Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My DIY Chai Tea Cocoa Latte Recipe

Y'all...I have an obsession. I love, LOVE chai latte's, especially the little pods for my keurig. I may have mentioned this in my last post. But I am not kidding. I can knock back a whole package in one sitting...errr drinking...

The problem? They are hella expensive. And loaded in sugar. Of course that is part of the reason they taste, just so damn good. Siiighhh

So after reading the label I realized, HEY! I have all the ingredients. I CAN MAKE THIS!

I used pumpkin pie spice because it is what I had on hand. It has ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Usually in a 2:1:0.5:0.5 ratio. Some brands use Allspice and Mace as well.

1 cup non fat milk powder (Not pictured)
1 cup non dairy creamer
1/2 cup each of the cinnamon and french vanilla creamer (again--using what I have)
2 cups instant powder
3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger (Not pictured)
1 teaspoon cardamon*
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar (Not pictured)
1 tablespoon unsweetened, non-alkali cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon grated, dried orange peel-grind in a spice grinder 1st if you have one. (Not pictured)
(I am still playing around with thickening agents, so I will keep you posted)

*Cardamon is expensive. But trust me the flavor and aroma is out of this world. It is worth the investment.
**These ingredients and ratios are my preference. You may choose to adjust to your specific taste**

I know you are probably thinking--that is a lot of ingredients and some of them seem weird. I assure you the flavors work well together. Trust me, I am a former chemist. And I actually worked in food chemistry. I realize this isn't a traditional chai. But it is warm, earthy, spicy, sweet and creamy. It is yummy zen in a cup. It is like hugging yourself. Um, no--that is a straightjacket, heh. It feels like being wrapped in a fuzzy blanket on a cold winter day but from the inside out. I love this stuff!

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Transfer to a blender or food processor in 1-2 cup increments and pulse blend for 30-60 seconds. Ummm, don't open it too soon or you will end up a facefull of dust. And it gets everywhere. Not that I did that or anything...

The powder will be a very light cafe ole color and will have a very fine texture.

I stored my instant mix in a mason jar. I don't know why I bothered labelling and dating it because it won't last that long.

I added 2 tablespoons to my cup.

You can use hot water (which I did) or heated milk. Stir and enjoy. I have not tried in my Keurig. I am ok with the kettle for now. Once I perfect my recipe I will need to trial run it with my refillable pod on the Keurig. I also added 1 packet of sugar substitute to my mug because I wanted my drink a little sweeter without adding sugar. This isn't sugar free but is lower sugar, which is good for my diabetes and much lower in sugar than the commercial mix/ pods.

I feel like I have the flavor profile close and creaminess down. The next batch I am going to add Mace, Allspice and increase the Ginger because I like my chai on the spicier side. Plus I want to play with the thickness of the beverage. Commercial mixes us all sorts stabilizers, emulsifiers thixotropic agents. So when you DIY or copy cat it takes few batches to get it just right. Don't get me wrong this is good. Damn good. But (as a former Chemist) I know I can make it better.  And I will, heh

Saturday, January 23, 2016

2016 Food Pantry Challenge_ Week 4

This week's  FPC was a marked improvement over last week's FPC. However this is a pretty accurate representation of how I am feeling about the food pantry challenge, haha

Friday  1/15/16-- left over, whatever you find on your own day. We ended up eating the leftover cheese coney's, salad and a handful of chips. There may have even been a bowl of cereal. It was a long, tough week. 

Saturday 1/16/16--was a simple brinner dinner. Cheese omelette's, toast and bacon. I also drank several cups of chai tea. I am addicted to that stuff! It is kind of expensive habit, so I have a DIY on this (upcoming post).

Sunday 1/17/16--The original dinner plan was for baked chicken, green beans and a butternut soup. The hubbs wasn't feeling it, so I swapped out for cottage ham (more of the left over xmas ham), green beans, and potatoes with a side of cornbread. It was much needed on a cold, blustery day. The hubbs requested the leftovers for his lunch.

Monday 1/18/16--I was off work for MLK day. It was so nice to sleep in. I didn't feel guilty at all that the hubbs had to work. I just rolled right over and pulled the blanket over my head. haha  Tuna casserole was planned but since the hubbs had nixed the baked chicken for Sunday's dinner I made BBQ baked chicken and  Butternut veggie rice with a side of buttery brussel sprouts. I already had the chicken defrosted. The cool thing about the butternut rice is I found a package of fresh  butternut and veggies at the grocery. No extra prep work!

