Thursday, December 14, 2017

Enchiladas with sketchy beans

In my efforts to eat on a budget, I've tried to incorporate more beans into my meals. For this I've used the Instant Pot twice and twice it's burned me. First was toothsome garbanzo beans. Second was mushy kidney beans.

My cute Aussie friend, Mel, informs me I'll only experience pain and heartbreak, cooking beans with a pressure cooker. She's very smart. Also, her Grandpa had involvement with the Snowy River in the Australian outback, so that qualifies her as an expert in just about anything, if you ask me. I'd say he was a cowboy, named Jim Craig, who captured brumbies, but that might be a fib. 

Despite my failures as a bean whiz, my family still has to eat.  So, I used just enough mushy beans and tossed the rest. I'm frugal now, not a glutton for punishment.

eve rousseau
Here's how you do it.

Left-over Rotisserie Chicken Enchiladas

Left over chicken in bite-sized pieces
approximately 3 cups shredded cheese (I used a combo of pepper jack and sharp cheddar) Reserve 1 cup to top your enchiladas
8 oz cream cheese, softened (Or if you're like me and forgot to take it out of the fridge, zapped for a few seconds until malleable)
2 pouches enchilada sauce
mushy beans, or not mushy beans, if that's what you have. A couple cups
Tortillas (I used flour this time but corn is just as good)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a glass 13 x 9 pan, spray with non-stick cooking spray then drizzle the bottom with a nice-sized splash of enchilada sauce. I used green.
Mix chicken, 2 cups cheese, cream cheese, some beans, and about half a pouch of enchilada sauce. I used red for the filling.

Put filling on one side of tortilla, roll, and place seam-side down in baking dish.
Repeat until filling is used up or there is no more room in your dish. I pack them in tightly as I can and this time, got eleven in there. This is good because I had dinner for the next day.

Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top, and sprinkle a nice layer of cheese over that. I used a combo of red and green. These are Christmas enchiladas. I like green the best. My kids like red.
Bake 30 minutes until warmed through and cheese is melty and delicious.

Serve with sour cream, salsa, guacamole, refried beans, salad...

Results:
It's really hard getting an appetizing pic of enchiladas. Plus, it was almost dark by the time they were done. This is me, outside, trying to get the last of the natural light,while my neighbors looked at me and wondered why I was outside, holding a plate and taking pictures of it. They're so nosy. 

Despite using mushy beans, the enchiladas were tasty and filling. Honestly, I noticed the unpleasant texture of the beans, but as there is cream cheese and melted cheese mixed in, they weren't unpalatable. The kids didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. And the Mister declared me a gem.

So, it all turned out well in the end.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Instant Pot Kidney Beans Fail. But, can I salvage them?

If you're new to this Instant Pot craze, as I am, you might not understand how to cook with it. Take dried beans, for instance.   I looked at the Instant Pot instructions and they were crap. Nowhere did it mention how much water is needed. Upon further investigation, I chose to follow the instructions on the bag. Attention Instant Pot, it might be nice if you put that information in the recipe.

After one failed attempt at garbanzo beans, not soaked, I'm going to try kidney beans, not soaked.

I know, I said I was going to start soaking them going forward. But, dang it, I can't be that responsible. They still want you to soak them for six hours. Six!

Eve Rousseau
Also, because beans foam up, don't fill it passed the 1/2 mark. I was pretty well under the 1/2 mark cooking the entire 1 lb bag and using 8 cups of water. In doing my research one person felt adding a touch of oil helped with the foaming. So, trying it.

Here's what I'm attempting. I decided to make the entire bag and just freeze what I don't need. I love having things ready to go in the freezer.

Kidney Beans Recipe
1 lb kidney beans, sorted. Beans pretty much come as they are at the time of picking. That's why you have to sort them. You don't want to chomp down on bits of grit. Broken tooth, anyone?
2 tsp salt, or what looked like 2 tsp in my palm
1 small glug of olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed because I didn't want to mince them
8 cups water

Put everything in Instant Pot. Use beans setting (first time), and set for 35 minutes, normal, high pressure, natural release.

Cross fingers.

Results:
Mush.

poor instant pot directions
It's hard to convey the level of mush present in this picture, but trust me, gross. Now, I don't want my beans toothsome, but dangit, I don't want them to be mealy. Brrr.

It took nearly an hour to depressurize. Alright, so I added eight cups of water, that may have been a mistake. The Instant Pot manual says to start out with only 1 cup of water in the pot as the more water there is the longer it'll take to pressurize and depressurize. And that means more time spent cooking. But, does that mean I can cook an entire pound of beans with one cup of water? Who knows?  Well, you know what, nobody told me how much water to add. Next time I'll put less. I'll also add more salt as they're bland as heck. Unless I just give up.

Because, in trying to save money by using the instant pot, I keep wasting money by cooking things incorrectly.

So, now I have to decide if the beans are too mushy to put in the enchiladas. Blah.

