Monday, December 29, 2008


This is an easy variation on my pizza recipe and allows for each person to pick their own fillings. It's quickly becoming a Sunday afternoon favorite.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 10-12
Cost: approx. $5.00 (dependent on filling)

1 cup of warm water
1 package of active dry yeast ($.50)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2- 3 cups flour ($.50)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add all other ingredients. Stir 20 times to mix. Let rise 20 minutes.

Dipping Sauce:
8 oz can tomato sauce ($.50)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. Italian spice blend

Possible fillings in addition to mozzarella cheese: sausage, mushrooms, pepperoni, chicken, onion, spinach, olives, tomato....

Prepare crust. When ready divide crust into 10-12 balls. Roll out into a thin circle. Place on greased baking sheet. On half of the circle heap disired fillings and about 1/4 cup cheese. Fold over and pinch to seal.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with warmed dipping sauce.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chili Cook Off

By the time my family gets together after the holidays we are about fooded out. This year to avoid having to prepare yet another big meal we had a chili cook off. This provided to be a very easy and tasty way to satisfy 24 people with enough leftover for dinner, too. There was white chicken chili, our family's traditional chili, skyline chili and Alaina's Southfork Chili. Providing toppings such as corn chips, crackers, Monteray Jack or Cheddar cheese, cilantro and sour cream allows everyone to make it their way.

What is your favorite kind of chili? Please do share your recipe or link.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Turkey Tetrazzini

I learned this recipe watching my mom make it just about every Thanksgiving with the leftover turkey. While cleaning up the kitchen she would whip up several batches and send it out the door with the guests.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Cost: Approx. $5.00
Serves: 10-12

1 onion diced ($.25)
3 stalks celery diced
3 Tbsp butter
1 can of mushrooms drained ($.75)
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup ($1.00)
1 cup chicken/turkey broth
2 cups leftover turkey shredded
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese ($1.00)
cooked pasta (about 8 servings per package directions) ($1.00)
pepper to taste

Melt butter in skillet and add onion and celery. Saute until translucent. Add mushrooms, turkey soup and broth. Season to taste. Heat mixture through. Toss with cooked pasta. Place in 9x13 baking dish. Top with cheese. Bake covered at 375 for 25 minutes.

**The turkey mixture freezes well to be reheated and added to pasta at a later time.**

Monday, November 24, 2008

Homemade Hashbrowns

I have to admit that I've never once attempted to make hashbrowns from scratch. Normally, I buy them frozen, but have never truly been satisfied with the result. They seem soggy to me. The hashbrown that are packaged fresh at the grocery are too expensive for my taste. I was fixing brunch on Sunday and needed another side dish I had a few potatoes on hand and got the recipe right out to the Betty Crocker cookbook. There simply wasn't enough there- everyone wanted more. I think next time I'll make a bigger batch, cut back on the butter and use the electric nonstick griddle. This might become a lunch time staple with a little ham and cheese added.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20-30 minutes
Serves: 8-10
Cost: Approx. $1.50

8-10 medium potatoes (about 3 pounds) ($1.50)
4 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup butter

Wash potatoes well and pare. Do not remove skins. Shred to measure 8 cups. Rinse well; drain and pat dry. Mix potatoes, onion, salt and pepper. Heat butter until melted. Pack potato mixture firmly a dn leave 1/2 space around the edge of pan.

Cook over med-low for 15 minutes or until bottom is brown. Flip potato mixture adding more butter to pan if needed. Cook about 12 minutes longer or until bottom is brown.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jerk Turkey Soup

I few months ago I pulled a turkey from the bottom of the freezer that had been hiding since last winter. I roasted it and then froze the turkey meat. It's been fun exploring new ways to use it. This was one of our favorites. Just in time for this year's Thanksgiving turkey leftovers!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Serves: 8-10
Cost: Approx. $2.50 if made with leftover turkey

1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 cups of turkey meat cut into chunks (leftovers)
3 Tbsp Jerk Seasoning
1 medium onion diced ($.25)
2 Tbsp diced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 large can diced tomatoes undrained ($1.00)
1 small can black beans rinsed ($.75)
5 cups hot water
5 Tbsp chicken granules or 4 chicken bouillon cubes ($.25)

In a skillet heat olive olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Coat turkey with Jerk seasoning in a plastic bag. Add seasoned turkey to skillet and heat through.

Add all ingredients to crockpot and heat on low for 2 hours.

Like most soups this can be made into a double batch and half of it frozen. It makes for a quick lunch. We just had it today:)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Seven Layer Beef Stew

This is an hardy stew that can be made with just a few ingredients from your pantry. Best of all it's done in the crockpot. I use my mandolin to cut the vegetables right into the crock.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Serves: 12-14
Cost: Approx. $6.00

1 pound ground beef browned ($1.50)
1 medium onion sliced thin ($.25)
5 carrots sliced thin ($.25)
4 medium potatoes sliced thin ($.50)
1 can peas undrained ($.75)
1 can corn undrained ($.75)
2 small cans tomato soup ($2.00)

In the crockpot layer potatoes, onion, carrots, peas and corn being sure to salt and pepper each layer to taste. Top with ground beef. Spread tomato soup evenly over top of mixture. Cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 5 hours.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Warm Vanilla Cream Sauce

We ran out of syrup for our pancakes so I pulled together this sauce at the last minute. Everyone liked it so much that I don't think we'll be buying syrup any time soon. I was surprised that such a small amount served all nine of us. The trick to this is STIR CONSTANTLY.

Cook Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 8
Cost: less than $1

5 Tbsp butter ($.50)
5 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4-1 cup milk
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Melt butter in a sauce pan on medium heat. Incorporate flour while stirring constantly. When a smooth paste has formed add sugar and mix well. Slowly add 3/4 milk and turn up heat to medium high until the sauce begins to bubble. Continue stirring and turn heat down to medium. until sauce thickens to a gravy consistency. If needed add additional milk to thin.

Remove from heat and add cinnamon and vanilla. Stir. Serve warm.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pizza Pockets

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Serves: 12
Cost: Approx. $8.00

3 tubes of crescent rolls ($3.00)
3-4 cups mozzarella cheese ($2.00)
1 package of pepperoni or 8 oz of cooked sausage ($2.00)
1 can of pizza sauce (1.00)

Remove crescent rolls and separate each package into 4 rectangles. Gently roll with a glass to remove perforations.

Place 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese and meat of your choice in the center of the rectangle. Fold over and pinch edges well to seal. Wrap each pizza pocket in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil before freezing.

To cook, unwrap frozen pizza pocket and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with warm pizza sauce for dipping.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

White Chicken Chili

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6-8
Cost: Approx. $6.25

1 small onion chopped ($.25)
2 t garlic powder
2T olive oil
2 jalapeno peppers minced (optional)
4 oz can chopped green chilies, drained ($.50)
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 t dried oregano
1 t salt
3 C chicken broth ($2.00)
1 small can cooked northern beans, drained
16 oz cooked chicken breast, cubed (about 4 cups) ($3.50)

1/2 C chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Combined all ingredients and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Or combined all ingredients in a freezer bag. To reheat, place frozen chili in crockpot on low for 3 hours.

I like to top our chicken chili with 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese and a few tortilla chips on the side.