Butternut Vegetable Rice
1 cup of rice soaked for 30 minutes and rinse 2x
add rice to pan 2&1/2 cups of stock (I used vegetable) and 1 teaspoon of butter. Bring to boil and cook for 8 minutes. Add the squash soup blend. I also added 1 cup of misc. mixed vegetables I had leftover  (broccoli, celery, green peppers and diced carrots). Add 2 bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon garlic,  1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.  Reduce heat to medium. Let cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more broth as needed.  The butternut breaks down and combine with the rice starch it basically makes it's own sauce. A sprinkle of fresh ground himalayan sea salt finished it nicely. 

It turned out really well. I took the leftover rice in the day to work and sprinkled it with a little romano cheese. Yummy!

Tuesday 1/19/16--"Taco Tuesday" was replaced with open faced sloppy joes since I had rice for dinner and then again for lunch. I didn't have any buns in the freezer or time to make any, so I used toasted bread slices tossed a little shredded cheese with joes and called it open faced. Whatever works, ha. 

The next day was my work "tailgating" themed luncheon. So I made a monster batch (7 lbs!) of the most delicious, molasses, brown sugared, bbq'd baked beans. Which of course, we ended up having some with the sloppy joes. OMG-were they ever good. I know 7 lbs seems like a lot but there were approximately 150 people to feed.  I had to bake them in 2 batches and combine then when finished. All but about a cupful was eaten, so that was a good indicator that they were yummy.

Wednesday 1/20/16--Kielbasa and kraut was replaced by frozen pizza for the hubbs and a bowl of cereal and fruit for me. I was kinda sick of food after the tailgating party at work. 

Thursday 1/21/16--The sloppy joes from the original plan were moved to Tuesday. We ended up eating sandwiches and  I heated up some vegetable soup I had frozen from a previous batch. I  was glad for a quick fix because I worked over by 2 hrs and planned an early night. The forecast was calling for major snow so I had a 4 am wake up. bleh 

Wins for week 3
I was able to cook nearly everyday but didn't follow the planned menus.  Reduced food waste is great. Zero waste would be better.

I am not sure if this is loss or a win, but I didn't follow the meal plan except for 2 days.The objective is to use what I have on hand--which I did. and we didn't eat out at all this week, so that is a cost savings. 

Losses for week 3
  I can say that food waste is down considerably but we discarded 1 cup of baked beans, 1 &1/2 cups of veggie rice, 4 dinner rolls and 1 yogurt (the seal was punctured). With the exception of the yogurt the other food scraps were put out back by the woods for the critters.  

Oh the budget... Y'all--I am still struggling with this. I spent $71. Way, WAY over my target of $40. I definitely have some impulse buys,  after looking at the receipts, produce and back filling some staples are kind of pricey. For instance, coconut oil is $6, I spent $20 on fresh produce alone, and $14 in the deli. That was my entire budget. I am over budget by $77 for the month. I think a better budget would be $70 since that is the average over 3 weeks but I will see how things shake out next week. 

Meal plan for week 4
Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
01/22/16 01/23/16 01/24/16 01/25/16 01/26/16 01/27/16 01/28/16
Kielbasa Home made Potato soup **Free Day** “Food Hangover” Home made Leftovers
Sauerkraut meatball hoagies Sandwiches It's my Birthday soup cheese pizza Fend for yourself
Mashed potatoes french fries fruit cups Go Shorty salad side salad That box of cereal is calling your name!
dinner rolls

Restaurant better be good! sugar free Lime jello w/
Or eat a poptart, I don't care
applesauce cups

No cooking for me! Mandarin oranges
Just wash your own dishes...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Copycat Baking Quick Mix

Y'all, do you use Bisquick, Pioneer, Jiffy or a store brand quick baking mix? I do.  I actually like the quick mixes because the quick mix offers the busy cook  a time savings for recipe versatility. The caveat is they are kind of pricey, depending on brand and size, with prices ranging anywhere from $3.99-$7.00 a package.  The truth of the matter is, most people already have the ingredients on hand, and can make up their own quick mix.

