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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Money Saving Pasta dish at $1.20 a serving

It doesn't cost a lot to feed a large family. This is my own recipe and doesn't really have a name yet. In fact, I've never even written the recipe down.



I start with a package of Armour Italian Style Meatballs, 14oz bag. It says it contains over 26 fully cooked meatballs. On sale, I can get these for $3.99/bag. I slightly thaw the bag just to the point where I can cut up the meatballs. Cut each in half. Cut your half in half, then slice 3 or 4 times. I end up with 16 tiny pieces from each meatball. It's up to you but many times I only use half a bag of meatballs to feed my family of 5 when cut up this way.

Cook a 16oz package of pasta according to package directions. I choose a small shell pasta. Use up anything you have in the house. You can even mix pasta. You could use macaroni but that pasta is thicker. If you wanted to use spaghetti, I would break it up 3 times so that you have 3-4 inch pieces before you boil them. The idea is that this is a premixed casserole type dinner to dish up, not to assemble on each plate separately.

In another large pot (or same one, once you drain pasta and set it aside), put a little oil (I used olive oil) in the bottom of the pot. Add your meatball pieces. Saute slightly so they are browned. Season with salt and pepper. (I used Nature's Seasoning). Open three 24oz cans of spaghetti sauce. I get these on sale for 99¢ each. Use whatever you have. Tonight we had Garlic & Herb, Meat flavored, and 4 cheese. Mix together with the meatballs.

Now it's time to add seasonings. Although you're using cans of pre-made spaghetti sauce, I still like to add additional seasoning. I added about a tablespoon of dehydrated chopped/minced onion flakes, Italian seasoning (both a tablespoon or two from a large jar and some freshly ground Italian seasoning that gives off a good aroma), some garlic powder with parsley. I added some Badia brand Complete Seasoning (it's found in the Mexican aisle of one of my local grocery stores). It's a combination of garlic, onions, salt, spices and herbs. And because I had it (and it's frightfully expensive at nearly $9 a jar, bought from a table at a trunk show/fair), some Tastefully Simple brand Mama Mia Marinara Sauce Mix (which I'd never used before). Basically a better, chunkier version of the complete seasoning. Oh, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Stir all that together. Once you have all the seasoning mixed into the spaghetti sauce and meatballs, then add the pasta and simmer all together. I like to stir in about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of Parmesan and/or Romano shredded cheese at this point to melt in. Let it simmer until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Since I've never written this recipe down, it comes out a little different each time depending on what's in the pantry, how many I'm feeding, etc.

Serve warm with some Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. You could get fancy and garnish with parsley or other fresh herbs. I served it with half slices of my homemade herbed French bread to dip into the sauce. The photo above unfortunately was of what was leftover, as I didn't think to take a photo until after we'd already eaten. This meal fills half of my 8 quart dutch oven when I whip up a batch. It feeds 5, even with some eaten seconds, and still provides enough leftovers for a few lunches.

Let's see... taking my sale prices and the amount used into question, I spent...

16oz bag Pasta $1.29
3 - 24oz cans spaghetti sauce $2.97
1/2 bag of frozen meatballs $1.99
Parmesan cheese and spices $1

Total = $7.25. Since we have leftovers after feeding a family of 5, I'll say this recipe easily feeds at least 6, maybe more. So $7.25 divided by 6 works out to $1.20 a serving. If you feed 7 (with no leftovers) it works out to $1.03 a serving. Note: This does not count the homemade bread I served with the pasta dish as I had that leftover from another meal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

2012 Holiday Recipe Contest Entries

     Now that I've caught you up on my past winning entries, I thought I'd share with you this years entries. Deadline to enter is Oct 19th, so I've been busy typing them up to send in all week. The entries will be separated into the categories they were submitted under. I entered at least one in each category. I'll list the source, of the recipe, if known, in (brackets) at the end the recipe along with notes.

Appetizers, Snacks and Beverages




Whiskey Creek Potato Wedges

20oz bag Ore-Ida Grillers (Seasoned thick-cut potatoes)Colby Jack Shredded Cheese
(Oscar Meyer Real) Bacon Bits (sold in 3oz bag)
Chives (Use freeze dried if you don’t have fresh. Chopped green onions work in a pinch.)
salt

Bake potatoes a single layer deep on a baking sheet according to package directions. When done, season with salt. Sprinkle lightly with shredded Colby jack cheese, bacon bits, and chives. Bake another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

(Recreated from the appetizer we were served at Whiskey Creek Steakhouse.)



