Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2 dinners in 1 post! Hearty Corn Chowder ($1.34 per serving) and Nana's Quiche ($1.11 per serving)

I've been so swamped with holiday preparations that I forgot to post! The chowder was last night's dinner and the quiche was tonight...

Fast and Hearty Corn Chowder ~ $1.34 per serving, $5.35 total
2 tbsp. butter ($0.15)
1 medium onion, chopped ($0.35)
2 tbsp. flour
1 can corn, drained ($0.65)
2 medium potatoes, chopped ($1.00)
4 cups milk ($1.20)
8 oz. deli ham, chopped ($2.00)
white pepper

1. Melt butter in soup pot. Saute onions until slightly colored but not brown. Add flour and make roux. Stir constantly till bubbly.
2. Add corn, potatoes, and milk. Simmer until thickened.
3. Stir in ham and spices to taste. Continue to simmer until heated through.
Makes 4-5 servings

The Verdict
Everyone enjoyed this soup. It was VERY filling. We all needed to add more salt and pepper, so you can be a bit heavy-handed with the spices, the milk soaks a lot of it up. This was SUPER fast and easy!

Nana's Quiche ~ $1.11 per serving
, $6.85 total
1 Pre-made frozen pie shell ($1.80)
8 oz. deli ham, chopped ($2.00)
1 cup shredded cheese ($1.80)
3 eggs ($0.75)
1 cup heavy cream ($0.50)
2-3 Tablespoons grated cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Bake pie shell for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
3. Place ham in the bottom of the browned pie shell.
4. Top with grated parmesan cheese, then shredded cheese.
5. Blend slightly eggs, cream, salt and pepper and pour over cheeses.
6. Bake 45 min. to 1 hour. Should be golden brown.
7. Let the quiche sit for nearly an hour before serving for best results (and easier slicing.)
Makes 6 servings

The Verdict
My stepmom makes this, Josh calls her Nana. You can replace the ham with bacon, artichokes, or mushrooms. Play with the cheeses and spices. Ham works best with cheddar, artichokes with italian blend, and bacon with swiss. This is one of the only ways I will eat eggs!!!! Serve with a green salad for dinner, or with hash browns and fruit for brunch.

Monday, December 15, 2008

$0.77 per serving ~ Vegetarian Chili

The crockpot saved my life again! I knew today would be crazy because it was Jim's first day at his new job. I didn't expect to be sick too! So Jim and Josh got a yummy hot meal and I got to go to bed as soon as I got home.

Vegetarian Chili ~$0.77 per serving
1 medium onion, chopped ($0.35)
1 small green bell pepper, chopped ($0.35)
3 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes with mild green chiles, undrained ($3.00)
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed ($0.75)
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed ($0.75)
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 package vegetable protein crumbles ($2.50)

1. Dump all ingredients except protein crumbles into crockpot. Stir well. Cook on low 8 hours.
2. Stir in protein crumbles and cook another 30 minutes. Serve.
Makes 10 servings

The Verdict
I served this to my friends J&W a while back. W is an unrepentant carnivore, so I didn't tell him it wasn't ground beef. When I told him after his first bite, he was stunned... and then asked for seconds. And thirds! This is a mainstay on my meal planning rotation.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

$0.69 per serving ~ Quick & Dirty Spaghetti Sauce

I've been a bad Puttanesca! Things have been so crazy preparing for the holidays that I've been making only things I've already posted, eating leftovers, or having pancake nights for the family. When both parents are music teachers, holiday frenzy takes on a whole new meaning as we are both preparing and performing numerous concerts and working on our music for our church.

SO to make up for my absence, here is my "quick and dirty spaghetti sauce". (To my long-standing friends, this is NOT my traditional sauce that takes hours to make. I have shared that recipe with only 2 people who aren't blood relatives, and I will continue to keep that one secret.) I made this last night while finishing up all my yummies for my holiday baskets.

Quick & Dirty Spaghetti Sauce~ $0.69 per serving
1 lb. spaghetti ($1.00)
1 lb. ground meatball mix (beef, pork, and veal) ($1.50)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped ($0.35)
4 tbsp. minced garlic
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded ($0.10)
1 small zucchini, peeled and shredded ($0.15)
2 28 oz. cans tomato puree or crushed tomatoes ($2.00)
1 small can tomato paste ($0.40)
Salt and pepper

1. Saute vegetables and garlic in olive oil until soft.
2. Add ground meat and brown until cooked through.
3. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, spices to taste. Saute 20 minutes.
4. Serve over cooked spaghetti.
Makes 8 servings

The Verdict
Jim loves this almost as much as my traditional meat sauce. So does Josh. And even though I'm blessed to have a kid that eats his veggies, if you shred them fine enough they disappear into the spaghetti, so it would slip by a picky eater! Serve it with good bread to sop up the leftover sauce! I prefer to use thin spaghetti or angel hair because it really grows in the pot... you get far more servings out of thinner pastas. Grandma's secret!

Monday, December 8, 2008

$0.90 per serving ~ Creamy Beef & Potato Stew

I am so glad I put food in the crockpot last night... I have a wicked cold and we would have been eating microwave pizzas tonight if I hadn't!

Creamy Beef & Potato Stew ~ $0.90 per serving
1 lb. ground beef ($2.00)
1 16 oz. package frozen cut green beans ($1.00)
1 pkg. dry au gratin potato mix ($0.75)
1 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 cups water
1.5 cup half and half ($0.75)
Grated cheese to taste

1. Crumble ground beef into crock pot. Cook on high for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until meat is completely cooked. Drain and return beef to crockpot.
2. Add green beans, potatoes and sauce mix, and spices. Stir and pour water over mix. Cook on low 7-8 hours.
3. Stir half and half into meat mixture. Cook about 30 minutes or until completely heated. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with grated cheese.
Makes 5 servings.

The Verdict
I didn't like this much, I thought it was kind of bland. Jim and Josh really enjoyed it though. I think I need to add more cheese. Cheese makes everything better!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

One Month of Menu Planning...

This is my attempt to plan out dinners so that nothing other than dairy and produce is purchased during the month of December....

12/7 - Dogs, Beans & Cornbread
12/8 - Beef & Potato Stew
12/9 - Mac n' Cheese Soup with Ham
12/10 - Vegetarian Chili
12/11 - Nana's Quiche
12/12 - Stromboli
12/13 - Dave's birthday, no dinner at home
12/14 - Creamy Wild Rice Soup
12/15 - Ham & Cheese Pie
12/16 - Kielbasa and sides
12/17 - Leftovers
12/18 - Tuna Macaroni & Cheese
12/19 - Corn Chowder
12/20 - Leftovers again
12/21 - Cheesy Sausage and Penne
12/22 - Beef & Cheddar PotPie
12/23 - Pancakes
12/24 - Christmas Eve Dinner
12/25 - Christmas Day Dinner
12/26 -Leftovers and refrigerator clean out before vacation!

I had my sister and my good friends J&W over to celebrate my birthday... I made a big pot of my IN-famous vodka sauce and two pounds of rotini. J&W brought munchy appetizers, my sister and her date brought lots of booze and some really good bread. I wound up getting a cake from Friendly's instead of ColdStone, but it was all worth it. AND there are leftovers for lunch this week!!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

FREE - Leftovers tonight!

Tonight is more leftovers... Turkey Soup and the rest of last night's biscuits! Tomorrow is my birthday... I'm thinking leftover Fettucine Alfredo and I may stop at Cold Stone Creamery for something indulgent....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Leftovers tonight...

The last of the Turkey Chili with Garlic and Cheese Biscuits.

I really love GOOD leftovers! We still have Turkey Soup, Fettucine Alfredo, and Sausage Cheese Dip in the refrigerator... I can't decide which to have tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

$0.75 per serving ~ Fettucine Alfredo

This is one of my all-time favorites. I haven't made it in a long time...