Ingredient list
10 cups of AP unbleached flour
1 cup of powdered non-fat milk
3/4 cup powdered buttermilk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup double acting aluminum free baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

I combined all ingredients in the bowl of my kitchen aid stand mixer and stirred for 10 minutes using the wire whisk attachment. The contents were transferred to a plastic cereal container (with pour spout), labelled and stored in the fridge.

I  did not add in the shortening. I will cut in what I need (or add oil per the specifics of the recipe) when I pull from the mix. Commercial mixes have a host of preservatives and shelf storage stabilizers.; whereas, mine is limited. I would rather err on the side of caution in terms of potential microbial content

++Note, the volume of liquid, temperatures and times noted are what work in my environment, altitude and oven. Some adjustments/ modifications may be necessary for your use++

Heat oven to 425°F
Combine 2 & 1/2 cups baking mix with 1/2 cup shortening cut in until it resembles course crumbs. Begin adding 2/3 -3/4 cup warm water (or milk). The amount of liquid depends if your house is humid or not. I have found on cool, dry days I need more liquid; on warm, humid days I need less.  Stir until a soft dough ball forms. Dough will be slightly tacky but pliable. On lightly floured surface, knead dough about 6 times and roll to 1/3 to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut using a flour dipped cutter. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

Heat oiled griddle to 350°F
Combine 2 cups baking mix, 1 cup water (or milk)*, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 egg (or equivalent egg substitute), 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Combine all ingredients until incorporated. Batter may be lumpy.  Pour batter as 1/4 -1/3 cup dollops on a hot, oiled griddle,. Let the pancakes cook undisturbed, until the edges are dry and air bubbles form in the batter. Flip and cook until golden brown.

*For thinner pancakes increase the total liquid by 1/2 cup
**Waffles increase eggs to 2, use 3 tablespoons oil instead of butter and 1 & 1/2 cups milk

Apple Butter Streusel Coffee Cake
Heat oven to 350°
Combine 2 cups mix, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 egg, 2/3 cup milk, 2 tablespoons oil or 1/3 cup applesauce, and 1 teaspoon apple pie spice. Blend until well incorporated. Pour into a greased 8 or 9 inch pan. Dollop 2/4 cup apple butter over batter, then gently use a knife to swirl in apple butter. Streusel--In a separate bowl combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon baking mix, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or apple pie spice, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1 teaspoon melted butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over top of batter in pan.  Bake 25-28 minutes (a toothpick inserted will be free of batter), the cake will have puffed and it is golden brown. Mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 2-3 tablespoons of milk, mix until uniform. Transfer icing to a plastic baggie, snip a small edge of the corner and pipe icing drizzle over a slightly warm coffee cake (The icing should hold it's shape when piped, if it doesn't the coffee cake is still too warm)

Honey Butter Cornbread
Heat oven to 350°F
1 & 1/2 cup baking mix, 1 & 1/2  cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup honey, 2 eggs (beaten), 1 & 1/4 cup water (or milk), and 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon melted butter. Combine all ingredients until well blended. Batter may be lumpy. It will definitely be thick and somewhat sticky because of the honey. Pour into a well sprayed 8 or 9 inch pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

There are so many other uses for the baking mix. As a coating/ breading, scones, shortcakes, pierogi dough, a quick pizza crust, sweet or savory quick breads, fritters, and brownies--YES-brownies! You are limited only by your imagination.

What are some of your go to quick mix recipes?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

2016 Food Pantry Challenge_week 3

This week's Pantry challenge was a complete disaster. The food train (along with the budget) went completely off the rails...

Fri 1/8/16-The all american classic! Burger, fries and homemade milkshakes. Much needed because it was a rough week. I like to make the skillet burgers with worcestershire, garlic and onion. It reminds me of a little bar called Quatman's (Norwood, Ohio) that I would sometimes frequent years ago for a quick and cheap lunch. The outside (or the inside for that matter) didn't look like much, but jeez was the food good, quick and cheap. There was always a line out the door. The tables were covered in vinyl checkered tablecloths. The burgers were served piping hot with gooey cheese, pickles, a side of salty potato chips and an ice cold can of soda pop. My burgers aren't as exactly like Quatman's--but close!

Saturday 1/9/16 Was supposed to be soup beans with ham, fried potatoes and corn bread. Except there was an impromptu birthday party for one of my sisters, which involved delicious LaRosa's pizza, kettle chips w/ diablo sauce, a rainbow chip birthday cake and ice cream. So no cooking for me!

