Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Multiplying your Food: Breadcrumbs and Meat Mixing

My bread "collection"

Frugal habits (like making your own laundry detergent- see here) may seem like too much work at first, but if you practice the habit, it will easily become a part of your normal routine, improve the quality of what you use, and free up more income!

     In the Scriptures, there are several examples of food multiplication.  Remember when the Lord extended a handful of flour and a little oil through Elijah in 1 Kings 17:10-16, and when the Lord Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes twice? Once he fed over five thousand people (Matthew 14:21) and another time over four thousand people (Matthew 15:38).  In addition to feeding all of these people from a small amount to begin with, Jesus also insisted they gather the leftovers. There is much in the Scriptures about bread and even crumbs! (Matthew 15:27).
     When feeding a large family, Mamas soon learn many ways to stretch the dollar and multiply what little may be left in the pantry. No one can multiply like the Lord, so always pray about your needs; but in addition to that, gather up your leftovers and use what you have left as well. Ironically, breadcrumbs can be a very valuable and convenient multiplication tool.

You can see the variety of bread I have in the dehydrator: forgotten toast I found in the toaster, cornbread, potato as well as white and rye bread end pieces. I even had a layer of leftover hamburger buns. The bread was still frozen when I placed it onto the dehydrator.

     When purchasing bread, it is unfortunate that my family is not particularly keen on the end pieces. Now if the bread is homemade and fresh out of the oven, that is another story! It also seems as though there is always an extra hamburger or hot dog bun left behind. Before these items can go bad, I gather what is being ignored or forgotten and add it to my "bread collection" bag I keep in my freezer.  Every few weeks, I take out my bag and make homemade breadcrumbs.
     Although I will be happy to demonstrate this easy process, it is not the method of bread crumb making that I want to share. My desire is to inspire you to make your own. Folks throw this stuff away all the time without even thinking of using it!  Ground beef is an expensive, but well loved luxury in our home, so I multiply it by adding breadcrumbs to meatloaf, burgers, and meatballs.  By topping a casserole with buttered breadcrumbs, there is a little more flavor and texture (as well as belly filler) added to the dish.  I also make my own "Shake and Bake" by pouring some of my own breadcrumbs into a shallow dish and seasoning it before dredging pork chops, chicken, etc.

I break apart the dried bread into smaller chunks, and grind the dried bread pieces in my mini Black & Decker "Handy Chopper".  I love, love, love this little gadget!  I've had it for years. Obviously, you can also use a standard food processor. This little guy is just so easy!

    Finally, you can also multiply your ground beef by combining it with another less expensive ground meat such as turkey or venison.  I have purchased a chuck roast at less per pound than ground chuck and ground it myself for better quality meat at a better price! On my last shopping trip I purchased two large packages of ground beef and two packages of the less expensive ground turkey.When I got home from shopping, I ground up several venison cube steaks I had been storing in the freezer.  I filled three freezer bags with a combination of these meats for future meals.  For sloppy joes, I had fairly equal portions of each meat.  For the meat loaf bag, I used a larger portion of the ground beef, and for the tacos bag, I used the least amount of the beef.  The more seasoned the dish, the less noticeable the replacement meat.  I labeled  the bags and put them in the freezer, ready to go.  This made more than three meals, because there were leftovers.

 Ta da! You can see the different shades from the variety of bread used.

 I close the containers, give them a good shake, and pop them into the freezer.  Because they're dry, they'll last for months, but I'll use them up and refill them long before that!