Fettucine Alfredo ~ $0.75 per serving
1 box whole grain fettucine ($1.00)
1 stick butter ($0.50)
2 cups heavy cream ($1.00)
2 cups grated cheese ($2.00)
white pepper

1. Cook fettucine according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.
2. Melt butter on stove. Blend in cream and cook until hot. Add cheese and stir until completely melted and well blended. Remove from heat and stir in spices to taste. Toss with pasta.
Makes 6 servings

The Verdict
I am amazed at how much less expensive the Market Pantry brand heavy cream at Target is, compared to the grocery store! You can replace the heavy cream with light cream, half and half, or even whole milk! Whole milk would need to cook a bit longer to thicken up. However, do NOT skimp on your grated cheese for this sauce. Use REAL parmesan or romano (I prefer romano), not the stuff in the green canister. Your tastebuds will thank you! (And the Rossano brand romano cheese at BJs in the HUGE bag? As good as the expensive hunks of cheese at the specialty store.) Thanks to Target and BJs, I can enjoy this more often.

You can add peas and ham for a heartier dish, just add frozen peas a few minutes before the pasta is finished cooking and drain them together, and add diced ham to the sauce when heating it through. ALWAYS serve with bread :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

$0.25 per serving ~ Leftover Turkey Soup

This is a day and a half process... I did the first step all day Sunday and the rest overnight.

Leftover Turkey Soup ~ $0.25 per serving
Turkey Carcass (free!)
8 cups water
Salt and pepper
4 stalks celery, chopped ($1.00)
1.5 cups carrots, chopped ($1.00)
1 medium onion, chopped ($0.30)
1/2 cup uncooked rice ($0.20)
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
ground cloves

1. Place carcass in crockpot and pour water over it to cover. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low 8-10 hours.
2. Drain broth into bowl. Return broth to crockpot. Pick meat from carcass and add to broth. Add chopped vegetables, rice, and spices (to taste) to broth. Cook on low 6-8 hours.
Makes 10 servings

The Verdict
Just like Grandma makes. Serve with crusty bread to sop up all the broth!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

$0.38 per serving ~ Leftover Turkey Chili

Day 1 of interesting ways to cook Thanksgiving leftovers...

Turkey Chili ~ $0.38 per serving
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped ($0.25)
1 large bell pepper, chopped (free, leftover from veggie tray)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes ($1.00)
4 cups cooked turkey, diced (free)
2 cups chicken broth ($1.00)
1.5 cups whole kernel corn, drained (free from leftovers)
1 tbsp. cumin
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 bay leaf
coarse salt
shredded cheese (optional)

1. Saute onion, pepper, and bay leaf in olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes, turkey, broth, and corn.
2. Stir in spices and add salt to taste. Cook until flavors are well blended, about 15-20 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Serve topped with shredded cheese if desired.
Makes 6 servings

The Verdict
I've been making this for years. We always love it! You can use 1 can of corn if you don't have any leftover... I served it with dinner rolls we had left over as well. Today I cooked the turkey carcass in water in the crock pot all day as a start to tomorrow's turkey soup. Since we were at my aunt's for the holiday and my sister's for two days after, I don't have as many leftovers as I usually do. No sweet potato muffins this year. Maybe after Christmas!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More leftovers and a sneak preview...

Josh is sick for the 3rd day. We may have to do an impromptu at home Thanksgiving... we were planning to go see family but that won't happen if he wakes and his fever isn't gone!

Upcoming on Friday... my favorite uses for Thanksgiving leftovers :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


We bought a Papa John's pizza this past weekend, and I had a "free with purchase" code from Facebook, so tonight we are eating a FREE pizza from PJs.

Monday, November 24, 2008

$2.04 per serving ~ Buffalo Wing Soup and Mashed Potato Pie

Buffalo Wing Soup ~ $1.60 per serving
Adapted from "A Year Of Crockpotting"
2 cups cooked and cubed chicken ($2.00)
2 tbsp minced onion
3 stalks celery, chopped ($0.25)
1/4 cup unsalted butter ($0.25)
1/4 cup flour ($0.10)
2 cups milk, no higher content than 2% ($0.75)
3/4 cup chicken broth ($1.25)
4 oz Velveeta ($1.40)
1/2 cup hot wing sauce ($0.40)

1. Make a roux with the flour and butter.
2. Chop up the onion and celery, and dump it into your crockpot. Add the cooked and cubed chicken. Pour in the chicken broth and milk. Add Velveeta.

3. Stir in the flour and butter mixture. Add hot sauce.
4. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4. The soup is done when the celery and onion reach desired tenderness and the flavors have melded.
Makes 4 servings

Mashed Potato Pie ~ $0.44 per serving
3 cups mashed potatoes (free, leftovers!)
1 cup shredded mozzarella ($1.50)
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs ($0.25)
Grated cheese to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cheese and breadcrumbs into mashed potatoes.
2. Spread mixture in 8 inch pie plate. Top with grated cheese and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs.
3. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
Makes 4 servings

The Verdict
The soup was delicious, we each added a splash of ranch dressing. Mashed potato pie is a great way to use leftover mashed potatoes... add MORE cheese if you want it super gooey!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

$1.08 per serving ~ Chicken and Biscuits

It was a crazy weekend. I'm having a tough time adjusting back to the life of a working mom. Good thing we had a lot of leftovers in the house for Friday and Saturday!

Chicken and Biscuits ~ $1.08 per serving
1 16 oz. package frozen mixed vegetables ($1.00)
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed ($2.00)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted ($0.70)
3/4 cup milk ($0.25)
1 cup shredded cheese ($1.50)

1.5 cups baking mix ($0.60)
2/3 cup milk ($0.20)

1/2 cup shredded cheese ($0.75)
1/2 cup french fried onions ($0.50)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together all ingredients for filling and spread into a 13 X 9 baking dish. Cover and bake 15 minutes.
2. Combine baking mix and milk in another bowl. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto chicken mixture. Bake, uncovered for 25 minute or until biscuits are golden brown.
3. Top with cheese and onions. Bake 3-4 minutes longer or until cheese melts.
Makes 6 servings

The Verdict
We all really enjoyed this one. The chicken was already cooked (I defrosted and grilled 6chicken breasts on Friday so I would have some on hand for recipes I wanted to make this week) so it was super fast and easy. This makes 6 VERY large servings, so if you served it with a big salad, it would probably feed 8! It was a surprisingly elegant presentation... I could make this for company!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

$0.89 per serving ~ Ham & Cheese Over Cornbread

Another attempt at something that would either be wonderful or awful.

Ham & Cheese over Cornbread
1 box cornbread mix ($0.40)
1 egg ($0.15)
1/3 cup milk ($0.10)
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp ground mustard
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp white pepper
1.5 cups milk ($0.50)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese ($1.50)
12 oz. fully cooked ham, cubed ($2.50)

1. Prepare and bake cornbread with egg and milk according to package directions.
2. Melt butter in saucepan and whisk in flour and spices. Add milk, stirring constantly until well blended. Bring to boil and Stir 2 minutes.
3. Add cheese and stir till melted. Add ham and stir until heated through.
4. Slice cornbread. Pour ham mixture over cornbread to serve.
Makes 6 servings

The Verdict
This was pure comfort food. Next time I will use my Spanish smoked paprika in it... I think it will give it a delicious smoky flavor.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

$1.66 per serving ~ Hawaiian Sloppy Joes with Pineapple and Glazed Carrots

Back at the end of maternity leave, I watched a show and saw a recipe by R-ch--l R-y (letters omitted in case she really is as much of a draconian control freak as the tabloids say.) I loved the idea of Hawaiian-style sloppy joes, but the way she put it together seemed icky. So I made up my own version!

Hawaiian Sloppy Joes ~ $1.31 per serving
1 lb. ground beef ($2.00)
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped ($1.25)
1 can Manwich sloppy joe sauce ($0.50)
1 can chunk pineapple ($0.50)
4 or 5 kaiser rolls, split and toasted ($1.00)

1. Brown beef on stove in large skillet. Drain. Add chopped bacon and sloppy joe sauce, heat over low heat.
2. Drain pineapple, reserving 1/2 cup of juice. Chop 1/2 cup of pineapple, set rest aside. Add chopped pineapple and reserved juice. Stir until well mixed and heat through.
3. Serve on buns.
Makes 4-5 servings, depending on the size of the rolls.