**Cooking you own beans and making broth from chicken stock would be a great way to cut costs on this meal**

Cheesy Potato Sausage Bake

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook Time:
Serves: 6
Cost: approx $6.75

6 potatoes diced and boiled until tender ($.75)
1 small can cream of chicken soup ($.75)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese ($2.00)
1 cup low fat sour cream ($1.00)
1/3 chopped green onions ($.25)
1 lb smoked sausage cut and browned ($2.00)

Mix all ingredients together well. Place in freezer bag.

Unthaw and place in baking dish. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes covered.

Make Ahead Sandwiches

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time:
Serves: 10-12
Cost: Approx $6.50

1 1/2 pounds ground beef ($2.50)
3/4 cup chopped onion ($.25)
3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup chopped dill or sweet pickles
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese ($1.50)
12 hot dog buns, split ($2.00)

In a saucepan, cook the beef and onion until meat is no longer pink; drain.

Stir in ketchup, pickles, salt, pepper, garlic powder and hot pepper sauce; heat through. Stir in cheese.

Place about 1/3 cupful in each bun; wrap individually in heavy-duty foil and seal tightly. Freeze for up to 3 months.

To use frozen sandwiches: Bake in foil at 400 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until heated through.

Chicken Burritos

Cook Time: 15 minutes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 8-10
cost: Approx. $7.00

4 boneless chicken breasts ($3.25)
1/2 jar salsa ($.75)
1 small can fat-free refried beans ($.75)
8-10 tortillas
low-fat shredded cheese ($2.00)

Place 4 boneless chicken breasts in a medium saucepan. Add 1/2 a jar of salsa and enough water to cover chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until chicken is white all the way through (about 20 minutes or so). Remove chicken from pot and let cool until easy to handle. Shred the chicken and return to the pot. If chicken mixture looks too thin, bring to a boil to reduce liquid.

Spread about two tablespoons of fat-free refried beans on a flour tortilla. (Buy the thicker 'homemade' variety if available; they are much better and won't tear so easily. Tortillas are easier to work with if you warm them first. I microwave mine a bit until soft, then wrap them in a kitchen towel and remove one at a time.)

Add 3-4 tablespoons chicken mixture down the center, sprinkle on a tablespoon or so of low-fat shredded cheddar. Fold the sides of tortilla in a bit, then roll from the bottom.

Repeat the procedure with remaining tortillas. Wrap each burrito in plastic wrap or wax paper, then place all the burritos in a large freezer bag and freeze.

To reheat, remove the plastic wrap and microwave on high until hot all the way through (time will vary depending on size of burrito and power of microwave.)

If the burritos are too soggy for your taste, microwave until the burrito is just thawed. In our microwave, this takes 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. Then, bake on lightly greased pan another 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees. They get lightly browned and slightly crispy on the outside.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Freezer Cooking Co-op: The Party

The invitations have been sent, the recipes chosen, the assignment list distributed and the shopping and preparations complete. Now the fun begins. It's cooking night!

The first time that I held one of these events, there were 9 recipes to be assembled and it took us three and a half hours! We got started a little late. A few of the recipes required extensive assembly (egg rolls, stuffed shells and pizza pockets). By the time we ended I wasn't sure that anyone would want to participate again. We were spent!

Since that time I have done my best to streamline the process and this past Friday with six ladies present we completed the work in one hour and fifteen minutes. Choosing on one labor intensive recipe (chicken burritos) was really where the time is saved.

Here is a rough outline of how a cooking party is conducted and some short cuts to make everyone's night more enjoyable.

1. Set the time and stick to it. It usually takes 15 minutes for everyone to set up their tables and unload their cars. If a person is running late, go ahead and get started. Someone can go ahead with the assembly for the late comer and then they can add their cooked meat when they arrive.

2. Each lady should open/prepare her ingredients at her station before we begin. It works best if everyone goes to one station at once with the bag or bowl to retrieve the ingredients rather than having one person walk around to each person. There is more time spent working than waiting and there is less chance for a big spill.

2. Don't be afraid to make a mess. Have a big trash can open in the middle of the room and a sink filled with hot dish soap so that people can was their mixing bowl as needed. Trust me, there will be a BIG mess, but there are also half a dozen other moms there to help you clean up:)

3. Assemble the recipe right in the freezer bag. Most soups, stews and casseroles can be mixed right in the bag. Save yourself a step of cleaning a bowl and spoon.

4. Have a printed copy of each recipe to be assembled. Each lady should have received an email of these previously, but just in case someone forgot theirs, it's nice to have it handy.

5. The final step is the best- clean up, load up cars and sit down for some chocolate and coffee.

I hope that this series has inspired you in some way to consider integrating cooking in community into your kitchen. There are many ways to participate in a freezer cooking co-op and recipe books devoted to this sort of thing. I would love to hear about any freezer cooking co-ops you may be planning. And please do come back again and visit The Full Table.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Freezer Cooking Co-op: shopping and preparations

Since our cooking party is planned so far in advance it gives plenty of time for each person to shop at their convenience and find the best bargains out there. I usually carry around my assignment list with me for a few weeks during my regular shopping trips to make sure that I don't miss any good deals. Because we don't collect receipts and split the cost evenly, using coupons and shopping sales really pays off. Once when my recipe was stuffed shells, I was able to buy all the pasta for free with coupons and the cream cheese for half price bringing my total to next to nothing. My only cost for the 8 meals was the meat and eggs and cheese. What I can't find on sale I purchase in bulk at Sam's or GSF. I will often call the store to ask for a price quote so that I don't have to shop at both stores.

Since meat is a large portion of the cost, it is necessary in order to find the best prices. Being able to buy chicken breast at $1.87/lb is quite different than picking it up at the last minute for $3.99/lb. Because I often buy our meat at Kroger's on Manager's special it needs to be cooked right away. I asked the butcher about these marked down meats and was told that they need to be cooked within 24 hours of purchase in order to be considered safe. But because I already have my assignment list, I can prepare the meat as I'm fixing dinner that night and put it in the freezer for the cooking party.

Aside from the meat, there is other preparation to be done for cooking night. Each lady will need to bring all the ingredients in her recipe already prepared for the group. This means that if something needs cooked, like potatoes or pasta, then it is done at home. Also, items that need to be chopped or diced should also be done ahead of time. Some like to separate all the prepared meals into individual bags for each person and others bring it in a big pot or bowl to be scooped out. Both ways work well.

There are some other preparation short cuts in this post that you might find helpful.

Tomorrow will feature the final post in the series, which the best part of all- Cooking Night! I appreciate all the email and comments. I would love to hear about any plans you are making for yourselves or further questions you might have.

Hope you are able to come back Saturday for the recipes that have been requested!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Freezer Cooking Co-Op: Making Assignments

Now that the recipes have been selected, the next step is to make a master list of what each person is to bring for the cooking party. Each lady is responsible to provide her own meat for each of the dishes that will be assembled that night. This works best for several reasons. Many people already have a stockpile of meat that they could use. Some people prefer a certain grade of meat or may choose to only eat organically. I've found that going this route is the best way to save money and remain flexible.

Each person also will bring the non-meat items of their assigned recipe for the entire group. For example, at our last party my recipe was Taco Soup. Since there were six of us, I brought the equivalent of 6 cans of diced tomatoes, 6 cans of corn, 6 large cans of tomato juice, 6 bags of cheddar cheese and 6 bags of corn chips, as well as enough taco seasoning to flavor everyone's meat.

