Homemade TV Dinners: It’s Cheaper, Healthier and Tastes So Much Better!


There are not very many TV dinner choices in Ireland.  Stores like Iceland have a decent selection, but Iceland stores are not everywhere and they are not where I am currently living.  Even the cheapest TV dinners are not very inexpensive (in my opinion) compared to what you can pay in the U.S., but we have a lot of need for something quick and easy to throw in the oven or microwave, so I decided to make my own.  And I thought I’d share what I did with my readers. 

To start, I need to buy some foil baking containers.  I had hoped to find some smaller, rectangular-shaped shallow containers, but only found deeper ones.  I bought a five-pack of the deeper ones.  I also cleaned out our freezer of any of the meat products we don’t seem to be eating.  I’m either making recipes out of those products or baking them off in the oven to be re-frozen for later use. 

Here are some of my thoughts on things I could make and freeze:

  • Meatballs:  Tony’s mother gave me this idea a few years ago.  She made some amazing Swedish Meatballs and would cook a bunch of them off and then freeze them so when they wanted something easy, all she had to do was heat them up. 
  • Lasagna:  Although, this takes a bit more preparation than some other ideas, homemade lasagna is much better than store-bought.
  • Spaghetti:  Very simple, because you can get away with store-bought sauce (jazz it up a bit) and pasta is cheap and easy.  When you’re ready to make it, butter two sides of sliced bread and sprinkle with garlic powder, pepper, salt and a small amount of Italian seasoning and bake until golden.  Add cheese for cheese bread. 
  • Meatloaf:  Meatloaf is great, because it can be heated up with mashed potatoes and buttered corn or individual slices can be frozen and thawed for meatloaf sandwiches. 
  • Pot Pie:  You can make beef, chicken or turkey.  I used a mini springform pan to make my pot pies, because I didn’t have any mini pie pans.  Once the pie has cooled for 15 minutes, you can separate the springform and carefully remove from the bottom.
  • Various Chicken Dishes:  There’s a lot you can do with chicken.  You can season it various ways and bake it, stuff it with cheese, bread it—any number of things.  Serve with frozen vegetables, mashed potatoes or more.
  • Potato Wedges:  I had a bag of potatoes already and picked up some garlic potato wedge spice.  I’m going to bake them off in the oven and use them as sides with my meat dishes.
  • Burritos:  Burritos are excellent for the freezer.  I’m making breakfast burritos, but you can also do enchiladas, baked chicken wraps and more.   
  • Pizza:  Who doesn’t love pizza?  I guarantee your frozen homemade pizza will knock store-bought frozen pizza out of the park!

Since I don’t have enough baking dishes for everything, I’m going to create five meals using the aluminum pans, a few pot pies, homemade pizza and some breakfast burritos.  I’ll be taking pictures of the food I make and posting recipes, so check back for more.

5 Cheap Meal Ideas


If you’ve been reading any of my other recent blog posts, you may know that I am currently on the 10-day master cleanse, so it may come as a surprise to you that I’m posting about food.  I’ve been wanting to post this for a while and since I’m still able to think, talk about and look at food without feeling like an animal about to go for its kill, I thought it would be a good time to get it out of the way.

Times are tough for many people around the world.  I’m an American living in Ireland and although I find the food to be quite expensive here, I’m also hearing how expensive food has become from my family back home.  We have good weeks and we have bad weeks here and on the bad weeks, I have to get thrifty with the grocery cost.  Here are some cheap meal ideas.  They won’t win you any gourmet cooking awards, but they will help reduce the cost of your food bill.  Also, I can tell you that you can buy all of the ingredients for these items in Ireland.  

#1.  Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Condensed Tomato Soup:  You can buy bread here for as cheap as 69-89 cents a loaf if you shop at stores like Aldi and Lidl.  I spent 54 cents on a can of tomato soup from Tesco and you can be 15 slices of processed cheese for 64 cents at Tesco.  Butter is actually your biggest cost here.  In case you’ve never made a grilled cheese before, heat up a fry pan on medium heat.  Lightly butter one side of two slices of bread.  Put one piece of bread butter-side down in the frying pan and lay one to two slices of cheese on top of it.  Place the second slice of bread butter-side up over the top.  Cook each side until golden brown.  Be sure to check frequently, because there’s nothing worse than an overcooked grilled cheese sandwich.

