Making money for my babies...

I have been cooking up a storm recently - honest! Not for my family, but for my friends and coworkers

Starting on March 1st, Gail, Debbie and I have been cooking lunch three days a week as part of a fundraiser for the March of Dimes. This will go on until the last week of April when we have a silent auction in store and then participate in the March of Dimes fundraising walk.

The rules for the fund raising lunches are this:

  • The cost of lunch has to be kept at $3.00. We found this is cheaper than people can eat out, so they are more likely to partake.
  • The meals have to make money. Of course.
  • The meals have to be able to hold up to either sitting in some type of heating devise (like a crock pot or steam table) or can be served from the refrigerator with ease. Microwavable leftovers are also a plus.

We got a boost this year from a friend of Debbie's who is a caterer. Jen gave us a pan of pasta in tomato sauce and a big salad which helped us get some starting money to buy more supplies.

So what did we spend our starting cash on? Mostly meat. Protein sources are the most expensive thing for us to purchase - and meat is expected by our coworkers. We picked up a 5 pound "buffet" ham for $.79/pound at the restaurant supply warehouse, plus a big tube o' ground beef. The beef is now taco filling, meatballs and chili. The ham is going to become scalloped potatoes and ham casserole, "fried" rice, and what ever else we decide on.

The biggest lunch hit so far? A baked potato bar. Yup - a lowly potato ruled them all. I picked up a 50# box of 40 ct potatoes. What does that mean? That those potatoes weighed, on average, a little over a pound each. I got up early,wrapped them in foil, tossed them in the oven at 450 degrees for 90 mins and then transferred them to my Nesco roaster at work where they held up nicely for the rest of the afternoon. We provided chili, salsa, cheese, bacon, sour cream, butter and broccoli. True - that's a lot of starch, but hmmmmmmmm so good... There were about ten leftover potatoes, so Gail turned them into cheddar potato soup for the next day. Took next to no time and it was damn fine soup as well...

The biggest seller for us, though, has been the Debbie Crack Corn. Little bags of this fine treat have been selling like hotcakes. In fact, in the beginning Debbie was selling small bags for 50 cents each - just to get them hooked. Now she is selling $5 and $10 bags - known affectionately as nickle and dimes bags. My hubby has now spent $10 on this stuff and I am sure he will buy more. I have the recipe right here - for those of you who don't live close enough to get your own fix from Debbie. By the way, the recipe doesn't say it, but use air popped corn. It makes sure the product stays light and airy, not greasy.

If you really love this recipe - please make a donation to the March of Dimes. They provide money to fund research that helps premature babies grow healthy and strong...

CARAMEL CORN aka Debbie Crack Corn and we don't care!!!

8 cups popped popcorn
4 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Put popcorn in a 17x12x2-inch baking pan. Remove any unpopped kernels.
  2. Measure brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt into a 11/2 -quart saucepan. Turn burner to medium heat. Cook and stir with a wooden spoon till butter melts and everything is mixed. When mixture boils, stop stirring. Cook for 5 minutes. Turn off burner. Remove pan from burner.
  3. Stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour mixture over popcorn using rubber scraper to scrape pan. Gently stir the popcorn and hot mixture so all popcorn is coated.
  4. Turn oven to 300 degrees. Put pan into oven. Bake 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and stir mixture with wooden spoon. Put pan back into oven and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven. Use a pancake turner to remove caramel corn from pan to large bowl; cool. Makes 8 cups.


And the gloves come off...

Like most mothers who are single, we have lives and children to feed and we are doing it the best way we can. So,
I can not slave behind the stove for 2 hours and 45 minutes with my mommy to make Rosie Eat Bite Your Tongue It’s SO Good Soup; and
After working all day, dropping kids off to sports and pick them up from after school programs I am tired as hell.

