Monday, June 29, 2015

Mini Chorizo Meat Loaves

Food City had chorizo for 1.50 off per package, making it 69 cents per 12-ounce package, because they were due to expire the next day. I bought 10 packages and put them in the freezer as soon as I got home. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, keeping food continuously frozen extends its shelf-life almost indefinitely. For best quality and flavor, however, they advise using the product within one to two months.

I decided to make mini meat loaves, using one package of the chorizo and 1.5 pounds of ground beef. I added 1 cup of chopped celery, one whole chopped green bell pepper, and two chopped onions, along with about 1 tablespoon of basil. I mixed everything together, patted the meat into 10 individual rectangles about two inches by four inches by one-inch thick. I covered each loaf with some four-cheese spaghetti sauce and sprinkled additional basil and chive on each loaf. They are baking in the oven as we speak.

Photo by Jack V Sage, 06/29/2015

Because I have a wall oven, it is hottest near the back, so I turned the pan around after 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, then cooked them for another 30 minutes.

Photo by Jack V Sage, 06/29/2015

One of my writing friends -- Toastmaster and Caffeinated Entrepreneur Lee Rowley -- asked me how they turned out. I could have doubled the chorizo or used less ground beef. The chorizo flavor became a pleasant undertone, and the loaves stayed juicy and delicious. I should have made some mashed potatoes or riced some cauliflower to go with them, and maybe added a side salad for a complete meal.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Best Things Are Free

One of many ways I cut corners in my food budget is by taking part in product sampling. BzzAgent will send you free products (or coupons for free products) in exchange for writing about what you think of the product after you have a chance to #GetItFree or get it with a deep-discount coupon. All they ask in return is that you try the product, then give your honest opinion of whether it is good enough to buy again, whether it serves the purpose it was intended to serve, and what qualities make it a product worth recommending or not.

Last week I tried this:

Looks good, huh? Well, it tasted even better. Only a New York cheesecake from a bakery could possibly outdo the creamy, smooth cheesecake-flavored yogurt swirled with smooth, decadent strawberry sauce. The sidecar compartment on this one holds granola, and the nifty fold means you can tip the entire contents into your yogurt without spilling any.

I #GotItFree at Fry's Foods, part of the Kroger family of stores, thanks to #BzzAgent, and my friends and coworkers got coupons for $1 off on two Müller® Dessert Inspired Yogurts. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Throw a Little More Shade

We assembled the shade structure yesterday, with a few modifications. We decided to use wood screws to hold the 3-way side outlet fittings in place, so we don't need any PVC cement. We also decided not to use supports at the center of each long pipe, because the structure holds together fine without them. That eliminated the need for the six slip-tee pipe fittings. Those two modifications shaved $13.50 off our material costs. Including the cost of the six side outlets, the packet of wood screws, four spring clamps, and the nine pieces of PVC pipe, the entire structure will cost us just a little over $55 for a ten-foot by 8-foot by 8-foot structure.

Here is our first build. We have not yet put the screws in, and we still have to decide whether to grommet the canvas and secure the tarp with bungee cords or use more spring clamps, like we are already doing.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Throw a Little Shade

Gypsy and I decided to design our own shade structure to use with the gravity chairs we bought in 2013. Picture a quarter-section, lengthwise, of a cylindrical solid. The curved "outer" edge will be covered with a tarp, nine feet by twelve feet. The two flat faces of the solid will be interchangeable as the "front" and the "base." It would be shaped like this:

Picture the black lines as lengths of white PVC pipe, and imagine that the flat sides were just the connected pipes, eight feet long for the "upright" pipes, and ten feet long for the "length" of the quarter-cylinder. Here are the parts we are using to make the structure:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Everlast-in' Love

Rebuilding yourself after a stroke or other major health issue can be frustrating, especially for someone with a lifelong history of intense daily physical activity and a career that depended on stamina and coordination. Staying motivated becomes the biggest challenge when mundane tasks and exercises just don't light your inner fire.

Boxing might seem like an odd choice for a rehabilitative activity, but it turned out to be just the right thing for us. We started out with an Everlast cardio bag, two pairs of Everlast gel sparring gloves and a pair of Everlast Mantis punch mitts. The bag consists of a two-piece, water-filled plastic base, a pole with a spring, plus the bag itself. Here's what the bag looks like after assembly:

While the cardio bag is great for punching a specific spot (I like to hit the center stroke of the "E") the base is not heavy enough to keep it from sliding around on the floor, and the spring allows the bag to get out of control if you throw punches that are not equal in strength, speed and direction.

Its five-foot height makes it great for seated workouts, for those who have trouble standing for any length of time. We use rolling office chairs, and brace our feet on the base while one of us steadies the bag for the other.

As Gypsy worked out and regained strength and control, the cardio bag was not enough challenge. We needed something that encouraged or even required standing, so we finally bought an Everlast single-station heavy bag stand.

It was not as hard to assemble as we thought it might be. It came with its own tools and all the fasteners it needed: 

There are seven major parts: three for the base, two side braces, and two pieces for the hanging arm:

We assembled the base first, bolting the two side arms to the center foot.