#2.  Grilled Peanut Butter Sandwich:  Grilled peanut butter sandwiches are delightful.  There’s nothing better than that warm, gooey peanut butter in the middle and the fried butter taste that comes with it.  You make these the same way, but put smooth peanut butter in between layers instead of cheese.  I personally like Tesco brand smooth peanut butter.  It tastes the most like Skippy or Jiffy in the U.S.

#3.  Classic Hotdogs and Potato Chips/Crisps:  You can buy a 12 pack of hotdogs from Lidl for less than 2 Euro.  Hotdog buns at Lidl are only 99 cents for a 6-pack.  A jar of pickles (can be chopped up for relish) can be purchased just about anywhere for 89 cents and condiments are also cheap (particularly at Lidl and Aldi).  I also make sort of a homemade ranch dressing using Creme Fresh (89 cents at Lidl), 2 Tablespoons of chopped chive, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of garlic and salt and pepper to taste.  This can be used as a salad dressing or on the hotdogs.  I simply boil my hotdogs until they’re done.  

#4.  Garden Salad:  I love to eat salad.  Of course I don’t eat healthy salad, but if it is your only meal, it’s okay to incorporate all of the food groups.  Everyone’s salad is different, but here is what mine consists of:  Freshly chopped lettuce (lettuce is 89 cents a head at Tesco), chopped cucumber (69 cents a piece at Tesco), sliced green olives (I get a huge jar of green olives at Lidl for less than 3 Euro), ranch dressing (can buy in some Tescos in Dublin area or make recipe above), shredded cheddar cheese (I buy 500 grams of shredded cheddar for less than 3 Euro at Lidl), diced tomato (always cheap), diced onion (always cheap again) and cottage cheese (if I have it – can be purchased for less than a Euro at many local stores).  You can make your own croutons out of old bread by tossing bread cubes with butter and seasoning to taste.  

#5.  Buttered Noodles:  If you’ve ever gone into a Noodles & Co. in the states, you may have seen or even tried buttered noodles.  Sounds weird, but can be excellent.  Pasta is cheap in this country.  You can usually buy a bag of penne for less than a Euro (particularly at places like LIdl and Aldi).  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, melt 1 cup of butter in a frying pan.  Add 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of Italian seasonings, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper.  Melt completely, but do not burn.  Shred Parmesan cheese.  To serve, fill bowl with hot pasta, pour plenty of butter sauce over the top and sprinkle generously with cheese.  Again, the Parmesan and butter are going to be your most expensive purchases, but you should be able to get more than one of these meals out of a blocck of Parmesan.  It depends on how much cheese you like and how many people are eating.  

Fresh Cucumber and Bean Salad: Low GI Menus


Today was the final day in my fourth week of Sásta.  I have successfully completed 12 sessions.  I didn’t miss a day or a week and I’ve stuck to the low GI lifestyle as best I can.  Of course, I still have a lot to learn and I’ve got a good ways to go before I’ve perfected my daily meals, but I’m doing great.

I knew going into this program that I probably would not see the same results as others.  The program promises the loss of one pant size in four weeks.  Because of my physical problems, I knew that this was not likely to be my outcome.  I have two separate heart conditions.  The first is heart block.  Basically, one side of my heart does not communicate with the other and so my heart stops beating.  Because of this issue, I have a pacemaker.  I’ve had it since I was 22.  I just turned 32 on Tuesday.

The second heart condition is rapid heart rate.  Because of this problem, I’m on medication to keep my heart rate regulated.  A doctor in Germany suggested that weight loss would be very difficult for me due to my heart problems.  Because my heart rate doesn’t do what it is supposed to, I would find it difficult to lose weight.  He wasn’t kidding.  I have tried many things over the past few years and though I’ve achieved slight weight loss here and there, nothing stuck.  For the most part, my weight stayed the same for a few years, but in 2011, it spun out of control and I packed on an additional 40-50 pounds.  I did lose some of that weight on my own and even losing just it would not make me completely happy (although happy enough).  I have a long road ahead of me, but I’ve come to realize that the time is going to pass anyway.  I may only lose a little bit each week.  I won’t see instant results, but as long as I am improving each week, I can’t ask or expect anything else.