Sunday 1/10/16 was deemed leftover day. A friend invited me out, since we had not had a xmas gift exchange and the hubbs was on call. So my friend and I  met up at at TGI Fridays, she picked up the tab which was generous and kind.  I ordered the SEASONAL HARVEST APPLE CHICKEN SALAD
"Grilled all-natural chicken seasoned with hickory-smoked sea salt served over mixed greens with kale and topped with goat cheese, green apples, sea-salted chopped almonds and a mix of crunchy rice noodles, dried apricots and pumpkin seeds. Drizzled with Pomegranate Vinaigrette."  The salad was a very large portion. I took  1/2 home and ate it the remainder for dinner. I wish I had taken a picture. The salad was colorful as it was flavorful. I think I will try to copycat this salad at some point in the future.

Monday 1/11/16-Meatless Monday with super veggie 'sketti. This was a 15 minute meal.  I added a bag of frozen italian style vegetables (green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower) to boiling pot containing the remaining angel hair & spaghetti noodles. While the pasta & vegetables cooked, I tossed some garlic toast in the oven.  After draining the pasta, I had a jar  of 3 cheese pasta sauce, which I tweaked by adding 2 tablespoons of a sundried tomato paste w/ herbs, some fresh ground pepper, a twist of pink himalayan sea salt and sprinkled liberally with parmesan. Served with bagged salad mix and the hubbs didn't miss the meat at all. This will be a recipe in the rotation.

Tuesday 1/12/16--was scheduled  as baked chicken, au gratin potatoes and brussel sprouts but we had our first serious snowfall of the winter season. That meant a sleepless night of waking up to check the weather, a 3:30 am wake up for me and early call out for the hubbs to shovel and salt. A crappy commute home, after an already long day, resulted in chicken tenders and tater tots for dinner. And passing out shortly thereafter. ugh

Wednesday 1/13/16--brinner of sausage,pancakes, and eggs was replaced by cereal for me. After another 12 hr workday, the hubbs grabbed a sandwich before bed. Go adult.

Thursday 1/14/16--The original dinner plans of tuna casserole was scrapped for home made cheese coneys made by the hubbs because I had an awful day. It was a very emotional day for me. I had to take my pet Guinea pig, Petunia, to the vet to be euthanized. What made this even more terrible, is her companion, Pansy  was euthanized previously, 2 months to the day . They both were very longed lived for Guinea Pigs, being over 6 years old. But it still not easy decision. Bye little fuzzy faces. I will miss both of you and your antics. 

Pansy (left) and Petunia (right)

Week 3 Plan
Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
01/15/16 01/16/16 01/17/16 01/18/16 01/19/16 01/20/16 01/21/16
Leftovers “Brinner” Baked chicken Tuna Casserole “Taco Tuesday” Kielbasa Sloppy Joes
Fend for yourself Cheese Omelet green beans Broccoli Taco salad (no shell) Sauerkraut brussel sprouts
That box of cereal is calling your name! Bacon squash soup Sugar free Fiesta rice Mashed potatoes Macaroni & cheese
Or eat a poptart, I don't care toast
orange Jello Chips & salsa dinner rolls
Just wash your own dishes...

w/ fruit cocktail
applesauce cups

Wins for week 2--Having a hubbs being so considerate to cook for me despite his working long hours.

Losses for week 2-- Going off track on both the menu plan and budget. I spent $58. That puts me $43 over budget for the month to date. I hope I can recoup the budget overage the remainder of the month. I am also trying to figure out where I am spending the the money (what in particular purchase is the extra money going towards). I reworked the menu slightly. Fingers crossed,  I can get back on track.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

2016 Food Pantry Challenge_week 2

Well the first week seemed to go pretty smoothly for the Food Pantry Challenge (to be referred to as FPC from here on out)

Week 1 summary
Fri 1/1/16-Pamko crusted pork chops, cottage green beans,  sauerkraut perogies (for good luck!), glazed carrots and corn bread. It was a great meal. I made the green beans cottage style (chicken bouillon, onion, minced leftover xmas ham, bay leaf, a dash of mustard powder and cracked black pepper) and they could have been the main entree.

