Suburban Pioneers

The Adventures and Misadventures of Homesteading in 21st-Century America

Sarah: Quick Beef Roast May 12, 2014

Filed under: Eat-In May,Food & Cooking — suburbanpioneers @ 4:10 am
Tags: , , , , , ,
A large bowl of shredded beef for only 5 minutes of work?  Yes, please!

A large bowl of shredded beef for only 5 minutes of work? Yes, please!

This recipe is a gem: fast, easy, delicious, and very few ingredients.  We made it last Wednesday, and it fed three adults and one pint-sized human for dinner, and then it fed me for lunch the next day, and then it filled burritos on Friday night for two adults and a young’un.  I can’t recommend a recipe any more highly than that!

The original recipe called for 1 c. of ketchup, but that seemed both expensive (that’s somewhere around half a bottle!) and too sweet, so I altered it a bit and added some spices.  You could probably double the spices, the brown sugar, and the tomato paste and skip the ketchup entirely if you were so inclined.

You could also probably skip the onions, but I thought it made a nice additional topping to the sloppy joes.

Seriously, this took me 5 minutes to make, and it gave us two dinners.  That’s a pretty good return on investment!

Bonus meal starter for a different night!

Bonus meal starter for a different night!

 

 

Ingredients:

beef roast (I just used a basic chuck roast)
1/2-1 onion, cut into rings
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. ketchup
1 small can (6 oz) tomato paste
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 c. broth (any kind will do, though I used some of the Leftover Veggie Broth I had frozen)

Directions:

1. Place beef in crock pot.
2. Place onion rings around and over the beef
3. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, ketchup, tomato paste, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder.
4. Pour the mixture over top of the beef and onions.
5. Pour broth over top of all of it.
6. Cook on low 6-8 hours.

We ate it on hamburger buns with a little BBQ sauce like a sloppy joe.  We also later ate it in burritos (just add a smudge of taco seasoning when you reheat).  You could make it over mashed potatoes or to go with veggies.  I like versatility; it helps you use up leftovers!

Also…if you’re being super thrifty, don’t throw away the soupy sludge at the bottom of the crockpot.  The tomato-y beef broth would make the perfect starter for veggie beef soup or, perhaps, for a minestrone!  I froze the stuff left in my crockpot, and it probably equalled about 2 cups.

Leave that restaurant table empty!  You've got a date with some fruits and veggies.

Leave that restaurant table empty! You’ve got a date with some fruits and veggies.

 

Sarah: May Minestrone May 5, 2014

Why go out to Olive Garden when you can make minestrone just as delicious on your own stove?

Why go out to Olive Garden when you can make minestrone just as delicious on your own stove?

The Italians have been holding out on us, everyone.  I love minestrone soup, but I always imagined that each Italian family had a complex family recipe that took hours of simmering until it came to miraculous minestrone perfection.

This weekend, I had the epiphany that minestrone is really just the perfect excuse to use whatever leftover veggies happen to be in your house.  Family recipes notwithstanding, minestrone changes with the seasons according to what is ripe and ready.

Note: I made this in less than 45 minutes after a weekend away, while putting away groceries in the kitchen.  It’s not too difficult–the chopping is the only time-consuming part.

For a quick version at home, there are only about four essential ingredients.  The rest is a choose-your-own-adventure meal!  The other lovely thing about this is that you can make it dairy or gluten free by omitting the cheese on top or the pasta noodles.

Minestrone

Four essential ingredients (which you probably have already in your cupboard or fridge):

  • 1 large can (32 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 4 c. broth (of any kind, really)
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper to taste (I did 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper)

Ingredients I put in my soup tonight (because they needed to be used up or happened to be on sale at the store today):

  • 1/2 a purple onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 small red potatoes
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • a handful of penne pasta
  • a can of beans (I used a tricolor mix, but you can use white, pinto, kidney, whatever)
  • parmesan cheese
1.  Chop, chop, chop the veggies (we like them in small pieces in our house--otherwise, Keith calls it "lazy soup").

1. Chop, chop, chop the veggies (we like them in small pieces in our house–otherwise, Keith calls it “lazy soup”).

2. Sautee the onion until translucent, then add the garlic.  Add other veggies in order of cooking time--potatoes went first for me, then asparagus.

2. Sautee the onion in olive oil until translucent, then add the garlic. Add other veggies in order of cooking time–potatoes went first for me, then asparagus.