Here are my current results.  As of last Monday, July 15th, 2013, I had lost just under 7 pounds (6.6 to be exact).  As of Wednesday, July 17th, 2013, I had lost 27.5 inches all over (measurements for tummy, hips, thighs, upper arms, forearms, neck, bust and calves).  Do I wish I had lost more weight?  Of course, but can I argue with 27.5 inches?  No.  I think it’s great.  I am building muscle too and I have improved my weight and inch loss each week.  As long as I’m continuing to lose each week, I will stay happy, although I realize that  there will come times/weeks when I don’t show any loss.  It happens to everyone.

My hope is that I continue to see the same inch loss each week through the end of August.

So, that being said, time for a recipe.  I still haven’t perfected a second cucumber soup recipe, but I have discovered this lovely salad that I can eat unlimited quantities of and I want to share it with you.

Ingredients

4 cups of cucumber, peeled and diced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 cup of red onion, finely diced

1 cup of black eyed peas or British peas (canned)

2 Tablespoons of black olives, chopped

½ a cup of crumbled feta or salad cheese

2 Tablespoons of lemon juice

3 Tablespoons of olive oil

½ teaspoon of Italian seasonings

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Toss everything together in a bowl.  Refrigerate.  Serve cold.

This recipe has been slightly adapted from the recipe here: Cucumber Black Eyed Pea Salad 

About the Author

Beth Lytle works with The Site Gardener as copywriter and editor, project manager, and marketing director.  She also works on several other ongoing projects, including Seen It MagazineTranscription Connection, her Winded Gypsy expat blog and varying small projects.  Beth is also a distributor of It Works! Body wraps for weight loss.  Visit her site at http://slimmingireland.myitworks.com for further information.  Connect with Beth on Facebook for constant updates to her projects.

The Great Bacon Hunt in Dublin


By Beth Lytle

bacon_main

Hello Everyone!  It’s been a while since I posted on here.  When you visited me last, I was living in Frankfurt, Germany and I was busy telling you what it was like as an American living in Germany.  Well, it’s been a busy year.  Since then, I relocated to Dublin, Ireland.

Now that I’ve been here a year, I’ve decided there are a lot of things I have to say about Dublin.  For one thing, even though I didn’t have problems getting around Frankfurt as an English-speaking person, it is, of course, much easier in an English-speaking country.

One thing my family has learned since being here is that we’re not big fans of rashers, the UK/Irish version of bacon.  Since bacon is one of our all-time favorite foods, I began doing some research on the subject.  I’ve also discovered where you can find bacon in Dublin.  Even though there are not many places, you can actually find bacon all over Dublin.

Here’s a bit of background information about bacon.  It will help you understand why an American might find rashers to be a bit off.  In the United States, the majority of bacon is prepared from the pork belly.  In other parts of the world, it is prepared from several different cuts of meat, usually from the back and sides.

So, let’s get on to where you can find the bacon you’re looking for in Dublin.  There are three main places we buy our bacon from here.  The first place is Tesco, but it’s not just any Tesco.  In fact, many Tesco’s do not carry what we’re looking for.  The Tesco we buy it from is the Tesco on Navan Road (next to the Maple Centre).  What we buy there is actually called Pancetta.  It looks and tastes like American bacon.  The brand we get is Sol.  It can be found usually in an end cap of a refrigeration aisle across from the deli section.  Despite the fact that we always find it there and that we order our groceries from that particular store, it does not show up on Tesco’s online ordering.

Maple Centre

Next, you can buy bacon from the Fresh Market in Smithfield.  Sometimes they have it, sometimes they don’t.  You’ll find it to the right of the refrigerated Polish section if they do have it.  As far as I can tell, they stock two different brands.  The brand names are Espina Bacon and Campofrio Bacon.  We just found these brands, so I haven’t tried the Campofrio brand, but I cooked up the Espina brand yesterday.  It claims to be lower in fat and was okay, but even when cooked at a low temperature, it cooked up pretty crispy.  So far, my preference is the Pancetta from the Navan Road Tesco.

Fresh Market Photo

Finally, you can get bacon from Marks & Spencer.  They have a couple of different types of brands.  Unfortunately I haven’t bought any from there lately, so I don’t have the brand names or photos.  We get it from the M&S at the Jervis Shopping Centre.

Jervis Shopping Centre

Have you found other places in Dublin that you get your American-style bacon?  Post a comment letting us know where!  I will make changes to this article as I come across more information, because, yes, bacon is that important!

