Tag Archives: easy

Easy Italian Beef

Italian beef is the stuff of Chicago legend.  Crusty bread filled with seasoned meat and a flavorful broth to dip the bread in.

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Unlike its cousin, the French Dip (which is dipped into au jus as it is eaten), the Italian beef sandwich is constructed then traditionally immersed whole into the broth for a quick dip to add extra flavor.  A good crusty Italian bread is the key.

The Veggies:

Traditionally Italian beef is made with Italian giardiniera (jar-din-air-ah) which is a mixture of hot pickled veggies; usually carrots, celery, onion, hot peppers and cauliflower. You can purchase this at most grocery stores in the section where they keep the pickles.

There are many recipes online for Italian giardiniera but they all vary so much that I recommend trying some before attempting to make it so you know what you like and don’t like.  It’s simple to make and very easy to adjust to your own taste.  Also, if you only use it for this recipe you probably only want a smaller amount of it.

Because I can’t handle spicy food and to make this a bit more family friendly, I’m making it with a mirepoix (meer-pwah).  You’ll hear that term a lot on cooking shows.  All a mirepoix consists of is diced celery, carrots &  onion.  It sounds much fancier than it really is.  Personally it drives me a little nuts when they use terms like this on cooking shows without explaining them.  I think many novice cooks are scared away by things like that.

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The Ingredients:

  • Rump roast (size is up to you, depending on how many people you’re feeding)
  • 2 envelopes of dry Italian dressing seasoning mix
  • 1/2 bottle or Dr Pepper
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1-1/2 cups of mirepoix or a 12 oz jar of giardiniera

Put it all in the crockpot, set it and forget it!  Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-12 hours (preferred).   You may find that call for soda is a little unusual.  It’s a great way to tenderize meat and add a little different flavor.  If you find that you like the flavor but it’s a little on the sweet side, just add a splash of vinegar and it will take care of that for you.

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Assembling the Work of Art:

When the meat is ready pull it out of the crockpot, remove any excess fat then shred the meat.  Strain the veggies and mix them in with the meat and mix together.  Load it on your favorite crusty bread.  You can serve the broth on the side to dip in, or (realizing that there’s not a lot of room in the crockpot to move) grab the sandwich with tongs and give a quick ladle of broth over the sandwich.

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Eat and enjoy!


T.G.I.Fried Day!

So simple you’ll be mad that you haven’t been making this one for years!

Fried Rice

My mom learned to make fried rice because it was a great way to feed a family of four with 2 pork chops and it still is.  While mom was making this to reduce her grocery expenses, I make this to reduce my kitchen waste.

Here’s the basic recipe for fried rice:

  • Leftover rice
  • Meat and/or veggies
  • Soy sauce

No, I’m not joking.

You know how you wind up with those random odds and ends of leftovers… not enough to make another dish, don’t want throw it out and chances are no one will eat it for lunch?  That’s the perfect set up for fried rice!  What you’re seeing in that  bowl is left over veggies, leftover pork chops and chicken, a couple of scrambled eggs, rice and soy sauce.  That’s it.

If you remember my post last week called Restaurant Night, you’ll recall the pork chops in the picture.  There were two left.  When I was cleaning up from dinner, I trimmed the fat off the pork chops and diced them into small pieces.  (The fat scraps went to the dog, no waste with him around!)

I mixed up a little barbecue sauce, soy sauce and ground ginger and tossed the pork chop pieces in it, then put it in a ziploc bag and threw it in the freezer.

A few nights ago, Bestie made dinner and as a side she made a bag of frozen peas with diced carrots.  She saved me a little over a half cup of the frozen veggies and I put that bag together with the pork.  I kept them together so I wouldn’t have to go looking later.

Then yesterday while I was making dinner I got the rice cooker out and made about 4 cups of steamed rice.  I was already in the kitchen cooking so it wasn’t any extra work except for washing the rice.  The key to fried rice is that the rice needs to be cold, preferably day old so it has time to really firm up.

If you’re using rice that was just cooked, it’s just going to keep on cooking and you’re going to wind up with mush.  Blech!  So as soon as it’s done cooking and cooled, put it in the refrigerator overnight so it’s ready to use.  If you’re a meal planner, try making a rice dish a few days ahead and just make extra rice and stick in the fridge or freezer (just be sure to thaw it before you use it).

