Monday, February 24, 2014

2014 Pantry Challenge Update

I just wanted to give y'all an update on my pantry challenge. It is is going relatively well, although I have found  myself  somewhat frustrated at times. I think it would go better if my kitchen remodel were finished and I had full use of all my appliances.

 I completely overestimated my savings goals. I didn't meet my goal to reduce my food budget by 25% in January but I did reduce it by 12%. So considering I only gave myself 18 days to meet the goal, I feel okay with my not quite a win. No way will February meet the 40% reduction; however, I have already reduced spending to a much more realistic goal of 25%.We seem to be on the right path now.

 It has been a little difficult to reduce both the eating out expense and grocery budget when your food prep and cooking options are limited. However, the good AWESOME news is, the eating out expense has dropped by 60%...woot! So I think the slightly higher grocery bill is justified.

I tried the menu planning for 3 weeks, the hubbs wasn't quite a fan. So it has been modified for only dinners. It works for me so I know what to defrost or check the recipe against my pantry. The house refrigerator (and  freezer) have been nearly emptied. The pantry is dwindling and I have made a substantial dent in the chest freezer stock (once we cleaned out all the wasted food items).

I have made some pretty good meals using what's on hand (even getting a little creative when need be)

Crispy French Onion Chicken
And would you believe, I went to take pictures and my batteries were not charged. Not only that, I had forgotten to charge the extra batteries too...OOPS! Fortunately this recipe is a keeper so the next time I make it, I will definitely have pictures to post!

Crock-pot Loaded Potato Soup
Electric Skillet Swiss Steak

Just a note here--the tomato chunks are actually frozen tomato sauce I put up from my 2013 garden.  I defrosted it long enough to cut it into cubes and tossed it in. I added a 1/3 cup of water and let is simmer away. The round steak was fork tender and all the flavors were melded well. Delicious!

Crock-pot BBQ Shredded Pork Loin

I used 5 lbs of pork loin because it is what I had on hand. I trimmed off the majority of the fat, seasoned with a combination of pepper, garlic, onion, a little brown sugar and some red pepper flakes. I browned the roast for a few minutes on each side then placed in the crockpot (fat side down) on top of a bed of sliced red, orange and green bell peppers. I didn't have any onion but I did have onion relish I had canned in the summer. So I drained most of the liquid and poured the onions relish on top of the pork. Add 1/3 c water, cover and cook on low for 10 hrs. Using a slotted spoon, I removed the pork to a bowl, letting it rest for about 20 minutes. I then used  2 forks to shred. I had a yield of 3 lbs meat, which  I portioned into 1 lb packages and froze 2 lbs. The remaining pound was mixed with barbecue sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's) and simmered on low. Yummy!

So how about you? Have you cooked up some good meals or been a budget buster?

**Updated 2/25/14 to add some additional notes, as well as,  correct grammar and typing errors**

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Eggnogged Gingerbread Bread Pudding

It was the first week of January and I was still sugar jonesing coming out of the holiday eating season.  I had a an unopened container of eggnog in the fridge that was soon to go out of date and a partial loaf of gingerbread stashed in the freezer. My brained screamed gingerbread pudding and my taste buds were on high alert.  Yeah, I think I can work with this...

1 & 1/2 cup eggnog

 2 tsp vanilla, 3/4 c. brown sugar, 1 tbs cinnamon
2 cups of cubed gingerbread= 4 slices 

*Not pictured*
2 eggs
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
4 tbs butter (shaved)

If the bread is frozen, it will cube nicely.  Combine eggnog, eggs and vanilla- mix well. Add cubed gingerbread-let soak until most of liquid is absorbed. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Mix all ingredients. The batter should resemble a lumpy cake batter. Pour into a heavily buttered pan. Shave butter on top of batter.

Bake at 325°F 50-60 minutes or until set and butter knife comes out of center clean. Place a small oven safe dish in the bottom of the oven that can hold 2 cups of water. You want the oven to stay consistently humid.

When done, the gingerbread pudding will have a custard/ flan consistency. It baked up beautifully-with a  slightly crisp edge- fragrant with caramelized sugar and brown butter, hints of warm spices from the cinnamon and nutmeg, and the rich creaminess of eggnog. Oh so delicious...mmmm
It was good warm but even better the next morning served cold.

The next time I make this (and there will be a next time), I would like to  increase the textural interest by adding some chopped pecans and dried cranberries and I would like to add a pinch of lemon zest, just to brighten all the flavors. Even unadorned it was so yummy!