Week One in the Kitchen: Using What You Already Have

I was just going over with a friend what I made this weekend and she kept asking me, “Where did you get…” and I would look at her and say, “I got it for free” or “Someone sent it to me.”  Believe it or not, those ingredients are what I worked with to make something sweet this weekend.

There are a few things I bought at our local Jack’s 99 Cent stores like eggs, pita bread, rice, rice noodles and a few Asian ingredients.  Everything else just happened to already be in the pantry or the refrigerator.  Generally, I could spend over $120 for two weeks worth of groceries.  By focusing on using the stuff I already had, the price came to only $33 [but that also means I didn’t buy any meat…I went digging around in my freezer and came up with 2 chicken breasts, a kielbasa and a pork chop.]

So here is what this weekend netted me…

Saturday: I Still Can’t Make Thai Food

For some reason, I have a serious mental block when it comes to making Thai food.  I grew up with this stuff.  My mom tried to teach me how to make my favorite dishes to no avail.  To this day, I still can’t get it right.  But apparently I can make a bad recipe salvageable…as in, I saw the recipe was lacking the correct ingredients 3/4 of the way into it.

I had taken a recipe from a blogger (I’m not going to post it because I don’t want to call them out).  In that recipe, she listed the wrong vinegar.  She used rice vinegar.  My brother had even commented on a few of the pad thai recipes I had sent to him that they were using the wrong vinegar.  Then I saw she put peanut butter in the recipe.  Ummm…not for pad thai, honey.

So I put in the correct vinegar, added some cayenne pepper and called it a day.

It tasted good, even without the bean sprouts, but it wasn’t pad thai.

I may stick to just purchasing the Thai food from the restaurant down the street.  They make it exactly the way mom used to make it.  But I have a feeling I may do a Thai month and I’ll finally figure out how to make Thai food the right way!

Saturday, Take Two: I Made Truffles for the First Time

The grand adventure this weekend was making truffles for the first time.  Talk about an absolutely gooey mess.  But rest assured, the chocolate nastiness dripping off my fingers and causing a huge mess paid off in the end.

The whole reason behind making truffles has a little something to do with Biscoff.  If you have ever tried the Biscoff spread or their cookies, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.  It’s probably the best peanut butter-ish spread I’ve ever had.  My friends and I are addicted to it.  Because I knew I needed to do something with the free Biscoff spread the grocery store gave to me for trying their pick up service, I started to take a look around at Biscoff.com.  I found this recipe for truffles and thought it looked simple enough, so I thought I’d try it since I need to re-learn how to create sweet recipes [I don’t eat sweets very often].

I sort of followed all of the directions…

Here’s what I did differently:

1. I didn’t have chocolate chips.  I had three bars of semi-sweet and dark organic chocolate that someone sent to me (i.e. free) that had been sitting in the freezer for god knows how long.  So I melted two bars down and used that as the chocolate.

2.  After adding in the Biscoff spread and the Biscoff cookies (which I picked up from Jacks for 99 cents per package…normally $2.49 at WalMart), I added some Kraft miniature marshmallows that someone sent to me (i.e. free).  After I mixed it all up, I put it in the refrigerator for more than 10 minutes (maybe 15 minutes).

3.  I decided to coat the chocolate with crushed almonds and Dang Toasted Coconut Chips (another free item, which I highly recommend.  I don’t like coconut, but this stuff was really good.  You can pick them up at Whole Foods).  After I coated the sloppy mess, I dumped it into the powdered sugar and tried to construct the ball.

NOTE: If you make this, I highly recommend using two forks to scoop up the gooey mess.  It makes it easier to manage.  Pick up the gooey mess with the forks and just drop it into the powdered sugar to create the ball.

4. After constructing all of the little balls of truffles, I put them into the refrigerator to harden.  [It’s summertime…I was afraid the chocolate would melt if I left it covered in the kitchen.]

All in all, the end result was sooo good.  I think what really makes the truffles so good are the almonds and the toasted coconut chips from Dang.  Use ONLY Dang toasted coconut chips if you are opting to go the coconut route.  The reason why I say this…you have to try Dang’s coconut chips to understand.  It’s not imitation coconut.  It’s toasted coconut.  Unless you can find an identical substitute (which I don’t think it exists), use Dang.  Just try it, you’ll understand why I’m saying this after you’ve tried it.

Sunday: String Beans and Chicken

String Beans and Chicken
String Beans and Chicken

One of my favorite Chinese dishes that I can’t seem to get anywhere is Szechuan Chicken and String Beans the way they make it down in a ghetto neighborhood in Washington, DC.  When I was interning for MPDC back in college, we (the cops and I) used to have this once a week.  It was sooo good.

