Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Comfort Food is Back!

I've been reading in recent editions of those fancy gourmet food magazines that "comfort food" is making a comeback. Many of the best restaurants in town are currently offering dishes such as meatloaf and mash potatoes on their menus. Some attribute this trend to feelings of insecurity in an unsettled world. Having some of Mom's meatloaf and mash potatoes can provide some much needed, good old fashioned comfort to our lives. I say it's the food we were raised on (in America anyway) and we've always liked it (whether we were willing to admit it or not). It definitely comforts the tummy and warms the soul. So here is my "cheap chic" comfort recipe contribution to the world at large.

Cheap Chic Meatloaf and Gravy

2 lbs of lean ground burger
1/4 cup finely chopped onions (1/2 med onion)
1/4 cup chopped green or red pepper (1/2 med bell pepper)
1/2 cup of bread crumbs (I use Progresso brand)
2 eggs
2 tbs of tomatoe sauce (from 8 oz can, below) or ketchup
1 tsp of Italian seasoning
1-2 cloves of chopped/minced garlic
1/4 tsp each Salt and Pepper
1 8 ounce can tomatoe sauce
1 packet of beef gravy mix or a jar/can of beef gravy (any brand)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large bowl, using your hands with a little water on them, mix the first nine ingredients together just enough to blend. Do not over mix, this can make your meatloaf tough. Form meat mixture into an oblong loaf and place it in an oil coated casserole dish or crockpot (depending on how it will be cooked). Spread the 8 ounces of canned tomatoe sauce over the loaf to coat it. Bake (covered) in a 375 degree oven for 1 and 1/2 hours or cook in crockpot on high for 4 hours or on low for 7-8 hours.

Note: Personally I like my meatloaf cooked in the crockpot. It is much more tender and moist when it's done! Just slap it together put it in the crock and forget about it for many hours till it's done. Also, it creates a comforting aroma in the house all day! Sometimes I mix a splash of red wine in the tomatoe sauce that I use to coat the meatloaf with and sprinkle Italian seasonings on the top! ooh la la!

To make gravy I prepare the beef gravy packet, jar or can according to the directions, then I add the juices from the cooked meatloaf. This makes a delicious gravy to top any type of potatoes. I especially like the boiled red potatoes with the skins left on.

This meatloaf also makes an awesome sandwich for the next day. Spread a little mayo on a couple of slices of sourdough bread (or bread of you choice) then cut a couple of 1/2 inch slices of meatloaf and place between the bread with a little salt and pepper. This makes a rustic little gourmet sandwich!

Tootles, Stacey

To Market To Market!

Grocery shopping can be a real challenge when you don't have much money. Especially when you have champagne taste on a "no name" brand budget. I like the finer things in life like the best cuts of meat, freshest fruits and vegetable, gourmet breads and yes, good wine. So how do I shop on a tight (very tight) budget without feeling depressed and deprived? Well I've developed a few methods that I will share with you. First of all I pay close attention to the local grocery store ads that come in the mail each week. Then I plan my menus accordingly. I shop at the local farmer's market for fruits and vegetables which can literally be half the price of those in the grocery stores. When I have enough money up front, I stock up on meat by buying the large packages at Costco and breaking them up into smaller (approx. 1 lb.) packages using ziplock bags. I store these in the freezer for future meals. A large package of burger yields about six, 1 lb. packages. A large package of chicken breasts yields about three packages with four breasts per package. The price per pound is significantly lower than buying the small packages at the grocery store. Those of you on monthly fixed incomes can stock up on meat for the month. Then shop weekly for veges and sides, etc.. (on sale of course). I happen to love sourdough bread but wow, it can be expensive so I get the fresh baked loafs from the bakery at the grocery store for a third the cost of packaged breads. It stays fresh for about three or four days, due to no preservatives. I slice pieces by hand and make little rustic gourmet sandwiches. I also love to cook with wine. Wine seems to add another demention of flavor and richness to many recipes. The cheapest and best tasting wine that I've found for the price is Gallo Twin Valley (Chardonay, Merlot or Cabernet) in the 1.5 liter (large) bottles for about $6.99. This wine is great to cook with and is also very drinkable, while you're cooking! These are just a few tips that I hope will help you when doing your "cheap chic" grocery shopping. TTFN (ta ta for now) Stacey

Saturday, February 11, 2006

What is the deal with Goodwill? It's not!

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that Goodwill thinks it's a boutique? I swear I can find brand new stuff at Ross, TJ Max, Target and Mervyn's for cheaper than the Goodwill. I feel like boycotting this place! Especially considering what happened to me a few months ago at one of their stores. I was browsing around when I came across a cute (9x11) framed picture of a teacup. I'm not that into teacups, but for 6 bucks, what the heck. I can hang it in my back bedroom or bathroom or "re-gift" it or something. Anyway, so I go to the register feeling all proud of my new found treasure. I wait in line behind about six people (one who doesn't smell so good). I finally get up to the register and the lady behind the counter gives me the once over and says "Oh no, this price tag must be wrong". I say (in my nicest voice) "Oh, well that's the price tag that is on there". She says, "hold on a minute" then she makes a phone call to the back room. Soon a little man comes out (looking like an oompa loompa) and takes the picture from me without a word and returns to the back room. I stand there waiting for about 5 minutes while this lady helps other customers in the mean time. Then the little man returns and without a word hands me the picture with a new price tag, for twice as much! Then the lady behind the counter says "There, that's better". Better? Better for who?! Anyway I should have just said right then and there, "forget about it" (in my best mafia accent), but instead I bought it because it was still a pretty good deal. But the whole situation just irritates me! I should have just walked away on the principle of it. Anyway, the bottom line is this cheap chic diva is not advocating the Goodwill as a cheap chic source! Except for maybe the occasional clothing items such as jeans, classic shirts, etc... or a cheaply priced houseware (but remember the oompa loompa can change the price at any time). You're better off going to a flea market, other thrift stores (St. Vincent de Paul's is great), garage sales and the above named retail stores! You certainly won't be seeing me at "The Will" anytime soon! Happy shopping ya'll!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ah, The Cheap Chic Lifestyle!

This is my first post, so welcome everyone to my Cheap Chic Lifestyle Blog. This is the place where you will learn the exciting art of "cheap chic living". No matter what your income level be it rich or poor (and I'm talking busted) or somewhere in between, you can live a life of sophistication, style and grace on very, very little money! I've done it, I'm doing it, and doggonit' I know what it takes! Stay tuned for "cheap chic" shopping tips, menus, recipes, home decor, party planning (yes, you can have a party when you're broke), fashion, beauty (you can be beautiful when you're broke), arts, entertainment, health and inspiration! By the way, you don't have to be broke to read this blog! Just thought I'd make that clear!