Do you have 5 kids and no husband or help?
So pardon me, I find it refreshing to see someone who can show me how to create meals in a short period, while using ingredients that I can purchase form the store (everyone does not have a Secret Garden in the back yard) so that I able to spend time with my kids before they fall asleep. I like eating around the table with my family, allowing my kids to assist me in preparing quick meals and having lively discussions with my kids and not passing out because I am tired. And too your comment about edutainment. I like the style. I can watch food programs with my kids that don’t bore them and me to death. No, Rachael is not for everyone...and sometimes she is not for me but, they are people out there who are looking for ways to create quick meals and spend time with family who can’t wake up in the morning and try out recipes all day long. She is popular for a reason.


I have a 3 year old toddler, 5, 9, 13, and 17 year old - all boys and did I mention that I am by myself(38 year old MILITARY WIDOW for the last year and a half). So tell me when do I have time to create this dish: Rosie's It Too Damn Cold Outside Chili. Which should be titled,
Rosie’s Its too damn long from me to make this chili because I got kids to feed, homework to check, and work to finish.

You and your bloggers must come the some socio-economic demographic. You all (your bloggers) sound mad because folks can relate to Rachel Ray. I don’t have a husband that could watch the kids while I enjoy my “Lustful Apron Experience.” Do you have 5 kids and are on a limited budget? Could you see how that could be difficult? I pride myself on making meals that are healthy and affordable for my family. So, before you and your “friends” start to insult anyone you must consider that everyone is not in the same boat as you are.

Oh, by the way this is the Anonymous writer who you wanted to sign up so my name can be displayed. In reference to your “Back on the 4th I posted about how I had fallen out of love with the Food Network and garnered this comment.

Yeah, do you remember I talked about how mean you are. I was wrong, you are not mean. You are just not empathic to others lives.


And Roise I will advise you to respond with caution.

Regina - It is nice to put a name to the comments. The world is so large and there are so many people who feel that they can just "flame on" without standing behind what they have to say. Congratulations on having the courage to take responsibility for your words.

I did not intend for my comments to be a personal attack on you - how could they be since there was no name attached to the words? I do not know you or your situation any more than you know me or my situation. How can I be empathic to someone who I know nothing about? As far as I knew, you were one of Rachel's paid publicists who go around defending her honor. (And don't say there aren't paid guns who do it - that's the way it works in the big city.)

Actually Regina - I don't have time to slave over a hot stove every day either - even if I do only have one child and a even bigger baby (the hubby). I work full time with overtime, plus freelance graphics work and helping my hubby with the family business. That means I generally need to make decent meals in a quick amount of time. I am also always looking for the cheapest way to use my food dollars. I have better uses for my time and money then making high end meals every day of the week. (Actually, that is one of my pet peeves with other bloggers - but that's another column.)

As far as Rachel Ray is concerned - I do not think she is the only answer. I outlined my issues with her earlier. I still stand behind them. I am glad you and others like you love Ray Ray. If her show gives you inspiration-great. But she is not the only show in town - and "her" solutions are not always the only or best ones. Quick "one night stands" as I call them are something I resort to only when I haven't had the foresight to plan ahead or my plans go to hell in a hand basket -and we all have those weeks - sometimes more often than we care to remember.

However - that being said - I am also not a fan of Once A Month Cooking. For those of you who haven't encountered that before, it means you buy everything you need for an entire month of meals and cook it over a weekend once a month - usually with the help of others who split the rewards of the labors. Then everything gets tossed into the freezer and pulled out and defrosted according to a set menu. I don't have a whole weekend to give up for cooking meals - and I bet you don't either. I also dislike the fact you can't really shop for great bargains in the weekly ads. And I really don't love casseroles that much.

Planning ahead is just as important as "30 minute meals" in my schedule.

Sunday is generally my cooking/household chores day. It's the day the weekly ads come out and my whole family is home so I can use them as cheap slave labor. I get up early, hit the stores, come home and get to cracking. (Most of my blogs are written on Sunday too, by the way. I sneak it in between loads of laundry and dishes.)