The Verdict
This was really good and a nice change of pace! If you don't want to use the canned sauce, you can make your own by mixing equal parts canned tomato sauce and red wine vinegar, then adding brown sugar and Worchestershire sauce to taste. I served it with frozen honey glazed carrots ($1.00 a box) and the rest of the pineapple on the side.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Leftovers and a brief break from the blog

We're eating leftovers today.

Tomorrow is my first day back to work since June 6. I won't be blogging, since we'll be eating leftovers and I'll be exhausted. Back on Tuesday! Have a great weekend! And GO GIANTS!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

$0.66 per serving ~ Veggies and Kielbasa with Rotini

Veggies and Kielbasa with Rotini ~ $0.66 per serving
1 box uncooked rotini ($1.00)
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces (free, from party leftovers)
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges ($0.30)
2 cups snow peas or sugar snap peas (free, from party leftovers)
1 lb. turkey kielbasa, sliced ($2.00)
1 cup milk ($0.30)
16 oz. processed cheese, cubed ($1.65)

1. Cook penne as directed on package. Drain, cover, and keep warm.
2. Saute vegetables 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain if necessary.
3. Add kielbasa, milk, and cheese. Simmer over low until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth, stirring constantly.
4. Add cooked rotini. Stir gently to coat. Cook a few more minutes until heated through.
Makes 8 servings

The Verdict
I usually use a box of frozen sugar snap peas, but the fresh works just as well. This is my mother-in-law's favorite dinner. I had a ton of leftovers, which is good, as I am going back to work on Monday and we could use all the leftovers as lunches that are easy to transport, heat and enjoy.

Friday, November 14, 2008

$0.88 per serving ~ Turkey Burger Pie with Salad and Green Beans

This one was quick and easy.

Turkey Burger Pie ~ $0.63 per serving
1 lb. ground turkey ($1.00)
1 small onion, chopped ($0.25)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese ($1.50)
2 eggs ($0.50)
1 cup milk ($0.30)
1/2 cup baking mix ($0.20)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook turkey and onion in skillet over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain and transfer to 9 inch pie plate coated with cooking spray.
2. Sprinkle cheese over meat mixture.
3. In a bowl, combine eggs, milk, and baking mix. Mix well and pour over cheese.
4. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
Makes 6 servings

The Verdict
This was filling and hearty. It wasn't amazing, but it sure went down quickly and there was no complaining! I served it with leftover salad (free) and frozen green beans ($0.25 per serving).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

$0.97 per serving ~ Creamy Wild Rice Soup and Garlic & Cheese Biscuits

It's been grey and rainy for nearly a week... it's time for SOUP!

Creamy Wild Rice Soup ~ $0.77 per serving
1 package quick-cooking long grain and wild rice ($1.00) ~ Rice a Roni
4 cups milk ($1.20)
1 can condensed cream of potato soup, undiluted ($0.70)
8 ounces easily melted cheese ($1.50) ~ American
1/2 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled ~ ($1.75)

1. In a large pot, prepare rice according to package direction, omitting any butter or oil.
2. Stir in milk, soup and cheese, mix well over low heat until cheese is melted.
3. Garnish with crumbled bacon.
Makes 8 servings

The Verdict
I served this with Garlic & Cheese Biscuits made with Colby Jack. The soup was DELICIOUS. A few changes... it is a bit salty so I think I would use a less-salty cheese and low sodium bacon in the future. I'd also change out some of the milk for half and half so that the broth would be a bit quicker. Jim was crazy about this one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

$0.80 per serving ~ Crockpot Lasagna

I haven't created a recipe out of my head for a while. So I decided to try my hand at something I've never done! I hear tell you can cook pasta in a crockpot, so why not try lasagna? I hate boiling the noodles and then trying to assemble the lasagna, so I gave it a whirl.

Crockpot Lasagna a la Trisha ~ $0.80 per serving
1 jar pre-made tomato sauce ($1.00)
1 lb. ground beef ($2.00)
1 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese ($2.50)
1 cup shredded mozzarella ($1.40)
8 lasagna noodles, broken in half ($0.50)

1. Brown ground beef on stovetop and drain. Mix cooked beef with ricotta cheese.
2. Pour enough sauce in to cover the bottom of a 6 qt. crockpot. Lay four noodle halves on the bottom. Layer 1/4 of the meat mixture onto noodles, top with a handful of cheese. Place 4 more noodle halves and pour sauce over it. Continue to layer until ingredients are gone, ending with noodles, sauce, and a sprinkling of cheese on top.
3. Cook on high for 5 hours. Turn off heat, uncover, and let stand for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 servings

The Verdict
Wow. Wow! WOW! This was amazing! Next time I will increase the sauce and the ricotta, as iti absorbed a TON of moisture, but it was really fantastic!!! Make sure that you place everything carefully that it does NOT touch the sides or you will have a sticky mess to clean up. But YUM!!! :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

$0.20 per serving ~ Leftover Rice Pudding

Jim's mom LOVES Chinese food. But she always has a ton of leftover brown rice and she gives it to us. Other than some of the rice dishes my mom used to make in the crock pot, this is one of my very favorite ways to use it up.

Leftover Rice Pudding ~ $0.20 per serving
2 cups rice, cooked (free!)
3 cups milk, any kind ($0.60)
1/4 cup white sugar ($0.05)
1/4 cup brown sugar ($0.05)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg, to taste
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raisins ($0.50)
1 tsp cinnamon, to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in saucepan.
2. Heat over medium high heat and stir often until milk and rice thicken, about 20 minutes.
3. Serve warm or chill, if desired.
Makes 6 servings

The Verdict
Jim and Josh both love rice pudding more than any other dessert, so I love to make this for them. You can use any type of milk or cream or a combination. Omit the raisins, substitute golden raisins, cranberries, or cherries. Use all white or all brown sugar. Change the proportions of spices if you want. (If you want to make an Indian-style pudding, subsitute honey for both sugars, chopped dates for the raisins, and use ginger and cardamom in addition to the nutmeg and cinnamon. )

$0.43 per serving ~ Trisha's IN-famousVodka Sauce

We're having Jim's dad and stepmom over today, and I really need to clean. Fortunately, I have a large container of vodka sauce in my freezer! There's plenty of pasta in the house and I've got Italian Herb bread in the breadmaker!

I call this my INfamous vodka sauce after the movie "The Three Amigos". "You know, IN-famous? That means more than famous!"

Trisha's IN-famous Vodka Sauce ~ $0.43 per serving not including pasta
1/2 cup of butter ($0.50)
1 large onion, chopped ($0.35)
1 cup of vodka ($1.50)
2 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes ($2.00)
1 quart of half and half, light cream, or heavy cream ($2.50)
Salt and pepper

1. Melt butter in large pot. Saute onion until translucent.
2. Add vodka, simmer for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add tomatoes, simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add cream, stir until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for at least 15 minutes. Serve over freshly cooked pasta.
Makes 16 servings

The Verdict
Everyone I know loves this sauce. It's flavorful and comforting, and great with garlic bread. I usually pour some of the freshly made sauce over a pound of pasta, then split the rest into 3 equal sized containers to freeze for future meals. This sauce can be frozen up to 6 months. I love only having to put the effort in on one day, and knowing there's three more super-fast meals in the freezer afterwards!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Leftovers today

We had kind of a crazy day, so it was nothing but leftovers. I am exhausted so just a preview of tomorrow's post...

"leftover" rice pudding


Trisha's INfamous Vodka Sauce!!!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

$0.53 per serving ~ Football Food! Sausage Cheese Dip

Another Sunday, another pot full of dip to enjoy...

