Saturday, January 16, 2010


Includes recipes for homemade slice and bake cookies, Asian Marinade, and Marinated Garden Vegetables

Janurary 17, 2010
As I prepared my elegant lunch I laughed a bit. Our finances are at an all time low right now, but I was having what would have been considered a high dollar lunch by some. Butterflied shrimp, marinated vegetables, herbal tea and artisan bread, with hot from the oven plump large oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert was my lunch menu for the day. A $15 lunch easily at your better restaurants, but not here at home.

The four shrimp were from an on sale purchase months before the big lay off. I had vacuum packed them in individual serving bags. I’m the only family member that eats shrimp so when it was purchased I divide it up in 4 shrimp serving sizes. The bulk purchased shrimp, for under $12 made 11 lunches for me over the months that followed.

The marinated vegetables were broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and cucumber that I had put in a jar of bread and butter pickle juice when I finished the jar of home canned pickles. More of those same fresh vegetables would show up that evening to be added to forty-nine cent a pound chicken leg quarters meat that had been cooked and deboned, then mixed with a homemade stir fry marinade to serve over bulk purchased home cooked rice for a fine Chinese meal.

The herbal tea was unfortunately store purchased tea bags, but I am putting in a fine herb garden this year to get past that for next year. Even though it was purchased tea, it had been bought on sale with a coupon.

As I have mentioned before I love the cookbook “Artisan Bread in Less Than Five Minutes a Day”. The bread was leftover from a previous meal. The Oatmeal Raisin Cookies were homemade slice and bake cookies. It’s so handy to just slice off a few cookies and bake what you want for a hot, fresh treat.

The point to all this is, even when you are down on your finances you can still eat elegantly and well with just a little pre-planning and scratch cooking. The two meals I described could have cost as much as $30 per person in a restaurant, I made both for less than $5 person and as a dear lady I correspond says “have encores.”

As with any S.H.E. (Sidetracked Home Executive) one thought lead to another. I started thinking about how we each go through our lives and sometimes forget how different we look to the outside world in comparison to the reality that is us.

Yesterday is a prime example of this. I did movie theater and restaurant mystery shops all day. I appeared to be a well dressed business woman who had a good lunch at a “sit down” restaurant with her husband, that she cheerfully paid $40 for.

Later that day we saw a movie together then ate a $10 hamburger meal at an upscale burger restaurant. Of course during the day we stopped by a bank to cash a check and chat with the tellers. Anyone following us around would have thought us an affluent couple.

The reality check is this. I was working for about minimum wage after all the expenses were taken out. My fine wardrobe consisted of hand-me-up clothing from my sister-in-law, thrift shop finds, and on sale purchases. The outfit was several years old and had originally cost me less than $10.

I would be reimbursed the entire $40 lunch meal, including tip but would not receive any pay for my report. The company figures the two meals more than pays for your time. I cashed the check while doing a bank shop, and then placed it in my mystery shopping budget envelope as per my monthly budget. If I did not have enough money in my budget for the envelope that shop would not have been accepted.

I got paid a small amount for taking time out of my day to cash that check and then report on the teller’s performance.

The $10 burger meal was paid for by another mystery shopping company, only they generously paid me a small amount for my time as well.

Fantasy vs reality. Today people waded mud to come to my home to purchase items I have up for sale so I might cover my bills. In the aftermath of winter storms, visits from Murphy and mud sucking at our boots we looked like Ma and Pa Kettle I am certain. Yet to us the cut but not stacked firewood, the dead hot water tank sitting on the back deck and the mud all represent a future that looks good.

We will be warm and have hot water to wash that mud off with. The mud is the result of a good solid soaking that will help make our spring gardens rich. Those gardens will produce food to feed our bodies while sharing the adventure of this new chapter of our life will feed our souls. The old hot water tank is waiting for a friend who home processes chickens to pick up to turn into a scalder for that job.  A recycling project that is good for the enviroment and helps out a friend with their own family goals.

As I finished cooking my shrimp I thought “My grandmother was right. It is not how others see you that counts. It’s how you truly are that does.

So that this isn’t a total think piece I am including a couple of the recipes that I mentioned earlier for those of you who are following the blog mainly for the recipes.

Oatmeal Raisin ( or any flavor) Slice and Bake Cookies.

Make a double, triple or quadruple batch of your favorite cookie dough. Lay out flat a piece of aluminum foil the length you can comfortably store in your freezer.

Next lay a sheet of waxed paper the same size on top of the foil.

On the wax paper place a solid roll of the cookie dough the size you would like your raw cookies would be. Be sure to mold it smooth and solid.

Roll the dough in the wax paper, twisting the ends shut . Then wrap in the foil. Repeat until you have all the dough packaged up.

I use file folder labels to make my labels for home canned, dried or frozen foods. They stick well and are cheap. Even cheaper is if you have access to the paper discarded from making CD labels it works equally as well, is self adhesive and helps in recycling efforts.

Labeling should include the date made, the cooking time and temperature. Freeze until needed then thaw slightly, slice to the desired thickness and bake. Fast, quick, cheaper than store bought and so delicious!


The next time you empty the pickles out of a pickle jar, no matter the flavor slice up any vegetable you like pickled and add them to the jar until the jar is packed and the pickle juice completely covers the vegetables. Keep refrigerated. You can also pickle boiled eggs this way. Pickled beet juice makes for a wonderful pickled egg.


I make this up by the big batch and freeze it in 1 cup containers to use with anything I want to add an Asian flair to.

6 TBL cornstarch

¾ tsp garlic powder

2 ¼ tsp instant beef bullion granuals

¾ tsp onion powder

6 tbl wine or rice wine vinegar

6 TBL water

1 ½ tsp grated fresh ginger (JP NOTE: I keep my ginger root in the freezer and it makes grating so much easier)

¾ C low sodium soy sauce (regular soy sauce makes this marinade too salty)

¾ C dark corn syrup

2 2/3 C water

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Using a wire whisk add the vinegar, 6 TBL of water and ginger. Stirring until the cornstarch is dissolved. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Makes approximately 5 Cups marinade. If you are going to use it within 4 weeks in can be stored in a single five cup container in the refrigerator. It also freezes well. I divide it up between 6 containers, date, label and freeze. Once it’s froze rock hard I pop it out of the plastic container I froze it in and place it in a vacuum sealed bag. Label and freeze for long term storage.
USES: JP NOTE; when you use this be sure and stir it well before using as the cornstarch will settle to the bottom of the bowl.

Marinade any meat you would like to broil or grill in it for a great taste.

I marinade meats(either cooked or raw) that I’m going to stir fry in it for about 30 minutes. Stir fry the meat briefly, add the vegetables of choice and the remaining marinade to the skillet and stir fry quickly until marinade has thickened. As always use common sense and caution when using marinades you have had raw meats in. When in doubt throw out the batch you marinated the raw meat in and use a fresh container for cooking.

Substitute for teriyaki sauce in any recipe for a slightly different taste.

Jan who should not be left alone with her thoughts too long in OK


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I love your blog- how wonderful to get some inspiration here. I wandered in from the Budget Homemaker Yahoo Group.

  3. Thank you for the compliment. I hope you will come back often.

    Jan who needs to write more often in OK