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Food Health Uncategorized

My thoughts on COVID-19.

*This post was written on April 5th, 2020. The Coronavirus pandemic is still a very dynamic and changing situation worldwide at this time of writing. Some information posted here will become outdated as time passes, so please continue to check with your local news outlets and government agencies for more current updates about restrictions and precautions.*

*Stay safe!*

It’s really easy to get caught up in all of the negatives in today’s news reports. For example, I live in Michigan, which is one of the highest reporting states for confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. Our community is only about an hour’s drive away from Detroit, which is currently a hotspot for the virus. It’s definitely not the best-case scenario for me and my family, but we definitely could have been dealt a worse hand during all of this.

Looking at all the statistics, it gets even more depressing. Here are some that I’ve been hearing recently below:

I’m not writing this to cause even more anxiety, but it’s important to be aware of how serious the situation is. It’s even more important to focus on the positive things that are coming out of all of this:

While it is encouraging to see this information above, it is important to note that we’re not quite out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot.

I am one of the fortunate ones who still have a job. I work in a warehouse that supplies a local delivery chain, so I am still considered an essential employee. My husband and in-laws were not so lucky, as they are independent contractors who perform work that is not considered essential at the moment. All of their jobs have been suspended until further notice. Meanwhile, my employer has prioritized social distancing, sanitization of equipment and work stations, and regular deep cleaning of facilities as precautions. My hands are usually raw at the end of my shift these days.

We are also lucky to have access to grocery delivery options and supply stockpiles from previous Costco shopping sprees. But it’s still kind of eerie to enter a store these days to see firsthand what is happening – there aren’t many people around, limits on milk, bread and butter have been set, and some pantry items are still elusive like sugar and some canned goods. I am very thankful to have toilet paper and sanitizing wipes in my house. And knowing how to cook things that are edible. Because takeout and delivery foods become really expensive pretty quickly.

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Hey, gotta start somewhere, I guess.

Speaking of cooking, I’m noticing that people are banding together online to help share easy-to-cook recipes with simple ingredients. I joined a Facebook group myself, and I’m looking forward to making some of the dishes that they have been kind enough to share with the rest of the online world. If you are looking to improve your culinary skills to save some money and some sanity, definitely try reaching out to the people you know on social media to see what kinds of ideas they might have for you. Maybe they could even spare a cup of sugar. (By dropping it off at your door, of course.)

Honestly though, it’s been so encouraging to see online how people are navigating the changes to daily life, like how one guy is using his drones to walk his dog during the lockdown in his area, how food providers are donating meals to first responders, and how people are simply paying it forward during some trying times. I definitely recommend following John Krasinski (Jim from “The Office”) on his Twitter accounts – his personal Twitter account and his new account, Some Good News if you’re trying to get away from all of the depressing content that’s filling up the newsroom these days.

During these next few weeks, it’s going to be crucial to keep a positive, yet informed attitude. Social distancing and isolation really suck the life out of most of us. (Introverts and people who hate socializing, in general, are rejoicing like crazy right now, though. Really, this is what they’ve been waiting for!) As for me, I enjoy being at home for the most part, but the moment someone else forces me to do something is usually the moment when I don’t want to do the thing anymore. I don’t like other people telling me what I can and can’t do, dammit. Even if I’ve already been doing it for a while.

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The parks and rec centers in my area had to close down because people were like this.

We celebrated PJ’s birthday on the 3rd, and while we weren’t able to do much, she still enjoyed the day with cupcakes and running around outside (within social distancing guidelines, of course). She also got to stay up late watching Disney movies over and over again while eating pizza and candy. Not a bad set up for a 3-year-old, really. Dan has been using the spare time tending to his streaming channel on Mixer, and I finally got a chance to hop back on here for an update on things. Now I really have no excuse to forgo writing for months at a time. Seriously, I really appreciate you guys sticking around after months of nothingness.

