For Christmas I got a new gadget for my pressure cooker. I realized, after joing a Facebook group, that I had not really been utilizing it to its full potential. Most of the “gadgets” seem to be just ho-hum to me....but these pots are a total game changer. Mine came from Amazon, but I am sure there are other retailers and/or brands.
I tried my first meal in it.
I was able to cook the boneless skinless chicken thighs and the rice at the same time.
I put a few cups of water in the bottom of the pressure cooker and stacked the pot.
High pressure for 20 minutes and then I let it release naturally for 10 minutes.
While the pressure dropped, I heated a quick veggie to serve along side.
In hindsight, I didn’t need to add extra liquid to my BBQ sauce since my chicken was frozen.
Still the taste was good and we ate it all....my measure for a success.
2017 has been a good year. I often remind myself of something my dad used to say a lot. “Grow old gracefully because the alternative isn’t that great.”
Big Goals —
1. We planned and saved for one family vacation — an ocean front condo at a club complete with all the usual amenities.
2. While I did get some repairs handled on the house, I did not get anyone in for painting. In the end my husband and I agreed to wait one more year. We’ve considered the possibility of moving and fully realize that it would be much easier to paint if the home were empty. I did accomplish a lot of other things though — including a major purge, pantry and cabinet organization (using Dollar Tree baskets), and a variety of things of that nature. We also found a couch that suited our needs.
3. Our daughter successfully finished her first semester at the local university and ended with a 4.0 GPA.
4. Sigh — we never did get beds set up. In the end we decided it was just easier to buy from the Farmer’s Market.
Usual little goals —
1. We did continue to tweak our budget. Not perfect, but still we were pleased with the results.
2. Organization is where I feel like we made the greatest strides....both as a family and as individuals.
1. I did use up right many craft supplies on hand. Early fall I made the decision that I had items I had been moving for over 15 years. I actually downsized a lot of my supplies. I was able to give a lot of items to people around me who can appreciate them and use them up far faster than I was. I felt guilt about having them, but never seemed to have enough of any one thing for specific projects.
2. I did manage to sew a few items for myself, but I made greater strides in streamlining my clothing. I created a capsule wardrobe, not necessarily limiting myself to a certain number of pieces, but instead insisiting that everything had to “play well together.” While I kept a few special pieces, everything is now pretty much mix and match. I love it!
3. I finished two large stuffed animals this year. An Eeyore and a Minnie Mouse.
4. This was a personal win for me — I really utilized the local library a lot more this year.
5. On the knitting front, I did not get back into my charity knitting. My local group has kind of moved on and I just seemed to lack the motivation. I’m not sure why.
I have all of her cookbooks, and can honestly say I’ve never had one of her recipes let me down.
In fact, even those who don’t like/have to eat gluten free seem to like them.
As usual, I did make a few changes to her recipe because for one I am that kind of cook, and for two I am into using what I have on hand. I did not have plain yogurt, but I did have cottage cheese. I simply took 3/4 of a cup out and proceeded to mostly mash the lumps out of it. I also didn’t want mini doughnuts. I used my regular non stick doughnut pans in a 350F oven. I started with 12 minutes, but ended up cooking them for 15 total. The final change I made was to make a simple thin glaze because I really love that Krispy Kreme glazed feel and taste.
Even my pickiest household member with texture issues really liked these.
We were able to make the trip to take my grandson home. While my daughter in law isn’t completely well, she is feeling better than she was. We took snacks and drinks with us. When we made it back home (well after dark) we did a CORD type supper — we cleaned out several smaller containers of leftovers. I also packed several smaller items for my husband to take to work with him.
I declared Monday a pajama day of sorts. I had a lot of detailed cleaning to do that hadn’t been done over the last few weeks.
I ran laundry and used the dryer to help offset heat.
For dinner we made beefy potato soup using up some lingering potatoes, a free packet of beef broth concentrate, and the pressure cooker.
I took two additional online surveys and I am slowly building my points back up.
We opened a can of milk to use in our coffee rather than rush out to pick up more. I paid a bill online saving on postage.
Today included errands. Hobby Lobby, where I bought three skeins of yarn for a requested shawl. Turned out I will have to have more because I miscalculated (skeins were smaller) sigh.
Once again we turned to the pressure cooker and our food storage. Chicken from the freezer, peas, arborio rice and seasoning from the pantry, and cheese we buy in bulk made a delicious chicken risotto with enough leftovers for lunch the next day. This isn’t an extremely inexpensive meal until you compare it to the cost of going out to a nice restaurant to have a good quality risotto.
