"I cannot live without books: but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object." -- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Using Carry Out Selections to Make Multiple Meals

Here is one of my favorite ways to save money and get some great meals in the process. Now, I do make small meals, so what one person calls a meal and what another calls a meal will make this option vary greatly.

In my colonia, I have several prepared food choices. My two favorites are a cafe that makes vegetarian inspired meals and a Chinese takeout.

The cafe meal, which costs about 60 pesos, comes with a salad, rice and the main course. The main course is usually grilled chicken breast with a sauce or a vegetable concoction. I make two meals of from the main course items.

The meals also comes with a fruit beverage, soup and corn tortillas.

I freeze the beverage and defrost it later to make coolers (water with ice and some flavoring), I can make one drink last a few days. The soup is also frozen and when I defrost it and heat it up. I make a sandwich for another meal. So, that's about 3 meals for 20 pesos each.

Plus, I microwave the tortillas to make corn chips for dip.

With the Chinese carry out, which costs about 60-80 pesos, depending on the number of items you choose, I take plastic containers and portion out a mix of the various items, rice, noodles, chicken and vegetables, sweet and sour chicken etc. into each container, often making about 5 meals. I freeze them and use them as needed. That's about 15 pesos a meal.

Making Healthy Meals from Products at Local Tiendas

Where I live there are several tiendas nearby, small mom and pop affairs, commercially-owned deli-types and corporate-chain convenience stores.

When you first walk into any tienda, you get the sense the most popular items are chips, candy and soda.

But, tiendas offer a wider range of products, too.

Below are some pictures from various local tiendas. Not all tiendas offer the same number or types of products.

What I did not get a picture of is the fresh fruits and vegetables. Often you can get bananas, apples, potatoes, onions, squash, chayote, limes, garlic and the choices may change.

So, can I make healthy meals from products from a tienda?

You can find condiments like mayo, mustard, vinegar, olive oil, and some spices and hot sauces, various deli meats, canned tuna and canned sardines, salsas, canned beans or dried beans.

Refrigerated products might include: orange juice, a few cheeses and yogurts, lunch meat and other items. Plus, there may be a deli where you can get a variety of sliced meats and cheeses.

Because they offer white rice, spaghetti and pasta, I can make several dishes. With tomato sauce or salsa, onions, garlic and canned vegetables, I can make a sauce and toppings for spaghetti, or make fried rice, or a casserole.

With potatoes, I can make baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, or with milk and cheese, a potato casserole. Toppings can be tomato sauce, mixed vegetables or canned beans.

Some tiendas have packaged cereal and some also have raw oatmeal and raisins, so with fresh or canned fruits, yogurt or milk, I can make several breakfast cereal meals and desserts.

Some tiendas have eggs, milk, creme, flour, sugar and baking powder, so that expands the choices for making several dishes, like pancakes, fritters, homemade ice cream, biscuits, and more.

You can find canned pineapple and often canned peaches, if you can't find fresh fruit which you can add to many recipes.

With bread or tortillas, along with other ingredients like eggs and milk, mayo and tuna, lunch meat, or pineapple chunks, I can make french toast, tacos and wraps, or sandwiches, and bread pudding.

While you can often find bags of dry beans, so far, I have only been successful using dry lentils, not the other types of dried beans. But, I can make a lentil salad..

You can make healthy meals using products from tiendas.

The positives are convenience, which can mean a lot if you don't have a car, and a sense of community. You are more likely to meet your neighbors at a local tienda.

The negatives are the items usually cost a little more and selections are limited. But, from another perspective, going to the local tienda can cost less because you can carry items home rather than use a cab and more tiendas means more jobs.

I am still trying to do budget comparisons, can I save money by shopping at tiendas? No answer yet, because I do go back to the bigger grocery stores for items I can't get at tiendas.

Lots of Good Food -- Made by Someone Else :-)

Been doing a lot of visiting these days. Eating out a lot. The only downside is I eat more than I normally would therefore I gain weight.

Joseph's Diner - Loved the Reuben, packed with corned beef and the sauce was great.  Mom loved Reubens.

Bistro Cultural -- Rabbit dinner - don't often get a chance to eat rabbit. This was good. Rabbit, I think is a bit on the lean side, less meaty than chicken but tasty.

My attempt at Spaghetti Sauce -- While I cooked down fresh grown tomatoes and added spices, my sister add the ground beef and more spices to make a very tasty spaghetti sauce.

 Charm -- Thai Restaurant -- Shrimp fried rice. It looked like more than I could eat but I put a big dent in this dinner and took some home.

Charm -- Thai Restaurant, homemade Tea flavored ice cream. It did taste like tea. I liked it.

 IHOP - a garden omelette. It was great, chock full of fresh vegetables.