3. Next came squash.  After it had all sautéed a bit, I added the broth.

3. Next came squash. After it had all sautéed a bit, I added the broth.

4.  Then comes the can of tomatoes (with the tomato juice--why pour that down the drain when it adds to the soup?).

4. Then comes the can of tomatoes (with the tomato juice–why pour that down the drain when it adds to the soup?).  Stir in the spices now, too, so that it all boils together.

6.  During the last 10 minutes or so of cooking, add the beans and the pasta.  Serve when the pasta gets soft, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese…because cheese makes everything better.

6. After it all boils, let the veggies soften a bit, but if you’re adding pasta, don’t let them get too mushy.  During the last 10 minutes or so of cooking, add the beans and the pasta. Serve when the pasta gets soft, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese…because cheese makes everything better.

 

Sarah: Week 2 of Eat-In May

Filed under: Eat-In May,Food & Cooking — suburbanpioneers @ 3:36 am
Tags: , , , , ,
Week 2: Eat-In May

Week 2: Eat-In May

We aim for a pattern in meal planning: big meal extravaganza on Sunday evening when we’re both home to wrangle our child while chopping veggies and washing dishes.  Usually I make Sunday evening dinner and Keith puts together a crockpot o’ something to cook all day Monday.  Voila!  Two hot meals with leftovers for lunches for the next few days.

Then we plan a quick-and-easy meal for Tuesday.  Wednesday is my day off (I work four tens), so I usually plan something a little more involved (again with leftovers for the next day or two of lunches).  Then on Thursdays, we often have smoothies (use up all that leftover fruit, yogurt, etc.).  It doesn’t sound very hearty, but kids LOVE that dinner and then you can pair it with cheese toast or crackers and cheese for quick additional oomph.

And then…sometimes nothing goes according to plan (such as tonight when we both forgot to make the crockpot).  No worries.  You just switch around as needed.  No need to stress.  As long as you have all your ingredients, it’s no big deal to move things around.

 

 

Lauren: Veggie Frittata: Dinner in 30 minutes or less May 3, 2014

Frittatas have become a weekly staple in our house. Why? Because they’re quick and easy. And they’re a good way to use up eggs and random veggies lingering in the fridge. Our four chickens lay just about 4 eggs a day, 7 days a week. Math isn’t really my thing (English major here!), but I know that comes out to over 2 dozen a week, give or take about, um, 4. . . .  2 dozen eggs a week means at least one frittata for dinner. End of story.

DSCN2222

Ingredients:

1/2 onion, diced

2 tbsp. oil

8 eggs

1/2 c. milk

1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped or 1 tsp dried basil

1 tbsp parmasan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 red pepper, diced

1/2 c. frozen corn

1 cup chopped spinach

2 tbsp. butter

1/2- 1 c. of cheese

Note: You can add whatever veggies or leftovers you have to your frittata. I just happened to have pepper, corn, and spinach. Potatoes are particular good. I would consider the basil, butter, and cheese essential though. And the eggs, of course!

 

Directions:

1. Set oven to the broil setting. Heat oil in a large skillet. When warm, add the diced onion. Cook until onion becomes soft and transparent.

 

DSCN2220

 

2. While the onion is cooking, crack the eggs in a bowl and add milk.

DSCN2226

Play the game of what shape is the milk. I see a mouse. What do you see?

 

3. Add basil, parmesan, salt ,and pepper to eggs. Stir to combine. (Don’t skip the basil. I think it adds so much flavor to the eggs!)\

 

4. Add red pepper to the onions. Cook for a few minutes. Add corn. Cook for a couple minutes. Then add the spinach. Cook just until the spinach wilts.

DSCN2229

Ooo colors!

 

5. Once the spinach wilts, add the 2 tbsp of butter. Butter makes eggs taste even better and helps to keep them from sticking to the pan.

 

6. Add egg mixture to skillet. Cook it like an omelet, pushing the edges in and tilting the pan so egg liquid runs onto the pan. Cook until the edges are set. Don’t worry about the top too much; it will finish up in the oven.

 

7. Put the whole skillet in the oven for a couple minutes until the top is cooked. Watch it so it doesn’t burn.

 

8. Once the top is no longer runny, add the cheese. Put the frittata back in the oven until the cheese is slightly browned and a little bubbly.

 

DSCN2231

 

9. After removing the frittata from the oven, slice it into eights. I also recommend leaving a pot holder on the skillet handle so your husband doesn’t accidentally grab the handle and burn himself.