Sausage Cheese Dip ~ $0.53 per serving
1 pound ground sausage, any type ($2.80)
1 2 pound loaf processed cheese, cubes ($3.80)
1 cup sour cream ($1.00)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained ($1.00)

1. Brown sausage evenly. Drain and set aside.
2. Melt cubed processed cheese over medium heat, stirring often.
3. Add browned sausage, sour cream, and diced tomatoes. Mix until well blended. Transfer to crock pot to keep warm.
4. Serve with pita chips, tortilla chips, or corn chips.
Makes 64 servings!!!!

The Verdict
We'll also have veggies and hummus so we're not eating nothing but garbage all day. This is some seriously tasty garbage, though! I use turkey sausage, lite sour cream, and the low-fat Velveeta just to take the edge off of how bad it is. I make no bones about the fact that this is BAD for you. That may be why we only have it once in a blue moon...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

$0.18 per serving ~ Monster Cookies on leftovers day!

We have so many leftovers in the fridge I think we will eat leftovers all weekend!

Breakfast ~ $0.35
Eggo waffles ($0.15)
Grapes ($0.20)

Lunch ~ FREE
Leftover Cheesy Sausage & Penne

Dinner ~ FREE
Leftover Healthier Carbonara

Monster Cookies ~$0.18 per serving
1 cup shortening, softened ($0.50)
2 cups white sugar ($0.25)
2 cups packed brown sugar ($0.25)
3 cups peanut butter ($1.00)
6 eggs ($1.50)
1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 teaspoons baking soda
9 cups rolled oats ($1.00)
6 oz candy-coated milk chocolate pieces ($1.00)
6 oz pound semisweet chocolate chips ($1.00)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, white sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the eggs, two at a time, then stir in the corn syrup and vanilla. Mix in baking soda and oats until well blended. Stir in the chocolate candies and chocolate chips. Roll dough into 2 inch balls, and place 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes, before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
Makes 72 cookies.

The Verdict
These are some of my very favorite "comfort on a cold day" cookies. Perfect with a glass of milk and the recipe makes a TON! You can freeze extras and zap them in the microwave for 10 seconds later on. The cookies are HUGE, and two make up one serving.

Friday, November 7, 2008

$0.61 per serving ~ Sweet and Spicy Lentil Stew with Cornbread

This recipe looked too good not to try!

Sweet and Spicy Lentil Stew ~ $0.41 per serving
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped ($0.35)
1 small bell pepper, chopped (free, leftovers from the party!)
2 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. chili powder, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups dried lentils ($1.15)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes ($1.00)
1/3 cup dark unsulphured molasses ($0.50)
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tbsp. ground ginger
Salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper if desired
2 cups water
1 cup apple juice ($0.25)

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic, saute until softened. Stir in chili powder and cook another minute.
2. Transfer the mixture to a large slow cooker. Add lentils, tomatoes, molasses, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper, and cayenne if desired. Stir in water and apple juice. Cverand cook on low for 8 hours. Add more water is stew is too thick.
Makes 8 servings.

The Verdict
I served this with cornbread... we love cornbread here! (The mix I use costs about $0.90 fully prepared and makes 9 servings.) It was good, but I left out the cayenne because I was afraid it would be too spicy. That was a mistake! It was all sweet! I will definitely add cayenne or hot sauce to the leftovers when I eat them. This is nice for a change of pace but won't be a new "staple" meal for us.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

$0.65 per serving ~ Healthier Carbonara

Sorry this post is late, we had some craziness last night and I didn't get to finish my update. Carbonara is one of my favorite dishes, and SOOOO bad for you, so I came up with a good healthy version!

Healthier Carbonara ~ $0.65 per serving
1 12 oz. package of whole grain fettucine ($1.75)
1 cup frozen green peas ($0.50)
4 slices center cut bacon ($0.85)
1 small onion, chopped ($0.30)
3 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. thyme
3/4 cup fat free half and half ($0.50)
3/4 cup grated cheese ($1.00)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Three minutes before pasta is supposed to be done, add peas to the pot. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.
2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in large skillet until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Discard all but 2 tbsp. of bacon drippings. Add onion to pan and saute until soft. Add garlic and thyme and cook another minute.
3. Stir in pasta and peas, reserved cooking liquid, and half and half. Cook until warmed through. Add cheese and crumbled bacon. Stir and serve.
Makes 6 servings.

The Verdict
Wow! I will never order carbonara again... this is so EASY! Serve with crusty bread and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

$0.87 per serving ~ Dogs, Beans n' Cornbread

This is a family favorite, and on a miserably cold & dreary day this felt like comfort food. Strictly speaking this isn't the healthiest meal, but it is wonderfully flavorful and fun.

Dogs, Beans n' Cornbread ~ $0.87 per serving
1 28 oz. can baked beans ($1.67)
1 package hot dogs, halved lengthwise and sliced ($2.00)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. spicy brown mustard
1 package corn bread mix ($0.50)
1 egg ($0.25)
1/3 cup milk ($0.10)
4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese ($0.70)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl and transfer to a greased baking dish.
2. Prepare cornbread mix according to package direction (Jiffy brand uses the egg and milk.) Stir in cheese. Drop by spoonfuls onto bean mixture.
3. Bake uncovered at 350 for 45 minutes.
Makes 6 servings.

The Verdict
Yum. And I served it with the leftover green beans from yesterday so we would have a little something healthy with all this evil...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

$2.25 per serving ~ An All-American Dinner

In honor of election day, we went all-American!

Hamburgers (Burgers $4.00, day old rolls $1.00)
Baked Beans ($1.25)
Green Beans ($0.75)

Baked Basil Fries ~ $0.50 per serving
1/2 cup grated cheese ($1.00)
2 tbsp. olive oil
dried basil
garlic powder
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes ($1.00)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine cheese, oil, basil, and garlic powder in a bowl.
2. Cut potatoes ontp 1/4 inch sticks. Add to cheese mixture, toss to coat. PLace in a large baking pan coated with cooking spray.
3. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn potatoes, bake 15-20 minutes longer.

The Verdict
Quick, easy, delicious, and pretty healthy. Always a crowd pleaser, and Jim has leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Monday, November 3, 2008

$0.90 per serving ~ Cheesy Sausage and Penne

Julia had a very rough day... I needed comfort food.

Cheesy Sausage and Penne ~ $0.90 per serving
1 box whole wheat penne ($1.00)
1/4 cup butter ($0.25)
1/3 cup flour ($0.05)
Italian seasonings
garlic powder
3 cups milk ($0.60)
2 cups shredded Italian-style cheese ($2.80)
1/2 cup grated cheese ($0.50)
16 oz. smoked turkey sausage, sliced ($2.00)
3 cups steamed broccoli florets (free ~ leftover from Saturday's party!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook and drain pasta according to package directions. Steam broccoli.
2. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasonings to taste. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in milk. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute, then remove from heat. Stir in Italian cheese and 1/4 cup grated cheese until melted.
3. Gently stir pasta, sausage, and broccoli into cheese sauce. Pour into large backing dish. Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese and extra pepper ifdesired. Bake uncovered 30 minutes.
Makes 8 servings

The Verdict
I played with this recipe tonight... I've made it before, but without the veggies added into the baking dish. That was an experiment. I also didn't want to open another bag of shredded cheese, so I used half Italian cheese and half cheddar jack. It came out GREAT!!!! I will try this again with different vegetables, but this was a big hit. This works with any kind of pre-cooked sausage. I've made it with kielbasa as well as beef smoked sausage... so far, there are no bad choices!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

$0.30 per serving ~ Butterscotch Pumpkin Cupcakes

We're heading off to my sister's house today to celebrate my nephew's birthday. No cooking for me, but I baked these yesterday and they were a BIG hit!