Cracker Barrel -- had to get a picture of the rocking chairs on the front porch. Every time I go to Cracker Barrel, I have to get grits and collard greens!!

My Niece's Salads

Better late than never. I forgot to add a picture of my niece's salads, now she is a cook where as I am not.

On a recent visit, she served a group of us with fresh and lovely salads. What makes these salads unique beside containing fresh ingredients is my niece made each one different according to the recipient's tastes, some for meat eaters, others for vegetarians and some without various ingredients for those who don't like x, y, or z.

Very thoughtful and very tasty.

One Pot Spaghetti Dish

One Pot Spaghetti Dish Recipe

41/2 cups of water
1 pkg spaghetti
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 dashes of red pepper sauce
1 palmful dry basil, crushed between palms
2 TBs olive oil
A small pinch of rock salt
Several grinds of black pepper
Garnish: parmesan cheese, a few grinds of black pepper, basil

Add water to large skillet with tall sides.
Break bunches of spaghetti in half, add to water.
Add the rest ingredients including the spices, except the garnish.
Bring mixture to a boil, boil for about 9-15 minutes or until liquid is reduced to a very small amount. Stir frequently.

When serving, season again with a few grinds of pepper and a sprinkle of dry basil.
Serve with parmesan cheese.

As you can see, I had few of the original ingredients listed and had to make substitutions. This is a revelation because I could never make substitutions before but it is getting easier.

The dish was tasty but it took me almost 30 minutes to boil off the liquid on my finicky hot plate. Wonder how this would work in a microwave?

This was a surprise, I think the red pepper sauce brought out a lot of the flavor in this dish.

Note: Next time add more tomatoes.

Chicken Ensalada with Mixed Vegetables and Pineapple Chunks

Chicken Ensalada & Pineapple Chunks Wrap or Taco recipe

A lightbulb went off in my mind the other day, I had been using precooked flour tortillas, right out of the package, as wraps because I did not want to cook them in a skillet with oil. Not only did I not want more dirty dishes, I wasn't sure I wanted the extra oil. Then I got the idea to just brown the tortillas slightly in an ungreased non-stick skillet. Great idea!!!

Regarding chicken, I have switched from buying a whole cooked chicken and taking the time to debone it and dice the meat to save for several uses. It is a messy job. It requires a sharp knife and the smell of the grease is a huge advertisement to ants.

Now a whole chicken at about $80 pesos when deboned does provide a lot of meat, and bones for soup. But, I was never successful at making chicken soup or chicken stock with bones, so besides the mess, the process became less appealing.

A can of chicken ensalada (chicken with mixed vegetables added) costs about 15.90 pesos, and after I add diced onions, another can of mixed vegetables and about 3 tablespoons of pineapple chunks, I can make about 5 chicken salad wraps which for me is 4-5 small meals.

Chicken Ensalada with Mixed Vegetables and Pineapple Chunks Recipe

1 135g (4.76oz) can of chicken ensalada
1 225g (8oz) can of mixed vegetables, drained
3 tablespoons pineapple chunks, drained
1/3 onion, diced
1/2 TB mayo (optional)
1/2 capful of lime juice concentrate
Ground black pepper to taste
1 flour tortilla

Mix the above ingredients together in a bowl or food storage container and season to taste.
Brown tortilla on both sides in ungreased skillet (one of those with a stick proof surface)
Put tortilla on a plate.
Fill center of tortilla with heaping tablespoon of the mixture.
Fold tortilla to enclose mixture or grasp like a taco.

Note: Consider adding curry powder.

Note: you can also get plain chicken breast (pechuga de pollo) or turkey with mixed vegetables (ensalada de pavo) in a can for a few more pesos.

Hotplate: Wheat Tortilla Pizza

Wheat Tortilla Pizza Recipe
(Inspired by: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/skillet_tortilla_pizza/)
My Wheat Tortilla Pizza Recipe is much different than the one noted above, but I do love "Simply Recipes", it's a great website for good, semi-easy recipes.

1 tortilla, wheat or flour
1 garlic clove, diced
1/8 onion, diced
a handful of diced green or red bell peppers
1/2 plum tomato, diced or diced cherry tomatoes
1 olive, green or black, diced
1/2 or more grated hard white cheese
1 dash of oregano, dry
1 dash of red pepper, flakes
ground black pepper to taste
Garnish: imitation bacon bits

Add chopped garlic and vegetables to a small non-stick skillet.
Use low to medium heat. Simmer vegetables until they begin to smoke.
Stir, simmer for about 30 more seconds.
Remove sautéed vegetables, place in small bowl.
Place tortilla in skillet.
Cook until brown one side. Flip tortilla over
Top tortilla with sautéed vegetables.
Sprinkle spices over items.
Sprinkle graded cheese over all items.
Add bacon bits.
Heat items until cheese melts but watch, you want the tortilla to brown on the bottom, but not burn.
Using a turner, lift tortilla onto a plate.
Cut into 4 pieces for easy eating.