 

10. Enjoy!

DSCN2232

 

Sarah: Eat-In May Preparation May 1, 2014

Filed under: Eat-In May — suburbanpioneers @ 3:33 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Leave that restaurant table empty!  You've got a date with some fruits and veggies.

Leave that restaurant table empty! You’ve got a date with some fruits and veggies.

I feel the need to establish a little credibility, first.  I’m not one of those win-the-lottery type individuals paid for blogging and cooking.  I work forty hours a week and have a kid and a house to keep up with, so I wouldn’t say I have an abundance of spare time.  I’m also a fairly lazy person and much prefer reading to doing things around the house.

So…now that you know that, you can believe me when I say that, if I can do 7 home-cooked meals a week, you definitely can, too.  It really takes no special skills, just a little planning (which, by the way, I hate, but I’ve found to be necessary…I’ve mentioned that Keith’s in grad school, right?  A tight budget is a reality, so I’ve learned to be a planner).

The beauty is that once I do the planning and shopping, I’m done.  No special, last-minute trips to the store to get that one thing I don’t have to make the meal I just decided to make.  No standing in front of the refrigerator wondering what to make with the hamburger buns and two eggs inside (not that that’s ever happened to me).  I hate the planning process, but it’s kind of a pay-it-forward deal for a week with low stress.  So…on to the plan for the rest of the week.

And no, there’s nothing gourmet on here.  I aim for fast but healthy on weeknights, and I always make enough for leftover lunches the next day.  Here’s the menu, and if you scroll down, there are pictures of tonight’s meal (since it becomes tomorrow’s lunch):

MealPlan Week1

Tonight’s meal: Vegetarian Korma with Rice (we aren’t really vegetarians, but we try to only eat meat about once a week…for health, financial, and environmental reasons).

 

Ingredients:  rice 2 Tbsp olive oil 1/2-1 onion 2 sweet potatoes, peeled 1 jar Korma or Tikka Masala sauce 1/3 package of frozen peas or peas & carrot mix spinach a dash of extra yellow curry powder pepper to taste

Ingredients:
1 c. Jasmine rice in 1 & 1/2 c. water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2-1 onion
2 sweet potatoes, peeled
1 jar Korma or Tikka Masala sauce
1/3 package of frozen peas or peas & carrot mix
spinach
a dash of extra yellow curry powder
pepper to taste

To prepare:

2. Add chopped sweet potatoes and sautee for a few more minutes

2. Add chopped sweet potatoes and sautee for a few more minutes

1. Sautee onions in olive oil until translucent.

1. Sautee onions in olive oil until translucent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Add jar of korma or tikka masala + a half jar of water for a little extra moisture (I like the Seeds of Change brand because it's as good as anything I can make at home, much faster to prepare than from scratch, and has no high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated yuckiness in it).

3. Add jar of korma or tikka masala + a half jar of water for a little extra moisture (I like the Seeds of Change brand because it’s as good as anything I can make at home, much faster to prepare than from scratch, and has no high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated yuckiness in it).

4. While the sauce and veggies simmer, start a pot of rice (Jasmine rice cooks fast, so you don't want to do this too early).  For extra nutrients, use brown rice, but I'd start it before you start any veggies because it takes longer to cook.  Combine the rice and water in a pan, bring to a boil, and then turn down to simmer.  Let set ~15 min. for Jasmine rice, more like a half hour or 45 min. for brown.

4. While the sauce and veggies simmer, start a pot of rice (Jasmine rice cooks fast, so you don’t want to do this too early). For extra nutrients, use brown rice, but I’d start it before you start any veggies because it takes longer to cook. Combine the rice and water in a pan, bring to a boil, and then turn down to simmer. Let set ~15 min. for Jasmine rice, more like a half hour or 45 min. for brown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Add in as many frozen peas and carrots as you like.  I used about 1/3 a package.

5. Add in as many frozen peas and carrots as you like. I used about 1/3 a package.  Allow all to simmer until sweet potatoes are soft and peas are warm.

6.  Tear up and add in fresh spinach (I always keep a bag of spinach on hand--makes any dish healthier!)

6. Tear up and add in fresh spinach (I always keep a bag of spinach on hand–makes any dish healthier!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.  Cover the pan, let the spinach wilt just a little, and then serve over rice.

 

Total time:

30-45 minutes (depending on how fast you chop–I’m notoriously slow at it).