Soups, Salads and Side Dishes



 

Roasted Tatties

6 to 9 medium russet potatoes, allowing 3 halves each
Sea salt
Bacon grease (original recipe called for goose fat)
¼ to ½ cup of flour seasoned with salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the potatoes and half lengthwise. If very large, cut into quarters. Place in a pot and cover with cold salted water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes. Drain in a colander and leave to stand in the colander for 2 to 3 minutes before shaking the colander gently to rough them up a bit. This action begins to break down the edges of the potato and will give you a tasty crunch later on. Heat the skillet with about a ¼ of an inch of melted bacon grease in it. Once the fat is hot, roll the potatoes in the seasoned flour and then place them into the hot fat. Fry, turning them occasionally, until completely golden brown. Fry in two batches if necessary. In the meantime, melt some bacon grease in a large roasting pan large enough to fit the potatoes, ¼ inch in depth. Add the browned potatoes and roll them in the fat. Bake in the pre-heated oven for a further 40-45 minutes, turning them about halfway through the baking time. You can add a knob of butter over the potatoes for a rich crispy roast taste. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve warm.

(Found online from OakCottageRecipes. I was looking for authentic British roasted tatties. Original recipe is titled Classic Roast Potatoes.)
 

Chorizo and Cornbread Stuffing


 


1 lb fresh Mexican chorizo
1 med white onion, finely chopped
1 med carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup chicken stock
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook the chorizo, breaking it up and stirring occasionally as it cooks, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic to the chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have browned, about 10 minutes. Add the crumbled cornbread and cilantro and gradually pour in enough of the stock so the stuffing is not too dry but at the same time not too wet. Stir gently and well. Butter a small casserole dish. Spread the stuffing in an even layer. Bake until its heated through and lightly browned on top, about 20 minutes.
 
(From Food Netwok Magazine and Chef Aarón Sanchez.  Chorizo is very spicy.)

 

Main Dishes


Texas Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket



2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 bay leaf, crushed
4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed
1 ½ cups beef stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make a dry rub by combining chili powder, salt, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, sugar, dry mustard, and bay leaf. Season the raw brisket on both sides with the rub. Place in a roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 1 hour. Add beef stock and enough water to yield about ½ inch of liquid in the roasting pan. Lower oven to 300 degrees F, cover pan tightly and continue cooking for 3 hours, or until fork-tender. Trim the fat and slice meat thinly across the grain. Top with juice from the pan.
 
(From Food Network website. I don't really care for their roasting directions, but I use the spice rub on all different kinds of roasts. I brown my roast on all sides in a dutch oven, then add 1 can each of beef broth and chicken broth to it, then put the lid on the dutch oven and transfer to the oven for 90 mins to 2 hours. It's done when a meat thermometer inserted comes to the correct temperature of 160 degrees F.)
 

Curried Chicken Fingers


 

Cooking spray
1 ½ teaspoon curry powder
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt
2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (1 ½ to 1 ¾ pounds) cut into 1 inch strips (or use boneless, skinless chicken tenders)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Set a rack on a baking sheet and mist with cooking spray. Whisk the eggs, mustard, 1 tsp curry powder, the cumin and 1 tsp salt in a shallow bowl. Mix the panko with ½ tsp curry powder in another bowl. Dip the chicken strips in the egg mixture, letting the excess drip off, then coat with the panko. Place the chicken on the rack and mist with cooking spray all over. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
 
(From Food Network Magazine. I took out the part to make Curried Ketchup to go with it. If you can find the chicken tenders it's quicker and faster than cutting your own.)
 
 

Easy Chicken Pot Pie


 
1 can cooked, cubed chicken
1 15oz can Veg-All, drained
1 10 ¾ oz can cream of chicken soup
2 pre-made piecrusts (one for the top, and one for the bottom)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the pie crusts. Place the bottom crust in a deep-dish pie pan, smoothing it to fit. Pour the mixture into the piecrust. Place the second pie crust on top. Crimp the edges to seal. Cut slits in top crust to vent. Bake approximately 20 minutes, until filling is hot and crust is golden brown. Serves 4 to 6.
 
(From the book, The Duggars: 20 and Counting. I'll admit I havn't made this one yet and I don't expect to win with this recipe. They have in the past said to please enter alot of recipes, wether they are potential winners or not as they need to have enough to fill the cookbook. Since this is easy and cheap to make, I included it.)



