Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Homemade "No"mato Sauce

If you read at my other blog you'll know that our family is an adventure in cuisine- The Elimation Diet. We are searching for some answers and are eliminating 11 food allergen groups from our diet for a while. Sure, we miss the sugar and flour and dairy. What we really miss, though, is sauce- tomato sauce. There is a Nomato sauce out on the market, but the amount I would need for one meal would cost a small fortune. So after some research, I've come up with my own version. We've already enjoyed it in chili. Seriously, it really tastes like tomatoes.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cost: Approx. $11
Yield: 12-15 cups

1/2 cup olive oil
3 onions finely diced ($.25)
3 Tbsp minced garlic
juice of one lemon
3 Tbsp balsamic vineager
6 cups pureed pumpkin/squash ($6)
3 cups pureed canned beets ($1.50)
3 tsp coarse salt
3-6 cups chicken broth ($3)

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add lemon juice and vinegar. Cook for 5 minutes.

Puree beets and squash.

Add puree to onion mixture. Mix in broth and salt until desired texture is reached. Heat through.

I kept my sauce a little thick and froze it in 3 cup portions. Once thawed, I'll just add more chicken broth as needed.

We are so looking forward to more chili and some spaghetti in the coming weeks!

**Since I no longer have any pumpkin puree left, I scoured the stores looking for canned pumpkin. It is nowhere to be found and no one knows when there will be more. Perhaps the pumpkin shortage wasn't and urban myth. Has anyone else had this problem?**

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Noodles

We almost had a noodle scare. My mom spoke of not making noodles this year and the men about rose up in rebellion. "What! You can't do this to us!!"

She relented and will be, once again, blessing the family with at large pot of perfection this Thanksgiving. I thought I'd repost how to make her famous-to-us egg noodles in hopes of inspiring some of you. Here in Indiana we eat them over a pile of mashed potatoes. Can you say carb overload?

Need some other inspiration in the kitchen? Head over to Friday's Recipe Swap.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: approx 20-30 minutes
Serves: 10-12 (3 batches of noodles)
Cost: approx. $3.00

1 cup flour x 3($.75)
1 tsp salt x 3
1 egg x 3 ($.25)
chicken or beef broth ($2.00)
Pepper to taste

Make each batch of noodles for this recipe individually. Mix together 1 cup flour and 1 tsp salt in a medium bowl. Make a "well" in the middle of the flour and crack 1 egg. Pour in 1/2 egg shell of milk and mix with a fork slowly working in the flour from the sides or the bowl.

Continue adding flour or small amounts of milk as needed until the dough is well formed and no longer sticky. Lightly knead the dough on a floured surface and form into a disk.

Roll out the disk until very thin and let the dough dry until air bubbles are noticeable on the surface.

Lightly flour top of dough and roll into a jelly roll. Slice noodles thinly and separate to dry. Allow to dry at least 1 hour.

Add noodles to rapidly boiling broth stirring constantly. When noodles become plump turn down heat to continue cooking. Add pepper to taste.

Cooking tips:
*Don't overuse the flour or the noodles will be bland. Use just enough to get rid of the sticky texture.
*Noodles can be completely dried before cooking.
*Chicken broth/beef broth left after roasting added to canned broth is optimal.
*It's better to use more broth rather than too little. The noodles will absorb quite a bit of liquid in cooking.
* Noodles can be stored in a bag and frozen. Just add frozen noodles to boiling broth.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I so am not a fan of grocery store cereal. It's so bad that my kids get cereal for their birthday and think it's the most special gift in the world. So recently I've been striving to keep homemade granola on hand for those who just can't stomach one more bowl of oatmeal. They like it so much, that I've had to put a measuring cup in the container. In reality, if we all ate this it would probably last us two days if we ate the right portion size. This stuff is packed full of good calories, but too much of a good thing in the end is not a good thing- if you know what I mean.

Homemade Granola

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Servings: 24
Cost: Approx. $2.50

6 cups old fashioned oats ($.25)
1 cup oat bran cereal ($.75)
1/4 cup flax seeds ($.50)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped almonds ($.75 if bought in bulk)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil or unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup honey ($.50)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla

Mix oats, bran, seeds, cinnamon, almonds and brown sugar. In a sauce pan combine oil/applesauce, honey water and vanilla over low heat until well incorporated. Pour liquid over dry ingredients and mix well.

Spread on cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Bake at 300 for 60 minutes stirring every 15.

Let cool completely and store in air tight container.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Preserving: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Well, I couldn't let all those seeds go to waste, so roasting the seeds was the best option. Those two pumpkin produced 2 cups of seeds. Apart from getting them separated from the pulp, the rest was easy.

1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp butter melted
salt to taste

Coat seeds well in butter and salt. Place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally. Enjoy!

I got distracted so about half of ours burned. Next time I'll be more diligent. But according to Joseph, "The dark brown ones are the best!"

Note: 1 cup of seeds prepared this way is 1000 calories. Great snack if you are hiking in the wilderness. For the rest of us moderation is the key.

