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.