Let me know if you’ve got any positive things or stories to share below! We’re all in this together. Believe it or not, many lives have already been saved so far by following these crazy precautions. And to all of the first responders and fellow essential employees, I salute you and I am praying for your safety and sanity for the next few weeks.

Stay safe out there and wash your damn hands!

Categories
Food

Reviving a 50’s era recipe: Grandma’s Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake

So, I’m going to do something a bit different.

I’m going to post the recipe here. Yup, right upfront. Without boring the people searching for a Texas Sheet Cake recipe about my stories and memories of this thing. It’s definitely been a hit at parties and potlucks that I’ve brought it to, so go ahead and give it a shot! Let me know what you think I could tweak or improve on this in the comments.

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And here’s the more legible version below. This thing looks like it’s been handed down a few generations.

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With love and sprinkles, of course. And yes, that is the family cookbook behind it.

And that is the recipe, folks! If that was all you wanted, then you can stop reading here. But I guess there is not much more to tell, just that it was a favorite of mine while growing up. We ate this stuff at picnics, graduation parties, wherever there was a casual enough family gathering, basically. I fondly remember this dish as a nice summer dessert. I actually liked this cake cold, since it was either kept cold in a cooler or in the refrigerator before it was served.

One tip though: It is best to frost this thing while it is still warm. This seems to help the icing really get into the sheet cake and helps make it moist and sweet. I’m definitely not an expert baker by any means, but this was just my experience with it.

Happy baking! Let me know if you end up giving it a try sometime.

Categories
Food Money

Eating down the pantry to save money.

Canned potatoes? Sounds gourmet, right?

Hey, don’t knock ’em until you’ve fried them in a skillet with some oil and spices. Delish.

So we’re not exactly living a Pinterest-worthy lifestyle at the moment, but we are managing to get by during a slow season for work. While Dan and I are looking for full-time gigs, we are doing jobs here and there to help get us through the lean months.

Which means less Costco splurges (you can easily drop $200 there and not even notice), and more planning meals with sale/clearance items from the local grocery store or food pantry.

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My first time in a Costco was like a grocery wonderland. I couldn’t believe how big everything was!

Another friend of mine had dropped by recently with a nice care package from her church – bags filled with canned and dry goods, which are pantry essentials. I’ll be sure to use up every last item and not let one thing go to waste. I’m so thankful for the people in my life that will come help us when times get a bit tough.

Rummaging through the bags, I felt a bit of nostalgia as I picked out a few cans of mixed vegetables, canned potatoes, and canned fruits like pears and peaches. We used to have cans of peas and green beans lying around the family home in Maumee to toss in with pasta and soups. Some days, I would just eat them out of the can or heat them up in a bowl with some butter, salt, and pepper. It was something quick and easy for me to eat.

Today I would like to share some recipes that are cheap and easy to make, and some that I grew up with. They may not be fancy or look like much, but they helped us use up every last thing we had in the house, and we ate pretty well. Most of these things we had in our pantry.

And we were either lazy or had other things to do, so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time cooking. These could be made in just under a half an hour most of the time.

Rough Day Spaghetti

This was a treat for us when we had ground beef to use. It was one of my family’s favorite dinners.

  • 1-2 cans spaghetti sauce/Ragu/diced tomatoes
    • whatever tomato-based product you have can work when made into a sauce
  • 1 small box of spaghetti/pasta
    • if we didn’t have spaghetti, we used elbow macaroni
  • 1/2-1 lb ground beef (whatever you have is fine)

Fill large pasta pot with water and heat on high until boiling. Meanwhile, brown ground beef on medium-high heat in a small saucepot. Drain grease (NOT IN SINK!), then return to saucepan. Dump spaghetti sauce into saucepan and heat on medium-high heat until simmering, about 8 minutes.

Once the water in pasta pot is boiling, cook pasta in water according to the box instructions or until al dente (firm bite), about 6-8 minutes. Drain pasta.

Now you can either serve the pasta and the sauce separately or do what we did and just dump the sauce with the pasta together and just go from there.