Desserts and Baked Goods

 

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes



 
1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup water
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar plus 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon, combined

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 muffin tins with liners.
In a bowl of a mixer, combine cake mix, eggs, water, and butter and beat on low speed until combined. Increase speed to high and beat for one minute. Fill muffin tins about ¼ of the way full. Sprinkle a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon/brown sugar mixture over batter and cover with another spoonful of batter. Sprinkle another teaspoon of cinnamon/brown sugar over the top. Cups should be about 2/3 full (try not to fill them more than that.) Bake for about 15 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool on a cooling rack.


FROSTING:  (If you want to pipe it on high, double this)
8oz block of cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
In the bowl of a mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla on medium-low speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat on low until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and increase speed to high and beat for 2 minutes. Pipe or frost on cupcakes and place in the refrigerator until ready to glaze.


GLAZE:1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with brown sugar and cinnamon until combined and pourable but not boiling. Spoon over frosted cupcakes and immediately place in refrigerator to set.
(I found this recipe onlin from CookbookQueensRecipes.)
 
 

Banana Crumb Muffins


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 bananas, mashed
¾ cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers. In a large bowl, mix together 1 ½ cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg, and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. In a small, mix together brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 Tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
(A basic banana muffin is made extraordinary with a cinnamon-and-brown-sugar streusel topping. Found online from allrecipes.com.)
 
 

Chocolate Truffle Cake


16 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoon flour
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon hot water
4 eggs, separated
1 cup whipping cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease bottom of 8 inch spring form pan. Melt chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler. Remove from heat. Add flour, sugar, and water and blend well. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry, and fold into the chocolate mixture. Turn into pan and bake for 15 minutes only. Let cool completely, then chill in the refrigerator. Whip cream and spread over cake. Cut cake while cold, but let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8 - 10.
 
(Recipe from Eat This...You'll Feel Better cookbook by Dom DeLuise.)







Past Holiday Cookbook Recipe Winning Entries

     Every year my local paper, the Hastings Tribune, runs a recipe contest for their Holiday "All Seasons" Cookbook. It has several categories. Each category has a winner. I've won four times. My past winning entries are:

2004 Chocolate Ribbon Cookies
2006 Chicken Monterey
2008 Stromboli
2009 Breast of Chicken in Light Lemon-Herb Sauce

     As I saved them on the computer, it's pretty easy for me to copy and paste copies of the winning recipes below. It would take alot of looking for me to figure out where I originally found the recipes from, so forgive me for not listing their source. The only one I'm sure of is that I got Chocolate Ribbon Cookies from www.bhg.com (Better Homes & Garden Recipe Center).
     Every time I won, I had to cook/bake my winning entry and bring it, camera ready, to the newspaper office. It was then photographed for the color insert of the cookbook showing the winning recipes. I not only had to make the food and bring it in, but I also had to bring everything with it. I had to come up with how to display and show off my food, to include tablecloth, display items, plate, etc. All they gave you was a wraparound white table and backdrop and lighting. Each time was different trying to come up with a way to nicely display the food so it would photograph well. After the food was photographed, it was left with the staff (who reimburse you for the ingredients) to eat. I scanned the photos out of each years winning printed newspaper holiday cookbook and added them below.

Chocolate Ribbon Cookies

½ cup butter
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
½ tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
2 TBsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate pieces, melted and cooled
½ cup finely chopped nuts
½ cup miniature semisweet pieces
¼ tsp rum flavoring

In a mixing bowl beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking soda and salt; beat until combined. Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with mixer. Stir in remaining flour.

Divide dough in half. Knead the melted chocolate and nuts into half of the dough. Knead the miniature chocolate pieces and rum flavoring into the other half of the dough. Divide each portion of dough in half.

To shape dough, line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan with waxed paper or clear plastic wrap. Press half of the chocolate dough evenly in pan. Top with half of the vanilla dough, the remaining chocolate dough, and the remaining vanilla dough, pressing each layer firmly and evenly over the preceding layer. Invert pan to remove dough. Peel off waxed paper or plastic wrap. Cut dough crosswise into thirds. Slice each third crosswise into ¼ inch thick slices. Place cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake cookies in a 375 degree F oven about 10 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool. Makes about 54 cookies.

Make-Ahead Tip: Prepare and shape dough; transfer to plastic freezer bags; seal, label, and freeze up to 1 month. Let dough thaw at room temperature for 2 hours; slice and bake as above. Or bake cookies; cool. Transfer to freezer container; seal, label, and freeze up to 1 month.