This is where the savings happens. Instead of buying these cans individually, I took advantage of Aldi and GFS and spent approximately $25 to supply my ingredients to the group. My meat for the night cost around $12 due to the fact that it was purchased on manager's special and had been waiting patiently in my freezer. Altogether, I was able to provide six meals for our family of 9 for $37. This averages to be about $6 per main dish. Many in our group have smaller families and split these dishes in half making the average $3 per meal!

Aside from the ingredients, a list is provided of supplies that will be needed to make our night run smoothly. We learned after our first cooking experience together that a lot of time can be wasted waiting to use a can opener!

Here's an example of our last Assignment List:

Here is what you will need to bring with you prepared for our cooking night:

The non-meat items for your recipe x 6

½- 1 pound of cooked smoked sausage

4 boneless chicken breasts cooked with ½ jar salsa and then shredded

2 cups diced ham

16 oz cooked chicken breast cubed (4 cups)

1 ½ pounds ground beef cooked with 2/3 cup onion

1 pound of ground beef browned

8x8 baking dish

10 gallon sized freezer bags

Plastic Wrap


Large mixing bowl

Large Spoon for mixing

Measuring cups/spoons

Card table (if you have one)

Tomorrow I'll share specifics regarding preparing for the recipes for assembly as well as some more shopping tips.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Freezer Cooking Co-Op: Choosing Recipes

When choosing the recipes for a cooking party I enjoy allowing each person to have a chance to share a family favorite with the group. This may or may not be something new to the others, but it will no doubt have a different element that other families will enjoy trying. I love it when my kids rave about the meal and then ask, "Whose is this mom?" I can reply, "It's Mrs. Paasch's. It was her favorite when she was little. Her grandma made it for her," because we talked all about it at the party.

After the invitations have been sent and the RSVP date has been reached, I then contact the ladies asking for two recipes of their choice. Each recipe must serve 8 people or more and involve no raw meat. I do not require that it be a recipe specifically for freezing. It just must be a recipe that can be assembled fairly easily and is tried and true. Normally, I ask for recipes five weeks before cooking night and allow one week for a reply. It's always helpful to have a good month to make sure that various sales can be hit in preparation.

Once the recipes come to me, I then choose one of the two suggestions based on a few things. First of all, I try to achieve a balance in the types of meat used. For instance, we might prepare two chicken, two ground beef and one sausage and one vegetarian meal. Next, I choose a recipe based on its ethnic flavor. This way we won't end up with five Mexican dishes or four Italian. Finally, the recipe makes the cut if it has ingredients that will assemble easily and freeze well. Oftentimes, potatoes or creamed mixtures change consistency during freezing and thawing. These ingredients might need to be added at a different time in the cooking process.

At our last cooking party we prepared these meals:
Chicken Burritos
Cheesy Potato Bake
Ham Noodle Casserole
Make Ahead Sandwiches
Taco Soup
White Chicken Chili

Some other meals that we've enjoyed in the past:
Stuffed Shells
Chicken Egg Rolls
Pizza Pockets
Chicken Divan
Pizza Casserole
Beef Stew
Sloppy Joe Casserole
Beef Enchiladas
Tamali Pie

Do you see any recipes here that you'd like to have? I'd be glad to pass them on.

For those of you just stopping by check out earlier posts here and here. Tomorrow I will discuss how to make the ingredient assignment list and who pays for what. Thursday will cover the food preparation and Friday will feature the cooking night itself. Hope you are able to come back.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Freezer Cooking Co-op: Getting the Word Out

The best thing about having a cooking party is that it is a one time event. No one is signing up to do this for life and if the recipes aren't your family's favorites, then you only have to eat them once. Or better yet, if you know your family will definitely not appreciate what you bring home you 'll have something on hand for another family in need.

We host a cooking night through our homeschool group mom's activities. The date and time are set in advance and the ladies sign up a few months prior to the event. With about 42 ladies, about 8-12 have been interested. Usually as time passes the group is reduced to 6-9. This works out to be a perfect number for this sort of thing. A MOPS group, play group, neighborhood association, women's ministry, Sunday School Class or Bible Study might provide such a group to draw from.

Emphasizing upfront that the purpose of the cooking party is for fun and fellowship really is the draw, but the benefits go far beyond. There is an exchange of recipes, cooking techniques, casual conversation and much more. This is a great way for women to spend time together blessing one another's families in the process.

Once the invitations have been sent out allow two weeks for the women to clear their schedules and RSVP. This is so easily done through email or Facebook invitation.

Our homeschool event is called "Whatcha' Got Cookin'" and here is an example of our description and invitation. It's nothing fancy, but it gives all the important information upfront.

Event: Watcha got cookin’?

Age Group: Moms only

Dates: Friday, November 7th

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Cost: Recipe Dependent

Details: Tired of wondering what's for dinner? Want to try a new recipe? Would you like to spend time with friends and blessing your family simultaneously? Then join us for a fun and productive evening of fellowship as we prepare simple meals for our freezers. Each lady will be responsible for providing a recipe and all of the non meat items for the group and will then lead us through the assembling that meal. We'll take turns and in no time have a great variety of meals at our fingertips! Of course we'll have to follow up our hard work with some chocolate and coffee. Hope to see you there!

Contact: Name, phone, email address


Tomorrow I'll highlight how to choose the recipes for your cooking party.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Crustless Quiche

I love quiche, but my kids don't like the crust. So I have adapted the recipe and can make it in a jiffy with what we have on hand. I normally serve it with muffins and fruit salad. Now they request it all the time and there is never any leftovers.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6
Cost: Approx. $2.00

4 eggs ($.50)
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 cup chopped broccoli (fresh or frozen) ($.25)
4 strips of bacon crumbled or 1/2 cup diced ham ($.50)
1/2 cup cheese ($.50)

Beat until frothy the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Place broccoli, bacon and cheese in the bottom of a pie plate. Pour egg mixture on top. Bake at 375 for 25-35 minutes or until solid and beginning to brown on top.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Freezer Cooking Co-op

I would not have survived the first five years of parenting had it not been for my friend, Beth, and her suggestion to make freezer meals together. There is no better feeling for a mom of lots of little ones than knowing that dinner involves making a selection, defrosting and reheating. Weekly planning, shopping, preparation and cleanup is SO much easier when all the work is 75% done before you even start.

Since that time I've been freezer cooking in large groups, with one friend and by myself at times. Different seasons demand different measures. But no matter the circumstances, freezer cooking has saved our family lots of money and time, as well as been a great way to build relationships.

This past year I've enjoyed freezer cooking as a fellowship time with other homeschooling moms. Once a semester we get together for an evening to bless each other with fellowship and food. It's like a very production Mom's Night Out. Tonight is one such evening. Early November is a great time to prepare meals ahead of time because the holidays are quickly approaching and each of us will be in need of some relief from kitchen duty in the coming weeks.

Next week I'll be posting a series on how to hold a freezer cooking party as well as some of our recipes. So stay tuned and pass the word along.

