Friday, March 25, 2016

Easy soup for when you want it.

I personally am not a soup lover. It's my opinion that I can just eat some vegetables and drink water and be just as full as if I had eaten soup. I'm not a vegetarian, nor am I a low carb eater. That alone says that what I really mean is that it's not filling to me at all. However, in my household I'm more than just the minority. I'm the only one who feels that way.

I love history and I've always imagined that soup was originally used for two purposes. 1. To stretch a meal. 2. To use leftovers. I have to admit that I laugh at all the recipes of quick and easy soups that involve cans of this and cans of that. Seriously? That's not homemade soup. If you're going that far, just buy some Campbell's and be done with it. It's still soup in a can!

Going out to buy vegetables for just soup is, also in my opinion, a waste of money. Well, unless you're on a super low budget and you're trying to achieve #1 above. That's understandable. However, if you're making a big pot of hearty soup, then that's a waste.

I hear families that say their children hate leftovers. I've never had that problem. My kids (now adults) have always loved my cooking and they were more than happy to eat leftovers. However, there were always just a small portion left that really wasn't enough for a suitable side dish. It then became apparent to me that there were a number of ways I could stop wasting and put that tiny amount to good use.

Enter the vegetable soup bag. I have a gallon sized freezer bag in the door of my freezer. Whenever there is a tiny portion left that isn't enough for a meal, I scrape it into the bag. Maybe it's a slice or two of onion after a salad, maybe it's some cabbage or perhaps even just a wee bit of leftover chopped chicken for enchiladas or even a spoonful or two of spaghetti sauce. It really doesn't matter! So long as it's a vegetable, meat or a pasta, it gets thrown into the bag. Corn, broccoli, even cheese (no, not a meat or vegetable or pasta, but it is always a great addition to soup)! It just gets plopped in that bag. Once it's full, then I put it in a pot, pour some broth (any kind you have on hand) over it just enough to cover, heat well and tada! Homemade soup without any fuss.

The only thing you really can't use is probably bread, but pasta (despite what many say) freezes rather well. Even some leftover mac and cheese goes well in there. Cheese added to a soup is just as delicious. I've never tried using mashed potatoes, but any leftover potatoes that need to be used I slice up and throw it in the bag. Same with carrots.

How many times do you have to buy a full bag of carrots when you really only need two? What do you do with the rest of them? Well, naturally you can serve them as a side and use some in salads, but invariably you're still going to end up not using a few. Those get chopped up and put into my bag. The same goes with a number of vegetables.

The possibilities are endless. One Super Bowl weekend I made some meatballs. I had maybe 3 left. Those got sliced up and throw in.

My son was sick the other day (yes, both my kids have moved back home, um, yeah) with a lot of vomiting. I just went into the kitchen, plopped a chicken leg quarter into a 2-qt pot, poured water over it and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, then I dumped in enough veggies to to fill it up a bit and a few minutes later, homemade soup. He was thrilled!

I buy a ton of leg quarters because they're always on sale here. I've learned to make my own broth using them and I either de-bone it to use for things such as enchiladas or even white chicken chili, or in the case of soup, I just leave it whole and let the kids pull the meat out themselves.

So! That's today's cheap and frugal food tip.

What do you do to save money on your food bills and how do you waste not want not?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Southern American traditional Easter dinner.

Every year Easter rolls around and magazines and websites are full of weird ideas for Easter. Southern Living had some really strange ones that aren't traditional at all. With all the food blogs and chefs on TV 24 hours a day 7 days a week, everyone is rushing for something unique. Unique is good for those who prefer it, but I'd say 75% of America doesn't.

Just like other countries, America has its own traditional Easter menu. I'm not talking upper middle class menus that serve expensive lamb and the like. I'm talking your typical middle class hard working family who lives paycheck to paycheck. If you want to try something American, then this is it.

Most American feasts are actually family or church potlucks. Everyone brings a dish and we feast. You bring enough of one dish that would feed the same number of your immediate family. This saves costs. Easter is a happy time and outside of our Savior, children are usually the center of htings when it comes to the day.