See how it turned out tomorrow.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

$200 a week. Week 3 and rocking it. Plus, a taste of nearly two years' work

Here it is, week 3, and I'm not in hysterics regarding the grocery budget. Before this experiment, I'd break into hives any time I considered nourishing my family for less than whatever I bloody wanted to spend. Now, I feel great. I rarely go over $160, and that's even with the holiday season upon us. Yay.

And, we're trying not to spend our $50 a week fun money. So far, so good.

Plus, I have yet to stick to a really strict dining plan. I want to cook what I want to cook, dang it. Don't pen me in.

betrayal and yearning
Total cost so far this week: $143.00
What I bought: Milk x 2, half and half, dog food, cottage cheese, pepper jack cheese, tortillas, two packets enchilada sauce (I was buying Hatch enchilada sauce, but love Frontera. Give it a try, I think you'll really love it. I go Christmas, every time), celery, bananas, 3 body washes, 24 cans sparkling waters, 4-2 liters, rotisserie chicken, large tub pesto, 2 onions, molasses, anise extract, 2 cans sweetened condensed milk, cream cheese, 160 gallon freezer zipper bags, sandwich bags, Caesar salad bagged mix, yogurt, a ham

Still need to buy: bulk steel cut oats (didn't want to go to 3 stores yesterday), more yogurt as my oldest needed a lunch today so I gave her my yogurt starter, maybe some potatoes, cookie ingredients for the party on Friday, as well as an appetizer.

What I have from previous weeks: one frozen raw chicken, carrots, lemons, 2 onions, 3 packets ground turkey, ready-to-to taco meat, dried beans, cheddar cheese, frozen cauliflowers, coffee, eggs, bacon, spaghetti stuff, lentils, rice, misc. frozen meat, lots of spices and seasonings, frozen chicken carcas, LOTS of cold cereal, peanut butter, salsa (but getting low), sour cream, honey, bread, 1/4 bag of flour, sugar, instant yeast, a few sparkling waters and 2 liters.

What I'm planning to make this week: Well, since I shop on Sunday, we always have a Costco rotisserie chicken for dinner and then use the left-overs for Monday's meal. Today I'm making enchiladas using the left-over chicken, my tortillas, my sweet, sweet, enchilada sauce, a pile of cheese, the cream cheese, and I'm going to Instant Pot some of my dried kidney beans. In light of the disaster that was my garbanzo bean incident, I think I'll soak them before hand, despite not being happy about it. Then starting tomorrow I'll make the ham. We'll eat ham. More ham. And then if there's ham left over, The Mister will take it for his lunches or we'll freeze it if we're completely over it. After we eat all that ham, I'll make ham and bean soup. Yum.

How we're feeling over all: I'm tolerating the Costco coffee. I miss shrimp and salmon. Love overnight Instant Pot-ing the oats for breakfast. My kids miss cold cereal. The Mister misses canned soda. I also miss impulse buys that tasted so good. But, I am loving the savings. So, despite making a few sacrifices, I think it's going well.

If you don't know what Christmas enchiladas mean, check out my Instagram.

And, in honor of a successful test-reading, here's the first paragraphs from Betrayal and Yearning. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

Present Day 
Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

             In the hush of the forest Jessica clutched her map. She tucked a wayward lock of hair back into her ponytail and blew out a breath. The coordinates showed she was in the right place.
            “Where is it?” she murmured. After all the convincing it had taken for her boss to sanction the field research—actually using her geo-physics degree—Jessica needed to find the proof she’d promised. If she didn’t, god knew what assignment they’d give her next. Training new recruits to log mud samples, most likely. But something had happened here, the evidence from the satellite imaging was clear.
            The shadows deepened as she scrambled up a grassy dell all while her mother’s warnings drummed in her brain. Rapists and thugs lurk in dark corners, and, don’t go out in the woods alone! Her jaw tightened, and she tried shrugging off the feeling of unease skittering down her spine. Besides, she’d never heard of any crimes committed here befo—

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Monday, December 4, 2017

My Instant Pot life

It's not all been fun and games with the Instant Pot, but we're learning.

Bad: When the Mister made oatmeal using Instant Pot's recipe for steel cut oats, entitled, Three-Minute Steel Cut Oats. Can you say salt lick? I don't know what happened. He said he didn't stir up the oats after adding the salt. You'd think it would just absorb and spread throughout. Apparently not. And apparently I'm the one who got the salty bowl. Shudder. But it wasn't bad only because it was salty, I am not a fan of bloated raisins or vanilla in anything but dessert. So, I recommend you pass on this recipe. Unless you like big old mushy raisins, then go for it.

Bad: Chick Peas. To be fair, the instructions did say if you pre-soak the beans they turn out better. But, I thought the whole point of getting an Instant Pot was so you don't have to pre-soak. I should have pre-soaked. After 40 minutes they were still basically raw and couldn't go in my recipe.

