Taco Seasoning

So I found plenty of Pinterest posts about mixing your own taco seasoning rather than buying those packets every time.  Last time I remade the One Pan Enchilada Pasta (recipe over here), I decided to make a whole bunch of taco seasoning for that and for next time. So:

 

Taco Seasoning

I used this graphic for my mixture.

 

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon Chili Powder

1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder

1 Teaspoon Paprika

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Oregano

1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin

1/2 Teaspoon Sugar

2 Teaspoons Onion Powder

 

Directions

Mix together. Store in Mason Jar or similar container.  Season meals with to add tex-mex-y goodness.

 

Notes

I had most everything on had which made this really easy and had no problem picking up the few additional items.

I don’t know how much the above yields compared with how much is needed for well, anything.   I just about quadrupled it (may have actually been more) which gave a good amount (I think).

The packets I’ve seen previously of taco seasoning include 2 tablespoons of the mixture – now I can just easily measure out that much from my jar instead.

Garlic Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese meet your new best friend garlic bread:

 

Garlic Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

 

Originally from here.

 

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried oregano

8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

12 slices white bread

1 24-oz jar vodka marinara sauce (optional)

 

Directions

Preheat your oven’s broilers.

Place 6 slices of bread onto a baking sheet.  Spread a handful of mozzarella on each slice.  Top with remaining 6 slices of bread.

Mix together butter and garlic powder. Brush over tops of sandwiches (or spread with back of tbsp). Sprinkle with dried oregano.

Place baking sheet under broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from oven, flip sandwiches, and brush other side with butter mixture and oregano.  Return to broiler and cook until golden – another 2 minutes or so.

Cut sandwiches and serve with sauce for dipping.

 

Notes

Well… fail. I may’ve come a little too close for comfort to setting something on fire.  I haven’t used my oven’s broiler before and I guess it cooks particularly hot because after less than 2 minutes, I pulled out smoking charred sandwiched. Bleh.

Thankfully, I had more ingredients and cooked them on stove top instead – which is how I make regular grilled cheese anyway.

I also skipped the vodka marinara for dipping, opting for grilled cheese’s favorite tomato bisque soup instead.

Despite getting off to a bad start, the garlic bread sandwiches were really tasty.  Definitely worth repeating – on the stove top again, I’m sticking away from the broiler for a bit.

Burritos

So my family was never big into Mexican/Tex-Mex kinds of food growing up.  That changed for me when I met Boyfriend, who could pretty much live on Taco Bell and similar. So in my recipe hunting, I’ve tried to keep similar in regular rotation.  And these burritos definitely fit that bill. So onward:

Burritos

Original recipe found right over here.

Ingredients

2 lbs ground beef

1 onion, chopped (I didn’t actually use but is in original recipe)

1 pkg taco seasoning

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp oregano

Parsley, to taste

1 cup sour cream

2 lbs shredded Montery Jack cheese (or similar – I think I actually used a Mexican or Taco blend)

3/4 cup taco sauce

20 flour tortillas (says the recipe, I used 1 whole package of a dozen tortillas)

*This wasn’t in the original but I also added a can of refried beans.

Directions

Brown the ground beef (and onions if applicable).  Add taco seasoning, pepper, oregano, parsley, sour cream, 1/2 the cheese, and 1/2 the taco sauce.  Mix well.

Place 2 or so tablespoons of the mixture on a tortilla shell and roll up.

Place tortilla seam side down in a 9 x 13 casserole dish **

**Before putting in casserole dish, you can also freeze individual servings.  Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.  Don’t add remaining sauce and cheese though unless/until baking.

In casserole dish, top with remaining cheese and taco sauce.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and it’s heated through.

Notes

Yum..

I made about 4 or 5 (it was a few weeks ago) for that day and put another 7 or 8 in the freezer.  Since I knew so many were heading to the freezer and that those freezer ones would likely be taken to work- I put a bit more than 1/2 of the cheese and taco sauce in the mixture.  I left more than enough to put on top of the casserole dish but I figured that’d keep the freezer tortillas a little cheesier and such.

Definitely worth repeating. No real comments on any changes – although I definitely liked it without the onions and with the beans.

