantry and found oatmeal and flax meal.  Score!!!  I just knew I could make a good cookie with those two ingredients along with the farina.

But, can I make the cookies without flour.  I started with a universal cookie type recipe. and substituted ground oatmeal for the flour.  While I was mixing, I just knew it needed a little flour in the mix to make it work.  So I added a little flour to the mix.

The verdict?  They came out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  Not overly sweet and a little grainy in texture due to the farina and ground oatmeal but a nice change of pace cookie.

So try them out and let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

Farina Cookies

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup ground oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tst salt
  • 1/2 cup farina
  • 2 tbs ground flax
  • 3/4 cup of powdered sugar-for rolling cookies

Directions

Cream butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg.

Add ground oatmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, farina (or cream of wheat) and flax meal.

Scoop with 1 tbs cookie scoop to form little balls.

Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes.

Dip in powdered sugar when still warm.

Yum!!!

 

Leftover Chicken–What now?

bbq chicken sandwichI love chicken!!!  I love the price.  I love chicken’s versatility as an ingredient.  I love the leftovers I can have with a whole roasted chicken.  There are so many different meals I can make from one little (or big) roasted chicken.

This week I purchased a whole chicken for about $.89/lb.  It was reduced, so I needed to either cook it that day or throw it in the freezer.  I decided to cook right away.  Cooking quickly without heating up the kitchen was a must.  Butterflied grilled chicken was the answer.  It was fabulous and we ended up with leftover chicken breast.  My family prefers roasted dark meat chicken.  Needless to say, we had leftover chicken breast.

What to do with leftover chicken breast that is quick, easy and again, does not heat up the kitchen.   BBQ Chicken Sandwiches!!!!  Here’s what I did:

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of shredded, cooked chicken meat
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce
  • 1 small sliced onion
  • 1 small sliced green pepper
  • 4 hamburger buns or buns of your choice

Directions

Sauté the peppers and onions.  Add the chicken and barbeque sauce and combine.  Once heated through divide the mixture among the buns.

What do you make with leftover chicken?  Please comment.  I would love to hear your ideas!

Mom, Why not make Beef Stroganoff?

beef stroganoff3Have you ever had a plan for dinner and then someone in you house, asks for something else?  That is exactly what happened to us today.

I took out some ground beef with the idea of making a Beef and Ramen Noodle dish.  This was a new dish I was going to try.  Not one of my more adventurous eaters, my daughter asked for Spaghetti.  Not feeling like spaghetti and tomato sauce, I suggested Beef Stroganoff.  She immediately agreed to that…it’s one of her favorites.

But there was a problem.  I have no sour cream in the house.  Do I run out and buy some sour cream?  Not make the stroganoff?  Not really options I liked.  I came up with an adaption to the recipe and made a very respectable, if not delicious version of Beef Stroganoff.

Instead of using sour cream, I made a Béchamel Sauce and just added more milk to get that “creamy” type consistency.  It was delicious!!!  So, the next time you are missing an ingredient, instead of running out to buy said ingredient, try to adapt the recipe.  You just may find a lighter version and a better version.  How about you?  Have you adapted any recipes because of missing ingredients?  And how did they come out?

Beef Stroganoff Linda Style

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion chopped
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp Adobo seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder

beef stroganoff2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sauté ground beef with onion, mushrooms and seasonings until beef in no longer pink

Add:

1 1/2 tbs flour

Stir to coat beef and veggies.  Cook for 1 minute

Add:

about 3/4 cup of milk

Cook until thickened and bubble

Serve with 1/2 lb of spaghetti or egg noodles.  I like to also serve with green beans.

Enjoy!!!