Pantry Soup

This is basically what it sounds like. Use any canned veggies you have on hand. Tomato juice on its own or from canned tomatoes would act as the broth to the soup.

  • Any canned veggies (I like to used mixed veggies, canned potatoes, and canned tomatoes)
  • 1 16 oz can tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can chicken or ham, drained (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste or favorite seasonings (I like cumin and taco seasoning)
  • Saltine crackers or bread (optional)

Drain canned veggies and put into a pot or microwaveable bowl. Add canned tomatoes and preferred spices. Drain and add canned meat. Heat on high heat until simmering, about 8 to 10 minutes, or microwave until hot, about 4-5 minutes.

Serve with crackers or bread that would otherwise hit the bin in a few days. Great way to use up leftovers.

Pantry Chili

Okay, this one probably takes the most patience. This has to simmer for about a half an hour at least, but it makes fantastic leftovers. It is probably the most involved recipe on this list.

  • 2-3 16 oz cans of beans of choice, drained and rinsed (kidney, black, pinto – whatever you like or have on hand)
  • 1 29 oz can tomatoes, undrained. Or 2 16 oz cans will do.
  • 1 16 oz can corn, drained (optional)
  • Chili powder to taste or 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 cup water (leave out if you like thick chili)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of cumin (optional)

Throw all ingredients in a pot and put on high heat until boiling. Once boiling, turn down heat to medium-low and let simmer for 30 minutes. You can serve this with crackers, bread, or cheese and sour cream if you happen to have those on hand.

Just Woke Up Egg Sandwich

Okay, this doesn’t involve canned food, but it’s a good and quick recipe. Eggs are cheap. Bread is cheap. So are American cheese slices. My mom would make a simple breakfast sammie out of these ingredients. Good for when you need to make something for breakfast and then run out the door with it.

  • 1-2 eggs
  • Dash of milk (optional)
  • 1-2 slices bread
  • 1 slice American processed cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Scramble eggs with milk with salt and pepper in a skillet over medium-high heat. Avoid breaking the egg up into tiny pieces as it cooks in the skillet (use butter or cooking spray to prevent sticking, or use a non-stick pan).

Once the bottom of the eggs has firmed up, use a spatula to turn the eggs over to cook the other side. Think of it as if you are making a pancake, but with eggs.

While the eggs are cooking, throw some bread of your choice into the toaster to the desired toastiness level. When the eggs are no longer wet and are nice and firm, take the egg pancake and throw it immediately on the toast with the cheese slice.

The cheese will melt into the egg and you can wrap it up to go or just eat it once done. Simple and tasty.


Sorry about the lack of pictures this time around, I’ll upload some and edit this post when I actually make this stuff instead of just stealing images from Google!

I don’t usually write recipes, so hopefully, some of this makes sense. Like I said, these aren’t gonna be perfect recipes, but serve as great rough guidelines when scouring the pantry to find something to whip up for dinner.

What are some recipes growing up that you loved? I would love to try them! Feel free to share with me in the comments below!

Categories
Food

College food hacks you can use now that you’re a parent.

You needed to be crafty when all you could afford was ramen.

And you couldn’t eat this stuff exactly the way you’re supposed to make it every single day without getting sick of it. Even if you love ramen, there has to be a little variety so it doesn’t feel like you’re depriving yourself completely… even though you might be.

Here are some tips and hacks I use to stay afloat while managing the chaos. These little gems have served me well while in school, and have proven to be quite useful during the moments of parenthood when you just can’t even anymore.

1. Get ingredients that work hard.

Here’s my personal list of pantry staples for when things get tight. Good staples are non-perishable and versatile ingredients that can be used in many recipes.