Monday- getting the word out
Tuesday- choosing recipes
Wednesday- assignment list
Thursday- shopping/preparations
Friday- cooking night

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Yum!! This is a lower fat muffin with applesauce instead of oil or butter. They bake up extra moist. It's really hard to have just one.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 20-25 minutes
Yield: 30 muffins
Cost: approx. $2.00

1 small can pumpkin ($.87)
2 cups sugar ($.25)
1 cup applesauce ($.25)
1 cup water
4 eggs ($.25)
3 1/2 cups flour ($.25)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp cinnamon

Mix together pumpkin, sugar, applesauce, water and egg. Add in dry ingredients and stir. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie Made Easy

When invited over for Sunday dinner at my friend's house, I was curious as to what she would serve our family of nine and her family of 12. We arrived and she already had a big pot heating on the stove and lots of biscuits in the oven. Since then I've served this to large groups from a crockpot to save the worry over scorching the whole thing. This is best made with whatever you have on hand. I often save back about a 1/2 cup of any frozen vegetable from a bag just for this very thing. Also this is a great way to use leftover turkey or roast.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves: 8-12
Cost: Approx. $7.50

3 chicken breasts ($2.50)
2 cans of cream soup ($1.00) I prefer cream of chicken or potato
1-2 cups broth ($.25)
1 diced onion ($.25)
1 Tbsp butter
1/4-1/2 cup of any fresh vegetable finely chopped ( today I used carrots, celery)
1/4-1/2 cup of any frozen or canned vegetable (today I used corn and peas)
2 cans of big biscuits ($2.50) or make your own for lots less

Boil chicken breast while cooking onion and fresh vegetables in butter. When vegetables are still slightly firm add cream soups and broth and heat through. Dice meat and add to mixture. Add canned or frozen veggies and heat 10 minutes more on low heat or place in crock pot. Serve over split biscuits.

Make twice as much and bag it for the freezer. It reheats nicely.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Apple Butter

Saralyn wondered what ever happened to all those apples. Well, I couldn't get the apple peeler to work, so I resorted to peeling by hand. I made four apple crisps for the freezer and then gave up. So I cored and washed them all and put them in the crock pot over night. I added about a cup of sugar and lots of cinnamon. When I awoke it smelled divine, but looked like a big brown nasty mess. This was not the applesauce I had envisioned.

Then I researched online and discovered that I had in fact made apple butter! Who knew? So I added a bit more sugar, strained apple pulp through a fine strainer and put it in jars for the freezer. We've been enjoying it ever since.

Sadly, this is all that is left.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Chocolate Eclair Cake

It's only a few simple ingredients, but is it ever so rich. It's my dad's all time favorite. Enjoy!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0
Serves: 20-24
Cost: approx. $4.00

1 box Graham crackers ($1.00)
2 small boxes instant french vanilla pudding ($1.00)
2 cups milk
1 small container cool whip ($1.00)
chocolate icing (1.00)

Combine pudding and milk. Wisk until pudding thickens. Fold in cool whip. Place a layer of graham crackers in a 9x13 pan. Spread on 1/2 of the pudding mixture. Add another layer of crackers followed by the remaining pudding. Top with graham crackers. Carefully spread with chocolate frosting. Refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Easiest Ever Banana Bread

Okay, so maybe this isn't technically a bread, but it tastes like it. It's much healthier than cake, takes no time to prepare and it's yet another way to get rid of those brown bananas. Enjoy!

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: 16-20
Cost: Approx. $1.50

1 box yellow cake mix ($.90)
4 bananas smashed ($.50)
1 egg
1/4-1/2 cup water

Mix all ingredients well. The batter should be thick. Place in 2 greased bread pans. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Apples Anyone?

Our field trip last week resulted in ALOT of apples. I'm in search of some simple applesauce, apple pie filling or apple butter recipes that you may have that could be stored in the freezer. Do you have any?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rasberry Pretzel Salad

This is a dessert with a perfect blend of salty and sweet. It's a welcomed change from the super sweet and rich desserts. Usually we make this with strawberries, but the raspberries we picked were substituted here. This year it served as Sean's birthday cake.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves 16-20
Cost: Approx. $4.25

2 cups pretzels ($.25)
1/2 cup melted butter ($.50)
1 block lite cream cheese ($1.00)
1/2 cup sugar
1 small container whipped cream ($1.00)
2 small packages raspberry jello ($1.00)
2 cups frozen raspberries ($.50)

Crush pretzel and mix with 2 Tsp. sugar and melted butter. Press into bottom of 9x13 pan and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Blend cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar. Fold in whipped cream and chill.

Mix 2 cups hot water with jello. Add 1 cup cold water and frozen fruit. Place in refrigerator until jello begins to set. This may take up to 1/2 hour.

When ready place cream cheese mixture over pretzel crust. Top with jello and fruit. Chill until ready to serve.

Sean's Favorite Salad

In honor of his birthday the girls made daddy's favorite salad.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves: 8
Cost: Approx. $4.25

1 head lettuce ($1.00)
1 head cauliflower ($2.00)
4 slices bacon cooked ($.50)
1 cup lite mayo ($.50)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese ($.25)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4-1/2 cup cold water

Layer cut lettuce, chopped cauliflower and cut bacon. Mix together mayo, cheese and sugar well. Add water to desired consistency. Pour over salad and toss.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Instant Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Oatmeal

Oatmeal is served for breakfast on a regular basis in our home. I'm normally awake enough to make it the old fashioned way, but I do love instant oatmeal and the convenience it provides for those waking early or late. A packet from Aldi is $.18. Our homemade version tastes better and costs $.06 per pack. Buying the oatmeal from the bulk bin at Meijer really brought the price down. I know it's just pennies. Over the course of time those pennies add up to a lot of convenience and money saved from not buying cereal. I can feed our family of nine breakfast for around $1.25 a day. Better yet, I wrote down the measurements and the kids completely did the work.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 minute in the microwave
Servings: 56
Cost: Approx. $3.50

This is what our large batch looked like:

2 2/3 pounds quick oats (2.00)
1 lb brown sugar ($.60)
cinnamon ($.75)

To make a small batch (serves 8):
3 cups quick oats
brown sugar

Grind 1/2 cup of oats in blender to a powder. To each bag add 3 tsp of powered oats, 1/3 cup quick oats, 1/8 tsp salt and 3 tsp brown sugar. To serve add 1/2-3/4 cup hot water and stir well.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Banana Bran Muffins

I'm trying to come up with a morning snack to keep the kid's brains functioning before lunch. Somehow productivity slows at about 10:30. It needs to be filling, healthy and of little cost. I bought 48 granola bars for about $9.00. I thought that was a good deal, but I've think I've found something better. Here's what we are trying this week.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes
Yield: 54 muffins
Cost: Approx. $4.00

1 16 oz box bran flakes ($2.00)
2 cups sugar ($.50)
5 cups flour ($.50)
2 tsp salt
5 tsp baking soda
5 tsp cinnamon
4 cups skim milk
4 eggs ($.50)
1/4 cup butter melted ($.25)
2 ripe bananas ($.25)

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add in wet ingredients. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

French Toast Casserole

This has all the goodness of cinnamon rolls without all of the work. When we are low on groceries we always have the ingredients for this favorite breakfast treat. This is also a great way to use the heels of bread. Store them in the freezer until ready to use. Enjoy!

Serves: 12-16
Prep Time: 5 minutes (overnight in fridge)
Cook time: 45 minutes
Cost: Approx. $2.50

1/2 cup brown sugar ($.25)
1/2 cup melted butter ($.50)
4 Tbsp cinnamon
8-10 eggs ($1.00)
3/4 cup milk
dash of salt
10-12 slices of bread ($.75)

In the bottom of a 9x13 pan mix brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Next, place bread in layers. Top with egg, milk, salt mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In morning bake uncovered in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cake Decorating Don'ts

More good reasons to just decorate your own cakes. Check out this hilarious blog dedicated to professional cake disasters.

Thanks Saralyn!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Great Depression Pork Stew

The manager's special on meat these days seems to be all about the pork chop. Looking for recipes I found this one and couldn't resist it simply because of the name. It was a tasty meal that I will be making again and again when the weather cools down.