     But He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs."
   And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."
  Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be to you as you desire." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Matthew 15:26-28


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Soupin' Up the Rice

       Baked rice with sausage (or whatever else you like)

       Well, the holiday season is behind us, and many of us are recuperating financially from all of the expense. I must testify that the Lord is faithful, and during times like these, I frequently request sincerely in prayer,"Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). The Lord has never failed to provide.          
      Following our return from Wisconsin, we were painfully reminded that there were no groceries in the house to greet us (we made sure to have nothing spoil while we were gone.). We immediately began thawing a turkey we had stored in the freezer when we stocked up during Thanksgiving. The situation hasn't been desperate, but things have definitely been a little tight. Because rent and other bills were due at the beginning of January, there really wasn't much available for the grocery budget for these first two weeks of January! Needless to say, God came through! We mentioned our plight to no one except the Father in the name of the Son, and not only was Scott given two bags of assorted venison products from his part-time employer at the close of the deer season, but then some dear friends who were moving away dropped off a large box of food from their freezer they had to empty. Little did they know how much it was appreciated! Nope, this doesn't embarrass me one little bit. I think it is AWESOME how God meets our needs when we ask Him and how the folks He uses don't even realize they are instruments of prayer. This is a faith builder for my family and keeps us humble! Please be encouraged if you're struggling, and don't forget to pray for your needs! Sometimes the Lord will lead you to ask others for help too, and that can be a challenge to your pride. Remember, He expects us to overcome that!
     Several weeks ago I mentioned that I wanted to post economical recipes for hungry, large families. I discovered this dish a couple months ago and made it for a church luncheon. It was much tastier than I expected and was well received. My kids and I are not big rice fans. My husband likes it, but over all, we are really more of a potato people. Rice, however, is economical, easy to store, and pretty flexible, so I try to use it as much as I can. I've always liked "Rice A Roni" (the San Francisco treat!), and the flavor and texture of the rice in this dish reminds me of it. Another great thing about this dish is that, like our "Fill in the Blank Oatmeal Bars", you can trade out ingredients or add more to suit your pantry. I found this recipe in a 2001 Taste of Home recipe book.  Emily was originally going to make this dish today, but then cut her finger while chopping the celery, so Hayden is taking over.

 Emily begins chopping the veggies.

   Stitches? Daddy cleans and "glues" her wound back together with Superglue.

2 pounds bulk Italian sausage or any diced or ground meat of your choice (we used spicy venison sausage)
4 celery ribs, thinly sliced (we used one - my kids dislike celery)
1 large onion
1 large, green pepper, chopped (we used about 1 cup of combined red and green pepper)
4 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup dry chicken noodle soup mix with the short noodles (1 1/2 envelopes)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup uncooked white rice (you could use brown if it cooks quickly)
1/4 to 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

With these three ingredients, you can make any rice dish taste like Rice A Roni. 

After these were thawed, Scott removed them from their casings.

Chop all your vegetables.You can leave them out, or even replace them with others, like frozen, fresh, or canned peas, corn, or green beans.

     In a large skillet, cook sausage, celery, onion, and green pepper over med-med high heat until meat is no longer pink, and veggies are tender. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.  We relocated this to a bowl so we could reuse our saucepan for the next step. Hayden wasn't sure if we used venison until she proofread this blog entry. That is how much flavor this rice dish offers!

Before and after.

In a large saucepan, bring 4 1/2 cups water to a boil. Stir in 1 1/2 packets of dry soup mix and simmer, uncovered for five minutes or until noodles are tender. Preheat oven to 350 degrees while simmering.

Stir in can of soup, 1 cup of uncooked rice, and sausage mixture. Mix well. You may need to use a whisk to break down the can of soup.

Transfer to a greased 13x9x2 in. baking dish.

Before baking
It is hard to believe there is only one cup of rice in this!
 Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

When casserole is almost finished baking, melt 2 tablespoons butter and combine with 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs. If it is too sticky, add some more breadcrumbs.

 After 40 minutes, uncover casserole, top with breadcrumbs, and bake uncovered another 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

We served this today with a "Johnny Cake" (cornbread that is not muffin style).
A Johnny cake is delicious, easy, and inexpensive.

I used two boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix at about .59 a box.
Double and follow the directions on one of the boxes, stir in an additional 1/4 cup extra milk, an extra egg, and 1/4 cup brown sugar. You may need to bake it an additional 5-10 minutes.  Test the center with a knife.

The extra egg and milk keep it from getting too crumbly and enable it to slice more nicely.

All righty, then!

In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen

Matthew 6:9-13