Saturday, February 13, 2016

Bare Essentials Challenge: Weekly Recap

I have to say that this week went well on the using things up and being creative front and being pretty cost effective all the way around for things.

1.  Eggs Benedict Night

I want to start out with this one because really it's the prettiest picture of all of them *laugh* (seen above).  I made hollandaise sauce from scratch for the first time ever using Alton Brown's Good Eats recipe.  It worked well.  I did deviate from his recipe though in that I didn't use unsalted butter (didn't have any) and I used half butter and half margarine (to preserve my butter and also to cut costs).  The hollandaise wasn't as scary to make as I always thought it would be and turned out well.

This was also my first real attempt to make poached eggs.  All times in the past when I'd make eggs benedict I used a powdered mix for the hollandaise and then used fried eggs with still creamy yolks instead of poached eggs.  This time I did it right.  I was happy that I found my four extra eggs, that I knew I had, but they had gotten pushed to the back of the fridge, so I was able to use those up before they went bad.

I did serve the dish over toast instead of English muffins (didn't have any).  And we ate it with ham vs. Canadian bacon as we had the sliced ham in the freezer.

2.  Chicken and Rice Casserole Night

This dish was actually cited in my original notes to be a chicken and rice soup.  I used one of the free Uncle Ben's mixes in it to see if it would work well to thicken the soup into a stew.  I put it in with the chicken and veggies and then added four cups of water and cooked for four hours on high.  I had to do some last minute seasoning, believe it or not it needed salt and pepper, but overall it turned out pretty well and thickened up to the point I called it a casserole.  I ate the leftovers all week for lunch.

3.  Yankee Style Pot Roast Night

This was actually a freezer burned seven bone roast that I kept saving because beef was so expensive and I didn't realize it'd gotten freezer burned until I took some chicken out of the freezer and saw it.  So, I decided with all the lines of grisel and stuff in it that making it into a yankee style pot roast was the best way forward.

To make a yankee style pot roast is actually pretty simple.  Take your tough piece of meat and spread horse radish over it (see picture) and then slice up an onion and put that over the top as well (if you have one fresh.  I used dehydrated since I'd used the rest of my fresh onion in the chicken and rice casserole).  Place veggies of choice around said pot roast (I put canned potatoes and fresh carrots all around it as well as a rutabaga diced up into bite sized pieces).  Season roast and veggies (I like to use grill seasoning or something with a bit of flavor to help season the veggies well) and then pour 1/4 cup of water around the roast.  Cover with aluminum foil and cook at about 350 degrees for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the pot roast starts to fall apart when you manipulate it.

This pot roast, due to the freezer burn, just didn't want to get to the point it would fall apart.  I got it to the point it would fall off the bone and that was about it.  It was chewy, but with a bit of extra horse radish on top it was actually pretty tasty.

4.  The Korean style pork chops were pretty good!  I marinated my pork chops in the marinade for 20 minutes (next time I'm doing it for a few hours) and then I just baked the pork chops in the marinade instead of grilling them (I didn't want them too hot for the sake of my daughter).  I've had sriracha sauce for a long time as I got it for a certain recipe and it's been sitting around ever since, so it was nice being able to use some of it up.

5.  The Souvlaki chicken night got put on hold until probably tomorrow night as my husband and I ended up going over and helping my in-laws with computer problems.  My mother-in-law gifted us with the above bread and my husband and I both decided we wanted to eat sandwiches for dinner that night (Europa bakery makes awesome bread).  I had a ham sandwich and my husband had the one piece of leftover pork we had in the fridge.

6.  My husband didn't feel like pancakes for dinner tonight nor pizza so we ended up having some chicken fried steaks we had in the freezer (they were prepackaged ones we'd gotten at our local bulk store...I think they are the same ones available at Costco).  I made five steaks so we can have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

7.  Dessert for the week.

My husband requested something different for dessert this week as jello just wasn't exciting, so I grabbed a graham cracker crust out of the pantry, along with some dehydrated bananas, some banana pudding and some dream whip and I made a banana pudding (kind of since I didn't use the traditional Nilla wafers in it).

I re-hydrated the bananas with some boiling water and then placed them in the bottom of the pie crust.  I then made up the pudding to pie directions (you use less liquid.  I used the boxed milk that was left in the fridge from last week) and poured that on top of the bananas.  Then I mixed up the dream whip (once again with the boxed milk) and spread it on top of the pie.

It came out tasting alright, although I have to say that for really expensive banana chips the dehydrated bananas were really tasteless and I was kind of disappointed in the results.  The bananas kind of came out tasting like cardboard in the pie, but the texture was alright.  The pudding and Dream Whip came out great, though.

I think the next time I'm using the dehydrated bananas I'm going to add some banana essence to them beforehand.  It might make them taste more like bananas (sad, but true).
8.  And my last accomplishment for the week wasn't really food related, but it still has to do with using what we have, so I'm going to count it here.

My son's skin has been getting worse and worse the last little bit.  I was trying to use up what was left of the home made laundry detergent I had before I made more but when I saw how much Fels Naptha was in the powder (probably because it was at the bottom of said container) I wondered if some of his skin problems was due to that.
And then I checked the ingredients on Fells Naptha and was kind of surprised by all of the acidic ingredients in the soap.  I really started to think that the soap was what was causing his skin issues.  I had a big bar of Zote (it's like 3 bars of soap in one) that I'd bought when I first made laundry soap about a year and a half ago and checked the ingredient list on it.  Yeah, Zote?  It's soap, plain and simple.  Fatty soap, but soap.  With fragrance and some small amounts of blue dye (whitening agent) to counteract any dinginess from the soap on the clothing.  I decided that was the best step forward when it came to making new laundry soap this time around.