Total cost: $1.79 per meal!
$7.15 total divided by 4 meals–two adult dinners + 2 lunches…and a toddler-sized dinner, too)

1/2 onion: 50 cents
2 sweet potatoes: 66 cents
1 jar Korma: $3.99
1/2 bag rice: $1.50
1/3 bag peas & carrots: 33 cents
1/12 bag spinach: 17 cents

 

Sarah: 10 Common Products You Never Need to Buy February 4, 2013

reduce-reuse-recycle-4Trying to be eco-friendly? Much has been written in other places about how the recycling process itself has environmental consequences.  So what’s an aspiring environmentalist to do?  First, REDUCE!  Three R’s, remember?  If we just buy less, we’ve gone a long way towards being green.

Second, REUSE (a.k.a. repurpose)!  That might be why we’re thrift store junkies, but you don’t have to go Goodwill hunting to reuse.  Here are some simple things you can NOT buy but instead use common household items in place of.  And, on that note, I would like to dedicate this post to my Grandmother Elliott, who lives on in my memory as the most practical re-user I’ve ever known.  I like to think I’m channeling her thrifty spirit now and again.

10. Post-Its

How many pieces of paper with blank backs do you throw away or recycle each day?  And why buy special, oftentimes fluorescent paper (which can’t be recycled due to the heavy dye) when you can reuse paper with a tiny piece of tape?  I quarter my letter-sized sheets to reuse both at work and at home (I’m also the office fairy who hands out stacks of this paper to my colleagues).  Admittedly, this has caused some marital strife in our house when Keith tried refusing to pack and move to our new house a ten-inch high stack of quartered sheets that had once been drafts of my Master’s thesis. Fortunately, I packed it when his back was turned.   Now when he looks for a piece of paper, I say helpful things like,

“Wow.  It’s a really good  thing we have all this scrap paper handy.  So glad we moved it, huh?”

a funnel of the wide-mouthed variety

a funnel of the wide-mouthed variety

9. Plastic Funnels

How many plastic bottles do you toss every week?  Whether it’s a wide-mouthed juice bottle or a streamlined soda bottle, cutting off the bottom half of your plastic bottle produces a lovely funnel. I’m all about owning a nice metal funnel for canning and hot liquids, but if you’re going to buy a plastic funnel anyway, you might as well use some plastic you already have.

8. Microwavable Neck Pillow

My mother always had what she called the “Lonely Socks Club” sitting on the dryer, a repository for all of those singles to wait…and wait…to find their sole mates again.  But every now and then, it would become apparent that some of those lonely socks would never again be a pair.  If you, too, have a Lonely Socks Club, you have the casing for a microwavable neck pillow:  just add rice and herbs and tie off the sock with a piece of string.  No sewing is necessary, and you can congratulate yourself on having saved $14.99 you might have spent on Amazon.

oh, so many uses for this product

oh, so many uses for this product

7. Pet Fur Remover (brush or stone)

Our sure-fire method for removing cat fur from sofas, blankets, clothing, upholstery, carpet, and pretty much any other cloth surface is the magic of a rubber glove.  No, really.  Those rubber gloves that you have lying around for washing dishes can double as pet-fur removers.  Simply put on the glove and run it over the furry surface.  All the hair will clump together, and you can just pick it up and throw it in the compost–because pet fur is, in fact, compostable, as we have previously discussed (just make sure to get the really basic ones, not the ones with extra-lasting power or what-not…when they add extra plastic and stuff to make the gloves tougher, it decreases the fur-clumping abilities of the glove).

6. Travel Toiletry Containers

IMG_2088

Reuse these and avoid buying more plastic!

Because we all need more small plastic containers in our lives…um, not really, no.  If you look around your domicile and in your purse or backpack, you’ll find you already have plenty of travel-sized containers: pill bottles, dental floss containers, hand sanitizer bottles, empty chapstick tubes or tubs, small plastic bottles, to-go dressing containers, empty spice bottles or jars, plastic containers for cake or ice cream sprinkles, plastic Easter eggs (come on, I know you hunted for those when you were a kid), jars of fingernail polish, small plastic containers with candy (M&M’s or Pez to name a few), tubs for face cream or other moisturizers, etc., etc.  When I travel overnight, I put the face wash in one side of an old contact case and the moisturizer in the other.  What’s that you say?  “Sarah, I don’t have any of these types of containers.  I live a plastic-free life!”  “Wow,” I respond, “Kudos for being more awesome than the rest of us.  But I’m pretty sure your neighbors or friends have some small plastic containers you can borrow.”

