no lewd jokes, please….
I haven’t been sleeping very well recently, and with our internet issues I’ve been rather short of nerves and those I do have are all over the floor, plus a lot of time-eaters this time of year. So, fast and simple food that I don’t have to watch very closely is a big plus. Cheap is a big bonus.
Luckily, I have a chest freezer and a crockpot. So, unasked, I’m going to share some of the “recipes”—not so much recipes, really, as vague guides to making something you’ll want to eat. If you cook like I do, you’ll be just fine improvising after one or two times pretty much following these.
Start in the morning.
Half of a flat of the cheapest chicken at Safeway. (or wherever your inexpensive meat is bought from) Two to four pounds, although that’s a rough estimate based off of my memory of the price of one of the flats I got on sale last week, divided by my memory that there were 5 thigh-quarters in each and the per-pound price. Can’t check the container because I buy bulk, divide into sizes I actually use and freeze; I grabbed two of the “dinner” bags for this, microwaved until they were soft enough to get the chicken loose, and layered them into the bottom of the crockpot. Doesn’t have to be flat.
One pound of baby carrots, which were on sale for a buck a bag. A friendly, startled gentleman asked me what on earth I was going to do with all the bags I grabbed—I grinned and told him that I had two little girls at home, they’d be eaten in no time! Ripped open one bag and dumped it on top of the still frozen chicken.
Choose one: dump a baggie of onion soup and enough water to mostly cover the chicken, or two cans of the cheapest broth you can find, or make broth per the side of the from-dry container, or a can of “cream of” soup and enough water to mostly cover the chicken.
Optional: add dried garlic, chop in an onion, dump in “stew veggie” frozen mix. Celery leaves, if you have them, or celery seeds.
Set the crock pot to low and leave. If you get back in less than seven hours, walk in and stab the chicken to make sure it’s not bleeding. If not, skip to next step.
Taste liquid. Season to taste. Add any veggies you didn’t want to be baby-food soft, and go do all the stuff you need to do right after you get home and before dinner, usually takes me at least an hour. Add something like macaroni noodles if you’d like—I know they get soft enough to be good but don’t get soggy, can’t vouch for any other sort. I’m a fan of frozen green beans, myself.
If you don’t need the veggies to cook, turn the crockpot to “warm” until dinner time. (noodles, celery added for the crunch, will be fine on “warm”)
Serve in bowls.
optional different route: When you walk in, get enough liquid out of the pot to make Mashed Potatoes, serve on a plate the first night (slotted spoon) and reheat as stew/soup the second.
Simple Beef Strogan-knockoff
(The name because I like puns and don’t want to deal with someone pointing out “stroganoff” has a specific meaning)
Cheap ground beef, at least a pound. Brown in a skillet. (I usually mash it flat in the bottom of my old cast iron, then chop it with the spatula when it’s time to stir. I have NEVER had any luck getting the pretty crumbles you see on TV.) Season lightly if you’d like—garlic salt and lemon pepper are my go-toos. My beef is incredibly cheap, but not low quality—yay, grass fed certified natural ground beef from family!
Add a can of cream of mushroom soup. Add a can of mushrooms, if you’d like.
Add enough water to be able to stir easily. Bring to a bubble. (doesn’t really boil very clearly)
Add noodles. This is a filler item—you want to have at very least half as much in noodles as you have beef, but add more depending on how many people you’re feeding. Mix well, leave for at least five minutes.
Look at it. If the liquid isn’t very liquid, add water, test the noodles in about five minutes, if they’re not just a bit more firm than you like, add a little water again and wait.
Taste the liquid, season to something you’d want to eat. If you are going to add cheese, skip the seasoning, add shredded (or even that dried parmesan stuff) cheese. A little goes a long way, and it’s best to have some on the side when you serve.
Add veggies. Again, I like green beans, with some carrots because it’s pretty. If the veggies you add are canned, wait until they’re warm and serve; if the veggies are frozen, wait until it’s hot enough to serve and the veggies are soft enough for your taste.
The non-cheese type of this stuff is great for a packed lunch or any other microwave type reheating.