Sat 1/2/16-Thai Sweet Chili Meatballs, white rice, potsticker and spring rolls. What began as an appetizer became a tasty meal! Click the Food Pantry Challenge link (at top of the page) and scroll down for the recipe.

Mon 1/4/16-The Asian Chop salad (pre-packaged from Dole) was a refreshing change from all of the heavy food during the holiday season. I defrosted the chicken in the fridge Sunday night, marinating the chicken in about a cup of Panera bottled Fuji Apple dressing with 1 tbs oil, I then sprinkled it with some Kroger Zesty Seasoning Garlic/ Onion blend. A quick spritz of cooking spray on a foil lined cookie sheet, in the oven at 400°F for about 20 minutes. Yum! Plus there was enough leftover for my lunch the next day. score!

Tue 1/5/16-"The Toddler Special" This is always a favorite with the hubbs. All I can say is..meh. I am not a fan of boxed mac n cheese but I keep 1 or 2 boxes on hand-in the event my niece Lele comes over-because she loves the stuff. I am not fond of much of any  kind of seafood and  I made the extra crunchy fish tenders instead of fishsticks. I did not make french fries, since they were on the menu for Friday. I did buy 1/4 lb coleslaw, since I felt like there should be some kind of vegetable. I skipped the pudding cups reserving those for lunches, since we still had leftover jello.

Wed 1/6/16-Turkey vegetable soup. It was so  satisfying! I did a quick dump of all the ingredients in the crockpot before I left to go to work. I came home to a delicious aroma filled home. I made biscuits using the copy-cat baking mix I made last weekend (more on that later). All told there was maybe 25 minutes of hands on food prep time. I was free to enjoy my night doing nothing...ok not really. I did laundry and played on the laptop, but that is pretty close to doing nothing. The remaining soup was portioned,  It will make for a nice quick lunch. I was able to use my mini lunch crockpot I received as a xmas present. No standing in line waiting for the microwave.

Thur 1/7/16--Grilled cheese sammies and leftover Turkey soup . No leftovers for the Turkey soup. We had it for dinner then lunch. So Campbells tomato soup it was! 10 minutes in and out of the kitchen.

Week 2 Plan

Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
01/08/16 01/09/16 01/10/16 01/11/16 01/12/16 01/13/16 01/14/16
Cheeseburger Crockpot soup beans Leftovers “Meatless Monday” Baked Chicken “Brinner” Tuna Noodle Casserole
French fries and leftover xmas ham Fend for yourself Super veggie spaghetti Au gratin potatoes Pancakes (from DIY baking mix) Broccoli
side salad Fried potatoes That box of cereal is calling your name! garlic bread (frozen from Xmas) Scrambled eggs Sugar free Cherry Jello
milkshake Cornbread Muffins Or eat a poptart, I don't care side salad Brussel sprouts Sausage links w/ fruit cocktail

Just wash your own dishes...

Wins for week 1
Knowing what was on the menu really alleviated the stress of me thinking about it. The time savings is great.

Losses for week 1
Leftover day on Sunday--the container from 1/1/16 (2 chops, a cup of cottage green beans, 3 pierogies, 1 tbs. of carrots and 1/4 pie) were not eaten. I was a little bummed about the waste.  My cutoff is 3 days in the fridge to eat. I prefer to freeze things the same day or next. I am kind of weird about food storage. I was much better about packaging and freezing the remaining meal leftovers. And the budget did take a hit. I allotted myself $40 and I spent $68. Yikes! Hopefully I make this up over the next few weeks. In my defense the hubbs asked for "frozen meals" and Krogers had Lean Cuisines for $1.69 each. So I bought 10 but the hubbs is on call which means long hours and sometimes he misses supper. He stashed these in his work freezer for back up. I also bought some fresh produce, backfilled some staples.

Onward to week 2!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2016 Food Pantry Challenge_week 1

2016 Food Pantry Challenge--are you in?

Once I pseudo-organized my pantry, baking cupboard, fridge, freezer and deep freeze I was appalled at the absolute quantity of food.  I want to keep some emergency reserves, of course, but I think I would like to move from having so much excess "raw" food to having prepared foods on hand for an easier grab-n-go during the hectic work week. Saving the weekends for preparing/cooking bigger meals when I have time or using the weekends to bulk prep.