So today, I got out my pork and set it out to thaw.  As I was getting ready to make dinner, I found a leftover chicken thigh from the other day that no one had eaten.  So while I was getting ready, Bestie took the meat off the bone for me and cut it up into small pieces.

I put my big skillet on the stove and when it was hot I added some extra virgin olive oil and some diced celery (already diced & bagged in the freezer) along with some diced onion and let it saute for a few minutes before adding the pork & chicken.  For the last minute of cooking I added a couple of minced garlic cloves.

When the meat was heated through, I put the frozen carrots & peas in, stirred it well and I pushed it to the side.  I then put the rice in the pan and immediately added the soy sauce and tossed it well.  I didn’t want it soaking into the rice, I wanted it well distributed.

I then folded all the ingredients together to distribute them evenly.  Then I made a “hole” in the center of the pan and dropped in two beaten eggs.  Once they were cooked completely and mixed them in with everything else and took it off the heat.

10 minutes and we had a really great dinner!

The best part is you can use really whatever you want.  I wish we would have had some mushrooms and bean sprouts, maybe next time.  I think next time too I would prefer 3 eggs instead of two.  (I like scrambled eggs)  Although I must say, I saw someone make fried rice on Food Network and they served it with a fried egg on top so that you could have the yolk in with it. I’m thinking that’s what I’m going to do with the leftovers when I heat them up. (Mmmm… I love research.)

Consider keeping a bag of diced cooked meats in your freezer.  When you have a leftover pork chop, piece of chicken,  or even that half a steak that you don’t want to give the dog because it cost too much but you can’t eat another bite… dice it up and put it in the freezer.  When you get about 2 cups of meat in your bag, make a pot of rice and put it in the fridge for the next days meal.  Remember that that’s what the restaurants do when they make theirs.  It’s all the trimmings, rather than the big pretty slices of meat you see in the other dishes; the pork is usually from the spare ribs.

Actually come to think of it, I had a half bag of coleslaw mix (chopped green & red cabbage with shredded carrots) that would have been amazing in that fried rice!  I love how this pops in my head now that I’m typing to you.  Now I really need to get busy researching!

Oh, before I forget… my hubby used to make Hawaiian fried rice that was out of this world!  Diced ham, crushed pineapple, onion and soy sauce; He’d also mix cinnamon in with the rice when he cooked it the day before.  Amazing!  You’ve got to try making it sometime.  So good.  (Just between you and me, it would be great with some toasted slivered almonds as well.)

So let your leftovers work for you!  Save money, eat well and get out of the kitchen and off your feet!  I’m off to do research.



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“Research” update:  

I stir fried the coleslaw mix and added the leftover fried rice to it once it was soft.  Yum!  It tasted similar to having bok choy in the dish.  There was too much cabbage for the amount of fried rice that I had leftover, but I wanted to use it up so this was a great way to do it.  I also enjoy cooked cabbage so I’m not put off by it as others might be.  Bestie who is not a cabbage fan actually liked it too.

I also made a fried egg and put it on top.  I’ve never done this before but I think this is how I’m making it from now on!  There’s something about a warm, runny egg yolk that makes anything a comfort food.  The richness of the egg yolk paired really well with the saltiness of the soy sauce.  So good.  

Give it a try and tell me what you think.  Enjoy!

I’m Dreaming of a Pot Pie… and More!

With winter weather upon us, you need something filling and hearty to warm you up and keep you that way.  Pot pie is just the ticket to warm you up and keep you going.  What I love is that it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.

Chicken Pot Pie

If you peruse the frozen food aisle (which is a great place to pick up ideas but not necessarily food due to the sodium content) you’ll find all kinds of variations including “dessert pot pie” (you know, it’s what the rest of us call… pie).

There’s only two parts to making a pot pie, the filling and the crust.  There are so many possibilities it’s astounding.  Truly you could make one for dinner every week for dinner and never eat the same thing twice.

The filling is always something stew-like… meat, veggies and gravy/sauce.  Whatever it is, you want it to be thick so it’ll hold up when you cut into it, just like a dessert pie.

What kind of meat?  So many choices…

  • Beef/Lamb/Venison – Leftover roast, stew meat, ground beef, even crumbled up extra hamburgers from the cookout if they’re not burnt (also great for chili – that’s why Wendy’s first put chili on their menu).
  • Chicken/Turkey – Canned chicken, leftover roasted chicken, marked down rotisserie chicken, thanksgiving leftovers, etc.
  • Tuna – I’m not a fan of tuna but if you are, it’s no different than working with canned chicken.