Butterscotch Pumpkin Cupcakes ~ $0.30 per serving
1 and 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour ($0.05)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs, lightly beaten ($0.50)
1 cup canned pumpkin puree ($0.90)
1/2 cup canola oil ($0.15)
1/2 cup honey ($0.35)
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional) ($0.40)
1 cup butterscotch chips ($1.00)

4 oz. cream cheese, softened ($0.50)
2 tbsp. butter, softened ($0.15)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar ($0.50)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients. Combine the eggs, pumpkin, oil, honey, and water in a separate bowl, miz well. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture just until combined. Fold in nuts and chips.
2. Fill foil muffin cups 3/4ths full. Bake 20-25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completel.
3. For frostin: beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes.
Makes 15 servings.

The Verdict
These were amazing. If I hadn't given the leftovers to my pregnant friend who loved them so much, we'd be eating them for breakfast :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pot Luck Open House! ~ $0.10 per serving ~ Super Rich Chocolate Cupcakes

I had my yearly Autumn/Halloween party today. Since we're at the end of our savings for my maternity leave I decided to make it a potluck, and WOW was that a good idea! J&W brought this amazing pork and cabbage crockpot, L&B brought fantastic veggies and dip, Mr. G. brought yummy tomato, garlic and rosemary bread, and M&D brought an apple pie from Linvilla... I was very motivated so I made the Autumn Sausage Casserole again as well as some desserts. Here is one of the lovely cupcakes...

Super Rich Chocolate Cupcakes ~ $0.10 per serving
(These are 1 point for those doing WW!!!)
1 box devil's food cake mix ($1.00)
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree ($1.25)
2 tbsp water
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips ($0.50)

Stir all ingredients together until well blended. Spoon into 18 cupcake cups and bake according to package directions. Makes 18 servings.

The Verdict
There are only 2 left. I topped these with a dollop of cream cheese icing, but if you are on WW and want to keep this to 1 point, top with a dollop of sugar-free Cool Whip!

Friday, October 31, 2008

FREE - Leftovers tonight, and homemade pita chips!

I have to be honest, I had planned a nice creamy wild rice soup for tonight... but then I looked in the fridge. I can't cook! We still have Pasta e Fagioli, Indian Lentil Soup, and Tuna Mac n'Cheese! Plus we're having a Halloween pot luck tomorrow, so we'll have MORE leftovers... at least it's a cheap weekend after dinner out last night! I think I'll throw some bread in the bread maker.

Here's something to add to the healthy snacks list:

Homemade Pita Chips
1 package whole wheat pitas (I buy them day-old at my bakery, it's usually $1.00 a package!)
Spices of your choice
Olive Oil in a spray atomizer

Cut pita into small pieces and spread out on baking tray. Spritz with oil, then sprinkle with spices. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until browned. Use with the healthy dips I posted earlier! Some favorite spice combinations - garlic and grated cheese, oregano and a pinch of cayenne pepper, chinese five spice, sea salt and cracked black pepper, or even cinnamon sugar!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Healthy and Cheap Snacks

These are hard to break down for servings, so I'll just give a cost for the entire recipe.

Hummus, Josh-style ~ $1.75
2 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
2 15 oz cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed ($1.00)
1 packet ranch dressing mix ($0.75)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch salt

Puree all ingredients together in blender or food processor. Chill in refrigerator at least 1 hour. Serve with pita and/or cut veggies.

Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip ~ $1.50
1 cup peanut butter ($1.25)
1/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt ($0.25)

Warm peanut butter gently in microwave for 10-20 seconds, just until slightly softened. Stir in yogurt until completely blended. Serve with cut veggies or fruits.

Better than French Onion Dip ~ $1.50
1/2 cup plain unsweetened yogurt ($0.50)
1/4 cup ricotta cheese ($0.50)
1 packet French Onion Soup Mix ($0.50)

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Dip veggies or chips!

Guiltless Bacon Cheese Munchies ~ $2.93
1 small celery heart, cut into 2 inch pieces ($1.50)
Lite cheddar cheese spread ($2.75 per tub, use about 1/4 of it for a cost of $0.68)
Bac-Os Bacon Chips ($3.00 per package, use about 1/4 of it for a cost of $0.75)

Warm cheese in microwave about 20 seconds. Spread cheese into hollow of celery, sprinkle with bacon bits. YUM! The Bac-Os bits are actually soy, but they taste so good!

Each of these recipes makes more than enough for 2 adults and a toddler, so the cost spreads out over a few different snack times!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

$0.95 per serving ~ Tuna Mac n'Cheese Casserole served with Carrots, Snap Peas, Black Beans and Edamame

I may be the only person who LOVED tuna noodle casserole growing up. My mom made it every few weeks and everyone in the house complained about it but me. When I was in college they created "easy mac" and mini cans of tuna... I lived on that in grad school. I realized we have a ton of mac n cheese boxes and cans of tuna. So here I went, trying to make a version that wouldn't be quite so "starving artist" but still economical.

Tuna Mac n' Cheese Casserole ~ $0.70 per serving

1 package macaroni and cheese ($0.80)
prepared with 1/4 cup milk ($0.05)
and 4 tbsp. butter ($0.25)
1 can condensed cream soup, undiluted ($0.50)
1/2 cup milk ($0.10)
1/2 cup shredded cheese ($0.70)
1/4 cup bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare macaroni and cheese according to package directions.
2. Stir in soup (I used cream of celery), tuna, and milk. Pour into greased baking dish.
3. Sprinkle with cheese (I used colby jack), bread crumbs (I used panko), and parsley.
4. Bake uncovered at 350 for 20 minutes.
Makes 6 servings.

The Verdict
Jim has an unnatural hatred of anything containing both cheese and tuna, so I considered it a victory when he pronounced this dinner "OK". He ate seconds! Josh absolutely loved it, which is awesome. Now I can toss tuna into his mac and cheese anytime I make it. I think next time I will add some pureed butternut or acorn squash to make the dish more nutritious. I served it with our favorite frozen boxed veggie - Green Giant's "Healthy Weight" blend, which is sugar snap peas, carrots, black beans and shelled edamame in a light butter sauce. YUM! And if you clip coupons and shop sales, they can be really cheap!

Coming Tomorrow...
We will be taking Josh and Julia up to the mall for trick or treating, which means dinner out... but fear not, faithful readers! Inspired by the lovely Tami, I will be posting some of Josh's favorite healthy snacks... which are also mine! My peanut butter yogurt dip will be posted, along with some others!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

$0.49 per serving ~ Indian Coconut Curried Lentil Soup

Cold and rainy today... and I'm still congested, so a nice, spicy soup is on the menu! I want to thank Karen for the tip about Target... I went to one yesterday and they have the cheapest canned beans and spices of anywhere I've gone! Yay!

Indian Coconut Curried Lentil Soup ~ $0.49 per serving
1 15oz. can garbanzo beans ($0.55)
1 cup dried lentils ($0.75)
1 can corn ($0.45)
1 can lite coconut milk ($1.25)
1 cup frozen shelled edamame ($1.00)
1 cup broth of your choice ($1.50)
1 small onion sliced thinly ($0.35)
1 tbsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. five spice powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients in crockpot. Cook on low for 6 hours. Makes 12 servings.

The Verdict
It was thicker than soup, so I stirred in more broth just before serving. Josh LOVED it! Jim pronounced it "fine" which is big because he really doesn't like curry to begin with. It was not too spicy, and just right for a cold and rainy day.

Edited to add: when packing up leftovers, I discovered that this makes MUCH more soup than I'd anticipated! 12 SERVINGS!!!! And thank goodness I set up the crockpot, we had a power outage fron 6 pm to midnight!!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

$0.75 per serving ~ Picadillo Bean Burritos

Mmm, the second meal from that crockpot recipe...

Picadillo Bean Burritos ~ $1.06 per serving
2 cups bean picadillo, warmed on stove (from Saturday's recipe) ($2.24 from Sun.)
4 burrito-sized tortillas ($1.50)
1/2 cup shredded colby jack cheese ($0.50)
4 tbsp. sour cream

Lay out tortillas. Layer cheese, warmed picadillo, and sour cream, then roll up.