I picked up some supplies from Sam’s Club. Milk and sodas for home. (Our best price when sales aren’t an option.). Supplies for 4 batches of sausage balls for my husband’s work Christmas party. 2 ended up being enough and I will make the other two later. I may bake and freeze them to pull out in a couple of weeks. I also bought two big bottles of Clorox (color safe). I use these regularly in my laundry, because we are bright colored people. It seems to help keep my reds and purples from fading. These were on sale with a $4 coupon off for each. Keeping a watch on the cycle, 2 seem to last me until the next cycle, especially with me having a partial bottle already.
I forgot to take a photo, but I used food storage to make a gluten free chicken casserole with me in mind. This was my test run of using a can of GF cream of mushroom soup (Great Value brand). I added home canned mixed veggies and an can of Aldi potatoes. (I cut them smaller). I cooked the chicken in the pressure cooker and then assembled a simple casserole....topped with 1/2 of a box of Aldi’s GF stuffing mix. Because everything was cooked and I had been in the kitchen all day, I simply popped this in the microwave when my husband arrived home. While he changed clothes, I set the table. By the time he finished, I had a nice meal waiting. (I ate leftovers the next day for my lunch.
My daughter and I had appointments to get our hair done. Not inexpensive, but we did take advantage of a “package” offer to reduce the costs some. Because we were in the area and I had two more items to pick up, we went into the local Walmart Supercenter. I picked up cucumbers, Greek dressing, gaucomole, eggplant, rutabaga, turnips, and Smoked Paprika. Sounds like an odd combination, but my husband will be home until the beginning of the new year and we will do a lot of one pot meals with root veggies. We also picked up a frozen pizza for my daughter and some lactose free ice cream for her. She had pizza for dinner — a savings over take out, and I had 3 GF chicken strips and a cucumber with Greek dressing.
My mama and uncle came for breakfast, and we made a simple meal of biscuits, ham, and homemade jelly/jam.
This was my day to take my daughter to do a little shopping for herself. We found her a nice pair of boots half off. I rarely buy name brand, etc. just to have them, but these are a good quality that I expect to last her well. We also picked up a pair of spring/summer shoes for her on winter clearance for 75% off the original cost. Again good quality from a nice shoe store.
We left the shoe store and went into a local department store to check their sales. We found her a nice bomber jacket and a sweater. I also bought a sweater vest for myself and a nice winter scarf. (I’m loving my wardrobe capsule plan because I know what colors willl work and what pieces will add in well!) Our items were 40% off and we received an additional 20% off at check out.
For dinner we used the pressure cooker and pantry staples to make corned beef hash (home canned potatoes and a can of corned beef), and I baked 6 cornbread muffins.
Saturday was an at home day. I did laundry, but because of temps did opt to use the dryer.
I used the pressure cooker for all three meals.
Pantry staple breakfast — old fashioned oats, cinnamon, dried fruit cooked in the pressure cooker makes a creamy and warm dish with a low cost per serving.
Lunch — Taco Soup (I heated up a jar of my homecanned soup, it didn’t take but a few minutes to come to pressure and be ready.)
Dinner — My husband grilled burgers, and I used the pressure cooker to make GF 3 Cheese Pasta. (It does include cheddar, but I used a white cheddar.)
That is it. Our week in review. I have been sick and relied heavily on the pressure cooker. My own fault sick kind of thing because I ate something I shouldn’t have....sigh. To counter balance it I have relied heavily on allergy medications.
At some point during the week, I did order a couple of cookbooks using a coupon to get $5 off of $15.
In my research for pinto bean recipes I ran across a recipe for homemade hamburger helper that had beans added. I didn’t like the way that recipe sounded and decided to try another (simply adding beans.). This dish was a hit with my family. My package of ground beef was large and I actually divided it into two. (The second half was cooked up into taco meat with 3/4 cup of mashed pinto beans added. A freebie if you will. Simply add one or two teaspoons more of taco seasoning to your meat mixture. I cooked this at the same time I cooked the hamburger helper and put it aside for the next day.)
The original recipe I used for hamburger helper is by Kimberly of The Daring Gourmet.
I made a few changes. No avacado oil, no onion, I made beef broth using bouillon, I used tomato powder to make my tomato paste, I used Spanish style paprika, and I used cheese and pasta I had on hand. I also stirred in almost 1 cup of pinto beans to further fluff the meal and add some more fiber. (Gluten free pastas are notoriously lacking in fiber.)
The first week of December came and went. It is both disconcerting and comforting how quickly time passes.
Sunday — plans to take our grandson home fell through. Mom is on the mend, but still not quite there. My plans required a little tweaking. We had a brunch using items on hand. Lunch was a mix of leftovers and fresh veggies. In continuing with my use it up plan, I pulled a partial container of quinoa out to serve as our grain.
Then during the afternoon we went out to run errands. We dropped off a printer cartridge for recycling at Staples. I went into Dollar Tree and purchased Christmas cards for an exchange and 5 small red baskets. These baskets were for the pantry and hold lunch box type supplies like fruit cups, pudding cups, etc. Next on our list was the library. I checked out 4 cookbooks, which I have already flipped through. Sadly other than maybe 2 or 3 recipes there was very little content I am even interested in trying. My husband checked out a book on CD for his commute time. On our way back home, we stopped at Krispy Kreme and picked up 3 of the Santa Belly doughnuts as a treat for my grandson and daughter.