About the Author

Beth Lytle works with The Site Gardener as copywriter and editor, project manager, and marketing director.  She also works on several other ongoing projects, including Seen It MagazineTranscription Connection, her Winded Gypsy expat blog and varying small projects.  Connect with Beth on Facebook for constant updates to her projects.

2012 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

TRACKING THE IP ADDRESS OF AN EMAIL SENDER


Have you ever wondered how to track the IP address of an email sender?  Doing so can be extremely helpful in helping to determine if someone is trying to scam you.  It’s something I’ve begun doing since attempting to both find a sublet and also find someone to sublease our apartment.

For most email addresses, you can look up the email header.  If you have a Yahoo email address, right click on the email in your Inbox.  Choose View Full Header.  What at first looks like a bunch of gibberish, will pop up in a small screen.

If you’re using Gmail, click the inverted triangle that’s displayed next to Reply.  Click Show Original.  If you use Hotmail, right click on the email and select View Message Source.

AOL uses a slightly different process.  Open the email and click the Action button at the top.  Choose View Message Source.

Once you have the full header information, you can read through it in order to find the IP address, but keep in mind that this will only work for emails other than Gmail.  For security purposes, Gmail keeps the ID of the sender confidential.  Find where it says Received: – the IP address will be listed after it.  If Received: is listed more than once, look at the last one.

If you’re not sure what you’re looking at or you don’t feel like reading through the header, you can copy and paste the information using a website that will read it for you.  Try IP Address Location  or Arul’s Tech Info.

I researched all of the above information and of course came to a dead end, because Mr. Kehoe was using a Gmail account.  That’s when I came across an awesome free site called SpyPigSpyPig makes it even easier.  Simply plug in your email address and copy and paste the subject information from the email you’re about to send and want to track into the provided space.  You now have two options.  You can either choose one of the icon pictures provided or upload your own from your computer.  If you’re going to use one of theirs, I would go with the white square, because it blends in better with the email so that the person doesn’t know you’re tracking them.  The best option is for you to use your own (a smiley face or some other small icon that looks like it is part of your email).

Once you tell it to generate your SpyPig, you’ll have 60 seconds to copy the image that it generates and put it into the body of the email.  I found that this works best if I have the email open and ready to send.  Simply right click on the SpyPig and choose Copy.  Choose a spot within the email (if it’s the white square, put it at the end), right click and select Paste.  The image will be pasted directly into the body of the email.  Click Send and wait.

Once the email is opened, SpyPig will track it.  You’ll receive a notification in your email from SpyPig letting you know that the email has been read, as well as how many times it’s been opened and the IP address of the sender.  It will also give you an approximate location and information about the sender.  If you’re worried about a scammer, this is one of the fastest ways to find out if they’re telling you the truth.

If you want to go a step further, take the IP address and search for more information on it.  You can do this by going to sites that allow you to search for information about an IP address.  UltraTools has a great selection of tracking tools and you can use their IP-Geo Location Tracking Tool for free.

When I searched for the IP address of my apartment scammer, I found a bit more specific information than SpyPig:

Continent: Africa

Country: Nigeria

Country Code: NG

Country CF: 86

Region:

State: Lagos

State Code:

State CF: 23

DMA:

MSA:

City: Lagos

Postal Code: 100002

Timezone: Greenwich Mean Time

Area Code:

City CF: 23

Latitude: 6.435127991

Longitude: 3.416063057

If you’re dealing with emails that could be potential scammers, don’t waste time emailing back and forth.  Instead, implant a SpyPig tracker into all emails that could potentially be scammers.  Now that I’ve discovered this online tool, I put one in all apartment rental related emails.  That way I don’t waste time answering questions or getting my hopes up about a potential opportunity.  I can weed out the scammers immediately.

Worried about how accurate SpyPig is?  Well, it worked on me.  Before I used it I tried it on an email to myself and it pinpointed my location exactly.  It even listed my Internet provider.  Good luck and keep checking back this week for more information about tracking down online scammers.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there will be times that SpyPig doesn’t work.  For example, if one or both of you are not using an HTML-formatted email.  For the purposes of tracking Gmail messages, it worked great for me.

Coming Up:  Look for the next post:  ARE THESE APARTMENT PHOTOS LEGITIMATE?  LEARN HOW TO DO A SIMPLE ONLINE CHECK – COMING SOON!

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