Next, we bolted the bottom half of the hanging arm to the base:

Next, we bolted the top half of the hanging arm to the bottom half, then we bolted the right and left support arms into place before hanging the bag:

Gypsy had a great time punching the bag. If you scroll down quick enough, you can watch Gypsy's workout:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Waegukin Kimchi

We avoid antibiotics whenever possible, due to their "kill-'em all, let the gods sort 'em out" effect on the body. Beneficial bacteria die in as great or greater numbers as the germs, leaving the body vulnerable to damage long after the infection is gone. For that reason, Gypsy and I have developed a number of recipes over the years that have a "damn the torpedoes, this will kill me or cure me" philosophy behind them. The main ingredients in Gypsy's version of kimchi might not work for someone who is allergic to hot sauce. If you don't like spicy dishes, double everything except the hot sauce.

1 large cabbage, chopped into two-inch thicknesses
1 large Bermuda onion, coarsely chopped
1 whole bulb fresh garlic, peeled and chopped, about 1/3 cup
1 pound grated or diced carrot
2 large cans (30 ounce size) crushed tomatoes
1/8 cup hot sauce
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup vodka or rose petal wine (optional)
3 cups fresh chopped tomatoes 
4  large ribs celery, coarsely chopped
2 quarts chicken stock

Combine all ingredients in a large kettle or crock pot and cook slowly on medium low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Store in quart containers in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pepper Potato Chicken Leg Quarter Bake

Chicken leg quarters are cheep, cheep, cheep here in Tempe. Fry's Foods has bagged chicken quarters for 69 cents a pound every day, so we eat at least 20 pounds every three to four weeks. They're cheaper than hot dogs, hamburger, and most lunch meats; I get the benefit of all that chicken schmaltz, plus I make huge pots of bone broth every few weeks and keep it in the freezer. Thanks to all the schmaltz, I only buy butter or margarine when I want to make cookies or pastry.

Potatoes were running 99 cents per 10-pound bag this week, and fancy mini sweet peppers were $1.99 per pound, so I decided to make a potato, pepper and chicken bake for this week's make-ahead meals. First, I marinated two pounds of chicken leg quarters in Valentina Hot Sauce Marinade (see below).

Pepper Potato Chicken Leg Quarter Bake

2 pounds marinated chicken leg quarters
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced fancy mixed-color bell peppers
6 to 8 minced garlic cloves
10 small potatoes, cut in 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup Soy Vey sauce
2 TBSP melted curried schmaltz
Large oblong glass baking dish

Marinate the chicken in a covered bowl for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Toss the vegetables, garlic and potatoes into the mixing bowl with the marinating chicken. Add the Soy Vey sauce. Mix everything together well, ensuring that the vegetables and potatoes get an even coating of marinade. Cover and place back in the refrigerator for another 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes to ensure even marinating.

Pour the entire mixture -- including all the marinade -- into a large, oblong glass baking dish. Arrange the chicken quarters on top of the potatoes and vegetables. Drizzle the chicken leg quarters with melted curried schmaltz. Cover the baking dish with foil and pinch along the edges to ensure a good seal.

Bake at 400 degrees F for one hour. Uncover the chicken and bake for a second hour. Serve hot, along with Gypsy Wilburn's Cola Quick Bread. Serves 4 to 8 people.

Valentina Sauce Marinade

1/4 cup Valentina hot sauce
1 TBSP fresh-ground black pepper
1 TBSP sea salt (or 1 tsp regular granulated table salt)
2 TBSP dried cilantro

Curried Cajun Seasoning Blend

Mix Pat Green's House Blend (from BSI Cooks):
1 cup sea salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder


1/2 cup onion powder
2 TBSP cayenne pepper
1/4 cup dried parsley flakes

Mix all ingredients together, divide into empty spice jars or salt shakers of your choice. Makes 2 cups of Cajun seasoning mix.


1/4 cup of ground turmeric
2 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP coriander

and the result is 2 1/2 cups of delicious curry powder that goes very well with chicken.

Curried Schmaltz

Shake curry mixture over chicken until well-seasoned. Rub mixture all over chicken to ensure even distribution. Lay chicken quarters in a large glass oblong baking dish, spaced finger-width apart from each other and from the sides of the dish. Bake or broil chicken in medium-high oven (400 degrees F) until most of the fat renders. Pour off the chicken fat into a metal bowl and place in the freezer. Pop the frozen fat from the bowl and store schmaltz rounds in individual freezer bags. To use frozen schmaltz, place a round in your saute pan on low to medium heat until melted. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sharing Gratitude

Laurel Regan's blog "Alphabet Salad" features a gratitude challenge today, so I gave some thought to the topic.

1. When you live an intentionally frugal life, you have fewer bills, which means fewer worries about finances.

2. The economy has undergone a lot of improvement since 2008, despite all the naysayers.

3. Despite continuing health challenges, my beloved and I are still standing.

4. I had to hoe the weeds today, and I was healthy and energetic enough to do the whole front yard in about an hour.

5. I have been able to support friends in their artistic, activist and personal lives this month by purchasing their work or contributing to their causes without doing harm to my own bottom line.

6. My ability and desire to write and create is returning.

7. I got my tax papers pulled together. Yes, that is a big thing to be grateful about, since in previous years I either forgot to keep things or didn't turn them in on time.

8. I addressed and signed cards to be sent out to friends, a return to something I used to do all the time: send real mail.

9. I have completed two blog posts in a row for two different blogs this year. Both have been dormant for almost two years.

10. I have successfully gotten through another day above ground. ;)