Nutritional facts per serving: Calories 100, total fat 6g, carbohydrate 10g

 
 
 

Chicken Monterey

1 boneless skinless chicken breast half1 boneless skinless chicken breast half
dash of salt and pepper
½ tsp chopped fresh parsley
1/8 tsp dried tarragon
1 ounce Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese (cut into a 2 ½ x ½ inch stick)
2 TBsp all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
2 TBsp seasoned or plain dry bread crumbs
1 TBsp butter or margarine
1 TBsp cooking oil

Pound chicken to ¼ inch thickness. Season the inside with salt, pepper, parsley and tarragon. Place cheese in the center and fold chicken around it. Roll in flour; dip into egg, then roll in crumbs. Place chicken, seam side down, on a plate; refrigerate for 30 minutes. In a skillet, sauté chicken in butter and oil until golden. Place in a small shallow baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until juices run clear.

Yield: 1 serving




Stromboli

1 pound pizza dough
4 oz thinly sliced deli salami
4 oz thinly sliced deli capocollo (ham)
4 oz thinly sliced deli provolone cheese
½ cup (12oz jar) jarred roasted red bell peppers, rinsed, patted dry, and sliced thin
½ cup (1 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
1 large egg, beaten with 2 TBsp water
1 tsp sesame seeds
coarse sea salt or kosher salt, for sprinkling (optional)

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Press and roll the dough into a 12 by 10 inch rectangle, with the long side facing you. Lay the meat and provolone over the dough, leaving a 1 inch border at all of the edges. Top with the peppers and Parmesan. Brush the edges of the dough with some of the egg wash. Starting from a long side, roll the dough tightly into a long cylinder, then pinch the seam and ends to seal. Transfer the stromboli to the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Brush with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and coarse salt (if using). Cover loosely with lightly greased aluminum foil and continue to bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer the stromboli to a wire rack and let cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, slice into 2 inch wide pieces, and serve hot or warm.




Breast of Chicken in a Light Lemon-Herb Sauce

6 boneless, skinless chicken-breast halves (about 5 oz each)
½ cup fine, dry bread crumbs
¼ cup extra-virgin olive-oil
3 TBsp chopped fresh parsley
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
salt
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken stock or chicken broth
¼ cup fresh lemon-juice
1 tsp crushed hot red pepper
4 cloves garlic, peeled

Cut each chicken-breast half in half crosswise on a diagonal, to yield two pieces of roughly equal size. Place two pieces at a time between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound gently with the flat side of a meat mallet or the bottom of a small, heavy saucepan to flatten them slightly, to about ½ inch thick. Toss the bread crumbs, 1 TBsp of the olive oil, 1 TBsp of the chopped parsley, ½ tsp of the oregano, and salt to taste together in a bowl until blended. Spread 1 tsp of bread crumb mixture over each piece of chicken, reserving the remaining crumbs. Roll each chicken piece into a compact shape with the bread crumbs running in a spiral through the center and fasten securely with a toothpick. Preheat the oven to 475º F. Arrange the filled chicken breasts side by side in a 13 x 9 inch, preferably flameproof baking dish. (There should be some space between the pieces of chicken.) Stir the wine, stock, lemon juice, hot pepper, the remaining 3 TBsp olive oil, the remaining tsp of oregano, and salt to taste together in a small bowl. Pour into the baking dish. Whack the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife and scatter them among the chicken pieces. Bake 10 minutes. Top the chicken with the remaining bread-crumb mixture. Return to the oven and bake until the bread-crumb topping is golden brown, about 5 minutes. If the roasting pan is flameproof, place it directly over medium-high heat, add the remaining 2 TBsp parsley and bring the pan juices to a boil. Boil until lightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. (If the roasting pan is not flameproof, transfer the chicken rolls to a warm platter and pour the juices into a skillet before bringing them to a boil.) Remove the garlic cloves, or leave them in if you like. Gently transfer the chicken pieces to plates with a slotted spoon. Pull the toothpicks from the chicken without loosening the bread-crumb topping. Pour the sauce around, not over, the chicken pieces, and serve immediately.

 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Garlic-Herb Bread


Nothing makes a house smell better than fresh homemade bread baking. So I'm going to pass along a lovely recipe for Garlic-Herb bread that I got out of my old Oster Bread Machine cookbook. You'll notice in the photo above, that the loaf isn't shaped like the square bread machine pan. That's because I don't like having my bread machine bake the bread, as it's an odd shape and the crust is too hard. So I set my bread machine to the dough cycle, so it'll mix and rise the bread for me. In 90 minutes it goes off and I transfer the dough to the counter, mold it into my desired shape and either put it in a greased bread pan, or simply place it on a stoneware pan or pizza stone. (If you do that, sprinkle some cornmeal on the stone first so your bread won't stick.) To make it easier, I just used a spoonful of crushed garlic from a jar.