Serves: 12
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Cost: approx. $7.00

5-6 pork chops ($5.00)
2 onions chopped ($.50)
6 stalks of celery with leaves chopped ($.50)
4 carrots chopped ($.25)
6 potatoes peeled and chopped ($.50)
1 gallon of water
1/2 cup of flour
2 chicken bouillon cubes

Boil the pork chops until meat begins to fall off the bone. Remove meat and break into pieces. Add meat, vegetables, bouillon cubes and additional water to pot and boil until vegetables are tender. Season to taste. Add several cups of stew broth to 1/2 of flour until well mixed. Add this flour mixture back into stew and let simmer and additional 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Asian Tilapia

I found this recipe at and made a few alterations. Talk about just about the easiest thing ever- fish in the microwave. It turned out perfectly and the kids couldn't get enough of it! I served it over rice with stir fry vegetables on the side.

Serves: 8
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time:10 minutes
Cost: Approx. $3.00

8 pieces of tilapia ($2- sale price)
1 can of crushed pineapple ($1)
1 onion coarsely chopped ($.25)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Place tilapia in glass baking dish. Top with pineapple, onions, and soy sauce. Cover dish with plastic wrap being sure to leave one corner vented. Cook in microwave for 10 minutes turning fish half way through cooking time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pork Chop Casserole

Prep time: less than 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Serves: 8-10
Cost: approx. $7.50

2 cans of stewed or diced tomatoes ($1.00)
1 envelope onions soup mix ($.50)
1/4 cup brown sugar
8-10 pork chops ($5.00)
1 box instant rice ($1.00)

Sprinkle 3 cup-4 cups instant rice in 8x12 greased baking dish. Lay prok chops on rice. Mix together other ingredients and pour over pork chops. cover and bake 350 for 1 hour.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Freezer Jam

I tried my hand at canning a few years ago and have to say that it was a lot of work just keeping the little kids away from the boiling pots and hot jars. I was able to get some frozen berries from Meijer with coupons and thought I'd try this method of making jam. It literally took 5 minutes to do and cost about less than $5 to make six jars. One jar of blackberry this size would price at about $3.50. This jam will taste great in Kiflis.

6 cups smashed berries
1 1/2 cups sugar (more or less to taste)
1 package of freezer jam pectin

First, mix together the sugar and pectin. Add smashed berries and stir for 3 minutes. Ladle into jars and seal. Let sit for 5 minutes before putting into the freezer.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Irish Pork Chops

The original recipe calls for 2 lbs diced apples. I use applesauce instead to save on money and time.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours
Serves :8
Cost: approx.

8 pork chops ($4.00)
1 small jar apple sauce ($1.00)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 onion diced
6 carrots chopped ($.50)

Place pork chops in single layer in greased baking dish. Top with apple sauce and brown sugar. Cover and bake at 300 for 1 hour covered. Then add onions and carrots and bake for one hour more.

**This is an easy meal to make when pork loin is on sale. (I was able to buy 10 lbs for $10 on manager's special.) Eat it hot and freeze the rest. Just thaw in the fridge and reheat.**

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dry Rub

Being that it's summer, there's not a lot of baking and cooking going on while it's so hot. For us it is meat on the grill and fresh vegetables and fruit. My friend, Beth, introduced me to this recipe that tastes delicious on any kind of grill meat with ingredients that are right in your cupboard. She always made it from memory and often without measuring. I've done my best to simulate her creation and found this to be pretty close. It's a little spicy and a little sweet. I like to slice the left over meat thinly and add to a salad for the next meal.

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sausage/Green Beans/Potatoes

This is a comfort food to me. Getting off the bus from school I could smell it cooking from down the drive way. This is a super easy dish and very satisfying as well. We always eat ours with corn bread and applesauce. The combination just works somehow.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: at least 2 hours
Serves: 8-10
Cost: approx. $7.00

1 package of smoked sausage sliced ($2.00- we like turkey sausage)
2 large cans of green beans ($4.00)
6 potatoes washed and sliced ($1.00)

Brown the smoked sausage in a skillet. In a crock pot layer the potatoes, then the sausage and top with the green beans. Cover and cook on high for at least 2 hours or until the potatoes are soft. I prefer to cook all day on low in order to combine all of the flavors.

**Oftentimes in the summer smoked sausage is on sale at Meijer Buy 1 get 2 free. I stock up then and just freeze the meat until ready to use, thus making this meal even less expensive.**

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Birthday Cakes

My friend, Amy, once got suckered into buying a Hello Kitty Cake for her niece's birthday to the tune of... well let's just say that for some of us it is our weekly grocery budget. I decided long ago that I would be the birthday cake maker at our house and the sky is the limit.

Originally, I took a Wilton Cake decorating course just to get down the basics. Being that I get to create seven unique cakes a year, I've found myself falling away from some of the more traditional cake making techniques. It's fun to look at magazines for ideas (I especially like Family Fun) or to just ask one of the kids for an idea or theme of what they would like and doing my best from there. Sometimes the cakes are shaped and other times they are decorated with toys. They are not Martha Stewart perfect by any means, but made with lots of love.

This year, since we have a beach time birthday, Elizabeth had her very own sand castle cake complete with shells and a school of fish.

We've had these cakes: horses, princess, Angelina Ballerina, Jay Jay The Jet Plane, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bitty Baby, Elmo, PBS kids, Nemo..... someday I'll have to dig up the pictures.

And then there is Miriam who just wants a cherry pie with a "M" on top every year. Cake isn't for everyone:)

What fun and creative cakes have you made? I'm always looking for inspiration.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pudding Cake

I can take no credit for this recipe. I watched my friend, Cindy, whip it up for the kids when I was over for a visit. This is the easiest and moistest cake I've ever made. It's a great fix when the cupboards are bare and you want a treat:)

Prep time: less than 5 minutes
Cook time: 25-30 minutes
Serves: up to 16
Cost: approx. $2.00

1 Box of Cake mix ($1.00)
1 large box of instant pudding ($1.00)
2 cups milk

Mix the pudding and milk. Add cake mix and beat well with electric mixer. Bake at 350 in greased 9x13 pan for 25-30 minutes. Can be baked until knife comes out clean or it is just as good to keep the middle a little gooey.

Mix up your cake and pudding combos or add some chocolate chips. Sometimes I add whipped cream and some chocolate sauce to make it extra special.

We've tried:


Still yet to try:
carrot/cheese cake

What combos for cake and pudding can you think of?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Eating out

I enjoy eating out quite a bit. Growing up this was a once-a-month event for us. Therefore, it was a very big deal. Sean ate out a lot in his growing up years. He likes it, but prefers to eat a home most of the time.

For a family of nine, eating out can be a ridiculous expense. Once each person gets their own drink, meal and we pay the gratuity for a "large" group, we can easily spend close to $100 at a sit down chain restaurant. Ugh! That is one week's worth of groceries!! So, eating out is usually a scheduled event depending on activities and special events.

I have found that eating out is something that I need to do on a fairly regular basis. I need a break from the kitchen and the clean up. It is "down time" for me and something that I look forward today. And sometimes at the end of a busy day it is a better choice just to meet at a restaurant and eat there. But to keep it real, my goal is to spend no more than $30. Hey, and if it's free, that's even better!

