Sunday, December 27, 2009

Frugal Holiday Recipes

This is the beginning of a make-ahead brunch casserole. Yes, that is browned pork sausage atop a bed of croutons. Fear not...

...topped with an egg/milk mixture, kept in the fridge overnight, and baked and topped with cheese- this Sausage Mushroom Brunch Casserole was delightful! The only change I made was to add some cracked pepper to the mix. Five adults demolished this in 20 minutes.

I've been looking for a recipe for Refrigerator Potato Rolls since I saw them mentioned in the Tightwad Gazette. I found this recipe yesterday in my efforts to use leftover mashed potatoes from dinner with my mother to make rolls for a dinner with my in-laws. My mother made the mashed potatoes with olive oil and a small amount of garlic powder, and we couldn't taste either of them in these rolls. The rolls were perfect! They are absolutely something you can make ahead of time.

My company gave us a gift certificate for a Honey-Baked Ham, and in addition to the ham and rolls, I made a simple pan of Roasted Root Vegetables. I omitted the beets and kohlrabi, and used fresh rosemary for the herb. It turned out very well.

Our local grocery has been selling eggs for 75 cents/dozen, so I've made a lot of deviled eggs (using Alton Brown's recipe) to take to parties. Cheap, cheap- but very good.

I also eschew boiling the eggs, in favor of the much easier oven-baked method.

I admit, I have been finding it difficult to hit the $60/week grocery budget that I've set for myself. My son's dairy allergy means we are giving him almond milk and goat's milk, which is super expensive. Almond milk is generally $3.50 to $4 for a half gallon, and goat's milk is nearly $5 for a quart. We are also supplementing with a daily soy-based Pediasure to help him gain weight, and my husband can only drink soy milk- and refuses to drink anything other than one brand. I'd say $25 of my weekly budget goes to all these milk alternatives. It sucks!

Yesterday, I'm happy to say I only spent $65. A few things that keep me on budget:

1) Having a plan. I peek around in my pantry, see what we have, plan some meals around that and the weekly sales, check frugal mommy blogs for deals, and make a list. Without a list, I am doomed.

2) Having a meatless meal at least twice a week. Meat is expensive, period.

3) Eating breakfast before going to the store, even if I'm in a hurry. Or I will buy loads of crap.

4) Paying in cash. This, by far, is is the most important. I bring only enough to cover my needs. I leave the credit card at home. This method is how I stuck to my stringent $10/week grocery budget when I made peanuts working at a group home.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Homemade Pizza and Veggie Lasagna

Homemade pizza, made with bread machine pizza dough. The dough takes an hour and 15 minutes in the bread machine, and baking takes about 25-30 minutes. If you buy yeast in bulk, it is more economical than the individual packets. Homemade dough using sale or bulk flour costs less and tastes better than store bought or frozen. The sauce is a cheapo can of plain tomato sauce (about 50 cents), and I added my own dried oregano and basil to it. I buty cheese when it is super cheap in large quantities and freeze it. I usually add diced onion, peppers, tomato, mushrooms- whatever we have on hand. Plus cloves of whole garlic and basil from our plant.

Speaking of plants, buying fresh herbs is akin to highway robbery. Most of these plants cost $1.40-1.50 each. There are millions of free online resources for caring for plants. I repot each of them when I bring them home, and so far have been successful. Our sunny east-facing morning room has been perfect for growing plants indoors. So far we have basil, sage, rosemary, chives, tarragon, and...
...our newest additions, cilantro and parsley.

Squash is in season, and I've been trying to expand our taste buds with squash dishes. Here, I cut up an acorn squash and a few Italian sausage links, and sprinkled it with fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil. It smelled and looked fantastic- and it tasted great!
The recipe is from a great food blog, Kalyn's Kitchen.

Kroger has had great prices on frozen veggies (88 cents/pound) and I DESPISE eating cooked spinach- but it's so good for you. So, I experimented with a veggie lasagna. Does cheese make even cooked spinach taste good? The answer is a resounding yes! I used Prego's Garlic and Roasted Pepper sauce bought of sale, and I think the flavor was excellent. I used the no-cook noodle method, just making sure to put wet ingredients next to the noodles, and baking covered with foil. The were no issues with hard noodles at all. The recipe can be found here on allrecipes. The only change I made to it was adding an extra can of mushrooms.

For those who want the pumpkin muffin recipe- it can be found here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day Care Meals

Homemade pumpkin muffins.

Eating in natural technicolor.

Wow, nothing like having a rare neurological illness with cognitive issues to keep one away from blogging. Thankfully, it's all cleared up.

Hopefully, I can get back to posting on this.

The day care i send my son to, not unlike many others, does serve a hot lunch and two snacks. Unfortunately, my son is allergic to dairy- and I find their food to be too focused on junk food for snacks (ask about the time someone gave my son Cheetos) and lacking in variety. Most entrees contain dairy of some sort as well.