Garlic-Herb Bread

Large Loaf (1 1/2 pounds)

1 1/4 cups water
1 Tablespoon margarine or butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 1/4 cups Bread flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves

2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast OR 2 3/4 teaspoons regular active dry yeast

Mix together following your bread machine instructions. (Mine have always said put liquid or moist ingredients in first, followed by the dry ingredients, with yeast always last.) Note: If bread dough is a bit dry and crumbly, you can add a few drops of buttermilk as it mixes. Set bread machine on dough cycle. When done, take dough out of machine. Drop on floured counter and gently mold into desired shape. Either place on a stoneware pan or pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal, or put into any greased loaf pan. Put in a warm place and cover with a thin dish towel to rise a second time. (Setting it on the stove that will warm slightly as the oven preheats works nicely.) Let it rise until it's nearly double in size. You may want to take sharp knife and slash the top of the loaf to give it room to expand while baking. Bake at 375ºF for 25 minutes.

Works well in place of garlic bread.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mario Batali’s Food Stamp Challenge

"For one week, the acclaimed chef Mario Batali is challenging Americans to “walk in someone else’s shoes” by eating only what they would be able to buy with food stamps. So what does one of America’s top chefs feed his family on $31 per person per week or $1.48 per meal, less than most people spend on a snack? " Read the ABC News article here to find out: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2012/05/mario-batalis-food-stamp-challenge/

Personally, I don't see what the big deal is. Is it easy? No. Can it be done? Yes. How do I know? Because I fed a family of 4 for 8 years using only food stamps. My family is perfectly healthy. My 3 boys are not overweight. (I am, but that's from 3 high-risk pregnancies and the fact that I'm diabetic.) Which means I've fed growing kids and someone with a special diet. And I'm a picky eater! lol It takes some planning, but it can be done.

How did I do it? Let me first start off with what we didn't do. We didn't go out to eat. It was a real rare treat to order pizza. We didn't buy that much premade food. The kids didn't drink soda pop.

