an army wife's guide to life

food and homemaking goodness

Cheese-topped Pot Pie

Alright, so my original plan for this pot pie was to use a real pie crust as the topping…but that crust got used for something else, and I had to improvise. Sometimes, improvisation leads to the best things, like a cheese crust on a pot pie.

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So here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup navy beans (dry) or 1 can, undrained
  • 1 cup cream of mushroom soup or 1 can
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • butter
  • frozen peas
  • frozen carrots
  • frozen greenbeans
  • 1/2 block Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
  • pie crust (mine was premade and frozen)

 

  1. If you’re using dry beans, start those early, I didn’t soak mine, I just cooked them in my crock pot on high for about 8 hours or so, and they came out perfectly. Also if you’re cooking your beans, make sure to season them. I added a little salt and pepper to the cooking water, and 2 cubes of chicken bouillon, just to give them some extra flavor.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350.
  3. Cook your onion and garlic in butter until soft. Instead of melting the butter first, I just threw everything into the pan and let it all work its magic together. And I always, always season at this step. Just a pinch of salt and pepper will do the trick. 
  4. Add the beans, with their liquid (especially if you cooked them yourself), peas, carrots, and greenbeans to the pan. You can add whatever other veggies you’d like to the mix as well, but those were the ones I had handy. You want to create a nice balance between the beans and the veggies, so the amounts are up to you as well. Cook those down until they’re tender, before adding the cream of mushroom soup. I used a cup of my homemade soup, but if you’re using a can, 1 should work nicely.
  5. Season to your taste. I added garlic and onion powder, to bring out the garlic and onion already in the pan, as well as more pepper and salt. 
  6. Let it simmer until it thickens up, then add it to the pie crust. Don’t over fill it. I had extra filling when I was done, you don’t have to use it all. 
  7. Top with shredded cheese. You want a nice, thick layer so it makes an actual crust on the top when baked. You’ll also want to protect the edges of the pie crust with foil so they don’t over cook. 
  8. Cook for fifteen minutes, then remove the foil and cook for another fifteen. The cheese should take on a nice, golden brown appearance. 

Of course, this can also be done with chicken, the way you’d think of a traditional pot pie. In that case, I’d also cook the chicken all day in my crock pot so it was falling-apart tender, and go from there.  

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Menu Planning (Like a boss)

I’m a planner. I like to have a plan in place, I like to know what’s happening next. And I’ve gotten really, really good at planning our menu. Like, really good. I don’t just plan week-to-week anymore, because I’ve found that doesn’t really work as well as I’d like. Instead I plan paycheck-to-paycheck. This lets us not worry about money for groceries once I’ve gone at the 1st and 15th of every month (with a few exceptions), plus it seems to save us money because we’re not blowing it on impulse purchases. Below, you’ll see the first half of February already planned out:Image

That’s just dinner there, but I do plan breakfast and lunch as well, just not all at once. Here’s what I do.

  1. I number the day on a piece of paper. For this planning session, it was 1-17, but the next one will be 18-28. Also on this one, I included the 27th through the 31st of January, so I could see this week in its entirety, even though I already had everything I needed for the January meals. 
  2. I decided how many of what kind of meals I wanted. I.E. I decided that our food plan for each week was going to be two meals that were mostly meat (to satisfy the hubby), two vegetarian meals (so I’ll feel good about myself) and three meals that are mostly veggies, and some meat (this year is about balance, and for February, that’s balance). I marked those meals on the calendar I’d written, not necessarily where they were going to fall for real, though. I marked out each week individually, and put the two meat and two veggie meals right at the beginning so I knew to fill those slots. 
  3. This is where Pinterest comes into play every time. I go through my boards, decide what I need to try and pull up the recipes (this will be important later), and fill out the calendar completely. Don’t get hung up on where you put what, the dates don’t matter yet. If it really bothers you, just figure out how many days you need and number it that way, but don’t get caught up on that while you’re recipe hunting. One thing that will save you big bucks is to find recipes that you can use more than once. If you look at my menu, you’ll notice I have a few things up there twice, plus, my big meaty meals have their leftovers used as the “taco” meals. I always make way more soup than I think I’ll need, so we can have two meals and sometimes even a lunch from it.
  4. Decide on breakfasts and lunches. With these, I’ll end up running back to the store for a few things. But all of my side trips tend to be $20 or less. Usually less than $10, really. I’ll run back to the store after the initial run for eggs, milk, frozen pizza (Dan’s weakness) and bagels. We might run out of little things here and there, but I’m not trying to create a stockpile. 
  5. Figure out what you’ll need. I generally do this by writing out everything that goes into each meal. If you’re like me and know what’s in your kitchen, you can leave out the things you know you don’t need to buy. If you don’t just list everything, which is why I open the Pinterest recipes, so I know what I’m going to need. If you don’t know what you have, check your pantry and cross off what you didn’t need. This will easily turn into a grocery list with everything listed by how much you need. This is also where you want to add your snacks for the week! This is important, because otherwise you’re going to end up making impulse buys while you’re there, or just not buying any and feeling frustrated later on.
  6. Organize the menu to your liking. Mine is never seriously set in stone. I organize it so we’re not having too many similar meals all in the same week, but I also just throw in something completely random sometimes. This is supposed to make your life easier and less stressful, don’t set it in stone at all if you don’t want to. I find, though, that I’m way less overwhelmed if I at least pick the seven things I’m going to make each week and write them on my chalkboard. I can mix and match all I want from there and not feel like there’s too much to choose from.

