Kitchen Challenge

If you read the blog recently Kalissa and I are working together on a kitchen challenge.  Both of us have full cupboards and full freezers and want to use things up.

Our goal is to only spend $100 on groceries from April 15th to May 15th.  We aren’t allowed to buy meat and we both want to focus on using that money on perishable products like milk, fruits, and veggies. I’ve been doing good on my kitchen challenge.  I’ve been working hard to try to plan meals around what I have and what I can use up.

Here are some things I used up this week.  I went to the freezer and pulled out some steaks for Karl and me after we had worked so hard and accomplished so much outside.  I figured we had worked hard enough to warrant steaks…so steaks it was.

While I was digging in the freezer I told myself to grab something a little less desirable to have the following night.  Lookie what I found…Oxtail.

For those of you who haven’t heard of that, it’s basically the tail.  It’s very boney with not a lot of meat.  I typically make soup with it…and that’s what I did.

I put the meat in the Instant pot along with water.  Remember I have lots of dried beans??  Well, half of this jar went in with the meat.

I am out of my favorite Better than Bouillon but I did have bouillon cubes so…I used up six of the cubes in this batch of soup.  I am determined not to buy and use any of the others until this jar is used up.  (Admittedly, previous to the challenge I think I would have just left these in the cupboard and bought the Better than Bouillon that I love)

I threw in some chopped onion.  I set the Instant Pot for 62 minutes using the meat button.

Once that was done I pulled out the meat and deboned it.  I added it back to the pot.  Then I chopped celery and carrots too.  I checked the refrigerator for any other stray veggies that needed to be used up.  I found some frozen zucchini and some chopped cabbage so I added that too.   I did add some spices, salt, pepper, and garlic.  Then back in the Instant Pot for 4 minutes on manual.

The soup was FABULOUS!!  Karl was over and ended up having some.  He raved about it too.  Seriously, any soup or stew is WAY better in an Instant Pot.

Sorry, there is not a real recipe.  This is just how I cook.  Especially with soup.  Whatever needs to be used up gets thrown in.

Something else I used up is…two cans of Chicken Gumbo Soup.

I was in the grocery store one day.  I saw Chicken Gumbo soup.  I remembered that my sister-in-law uses it to make Sloppy Joes (Maid-rites).  I remember her talking about it and raving that it’s her favorite way to make them.  So when I saw them I bought them thinking I’d try making Sloppy Joes that way.  Well…the cans went in the cabinet and sat.  I forgot about it.

I saw them because of the kitchen challenge and the other night for a big family supper I made Sloppy Joes using THIS RECIPE.  It’s a super easy basic recipe.  They were good but I still prefer my “throw whatever I have here recipe” for sloppy joes better…but the two cans are used up.  YAHOO!!

Everyone thought the Sloppy Joes were pretty good.  If you haven’t tried it, it is worth a try.

So far the Kitchen Challenge has been really good for me.  It has me thinking “use it up” vs convenience.  Here’s an example.  Keep in mind, I’ve said I’m a “throw it together cook”.  This is another example of that.

I have long made Calico Beans.  I started making these when we first were married.  Here is the recipe.

My sister-in-law gave me the Tummy Tickler 4-H Cookbook as a bridal shower gift back in 1986.  The recipe was in that book.  It’s been a recipe that stayed with our family for years.  I am actually known to bring these beans to potlucks and get-togethers.

I don’t use a recipe anymore.  I loosely follow it, but not to the letter.  I was in a mood to make the beans and thought it would be awesome to use up some beans from the cabinet being I was doing the challenge.  I looked and didn’t have enough beans.  Bummer.  Then I thought NOPE.  You are going to challenge yourself.  You’re going to make the beans only this time use dried beans.

…and that’s what I did.

I had lots of partially opened bags of beans.  Being this recipe uses several kinds of beans, I just threw a bit of this variety of beans together.  I covered them with water plus some extra water and put them in the Instant Pot for 45 minutes on Bean setting (Multigrain setting works too)

While that was cooking I went to get some meat.  This time I used pork sausage rather than hamburger.  DARN.  I didn’t have bacon.  Hmm.  Then I remembered having some beef jerky in the cupboard.  I opened it up and tasted it.  Oh, it was a bit spicy.  Perfect.  I chopped that up and threw that in the pan too along with an onion.

After the beans were cooked I threw it all other.  I added ketchup, mustard, horse radish, brown sugar, salt and pepper, and vinegar and stirred it all up.  Oh, my word…the beans were awesome with a wonderful amount of spice from the jerky.

Sadly I’ll never be able to replicate those beans again…but oh my, we sure did enjoy them.

I sometimes think people aren’t good cooks as they are afraid to experiment.  They think a recipe is “hard and fast”…not deviating from it.  I deviate all of the time.  I come up with some of the best food because of that.

I honestly doubt I will ever use canned beans to make calico beans again.  This was easy and cheaper.

I’m still doing great on the challenge. I did buy some milk, strawberries, and some soy milk this week but that was it.  I spent $86 for the four weeks that we’ve been doing this.  I am continuing on.  I’m happy to be starting with a new $100 to spend.

I’ve made a little alteration to the challenge.  In the $100 that I’m allowed to spend, milk and soymilk aren’t going to be tallied in the $100.  I have Gannon and other childcare kids here that need milk.  It’s not something I’m stock-piling.  I’m also not putting other beverages on the $100 list.  I’m not stockpiling that either.

I found a recipe for a cherry rhubarb dessert.  It uses a can of cherry pie filling.  I have two so I have plans to make that soon.  If it’s good, I’ll share the recipe.

If you’re doing the challenge with Kalissa and me, share some of the things you’ve made in the last week.  Oh…and don’t forget to check out Kalissa’s progress at her blog, The Pink Shoelaces.