Through the years we've found great ways to cut back and still enjoy eating out several times a month. This is how we do it:

1. Water, water, water-except for mom and dad or if it is a birthday child. I'd gladly take a side salad with a glass of great ice tea just to enjoy the drink.

2. Coupons are a must. Many of our town's restaurants have regular coupons that come in local fliers as well as the big chain coupons. Arby's, Steak and Shake and Fazoli's are some of our favorites. Local restaurant coupons are often printed on the back of register receipts.

I also know that for those that support their local public radio/tv they are given a 2 for 1 restaurant card that is limitless for up to a year.

3. Sign the kids up. So many restaurants have birthday clubs which provide a free meal to celebrate. Saving these up makes for a great frugal date with mom and dad. Also, our summer reading program has amazing rewards for kids- free shakes, Chic-fil-a meals, Dairy Queen, Bob Evans kid meals. Pizza Hut also has a book-it program which provides each child with a personal pan pizza per month from September to March if they meet reading goals. (Deadline for 08-09 is June 13th-sign up online.)

4. Take advantage of Kid's night. $.99 and a drink is the deal at our Fazoli's on Tuesdays. Combined with a 5 off $20 coupon and we can all eat for about $15.

5. Enjoy restaurant promotions. We loved our Chic-fil-a free Wednesday morning breakfasts for about 8 weeks this winter. We also have enjoyed being participants on Panera's "practice" night. They gave each person who walked through the door $15 in play cash to spend. Yes, that was $15 with the children included. We had a NICE meal and lots of goodies to take home! It was fun for the children to try different soups and salads. It seems as though frequently restaurants are giving out free items. Today it's Krispy Kream Donuts.

6. Share. Truly, restaurant portions are out of control and so much is wasted. There is enough food for 2 people to share one entree. We oftentimes split a meal and then order more as needed. When we leave a restaurant there is not a scrap of food left on the table. We are not a big fan of ordering off the kid's meal. Normally it is more frugal to get an adult entree and split it between the children. Besides, they get better food and more choices this way.

Perhaps the easiest restaurant to share at is Mexican. We order a large fajita, sides of beans, rice, cheese and lettuce. Each child gets as many flour tortillas as they like. Then it's make your own taco time!

7. Eat out at lunch. At a nicer restaurant a late lunch can be upwards of $25 less expensive than at dinner. On vacations we'll often eat with the old people around 3 pm at a leisurely pace and then just have popcorn later before bed.

Do share: How do you save money while eating out? What are your favorite blogs or websites for finding restaurant deals?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Meatloaf on the fly

I make a basic meatloaf.

2 pounds ground beef, 1/4 cup ketchup, diced onion, 1-2 eggs, some oatmeal to make it stick together. I usually make a large batch and freeze it raw in a Ziploc bag. I pull it out in the morning to thaw and cook for dinner.

Meatloaf takes entirely too long to cook in my opinion. How can one tell when it is done because it is so big and thick? Then when it is sliced it all crumbles to pieces anyway. And there is never enough ketchup glaze on top to suite anyone.

My solution? I separate the raw meat into 2 muffin tins, brush each with the glaze (or just squirt directly with ketchup) and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Done.

My mom saw me doing this tonight and laughed her head off. Doesn't everyone make meatloaf this way?

Ketchup glaze (It's so good you'll never use just ketchup again.)

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp dry mustard

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Mom Bomb and More

Both of our moms prepared a Mother's Day dessert this year made from snack cakes. Delicious and easy!!

The "Mom Bomb" was prepared by slicing Swiss Cake Rolls and lining a large bowl. Next came a layer of vanilla ice cream and the a layer of chocolate. It was covered and frozen for six hours. When inverted it became this lovely dessert.

Cathy, my mother-in-law, made Twinkie Delight Dessert. In contained a bottom layer of Twinkies, a layer of sliced bananas and pineapple, a layer of vanilla pudding and topped with whipped cream. It tasted like summer time.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

Warning: If you struggle with food addictions under no circumstances make these cookies.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves: approx. 4 dozen

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt 1 1/2- 2 cups quick oats

Cream shortening, butter, sugar and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in eggs. Add in remaining ingredients and stir until just combined. Drop on cookie sheet. Bake 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes being careful not to over bake.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Chicken Brocolli Braid

This makes a great summertime meal when served with a salad. It is light but filling. Easy to eat with the fingers. The dill gives it an interesting fresh flavor as well. My recipe is adapted from the original Pampered Chef recipe without the red peppers, almonds and a few other things that I normally don't have on hand.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves: 8
Cost: Approx. $6.00

3 boneless chicken breast cooked and cubed ($2.00)
1 cup of broccoli chopped- fresh or frozen ($.50)
1 cup cheddar cheese ($.50)
1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp dill weed
2 packages refrigerated crescent rolls ($3.00)

Combine all ingredients except rolls and mix well. Open crescent roll packages and unroll dough. Place dough end to end and roll lightly to get rid of perforations. Use a knife to cut tabs on each side of the rectangle down the length of the dough like this:
Then, place mixture evenly down center of the large rectangle. Fold tabs over mixture by "braiding" the alternating sides and meeting in the middle. Fold under the ends and pinch to seal. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until crescent is thoroughly cooked.

**The chicken mixture can be frozen in a Ziploc bag. Just thaw, mix well, place in braid and bake.**

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Poor Man's Steak

This dish is a lot like country fried steak, which we like quite a bit. I normally wouldn't take the time or effort to make this if it were not for making a large quantity to freeze. It's nice to be able to pull out however many patties I need for a meal and get it on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: 8
Cost: Approx. $5.00

2 pounds ground beef ($3.00)
1 onion finely chopped
20 saltine crackers crumbled ($.25)
1-2 eggs
2 cans condensed mushroom soup or ($1.00)
1 jar beef gray

Mix thoroughly the beef, onion, crackers and eggs. Form into 8 large flat patties. These may be frozen on parchment paper at this point or cooked.

Place 2 cups of flour, salt and pepper (to your liking) on a plate. Coat both sides of each patty with this mixture.

Fry patties in butter until well browned on both side. Transfer to 9x13 baking dish. Cover patties with mushroom soup or beef gravy. Bake covered for an additional 20 minutes.

*If patties are frozen, just thaw completely before frying. *

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tamali Pie

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 10-12
Cost: Approx. $4.50

1 1/2 pounds ground beef or turkey ($2.25)
1 onion chopped ($.30)
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 cup tomato sauce ($.30)
1 can corn drained ($.40)
1 small can diced black olives drained (optional)
salt to taste

2 boxes Jiffy Corn bread mix ($.50)
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk

Brown ground beef and onion. Drain well. Add other ingredients and mix well and place in a 9x13 pan.

Prepare Jiffy mix per package directions. Spread batter over top of beef mixture. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes being sure that the corn bread is thoroughly cooked.

**The beef mixture can be prepared ahead of time and frozen in a Ziplock. Just defrost and heat through before placing in 9x13**

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Stuffed Shells

This is an all-time favorite and easy to assemble since the noodles are raw when stuffed. The noodles soften in the sauce overnight and taste as though they had been already cooked. The kids love the have the job of stuffing the shells, but be prepared for a little mess:)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: 8
Cost: Approx. $5.50

1 block of cream cheese ($1.00)
2 cups mozzarella cheese ($1.00)
1 egg
1 box large shell pasta ($2.25)
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
Pepper to taste
1 jar Spaghetti Sauce ($1.25)

Mix together cheeses, egg, garlic and pepper well. Place mixture in large Ziplock bag and seal. Cut the corner off the bag to allow cheese to squeeze through. Fill pasta shells and freeze.