  • Pasta, rice or ramen
  • Flour, sugar, salt and pepper (the basics people take for granted)
  • Canned or frozen veggies/fruits
  • Canned cream of something (Cream of Mushroom, Chicken, etc.)
  • Canned meats (I haven’t resorted to Spam yet, but chicken, tuna, and ham are great ones)
  • Dry or canned beans
  • Broths for soups or bouillon cubes to add for soups
  • Favorite condiment of choice, like ketchup or soy sauce

Some ready to eat canned foods are great to have on hand as well, such as soups and ravioli. Whatever you like is fine, as long as you will be able to eat it.

2. Add veggies to feel a little healthier.

I actually just used this one for dinner tonight. There was about a cup’s worth of leftover frozen broccoli, and I threw that together with a box of (maybe ancient?) Hamburger Helper I had lying in the depths of my kitchen pantry.

You can do this with just about any pasta or soup dish. Just follow the instructions on the packaging of the pasta you are using, then either add a can of drained veggies or thawed and drained frozen veggies.

Who cares if it’s covered in sauce or some cheese to hide the weird textures? You’re still eating them. Go you.

3. Hack your ramen.

Tired of your standard instant ramen? Play it up with other ingredients you have on hand. I love to put a fried or hard boiled egg in with my ramen, along with some scallions, some pork and some other veggies like carrots and onions.

You can also ditch the flavor packet and put in your own sauce or condiment. This opens up a new world of flavor you can have with your little square of nourishment. Or you can try putting the noodles in a salad. I absolutely love this recipe for crunchy ramen salad here.

4. Break the rules.

Here’s a little confession – I know I just said I was making Hamburger Helper for dinner tonight, but I didn’t have any hamburger. But I did have some canned chicken. It was a cheesy pasta mix, so it ended up working out pretty well! Heck, I could have probably made it without any meat. You could probably also use canned tuna for boxed pasta like that and be fine.

You don’t always need to follow the recipe every time to the letter – Try throwing a bunch of stuff you like on its own in a bowl and see what happens.

OK, I’m not saying you throw some vanilla ice cream in with some sriracha sauce, but if that’s your thing, I’m not gonna judge. I’ve thrown someone else’s leftover puppy chow on top of a Arby’s roast beef sandwich before – and I liked it.

5. Breakfast for dinner.

Who says that toast is just for breakfast? Along with the classic buttered toast, you can top that warm and crusty bread with jam and peanut butter, or some egg and avocado for breakfast, tuna and tomato for lunch, or just have it with some soup for dinner.

Also, leftovers from dinner were also packed for lunch many times. I would make enough to pack quickly the night before to take with me to work the next day.

6. Take advantage of free stuff.

You know when you go to Taco Bell every once in a while and see all of the sauces in their little bins near the napkins? Go grab a bunch of those. You can use them at home when you manage to make your own tacos. I’ve also used some of these to spice up bowls of instant ramen, chip dips, and even thrown it on my eggs for breakfast.

Of course, you can also browse for other condiments at other restaurants (maybe pay for something so you don’t get in trouble). Ask for extra ketchup and mayo packets, and you will never have to go buy a bottle of those things ever again. I still do this today.

Have I mentioned that I’m a bit of a cheapskate sometimes? Though I prefer the term “thrifty”.

You can also go to events on college campuses for free food, or go to your local church – some might have soup kitchens or events where you can get free food at. If you’re in need, they may also let you leave with some leftovers, or point you to some other resources that you can use, like food banks. Speaking of those…

7. USE your local food bank.

Finally, if you are really hurting to make due, try and contact your local food bank. They may need you to fill out an eligibility form or something, just to prove you are in need of food assistance. Some criteria they may look for are:

  • Job loss or being laid off
  • Change in household that affects income
  • Flood, fire or other natural disaster

There’s absolutely no shame in making sure you are fed and getting the nutrition you need. Some college campuses even have their own food pantries now. Check with your college to see if they have a program on campus that provide food assistance – they may be able to hook you up with other resources as well if you are struggling financially.

Have any other tips to keeping food on the table? Share them! I’m always interested in finding new ways to not spend all of my money on food.