Preserving: Pumpkin

Join in on The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap to see this recipe and many others!

I purchase 2 organic pie pumpkins at the local Farmer's Market for just under $7 with the hopes of preparing some fresh pumpkin pulp. I love pumpkin flavored everything and heard a wild rumor that it's going to be hard to find this fall. So as not to be left empty handed and to hopefully save some money, I tried my hand at it.

Here's what I did:

Cut the pumpkins in half, removing pulp and seeds.
Cut the pumpkin into wedges.
Place the wedges face down in my roaster oven with about 1 cup of water
Cooked them for 3 hours at 350.
When cooled, removed the skin.
Mashed the pulp with a potato masher (my blender suddenly broke)
Measured out 15 ounce (same as a small can of pumpkin) bags to store in the freezer.

I ended up getting 6 15 oz servings- about equivalent to $1 a can. From what I've researched a can of organic pumpkin sells for between $2-3. Not bad.

Two things that surprised me were how utterly hard it was to cut a pumpkin and how much lighter in color the pulp was than what I envisioned.
Any thoughts?

I have yet to use it, but have plans on making a Pumpkin Meringue Pie someday soon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apple Butter Cake

As promised, I've begun using our apple butter to trial some new recipes. This cake was SO delicious! The icing wasn't quite what I expected. It turned out to be more like a glaze, but it did not lack in flavor. I made it a two layer round cake. Next time I think it will be bundt. Sorry, no picture for this one. It was gone before I had a chance.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Serves: 16
Cost: Approx. $2.50

1/2 cup butter ($.75)
1 cup sugar
4 beaten eggs ($.25)
2 1/2 cups flour ($.25)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 cup apple butter ($1.00)

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Add sifted dry ingredients alternating with milk. Mix well. Blend in apple butter. Pour into greased baking pan. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes.

Quick Caramel Icing

1 cup brown sugar ($.25)
1/2 cup cream/milk
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine sugar and milk in a saucepan and cook covered for several minutes. Remove lid, bring to a boil. Allow to boil for a few minutes stirring occasionally. Add butter. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Add vanilla and beat until thick and creamy. (Mine never reached this consistency.) Spread on warm cake.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Apple Butter

You can find this recipe and many others for your kitchen at the Recipe Swap at the Grocery Cart Challenge.

What to do with
30 pounds of apples? (I can't resist a sale.) Make A LOT of apple butter. It was a bit of work, I'll admit, but my helpers were eager to mash and strain. And the cost savings is significant. A 12 oz jar of apple butter can be between $4-5. Our cost was around $1.75 for 12 oz. With this apple butter I plan on trying a few new recipes: Apple Butter Pie, Apple Butter Pancakes, Apple Butter Cake with Caramel Icing, and Apple Bread Pudding. Any requests on which one I should make first?

Prep Time: 10 minutes (using and apple corer)
Cook Time: 3 hours
More Prep Time: 1 hour (w/o food mill:(
Yield: 16 cups
Cost: Approx. $6.00

15 pounds apples cored and sliced ($6.00)
2-3 cups sugar
4-5 cups apple cider ($2.00)
Cinnamon to taste

Place apples in large pan or roaster. Cover with cider and desired cinnamon. Bake at 300 for 3-4 hours or until apples are soft and falling apart. Mash through a medium strainer (or food mill if you have one). Store in airtight container. Freeze or refrigerate immediately.

Creamy Stewed Apples

Last weekend I picked up a small cookbook entitled, "Old-Fashioned Apple Recipes". Knowing that I had 30 pounds of apples at home waiting for me was quite the motivating factor. I just couldn't pass up a 5lb bag of gala apples for $1.89 each. Here's one simple way to cook apples that is beyond delicious.

Prep Time: less than 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 8
Cost: Approx. $1.00

4 apples cored and sliced
bacon grease or 2 Tbsp butter
2/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbs flour
1/2 cup cream or milk

Cook apples in bacon grease or butter for about 2 minutes stirring constantly. Mix brown sugar, salt and flour into the cream/milk to form a smooth paste. Add to apples. Cook at medium heat until mixture thickens. Sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.

This would make a great side dish, but we enjoyed our served over cinnamon french toast. It made for a perfect accompaniment to spinach/bacon/cheese crustless quiche. Pretty good for a meal made from what was already on hand.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Banana Split Ice Cream Cake

This is one of Sean's favorite deserts. I love it because it is easy to prepare, serves a lot of people and keeps in the freezer for up to three months!!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 16-24 (depending on your generosity)
Cost: approx $6.00


Graham Crackers ($.50)
1/2 stick of butter melted ($.25)
4 bananas sliced thinly-fresh or frozen ($.50)
1 quart strawberry ice cream softened($2.00)
1/2 jar of hot fudge topping ($.75)
1 small tub whipped cream topping ($1.00)
pecans ($.50)

Crush graham crackers until equal to 4 cups. Mix with melted butter and press into bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes or until crust is set. Let cool.

Place layer of bananas over crust. Pour on warmed hot fudge topping. Spread an ice cream layer evenly over the hot fudge. Top with a layer of whipped cream. Sprinkle with pecans.