The Rules
  1. Take inventory of contents in fridge, freezer and pantry. 
  2. Plan meals (weekly or monthly) based on contents. 
  3. The object is to rotate food based on FIFO (First In First Out) to avoid discarding food that would otherwise expire. 
  4. You can still grocery shop. Set a budget, make a list and stick to it! Avoid impulse shopping (Guilty!)
  5. Avoid or limit eating out.
  6. Have fun, be creative and enjoy!
I am going to approach this by saving time, saving ingredients and saving money.
1) Make use of the crockpot or pressure cooker. These 2 appliances turn cheaper cuts of meats into flavorful delicious morsels.
2) Unless I am bulk food prepping, cooking only what we will eat. I know it sounds silly but I tend to over cook. We are a family of 2 but I cook for 4-6 people. Planning a few twofer meals by intentionally cooking extra a main entree (e.g., pork chops one night, I can slice the extra pork into strips, freeze and have a quick fajitas another night or a double batch of lasagna to freeze and heat)
3) Utilizing my foodsaver more and packaging leftovers right away for the freezer.
4)  In my circumstances, I hope to keep to a weekly food budget $30-$40. I know that doesn't seem like much but I have a disgusting amount plenty of dried, canned and frozen goods. Since I bake my own bread, I plan to shop only for basic food necessities, such as fresh produce, milk, eggs, lunch meat, cheese or an occasional cut of meat if needed.
5) Throw in a few meatless meals and the budget stretches even further.

Week 1
Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
01/01/16 01/02/16 01/03/16 01/04/16 01/05/16 01/06/16 01/07/16
Panko crusted baked Pork Chops Spicy Meatballs in a Thai sweet chili sauce Leftovers Asian Sunflower Chop salad “Toddler Special” Crockpot Turkey vegetable soup Grilled Cheese sammies
Sauerkraut Perogies w/ peppers, onions and pineapple Fend for yourself Spiced grilled chicken tenderloins Fish sticks (using leftover frozen Thanksgiving turkey) leftover turkey vegetable soup
Glazed Carrots steamed white rice That box of cereal is calling your name! Sugar free Strawberry jello w/ diced peaches French fries

Cottage Green Beans Spring rolls
Or eat a poptart, I don't care

Mac n Cheese

Cornbread Muffins potstickers
Just wash your own dishes...

Pudding Cups

Whipped s.f. Cheescake

Friday (Jan 1) New Year's day, I cooked enough for 4-5 people but that was ok, since we had 2 additional people over for dinner. I was left with this amount of food, which is on the list for Sunday's leftovers. 

Saturday (Jan 2) resulted in 3 containers of leftovers. 1 container was mixed the remaining cup of rice and frozen "lean cuisine style" for a weekday lunch. The remaining 2 containers were also frozen, for future lunch, dinner or appetizer consumption. My goal is to use these types of leftovers within 60 days. Since these are home packaged (no additional preservatives) I feel they should have a much shorter shelf life.

Sweet n Spicy Thai Chili Meatballs 
 I made my meatballs from scratch. 1 lb each gr. round and hot sausage, 2 eggs, 3/4 c bread crumbs, 1/8-1/4 c milk, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp ginger, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes. Mix and shape into 2 inch meatballs. Lightly spay a foil lined baking sheet. In a 400°F oven bake meatballs for 20-25 minutes, turning about every 5 minutes to ensure even browning (and until no longer pink in center). Remove meatballs and allow to drain.

To the lined crockpot Add 1 and 1/2 bottles of Maggi brand Sweet Chili sauce, 15 oz of crushed pineapple (don't drain), add 2 cups of diced onions and peppers. Add meatballs. Cover and heat on high. Stirring frequently. Serve over steamed rice. **If you want a thicker sauce--make a thin slurry of cornstarch and water (2 tbs cornstarch per cup of cold water)--mix well. Remove a half cup if the crockpot sauce--let cool--slowly drizzle cornstarch mixture into sauce while whisking. Once it is all incorporated add it to the crockpot. Mix well let it cook at least 15-20 minutes and stir a few times.

I tried this food challenge last year and failed miserably. I think because I tried to plan ALL of the meals, it was too restrictive. By planning only the dinners, I hope it gives me more freedom to be creative and change up the menu if I need skip cooking for a day-which I will do my best to stick to the plan.

Fingers crossed annnddd GO!