5. Rubber Bands

Each of these is reused--nothing new here!

Each of these is reused–nothing new here!

If you’ve ever bought produce at the grocery store, you have rubber bands.  They come around the green onions, the celery, the leeks, the asparagus, you know, things that are long and green.  However, if you never buy produce at the grocery store (I applaud your commitment to local produce or I question your healthy eating choices, depending on why you never buy produce), you can reuse those rubber gloves from #7.  When they are worn out from washing dishes or removing pet fur, just make a cut all the way across the wrist of the glove about an inch from the bottom.  Voila! A one-inch, heavy-duty, stylishly yellow rubber band (and you can make more than one rubber band from a pair of gloves…even a small pair yields at least three).  I learned this trick from my aforementioned thrifty Grandmother Elliott.  Thanks, Grandma!

4. Reusable Grocery Bags

Okay, I do buy these every now and then…as a tax on myself when I forget a bag.  In Europe, they charge you 10 pence/cents/pennies/pfenigs/whatever-you-call-it or so each time you have to use a plastic bag instead of bringing your own.  So if I forget mine, I buy a reusable bag because I figure I should have to pay for the resources I use.  BUT there’s no need to buy them on purpose because you don’t have enough.  You can reuse an old t-shirt to make a grocery bag…WITHOUT SEWING it.  There are two different methods, beautifully explained by our awesome friends at Trash Backwards: 1) The Upcycled T-Shirt Bag and 2) The No-Sew Hobo Bag (the English teacher in me loves the rhyming name of the second, but the time-limited crafter in me loves the first one and has made several).

3. Pet Poo Bags

Where all our bags go to die...

Where all our bags go to die…

Seriously, think about how many bags you already throw away or recycle: the bags inside your cereal box, the tortilla bags, the chip bags, the Triscuit or Cheez-It bags, the bread bags, the bag around your newspaper, the plastic packaging around your toilet paper, the bagel bag, the bag of lettuce…I could go on and on, and I haven’t even mentioned the obvious grocery bags or produce bags (because we really try not to ever get those–did you know there are reusable produce bags, too?).  Even if you, as we do, make a lot of your own bread or snacks, you still probably have way more bags than you want to admit.  So DON’T BUY SPECIAL BAGS FOR PET POOP.  Just don’t.  There’s absolutely never a reason to do so.

2. Cleaning Rags

We all like that virtuous feeling of cleaning out the closet and donating old clothes to Goodwill or the Salvation Army: “Ahhh.  My closet is clean, and I’ve helped the needy,” we think (perhaps a tad self-righteously).  However, I have worked in a thrift store before, and I’ve volunteered to sort things for many a donation center.  What I can tell you is that people donate the most awful, disgusting, and unusable garbage you can imagine.  They donate expired food to the Food Bank, sweat-stained clothing to the Goodwill, and broken toys to the Toys for Tots program.  Oh, yes, they do.  And if you think about it, you probably have done one of these things yourself.  My friends, if you are too grossed out to wear it, most other people will be, too.  There are places that you can donate old, stained clothes to farm workers spraying pesticides so that the clothing can be disposed of afterward, but some clothing with holes, you should reuse yourself as cleaning rags.  Really, there’s no need to buy cleaning rags when old t-shirts, boxers, and tank tops can be used to wash cars, clean bathrooms, and scrub floors.

1. Plastic Leftovers Containers

First, I try to be conscious of packaging.  Does the item come in glass, metal, or paperboard instead of plastic?  If so, I buy that.  Think of the few extra cents you might pay as an environmental tax of sorts.  Then reuse those glass containers for storing bulk foods, making yogurt, or holding leftovers (hey, glass is microwavable while plastic isn’t).  But when there is an item that does come in plastic and nothing else, keep the container.  For a kid’s lunchbox, for giving away food to friends and neighbors (I do a lot of this), or for freezing things, you might want plastic instead of your more versatile glass.  So save those cottage cheese, yogurt, and peanut butter containers to reuse!  You don’t have any of these containers?  That’s okay.  Your neighbor’s trash will yield plenty.  Just wait until nighttime to raid their garbage bin, or you might have some explaining to do!

Updated: Feb. 7 at 10:00 a.m.: Want more ideas?  Check out Trash Backwards’ new post: 10 Things You Should Never Have to Buy!  I challenge all of you to make and share your own top 10 lists of things to reduce and reuse.  If we all share our best practices, we can learn from each other!

 

 
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