Cover and freeze for 3 hours before serving. Refreeze any unused portion and store for up to 3 months.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Grilled Pizza

In celebration of my beloved, Sean's, 37th birthday we celebrated with pizza. I seriously had doubts about putting raw dough on the grill, but it worked well and exceeded our expectations. Not only is this the easiest pizza ever, but there is no clean up. Got to love that!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 9
Cost: Approx. $2.25

3 1/2 cups flour ($.25)
1 envelope Yeast or 2 tsp bulk yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1 1/3 cups very warm water
1/3 cup olive
Italian Spice Seasoning
Tomato sauce ($.50)
Mushrooms (0ther toppings as desired) ($1.00)
Shredded mozzarella cheese ($1.50)

Combine all dry ingredients setting aside 1/2 cup of flour. Add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil to warm water. Pour into dry ingredients and mix well. Knead dough adding in 1/2 cup of flour until no longer sticky. Separate into 9 pieces and roll flat.

Brush olive oil on both sides of dough and place directly on the grill. Allow to cook 3-4 minutes or until crust is easily turned. Add sauce, seasoning and toppings. Cook and additional 10 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ginger Waffles with Raspberry-Peach Sauce

The kids pooled their money and bought a waffle maker a few weeks ago. They've announced that Saturday morning is officially waffle day which works out well since they sleep in a bit and wake up in shifts. Waiting for the next waffle is just about as tortuous as having to wait for the bathroom around here. So I've been on the search for a a healthy, whole grain waffle. I think this morning we found it! This recipe is adapted from the Weight Watcher's Cookbook, Comfort Classics.

Ginger Waffles with Raspberry-Peach Sauce

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: Varies
Cost: Approx. $3.00
Serves: 12


1 cup of frozen raspberries ($.25)
1 can of peaches drained ($.75)
2 Tbsp apple juice
3 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup flour ($.25)
1 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour ($.25)
6 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp baking soda
3 1/2 cup milk ($.50)
4 eggs separated ($.50)
4 Tbsp butter melted ($.25)

Place all sauce ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.

Beat egg whites until they form a soft peak. Set aside.

Mix dry ingredients well and set aside.

Whisk milk, egg yolks, butter and 1/2 tsp vanilla. When blended add dry ingredients slowly while mixing constantly. Finally, fold in egg whites gently.

Prepare waffles. Serve immediately with sauce.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Deep Dish Chicago Style Pizza

There's nothing quite like it. Can't drive to Chicago to get it. So here's my attempt. Using what I had in my pantry, I combined several on line recipes.

It wasn't bad for the first try. The crust was great, but I need to work on the sauce. I think there are a few people around who would be willing to try it again:) It was a great way to use the tomatoes from our garden, but next time I think it will be sauted mushrooms, garlic and onion.

Prep Time: 30 minutes (includes rising time)

Cook time: 25-30 minutes

Serves: 6-8

Cost: Approx. $5.00


1 cup warm water
1 package quick rise yeast ($.50)
2 eggs
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Place sugar, yeast and water in a bowl and mix well until dissolved. Let rest 5 minutes. Then add 2 eggs well beaten.

Mix dry ingredients. Stir in wet ingredients adding additional flour as needed until dough is no longer sticky. Knead for five minutes. Let rest in greased bowl for 15 minutes. Press into deep dish pan and add toppings.


Pizza Sauce (I made my own from canned tomatoes and this mix) ($.50)
3-4 cups shredded mozarella cheese ($2.50)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese ($.75)
diced onion and minced garlic sauted in olive oil until tender ($.25)
Sliced tomatoes (from garden)

To assemble pizza:

Press dough in deep pan or iron skillet making sure that dough is covering the sides. Spread a thin layer of sauce on bottom. Layer 1/2 of onion/garlic mixture, sprinkle 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, 3 large spoonfuls of sauce, 1/2 of mozzarella cheese and repeat.

Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes or until cheese becomes golden brown.

Yeast Problems

Let me tell you a little story.

Once upon a time there was a girl who needed extra credit in Biology. Since her class was studying yeast, the teacher told her she could bring in a loaf of bread made by her very own self. "No problem," she naively thought.

She followed the directions perfectly for making two loafs of simple white bread. She added and mixed and kneaded and waited. And waited. And waited.... Seeing that her dough didn't exactly double she figured out a reasonable solution. She decided to place all of the dough into one loaf pan to form a loaf and stuck it in the oven. Much later than anticipated the loaf was finally finished. She placed her five pound loaf of bread in a brown bag and took it to school the next day. Done.

Little did she realize that her loaf had not produced the yeast fluffiness desired until she saw her classmates' masterpieces. To avoid humiliation, she quickly threw her brown bag in the trash like and pretended that nothing had ever happened.

When her teacher inquired after class as to the whereabouts of her project, she fessed up. The teacher hysterically and promptly removed the loaf from the trashcan. The girl was dismissed.

