Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Bare Essentials Challenge: Weekly Recap

Well, another week has gone by and more things are being used up around here, sometimes in a creative fashions.  So, let's get to it shall we?

1.  First up was actually fried chicken night last weekend.  I really wanted pasta salad with dinner and went online to find a nice recipe to use.  Unfortunately, all the recipes I found called for either cured meats like salami (didn't have it), or bottled salad dressing (didn't have that either).  So, I finally got fed up and made my own with a home made vinaigrette (I'll share the recipe for the pasta salad in the next couple of days as it really is good), some more of the Monterey Jack cheese that was super sharp and since I didn't have high quality Italian olives to use I used a good old fashioned pantry staple...

Yay for good old black olives coming in to save the day!  I only used 1/2 of a can of olives and then used some of the leftovers as a side for the kiddos to snack on and then included the last about 1/4 in my son's lunch the next day.  Worked like a charm.

2.  Steak night!
Next up was steak night around here.  I dug out a package of 3 thin cut steaks that normally I wouldn't use for anything other than say a stir fry type dish (or casserole), but I really wanted just plain good old fashioned steak.  So, I took the thin cut steaks, grissel and all and took a cue from Alton Brown.  On one episode of good eats he made chicken fried steak and took this thing that had like 46 blades to tenderize the meat before breading.  Well I don't have any device with like 46 blades in it, so I took a pairing knife and went to town on the steaks. 

It KIND of worked.  They were still chewy, but definitely more edible than if I hadn't done the process.

3.  Then there was chili night.  This came about because my husband didn't want the usual stuff for lunch last weekend, so I ended up having to make him burgers, but I had about 1/2 lb of hamburger left over after I made his two burgers.  So, I decided chili was the best way forward with the leftover beef.  I took a thing of frozen turkey out of the freezer for the rest of the meat, grabbed a can of kidney beans, one of white kidney beans, a can of black beans, a couple cans of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce (because I guess I'm out of crushed tomatoes in the smaller cans) and figured I'd get to work making chili.

I used my recipe for Super Easy Chili for any interested here.

I swore that I had chili powder, but for the life of me, even after tearing apart my spice cabinet, I couldn't find it.  So, I ended up having to make some.  For those interested chili powder is pretty simple to make.

Chili Powder:
  • 1 part paprika
  • 2 parts ground cumin
  • 1 part Chile powder (ground up dried chilies.  You can find it in the Mexican food section for cheap)
  • 1 part dried oregano
  • 1 part onion powder
  • 1 part garlic powder
Somehow I managed to burn the onion I'd rehydrated and burned some of the garlic I had cut up (I'm still using up garlic from the garden, how cool is that?), so I doubled the spices hoping to cover up any weird tastes and it worked!
For a side, instead of corn bread, I decided I really needed to use up some crescent roll things I'd gotten really cheap on reduced at the store that were currently a month past their "used by" date sitting in my crisper drawer in my fridge (I know...good place to put those).  Knowing they needed to be used, I made both containers and we used them throughout the week as a side dish (mainly for my butter on bread loving daughter).

4.  Instead of using the Uncle Ben's mix on fish night my husband requested just plain "chicken rice" (chicken bouillon added into the rice cooking water), so I'll get another chance to use those creatively.

5.  My son had a can of Pringles that we opened to find that they were not colored at the factory correctly.  They tasted okay, but my son wouldn't touch them because they didn't look right.  Since they were too old to return (they'd been in the pantry for a while before I opened them) I decided I'd just crush them up and put them aside as "seasoned bread crumbs" for fish or chicken.

6.  Instead of mashed potatoes on pork steak night, my daughter had leftover crescent roll up things and my husband and I had left over pasta salad.  No waste this way and it saved me some mashed potato mix.

7.  Breaded Shrimp Night
I finally started taking inventory of my fridge freezer and figuring out what needed to be used up quickest.  I made chicken soup that I traded off with leftover chili for my lunches this last week out of about three chicken carcasses I'd stuffed into the freezer, combined with some leftover turkey meat that I'd had from a turkey breast I'd made quite a while ago.  While I was digging in the freezer I found a bag of breaded shrimp of some unknown origin or date, let alone any cooking instructions, so I ended up winging it for breaded shrimp night tonight.

It worked out well, overall.  I ran into about three pieces of shrimp that tasted like ice maker, but otherwise the shrimp came out tasting okay.

