Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reworking a Recipe-Tuna Pasta

Sometimes I find myself in the kitchen, ready to prepare a recipe I was certain I had all the ingredients to, only to find that I am missing one or more of the ingredients the recipe calls for. Sometimes I purposely set out to make a recipe knowing I don't have quite the right ingredients. And that's okay as long as I know I have viable substitutes for those ingredients I don't have on hand.

I will admit not all recipes can be treated with such wild abandon but after cooking for as many years as I have, I feel1 comfortable substituting ingredients, confident that the end result will turn out just fine. Sometimes even better!

Let's take a Tuna Pasta recipe I made for the family this past weekend:

Tuna Pasta
Tuna 2- 5 oz. cans, drained
2 cups egg noodles, cooked & drained
1 cup peas
1/2 cup cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
Combine all ingredients, heating in pan just until heated through. Serve.

My notes-I cannot remember where I got this recipe from since I've had it so long. I don't know why the instructions are so vague. Luckily, it's hard to mess up!
If I were to guess, I would say this recipe would be 4 servings but for my family, ahem...more like two (or one if my husband had his way~he loves pasta!) so I double it.
tuna: even though I double this recipe, I don't double the tuna. I stick with the two cans. The water that is drained off is offered to the pets.
egg noodles: the last time I made this, I didn't have egg noodles on hand so I used shell shaped pasta instead.
cheese: I normally use shredded cheese; usually we keep shredded colby-jack, mild cheddar, Mexican 4 blend or mozzarella~any is good. This time I was out of shredded cheese so I used canned, grated, parmesan cheese.
peas: I prefer using frozen but did not have frozen peas on hand so I used canned peas from the pantry. I didn't measure, I just drained off the liquid and dumped the whole can of peas in the pot.
cream of mushroom soup: I normally use the 10 3/4 ounce size of condensed soup but didn't have that so I used a 19 ounce can of Progresso cream of mushroom soup.
milk: we don't keep milk on hand since we don't drink it but I used a bit of heavy cream mixed with water this time. I just eyeballed it but I would guess the ratio was a tablespoon of heavy cream and then added enough water to equal 1/2 cup (or in the case of doubling the recipe, I doubled the amounts.). I've also used reconstituted dry milk at times.  
With all the tweaks and substitutions, I made this time and in the past, we've never not liked the result! 
Serving suggestions: Hubby likes to add a squeeze of lemon to it. We all like to sprinkle parmesan on top. Add a simple green salad & maybe some garlic toast.
*Most of the ingredients for this dish I purchase on sale and keep on hand, making this a quick, thrifty meal!

As a new cook, I did follow recipes to the letter but as time has gone by and I have hundreds of dishes under my belt, I've learned (pretty much) what can and cannot be toyed with. Oh, I do still get nervous at times when I'm trying something new, but usually my fears are unfounded and the results are delicious! 

I hope this might help any novice cooks that are just now entering the world of cooking and baking to relax a bit, make common sense substitutions to your recipes if need be (hey, we all find ourselves in the kitchen from time to time in the middle of a recipe only to find we are missing something) and, worse case scenario, you have to call for pizza. And know it's not the end of the world!

(I wish I had thought to take pictures of the dish before it was devoured by all of us!)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

To Do's & Ta Da's

As Autumn arrives with her cooler temperatures (hooray!) and hubby continues to make steady progress in dealing with the aftermath of his stroke, I continue to try to maintain some semblance of normalcy, make our home a safe haven and cherish each moment for the gift that it is.  

And that brings me comfort.

Here's a peek into my...
To Do List (for the upcoming week)

1)  In the Garden~ *Pot up my three new succulents (one of which I got for half price since part of it had died off. I find that many times if a product has a bit of damage or is less than perfect, the store will give me a discount. Usually at least 10% but sometimes much more. All you have to do is ask! I also have three African violets that have been in desperate need of repotting for months!
*Plant more seeds. Flowers & veggies.

2)  In the Craft Room~ tackle some paper craft projects with the upcoming Christmas holidays in mind

3)  In My Etsy Shop~ List an average of one item at least every other day
4)  In the Kitchen~ straighten out the pantry (how does it get SO out of control?!) *

5)  In the Sewing Room~ work on some sewing projects that need to be finished.

6)  The Stockpile~ focus on more bulk purchases for our food stockpile rather than buying smaller quantities of items that can easily be stored. (Sam's, here I come!) This is ongoing. I got a couple of great deals and bought as much as I could afford/fit into  the pantry & fridge, but never made it to Sam's.

Ta Da! List (from last weeks to do's)
Sad to say but I did not accomplish as much as I would have liked. I stayed busy doing necessary things but working my daily schedule around hubbys needs causes all my good intentions to go out the window. He, and his needs, will always be my top priority over household tasks and projects so I cut myself some slack & just roll the to-do's over onto the next week. There's no life or death household emergencies here (:

* tackle some paper craft projects with the upcoming Christmas holidays in mind. I only managed to pull out all the supplies I would need to get started on this. It's something. 
* straighten out the pantry (how does it get SO out of control?!) I did not even begin this projects. On the contrary, I added MORE to the pantry. Now more than ever, it needs straightening!
* work on some sewing projects that need to be finished. I managed to iron one apron that has been waiting to go into my Etsy shop.
* continue to forage in the freezer and pantry for items I can use to make meals, snacks & treats But this is ongoing...
* focus on more bulk purchases for our food stockpile rather than buying smaller quantities of items that can easily be stored. (Sam's, here I come!) This is ongoing

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Five Frugal Things

Still trying to maintain a better focus on saving money when & where I can since our financial future is uncertain as hubby continues to recuperate at home. Plus, it's just the smart thing to do. Always.