The Verdict
I overfilled the burritos, so they fell apart and we had to eat them with a fork. Still good, though. I served them with frozen veggies - baby carrots, broccoli and cauliflower ($1.00). yum!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

$0.93 per serving ~ Football Food! Buffalo Chicken Dip

We are football fanatics in this house... we love the NY Giants but if there's pro football on, we're watching it no matter who is playing! So Sundays tend to be "junk food days" where we eat munchies instead of real meals. Not a bad thing, though... We may be visiting friends, or having friends visit, in which case I'll double the recipe..

Breakfast ~ $0.95 per person
Bagels with peanut butter
Sliced apples and grapes

All Day Munchies!
Chips and Salsa
Celery and carrots with peanut butter/yogurt dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip ~ $0.93 per serving

2 10 oz. cans of chunk chicken, drained ($4.00)
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened ($2.00)
1 cup Ranch dressing ($1.00)
1 cup hot sauce ($0.75)
1 cup cheddar cheese ($1.50)

Heat chicken and hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat, until heated through. Stir in cream cheese and ranch dressing. Cook, stirring until well blended and warm. Mix in half of the shredded cheese, and transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, cover, and cook on Low setting until hot and bubbly. Serve with celery sticks and crackers. Makes 10 1/2 cup servings.

The Verdict
This is my husband's favorite munchie food. And I actually will eat the leftovers on a roll, cold, as a weird buffalo chicken sandwich. I'll have to make Josh something different for dinner, but that will probably be a PB&J or grilled cheese sandwich. I love football season! :)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

$1.01 per serving ~ Bean Picadillo with Rice Pilaf and Corn Bread ~ Three meals in one!

It's the weekend, and I am sick as a dog! Thank goodness Jim cooked breakfast...

$0.30 per serving ~ Stuffed French Toast

4 slices of bread, halved with crusts cut off ($0.40)
4 tbsp ricotta cheese ($0.25)
2 tbsp jam of your choice ($0.15)
1 egg ($0.25)
1/2 cup milk ($0.15)
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Spread 4 bread halves with ricotta and the other 4 with jam. Make into sandwiches.
2. Combine egg and milk to make egg wash. Dip sandwiches in egg wash and cook on griddle.
Makes 4 servings

Grilled Cheese sandwiches served with carrots and ranch dressing

Bean Picadillo ~ $0.56 per serving

2 14.5 oz cans pinto, black, or great northern beans ($2.00)
1/2 red onion, chopped ($0.35)
1 cup raisins ($1.00)
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. minced garlic
2 medium apples, peeled and finely chopped ($0.85)
2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained ($2.00)
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted ($0.50)

1. Mix all ingredients except almonds in a large crockpot.
2. Cook on low 4 hours or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
3. Remove 2 cups (4 servings) into a separate container (I did this twice.) Can be refrigerated up to 4 days or frozen up to 4 months.
4. Stir almonds into remaining mixture and serve.
Makes 12 servings!!!

The Verdict
This recipe is usually made with ground beef (I got it from my girlfriend Jenny R a few years back and we LOVE it). But I couldn't be bothered defrosting the beef, and I had thebeans, so I figured, what the heck? I love this big gigantic recipe... we're having the picadillo in burritos on Monday, and I froze the second container to enjoy later in the month.

It was spicier than I expected, so we stirred in some sour cream and WHOA was it good! Jim's mom loved it, and so did Josh. I served it over rice pilaf (I only buy boxed rices on 10 for $10 sales) and found a Tex-Mex cornbread "beer bread" mix in the closet to go with it. Yum! Definitely making burritos with it Monday... adding cheese, wrapping it in tortillas, and dipping it in sour cream. It's going to be awesome :)

Friday, October 24, 2008

FREE - leftovers and planning for the weekend, and dessert disaster take two

We have a LOT of leftovers today... in fact, I'm eating almost nothing but leftovers today!

Breakfast ~ $0.45
Leftover pancakes from Monday... you can freeze pancakes!
1 Yoplait yogurt

Leftover minestrone soup and garlic bread

Dinner ~ $0.10
Leftover turkey disaster pie and fresh bread from my breadmaker. I caught the mixes on clearance at 10 for a $1 back at the beginning of the summer at the dollar store!

In hopes that I can get things done before going back to work, I started my Christmas cookie baking yesterday! Josh helped me and our ginger snaps and snickerdoodles came out great. But somehow, even following Mom's 30-plus year old recipe to the letter, the chocolate chip cookies came out all deflated and mushy. Josh looked at them and said "We can put ice cream on them, Mommy!" He's so my kid. Of course, my buddy Amy came over with a tub of homemade marshmallow frosting for us to enjoy... so instead of ice cream, we had marshmallow sandwiches. Yum!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

$1.19 ~ Stromboli served with Dipping Sauce and Broccoli, plus Donuts for a Dollar!

I need an easy dinner tonight, I'm feeling under the weather. For me, pizza and the like are comfort foods... and I have everything on hand for this!

Stromboli ~ $0.84 per serving
1 lb. pizza dough ($1.00 - I get it from my local pizza place!)
2 cups shredded Italian-style cheese ($2.80)
1/4 pound capicola ($1.25)
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
Grated Cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. With floured hands and surface, Stretch pizza dough out to a 9X13' rectangle.
3. Layer half the cheese, the capicola, and the rest of the cheese, leaving 1 inch around edges.
4. Roll up carefully, sealing long edge and tucking short edges under.
5. Place seam side down on cookie sheet. Brush top with oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and grated cheese.
6. Bake 20 minutes at 400. Let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Makes 6 servings

The Verdict
I've made this for years, and I know the whole family loves it. I always serve it with broccoli drizzled with olive oil and garlic powder ($0.25 per serving) and a side of tomato sauce for dipping. ($0.10 per serving.) This is a favorite, and a good "go to" meal when things are hectic. My local pizza shop occasionally runs specials of 10 lbs. of dough for $10. I'll usually buy 20 pounds and keep them packages separately in the freezer. Pizza or stromboli is always easy to do, so I try to keep the fixings on hand...

Plus, you can make fresh donuts with pizza dough! :) Just roll out your dough, cut it into donut shapes w/ cookie cutters, and fry briefly on both sides in very hot oil. Drain on paper towels, then dip in sugar, sprinkles, or other topping. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

$0.84 per serving ~ Thanksgiving Shepherds Pie

Once a week Jim has band practice. Rehearsal cycles between homes, so every few weeks I'm feeding two extra hungry men. We'll see what they think of this "whats in the cupbboard?" meal...
Thanksgiving Shepherds Pie ~ $0.84 per serving
1 lb. ground turkey ($1.00)
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables ($1.00)
1 can turkey gravy ($0.75)
1/2 cup broth of your choice ($o.75)
salt and pepper
1 box (2 pouches) mashed sweet potatoes, prepared ($1.50, prepared w/milk and butter)
Nutmeg and allspice

1. Prepare mashed potatoes according to directions and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Brown turkey over medium heat and drain.
3. Add vegetables, gravy, and broth. Sit and cook until bubbly.
4. Pour turkey mixture into baking dish. Top with sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with nutmeg and allspice.
5. Bake 45 minutes at 400 degrees.
Makes 6 servings.

The Verdict
I'm posting before the guys get here... but this was very nearly a disaster. The potatoes kind of melted into the rest of the mix, instead of making a crust on top. That said... it was yummy! Jim really liked it. Josh wasn't too enthused. Next time I'll omit the broth and reduce the liquid in the potatoes... it's worth trying again!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

$0.94 per serving ~ Mediterranean Minestrone Soup and Garlic Bread

Based on Grandma's recipe...

Mediterranean Minestrone Soup
~ $0.94 per serving ~
3 medium carrots, sliced ($0.75)
1 medium onion, chopped ($0.35)
1 cup water
1 packet seasoning ($1.00)
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained ($1.00)
1 15 oz. can beans of your choice ($1.00)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste ($0.60)
1 can green beans ($0.45)
1 cup uncooked small macaroni ($0.50)
1 cup water
Grated cheese

1. Mix all ingredients except green beans, macaroni, second cup of water, and cheese in slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on Low setting for 6-8 hours
3. Stir in green beans, water, and macaroni. Increase setting to High. Cover and cook 20 minutes.
4. Serve sprinkled with cheese.
Makes 6 servings.