What I did do was cook from scratch as much as I could. I have but normally didn't bake my own bread. However, buying it directly from the Old Home Bread Outlet store (at $1/loaf) is cheaper than the grocery store. Even cheaper was a local gas station that got day old bread, buns, etc that they'd put out for 25¢ each. Hard to beat a loaf of bread for that price!
     I live in the Midwest in the middle of beef country, but ground beef averages $3/lb, usually higher, but slightly lower if on sale. I stocked up on 30 one pound tubes of ground turkey when it was on sale and put them in my freezer. I didn't make turkey burgers where you'd taste the difference in it being turkey meat. However, meatballs taste great and my family can't tell their taco's have turkey in it. Once it's coated in a sauce and highly spiced, you can't taste the difference between ground beef and ground turkey.
     Shop around the edges of the grocery store as much as you can. That's where all the vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy and bread is. Limit what you buy in the middle of the store. For example, I can make my own "Hamburger Helper" type chili mac that's better than the store box, from scratch, that not only tastes better, but serves 2-3 times as many people! And, it's cheaper. Anything that's highly processed, quick to fix, premade, or frozen is expensive. All that time saving for you, costs you. If you open a few cans, or chop something yourself, you save money. You also get fresher food that isn't full of as many preservatives, food coloring, etc. Instead of buying individual packets of taco seasoning, I found a small spice can of it (amongst the taco stuff on the shelf) and can now use as much or as little as I want depending on how much I'm making. And it saves money.
    Sometimes you need to buy in bulk to save money. And I don't have a paid membership to a bulk store like SAM'S either. I stock up when items or food is on sale. You need a place to put food (pantry, closet, under the bed storage boxes, etc.) and if possible, a freezer. I discovered my local grocery store was selling bags of pepperoni slices, normally over $2 each, for just 25¢ each because they were nearing the expiration date. That's just the sell by date. They were still perfectly safe to eat. I think I bought 15-20 of them and put them in my freezer.
     I almost never use coupons. It's not that I can't use them and occasionally do, but most aren't worth it. Most coupons are for expensive name brand items. Even with the coupon savings, the store brand is probably still cheaper, tastes just as good, and many times is made by the same manufacturer anyway. I rarely find coupons on stuff I'd be buying anyway. What I do do, is follow the store's sales fliers. I do price comparisons. If you don't want to drive to several grocery stores, see which ones in your area will match other store's sales fliers (anymore, most do). If you use coupons, see which stores will take coupons printed online, or if they double coupons up to $1. Today I went shopping, making my shopping list based on their weekly sales flier. I bought 27 items for a total cost of $55.66. However, I saved $32.16 off their regular prices. My biggest savings was on some Kraft Salad Dressings/Marinades that normally sold for $4.88 each, on sale 2/$3. I bought 4 and saved $9.15.  I've found most things go on sale about every 3 months, so ideally you need to stock up with a 3 months supply when it's on sale. That's why I said earlier you needed a pantry or some place to store your food, even if it's not in the kitchen. I've heard of folks using a closet, or even under the bed storage containers for canned goods, etc.
     Last night we had pork chops, which I'd bought on sale and put in the freezer. We had enough for a large family meal while my husband was home. Normally I don't serve food with a large single piece of meat per person. That's expensive. You also must make excellent use of leftovers. We had just one left over pork chop. I diced it very fine (as small as possible) and it was probably just over a cup of diced pork. I'm using that tonight to make Hungarian goulash. (Just add Italian seasonings to tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce, add the pork and stir in, and mix in a small sized pasta.) Making casseroles isn't popular anymore, but it stretches a little bit of meat to feed more people. Meatloaf is another meat stretcher because it has filler in it, like bread crumbs, oatmeal, or crushed crackers. That adds to the traditional meatloaf taste, but also stretches it. My kids had absolutely no idea that I put oatmeal in meatloaf until they saw me making it one day.
     I know the government's food program guidelines have changed so many times over the last few years, it's hard to keep track, but I remember the four basic food groups that I grew up with: Meat and Poultry, Grains and Bread, Milk and Cheese, and Fruit & Vegetables. I try to make sure I have one of each with every home cooked meal. Nothing says you have to have a lot of each, but it makes it more a well balanced meal if you do.
     Fresh fruit and vegetables is obviously best, but it can be very expensive. If possible, buy what's in season as that's freshest and usually on sale. Better yet, grow your own. Frozen is very good as it's frozen when fresh, but I couldn't afford that unless I could find frozen bags of vegetables on sale. So that left canned vegetables. It's what we'd occasionally get from food banks or Christmas gift boxes, and it's what they put on sale during tent sales and other large promotions when you can get boxes of canned vegetables at deep discounted prices.
     For breads you have alot of options besides basic bread. Try cornbread, tortilla's, muffins, rolls, biscuits, bread sticks, garlic bread, popovers, etc. And no need to stick with straight white bread either, branch out and try wheat bread, english muffin bread, potato bread, etc. Easiest way to make your own bread is to find yourself a (new or used) bread machine. I don't like the hard crust and odd shape most bread machines make, so I use mine mostly on the DOUGH cycle. You can then just put it in a bread pan to rise and bake later. Or divide it up and make your own dinner rolls, hamburger buns or even pizza dough.
    Rice, pasta and beans are a poor man's best friend. Potatoes are probably high on that list too. I'll admit to not being a fan of beans. I put them in chili and that's about it. Pasta is cheap and filling. You can do so much with rice and pasta. There are cookbooks devoted to either ingredient. If you buy Ore-Ida potatoes, a bag will cost you near to $4 and will barely feed a family of 4 as a side dish. I just bought (on sale) a 10lb bag of russet potatoes for $2.79. Wash em up, (peeling is optional), cut lengthwise into steak fries, drizzle with vegetable oil and bake in the oven. Easy, it feeds alot and oh so much cheaper!
    I set a personal goal for myself to never buy a box (or bag) of cereal unless it's $2/each or less. I refuse to pay $3-$4.50 for a box of cereal. Every few months it'll drop below $2 a box on sale. If you have any coupons, it's even better. I've gotten cereal as low as 89¢ a box. When that happened, I bought a dozen boxes of cereal and stacked them on top of a shelving unit down in my pantry (a room in the basement), stacking them on their flat fronts so you can see by the ends what cereal you have. Yes, it takes some space to store when you stock up, but the alternative is to buy it for 2 or 3 times the price. If you can't find boxed or name brand cereal on sale, then opt for the cheaper store brand cereal sold in bags. If your kid only eats Cheerio's, then refill the box when they aren't looking with Toastee-O's. Same cereal, just without the box.