  • Gravy – Make it from stock, use the leftovers from your meal or even from a jar or can if you choose.
  • Cheese Sauce – Ragu has a couple good options in both cheddar cheese and Alfredo varieties if you want to make it quick and easy, or make your own.  Especially good for vegetarian options!
  • Cream of “something” soup – Mushroom, celery, onion, asparagus, chicken… any of them will work great!


  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Turnips
  • Okra
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Cranberries (not a veggie, I know, but still an option)
  • Whatever you can find or think up!

Then there’s the crust.

First, there’s the option for one crust or two (top & bottom).  Then there’s the option of what to make the crust out of.  A traditional pot pie uses pie crust.  Remember when I said you could make this as simple or complex as you want to?  I wasn’t kidding.

Here’s some of your options for pot pie crust…

  • Homemade pie crust
  • Pie crust from the refrigerator section.
    • Open the package
    • Lay it in the pan
    • Add the filling
    • Lay another crust on top
    • Crimp the edges & cut a slit for the steam to vent (That’s it, you’re done.)
  • Pie crust from the freezer section (but wait, that only has one crust…)
    • Get one regular frozen crust and one deep dish crust.
    • Fill the deep dish crust
    • Cover with the regular crust like a lid and take off the pan it’s in (save it for crafts or whatever)
    • Cut a slit in the top for the steam to vent and you guessed it… that’s it.
  • Canned biscuits – just take them one by one and cover the top (the giant flaky kind are best because you can actually separate them in half if you need more coverage.
  • Canned crescent roll dough (that’s what I used in the picture)
  • Frozen puff pastry
  • Mashed potatoes (actually this makes it a “shepherd’s pie” but I won’t tell if you don’t)
  • Corn Bread batter
  • Stuffing

I”m going to give you the easiest recipe first.  This is absolutely perfect for getting the kids started cooking!  Even the pickiest eaters will eat their own cooking!

Easy Peasy Pot Pie


  • 1 – 10 oz can of chicken, drained
  • 1 large or 2 small – jar/cans of chicken gravy
  • 1 large can of VegAll, drained
  • 1 tube of crescent rolls


  • Mix first three ingredients together, season to taste (easy on the salt, remember that canned food already have a lot of salt in them)
  • Spoon them into a pie pan or cake pan
  • Unroll the crescent roll dough and place on top.
  • Bake according to package directions for crescent rolls, when they’re browned it’s done!

I wasn’t kidding when I said that it was easy!  A 3 or 4 year old can make this (with your assistance and supervision of course). Oh wait, I forgot the most important part…. Take a picture of your child with the dinner they made and post it on facebook for friends and grandparents to fawn over!

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Okay, so now on to the one I made in the picture.  I actually roasted the chicken a few days ago.  Bestie was working late and since it was just the two of us, Handy Husband decided to pick up a pizza so we didn’t have to cook.  I just put the chicken in the fridge for later.

I put a couple of potatoes in the microwave to bake and then stuck them in the fridge to chill them while I was doing other things.  I do this 1) to make sure that they are cooked all the way through and 2) to make sure they don’t turn to mush while I’m trying  to cook everything else.

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I separated the chicken.  One bowl for the meat, one big pot on the stove for the bones, skin and bits of “stuff”.  The meat I divided in half, put half in the fridge until I was ready for it and the other half went in the freezer for another day.

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I heated the bones and skin with a little olive oil and browned what was in there to develop the flavor.  To that I added the tops and bottoms of my celery along with the ends and peels from my carrots and onions and a couple of peppercorns and a few bay leaves.  I let it simmer on the stove for about an hour and a half (till the whole house smelled like chicken soup).

While that was on the stove, I diced up the rest of the celery.  I set some aside for my pot pie and put the rest in the freezer so that I can use it as needed.  I sliced up the carrots that I had peeled and trimmed and set them aside and diced the onion (put about 2/3rds of it in the fridge for salads, omelettes and such).

By the time that the stock was done cooking, it had reduced by about one-third.  I strained it and put the stock in a pitcher so I could refrigerate it.  I didn’t take a picture because frankly it looks like compost and is not that appetizing.  Be sure to add it to your compost pile for your garden!

Whatever I don’t use of the stock in the next few days will go into ice cube trays and into the freezer for later. (Check out my post on prepping and freezing foods for other ideas.)  I used about 3 cups for this dish and have about a quart left.