The Verdict
I used some frozen semolina bread to make garlic bread, just slathered it with butter and garlic and parsley and toasted it under the broiler. I always save random ends of bread for this! When I made this I used garbanzo beans and a Red Monkey "Mediterranean Mojo" seasoning packet. If I didn't have that in the cupboard, I'd have used garlic powder, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Any seasoning packet you like will do, or experiment with the spices in your cupboard. I definitely needed more seasoning... it was missing something.

It was good. Not great, but good. It makes a lot and is very filling. I'm sure I'll make it again, it tends to be a solid winter option in this house :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

$0.85 per serving ~ Ham and Cheese Pie with Cheesy Veggies on the side

Puttanesca's is back! We had a great weekend but I don't even want to THINK about what we spent on food all weekend... ugh... so back into it with one of my most successful experiments ever! This one is a "Trisha original". My stepmom makes an amazing quiche, so this is how to make a quiche when you have no time to make a pie crust!

Ham and Cheese Pie ~ $0.60 per serving
1 8 oz. ham steak, cubed ($2.00)
1 cup shredded cheese ($1.50)
1 small onion, chopped ($0.25)
2 eggs ($0.50)
1 cup milk ($0.30)
1/2 cup baking mix ($0.20)
Dash pepper

1. Grease 9 inch pie plate. Preheat ove to 400 degrees
2. Sprinkle ham, cheese, and onion into plate.
3. Combine eggs, milk, baking mix, and pepper in bowl. Pour over ham mixture.
4. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.
5. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
Makes 8 servings.

The Verdict
I admit it, I served this with frozen veggies, Green Giant broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots in cheese sauce ($0.25 per serving.) I think I can play with different cheeses and different proteins for a new taste. I bet black beans and colby jack cheese, with salsa to dip in, would make a kickin' tamale pie! Or cubed smoked turkey with swiss cheese? Lots of possibilities!

Josh loved this, Jim wants the leftovers for breakfast. I think that I will make two at a time next time... the second one I will freeze for a night when I'm really pressed for time!

Friday, October 17, 2008

FREE - More leftovers, and some bonus thoughts for the weekend

Tonight's dinner is the leftover stew from two nights ago. We're spending the weekend up in north Jersey at a middle eastern music and dance festival, so there won't be much to blog about. I won't be cooking!

The only reason that we as two underpaid teachers can afford to do the things we do is because of smart shopping. As far as I am concerned, food is too important to skimp on, and just because my food budget is small doesn't mean my food should be boring, unhealthy, or unappetizing! So I shop smart... sales, coupons, and especially my local farmer's market for cheap, fresh produce.

There are women out there so much better at this than me... the Coupon Mom and Money Saving Mom are my inspirations. I am not as good as they are, getting overages and such, but pairing coupons with sales gives me such satisfaction. For example, back in the beginning of the summer I bought $175 worth of groceries for $65. That's HUGE.

My local Acme has things on sale 10 for $10 and Buy 1 Get 1 Free every week. That's where I save the most. I hit ShopRite occasionally based on their flyers. But between the two I get everything I need in one trip, because saving gas is just as important!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. We'll be back with more recipes on Monday!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

$0.83 per serving ~ Pasta e Fagioli and Garlic and Cheese Biscuits

I knew my friend Karen would think I stole this from her, but this is my own recipe, from an attempt to cut down the recipe the way Grandma used to make it... She has a great recipe posted on her blog so check it out if you want one with more veggies...

Pasta e Fagioli ~ $0.63 per serving
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning ($1.00)
2 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained ($1.00)
Salt and pepper
8 oz. small macaroni, cooked. ($0.50)
Grated cheese

1. Saute garlic in 1 tbsp oil until brown over medium heat. Cook macaroni in a separate pot. Drain, toss w/ 1 tbsp. olive oil, cover and keep warm.
2. Stir in tomatoes and cook until bubbly.
3. Add spices and simmer until tomatoes soften, about 15 minutes. Break up tomatoes with back of spoon if they are too large.
4. Add beans and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Place a scoop of pasta in a bowl, ladle tomato mixture over it and toss thoroughly. Top with grated cheese to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Garlic and Cheese Biscuits ~ $0.20 per serving
2 cups all-purpose flour ($0.05)
1 pinch baking powder
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese ($1.00)
2/3 cup milk ($0.20)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl. Cut in shortening with a fork. Mix in cheese.
3. Stir milk in with a fork just until moist.
4. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheet.
5. Bake at 450 for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
6. Combine melted butter and garlic in small bowl. Brush over biscuits while warm.
Makes 12 biscuits/6 servings.

The Verdict
I did a few things differently than the recipe for the pasta fagioli. I got a ton of tomatoes and peppers from a neighbor at the end of the summer, so I jarred them after cooking them together with onions, garlic, and spices. So I replaced the diced tomatoes and all the spices with my jar... it was delicious! I have a business idea now... "Puttanesca's Pasta e Fagioli, just add pasta and fagioli!" Hm, maybe not. Josh wasn't nuts about the pasta e fagioli, but he did eat a decent amount of it. The biscuits, on the other hand, were a SMASHING success. We should have had 6 left over... we only had 4. Oh well, guess I can make more, and I can change-up the cheese based on what the main dish is. Colby Jack with Mexican, Cheddar with beef stew, ah, the possibilities are endless...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

$1.14 per serving - Moroccan Turkey and Butternut Squash Stew - Plus a dessert disaster!

I saw a neat recipe in the newspaper, but didn't have all the ingredients. So I improvised with what I had...

Moroccan Turkey and Butternut Squash Stew - $1.14 per serving
1 lb. 97% fat free ground turkey $1.00
(Original recipe called for chicken. You could use any ground or cubed meat for this!)
1 medium onion, chopped $0.35
2 carrots, peeled and chopped $0.50
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
20 oz. broth of your choice $1.75
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes $1.00
1 6 oz. can tomato paste $0.70
1 small butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cubed $1.00
(I'm sure you could substitute other squashes, pumpkin, or even sweet potatoes!)
1/2 cup raisins $0.50
2 tbsp. lemon juice
(Original recipe called for lime juice, I had none.)

1. Brown meat until fully cooked, drain excess fat.
2. Add onion, carrots, garlic, and cook over medium high heat until softened. Stir in cumin, allspice, and red pepper.
3. Add broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, squash, and raisins. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes or until squash is tender.
4. Stir in juice and serve. Makes 6 servings.

The Verdict
This was AMAZING. Without a doubt one of the best meals I've cooked in a long time. I can't rave about this one enough! Jim and Josh both loved it and asked for seconds, and our young neighbor Julie asked for the recipe to bring home to her mom. Wow. Just wow. This one goes into heavy rotation :)

AND NOW ~ Turning Disaster into Delicious!

So I decided to do something special for the family. I had all the ingredients to make the 7 layer brownie bars from Bitsy's Kitchen. Josh had fun layering the chips and nuts, and we couldn't wait for it to come out! But somewhere in there I blew it, and the brownie crust wound up overcooked. The whole thing fell apart and I was so upset! I felt I had wasted money and time... until Jim looked in the freezer.

"Honey, we have ice cream!"

So we each got a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with ooey gooey chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut, chopped pecans, and sweetened condensed milk. YUM! :)

It's hard to create a truly unsalvageable disaster out of such delicious ingredients... though I did sacrifice a 13 x 9 baking dish for it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

FREE! Or, why I love leftovers...

That's right, it's leftovers day! Today we eat to clean out the fridge and start all over again tomorrow. We have leftover penne with meat sauce, ravioli with peas and rose sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, and broccoli and carrots in garlic and oil. So here's my plan:

Sweet potato cakes... just mix the sweet potatoes with some bread crumbs and chopped nuts, and fry briefly in very hot oil. Yum!