We finished off the day with Netflix, video games, and air popped popcorn, which I think is about as frugal as snacks come.
My husband had an early morning doctor’s appointment. I packed his lunches, etc for him to pick up on his way out of town.
I managed to get in a short morning walk — frugal when I compare poor health costs to taking the time to take care of myself.
We started our meals for the pinto bean thread....everything we used was pantry stable so that is a nice dish to add to our rotation.
We took advantage of the pretty day to play outside.
I registered for classes. By maintaining good grades in my previous classes I received an award of $250 off tuition (with a few stiputlations that I would have met for my own satisfaction anyway) and an additional one time 10% off tuition. As a result, I have opted to take 15 hours over spring semester. Things will be super busy, but doable. Between the two I will be getting a few semester hours free.
I pulled through the refrigerator and made a stir fry of sorts for supper to help take care of a few lingering tidbits. On the frugal fail front, I opened a box of baking mix that made horrible muffins. The texture was off and they weren’t edible. I tossed them out.
I cooked a pound of pinto beans in the pressure cooker for energy savings. I hung laundry to dry. We continued to use up things in the refrigerator and planned our meal around that. My husband came home for the evening and we had a quiet night of movies and games.
Thursday and Friday
These days were both rainy days. We did head out briefly to Hobby Lobby, where I picked up 3 skeins of yarn on sale. I’m working on a scarf.
Thursday night we ordered pizza. I had enough rewards to get it for all but free. None of us felt bad, but we were just kind of unenergetic. Friday night’s meal was a homemade hamburger helper using pantry supplies and ground beef bought on sale. I divided the package into two meals and stretched them with added beans.
Plans were to take my grandson home, but weather didn’t cooperate. I made a double batch of chocolate chip waffles for breakfast — plenty left for into the next week. We spent the day at home, played games, and baked sugar cookies. Perfect day for baking because the oven added heat. I did run two loads of laundry and opted to use the dryer for added heat, too.
I know I said we weren’t going to do 12 days of pintos straight. I promise we haven’t, but when I was searching for meals that I felt like used basic pantry and freezer storage I came across this recipe for Chicken, Broccoli, and Pinto Bean Skillet. Since I had some fresh broccoli in the refrigerator I decided to give this one a try. The beauty of using beans to stretch meat appeals to me and the eater always feels like they have had “_______” (whatever meat) and doesn’t really pay much attention to the beans.
This is my take on this recipe.
I started by cooking 2 cups of pinto beans. I don’t buy canned pintos....not sure why...but they could easily be used in this recipe as called for. I used the pressure cooker and cooked my beans from dry for 1 hour. This yielded approximately 5 cups of beans. I used two for this meal.
2 cups of beans
1 chicken breast, (I cut strips and then bite sized.)
I omitted the onion and the peanuts.
I had about 3 to 3 1/2 cups of broccoli, that I broke into bite sized pieces.
One red bell pepper cut into chunks
2 carrots in thick “matchsticks” (This was to replace crunch of onions and to bulk this out more.)
I omitted the red pepper flakes because my grandson was eating with us.
I used olive oil instead of bacon grease.
I added onion powder and 1 tablespoon of corn starch to 1/4 cup of liquid aminoes.
(I don’t use soy sauce.)
Cook chicken in a little bit of olive oil.
I used a med/high heat.
When the chicken was done, I added in all the vegetables.
Since I didn’t want a heavy fat content, I let them cook for a few minutes and then added a bit of water.
I covered it and let it briefly steam to finish softening my veggies.
I’m sorry I didn’t record a time.
I just kept checking until they suited me.
I then stirred in the sauce mixture and the beans and let it cook for a couple of minutes.
(While all this was cooking, I cooked rice in the Instant Pot.)
This is my largest frying pan, so don’t be fooled.
This made a good amount.
This was the finished product all plated up.
The finished yield:
3 adults ate supper
1 toddler ate supper
And I packed two generous lunches with leftovers.
This recipe is a keeper.
1. I think frozen stir fry veggies would work fine.
2. You could serve this over noodles.
3. I didn’t add any extra salt or pepper — the sauce was enough.
4. You could easily use beef, pork, or tofu cubes in this dish.
I’ve revised the recipe slightly to match both the pressure cooker and my daughter’s food preferences.
The original dish is cooked on the stove top.
However, at the end of this post I will share how I would convert this to a slow cooker meal for those who do not use a pressure cooker.
I used the Instant Pot and several of the settings on it, but I am also listing the times for ease of converting to other pressure cookers.