Just like cooked meats can be frozen for later use, and so can stock ingredients.  Keep a couple of big freezer bags going; one for chicken scraps, one for beef scraps and another with your veggie trimmings.  When the bag is full, make a couple of gallons of stock.  Why buy it for $1-$4 a quart when you can make it with stuff you were going to throw away!  It only takes a few minutes to brown the bones and fat and the stove does the rest!  Freeze or can the stock when you’re done.

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Using the same pot that I made the stock in, I added a little olive oil along with the carrots and celery. I sauteed them over medium heat until they started to soften (5 minutes?) before adding the onion.  As I was waiting for the onions I started seasoning… tarragon, thyme, marjoram, ground savory, garlic and a splash of soy sauce.  I also took the potatoes that were fully cooked out of the fridge, diced them up and had them sitting off to the side.

Once the onions were soft, I added a couple of tablespoons of bacon grease from my jar in the fridge (must have!)  Once the bacon grease melted I added a few heaping tablespoons of flour to make my roux. (Pronounced “roo”, it’s used to thicken the the stock to make gravy).   I let it cook for a few minutes until it started to brown.  This added color, flavor and kept it from having a “flour” taste to it.

I added my chicken and a few ladles of the stock.  Once it came back up to a simmer, the stock thickened into a gravy.  I shut it off, took it off the burner tossed in my diced potatoes and gave it a quick stir.  I gave a quick spray of oil to a 13″x9″ glass baking dish, poured in my mixture then topped it off with the crescent roll dough.  In my other baking dish I put a can of biscuits and put both in the oven at 375°F for 15 minutes till it was browned.  I gave them both a quick brush with some melted butter and dinner was done!

Instead of packaging the other chicken meat and veggies, I could have easily made enough for two and then froze the second one for later.  Which is what I did last time I made pot pie.

The fun of pot pie is that it’s all up to you and your imagination…

  • Chicken with gravy and veggies with pie crust…
  • Beef stew topped with biscuits…
  • Turkey with sweet potatoes and dried cranberries topped with stuffing!
  • Chili with cubes of cheddar cheese stuck in it then topped with cornbread!
  • Meatballs or sliced Italian Sausage with peppers, onions & mushrooms topped with canned pizza dough and brushed with garlic butter!
  • Corned beef and cabbage topped with mashed potatoes!

If you want to be really adventurous, any of these combinations can be put in between two pieces of crescent roll or pizza dough to make homemade hot pockets.  Just bake and freeze!

Be sure to tell me what combinations are your favorite!



Garlic Got Easier!


I just found this video and had to share!  I buy fresh garlic by the bag at my local produce market all the time but am not thrilled cleaning it.  While I prefer to stay frugal so I can spend my money on other things, believe me buying pre-peeled garlic has its appeal.  I don’t like the pre-chopped stuff in the jar because it tends to be bitter and if you need to mince it finer it doesn’t like to cooperate.

When I do separate a head of garlic, I do clean it all at once and keep the cloves in an open mason jar so they’re easy to get to.

No gizmos, no gadgets.  I love it!

This just made my day!  Enjoy!

Fabulous Frybread

Frybread, Bannock, Naan, Puri, Langos or Sopapillas – no matter what you call it, you’ll always call it delicious!

A quick and easy frybread that can be modified with herbs and/or spices to compliment any meal and can be used for your favorite pizza toppings, sandwiches, and tacos as well.  The only limit is your imagination!


  • 4 unbleached all-purpose organic flour, plus more for working the dough
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 cups warm water (~110 degrees F)
  • Coconut oil or lard for deep frying, can brush with ghee or olive oil to pan fry


  1. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water. Knead until soft but not sticky. Shape dough into balls about 3 inches in diameter. Flatten into patties 1/2 inch thick.
  2. Deep fry one at a time in 1 inch of hot coconut oil or lard, or brush with ghee or olive oil and fry in a non-stick or cast iron skilled, turning to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Quick and Easy Composting


Composting is a simple process. It involves dumping your vegetable and fruit peelings, coffee grounds and egg shells along with grass clippings and twigs and leaves. After six months to three years, you have a rich, crumbly dark brown substance that will give your plants all sorts of nutrition. But often times we don’t have the time (or patience!) to wait that long. Now there’s an easy way to make compost in 30 days or less.