I'll mix last nights with ravioli with the broccoli and carrots, top it with shredded mozzarella and grated cheese, and bake for 20 minutes at 350.

Penne with meat sauce and garlic bread. No reason to mess with perfection :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

$1.32 per serving - Ravioli with Peas in Rose Sauce

The weather was so beautiful today we decided to drive down to Cape May and wander. After two nights running of Julia sleeping poorly (baby girl inherited my allergies, poor thing) I was really not in the mood, but Jim really wanted to go. I'm glad I gave in and went, even though we ate lunch out. Josh had a great time and the sea air seems to have helped Julia's congestion.

Breakfast - $1.05
Bagels with peanut butter and pears again

Lunch - $5.75
We split a small pizza and each had a small soda or lemonade.
Funny how it galls me to pay this much and I've only been tracking a few days!

Ravioli with peas in rose sauce - $1.32 per serving
1 package frozen mini ravioli (any filled pasta will work) $3.50
1 cup frozen peas $0.50
2 tbsp. flour
1 dash black pepper
1 cup milk $0.25
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes $1.00
Grated cheese (I prefer pecorino romano)

1. Cook pasta according to directions, adding peas the last minute of cooking. Drain and keep warm.
2. Stir together flour and pepper, and slowly stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Cook 1 minute more, then add undrained tomatoes and heat through.
3. Add pasta and peas to tomato mixture and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle grated cheese over each dish. Makes 4 servings

The Verdict:
Jim and Josh really enjoyed this one. I found the flavor a bit bland, and will try one of the cans of tomatoes with spices already added next time I catch them on sale. (Maybe the one with garlic and balsamic vinegar, yum!) This was VERY fast and easy. It's definitely a keeper for crazy nights after work, to avoid the dreaded call for pizza...

Even on sale, filled pastas tend to be expensive. I have to watch for a sale on that again soon, I'm nearly out of it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

$0.92 per serving - Autumn Sausage Casserole

Today we decided to take the family to the Deerfield Township Harvest Festival to have a little fun in the beautiful fall weather. I didn't want to have to deal with cooking when we got back, so it was a day for CrockPot cooking. I have been avidly following A Year of CrockPotting and after spending last Thursday picking apples, we were totally ready for her Autumn Sausage Casserole! If you try it and like it, please pop on over to her blog and let her know, I take NO credit for this one :)

Breakfast- $1.05
Bagels ($0.70 each) with peanut butter (about $0.15 per serving)
Pears (about $0.20 each)

Lunch- FREE!

Leftovers are already paid for :)

Autumn Sausage Casserole - $0.92
1 pound sausage (chicken with basil and pecorino romano) $5.99 per pound
2 small apples, chopped $0.75
1 onion, chopped $0.30
1/2 cup carrots, chopped $0.65
3 cups cooked brown rice $2.00
1/2 cup raisins $0.50
Parsley, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper to taste (I never measure)
1/3 cup broth or water (vegetable broth) $0.75

If sausage is uncooked, brown and drain.
Dump all ingredients in CrockPot and stir well.
Cook on low 5-7 hours or high 3-4 hours.

The Verdict:
Wow. This really does taste like a bowl of autumn! I used brown rice which gave it more of a risotto texture, where the original recipe used long grain and wild rice which had a texture like fried rice. Jim loved it, my mother-in-law loved it, Josh loved it, and I'll eat it all week. It's a winner! And because it's in a CrockPot, it's a big recipe... I'm estimating 12 servings, which ends up at a tiny $0.92 per serving!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

$1.09 per serving: Mac and Cheese Soup with Ham

Mac and Cheese Soup with Ham

4 oz. small pasta (ditalini, elbows, shells, etc.) 1/4 of a box= $0.25
2 tbsp. butter 1/4 of a stick= $0.25
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
14 oz. broth of your choice 1/2 a large box= $1.50
1.5 cups half and half 1/3 a quart= $1.00
8 oz. american cheese, diced 8 slices= $1.50
6 oz. cooked ham, diced 1 ham steak= $2.00
Salt and pepper

Cook pasta in a separate pot according to directions. Drain and set aside.
Melt butter in a 3 qt. pot. Stir in flour and mustard.
Add broth and half and half. Stir continuously over medium-high heat until mixture bubbles.
Add cheese, reduce heat to low, and stir until melted.
Add cooked pasta and ham. Stir until heated through.
Salt and pepper to taste.

The Verdict:
This was thicker than my usual soups. But Jim and Josh both devoured it and asked for seconds, so it's definitely a hit! I served it with garlic toast (some leftover Italian bread sliced thin and brushed with olive oil then sprinkled with garlic powder.) I'd estimate about 6 servings from this recipe... I may have to fight Josh for the leftovers at lunch tomorrow.

Why Puttanesca? My manifesto.

Who the heck is Puttanesca?

Strictly speaking, Puttanesca isn't a person. It's an adjective describing my entire mindset for cooking... but more on that later. I'm Trisha, a 34-year-old mother of two who is also a public school teacher. I have a 3-year-old son Josh and a 3-month-old daughter Julia, and I also take care of my husband Jim. As I begin this blog journey, I am about 6 weeks from the end of my blessedly long maternity leave.

As I was cooking tonight's dinner, I mentally flipped through the ingredients in my rather massive pantry and realized that other than milk, eggs, cheese, and fresh produce, I probably don't need to buy ANY food for the next 6 weeks... That's a good thing, because the money we so painstakingly saved for my leave is nearly gone! My goal for this blog is to track our meals and food expenditures on a daily basis, for as long as I can keep it going.

So, why Puttanesca? My Grandma, Anita, loves to tell a story about cooking for some friends. Grandma makes this AMAZING puttanesca sauce... a tomato base chock full of olives, artichokes, anchovies, chi chi beans, and whatever else she feels like throwing in there. One day her friend's husband asked her why it was called puttanesca sauce. My grandma answered, "Putta is Italian slang for a prostitute. This sauce is like a prostitute because anything and everything can go in it!" She laughed, he blushed, and the rest is history...

... or inspiration. See, I'm a really good cook. I learned from my mom and grandma, and I've taught myself new tricks along the 2o plus years I've spent enjoying the kitchen. I'm also a gourmand. I just love food, from the haute cuisine to McDonald's new spicy chicken sandwich. When it comes to cooking, I'm kind of like that prostitute from grandma's story: I like things that are cheap and easy, and I'll try anything once!

So welcome to Puttanesca's kitchen, where the food is cheap and easy and fun!

What is "poverty food"?

My mom talked a lot about poverty food. Coming from a working class background where Grandpa held 3 jobs just to make ends meet, Grandma became a master at food that was cheap but still healthy, filling, and delicious, that made masterpieces out of leftovers, and stretching a food dollar as far as possible. Italian cuisine in America is almost ALL poverty food... I can't go into an Italian restaurant and pay $5 for a bowl of pasta fagioli when I know I can go home and cook a giant pot of it for the same price! I'm not ashamed to cook poverty food, as long as it's delicious and fills the bellies around my table.

Some Things to Remember:

When I list the costs of a recipe, I'm assuming that the pantry is fairly well stocked with spices, condiments, and basics like flour, oil, sugar, etcetera. If I need to go out and buy a basic, I will list the full cost as part of the meal's cost.

I'll focus on dinner, though I will list breakfasts and lunches on the weekends as well. Since I will soon be a working mom again, I will start as I mean to continue.

Most importantly, remember that recipes are really only a guideline. You can substitute almost any flavor item... change up the spices, use a different meat, a different cheese. I say vegetable broth and you only have beef in the cupboard? Go for it. This ain't french cuisine, this is FUN.

And don't forget to laugh at your disasters. Trust me, I have them too, and you'll read about them as they happen. So sit back, relax, and grab a cup of coffee. Welcome to Puttanesca's kitchen, where the food is just the beginning of the fun.