Take frozen pasta shells and place in 9x13 pan. Cover with sauces and let set overnight in refrigerator covered.

When ready to bake. Place covered 9x13 in oven at 305 degrees and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Freezer Cooking Short Cuts

Barb and I did our cook-a-thon today. We made 32 meals in about three and a half hours. We spent a total of just over $126.00. So that comes out to about just at $4.00 per meal!! This type of thing used to take more like 8 hours until I discovered some short cuts.

1. Buy frozen vegetables already diced. A 3 pound bag of frozen onions is around $3.00. This is not only cheap but probably saves 30 minutes of dicing and a lot of tears. This idea works for diced peppers as well.

2. Cook meat the night before in the crockpot. This works well for chicken breast or large cuts of beef. Don't spend the whole day cooking or it will take 8 hours. We browned around 12 pounds of ground beef total. I started the moment I woke up this morning cooking the meat on medium and giving it a stir whenever I walked by. Most of it was done by the time we started around 9:00.

3. Buy big cans when possible instead of a lot of little ones. This is a huge money saver and saves the time of opening 12 small cans.

4. Assemble and mix in the bag. Why dirty a bowl which will require time to wash? Stick a spoon in the bag and stir it there.

5. Buy gallon size, high quality bags. There is nothing more frustrating and time consuming than trying to fit a lot of food in a small bag only to realize that it is leaking or won't seal completely. The extra $1 is worth it in this case and saves many messes. My favorite are Ziplock freezer bags.

6. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Mixing with clean hands in a large container takes half the time of trying to incorporate a large quantity of ingredients with a spoon.

If you freezer cook what tips have you found helpful? Do share.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Meals that Freeze

Barbara and I have met and planned out our menu of freezer foods. Each of these recipes will be made four times. I'll have two of each meal and Barb will divide hers into 4 of each because her family is smaller. So I'll end up with 16 meals and she will have 32. This will work out well since she'll be having a baby soon. Here's the list:

Stuffed shells
Chicken broccoli braid
Pulled pork barbecue
Tamale Pie
Fajita Chicken
Poor Man's Steak
Creamy Tomato pasta sauce
Taco Meat

We're trying to keep it simple and invest our time in making meals that we know the family will eat. We made a master grocery shopping list and have about 2 weeks to pick up some good deals. Hopefully chicken will go back on sale soon. Last month chicken breasts were only $1.67 a pound- an all-time low. I should have picked up more.

Stayed tuned for these recipes and freezing/thawing instructions!!

Please share: If you freezer cook, what are some of your favorite and faithful meals to have on hand? Care to share the recipe with us?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pork Fried Rice

Fried rice from a Japanese steakhouse is one of my FAVORITE things! Recently I ran across a recipe decided to try it. It was incredibly simple to make and tasted just as good as the restaurant.

Prep Time:20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 8-10
Cost: Approx. $4.00

4 cups rice cooked ($.50)
1/2 onion diced ($.25)
oil or butter
2 eggs
soy sauce
frozen peas (optional)
2 pounds boneless pork or chicken ($2.89 sale price)

While the rice is cooking cut pork and brown until cooked thoroughly. Add generous amount of butter or oil into hot skillet, add rice, onion, approx. 1/4- 1/2 cup of soy sauce. When the rice mixture begins to fry move rice to side of pan and add two eggs. Scramble and cook eggs. Then incorporate into rice. Add peas if desired. Cook for 5 more minutes stirring constantly. Stir in cooked pork and serve.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Freezer Cooking Friends

Years ago when there were only two little ones, my friend Beth approached me about freezer cooking. We would get together every 6 weeks or so, plan a menu, make a very large shopping list. The next week when all the ingredients had been purchased we would meet together for a very long day and cook. Sometimes our fun friend, Cindy, would drive up and join us.

We made a huge mess. The trash can would be filled to the brim. Our shirts would be stained. Chopped onions and various other things would cover the floor. The countertops and stove top would be covered in spills.

We were exhausted, but very happy. It was a great feeling of accomplishment to have 6 weeks worth of main dishes for the freezer. There's a lot of satisfaction in realizing that grocery shopping and kitchen clean up at home was going to be minimal.

We cooked together like this for 5 or so years. I seriously can't imagine what my life would have looked like had we not done this. It alleviated a lot of the stress that happens between 4:30 and 6:00 pm. More than anything, it was a great way to build a friendship and for our children to play together. I miss those days with Beth, but our schedules and family's needs changed.

A few times I coordinated a freezer co-op. I think at our biggest we had 8 ladies who prepared 2-4 separate meals for everyone in the group. We met to plan and then again to swap food out of the trunks of our cars. A group that size was hard to manage and many had specific preferences.

After that, I did the co-op scenario with my friend Jennie. This was such a blessing for several years. She really is a great cook and my family's favorite meals were always hers. But since her children have been diagnosed with some food allergies, we've had to stop for now. We do find other occasions to visit and go out to dinner together.

Last fall, I introduced our homeschool group to a freezer cooking party. It was a wonderful way to visit and be productive at the same time. This semester someone else picked it up and has another party planned. Fun!

Tomorrow, my very own sister, Barbara, is going to join the ranks of my freezer cooking friends! I'm so excited. She is expecting her fourth baby in the coming month I just know that this is going to make her life so much more manageable. Barb and I have always lived apart until this past fall. After a lot of prayer, God brought her husband a job here and now she lives less than 10 minutes away!!

Of course, I'll be so glad to have food readily available in my freezer. But more than that I'm looking forward to spending the hours in the kitchen talking and laughing and blessing each other.

I'll be sharing our menu and the recipes in the coming days so stay tuned. Also, feel free to ask questions or email me if there's anything I could help you with.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Kids in the Kitchen

"For growing children at play, there is nothing so interesting as really 'doing things'. To 'help cook' is one of the most enjoyable things of childhood- to say nothing of being a sure way of producing good cooks. A child can cut up carrots at a very early age, with no more risk of injury than from falling down outside at play! A child can mix and stir, knead the dough and be given a piece to make a roll man, car or rabbit with raisin eyes. A child can fry eggs or make scrambled eggs- one of mine did every morning from the age of three! The kitchen should be an interesting room in which communication takes place between child and mother and also among adults."

- The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Barbeque Chicken

I bought 12 chicken thighs on Manager's Special for $2.75. I needed to use them up quick so I made this sauce before putting them in the oven before church. When we got home they were delicious and tender.

Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 1 1/2 hours
Serves 8-10
Cost: approx. $3.00 due to the sale

1/4 cup ketchup
6 Tablespoons Vinegar
2 Tablespoons water
4 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Mix all ingredients. Place the chicken in a baking pan and cover in sauce. Bake covered for 15 minutes at 475. Turn down heat and bake remaining time at 350.

**Next time I think I will make more sauce to reserve for dipping.**

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Creamy Oatmeal

A healthy, hearty breakfast makes a big difference in this house. We were recently given some Irish cut oats. They were good, but took forever to cook. Then I found this recipe....

Prep Time: 12 hours
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 8-10
Cost: approx. $3.50

4 cups Irish oats ($1.50)
5 cups milk ($2.00)

Mix 4 cups of Irish oats in 5 cups of milk. Cover and let soak overnight in fridge.