Good to Amazing, depending on who you talk to: Coconut Mango Sticky Rice. Everyone in the family, including the daughter who claims to hate rice, enjoyed this! The Mister declared it his favorite dessert, ever. It's not too sweet and the mango, well, who doesn't love a mango, added the perfect sweet and sour touch. I didn't have the pandan leaf that was called for. And used slightly less coconut milk, but dang, it was good.

Good: That time I made the steel cut oats for 3 minutes without any additives and stirred in the salt. Although, I did find my oats to be a bit toothsome for my liking.

instant pot oats 5 minutes
Almost Great: This morning's oats. I assembled 3 C. water, 1 C. steel cut oats, and a pinch of salt last night before bed. Gave everything a stir for good measure, and set it to begin cooking at 6:45 am. Settings: Pressure cook, high pressure, natural release, for 5 minutes of actual cooking time.

Oats get foamy so you don't want to use the quick pressure release valve to speed things along, otherwise the oat foam can gunk up the works. But, the reason it's not all the way great, it wasn't de-pressurized until nearly 7:30 am. I don't know, did I get the slow de-pressurizer. I read so many recipes saying it takes 12 minutes to depressurize. No, mine takes 30. Aside from that, the oats were creamy and a hit.

Random thoughts on the Instant Pot: The strange thing is, I've yet to use any of the individual settings. Not beans, rice, or steam, even though I've done all that in the pot. Only pressure cook. That's fine, but it has me thinking, are all the other settings a gimmick?

I am going to try yogurt next week, so, we'll see.

Maybe I just need Instant Pot lessons. Give me all your good tips and recipes.

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

$200 a week and all's well. Week 2

It took me a week to get over feeling bad for myself. But turns out $200 a week is more than doable. That doesn't mean I haven't had to make sacrifices. Namely, my high-end coffee habit. Trust me, it still smarts. The Kirkland brand swill I drank this morning was barely palatable and may be a point of contention. We'll see if the Kirkland coffee lasts.

I worried I wouldn't be able to experiment and try new things. Turns out, as long as I plan in advance and stick to my pay-no-more-than-$3-a-pound-meat price-point, it's fine. I'm making three new things this week.

I've also learned that I don't love sticking to a strict, weekly menu. To be honest, I already knew this, which is why the idea of going on a grocery budget scared me the most. I just gotta be able to make whatever I want, when I want. So, I buy a multitude of things that I can make a multitude of dishes from. Variety really is my spice of life.

My three new recipes for this week:

This chicken and pepper stew I saw on the Today show when I had to tune in to see about Matt Lauer getting the boot.

This Smitten Kitchen recipe featuring all my favorite flavors. Including feta, tahini, and herbs. In all fairness I did have a jar of tahini just waiting for when the time was right, so I didn't have to buy it this go round.

And,

Coconut Mango Sticky Rice for my Baby's school cooking contest. Glutinous rice was a fun one to search for. Never did find the pandan leaf. Also, it was cooked in the Instant Pot!

So, this has given me a sense of relief that all is not lost culinarily speaking. But, this week I also didn't have to buy dog food, toiletries of any sort, toilet paper, or anything like that. I should have bought plastic baggies, but forgot. That might have to happen later this week.

What did I buy at Costco?
A four-pack of ground turkey, 2 gallons milk, cottage cheese, Tillamook cheddar cheese, frozen cauliflower packets (I have a hard time buying fresh when I'm not sure I'll eat it before it goes bad. Frozen veggies just work better for me), 2 loaves bread, Costco roast chicken, a giant tub of cinnamon (impulse buy but it was CHEAP).

What did I buy at Smith's?
More veggies than you can image. Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, 4 lemons, garlic, green bell peppers, poblano peppers, tomatillos, parsley, celery, carrots, mango, banana, feta, steel cut oats, dried apricots, glutinous rice, coconut milk, 8 boxes of cereal on sale (the girls only get to eat cold cereal on the weekends, but again, CHEAP), brown lentils, elf candy for the advent calendar, 5 bottles soda for The Mister's soda addiction, peppermint tea, Irish Cream syrup to try and make the Kirkland coffee better, sesame seeds, dried corriander

Total Cost: $146. Which leaves me a sweet $54 left if anything should come up. My family goes through a lot of milk. A milk run may be in the cards.

What's in my pantry?
Pasta, bottled tomatoes, taco seasoning packets, spices galore, chicken carcass in the freezer for making stock, salsa, sour cream, flour, sugar, frozen pie crust, beans, lentils, rice, peanut butter, raisins, frozen chicken thighs, frozen taco meat from last week, 1 frozen whole chicken from last week, various baking supplies including chocolate chips

Sunday dinner: Costco roast chicken, my variation of Smitten Kitchen's lentil salad (which rocked my world), cottage cheese, and coconut mango sticky rice for dessert.

Monday dinner: Repeat of the above. I love left-over night.

Tuesday dinner: WHO KNOWS!?! I can go for Padma's stew or just throw caution to the wind and be wild and crazy. I'll keep you updated.

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