   Look for various places to buy food that isn't necessarily a grocery store. Not all will take food stamps, but some will. The Old Home Bread Outlet Store sells the same bread cheaper than the grocery store. Easy to get bread at $1/loaf or 2/$3. I bought a package of dinner rolls for tonight's dinner for $1.50. Dollar Tree sells everything for $1, even food. They don't take food stamps. Be careful that to sell it for $1, the package sizes are pretty small. Generally I don't like buying food there, but it's an option for some folks. Dollar General accepts food stamps and has decent prices on some food staples. Walgreen's Pharmacies have food. Watch their sales fliers. I generally don't like shopping at Walmart's Foodmart except for a few items my regular stores don't carry, but they will match other stores advertisements. In my case, they are the only local store that will match the sales flyer for the next (larger) town over, 25 miles away. So I can go there to get the large chain food store (Hy-Vee) sales prices without driving the 50 mile round trip. Even Kmart is selling food now. Mostly dry goods, but I did see a couple coolers with some prepackaged ground beef and gallons of milk in them. Walmart and Kmart can be good places to stock on non-edibles like facial tissue or toilet paper. (Stuff food stamps never covered).
    One place to really watch your budget is drinks. Milk adds up fast. Yes, kids with growing bones need milk, but they don't necessarily need it for every meal. I only buy soda pop for the adults. My kids drink lemonade, juice, milk or water. Lemonade they make from a large 5lb Country Time Lemonade mix. Juice can be watered down a bit to stretch it a little farther. Freeze it and make homemade Popsicles. (Molds to make 8 can be found at Dollar Tree for $1). If you drink coffee look for sales on the cans of coffee. Helps if you aren't picky about which brand you buy, as most brands have a generic blend. Fancy flavors and/or brand name coffees are expensive. Coffee beans themselves even more so. Making iced tea is inexpensive. Kool-aid is inexpensive too but I don't buy it for my kids since it's just flavored sugar water and isn't very healthy. So I save it to feed a crowd at a birthday party.
    Don't forget that eggs are protein and can be used to make alot of different foods.  Right now I got a dozen large eggs on sale for 99¢. Going to hard boil them and turn half into deviled eggs and put some of the rest in either tuna salad or egg salad for sandwiches. Even tried Spaghetti Carbonera once. That's where you put lightly beaten raw eggs onto hot cooked spaghetti and the heat of the pasta cooks the eggs. It was edible, but only the kids seemed to really like it.
    A key to saving money on a tight food budget is to make sure that no food gets wasted. I freeze alot of meat whenever I find it on sale. To make sure I don't have a problem with freezer burn, I always rewrap the package in white freezer paper and then label what it is, how much (weight) and the date. It lasts a really long time that way with no freezer burn. Making sure not to waste food comes down to two basic things: making sure it's used up before it spoils, and making sure after it's cooked none is thrown away. My lunches are generally leftovers from the night before. My boys have turned leftover meatloaf into both sandwiches and taco filling. I save the large bones from poultry (chicken or turkey) like leg bones and together with the carcass make my own stock. I freeze it in roughly 1.5 cup containers, and make wonderful homemade chicken/turkey noodle soup. My boys don't know what Campbells soup's taste like as I only bake with them. I've heard of folks who kept a "garbage" or leftover container in the freezer. The idea being you fill it with the leftover vegetables from dinner and when the container is full, thaw it and make vegetable soup. Same thing can be done for a container for all the large poultry bones or carcasses. It's amazing how much you can get outta one 3-4lb chicken. I roast it for one meal (remember, this generally serves 4), pull all the leftover meat off the carcass (don't forget the bottom which has alot of dark meat) to make another meal with, and all the bones go to making stock. So I can get three meals outta one full yet small bird. I can feed my family for a week on a large turkey. In fact, when they are on sale before or just after Thanksgiving, put a couple in your freezer. I can buy whole turkey's cheaper than I can buy whole fryer chickens!. And watch for turkey or chicken parts, like hindquarters to go on sale. Yes, you have to butcher and separate the thighs and legs off the backs, but you save almost half off by doing the work yourself.
     Tonight's dinner was Hungarian goulash and dinner rolls. I used one left over pork chop from last night's dinner. (Probably less than $1, since I bought them on sale). Small bag of pasta (from the grocery store's Mexican section, where small bags of miniature pasta is cheap) was around $1 and the spaghetti sauce was a large can that I can get for 99¢ (or less) on sale. The dinner rolls were a dozen for $1.50 (four of us ate 11 of them). Add to all that various spices, bit of shaved Parmesan cheese and butter from the fridge, and fresh chives from my herb garden. So I fed my family of 4 (husband was on the road) for $4.50. Everyone was full and the meal tasted great, and it cost $1.13 per person to feed everyone. (That's under the 1.48/per person allowed by food stamps.)
     I'm sure I could think of alot more to add to this, on how to save money on your food budget. Like not wasting bananas once they start spotting and turning black. Just bake banana bread. Turn lemons into lemonade. That kinda thing. We eat healthy, but not everything is quick. Some planning has to be done not only to stretch the food stamps to last the whole month, or to stock up when stuff is on sale, but little things like remembering to make the tuna salad the night before you want to eat it (it needs time to chill and the flavors to blend together). Tuna is another inexpensive way to get protein. I broiled talapia fish the other night in lemon pepper butter that I made that was so good! Talapia is a rather plain inexpensive fish but cooked right, can taste great. Also remember that not every meal has to contain meat. Have a vegetarian meal once a week. (Sir Paul McCartney and his family have a cookbook out pushing for Meatless Mondays.) Don't forget to serve salads and soups. You can make a meal out of either, or serve it as a first course.
     You don't need to eat poorly, or eat bland food to stick within a food stamp budget. My family is now off food stamps, and now that I'm remarried, I've got another mouth to feed, yet I'm doing my best to stick within what was my old food stamp budget (for 4), feeding 5 people for the month on $500. So far, I'm doing just fine. My husband is well fed and my eldest son says he's spoiled because mom's home cooking tastes better than the school food or McDonald's. Can't do better than that. :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Buying Yeast