How to get compost – FAST

Setting up your own composter

Of course you could go out and buy yourself a compost tumbler for $100-$200 or more. It will certainly get the job done, but there’s a plan that’s easy and a whole lot cheaper that you can do yourself.

First you’ll need to obtain four pallets. You can usually get them free from grocery stores or home improvement stores. You might have to pay a few dollars, but it’ll be worth it. Be sure the pallets you get are clean, without any grease or any substances on them that could leach into your compost.

Once you have four pallets, use one for the base and three around the sides and back in a U shape. Bind them together with wire, rope or zip ties. Don’t do anything permanent – you’ll be removing them later. If the base has large gaps, you might want to add a few boards to make a “floor.” Be sure to leave some space between, like ½ inch or so, for air circulation.

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Materials to be composted

Once you have your bin set up you can begin adding the composting material. You want a ratio of about 1 part “green” material to 2 parts “brown” material.

The green material can be:

  • fresh grass clippings,
  • manure,
  • leaves,
  • fresh hay,
  • or household kitchen waste, such as vegetable peelings.

(Don’t worry about weed seeds – once the internal temperature of the compost hits 155° for three days, weed seeds will be killed.)

For the brown material you can use:

  • straw,
  • dead leaves,
  • twigs or yard weeds that have been wintered over.

Now, here’s the part that will speed things up. Everything you put into your compost bin should be no larger than 1-2 inches in size. And all household kitchen waste should be put in a blender. This will speed things up considerably since it will not take time for it to break down naturally.

Burpee Gardening

Filling the compost bin

Premix the brown and green material together. Then set up a 3 inch layer on the bottom of the bin. Add a few sticks so there will be air circulation. Then add another 6 inches of material, then more sticks. Keep doing this until your pile reaches the top of the bin. If you don’t have enough material, go at least 3 feet high.

After you get your brown and green material in the bin in layers with the sticks, wet it down well. It should not be saturated, but similar to a damp sponge. You can also add a few handfuls of lime, but I’ve never had to. You don’t need to add a “compost starter,” but you can add some aged compost or garden soil. This will provide some beneficial bacteria and fungi to get it started.

If you use this method, you won’t need to turn your compost at all. Alternatively, you can omit the sticks between the layers and turn the pile occasionally. This will provide the necessary aeration. The pile will get very hot, 140° to 160°. If you don’t provide aeration, it could get hotter than 160°, which will kill the good bacteria. Essentially, you’ll need to start over. Temperatures of 155° will kill most plant diseases as well, but it won’t kill heat resistant diseases like tobacco mosaic virus. And it won’t be hot enough to kill pathogens found in meat products.

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Other tips for creating great compost

On that thought, here are a few things you shouldn’t compost. Meat and bones are no-no’s. Glass, plastic, fatty substances, metal, rubber, pet waste and anything that may contain chemicals such as clippings from herbicide-sprayed lawns.

Some things I never thought of but that can be composted are junk mail (with any plastic windows removed), cardboard and cereal boxes. Most cardboard manufacturers are using soy-based inks and natural adhesives, but you might want to check before you use them. Newspaper is also great. All of it in our area is recycled paper and soy-based ink. Again, you might want to check with the printer. Cut, shred or tear junk mail and newspapers into small pieces to get them going faster too.

55 Gallon Water Barrel

Another thing you can do to speed things up is add some worms. Red wigglers are about the best to use, but common garden worms and night crawlers will work just as well. These little creatures multiply quickly, regenerate if damaged, make fast work out of scraps and aerate the compost too. And when you’re done, you can use them for fishing bait!

Composting is an old time-honored tradition of slowly making nutrients for your soil out of waste materials. But it can be quick, too!



Fabulous Frybread

Frybread, Bannock, Naan, Puri, Langos or Sopapillas – no matter what you call it, you’ll always call it delicious!


A quick and easy frybread that can be modified with herbs and/or spices to compliment any meal and can be used for your favorite pizza toppings, sandwiches, and tacos as well.  The only limit is your imagination!

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c


  • 4 unbleached all-purpose organic flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 cups warm water (~110 degrees F)
  • Coconut oil or lard for deep frying, can brush with ghee or olive oil to pan fry


  1. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water. Knead until soft but not sticky. Shape dough into balls about 3 inches in diameter. Flatten into patties 1/2 inch thick.
  2. Deep fry one at a time in 1 inch of hot coconut oil or lard, or brush with ghee or olive oil and fry in a non-stick or cast iron skilled, turning to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.