Meatball Sub Casserole

Made this more than a couple weeks ago so here we go:

 

Meatball Sub Casserole

 

Original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients:

1 loaf Italian bread, cur into 1-inch thick slices

1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp pepper

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 lb package fully cooked frozen meatballs, thawed

1 28oz jar pasta sauce

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange bread slices in a single layer in ungreased 9×13 baking dish and fill in gaps with small bits of bread.

In a bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise and seasonings.  Spread over bread slices.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella.

Gently mix together sauce and meatballs, spoon over cheese.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes.

 

Notes

I didn’t use the mayonnaise – I’m not a big fan.  But overall I wasn’t a fan of this recipe, and not because I think it was missing mayonnaise.  I didn’t like the textures of well everything.  It also took longer than if I’d just made regular meatball subs and most definitely doesn’t seem worth the extra effort and time.

 

 

 

Book Sale 2.0

I talked before about this awesome book sale at this library near me.  4 day book sale and on the final day (Saturday), it’s $5 for a bag of books- $5 for whatever you can fit in a paper bag.  In less than an hour, I filled up my bag with a whole bunch of goodies.

Here’s what awesomeness I got: (in alphabetical order by author)

– Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

– The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

– Deception Point by Dan Brown

– I Can’t Believe My Dog Did That! by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Jennifer Quasha

– The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier

– Murder in the Senate by Senator William S. Cohen and Thomas B. Allen

– Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

– Waking Raphael by Leslie Forbes

– The Killing Hour by Lisa Gardner

– The Color of Law by Mark Gimenez

– The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

– Sammy’s Hill by Kristin Gore

– The Brethren by John Grisham

– The Second Silence by Eileen Goudge

– Envy by Kathryn Harrison

– The Raising by Laura Kasischke

– Where Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas

– Caribbean by James A. Michener

– The Constantine Conspiracy by Gary E. Parker

– World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder

– The Summer House Cookbook by Debra Ponzek and Geralyn Delaney Graham

– Private Scandals by Nora Roberts

– Summer Pleasures by Nora Roberts

– Turning the Tables by Rita Rudner

– The Seven Deadly Sins by Solomon Schimmel

– The ACLU vs America by Alan Sears and Craig Osten

– A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

– Restless in the Grave by Dana Stabenow

– The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

– Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart

– The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America by Ray Suarez

– Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

– The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

At about $0.15 per book, I’m so excited!

Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken

I know, I know. I’ve been slacking.  I’ve got a bucket load of excuses – some of them are even decent ones. But on the the bright side – my slacking has been only about writing up my comments, not about trying new things.  I’ve got a meal with 2 sides and another couple meals or so already tried that’ll be posted as soon as I can get it typed.  So here we get going:

Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken

The original posting I found can be found right over here.

Ingredients

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast (cut into 1 inch strips)

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon dried ginger

2 tablespoons low-sodium Soy sauce

1 16-ounce bag frozen broccoli florets (or frozen vegetables such as asparagus spears, carrots, cauliflower)

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (reduce amount if you don’t like it quite as spicy)

Directions

In a large bowl toss the chicken pieces with the garlic, sugar, ginger, Soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Then, pour it all into a 4-quart slow-cooker, including any of the drippings and leftover sauce from the mixing bowl.

Turn the slow-cooker to low and cook for 5 hours. Then, add the broccoli (or your selected frozen vegetables) and turn the slow-cooker to high and cook for an additional hour. Serve over white or brown rice and top with chopped scallions.

Notes

So I didn’t have high hopes for this one.  I’m pretty skeptical of anything that claims to be a substitute for restaurant or take out food.    And this proved I have good reason to.  I’ve eaten plenty of general tsp’s chicken over the years from plenty of different places but this did not taste like any of those.  I had about 1/2 a serving and Boyfriend ate it the rest because I just wasn’t enjoying it.  Ah well, when you try a whole lot of recipes- you’ll get some are great and others that aren’t so great.  This was one of those.