     Yeast may not be something most folks think about buying, however, let me show you one way to save money on buying yeast. Most recipes calling for yeast call for Active Dry Yeast. This is the yeast that you must proof in warm water first, before adding to the dough. (Cold water won't activate the yeast, but if the water is too hot, it'll kill the yeast.) Fleischmann's Active Dry yeast comes in a 3 packet strip.
     At my local grocery store, that 3 packet strip costs $1.57. Each packet is 1/4 ounce, or 7 grams. I purchased Fleischmann's Active-Dry yeast in bulk, for $6.48, in a 2 lb bag. This is the exact same product, but sold in a bulk bag. Each packet above contains .25oz, 7 grams, or 2 1/4 tsp of yeast. It works out to 49 cents a packet for .25 oz. I can get the equivalent of 128 packets out of the 2lb bulk bag, which works out to 5 cents for the same .25 oz. Huge difference in my opinion. Yeast can be stored in a tightly sealed container in the freezer, and you can use it frozen. Active Dry yeast can also be bought in small 4oz brown jars. Rapid Rise or Bread Machine Yeast can be bought in either the 4oz jars or the 3 packet strip. When I had the bread machine yeast, I stored the jar in the refrigerator.

      While I'm talking about yeast, let me explain about another kind: Instant Dry Yeast. Instant yeast differs from Active-Dry Yeast in that it doesn't need to be proofed (or activated) in warm water first. You can add it directly to your dough in with the dry ingredients. You can use it in recipes in place of the active-dry yeast or in place of bread machine yeast. It's convenient and a quicker, easier to use yeast.
      
     I recently discovered Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast. It's a quick and easy way to make your own pizza crust and it requires no rise time or proofing. It claims to be "specifically formulated for making easy pizza crust dough - no frustrating "snap back" when rolling or pressing dough out." And as it says as well, "Make your crust any way you want it - thick, thin, whole wheat, with herbs or cheese - the possibilities are endless!"
    

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cream Puffs with custard filling

     I recently discovered an easy recipe for homemade cream puffs. It's from the Extension Club Favorites, compiled by Hall County Extension Clubs in Grand Island, Nebraska, Second Edition 1961.
     Sorry to say I don't have a photo to upload of the cream puffs as they were eaten too fast! lol We had the cream filled cream puffs with a bit of whipped cream on top of the custard under the lid, but you could dust the tops with powdered (confectioner's) sugar.

Cream Puffs

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted flour
4 eggs

Heat water and butter to rolling boil in saucepan. Stir in flour all at once. Stir vigorously over low heat until mixture leaves the pan and forms into a ball (about 1 minute). Remove from heat. Beat in the 4 egs, one at a time. Beat mixture until smooth and velvety. Drop from spoon onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake until dry. Allow to cool slowly. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes at 400 degrees F. Makes 8 large puffs.

The easiest way to make the custard filling is to follow the directions on a can of Bird's Custard Powder, if you can find it. (It's imported from England). If you can't find that, here is another recipe from 1961 for the filling.

Rich Custard Filling

1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 eggs (or 4 egg yolks)
2 tsp vanilla

Mix dry ingredients in saucepan. Stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring until it boils. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir a little over half of this mixture into 2 beaten eggs, or 4 egg yolks beaten. Blend into hot mixture in pan. Bring just to boiling point. Cook and add vanilla.

Cut cream puffs in half. Let custard cool before filling cream puffs.