What I liked about this recipe and the results was the wheat tortilla got just the right amount of crispy and I did not use any oil to "smoke" the vegetables. It was easy and tasty.

Plus, I got to use my frozen red and green diced bell peppers.

I have not tried this with a flour tortilla and wonder if the wheat tortilla crisps up easier than a flour tortilla.

Use your imagination for other items to add to your pizza!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Feliz Año Nuevo!!! 2017 - Lentil Salad, Pickled Radishes, Simple Sauted Radishes Recipes

Happy New Year, Everyone!!!

Spent New Year's Eve in Mexico with some friends.

After cleaning my space, I dumped the mop water out the front door to clean out the old new year.

For the dinner, I wore white underwear for good health and brought a lentil salad for prosperity (lentils look like tiny coins).

We lit blue, red, yellow, green, orange and white candles for peace, passion, abundance, health, intelligence and clarity.

We made a toast to the New Year and to our good health with sparkling grape juice and said prayers for the meal and the New Year.

After dinner, we walked to the Remate and, a minute before midnight, we ate 12 grapes, each one representing a wish for the New Year as the Christmas Tree flashed its lights and at midnight spelled out Feliz Año Nueveo 2017!!!!

Firecrackers burst all around. Fireworks could be seen in the distance. We blew our whistles, and tossed streamers and confetti!!!

The romantic in me wanted to toss a coin in the Remate Fountain and make a wish, like a scene from the American movie Three Coins in a Fountain set in Italy. But, after tossing a coin in and making a wish, I thought I should get the coin back, so it wouldn't clog the fountain's machinery.

It was a delightful evening with friends and electronic contact with family and friends!!!!

***Wishing Everyone the World Over: Peace, Prosperity, Good Health & Hope. May all your wishes come true***

Lentil Salad Recipe

I think I've found a lentil recipe I can make!

1 cup dry lentils, rinsed
1/2 palmful thyme, dry, crushed
2 handfuls carrots, shredded
1/4 cup bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
10 sprigs of fresh parsley, torn from stalks and torn again
1 clove garlic, minced
2 capfuls lime juice concentrate
1 TB olive oil
Salt/ground black pepper to taste

  1. Process:
  2. In a medium saucepan add lentils and thyme.
  3. Cover with enough water so there's an inch above lentils.
  4. Bring to boil.
  5. Reduce to simmer uncovered until lentils are tender but not mushy, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Drain lentils.
  7. In serving bowl or covered container add: carrots, pepper, onion, parsley, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  8. Mix well.
  9. Add lentils.
  10. Mix well.
  11. Cover and store in frig to chill before serving.
Note: my lentils were a bit crunchy because my hot plate is finicky, yes, I have watch the pot to see if it is simmering.

The real test will be my friends tonight because this is a New Years's Eve dish.

It was ok, no raves. While it tasted fresh, it had little flavor.

Note 2: I just added a little bit of table vinegar to some leftover lentil salad and that made all the difference, it brought out all the flavor of the ingredients!!!!

At the grocery store, I don't often buy radishes because they come in a bag of about 20 bulbs.  Normally, I couldn't use all those radishes before many went bad and that would be a waste. But, this time, I had 2 recipes I thought would solve the problem, so then I could have some fresh radishes, then saute some for a side dish and pickle the rest. Goal: No Food Waste.

Pickled Radishes Recipe
Adapted from:

Pickling Solution:
1/2 cup table vinegar? (see note)
4 TBs sugar
1 palmful dry thyme, crushed
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 TB black peppercorns
Mix and stir these together in a large jar with a lid.
Make sure the sugar has dissolved.

Next prepare:
6 medium radishes (cleaned and trimmed).
Slice radishes into thin slices.
1/4 onion, cut into small wedges

Add radish slices and onion wedges to the jar of pickling solution.
Refrig 8 hours

Note: hit a few sags, when the recipe said cover radishes with pickling solution, it didn't say the radishes would float above the liquid, so I added a lot more vinegar. But, I wasn't sure about the sugar to vinegar ratio. I didn't want to add more sugar, so I didn't.

Not knowing how pickled radishes should taste, they tasted fine to me.

Note 2: Just added some pickled radishes to a serving of leftover lentil salad, not bad. But, I ate a black peppercorn, I wouldn't recommend it.

A Simple Sauted Radishes Recipe

6-8 radish bulbs, cleaned, trimmed and cut in half.
a dollop of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste.

After putting the olive oil in a skillet, add the radishes.
Season to taste.
Cook on medium until radishes are brown and semi-soft.
Serve warm.

I added a video of the Christmas Tree but don't know why it won't play. Sorry.