In the pot combine:
1 2/3 cup of dried pintos
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1/4 cup of dried bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
4 1/2 cups of water
Hit bean setting and increase time to 50 minutes.
(Basically high pressure for 50 minutes.)
(I did not soak my beans first, but if you do I would think 30 minutes should work fine.)
Let pressure drop naturally.
1 diced potato
3/4 cup of brown rice
1 cup of water
14.5 ounces of diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Set pressure cooker for 22 minutes.
Let sit for 10 minutes and then vent.
Serve soup warm.
(My daughter requested no tomatoes, so I heated mine separately and added to my bowl. Also note, our personal preference is a little softer bean. If you like them less soft, you could decrease the 50 minute cook time because they will be cooking an additional 22 with the rice.)
For my family, with three of us eating this week, this will make at least two meals worth of soup when served with bread.
If there were two of us here, I think I would halve the recipe.
Now for the slowcooker version —
I would put the first ingredient set on in the morning.
Midday add the second half.
I only recommend dividing it because sometimes tomatoes make beans take longer to cook.
Obviously we aren’t going to eat pinto beans 12 days straight, but I thought for the months of December and January I would try to share 12 meals that use pinto beans. In preparation for this, I bought this huge bag of beans at Sam’s Club. I also bought 12 pounds of black beans, too...so maybe that will be a future post.
Friday was a beautiful day for us. While my grandson played in the backyard, I stood at the patio table and chopped red onions. I had approximately 12 pounds worth. I set up the dehydrator on the back patio and let them dry.
When it was all said and done I had filled all but 2 trays.
It is hard to tell from the photos, but the yield was just over 7 cups.
I’ve vaccum sealed all but about 1/2 of quart jar.
The jar went into the cabinet to be used now.
A year or so ago I bought a large container of dried onion from Sam’s Club.
Even with me buying additional onions throughout the year and onion powder, my container is almost empty.
I love red onions more than any other so I thought I would try drying my own.
They’re quick to rehydrate if I want them to use them in low liquid dishes, but if I am adding them to soups/stews or things like that I don’t even bother rehydrating first.
Sometimes when it rains it pours — or in our case, when life gets busy, it gets really busy.
Sunday we did our unexpected road trip. I did pack beverages for the trip, but didn’t plan on staying. Due to traffic and a change in plans en route, we stopped for a quick lunch. Neither of us were particularly hungry so we split a meal. We ended up buying beverages on the way back. Since we were at the mercy of a convenience store in the early Monday morning hours we opted for sodas/waters that were on sale. Not perfect, but we made the best of it.
Monday evening found us home, and I made pizzas from scratch. We baked sugar cookies, put up the Christmas tree, and watched movies. A quiet night at home with no added costs.
Tuesday I picked up produce from Sam’s Club. I also picked up 24 pounds of dried beans. (I’m hoping to do a series on here about using them.). My husband had an appointment with a surgeon — long story — and various tests were scheduled for Friday. Tuesday night I found myself sick — I’m blaming fruit I ate on the road, but who knows. No one else got sick, so had to have been something I ate. I was up and down through the night. My daughter in law saw one doctor this day and the cardiologist the next. (On Thursday she had a stress test.) The consensus at present is perhaps something viral.
Fast forward to Wednesday, I was supposed to have my annual physical and mammogram. Needless to say my stomach was not about to cooperate. I stayed home. No spend day! I did do laundry and wash bedding — everything except the bedding and the towels was hung to dry.
Thursday we made plans to go to a Christmas parade with my sister’s boyfriend. He was in a car accident. (Please say prayers for him. He blacked out while driving and they are looking for the cause). I did place an order for a few items from Amazon. I searched for the best prices and Amazon won. I was also able to use Prime membership to get free shipping. This helped lower the price even more.
Friday my husband had medical tests a town over. I roasted a whole chicken and baked some veggies with plans to take a meal with us for the ride to Maryland on Saturday. I chopped and dried 12 pounds of red onions. I cooked gluten free banana muffins for snacking.
Saturday’s plans changed. My daughter in law is still not doing well, and we will reevaluate midweek about a trip back. I had to do a quick run for some more fresh fruit. While I was at Sam’s Club I picked up mushrooms to dry — I’ve almost used up all the last I dried.
Various — throughout the week I worked on using up some items in the refrigerator. We finished off half a package of bacon, used up some brown bananas, used up some shredded cheddar and some Velveeta, finished off the older carton of eggs, used up some fresh produce, and finished off a carton of milk near date. From the pantry I used the oldest bag of beans I had (chickpeas), I used up a hodge podge of leftover pasta in mac and cheese, and I used up the last of a box of rice Chex. I also used up a cup and a half of white rice in chicken and rice. I cooked pancakes from a mix for my daughter and grandson to eat on all week. I’m trying to take stock of partially used items and make a concentrated effort to use them up.