Let's take that chili you disparaged - that is my mid sized car recipe. I make it about once a year or so when I have the good fortune to luck into inexpensive ground beef ($1.29/lb at Meijer's) When I wanna make my compact car chili - it's different. First, I cut the amount of meat by about 2 pounds. Second, I substitute about half the beef for ground turkey ($.79/lb at Aldi's). I also throw in a couple extra cans of beans to make up to difference in bulk. It makes it a little more beany than I like but hey - everyone gets to suffer with me afterwards. Then- the best part - it goes in the crock pot on low and cooks for six hours while I do some illustrations for one of my clients. When it's all cooled off, I then portion it out - some of it is for dinner the next day, but the rest goes into quart sized freezer baggies and tossed into my small chest freezer. (At $85 bucks on sale the freezer was a great investment.)

So how does the freezer chili get used? Sometimes it's chili mac. Boil pasta, toss into chili, top with cheese and serve with green beans and a salad. Or chili dogs - served with carrots and chips for a midweek treat. Sometimes I will make chili burritos - messy but good.

Another thing I do when I hit the cheap meat bonanza is to spend a couple of hours making up dinners that I can throw in my freezer. Ox tails on clearance? The it's oxtail pasta sauce. Fast? No- but the time it's in the oven on Sunday morning allows me time to get laundry done and clean the bathroom. Into the freezer when its done! Ground beef on sale? That means meatloaf and meatballs - essentially the same recipe. I make up a big batch of mix, portion out the meatballs, then add a couple more ingredients to the mix that left and portion into two loaves - one for Sunday night dinner and the other for the freezer. Meatballs get cooked in the oven, then tossed with a jar of sauce then frozen. Then the meatloaf is tossed in the oven with some potatoes. An hour later - dinner is served. And there are leftovers for lunch for me and the kid. Meatloaf sandwiches rock.

Chicken on sale? I like whole chickens best. I get more mileage from them than anything else. Last week, Meijer had whole chickens on sale, $.69/pound. My two birds when in the oven. Half of one chicken got eaten for dinner. I made plain white rice and served it with defatted pan juices and glazed carrots. I also chopped up a bunch of veggies for later in the week while I was hacking up the carrots and bagged them up. Meat got stripped off the bones and packaged up. Chicken bones went into the crock pot and turned into stock overnight using the tail ends of the veggies left over from preping dinner. Monday morning - took the stock out of the crock, quickly strained it and put it in the fridge. (I know you would not have time to throw the bones in overnight, Regina, with five boys to wrangle in the morning - so I would recommend throwing the bones in the fridge and doing the broth on Monday night on the stove. It's the type of thing that doesn't really need watching while you are bathing, cajoling, counseling and otherwise parenting your boys.) Monday lunch - chicken sandwiches for me and the kid. Monday dinner - fried rice made with leftover rice, plus the leftover chicken and a bag of stir fry veggies from the freezer. Tuesday - Chicken noodle soup made with the broth from the bones, the pre-chopped veggies from Sunday and a bag of noodles from Aldi's. Wednesday night dinner is usually something like a casserole - tuna or chili mac so that I can have leftovers for Thursday - which is usually my really long night at work. It is usually the hubby's night to cook as well. Maybe you could teach your oldest how to make something simple like spaghetti. I just taught my daughter how to cook baked pork chops so she can get dinner started on Wednesdays when she beats the rest of us home...

So there are some of my tips - true they are not recipes.They are not peppered with cute catch phrases - every person needs to come up with their own in my opinion (both recipes and catchphrases). And I am most likely not as photogenic as some TV hosts. But, I get the job done. No one in my family starves. They are healthy, well fed and happy. PLUS, I have a reputation as a great cook. And I don't need hoards of fans to convince me of that. I simply have to look at my friends and family to know it.


PS Regina - my condolences on the death of your husband. My family and I appreciate the sacrifice he made for us so that we can live fear free in our homes. Maybe that is a small consolation to you considering that you still have to raise your family without him, but it is all I, a stranger, have to offer.