Becoming a Grown Up – Meal Plans

Let me start by giving a little background on me that few you would know.  I went away to college after High School, choosing a school about 100 miles away – far enough to justify living there but close enough I could go home regularly enough.  I graduated in 4 years and moved from campus to an apartment with Boyfriend and a mutual friend of ours for a year and a half.  Things got a bit wibbly wobbly for about 10 months which included moving into a room found on craigslist just me and then into a friend’s basement with Boyfriend.  Then finally in July things calmed down again when Boyfriend and I moved into an apartment again – this time just us.  In thinking about it, I think of moving to our current apartment was the marker of adulthood.  Yeah I’d lived away from home for 6 years by this point including college but there’s something different about a room with a friend or a (I’ll admit it – sketchy) situation for some months.  And along with the realization that this is adulthood came another realization:

I’m a pretty awful adult. When I went food shopping, I’d pick things haphazardly with little to no thought about how long it would last for, cost, or what I’d do with the ingredients.  When I paid bills or got paid, I’d have to check the bank for my balance first without much awareness of what was happening in the account.  Sure I was able to buy those groceries to feed myself and I’ve rarely been unable to pay my bills (sometimes a little late but haven’t fallen behind yet *knocks on wood*), but I wasn’t really thinking or planning or saving or doing any of that stuff you think of grown ups as doing. And along with this realization came another:

If I want to have the kind of future I hope for myself, I have got to find a way to be better organized.

So very long story short, that’s where I’m at now.  Trying to find ways to meal plan and keep an eye on my budget better so that I’m able to start saving money and work towards the (much more) long term goals that I’ve got. And once I decided that, what did I do – headed to Pinterest of course and here’s what I’ve got so far:

Meal Plan

First thing I started doing was trying to meal plan for dinner.  For breakfast, I usually just grab some bagels/cereal and lunch is typically sandwiches/leftovers/frozen meals so I don’t get too concerned with any other meal but dinner. I started this a couple of months ago and have been 1) really proud that I’ve kept with it and 2) pretty happy with the results.

I started by determining to meal plan for 2 weeks.  Why 2? Because shopping weekly requires me to see the inside of the supermarket more than I’d like to and much more than every other week seems like it would require a second trip out for perishables anyway.  So I took a look at my and Boyfriend’s calendars and figured out when we’re busy and when we’d eat together for dinner over the 2 weeks following food shopping.  On days where one of us was working over time or had plans with friends (separate or alone), I wouldn’t count towards planning and we’d each just grab something quick or cook something simple like pasta for 1 since neither of us would consider a more in depth meal worth the effort.  Also, I’ve noticed that even though I take schedules into consideration, it seems like the past couple times, I’ll meal plan for 2 weeks and it will last for nearly 3 instead.

So once I have the number of meals in that 2 week period, I pick out meals choosing from simple classics like burgers or hot dogs and favorites from the numerous recipes I’ve tried (most of which can be found on here).   I also try to pick at least 2 new recipes to try out – pulling from recipe books occasionally but mostly from my “Noms” board on Pinterest. I really hate making “the same ol’ thing” week in and week out so it’s been really important to me to try and keep up finding new recipes so keep it fresh and different.  I don’t set anything by day because so much of the time it really just depends on my mood on a given day.  Even without this, I’ve found it really helpful to have a variety of recipes/ingredients ready to go so that I know within 2 weeks, everything I’ll need is right in my kitchen.

I typically just would write these meals out on a piece of paper with their ingredients.  Then I would grab another piece of paper and reorder the ingredients only by department based on how my local food store is laid out, adding in any of the breakfast, lunch, or personal/cleaning items we need.  I love having a list at the super market.  I feel like it makes everything sooo much easier and gives me a better estimate of what it’s going to cost.

Well in trying to organize it all out, I decided to make a budget binder to include all money and meal plan things in one easy to locate place.  I’ve been (as you may have noticed) epically slacking on the writing posts point so I’ll save further discussions on all that and hopefully update this at another time but briefly first:

Printables

In part of making the binder, I decided to type up forms.  For the money related ones you’ll see there, I’ll mention where my inspiration came from when I type out what I plan on using them for.  For the meal plan ones, I just wanted a form that I could print to basically look like the scribbled mess I regularly put on a notebook sheet.

All these forms can be viewed at this Google Drive link. From there, you can view or download the Microsoft Office .docx and Microsoft Excel .xlsx items and edit to your liking or to suit your needs.  I would point out that some of the items in preview look off- the layout seems to be not right- but once downloaded and opened, they look as I had intended.  I don’t know if a single person other than me would find any use in these but I figured something anyone can edit to their liking would be better than the pdf I originally used as inspiration (and will discuss later I hope) and had to recreate and then adjust.