Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving leftovers #2- Turkey Pasta Salad

Here's another easy fix using things you can keep around the kitchen. Tonight I wanted a quick and easy meal (preferably using some of my leftover turkey, so I decided to experiment. I tend to keep a box or two of "Suddenly Salad" mix in the cabinet for a quick side-dish for a dinner, but I decided to make it the main course.

Make the Suddenly Salad (or your favorite pasta side mix) according to the directions on the box, but add in shredded or chunked turkey. I mixed my turkey in with the boiling pasta (to make sure it was as warm as the rest), but you can add chilled (not frozen...yuck...) chunks if you want to serve it as a cold dish. This was a big hit tonight, and I think I may keep this as a dinner stand-by!

Turkey Leftovers #1- Turkey Quesadillas

Quesadillas are a big favorite in my house. I always keep a stash of tortillas in the fridge for these (or for wraps). Tortillas are inexpensive and keep well, so they're a good budget buy.

This meal makes a good "crappy work day dinner" (for those days when you come home and really don't feel like cooking!), a Saturday lunch, or a game-day snack (easy to whip together between church and football).

We make ours on a Panini Grill (very similar to a George Foreman grill). Note: I tried making these with tortillas that were larger than the grill, and I made a mess of the counters. I think the small ones work better for this, but if you happen to have a quesadilla maker at home, the large ones will work.

Pretty fail-proof recipe:

Lay a tortilla on the counter/plate. If desired, spread a spoonful or two of your favorite BBQ sauce (a favorite of my husband!), but keep a small margin from the edge clear so you won't wind up with a mess. Lay out some shreds/pieces of turkey and top with shredded cheese. If you're feeling up for some veggies, sprinkle in some corn (if using frozen, thaw first) or a spoon or two of salsa. Top with another tortilla.

Place "tortilla sandwich" in Panini grill or George Foreman, and cook until cheese is melty. There's not an exact science to it...but quesadillas are best when the cheese is gooey. You can eat whole, or cut into wedges. Have a little salsa on the side for dipping, if desired.

This recipe also works well with chicken, pulled pork, or shredded beef, or you can make it with plain cheese!

How are you thrifty?: Using leftovers! I keep all of these ingredients around my kitchen at all times, so it's easy to whip together with whatever leftover meat I have from a previous meal

Thanksgiving leftovers ideas

If you're like me, you have leftover turkey in abundance! I'm hoping that I can give you some creative ideas for putting the leftover turkey to use...without making you sick of turkey by weeks-end.

First of all, if you haven't already done so, break your leftover turkey into SMALL tupperware/plastic containers. If you don't want to spend money on plastic tubs, save the plastic butter tubs or Cool Whip containers! Having the turkey split into small containers saves the hassle of trying to defrost a giant container of turkey when all you need is a few pieces (I learned this the hard way last year), and you can just thaw as you need.

The same idea works with other larger meat portion (pulled pork, chicken, etc), and you can take some of your family favorites and mix in leftovers...cleverly disguised as a whole new dish!

I'll be posting my favorites, my experiments, and new recipe tests as I begin working through my own leftovers. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tasty Sage and Rosemary Pork Chops

I can't always get my husband (I love you, sweetie!) to cook. It's not that he doesn't enjoy cooking...but the process of "chopping" quickly frustrates him. If I want his help with cooking, it's in my best interest not to ask him to spend 20 minutes dicing vegetables. He had suggested cooking pork chops for the company that I had last night, and this was a quick and easy recipe. I had most these spices in my cabinet already, and the results were very tasty!

Note: This recipe is courtesy of

Sage and Rosemary Pork Chops

2 boneless pork loin chops (3/4 inch thick)
2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic-pepper blend
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Heat closed contact grill 5 minutes. Brush both sides of pork chops with oil; sprinkle with sage, garlic-pepper blend, rosemary and salt.
2. Place pork chops on bottom grill surface. Close grill; cook 5 to 7 minutes or until pork is no longer pink and meat thermometer inserted in center reads 160°F.

Our variations:
1. I didn't have a "garlic-pepper blend", so we used a little bit of garlic powder and ground pepper instead.
2. Since we had company, it was just as easy to put these in the oven on a broiler pan. Set the broiler to "high", and cook for just as long.

Cook up a package of boxed rice, some frozen veggies, and maybe a couple of Pillsbury frozen biscuits (we had the Cheddar Cheese ones, and they taste a lot like the ones they serve at Red Lobster!), and you have a really awesome meal!

How did I save money?
I almost never buy meat at full price. Look in your meat section for things that are on "Manager Special". It's not that the meat is "no good", but that it is too close to the sell-by date for them to keep on the shelf much longer. I buy the really big multi-packs, even though it's just the two of us. As soon as I get home from the grocery, I take quart or sandwich bags, put two chops (or a "family portion") in each bag, and use a permanent marker to label the outside of the bag with the number of chops and the date they were purchased. If you want to pre-marinate things, go ahead and put a little marinade in the bags before you put them in the freezer.

On a personal note, I love the Pillsbury website! I signed up for their mailing list, and I get recipe ideas, contest notifications, and coupons for Pillsbury products! Their website is really easy to navigate, and they have a lot of "Cooking for Two" recipes. I pulled off several of their recipes to try this month, so I'll post the ones I've tried once the cooking is complete!

Happy cooking!

Starting from Scratch

I honestly never thought that the recession would affect my household. Nothing like a job loss to put things solidly into perspective. Recently, I've been considering how grateful I am for my parents and the guidance they gave as they raised me. They worked hard to teach me how to manage money, balancing a checkbook...and how to cook from scratch.

Honestly, how many out there are like me, and in their mid-20's, and know how to make a casserole? I remember being in college, and being the big hit at campus gatherings because the food that I brought wasn't still encased in a grocery store labeled package. So many of the people I know spend far too much money eating out, and wouldn't know what to do with a Crock Pot. A cookbook can be intimidating. Staring down 20 aisles of groceries can give you a sinking feeling.

I'm hoping I can use this blog to help others, like myself, who are finding themselves in situations where the budget has to be cut, but we don't want out the recession on Ramen noodles and microwave burritos. This is for the young cooks, experienced cooks, novice cooks, and the wise and clueless alike. I'll share my recipes, my techniques, and my strategies for saving money. Likewise, I encourage you to share. I am by no means an "expert" or a "specialist"! I want to hear your ideas and strategies, your ideas for home-cooking survival when the budget is tight.

Here's to many nights of good cooking and sinks full of dirty dishes!