In heavy saucepan bring oats, milk, 2 tsp. vanilla to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 10 minutes or until oats have softened stirring often. Add in 1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar and simmer 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Nothin' Fancy- Beans and Cornbread

Not every meal at our house is from scratch. It's more important to sit down and have a meal together, so sometimes it has to be quick and simple.

Prep Time: 5 min.
Cook time: 15 min.
Serves: 8
Cost: approx $6.00

Ham and Beans
Corn Bread

1/2 onion ($.25)
1/4 pound of ham ($1.25)
2 cans of Northern Beans ($1.00)
1 can of chicken broth ($.50)

2 boxes of Jiffy Mix ($.50)

1 Cantaloupe ($2.00)

Prepackage coleslaw ($.50)
Poppyseed dressing

Friday, February 29, 2008

Cabbage Rolls

Sean's grandma Ahart made cabbage rolls every New Year's Day. I interviewed his grandpa for the recipe and did my best to simulate it here.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Serves: 8
Cost: Approx. $4.00

1 pound ground beef or turkey ($1.87)
1/2 onion diced
3 Tbsp minced garlic
1 cup cooked rice
2 cans of stewed tomatoes ($1.50)
1/2 head of green cabbage ($.75)

Place cabbage in a pot of boiling water until outside leaves begin to fall off the head (about 10 minutes).

Brown ground beef with onion, garlic and salt/pepper to taste. Drain and mix in rice.

Peel off individual leaves. Place heaping spoonful of beef mixture on leaf and roll. Secure with a toothpick.

Empty stewed tomatoes in a large skillet. Place rolls in the skillet and cover. Cook on medium low for 30 minutes.

**If you like a little more sauce, just pour a jar of spagetti sauce over the cabbage rolls during the last 10 minutes of cooking. I often do.**

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Egg Rolls

A mom of a Korean student we know came and showed us how she makes her egg rolls. She called it her "American version" and we love it. To complete the meal I often buy takeout egg drop soup ($4.00) and a container of fried rice ($3.25). Even then this meal ends up being around $10.00.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 20 egg rolls
Cost: approx. $4.25

20 egg roll wrappers ($1.99)
1 pound ground beef or turkey ($1.87)
1/4 of a head of cabbage finely shredded ($.25)
1 carrot grated ($.25)
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp Hoison Sauce
2 Tbsp Peanut butter

Brown meat with garlic and drain. When cooled add cabbage, carrot, sauce and peanut butter. Stir well.

Spoon onto wrappers and fold. Seal edges with water.

Bake on greased cookie sheet or parchment paper at 400 for 15 minutes or until edges begin turning golden brown.

**These can be easily frozen after baking and then reheated in the microwave. They loose may loose their crunch, but they taste just as good.**

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Food Wars Continued

Earlier I posted about our family's philosophy on eating and obedience. I stated that we only had to go through this training once before each of our children "got it" and the benefits have been far greater than the training.

Well, let's just say that sometimes one has to win many battles before they can proclaim that the war is over.

This is baby John, round two, learning to eat the food provided by his daddy. Yes, Sean is attempting to give him a Butterfinger with a fork and the boy is trying to stand his ground. Of course, Dad won, but there may be a few more battles ahead.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Peach Cobbler

This is another one of my grandma's recipes and a comfort food for us growing up. Whenever mom would make it we could smell the cinnamon and peaches from a mile away. YUM!! It doesn't get much more frugal than this.

Prep Time: 5 minutes (if that)
Cook Time: 25-25 minutes
Serves: 8 generously
Cost: approx. $2.00

1/2 stick of butter ($.25)
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
dash of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2-3/4 cup milk ($.25)
1 large can of peaches ($1.25)

Place the 1/2 of butter in a 9x13 baking dish in the oven at 350 until butter melts.

Mix flour, sugar, salt and milk to form the consistancy of pancake batter.

Pour batter in 9X13. Top with peaches and about 1/2 of peach juice from the can. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until cobbler turns light golden brown like this:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Homemade Pizza

What do you make when you're low on ingredients and would really love to order out? Pizza! Ours is ready in about the time that it would take to order and pick it up and saves us a bundle on cash and grease.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 40 minutes
Serves: 8-10
Cost: approx. $7.00 (or less depending on toppings)

1 cup of warm water
1 package of active dry yeast ($.50)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 2/12- 3 cups flour ($.50)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add all other ingredients. Stir 20 times to mix. Let rise 20 minutes.

8 oz can tomato sauce ($.50)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. Italian spice blend

Spread dough thinly on large cookie sheet. Top with sauce, 3 cups mozzarella cheese ($2.99), and additional toppings as desired. Our favorite is mushrooms ($1.00) and sausage ($1.50)

Bake at 450 on lowest rack for 15 minutes or until cheese has melted.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Food Wars

Fortunately, my children are not picky eaters. They have the usual aversions to strange spices and textures, but they will usually give them a try at least. Considering that I will not put a banana, citrus fruit or raisin in my mouth under any circumstances, I figure they've turned out pretty well. Their general good will toward food probably has something to do with Sean's admiration towards anything he eats. He is very complimentary with lots of "Oh, this is good..." and "Wow!" types of comments. I think this heightens the excitement of our meals.

Early on we were given some parenting advise that we decided that we would follow. Basically it goes something like this, "There are two areas in which children should submit to their parents until the parents are willing to hand over control. Those areas are clothing and food. Children should be able to trust their parents for both and be thankful for what they are given without complaint. When a child learn this, then they will be more secure and willing to obey on other issues."

I believe a little grace should be given according to circumstances of course. There are children with sensory issues in which certain clothing is not only uncomfortable, but a huge distraction or painful. (I am this way with turtle necks.) Likewise, some children are texture sensitive to food and gag on everything or refuse certain foods due to undetected illness or allergies.

I'm not talking about being legalist. "You will eat everything or else!" I'm talking about a child who learns to accept what they've been given and out of loving obedience do what they would rather not.

So to play it out practically this is how it goes around our table. The food war begins usually between 12-24 months when the baby is growing up and learning to use utensils. The stage when, about half of the food is in the tummy and the other half on the lap. Along with this independence also comes a little bit fussy eating. The favorite food gets eaten first and the rest winds up on the floor or played with.

So dad takes the utensil and begins to feed the child and the war begins. The head turns. The hand goes over the mouth. The lips are tightly sealed. Here we go.

We give a firm warning. "Say Ahh.. it's time to your mouth." No airplane games. No counting. The baby is taken to the crib, given a swat on the bottom, hugged and left in his room to cry it out.

After a few minutes the child is brought back to the table and the whole situation is replayed. We've been through this a few times and through the years so the kids have come up with a chant to encourage the little one to open his chop. It goes like this, "You can do it. You can do it. Go!!" Then they all open their mouths.

It becomes like a scene in Groundhog Day as the same thing happens over and over again. The little one is red faced and crying and we all just want it to be over.

Then, it finally happens. "You can do it. You can do it. Go!!" The child opens his mouth and takes a bite of the despised food and cheer errupt!! Usually this causes the little one to start laughing and crying at the same time. Dad continues to feed the kid until it is clear that the message has gotten through. The point isn't to eat every last morsel, but rather to accept what is given.

I know that this may seem cruel parenting to some, but for each of our kids we've only had to do it once. There are still foods that each one of the children don't like that they are required to try and eat. We usually have them eat as many bites as they are old or for the older ones we just give them a small portion on their plate.

Hopefully this will be one of the first steps in teaching them to trust and learn to enjoy what God provides.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

-Matthew 6:25-34

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

- Mattew 7:9-11