Hacks from my Happy Place – XIV

I am officially turkey’d out! I only cooked about half the amount (pounds) of turkey I made for Christmas, 2019, but somehow, after everyone took a share, I still had a lot left! I’ve used it in place of chicken for a couple of recipes, and there is still some left! So…. I got a small head of cabbage and will use the last of the turkey in place of chicken to make some of my delicious cabbage soup.

I like mashed potatoes – I grew up on a meat and potatoes regimen so that shouldn’t be a surprise. However, I abhor the chore of peeling and dicing potatoes in order to make them. Living alone, I’ve pretty much gone to those packets of “instant” potatoes that look and have the texture of mashed potatoes, if not quite the same taste. Well, I’ve been crazing a meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy and corn and I didn’t want the instant ones. However, I also did not want to peel potatoes either! So, I took a chance and bought Bob Evans mashed potatoes that can be microwaved. The packaging says it’s made from real potatoes and butter, so I decided to try them. I give them an 8 out of 10. They definitely have a more potato taste than instant. They serve up creamy and thick. They don’t start getting watery after being refrigerated but keep their texture. This will be a hack when I want good mashed potatoes without the work to make them!

I also have to give a shout-out to Campbell’s for their slow cooker beef stew packet. It is basically the stew-flavored gravy. I had some pot roast with onions, carrots and red potatoes in my freezer, and I was bored with it as it was, so I simply warmed the ‘gravy’, cut up the meat, potatoes and carrots into smaller pieces, heated it all through, and added a drained can of peas at the very end. For me, the sauce needed more pepper (it was plenty salty enough), but otherwise, I’ll give it a 7.5 out of 10. It was actually almost too salty, which is maybe why I added more black pepper, but it has a definite beef stew taste and a nice consistency.

As much as I like to cook, when I’m only feeding me, I don’t feel it’s worth the effort to make everything homemade. These two new shortcuts definitely gave me what I was looking for. The Campbell’s sauce has even inspired me to check out their other slow-cooker sauces and see if I can add something new to my usual repertoire of entrees.

Speaking of slow cookers, if you have one, you know about the slow cooker bags from Reynolds, right? If you don’t, please let me enlighten you. Basically, they are like the oven bags made to cook your meal inside of. Since slow cookers offer a ceramic inner bowl which is not non-stick, many of the things you cook in it will stick/crust to the sides. The bag insert simply cooks everything inside the bag, making clean-up a virtual breeze! Even when I’ve occasionally put a small hole in a bag – for instance, when moving a roast around – the drippings are minimal. After cooking, you simply let the bag cool, lift it out carefully, and drop the entire thing in the trash. A quick swipe with a soapy dishcloth to the ceramic interior, and you’re all set for the next use! I LOVE them!

One more idea I wanted to share with you… For most of my life, I’ve always preferred “salty” snacks over “sweet” snacks, but over the last 2 or 3 years, I’m more apt to go looking for something sweet. I still buy salty snacks, especially when they are on BOGO or a 2-for-sale-price deal. However, I no longer consume a half-bag (or more) with unconscious eating in one sitting. And after I’ve had one or two servings, I’m then bored with the taste and don’t want any more! I’m fortunate that my bestie and her family enjoy salty snacks, and I give them a lot of them once I’ve tired of them. However, I had the thought just the other day that a lot of them could be used in making main meals. Anything flavored – like Doritos, for example – can be crushed up and used to coat meat like fish, chicken, pork, etc. instead of bread crumbs. Others can be crushed up and sprinkled on top of casseroles to add an extra flavor and texture. Things like regular-flavored potato chips can be crushed up and used instead of bread crumbs in meatloaf. The best thing may be that they can be stale and still work in that way! So, while I’ll still give my bestie a lot of snacks after I tire of them, having some of them on-hand may help me create a variety for something I already enjoy!

Speaking of enjoying – all of the forecasts show that we’re going to be getting our first ‘official’ snow tomorrow, followed by our first truly cold weather streak. I’m going to have lots of comfort foods from my freezer to enjoy! Decisions, decisions!!!

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