But, I was definitely short on ingredients yet as I hadn't been able to squeeze some more ingredients into my laundry budget.  Then it hit me.  I only wanted to make a 1/2 batch of laundry soap to try this out, so WHY was I worrying about getting washing soda when I had a 4 lb box of baking soda staring at me and I had a nearly full thing of Oxi-Clean as well as 1/2 a box of Borax down in my laundry room.

So, I got to work making 1/2 of my box of baking soda into washing soda (thank you to the reader who reminded me about doing that!).  I baked it at 400 degrees for 1 hour and voila.  Washing soda.  Got the Zote grated and added in (I put it all in, even though one bar probably would have been used in a bigger recipe, but honestly I like the idea of a higher soap to washing booster ratio anyway) and got everything mixed in a garbage bag and poured into my laundry soap jar downstairs (I emptied out the last of the old stuff into a container).  I got about 3/4 of a jar of laundry soap now and we'll see if the Zote does better for my son's skin than the Fells Naptha did.

And hey, my shopping goals for the month are pretty much met.  Woot!

So there you are folks.  My week in review.  Things are doing okay so far, I'd say!


  1. You are amazing. The pictures look good. Cheryl

  2. I'm glad to hear the verdict on the pork chops. Sam's has been having pork chops really cheap, but my husband isn't a huge fan to begin with, and I've been kind of out of ideas for how to make them so hadn't bought anymore. Are you guys not cookie fans? I find cookies to be the easiest dessert to make. I read a post once about Snickerdoodles being the least expensive cookie to make, but that probably depends on your supply.

    1. When it comes to cookies, my daughter only likes chocolate chip cookies right now (unless store bought, of course *sigh*) and my husband and I will eat some sweets, but really don't eat much at one sitting before we're done with them for a while. The main reason we do Jello is because my daughter LOVES it and I can make some up and my daughter will eat most of it.

      I've really got to explore cookies more, though. If I can figure out a way to make knock off Oreos that taste good my son would be all over it. Maybe this week.

  3. The Eggs Benedict looks so delicious, Erika! I'm thinking I might just have to try making it sometime. We have sliced ham in the freezer I can use, as I'm not a huge fan of "Canadian Bacon" anyways. By the way, Canadians call it peameal bacon, just in case you wanted to know. I've never made hollandaise sauce before, but I'm glad to hear it isn't difficult to make. Thanks again for sharing your cooking experiences with us!!!

    1. Hallandaise is like egg nog. The secret is to whisk your egg yolks with like a tsp. of water in a bowl until the egg yolks lighten significantly in color (like two to three minutes of good whisking). This helps to kick start the emulsion process and will help to stop the sauce from separating when you put the heat to it :).

  4. Those meals looked great!! Not used my free uncle bens rice yet. The free candy bars kroger has been doing im saving for easter egg stuffers.

    If your family starts getting tired of jello, have you ever made 123 jello before? Its so pretty! Ive done it with green and orange though its been a while.

    1. I remember when I was a kid my dad got me a child's microwave cookbook (ah the hey days of microwave cooking) and I found a recipe for layered jello parfaits. I think my family got tired of me making champagne flutes with various layers of jello in them every weekend, but I loved them.

      I really do need to do that project with my daughter, though. Thanks for the suggestion. We might have to pull out the few wine goblets we have and get fancy this week *laugh*.

    2. You can do it in cups, but I also did a double batch in an 8x8 pyrex, and cut out big squares. Was lazy, lol. Less dishes!

  5. Garbage bag! AHA!!! I dread making laundry soap because of inhaling it as I mix in a bucket, (I even wear a bandana over my face.) Never thought to mix up in a garbage bag. THANKS SO MUCH!!! I do store mine in those Tupperware cereal saver containers that I got from goodwill. Seem like there are always some there, but then I can just pour a couple tablespoons in.

    1. Yeah, my sinuses bugged me yesterday just from adding the washing powder I made from the cookie sheet to said garbage bag. I double bag the garbage bag JUST to be safe in case I should hit something and then tie it off and mix it through the bag with my hands and flip it a couple of times. Voila! No fuss, no muss and a LOT less dust that way. Then I just open the garbage bag in a big bowl and scoop it into my laundry soap holder and pour the last little bit in carefully. It works well and then you can reuse the garbage bag *laugh*.

  6. Your meals look wonderful! A lot more exciting than usual meals, to me anyway! I'm a pretty simple cook much of the time. Good job using things up.

  7. Have you tried making diy laundry soap without Borax? Borax can be harsh on skin. Check out this link for more info:

    1. I've tried it and it just didn't get my husband's laundry clean enough (he works in construction and gets REALLY dirty). I do cut down the amount of Borax that recipes require to make things less harsh and have found that cutting down the Oxi-Clean is a good idea too as that's another item that can really start to irritate skin in large quantities.

      So far the new home made laundry detergent is working well for the rest of the family's laundry and I'm just doing my son's separately with the Seventh Generation. So far, so good :).