So here's five things I've done or am doing lately when I have on my Frugal Franny britches:

1)  In the Garden~ *Moved established Genovese and Sweet basil plants from containers to the garden bed so they can stretch & wiggle their toes. *Planted spinach seeds. *Added any and all veggie scraps & mulch-worthy stuff to my mini mulch pile.

2)  At the Store~ *Got 5 free cans of white albacore tuna with ECB's from CVS. *Found organic, free range, humanely raised eggs for .20 less per dozen at a closer store (for when it's not convenient to go to my favorite health food store, which is a bit out of the way. Saving me money, time, gas and wear & tear on our vehicle) UPDATE 10/25/12: I went to buy some eggs today and found them $1 LESS than I have been paying!!! Time to stock up!

3)  Cosmetics~ *Went on a "makeup diet" for a while. Focusing on using what I already have on hand. (I used up a container of mineral makeup! And there's more where that came from so I don't really need to go out & buy another.)

4)  In the Kitchen~ *Made a yummy baked pasta dish using only items on hand: crumbled up leftover turkey meatloaf, pasta, tomato sauce & paste, dried Italian herbs (all four from the pantry), fresh basil & oregano (from the garden) & shredded mozzarella (given to me free). I cooked the tomato sauce, tomato paste & herbs til hot & bubbly, added the cooked pasta, stirred it all together, placed it in a greased casserole dish, sprinkled mozzarella on top & baked at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes (just til cheese was melted). I served it with a tossed salad. (To rave reviews I might add (;  )

5)  Washed my car at a "self serve" car wash for a little over $3. Saving me the usual $25 + $5 tip that we have been known to spend at the full-serve-sit-on-your-behoo-while-someone-else-cleans-your-car place. Bonus: great exercise!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sometimes the Solution is Simple

After throwing out $9.50 (ouch) worth of coupons ($8 at Kroger & a $1.50 ECB at CVS) today that could have been used towards anything in their respective stores, and just wanting to kick myself for allowing them to expire before using them, I knew I needed a better way.

How does it even happen in the first place? Well, being the neatnik that I am (not), I tend to throw receipts & register generated rewards/coupons in my purse on the way out of the store. And there they float around awhile until one day, when I decide to either clean out/change out handbags. It is then that I find in my hot little hands one of those type coupons staring back at me, mocking me, expired.

I must, I tell myself, DO SOMETHING about this, for it happens all too often. So, I decide to keep them in my wallet, alongside the cash (since coupons are as good as cash, right? But only when we actually use them...) so they are in my face more often. 

Sometimes the solution to our dilemmas are simple. Whether we brainstorm them ourselves or ask for an objective opinion from someone else.

We'll see how this goes...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ordering My Ordinary Days

Oh, so much has happened since I last posted here. What a difference a day can make in the direction our lives flow.
 My sweetheart suffered a stroke recently and spent the better part of a month in the hospital. After an emergency stent operation in his carodit artery and many days of in patient occupational and physical therapy, I am happy to say he is at home recuperating well. He has no feeling in his left side but does have use of his extremities so he is able to walk and has some use of his left hand (with struggle and frustration).
Needless to say, it has brought on some changes to our day to day routines and dealings but I still feel we are oh so blessed regardless of all that has happened. After all, things could be worse.

Count your blessings, name them one by one...

And I am blessed to be able to be at home to help him when he needs it. Cook our meals, tend our home and just be together.
But there are moments that happen where the loss of control over certain aspects of life slap us in the face just as hard reality so often does. And we move on.

Because of this, I have been trying to embrace those things that I can control: groceries (and the budgeting of), my little garden (that I continue to struggle to make happen), frugality (more important now than ever since we're not sure if hubby will be able to go back to work) and other household happenings. Doing these things seem more important to me now (even though they have always been important to me). I guess because it's familiar and it comforts me to know that they are still there for me. The ordinary things in my ordinary days. 

A few "comforting" things I've done this past week:

* planted more mint, lavender, parsley, zinnia, cilantro, dill, nasturtium, English daisy, chamomile and viola seeds. (I had tried with these seeds a few months back and had no luck, with the exception of parsley, mint and lavender plants that took but are struggling.) I'm going to experiment and see if they will sprout and do better with cooler months coming. It's soo hot here in the summer months! I also planted Table Queen squash, pumpkin and cantaloupe seeds for the first time ever! I'm curious to see what will come of them.
* made a conscious effort to use up leftovers before they went bad. I used up leftover steak to make hubby steak and eggs for breakfast one morning and a second dinner (yes, one steak lasted him three meals!). Took all the stale bread in the fridge & freezer & made my standby bread pudding (that recipe is so forgiving!) also incorporating two cups of applesauce that my DD had lost interest in (in place of the apples). Made french toast out of a few slices of day old homemade french bread for one of our breakfasts. Pulled out some pear sauce that I made a couple of years back from pears off our tree and froze for a yummy ice cream topping! (love my FoodSaver!)
* began the new habit of adding a couple of capfuls of bleach to my dishwater to help prevent colds, flu & other contagious, icky things. (our dishwasher is broken, whahhhhh! ) ':
* made a couple of loaves of french bread and one loaf of oatmeal bread. (Which wouldn't happen without my trusty breadmaker~just being honest.)

I'm sure there's more that I can't think or right now, but while I'm at it I'll make my "to do" list for the upcoming week for the projects that have been floating around in my mind...

* tackle some paper craft projects with the upcoming Christmas holidays in mind
* straighten out the pantry (how does it get SO out of control?!)
* work on some sewing projects that need to be finished.
* continue to forage in the freezer and pantry for items I can use to make meals, snacks & treats But this is ongoing...
* focus on more bulk purchases for our food stockpile rather than buying smaller quantities of items that can easily be stored. (Sam's, here I come!)

Thanks for stopping by!


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