So, there you are folks.  Some of my frugal adventures for the week.  So far, things are holding up okay in the freezers and pantry, although I'm seeing dents developing, so we'll see how it all works out here.


  1. I'm curious as to your vinaigrette! When I do pasta salad, it's usually mayo, and whatever mustards are in the fridge. I think I learned that from Betty Crocker years ago, and now it's all I do lol

    1. See, that's what I know as "macaroni salad". It was always made with elbow macaroni and would have that same type of dressing on it. I got exposed to what I think of as pasta salad when I was dating an Italian in college and I realized that while they are different they are both equally yummy :). I'll be sure to share the recipe as if you don't want to try the vinaigrette on pasta it's still really good as a salad dressing either way!

  2. Erika,
    I have a meat tenderizing mallet that was from an old woman who was old when I was first married, so it's super old. I don't know if they even exist to buy anymore. Anyway, it's kind of like a mallet or hammer, with a surface covered with points on two ends. It's made of metal, and I've actually used it a lot over the years. I don't know if you could get one at a thrift store anymore, but it can tenderize meat, or the flat side can be used to crush graham crackers inside of a bag, or candy canes, flatten chicken, break walnuts or even ice. (I put all of the things I want to crush inside of a zip-top bag so it doesn't make such a mess.) Anyway, you like to go to the thrift shop, so if you ever had an interest, maybe you could find one. I know a food processor can do a lot of those things, but sometimes I don't want to get it out for a small job.

    1. I'll have to take a picture of my meat tenderizer. It's like a huge flat disk with a handle. No puncture thingies on mine, but it does flatten meat (and other things) well. I USED to have an old fashioned meat tenderizer, but I'm not sure what happened to it. It disappeared in our move...I'm thinking it's still in storage somewhere. I hate to buy a new one when I know I have one around here somewhere (I know I see them at the used stores from time to time at least).

      My mom told me the next time I wanted to make cheap steak and have it be tender to go nuts on it with a cast iron skillet. I'll let you know how that goes *laugh*.

  3. I use Aldi olives in my pasta salad. Good olives would be eaten by my dh. I put green peppers, grape tomatoes, diced carrots and garbanzo beans in my pasta salad too. Cheryl

    1. Garbanzo beans? That one intrigues me as I've never seen pasta salad with beans in it before, but have seen beans with oil and vinegar types of applications in antipasto platters and things. Huh. I'll have to think of doing that at some point (I think I have like one can of garbanzo beans around here *laugh*).

  4. Wow, your dinners are looking pretty awesome this week. Sounds like everyone was happy to eat them too...always a bonus. The pasta salad sounds really good. Looking forward to your vinaigrette dressing recipe!

    I've made crescent rolls past their "best by" date before too and not had a problems. I like to use them to make ham and cheese roll ups or piggies in a blanket with sausages and yummy! If you happen to find some more crescent rolls on sale, making piggies in a blanket might be a good way to use up those hot dogs your husband wasn't a huge fan of.

  5. Way to go, Erika!
    That looks like a terrific set of meals this week!

    I, too, have tenderizer mallet that belonged to my grandmother - it's wooden and has an head on each end: one that's round like a hammer only bigger and one that's square with a bunch of points cut into it. I use it more for smashing nuts, crackers, etc than I do meat though. :) Good luck in finding yours!

    Keep up the good work!

  6. Yum! All your meals sound tasty. I'm in the process of cooking through the stuff in my above fridge freezer (something fell on my head again today -- it was the last straw) and am curious to see what treasures I find. I think I will make pasta salad for tonight as we watch the Super Bowl. Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Sounds delicious. Look like a positive of this challenge is using things up -- like the shrimp -- that you might not have otherwise come across in the freezer until they were totally freezer burned and inedible.

    We always make our own marinade for the pasta salad -- olive oil/vinegar/seasonings. I usually just wing it but lately I've been making The Prudent Homemaker's recipe, which is all with pantry ingredients. Pasta salad is so forgiving -- for a mix-in you can add anything from peas (frozen or canned), to nearly any kind of bean, to any random veggies. The cheese addition sounds delicious.

    That's great your son likes olives; they are supposed to be super nutritious!

  8. Looks like u did a great job with groceries u had. One thing u might do about the pringles is to send an email to the company and tell them about the problem with the chips. It will advise them of descrepencies in their product and u might b the recipient of some coupons for the problems u encountered. I would for sure let them know so they could deal with the product inconsistencies. Have a great week!