That’s it. Six steps to making grocery shopping easier. I can generally get through a few weeks on about a hundred dollars or so, planning ahead. Part of it is the planning and part of it is shopping on post, but planning really is the key to saving money.

 

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Tomato-Alfredo Tortellini

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Or as my husband called it: something you could get at the Olive Garden. Which is high, high praise in his book, since the Olive Garden is the have all and be all of Italian cooking.

This is a super easy dish to throw together, and really, it doesn’t have to be tortellini if you don’t want, it’s just way more filling and that’s what counts here since I have an active husband (he ate all of his and finished my bowl after I was full). My original plan was to use bowtie pasta, and that would work just as well. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/2 jar of Alfredo Sauce (or make your own, which I did not)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, in sauce
  • Fresh or frozen tortellini (portioned for your family’s needs)
  • Garlic powder
  • Crushed Red Peppers
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Salt and Pepper

Cook the tortellini according to the package directions.

In a medium saucepan, pour half a jar of alfredo sauce (I use Bertolli’s Garlic Alfredo), your can of diced tomatoes, and the seasonings (to taste) and heat over medium heat. I would taste the sauce before adding any seasoning, to see if you prefer it that way, but I find the the sweetness of the tomatoes is a little overwhelming for me (I don’t like sweet meals much). I went moderate on the spices with this one, only adding a little bit of each, to get the sauce to what I wanted it. If you don’t like spice, completely omit the crushed Red Peppers, but I didn’t really taste the spice too much, and my husband didn’t comment on it if he tasted any real spice, either.

To serve, just put the tortellini in a bowl and ladle the sauce over top. I wanted to add fresh basil as well as a garnish, but since it’s the dead of winter in Kansas, it’s not really something I can easily find for a reasonable price. You could also use parsley as a fresh garnish if you’d like.

This meal took less than 30 minutes to put together, from the time I put the water on to boil until it was on the table. To make this a non-vegetarian meal, I’d add a single link of spicy Italian sausage, freed from its casing and crumbled.

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New Year’s Resolutions/January

I don’t normally do New Year’s resolutions, because they’re stupid and no one really follows through with them. But making changes around the New year makes a lot of sense to me, because I like starting at a beginning. And what could be more of a beginning than the new year? So here’s my resolution, and it’s going to sound just like everyone else’s but I don’t really care: I’m going to get healthy this year. And to make it better, I don’t just have a resolution, I have a plan. I’m challenging myself this year, when it comes to food. I’m going to force myself to think about it differently, with my monthly food challenges. 

Which leads me to January. January is my meatless month. Not that we aren’t (or haven’t) eaten any meat this month, but that I haven’t (and won’t) cook any at home. There will be pictures and recipes to come, because the rest of my new year’s resolution is to be better about this blog and update more often (with real pictures). 

What I do need, is suggestions for other food challenges in the coming months. January was easy, because we eat too much meat and not enough veggies here, and I needed to figure out how to make healthy, satisfying meals without meat. Beyond that, I don’t know what to do. So suggest away! 

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