Well, I finally found the friggin recipe!  Chinese Green Beans with Ground Turkey Over Rice

With the majority of Asian dishes out there, you can substitute the meat.  I used chicken, but I may try the ground turkey later this month, because I know that will be just as tasty.

The only thing I didn’t originally have for this recipe was hoisin sauce.  I picked a jar up from Jack’s and I am so glad I did.  It was the secret ingredient I’ve been missing from my pantry all these years!

It’s funny how I can make Chinese food with no problems…Thai?  Fogettaboutit.

 Sunday Casseroles: The Best Thing Ever 

One of the things I love about casseroles is that they are so easy to put together and so tasty when you pull it out of the oven.

When I was going through the meat bin in my freezer, I pulled out a kielbasa and practically leaped with joy.  I thought I had used all of them!  I decided I could make a pasta casserole out of it.

What you need:

1 kielbasa, diced (I had already used 1/4 of it, so I chopped up the remainder and threw it into the casserole)
1/2 box of pasta (use any kind, I used whole wheat penne)
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 can of milk and 1/2 can of water (use the can from the mushroom soup, add 1/2 can of milk of your choice – I used almond – and then fill the rest of the way with water)
1/2 bag of frozen peas
mushrooms (your choice, I used a handful of dried porcini)
1 small can of green chiles (optional)
1 bag of shredded cheese (your choice, I used a 4 cheese blend)

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Heat the cream of mushroom soup with the milk and water on the stove until it boils, whisking the mixture together.

3. Meanwhile, add the kielbasa, pasta, peas, mushrooms, and can of green chiles to the casserole dish.

4.  When the soup is properly mixed and boiling, pour it over the mixture in the casserole dish.  Top the casserole with a layer of cheese (you will use the entire bag).

5.  Place the casserole into oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Check to make sure the cheese is turning brown.  Before completely removing the dish from the oven after 30 minutes, check to make sure the pasta is thoroughly cooked.  If not, let bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Generally, when the cheese has browned completely on top, the pasta is done.

6.  Remove from oven.  Let sit for 15 minutes to cool before serving.

The best thing about casseroles is that once you get the gist of making one, you can practically throw anything into the casserole dish, layer it with cheese, bake it and then it come out tasting like heaven.

It’s because of the simplicity of making a hearty casserole that I normally keep creamed soup in the cupboard, and my cheese drawer packed with a variety of different shredded cheeses.  Once you get the hang of making a casserole, it will also be your go to meal during the week when you have a handful of ingredients and have no idea what to do with them.

Sunday’s Sweet Tooth: I Made Ice Cream Using Only THREE Ingredients

So I saved the best for last.  While the casserole was baking, I put in a tray of bananas on the top shelf of the oven to roast.

I had been planning on making this dessert for a few weeks now, so when I polished off the Talenti gelato, I kept the container because I knew I’d be making my own ice cream.  [Great way to reuse/recycle…also helps because this recipe turns out to be a pint of ice cream exactly.]

Now, I hate to do this, but because I left the original blogger’s recipe at home and I didn’t tag it to come back to later, I’m just going to have to wing it (and give her credit later).


4 Bananas
2/3 cup of Coconut Milk (Almond Breeze puts this out – you’ll find this with the soy milk in your dairy aisle)
2 Tbsps of peanut butter (optional, I’ll get to this at the end of the post)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.  On a baking sheet, put the bananas (in their peels) onto the sheet.  Put into the oven and bake until the peels turn black and juice starts to sputter out.  [Between 10-20 minutes]

3.  Remove from the oven.  Let cool for a couple of minutes before opening up the banana and removing the pulp.  It’s simpler to just put the bananas directly into the blender jar (make sure the blade is already in it if you have a removable blade).

NOTE: The easiest way to remove the pulp is to hold the end of the banana with the stem, and use a knife to cut open the skin.  Generally, the pulp will fall out of the skin with a little bit of prying.

4.  Cover the blender jar with its lid and place the jar into the freezer and let freeze for an hour.

5.  After an hour, take the blender jar out of the freezer and place it in the blender cradle, add the coconut milk and peanut butter* to the jar.

6.  Blend for one minute (or less if you use a powerful blender like the Ninja).  Pour the contents into a small freezer safe container.  Voila…you have ice cream!  If it’s too soft for your liking, just put it back in the freezer and let freeze for a few more hours before serving.

This makes 1 pint of ice cream.

* = You can use any ingredient besides peanut butter for your flavoring.  I’ve seen some recipes where they used strawberries, mango, and even a spiced rum, caramel & cardamom.


I definitely plan on making different versions of this kind of ice cream again.  A friend suggested a mango/peach mixture similar to this but without the bananas.  Something to play around with this month.


About Michelle Kenneth

Michelle Kenneth is the voice behind PerfectionistWannabe.com.