This list is what you'd usually find at an Easter potluck. It doesn't mean it's exact. It's just what you'll commonly find. The reason is that we normally go with what is cheaper at the time, meaning more plentiful. Spring vegetables are the ones plentiful and those are taken advantage of.

A whole ham. If your family is big or it's for church, a number of whole hams. It's cooking method is up to whomever makes it but traditionally, it's a simple roast. Why ham I'm really not sure. My personal theory is related to piglets. Piglets are usually born in the very early spring, so adults are ready to be used as meat. Yes, it's sad. If I had to raise my own animals for meat, I'd be a vegetarian, but I digress. The point is that I'm pretty sure in the old days it's because ham was plentiful.

Deviled eggs. We don't eat the ones we boil, dye and hide. It sits out too long and in the south, it gets rather warm so it's not all that appetizing. Eggs aren't any more plentiful than any other time of year, except that hens don't lay as often during winter. Perhaps that's how our egg tradition began. They started laying more heavily again in Spring.

The rest are also plentiful in Spring too.

Lemonade is often served as a drink for the kids and sweet tea with lemon for the adults. Traditional potato salad is very common as are strawberry shortcakes. All kinds of salads. In the south our growing season lasts longer than others and we have mild winters. Salad greens or any greens grow well just before Easter. We also have a lot of fruit salads and even vegetable salads too.

Dinner rolls are absolutely required. We don't necessarily eat cornbread, though we do eat a lot of it nearly all the time, but Easter is the one time I rarely (if ever) see it.

Small finger sandwiches are popular, but we're not talking turkey, chicken or anything. It will be things such as pineapples (yes, we had them year after year at church and home, they are to die for) or tuna.

Jello or jello salad like things is the final touch there. Most of the southern Easter dinner is served cold. We get warm around Easter so as you may have noticed, these are all cold foods. Now it's not unusual to see casseroles and such as well that are served warm, but the standard menu is usually cold foods.

How about your region? What do you do differently?

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Bates Motel: Top of the line television suspense (spoilers).

Before we get to it, let me first say that if you've never seen the series and if you are not caught up to last night's episode and for far future readers, that would be season four, episode one titled "A Danger to Himself and Others".

If you haven't seen it yet, stop what you're doing right now and go watch it. It's an excellent series and if you like any suspense at all, you'll like this. 

If on the other hand you are all caught up and are ready to chat about it, then read on.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Chrome Tech Tip: Editing the user dictionary in Chrome.

A couple of months ago I bought a new computer and despite my telling Chrome to sync information, it didn't sync my spelling. That is, all the words I had added to Chrome for eons disappeared into thin air when my computer died because of a Windows update. Don't even get me started on that!

Anyway, I noticed words that should have been in the dictionary because they're simple and often used, aren't. I decided to take a look and add names, words etc., that I know I'll use a lot.

I wasn't sure if Chrome had its own dictionary or used the default Windows dictionary. Personally, I wish I had only one dictionary because then this means that I have to save everything twice! UGH.

I Googled it to see if Chrome used its own and found that the answer was yes. I was too lazy to flip through the settings. I noticed that there were comments complaining about the instructions and I felt it was rather unfair because though it wasn't worded exact, everything he said was correct. It's the final link he worded wrong but that should have been easy to follow. I think they were expecting a button so I wrote out the instructions. Here's a link to what I said:

You'll see that I replied to the complainants and let them know that I wrote instructions in another comment on the page. That said, I wanted to provide some visuals for you. Please go to the link to read the instructions (and please like my comment if it helps). If it disappears (like the author removed the page) then just let me know by replying here and I'll rewrite it.

Below are the steps visually. When some of the things have been blackened or whitened out. This is for privacy purposes. Most of my dictionary words are names and I prefer to keep those private. This is why you'll see either blank spots or pixelated words. They're just for examples, but you should get the idea.

Click settings.

Scroll down.

Click on advanced settings.

Click on language and input settings.

Click on edit custom dictionary.

The pixelated things you see here are words.

To remove a word, click to select it and click the X.

To add a new word scroll all the way to the bottom, type the word (case matters) and hit enter.

That's all there is to it! Enjoy!