There are certain things that are important to me as well. I want my son to be exposed to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, I want his diet to contain whole grains and be low in sugar, and I want him to be exposed to the kinds of foods our normal family diet, which is high in beans/legumes and low in meat.

At the day care, they do very well taking care of our son, and he enjoys going there. However, I don't want him eating mac'n cheese, chicken nuggets, and hot dogs with a side of nasty canned mixed veggies and mandarin oranges.

I do have a problem, though. The day care is unable to heat his food, and everything I pack has to be shelf-stable or be OK to eat cold. Factor in our busy schedule, and we can add quick and easy to those requirements. I don't care to rely on prepackaged toddler meals either. Not only are they expensive, but they are loaded with sodium.

I generally have to send two full meals and two snacks, plus the almond milk he drinks for the week.

Here's a list of what I generally send:

Breakfast- whole grain, fruit, and 50/50 mixture of goat milk and almond milk
Kashi blueberry waffle (this has more protein and fiber, but will use Nutrigrain waffle if not on sale)
Swiss Baby Muesli (has lots of protein/fiber and is easily mixed, plus no heating required)
Pumpkin or Zucchini Muffin (these can be made in large batches and freeze well)
Whole-wheat or sweet-potato pancake (dairy-free, and they freeze well too)

Unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon
We usually do applesauce, because it it cheap, and he does get fresh fruit with other meals

Lunch- whole grain, vegetable, protein
Lentil Dhal and brown rice
Egg Salad or a deviled egg (lite mayo usually has dairy, so we go for full-fat)
Whole wheat crackers with almond butter
Whole Grain Pasta with tomato and basil
Leftover Meatloaf
Hummus with toasted Ezekial Bread strips to dip (this bread is pricey, but has loads of protein. I buy it maybe once a month for our son, and we usually eat homemade wheat bread ourselves)
Iron-fortified mixed-grain or barley cereal
Carrots, peas 'n carrots, corn, or green beans- cooked from frozen the night before
Squash, baked acorn or butternut, or sauteed yellow squash or zucchini
Sweet potato, easily microwaved and mashed

Always fruit and soy yogurt for first snack
Fruits include blueberries, strawberries, peaches, blackberries, watermelon, raspberries, kiwi, pears

Second snack is usually a cereal bar (made with fruit paste on not sugar) or Cascadian Farm organic "Cheerios". I buy a boat load of boxes when they are on sale.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cheap Slow Cooker Meals

I've been trying to empty my cabinets, and still make decent meals that I can spread out over a couple of days.

This past week, we've had both Onion Soup with Beer Bread, and Black Bean Chili made in the slow cooker. The Onion Soup recipe I pretty much made exactly as written on the Crockpot Lady's site, but the Black Bean Chili and Beer Bread I tweaked a bit. I don't have self-rising flour, so I added 1 tsp salt and 1 TB baking powder to the Beer Bread. I also used light beer, as a stronger ale would taste too overwhelming. My husband would like to point out that we only had light beer in the house from a relative's visit, and that he only drinks manly beers like Guinness and Bass. In trying to get rid of the "swill", we've been eating a lot of beer bread. I'm not really complaining ;).

If you would like to try my version of the chili, omit the turkey, add a small can of mild chilies, and add a TB of cumin and red wine vinegar each.

If you're doing Weight Watchers, the beer bread is 2 points per slice, the chili is 3 points per serving, and the onion soup is 2 points per serving.

The costs to make each meal? I'd say, using canned beans, tomato, and chilies, it was $6 for 4 good-sized servings of chili. If I had used dried beans, it would be much less. The beer bread was maybe 50 cents to make tops. For the onion soup, I used a more expensive low-sodium beef broth (I have edema and must watch my sodium intake), which was pricey. It ended up being nearly $1o for 6 servings.

A future project will be making and freezing my own beef stock.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

20-minute Quesadillas

I found these tortillas at the local specialty market, about $3.50 for 8. They are loaded with fiber- 12 grams per tortilla. I guess you can say they will blow out your colon if you are used to eating processed foods. You can find cheaper tortillas, no doubt, but these are only 1 Weight Watcher point, and have tons of fiber and protein. We eat this meal 1-2 times a week, so this package last a few weeks for us.

My quesadillas only take 20 minutes. I timed it.
My commute in the evening takes about 60 minutes. By the time I pick up my son from day care, it's nearly 6:30. It takes about 30 minutes for my little Piglet to eat his evening snack, so whatever I make has to be done in that time.

Quesadillas for Two

1 whole grain tortilla per person (anyone with a recipe for a quick homemade tortilla ?)
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil or butter
1 1-oz. slice or one small handful of cheddar cheese per person

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and carmelize. This took me the majority of the time- about 12-15 minutes. We like our onions nice and dark and gooey.
2. Spread shredded cheese, or tear cheese slice to cover 1/2 of a tortilla. Place 1/2 of the carmelized onion atop that, and fold over tortilla to cover.
3. Heat tortillas in skillet to melt the cheese, about 1 minute per side for each tortilla. Voila!

We usually round out this meal with veggies or salad.