The next day upon arrival to the classroom, she saw a group of students gathered around the door. To her horror, the girl saw there on the floor, none other than the teacher's new doorstop- a shellacked five pound loaf of bread.

And just to prove that some things never change here is what my children found today. They couldn't figure out what this disgusting thing was in the bowl on top of the TV in my bedroom (the warmest spot in the house).

This is wheat bread that I made last weekend which didn't rise and I forgot all about. *sigh*

Monday, July 27, 2009

Eat This, Not That!

Okay, sorry for the delay in the answer.

The winner?!

Chic fil a, of course! The only A grade. 8 piece nuggets with Barbecue sauce is the winner at 305 calories and 13 grams of fat. They beat out any other chicken nuggets on the market.

Wendy's and Subway received the only A- grades.

The restaurants receiving an F grade include: IHOP, Olive garden, Outback, Red Lobster, T,G,I Friday's.

Just for your information:

The worst Kid's meal in America: Chili's Pepper Pals Country-Fried Chicken Crispers with ranch dressing and fries ( 1110 calories, 82 g fat)

Worst side dish for kids: Bob Evans Smiley Face Potatoes (535 calories, 31g fat)

Having the facts makes me rethink how I want to feed my kids on the road.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Eat this, Not that!

Have you seen this book? I actually meant to pick up the adult version, but instead purchased the kids' addition. Wow! This book is packed full of informative tidbits and bright pictures that my kids can't stop looking at.

It covers all of the major restaurants by giving each a letter grade for nutrition as well as the best and worst items on the menu. There are some real surprises in there.

Also, there is a section on prepackaged kid foods. I'm not a huge fan of prepackaged foods, but sometimes they are unavoidable.

I saw the kids referring to it in the van on a recent road trip when we were picking a fast food place. If we're going to spend our money on overpriced food, than we might as well make it as healthy as possible.

Guess which restaurant was the only one that received an "A". Go ahead, guess.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Preserving: Bananas

I personally am not a fan of the banana. Way to mushy for me. But it's an affordable fruit and so healthy. Inevitably, the bananas ripen overnight and I'm stuck with a whole lot of them wasting away on the counter. Usually I throw the whole thing in the freezer for banana bread at a later time.

This time I decided to peel the bananas and flash freeze them. My intention was for them to be used for smoothies. However, this tray disappeared within a matter of days. Some claimed that the frozen bananas were better than ice cream. Who knew?

I often walk by the spotted, marked down bananas. But no more.

Preserving: Strawberries

My family is picky about little, but when it come to the staple, PB&J, they will have nothing but strawberry preserves. I've given up trying to convert them to the affordable grape jelly and have decided to stock up on our own homemade version this summer. They are very pleased with the results!

Cut up strawberries to measure 2 cups. Smash with potato masher until desired consistency. Add 4 cups of sugar and stir one minute. Meanwhile, boil 3/4 cups of water. Add 1 package of pectin and bring to a boil stirring constantly for 3 minutes.

Add pectin to strawberry mixture and stir well until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Add to jars leaving at least 1/2 inch at the top. Let set for 24 hours. Refrigerate or freeze.

For these jars we used 5 pints of strawberries ($5.00), 3 boxes of pectin ($5.50) and a whole lot of sugar ($1.50). $12.00 yielded about 15 cups of preserves. The same amount at Aldi would cost close to $20.

Strawberries are priced at $.97/pint this week, so I'm on the hunt for some lower priced pectin (perhaps one that would require less sugar) to build our supply for winter. Any suggestions?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

June Menu

This is what we are eating from the freezer this month. Now I can just defrost and reheat. I even cooked all the noodles and rice. That's how lazy I am. Sounds like a good summer plan to me:

Skyline Chili
Southwest Chicken Salad
Barbecue Chicken
Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Stir Fry
Italian Chicken and Rice
Spaghetti Carbonara
Hot Dogs and Chili Dog Sauce
Sausage Jamboli
Green Beans/Sausage/Potatoes

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fish Tacos

After hearing the raves of other bloggers about fish tacos I tried it recently when we went out to eat. Wow! What a great combination of flavors and a great summertime dish. Not too heavy and easy to make. Here's my first homemade attempt combining several recipes I found online. I missed getting a good pictures. They were gone before I could find the camera.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Cost: Approx. $7.00
Serves: 8

2 pounds of white fish ($4.00)
Alaina's Taco Seasoning
16 small white corn or flour tortillas warmed($2.00)
1/2 cup sour cream ($.25)
1/2 cup mayonnaise ($.25)
Cilantro chopped
cabbage shredded ($.25)
1/2 onion diced ($.25)

Cook fish in microwave or skillet until it is white and flakes easily with a fork. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of taco seasoning and cook for another 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute onion and cabbage in butter until warmed through, but still crunchy.

Prepare sauce by mixing sour cream, mayo, cilantro (desired amount), and remaining seasoning together well.

Serve on warmed tortillas and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Preserving: Corn

I will likely never have a big garden to harvest. I'll be happy if my few tomato plants bless us with some fruit this summer. But I am determined this summer to take advantage of the great sales on fresh produce and store some away for winter. My plan is to preserve through freezing rather than canning since I lack the necessary supplies, but have a ton of freezer space. The next few months I'll be sharing with you our stockpile as it grows. Enjoy!

Corn On the Cob

I read about this on a blog last week and it definitely lived up to its claims. This corn far surpasses any that I've boiled or grilled. It has a perfect crunchiness and sweetness. The best part? There is no required desilking. The husk just falls away.

Place ears of corn directly on baking sheet. Bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, peel back husks, cut corn off the cob and freeze.

Ears of sweet corn were $.15 a piece this week. I picked up 40 to start and it yielded 7 pounds of corn for the freezer. That works out to be $6.00 total or $.85 a bag. Comparable quality would cost $1.39-$2.39 frozen or $.89 canned.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Orange Shake-ups

I spent many a summer making lemon and orange shake-ups in a family friend's hot stand at a county fair somewhere in the Midwest. Recently I bought a huge amount marked down oranges for $2 and improvised to serve a no mess version of this special treat. It just tastes like summer!

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: none
Serves: 4 glasses
Cost: Practically free

3 oranges sliced
1/8-1/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute to taste
large jar (I used a very large plastic applesauce jar)

Place the sliced oranges in the bottom of a large jar. Using the end of a wooden spoon smash oranges until just rinds are remaining. Fill the jar to the rim with ice. Add water. Seal and shake for about one minute.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hotel Food

My kids love staying in hotels. Of course, they love to swim. But they are also BIG fans of the complimentary breakfast where they are not restricted to just one bowl of cereal or oatmeal like at home. Their eyes pop out of their head with sight of bagels and waffles and sugar cereal to choose from. Many times I have relied on this big breakfast to help make it through a long morning.

This weekend we didn't fair so well. We found an affordable suite with three queen beds, but no pool and no breakfast. We considered walking over to the Cracker Barrel, but we knew they couldn't fill up for the day there. Besides it would cost over $50 at least.

So last night I snuck out to the store and served them donuts, hot pockets, fruit, chocolate milk, j fruit and juice this morning. All together it cost $16 and they were more than pleased with these special treats. Whatever is left over, I will use for snacks later.

**I'm excited to show you a few new recipes coming soon that we'll be trying- fish tacos, crunchy baked chicken, salads and grill foods. So don't give up on this blog. I will post again soon:)**

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cooking Rut

Coming out of winter and into the summertime menu, I feel like in a cooking rut here. Winter just seems so much easier with stews, soups and casseroles. Summer is a different situation altogether. Everyone is a bit hungrier because we are more active and yet, nothing sounds good.

So, I'm calling out for help. Please share you favorite summer main dish! You can leave it in a comment, give me a link or email me. I'll try it out and feature it on this blog. And my family will be forever grateful that they are not eating the same ole thing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tip of the Week

Today I was dealing with 20 pounds of beef and preparing it for the freezer. Wanting the put together some meatloaf, but not really wanting to deal with the mess I had a flash of genius. There's nothing worse than having my hands in frigid raw meat and then having to answer the phone or rescue a child in need or answer the door. It happens every time.

I just threw in all the ingredients into a large Ziploc bag, sealed it well and mixed the ingredients without ever even touching the raw meat! When it's time to make these mini meatloaves, I'll just thaw in the fridge and then scoop out the mixture with a large scoop right into the muffin tins. Couldn't be easier or any less messy:)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Buttermilk Salad Dressing

I'm spring cleaning my spice cabinet and making dry mixes. I multiplied this dry mix times 10 and now will have plenty of dressing on hand for those summer vegetables!

Dry Mix (1 serving)

1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Mix 1 Tbsp dry mix with 1 Tbsp minced garlic, 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 tsp vinegar in the blender. Chill for 30 minutes. Store in sealed container in fridge for up to one week.

Cost comparison (16 oz): Store bought $2.49
Homemade $.75

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Banana French Toast

Last weekend I was needing to use up some bananas and decided to incorporate them into our Sunday brunch. I didn't measure ingredients, so these are approximations.

Prep Time: less than 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 8-10
Cost: approx. $2.00

1 loaf of bread ($1.00)
6 eggs ($.50)
2 cups milk
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 ripe bananas

Place eggs, milk, vanilla and bananas in a blender and blend until smooth. Dip bread into mixture, cook on non stick griddle. Top with syrup or warm vanilla cream sauce.

Find the recipe and many others at The Grocery Cart Challenge's Recipe Swap.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Recently when making my own spice mixes I've just been using what is in the cupboard. Now many of these spices are needing to be replenished and I'm curious as to where to get the best price for quality on bulk spices. I've always just purchased the supermarket variety.

So, please enlighten me. Where do you buy your spices.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spaghetti Carbonara

I had a lot of leftover spaghetti noodles and not much else for lunch. I searched some recipes and modified to up with this my own version with the ingredients we had on hand. I'm sure it would be much more delicious with the cream and white whine. It was a little drier than the kid's preferred so I think next time I'll add a little chicken broth to the noodles.

Prep Time: less than 5 minutes
Cook time: less than 10 minutes
Serves: 8
Costs: approx. $2.00

1 pound of cooked spaghetti ($.75)
4-6 slices of turkey bacon ($.50)
1/4 cup of onion diced
1 tsp minced garlic
olive oil
3 eggs ($.25)
1/4-1/2 cup Parmesan cheese ($.50)

Reheat spaghetti in the microwave. Mix eggs and cheese together and set aside. In olive oil saute garlic and onions until translucent. Add bacon that has been cut into pieces and cook. Add warm noodles and toss well. Slowly add cheese mixture and continue tossing until eggs are cooked.

You can find this along with lots of other budget friendly recipes at The Grocery Cart Challenge's Friday Recipe Swap.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spaghetti Herb Mix

I'm interested in making more mixes from the spices I already have in the cabinet. I came across the book, "Miserly Moms", on our bookshelf. After dusting it off, I found a chapter on mix recipes. I'll be trying them out in smaller portions just to make sure they pass the test. If they work out well, I plan on making jars of mixes to use regularly.

Spaghetti Herb Mix

1/2 cup Garlic Powder
1/2 cup Onion Powder
1/2 Cup Dried Oregano
3 T. Dried Basil
3 T. Dried Thyme
3 T. Salt
2 T. Sugar

Place 16 oz of tomatoes in a blender with 4 T. of the mix. Liquify. Add additional ingredients such as mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, green peppers as desired. Warm and serve.

Cost Comparison:

Jar of generic spaghetti sauce: $1.25
Package of store bought mix with 16 oz of tomatoes: $2.00
Homemade spaghetti mix with bulk canned tomatoes and spices on hand: $.36

Okay, this one's a keeper. Sean said it is the best sauce we've ever had at home. I think I'll need to take into account the amount of salt in the mix if I'm using canned tomatoes. Maybe I'll leave the salt out altogether and add it to taste when the sauce is heating. I can't imagine how this would taste with fresh vegetables from our garden this summer!

You can find this recipe along with many others at The Grocery Cart Challenge's Friday Recipe Swap and at Life As a Mom's Frugal Friday.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chocolate Crackles (the easy way)

I love these cookies but have never made them from scratch because it seemed like a whole lot of work to melt the chocolate over a dutch oven..... Recently, I found an easy version and tested them out at a family gathering. No one noticed the difference. In fact, there wasn't one left on the plate.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 8-10 minutes
Yields: 4 1/2 dozen
Cost: Approx. $1.00

1 box of Brownie mix ($.89)
1 cup flour
1 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil
powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients well. If dough is sticky add extra flour and chill dough for 5 minutes. Roll dough into balls and cover with powdered sugar. Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes. Do not over bake.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bulk Shopping: Comparing Aldi, Sam's Club and GFS

Here in Indiana we don't have bulk or consignment groceries, but we do have other options. I looked everywhere on the internet for a comparison of bulk prices vs. Aldi prices. Being that I've stopped using coupons for now, I really need to find the best prices out there. Cooking for a month at a time requires a lot of ingredients and upfront cash. The chain supermarkets just are not an option for this amount of shopping. Normally, I can buy all that I need for around $180.00, but if I could somehow even save 15% a month, this could translate to about $450 a year!

Item/ Sam's /Aldi /GFS

Whole Wheat Pasta $.94/lb ... $1.45/lb...n/a

Cheddar Cheese $.49/cup... $.82/cup... $.55/cup

Mozarella Cheese $.48/cup... $.82/cup... $.49/cup

Oats $.05/oz... $.04/oz... $.07/oz

Green Beans $.03/oz... $.03/oz ...$.04/oz

Corn $.03/...$.03/oz ... $.02/oz

Flour $.46/lb... $.33/lb... $.35/lb

Peaches $.05/oz... $.06/oz...n/a

Applesauce n/a... $.04/oz... $.05/oz

Diced Tomato $.02/oz... $.03/oz... $.02/oz

Peanut Butter $1.20/lb... $1.24/lb... $1.39/lb

Sugar $.50/lb... $.40/lb... $.58/lg

eggs $.12/egg... $.08/egg... n/a

honey $.12/oz... $.07/oz...n/a

turkey bacon $1.67/pkg... $1.89/pkg... n/a

butter $1.67/lb... $1.99/lb... n/a

It may seem as though this is just a saving of pennies, but difference really shows up when you consider the size of each item. For example, a can of vegetables at Sam's is actually 104 ounces and a jar of peanut butter is 6 pounds! This translates into dollars saved, not pennies.

I have noticed the biggest impact in saving on cheese and butter. A sale on cheese for $.99/cup happens once in a great while. It's half that everyday at Sam's Club. There is a down side of buying in bulk that can not be ignored. What should a person do with 25 pounds of flour or 5 pounds of shredded cheese or a huge can of applesauce once it is opened? Dividing everything up into smaller portions and freezing them until use has been working for me just fine. And not picking up an overpriced jar of peanut butter whenever I'm at the store is well worth the six pound jar that dropped on my foot.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Porcupine Meatballs

I remember my mom making this dish and just loving it as a little girl. It's one of my favorite! I've never met a kid who didn't gobble it down.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 8-10

2 pounds ground beef ($4.50)
1 1/2 cups of white rice uncooked ($.25)
1 onion finely chopped ($.25)
2 cans of tomato soup ($.75)
1/2 cup hot water
Worcestershire sauce

Combine well the raw meat, rice, onion, pepper and 1 can of tomato soup. Form into meatballs and place into muffin tins. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until meatballs begin to firm. (I had the worst time cooking the raw meatballs in the skillet without them burning or falling to pieces. This little trick actually allows me time to step away from the stove.)

Meanwhile, mix a can of tomato soup with hot water and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Place meatballs in a deep skillet, cover with sauce and heat on medium for 15-20 minutes.

Serve over white rice.

**I usually make this meal in bulk portions for the freezer. Simply place completed meal in a baking dish and cover well for freezing. When ready to eat, thaw at room temperature. Baked covered at 350 until warmed through. I often keep some tomato soup on hand to add a little extra sauce if needed.**

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oatmeal Applesauce Cake

I'm always looking for a cake that require icing. It's great for special occasions, but for a mid week desert I'd rather have this cake with a cup of hot tea. It's seems much more like comfort food that way.

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 12
Cost: Approx. $1.00

1/2 cup butter softened ($.50)
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup applesauce ($.50)
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cup rolled oats ($.25)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cream butter with sugar. Add eggs, applesauce and water and beat well. Add dry ingredients and incorporate well. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until it tests done.

**This recipe along with many others can be found at Grocery Gathering's Friday Recipe Swap**

Friday, March 6, 2009

Depression Era Cooking

Check out this delightful 93 year old cook. She demonstrates how to cook Depression style and throws in a few stories along the way. She is so cute I could squeeze her! I so wish I would have asked my grandmas more about their lives in and out of the kitchen. We all could certainly take a few lessons from those who have gone before us.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Creamy Potato Soup

Thanks to Heather we've been enjoying this soup during these cold winter months. It definitely fits in the category of comfort foods. This has been a great way for me to use up the cauliflower I stockpiled earlier when it was nearly free. The best part? Little do they know this soup contains a whole head of cauliflower! Enjoy.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 8-10
Cost: Approx. $2.50-$5.00

4-6 strips of (turkey)bacon snipped into pieces ($.50)
4 large or 8 small potatoes cut into cubes ($1.00)
1 head of cauliflower cut into bite sized pieces ($1.00-$3.00)
Chicken stock granules
2-3 cups milk
Cheese (optional)

Brown the bacon in the bottom of a stock pot. Removed bacon and add potatoes and cauliflower to the pot. Saute in bacon grease for one minute. Add enough water to cover vegetables and cooresponding amount of granules. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Place vegetables and liquid in a blender and liquify until smooth. Return soup to the stove and add milk until soup reaches desired consistency.

Serve topped with bacon pieces and cheese.

This recipe can also be found at The Grocery Cart Challenge's Recipe Swap. Go there to browse lots of great recipes!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Potato Salad

This is a great side dish served warm or chilled. Easy to make and improvise with whatever you have in your pantry. I like it as an addition to a meal that need just that one more thing to make it stretch. Enjoy!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cost: approx. $1.50

4 large potatoes peeled and diced ($1.00)
1 stalk celery finely diced
1/4 onion finely diced
2 hard boiled eggs diced ($.25)
4 slices bacon finely chopped ($.25)
1/4 cup mayonnaise

Place potatoes in boiling water and cook until tender. Drain potatoes. Add celery, onions, eggs and bacon and mash coarsely. Add mayonnaise and combined well.

Possible additions: cheese, green onion, ham....

This recipe and many others are featured at The Grocery Cart Challenge's Recipe Swap.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Oven baked ranch chicken strips

I find it really hard to pass up fresh chicken breast when it's on sale. A few weeks ago Tyson hormone free chicken was priced at $1.77 a pound. You bet I snagged a bunch of that and put some away in the freezer! It's a treat to actually have a piece of meat that isn't diced and cut up at our house, but I still make this meat stretch by cutting it in strips. Less waste and it cooks a lot faster, too.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Servings: vary
Cost: for breading only approx $1.00

Chicken breast cut into strips (varies)
1/2 cup butter melted ($.50)
2 cups bread crumbs ($.25)
1 package of ranch seasoning mix ($.50)

Dip chicken breasts in melted butter and then coat with a mixture of the bread crumbs and seasoning. Bake immediately at 350 degrees on a greased cookie sheet until meat is no longer pink (25-30 minutes).

To freeze: Place coated chicken strips on a cookie sheet and place into freezer until meat is solid. Transfer to a freezer bag. When ready to cook take frozen meat and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.

*When frozen individually like this it's easy to pull out a few strips at a time for salads**

Monday, February 9, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake

We needed a little taste of summer on this cold February day. I found this recipe in an old church cookbook and it is by far THE BEST shortcake recipe I have ever tasted. Not too sweet, not too bland, very moist and fluffy. Some of the kids said they would even choose it over chocolate cake!!

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time 12-15 minutes
Serves: 9-12 (depending on how generous you want to be)
Cost: Approx. $3.50

4 cups strawberries cut ($3.00)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 cups flour
3 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter melted ($.50)
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combined all dry ingredients. Blend in butter. Add milk and vanilla and mix well. Place in two small greased cake pans. Bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes. When cakes are cooled serve layered with strawberries and whipped cream.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Q&A: What did you do with all that ground beef?

Duckygirl wondered what it is I made with all of that ground beef I purchased in bulk. I bought twenty pounds and split it this way:

5 pounds of raw meat were prepared into 2 meatloafs
5 pounds of raw meat were made into 20 patties for Poor Man's Steak
7 Pounds were cooked and seasoned with homemade Taco Seasoning for 1 Taco Soup, 2 Nachos, and 16 Make Ahead Burritos.
3 pounds were browned for
2 meals of the best chili ever

All this prepared meat resulted into eleven meals for January. I'm sad that my freezer is becoming empty again. Soon it will be time to plan and cook for February. Anyone want to join me?

Make ahead Burritos

Making burritos for the freezer are not only easy but fun to assemble. The kids and I have a great time playing our own version of Taco Bell. Each person has their own station and we race through the assembly process. They love it and I save a lot of time not having to assemble twenty or so burritos by myself!

All you need is large tortilla shells and whatever ingredients you have on hand in whatever combination pleases you: Taco meat, chicken or steak, rice, black beans, refried beans, black beans, salsa, rice, cheese, salsa.... After rolling the burritos place them directly into a freezer bag.

To cook place the frozen burritos directly in a greased baking dish and cover. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes until burritos are soft and heated through.

These can be uncovered and topped with warm enchilata sauce and cheese and put back under the broiler until the cheese is melted. I've also served these on a bed of shredded lettuce topped with salsa and sour cream. Enjoy!!

My friend, Alaina weekly hosts a series, Keeping Creative Kitchens. It's all about sharing the things that keep you insired in your kitchen. Go and see all the great ideas!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Buying in Bulk

I got a crazy idea over break that I would cook and freeze all of our dinners for January by myself. The crazy part is that I planned, shopped and cooked all in one day! It took from about 10 am to 11 pm to complete the whole process. It was so nice to get it done, but I don't recommend this method.

While at Sam's Club buying meat we saw these rolls by the huge packages of ground beef and assumed that they were sausage. The friendly meat man saw me filling my cart and quickly stopped me. He informed me that these rolls are exactly the same meat but packaged for $.50 less a pound! Who knew? I saved around $10 buying it this way.

Just so that you don't think that I have super powers. This day of cooking took its toll on me and the kitchen. I used every pot and pan and my poor family had to live with this mess for about two days while I recovered.

**As a side note, I've recently been been buying less lean meat and rinsing it well with warm water to bring down the fat concentration. Sounds weird, I know, but it's worked well.**

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

....Out of Nothing at all- Egg Drop Soup

I have a habit of singing 80's songs to my own lyrics much to the amusement of my family. I guess it is the Weird Al Yankovic in me. For years I've been humming the tune to Air Supply's "Making Love Out of Nothing At All" while I'm searching through the pantry for lunch. "Making Lunch out of Nothing at All....makin' lunch."

To those you you too young to know this song I don't recommend that you learn it. It really is a sad commentary on relationships and one of those, "I can't believe I knew this song growing up." I must have learned it on the bus.

Anyway, here's the recipe for today MLOONAA. If all goes well, I plan to make MLOONAA a regular feature on this blog perhaps with a Mr. Linky for you to share if there was enough interest. Let me know one way or the other by the survey on the right or leave a comment. Thanks!

Egg Drop Soup

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: same
Serves: 8
Cost: approx. $1.00

10 cups of boiling water
3 Tbsp of chicken stock granules ($.50)
2 eggs ($.25)
soy sauce

Heat the water to boiling. Add chicken granules and stir well. Scramble eggs well in a small bowl. Stir boiling broth in one direction and add eggs slowly. Add soy sauce to taste and serve.

Disclaimer: I realize that there is little nutritional value here, but when we've had a big breakfast or someone is sick this is a perfect lunch.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Fried Ice Cream

I don't know how they exactly make Mexican Fried Ice Cream, but here is a simple version that I picked up off a cereal box years ago. It is surprisingly similar and a quick fun desert.

Go to Gail's Grocery Cart Challenge and find other great recipes on Friday's Recipe Swap! You'll be glad you did.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: none
Serves: 16-20
Cost: Approx. $3.00

1 Pint of vanilla ice cream ($2.00)
1/2 box of cinnamon toast crunch cereal generic brand ($1.00)
chocolate syrup

Crush cereal and place in a deep pan. Scoop out vanilla ice cream and roll int the cereal. Place ice cream balls back in the freezer for 10 minutes.

To serve top with honey or chocolate syrup.